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Lions won’t break through in 2016

The Detroit Lions have not won a National Football League title since 1957. Since then, there have been very few seasons that have seen Detroit with a real chance of making any noise.

In the ensuing 59 seasons, the Lions have made the playoffs on 11 occasions. In 10 of those trips, Detroit was one-and-done. The only outlier was 1991, when Erik Kramer and Barry Sanders guided Detroit to an NFC Championship Game appearance, only to be trounced 41-10 by the Washington Redskins.

It does not appear that 2016 will offer a break from the misery in Motown. The Lions are going through another star retiring in his prime, with Calvin Johnson deciding to walk away at age 30. Beyond that, the personnel on the field simply is not overwhelming. The Lions have to figure out the defense and running game, two problems that have plagued this franchise for years.

On offense, everything relies on quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford was taken with the first-overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft and at 28 years old, has been one of the more prolific signal-callers in the sport. The former University of Georgia star has thrown for at least 4,200 yards in each of his past five campaigns, including 5,038 in 2011.

Stafford will still have some quality weapons on the outside in receivers Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, but he may be undone because of the problems around him. The front office did the right thing this spring by taking Taylor Decker in the first round, a hulking offensive tackle out of Ohio State. Decker will pair with 2105 first-round selection Laken Tomlinson, a guard from Duke, to anchor the line moving forward. If the Lions are ever going to take advantage of Stafford’s considerable talents, it starts with finally protecting him.

All that said, Detroit has a long way to go. The line is a work in progress and the backfield is lacking. Theo Riddick is a wonderful threat in the passing game but hasn’t shown burst as a runner. Ameer Abdullah has talent, but can he be more than a change of pace?

The defense is also rife with issues. Each level has a good player with Ezekiel Ansah, DeAndre Levy and Darius Slay, but there isn’t much around any of them. The biggest issue is the secondary, which has been torched routinely over the years.

Then, finally, Jim Caldwell. Caldwell went to the Super Bowl as a rookie head coach with the Indianapolis Colts, but has been wholly unimpressive since (many would argue Caldwell rode Peyton Manning’s coattails). Is Detroit wasting its time with a guy who has done little in recent history?

For now, the Lions will remains a team in contention for nothing more than a top-10 pick. At least Detroit is used to this.

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