Matthew Stafford: 65.3 completion percentage, 4327 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 10 interceptions
There were a lot of high expectations for Matthew Stafford. The offense at the end of last year appeared to be clicking under offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and fans assumed it would carry over into the new season. Stafford started slow, but got really hot in the middle of the season and seemed primed to be in the MVP debate by the end of the year.
Unfortunately for both Stafford and Lions fans, his game seemed a little off after an injury he sustained to his middle finger against the Chicago Bears in Week 14. Before the injury, Stafford’s average completion percentage was 67.5 percent; after the injury it dropped down to 60.35. In the 12 games prior to the injury, Stafford only threw five interceptions; he doubled that amount in the final four games he played. His yardage didn’t take a hit, but his decision-making and throws seemed to be a bit off.
Before the injury, Stafford’s play was good enough to earn him an A-minus, or possibly even an A. However, he just wasn’t the same person after finger injury.
Final Grade: B
Theo Riddick: 3.9 yards per attempt, 357 rushing yards, one touchdown
Zach Zenner: 3.8 yards per attempt, 334 rushing yards, four touchdowns
Dwayne Washington: 2.9 yards per attempt, 265 rushing yards, one touchdown
This might be the least productive part of this offense; not a single back rushed for more than 400 yards. Plus, they only scored nine rushing touchdowns all season. The Lions were ranked 30th in yards per game with 81.9. Not only that, but the Lions flat out didn’t run the football. They finished tied for last with 350 attempts, the same number as the league-worst Browns. This might have had a lot to do with the fact that there seemed to be a revolving door at the position due to injuries. Riddick missed six games due to injury, Washington missed five games and Zenner didn’t see action in five games because he was either the third or fourth running back on the depth chart.
Riddick was the most dynamic back of the group. He had a significant impact on the passing game, catching 53 passes for 371 yards and five touchdowns. Zenner was the workhorse at the end of the season and was effective up the middle, but this team still lacks an every down, jack-of-all-trades running back. For those two reasons, the running back grade is going to be bumped up a little bit, but it still won’t be pretty.
Final Grade: D+
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends
Golden Tate: 91 receptions, 1077 receiving yards, four touchdowns
Anquan Boldin: 67 receptions, 584 yards, eight touchdowns
Eric Ebron: 61 receptions, 711 yards, one touchdown
Marvin Jones: 55 receptions, 930 yards, four touchdowns
Calvin Johnson shocked the world this offseason when he decided to retire after a nine-year career. To help fill the massive void that Johnson left behind, the Lions signed Marvin Jones, a young receiver on the rise, and Anquan Boldin, an aging veteran, in the offseason. Mix those two in with Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and some pass catching running backs, all signs pointed to an explosive passing attack for the Lions.
Marvin Jones flew out of the gate, putting up 118-yard and 205-yard performances in Weeks 2 and 3, respectively. It looked like the Lions were geniuses for signing him. However, after Week 3, he never eclipsed 100 yards in a game. Boldin quickly became the go-to target in the redzone, catching a third of Stafford’s touchdown passes. The days of Boldin running up and down the field are long gone though; he only racked up over 50 yards in three games, and his longest reception was only 35 yards.
Tate showed that he can truly be a No. 1 receiver in the league, as he caught over 90 passes for the third straight year and totalled over 1,000 yards for the second time in his career. Ebron had his best season yardage-wise, but drops still seem to be a problem for him. Ebron finished tied for third in drops with seven, which was over eight percent of his targets.
Overall, the wide receiving corps as a whole, including running backs, was solid. They didn’t score a ton of touchdowns, but they racked up yards and Stafford spread the ball around fairly well. The receivers seemed to each have their own role and they executed them well.
Final Grade: B
The offensive line was a weak point for this offense in 2015; they still hadn’t recovered from losing their long-tenured center Dominic Raiola. Riley Reiff struggled at left tackle, and it showed in the run game as it struggled all year.
The Lions looked to the draft to combat the struggling line play, drafting Taylor Decker, a tackle out of Ohio State, and Graham Glasgow, a center out of Michigan. Decker saw playing time immediately, taking over at left tackle. That allowed the Lions to move Reiff to right tackle, where he played better. Glasgow took over for Laken Tomlinson, the Lions’ 2015 first round pick, at left guard. Larry Warford continued to be a top 10 guard in the NFL, and Travis Swanson was solid at center for the 12 games he played.
This group is hard to evaluate when it comes to run blocking, simply because the sample size is so small. The Lions amassed 3.7 yards per carry puts them at bottom six in the league, and 81.9 yards per game has them ranked 30th. They were decent in pass protection, giving up 37 sacks. That may seem high, but that’s a sack on just 6 percent of Stafford’s drop backs.
The Lions’ line is improving, and with all the youth they have, it can only improve. Look out for them in the future.
Final Grade: C+