The Other 31: Lions keep busy to try to rebound from last season’s 4-12 disappointment

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Running back Reggie Bush, shown here with the Dolphins, is among the newcomers in Detroit.

Detroit Lions

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Last season’s record: 4-12

Key players released: WR Titus Young, G Stephen Peterman, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch

Retired: T Jeff Backus, K Jason Hanson

Key free agents lost: T Gosder Cherilus, CB Drayton Florence, DT Sammie Lee Hill, DE Cliff Avril, LB Justin Durant, DT Andre Fluellen, DE Lawrence Jackson, CB Jacob Lacey

Key free agents re-signed: T Corey Hilliard, LB DeAndre Levy, WR Kassim Osgood, CB Chris Houston, S Louis Delmas, G Dylan Gandy, LS Don Muhlbach, WR Brian Robiskie, S Amari Spievey

Key free agents added: DT Jason Jones, S Glover Quin, RB Reggie Bush, DT C.J. Mosley, K David Akers

Draft:

Rd. 1 (No. 5 overall)… Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah, DE/LB, BYU

2 (36)… Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State

3 (65)… Larry Warford, G, Kentucky

4 (132)… Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina

5 (165)… Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State

6 (171)… Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech

6 (199)… Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame

7 (211)… Michael Williams, TE, Alabama

9 (245)… Brandon Hepburn, LB, Florida A&M

Analysis: Few NFL teams were as perplexing or disappointing last season as the Lions, who lost their final eight games and went 4-12 on the heels of going 10-6 and reaching the playoffs in the 2011 season. That has led to a relatively active offseason.

The Lions have remade their offensive line. Left tackle Jeff Backus retired. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus left for Indianapolis in free agency and right guard Stephen Peterman was released. The Lions have Riley Reiff penciled in to take over at left tackle. It appears that Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard will be the starter at right tackle. Third-round draft choice Larry Warford is among the contenders to start at right guard.

Running back Reggie Bush was signed to a four-year, $16 million deal in free agency to add another play-maker on offense.

The Lions lost defensive end Cliff Avril when he agreed to a two-year, $15 million contract with Seattle as a free agent. His departure is significant. But the Lions used the fifth overall choice in the NFL draft on BYU pass rusher Ziggy Ansah. The selections of Ansah, second-round cornerback Darius Slay and Warford make this a draft class that could have an immediate impact.

This remains a team with plenty of talent, beginning on offense with quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson and on defense with middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch and tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The Lions certainly are capable of putting things together and being a contender again, just as they were two years ago. But little is easy alongside Green Bay, Minnesota and Chicago in the rugged NFC North, and figuring out whether the Lions will more closely resemble their 2011 team or their 2012 version isn’t easily done.

Why Redskins fans should care: The teams play Sept. 22 at FedEx Field.

Conversation starter: Which team will be the NFL’s biggest disappointment this season?

Previous Other 31 reviews:  Cardinals | Falcons | Ravens | Bills | Panthers | Bears | Bengals | Browns | Cowboys | Broncos

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