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Know Your Enemy: Detroit Lions, Week 1

At long last the NFL season is here. With Opening Day in sight, let's take a look at the San Diego Chargers first opponent, the Detroit Lions.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It's here. It's finally here.

Game Week.

In just four days the Chargers will be playing a football game and it will actually count.

Forget stadium talk, forget free agency speculation and draft projections. Forget mini camp tweets and training updates and the ultimate tease that is the NFL preseason.

We can finally talk about an actual game that will really happen and will really matter.

So without further adieu, here's what you need to know about the Detroit Lions.

Coaching Staff

Head Coach: Jim Caldwell

Offensive Coordinator: Joe Lombardi

Defensive Coordinator: Teryl Austin

2014 Recap:

Record: 11-5 (2nd NFC North)

Playoffs: Lost in Wild Card, 24-20 at Dallas

In head coach Jim Caldwell's first year at the helm, the Detroit Lions rebounded from a disappointing 2013 season, and improved from 7-9 to 11-5, good enough for a playoff berth.

Offensively, the 2014 Detroit Lions were a middle-of-the-road team, ranking below the league average in points per game (22nd), total yards per game (19th), yards per play (21), and third down conversion (23rd). Quarterback Matt Stafford earned a Pro Bowl berth in passing for 4,257 yards, 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, the 7th year signal caller completed just 60.3 percent of his passes and struggled away from Ford Field. The former Georgia product completed 54.1 percent of his passes on the road compared to 67.3 percent at home, while his yards per attempt fell from 7.94 to 6.29 in games played outside of Detroit.

This was in part because the Lions failed to adequately protect Stafford or provide him with a strong running game. The Detroit offensive line yielded 45 sacks and 91 quarterback hits a year ago, while the Lions ranked 28th in the league in both rushing yards per game (88.9) and yards per carry (3.6).

Still, the Lions featured one of the best 1-2 punches at receiver with  Calvin Johnson and former Seattle Seahawk Golden Tate, both of whom were named Pro Bowlers a year ago. Though limited to just 13 games, Johnson hauled in 71 receptions and 8 touchdowns and topped the 1,000 yard-mark for the sixth time in his eight seasons in the league. Tate, meanwhile, led the team in receptions (99), targets (142), and receiving yards (1,331) in his first season in the Motor City.

Meanwhile, the Lions defense was one of the best in all of football. Detroit ranked second in yards per game (300.9). third in points per game (17.6), yards per play (4.9), third in interceptions (20), eighth in sacks (42), and ninth in third down conversion (37 percent).

Free safety Glover Quin proved himself one of the top players at his position in leading the league in interceptions with 7. Meanwhile linebacker DeAndre Levy just missed out on being the NFL's top tackler in 2014, bringing down ball carriers 151 times.

2015 NFL Draft

Key Departures

DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley, RB Reggie Bush

Bush was let go in February after a disappointing follow-up to his 1,000-yard season in 2013, while Fairley joined the Rams after an inconsistent four-year stint in Detroit.

But the headliner here is of course the loss of All-Pro defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. On-the-field incidents aside, Suh is one of the most dominant defenders in the league and his impact on the game is undeniable.

Key Additions
DT Haloti Ngata, DT Tyrunn Walker, OG Manny Ramirez, OG Laken Tomlinson, RB Ameer Abdullah, DT Gabe Wright

To counter the loss of Suh and Fairley, the Lions made a trade for long time Baltimore Raven Haloti Ngata and traded up for Auburn product Gabe Wright in the fourth round. While Ngata was perhaps better than any replacement the Lions could have found in free agency, it remains to be seen if the additions made along the defensive line will be able to adequately off set the huge loss the team sustained there.

Detroit was equally aggressive in fixing up its offensive line, as the Lions trade back in the first round to nab top guard prospect Laken Tomlinson and landed Manny Ramirez from the Broncos in the process. Elsewhere, Abdullah appears to be more than a suitable replacement for Bush, if his strong preseason is any indication.