DETROIT — The Lions (5-10) lost their home finale 27-9 on Sunday against Minnesota. Here are three things we learned in the defeat, their seventh in nine weeks.
Zach Zenner should be carrying the rock. We already know what LeGarrette Blount can do, and it isn’t much. He’s averaging 2.8 yards per carry this season, almost a full yard less than he’s averaged in any other season of his career. At 32 years old, it just seems like his best days are behind him. It certainly seems like he won’t be back next year. So what’s the point in trotting him out there in the starting lineup? What’s the point of giving him as many carries as the rest of your tailbacks combined? What’s the point in targeting him four times in the passing game, when he somehow turns them into minus-5 yards? Especially when Zenner continues to outplay him? Zenner rushed for 16 more yards, even though he came off the bench and got three fewer carries. He averaged 5.6 yards a pop, which more than doubled Blount (2.6). He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry for the season, which is nearly double Blount (2.8). And it sure looks like he could have a place on next year’s team as a staple on special teams and a reserve at running back. So again, I ask: Based on their performance this year, and their potential to contribute next year, which is all that matters anymore anyway, what’s the point in trotting Blount out there as your No. 1 back? Give Zenner the rock. He’s earned it.
The Luke Willson experiment could be over. He never caught more than 22 passes in a season in Seattle, but Bob Quinn thought he could flourish once he stepped out of Jimmy Graham’s shadow. But that proved to be another miscalculation. Willson has just 13 catches for 87 yards, and now his season could be over after he sustained a brain injury against Minnesota. Meanwhile, the man he replaced — Eric Ebron — has 13 touchdowns this season. Say what you will about Ebron, but he did improve over the years in Detroit and was flourishing down the stretch last year. And Detroit’s offense has really missed having somebody who could get open at that position.
The Lions need to spend big on another cornerback. Whether that happens in free agency or the draft is anyone’s guess, but Detroit can’t go into next season without acquiring another starting-caliber cornerback. Jamal Agnew should return to health by then, but his knee injury exposed the club’s startling lack of depth at the position. Teez Tabor and Mike Ford have been two of the worst corners in the league this season, and veteran DeShawn Shead made critical errors on the long pass that set up Minnesota’s first touchdown, then on the Hail Mary that changed the game. He simply got boxed out by Kyle Rudolph, then didn’t even jump for the ball. Detroit needs reinforcements behind Slay, and it needs them right now.