Lions get help for Stafford in bid to dethrone Packers
Eighth in a 13-part series on the opponents the Green Bay Packers will face during the 2017 regular season.
GREEN BAY - If the Detroit Lions hoped to win their first NFC North title since 1993 and dethrone the Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings, who have finished first in nine of the last 10 seasons, they needed to upgrade their defense. Allowing 73 combined points in Weeks 16 and 17 is not going to get it done.
So aside from two key signings to reinforce the offensive line, general manager Bob Quinn dedicated the majority of his offseason to upgrading the defensive side of the ball.
His key signings included inside linebacker Paul Worrilow, formerly of the Atlanta Falcons; defensive end Cornelius Washington, formerly of the Chicago Bears; defensive tackle Akeem Spence, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; and cornerback DJ Hayden a former first-round pick of the Oakland Raiders.
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When the draft rolled around, Quinn went big on his defense yet again. He used his first-round pick on inside linebacker Jarrad Davis of Florida, considered among the best in the draft at that position and an immediate replacement for DeAndre Levy. Quinn tapped the Gators once more in the second round by selecting cornerback Teez Tabor, who joins a suddenly deep group of corners that includes Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and Hayden, among others.
In total, Quinn dedicated six of his nine draft picks to the defense. He already knows what to expect from an offense guided by quarterback Matthew Stafford, who was a dark-horse MVP candidate in 2016, and now the plan is to construct a defense to match.
Here are three things to know about the Lions:
» Replacement parts: When the Lions lost tackle Riley Reiff and guard Larry Warford to free agency, both starters along the offensive line, Quinn needed to splash some money of his own to protect Stafford. So Quinn opened his checkbook and signed right guard T.J. Lang, formerly of the Packers, to a three-year deal worth $28.5 million, including $19 million guaranteed. He replaced Warford by signing former Baltimore Ravens right tackle Rick Wagner, who received a massive five-year, $47.5 million contract.
» A new level: It’s no secret that the recent Lions resurgence has dovetailed with arguably the two best seasons of Stafford’s career. Though the Lions went 7-9 in 2015, they ended the year by winning six of their last eight games, and Stafford posted a career-best passer rating of 97. Last year the Lions went 9-7 and came within a game of winning the NFC North, and Stafford posted a passer rating of 93.3. His two-year average of 95.15 is within a whisker of the 98.45 average by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers during that same stretch. Stafford turned 29 in February.
» A new home: The Packers released wide receiver Jared Abbrederis on Oct. 27, 2016, after he was placed on injured reserve with a quadriceps injury. The two sides eventually reached a settlement, and Abbrederis was let go. He returned to the league in early January by signing a reserve/future contract with the Lions, who let veteran Anquan Boldin walk away during free agency. Abbrederis caught 10 passes for 119 yards and zero touchdowns during his injury-riddled career with the Packers. He was a fifth-round pick by general manager Ted Thompson in 2014.
Packers schedule glimpse
Nov. 6 vs. Detroit, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Week before: Bye
Week after: at Chicago, Nov. 12
On the horizon: vs. Baltimore, Nov. 19
Coach: Jim Caldwell (53-43 overall, 27-21 with Detroit, fourth season with Detroit)
2016 record: 9-7, second in NFC North
Scoring offense: 21.6 points per game (20th in NFL)
Total offense: 338.8 yards per game (21st)
Scoring defense: 22.4 points allowed per game (13th)
Total defense: 354.8 yards allowed per game (18th)
Series: Packers lead 100-68-7
Last meeting: The Packers and Lions met in Week 17 last season for a night game that decided the NFC North title, and more importantly which team would host a playoff game in the opening round. The defining moment came with 1 minute, 35 seconds remaining and the Lions attempting to mount a comeback. With his cornerbacks ravaged by injuries, defensive coordinator Dom Capers asked Micah Hyde to man the perimeter, a position he hadn’t played since college. Hyde made a terrific back-shoulder interception of quarterback Stafford to seal the win.