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Lions still have work ahead

January 15, 2012
CRAIG?REMSBURG - Senior Sports Writer ( , The Mining Journal

On Sept. 5, I had a raging case of Lions Fever.

It was the Monday before the start of the NFL season after the team had won four preseason games. That came after the Lions had won their last four contests of the 2010 campaign to finish 6-10.

Resistant to reason, Lions Fever can easily get out of control. At the time, I thought the club would go 8-8 or - in a best case scenario - 9-7 this season.

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Though I wrote the Lions wouldn't likely make the playoffs, I suggested coach Jim Schwartz's crew still had a chance to become one of the better teams in the NFL.

That was The Fever talking.

Well, we all know what happened. The Lions won their first five games of the season, finished 10-6 and earned an NFC Wildcat playoff berth. Of the six losses, five came to eventual playoff teams: Green Bay (twice), New Orleans, San Francisco and Atlanta.

Not bad for a team that had won but eight games combined the previous two seasons - the one that hit rock bottom in 2008 by finishing 0-16.

But for all the Lions accomplished this season, there's still a lot of work to be done.

The club MUST develop a running game. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin "Megatron" Johnson turned in spectacular seasons, but the Lions' offense was one dimensional with no ground attack.

If backs Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles tendon) don't rebound from season-ending injuries, the Lions need to bring in a bruising runner who can get you that tough yard or two when needed.

A quality offensive lineman to back up aging free agent Jeff Backus (he's 34) would be nice, as would a defensive back or two who could actually give opposing quarterbacks concern.

A linebacker with some speed who could blitz against such top-notch QBs as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees would be a bonus.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, who has done a fabulous job in molding the Lions into a playoff-caliber team, must also sign free agents Cliff Avril at defensive end and linebacker Stephen Tulloch.

When the NFL draft comes around in April, the Lions will probably pick the best player available regardless of need or position, as they've done the last year or two.

That's OK, up to a point.

As Schwartz said at the end of the season: "We have a lot less needs than we have in the past."

But the Lions are nowhere near a Super Bowl contending team. They have too many holes to fill, too much depth to acquire.

They took major steps this season in becoming a team to be reckoned with, but the Lions need to at least duplicate - if not better - what they did this season in 2012.

If they do, my Lions Fever would require biohazard suits for everyone who comes in contact with me. It would be that dangerous.

Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is



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