The Detroit Lions cleaned house after a 1-7 start to the season last year and responded by winning six of their final eight games. Yes, the Lions finished with a losing record for the 13th time in 15 seasons, but there’s reason to be optimistic in Detroit in 2016.
“The Lions have gotten better,” former Lions wide receiver Herman Moore said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I think they have addressed some needs in the draft. They’ve got an offensive lineman that they needed, (A’Shawn) Robinson on the defensive side, they got (Taylor) Decker on the offensive side. They have picked up a wide receiver (Marvin Jones) to try and replace Calvin Johnson. You’re not going to replace his statistics. You’re not going to replace the fear factor that a guy like Calvin Johnson brings to the table, but you now have the ability to have a quarterback that says, ‘I have to figure out a way to spread the ball.’ He can’t have that one favorite guy, but he’s going to have to be consistent spreading the football around.”
Johnson, of course, retired in March after nine brilliant NFL seasons. Once considered the best receiver in football, Johnson – at 6-5, 240 – had physical gifts unlike anything previously seen in the NFL. He holds the record for most receiving yards (1,964) in a single season.
And yet, Moore believes Johnson’s retirement could actually help quarterback Matthew Stafford.
“When you have that crutch-type player that you have in Calvin Johnson, there is a tendency for quarterbacks to say, ‘You know what? In my time of need, I just need to throw one up. I can do that,’” Moore said. “I think Matthew Stafford comes out of this a better quarterback. He’s going to have to do what most quarterbacks who don’t have those top-tier stars have to do. You spread the ball around. You got to learn the good and bad with each of the players you’re working with. If Matthew Stafford is the quarterback that they say that he is, you elevate the play of those players around you through your decision-making, through your ability to spread the ball.”
Moore, 46, played for the Lions for more than a decade and was a four-time Pro Bowler. He still lives in Detroit. The Lions haven’t won a playoff game since 1991, but the pressure to win, he said, is palpable.
“The pressure doesn’t go away until you win the championship,” Moore said. “That’s the only thing that gets it off. Unless they win a championship, I think it’s going to always leave a question mark or kind of a smudge to say, ‘Couldn’t get it done.’”