Written by: JT Bowen
Unpacking a busy few days in Detroit
I’ll spare you from a game recap- because frankly, I don’t feel like dwelling on a bad loss. Detroit’s offense was stellar, with a huge day from Matthew Stafford, an incredible game from Marvin Jones Jr., a solid and diversified running game against a stout Vikings defense, and solid protection.
However, the Lions defense was… atrocious. Minnesota racked up over 500 yards of offense, being gashed by Dalvin Cook on the ground and allowing a mediocre quarterback in Kirk Cousins to throw for over 300 yards and 4 touchdowns. Cousins was pressured on just 1 of 32 dropbacks, a telling statistic for a Lions pass rush that has been nonexistent to this point. Things are quickly slipping away for a Lions team that, just a few weeks ago, looked like a potential contender in the division. It’s becoming increasingly evident that change is desperately needed, both from a talent and scheming standpoint if Detroit is still looking to contend this year.
However, some of Detroit’s recent moves are puzzling, to say the least. Though it didn’t garner much national buzz, the Lions made a blockbuster trade, shipping out starting safety and locker room favorite Quandre Diggs and a 7th round pick to Seattle for just a 5th rounder in return. Despite Diggs’ early struggles this year and trouble with injury, he is a quality starter and a veteran for a young secondary. It’s an extremely confusing move, as safeties Will Harris and Tavon Wilson, who figure to take over the playing time, are simply not as talented or experienced as the Texas product. Earlier in the day, and perhaps more notably, Detroit relegated starting running back Kerryon Johnson to Injured Reserve, which will keep him off the field for eight weeks. Just days after his injury was called “day-to-day”, Johnson likely sees his season end here, as the way the Lions season is trending right now, it doesn’t look like they’ll rush him out once he’s eligible to return late this year. These two moves are confusing, as the Lions, despite their woes, will undoubtedly still play in efforts to reach the postseason, even though these moves make it seem like they’re throwing in the towel.
The trading of Diggs and injury to Kerryon, though it may sting and will, at least in the short term, leave the Lions with less talented fill-in players, conveys the confidence Patricia and Co. have in their young players. Will Harris, who has played sparingly in a crowded safety room until now, is clearly the main benefactor here, as well as more touches for Ty Johnson and JD McKissic, who will spearhead the rushing attack.
Though these moves may initially seem like a way to open up opportunities for young players across the roster, the two empty roster spots and clearing of cap space with Diggs’ exit makes me think that a big move is imminent. So, I’ll provide a few trade candidates that might make sense given some of the recent injuries and/or struggles of other players.
1. Kenyan Drake, RB, Miami Dolphins
This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Miami is clearly looking to sell ahead of the deadline, and Kenyan Drake is a name that has been dangled on the trade block. The Lions, though they clearly like Ty Johnson and waiver-wire pickup JD McKissic, could use another young tailback on an expiring deal to add depth, and maybe even contend for quality touches in the future. If he’s attainable for a 5th or 6th, I say pull the trigger.
2. Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona Cardinals
Given the Lions’ blatant inability to pressure opposing quarterbacks, making a big swing for aging yet talented pass rusher in Chandler Jones could make sense. Jones is still a dominant edge rusher in his eighth season, with 8.5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles through seven games. Arizona may be reluctant to part ways with him, as he had a massive Week 7 against New York with four sacks, and their improvements across the last few weeks, but if he can be had for a 2nd, or a 3rd and a 7th, I say go for it.
3. Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Similar to Kenyan Drake, here but a much bigger name and proven talent. Gordon, though he has struggled in his recent games back from his failed holdout, is still a premier talent at the running back position. The Chargers don’t seem attached to Gordon, especially with the great early play of backup Austin Ekeler. Gordon’s rusty play, impending extension, and the Chargers’ free fall early this season may make him available for a 3rd, which would be a good price if the Lions are looking to make a splash and upgrade their running room.
4. Von Miller, DE, Denver Broncos
Chandler Jones, but better. Denver continues to be downright awful this year, and the trade of Emmanuel Sanders demonstrates the availability of the majority of the roster. Miller, with only 2.5 sacks this year, is not playing as well as he has in the past but is still a superstar and a top-10 defensive talent in this league. Denver has shown no interest in trading their best player, but crazier things have happened. Miller, now 30, could be acquirable for a 1st and a 5th, but personally I’m not sure how I’d feel if the Lions traded for him
5. Any Falcons front seven player
Pretty broad here, but goes without saying. Atlanta continues to spiral out of control, and I’d be surprised if any player on the defense is not at risk of being traded. For the Lions, Deion Jones, DeVondre Campbell, and Vic Beasley are likely the most intriguing options, as all have underperformed. The Falcons showed their willingness to trade, sending out Mohamed Sanu earlier this week to New England, and the Lions could have an interest in gaining depth in defense.
Of course, the majority of these are purely speculative, and likely won’t happen. But Bob Quinn has shown an affinity to making big moves, and acquiring a player could help to revive a season that is starting to fade away.
However, don’t write the Lions off just yet. It’s easy to, right now, after a crushing loss, and some questionable roster moves, but this team has shown resilience. Playoffs may seem far-fetched at best at this point, but Detroit has a potential get-right game against a dreadful Giants team, as well as upcoming games against Oakland and Washington.
At the very least, give them one last week, and perhaps they can salvage this year.