We're halfway through the 2012 season, a year which saw the Detroit Lions enter September with plenty of high expectations thanks to the exploits of 2011. Through eight games, the Lions have a very average 4-4 record, but are picking up some definite momentum after getting back into the playoff hunt and rebounding from a tough 1-3 start.
Now, it's time to give some grades before Sunday's game starts off the second half of the season. Who's passing and failing? Here's 2012's progress report so far.
Offense: C-. Matthew Stafford hasn't started off hot, struggling to be accurate and having plenty of rough games early with regard to interceptions. The receivers didn't look interested early, dropping plenty of passes and playing inconsistent. The running game has become a bright spot with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell, and the offensive line has done a decent job paving the way for running backs. Through the first three games, this grade would have been closer to a D, but things have turned around with the passing game in the last three weeks, lending some definite hope for the second half push.
Defense: B. The Lions aren't giving up as much as you would assume through the air, despite having to overcome plenty of backfield injuries early on. The fill-ins are playing admirably. The defensive line has played well, even though they haven't terrorized the quarterback like they did in 2011. This group hasn't gotten the big turnovers like last year either, but they continue to hold the team in games and give the offense a chance to come back. There's only been a few games where they have had meltdowns, but the Lions have not been completely routed on those days. Give Gunther Cunningham's group credit for persevering.
Special Teams: D-. To say that the start for this group was horrible would be a vast understatement. Through the first four games, the Lions had given up more special teams yards and touchdowns than some teams had in the past four years. They've also dealt with the injury of a punter, but lately, things have seemingly turned around in the sense that they haven't given up a touchdown or been gashed lately. That, along with the usually steady kicking of Jason Hanson, keeps this group from being a solid E. They'll need a strong finish to boost the team during the second half.
First Half's Best Player: Mikel Leshoure. Finally, the Lions might have a viable young running threat. Early this season, Leshoure was shelved due to suspension, but since then, he's come back with a vengeance, pounding out yards and finding the end zone. His play has given the passing game a boost in recent weeks, and if he continues to get better in the second half, the Lions' offense will surely benefit.
First Half's Worst Player: Titus Young. Certainly, there are plenty of candidates here, including Matthew Stafford and most of the wide receiving core, but Young's season has been an anomaly. With Calvin Johnson not doing much, Young was being counted on heavily, and he has only produced one big game against Seattle. Still, there is hope for a rebound, as he's picked things up a bit recently. He needs to be more consistent, however, given the struggles of everybody around him. That means more pass catches instead of drops.
Most Impressive Rookies: Riley Reiff and Jonte Green. Reiff started out being used in spots, especially in the running game, and the first round pick hasn't disappointed. He's helped Detroit's running game in recent weeks, and has gained the trust of the coaching staff in more of a starting role. Little-known Green, a sixth round pick, has excelled since being forced into a role, and is looking like a find. Also, give receiver Ryan Broyles credit for stepping up recently after Nate Burleson's injury.Calvin Johnson, Detroit, Detroit Lions, Football, Jonte Green, Matthew Stafford, Mikel Leshoure, NFL, Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles, Titus Young
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