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Scouting the Schedule: Lions

Posted by Albert Breer  July 23, 2010 01:38 PM

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Smith and Pettigrew, who also suffered a torn ACL last season, both appeared to be progressing well in their injury rehab this spring and are expected to be ready for the start of the season. But the injury front -- safeties Ko Simpson and Daniel Bullocks and cornerback Jack Williams also are coming off major knee surgeries -- will be a key storyline in camp.

Simpson, acquired in a preseason trade last fall, emerged as the starting strong safety last season. But he was a bystander during OTAs, and it's anyone's guess who'll lay claim to the starting job opposite Louis Delmas, one of the league's better young defensive playmakers. The Lions opted not to bid for free agent O.J. Atogwe this spring, but if one of the veterans -- C.C. Brown was brought in after the Giants cut him loose -- doesn't step up, one of last year's glaring holes for a league-worst defense remains unfilled.
This needs to happen to win big:
Matthew Stafford needs to stay healthy to lead an offense that suddenly shows signs of life. Last year's rookie No. 1 overall pick had his season derailed by a knee injury in Week 4. And while his miracle finish to beat Cleveland with a separated shoulder cemented his status as a gamer, it effectively ended his season. A full offseason has helped Stafford build some chemistry with No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson and newly-acquired Nate Burleson. And with the other new pieces -- Best and Scheffler -- there's reason to believe this offense could put up some points in 2010. But it's going to take a lot of big plays for this team to win big.
Where they stack up: Measuring the Lions' progress is difficult, mostly because it can't get any worse. This is a franchise that has just two games combined the last two seasons, and only three of their last 40 dating to 2007. They're 33-111 since 2001, the start of Matt Millen's eight-year run as team president. But while the offense might make them more competitive and the upgraded front four should help them avoid big early deficits, it's hard to see this team winning more than five or six games in a tough NFC North division.  

July 14: Bengals
July 15: Jets
July 16: Bills
July 17: Ravens
Sunday: Chargers

Monday: Vikings
Tuesday: Browns
Wednesday: Steelers
Yesterday: Colts
: Lions
Tomorrow: Bears
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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