As we move closer to the start of training camp, giants.com will take a closer look at each Giants opponent next season, and how they've adjusted their roster over the course of the offseason. Today, we'll take a look at the Giants' second opponent, the Detroit Lions. The Giants host the Lions in their home opener on September 18 on Monday Night Football.
Last Season: 9-7, 2nd place in the NFC North and a Wild Card berth. The Lions started 1-3 before winning eight of nine games in the middle of the season. They still made the playoffs despite finishing the year 0-3 with losses to the Giants, Cowboys and Packers by a combined 39 points.
Point Differential: -12
Key Additions: DE Cornelius Washington, OT Ricky Wagner, LB Paul Worrilow, DT Akeen Spence, CB DJ Hayden, G T.J. Lang, FB Matt Asiata, OT Gregg Robinson (trade), OT Cyrus Kouandjio
Key Losses: WR Anquan Boldin, OT Riley Reiff, DE Devin Taylor, FB Mike Burton, RG Larry Warford, LB DeAndre Levy
Draft Class: LB Jarrad Davis, CB Jalen "Teez" Tabor, WR Kenny Golladay, LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, TE Michael Roberts, CB Jamal Agnew, DE Jeremiah Ledbetter, QB Brad Kaaya, DE Pat O'Connor
Overview: The Lions were not spectacular in any particular facet of the game last year, spare protecting the football, with only 15 giveaways over the course of the season. Thanks to a midseason hot streak with wins against several non-playoff teams (Eagles, Rams, Redskins, Vikings x2, Jaguars Saints and Bears), the Lions managed to sneak into the playoffs as the last wild card. If the Redskins had beaten the Giants in Week 17, the Lions would not have made the postseason. Detroit upgraded its roster in the offseason in an effort to be in the playoffs a second straight year.
21st in yards per game
30th in rush yards per game
11th in pass yards per game
20th in points per game
8th in 3rd down percentage
20th in turnover ratio (-1, 15 giveaways vs. 14 takeaways)
Matthew Stafford returns at quarterback as one of the better signal callers in the league. He has a monster arm and underrated mobility to keep plays alive. He has a solid receiving corps with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, but will surely miss Anquan Boldin. Running back is a glaring issue for the Lions, who will once again lean on Ameer Abdullah, who has been unable to stay healthy. The team hopes Eric Ebron can take that next step and turn into one of the top tight ends in the league.
The Lions suffered a bad loss earlier in June when they learned starting LT Taylor Decker would be lost for 4-6 months with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. They promptly traded for former 1st round pick Gregg Robinson and signed Cyrus Kouandjio, so the two will compete to replace Decker. The team also addressed the offensive line in the offseason, letting Riley Reiff leave and replacing him with Ricky Wagner. They also spent big money on T.J. Lang, one of the best guards in the league.
18th in yards per game
18th in rush yards per game
19th in pass yards per game
30th in sack rate
31st 3rd down percentage
13th points per game
The Lions spent the offseason reshaping their defense. Their 1st two picks in the draft, Jarrad Davis and Teez Tabor, should be either starters or key players early in the season. Three free agent additions -- Cornelius Washington, D.J. Hayden and Paul Worrilow -- will also be startersm replacing Devin Taylor, Nevin Lawson and DeAndre Levy. Teryl Austin, a head coach candidate this offseason, will have plenty of new toys to improve last season's performance.
Perhaps more important than all of those additions is whether or not Ziggy Ansah can regain his old form. After a 14.5 sack season in 2015, Ansah suffered a high ankle sprain in Week 2 and never really recovered. He is a talented pass rusher and the Lions need him to play up to that ability. If he can get to the quarterback more consistently, the Lions have a chance to be significantly better on defense.
Conclusion: The Lions are a better team than they were last year, but the injury to Taylor Decker could be crippling. They spent a lot of money in the offseason improving an offensive line only to have their cornerstone left tackle lost for a good part or maybe even the entire season. Matthew Stafford is an ultra-talented quarterback, but he doesn't have a weapon like Calvin Johnson to help him any longer. The running game is depending on an oft-injured Ameer Abdullah. The defense might not improve enough to make up for those issues on offense.