Sunday, September 25, 2016

Game 3 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

A tale of two halves.

The 1-2 Detroit Lions lost this game to the 2-1 Green Bay Packers with a score of 27-34, well actually they lost the game during the first half when the score at the end of the half was 10-31. In my opinion there is exactly two reasons why the Lions lost this particular game, with a couple of extra sides that didn't help matters along any. But more on this tale of two halves in a moment.

Matthew Stafford was 28 of 41 (68.29%) for 385 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Sounds great, except in the first half his completion percentage was no where near that. However, once he started stepping into his throws, started using proper mechanics, in the second half, he was once again his accurate self. So Stafford was one of the two reasons the Lions lost this game right? Wrong, that's one of the sides, and while some fans call it an excuse, I call it a reason, for if you can identify the reason you can fix it, an excuse is when you have no intention of fixing anything. So why was Stafford's mechanics so messed up in the first half? Part of it was that the offensive line isn't going to rank in the top half of the league and part of it was the Packer's defense was dictating what the plays being called on offense were. Once again why? Because the coaching staff for whatever reason decided to keep Riddick in the game on all run plays and apparently thought running him up the middle over and over was a great idea. Riddick had 10 run plays for a grand total of 9 yards in the game with a long of 8 yards (so the other 9 tries netted 1 yard). In the second half they played Washington on many running play snaps and he got 38 yards on his 10 attempts with a long of 9. Why is this one of the two reasons the Lions lost the game? Because just about every knowledgeable fan absolutely knows you can not run Riddick up the middle and expect any kind of result unless the OL is run blocking in a manner in which they are not capable of. So some are going to say it was lack of execution (and blame the players). Some are going to say it was poor obtaining of talent (and blame the GM). Others will insist the blame goes on Stafford alone. I shall look no further then the coaching. I have no idea who made the decision to not only start Riddick over the other options this game, but then to keep Riddick in despite it not working for nearly the entire first half. Whoever it was, that's one you can blame.

Rodgers was 15 of 24 (62.5%) for 205 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Except for the touchdowns it sounds like some decent defense, and it was, in the 2nd half, when the Packers could only manage 3 points on the scoreboard. Most of the yards and all the touchdowns happened in the first half. Why? No pressure on Rodgers. Just last week the Packers opponent showed the world how to win against Rodgers, and that is pressure. So obviously the blame goes to the defensive line, right? Or perhaps injury since Ansah and Levy were both out for this game. No, those are sides. The difference between the first half and the second half is that the Lions started to blitz in the second half. That led to hurried throws and other bad decisions all through the 2nd half. Why Austin will not blitz unless, in his words, he has to, is some kind of personal belief (obviously). But just last week it was proven how to win, and to me that means "you have to" blitz... not just in the second half, but from the first play from scrimmage. So some will blame injury, some will blame lack of execution by the players, others will blame Stafford (no idea how that works), and I will blame Austin, the defensive coordinator... unless I find out Caldwell told him not to blitz then I shall blame him instead.

So there you have, my tale of the two halves point to the stubborn determined insistence to play Riddick on every running play in the first half along with the stubborn determined insistence to not blitz at all during the same half. Those two factors directly caused (again, in my opinion) the Lions to go 10-31 by half time only to come back 17-3 in the second half. Same QB, same OL, same DL, heck same players period, same playbooks, same coaching staff, same field of play. In the second half the Lions played Washington at RB and blitzed on defense. That is what worked, and failing to do that in the first half is why they lost. Some would say they made half time adjustments and it almost worked, that the coaching identified the issue(s) and almost got the win because of it. I call b.s. Nearly every fan knows you don't run Riddick up the middle over and over especially if you have other options, and many a fan watched the game last week and knows there is a way to defeat the Packers... that being to rattle Rodgers and his iffy offensive line by getting pressure. So blitz, and play the rookies, stop the mandatory start of veterans only and waiting until it's too late to give the rookies some play time. It's going to cause the entire season to be a waste of everyone's time.

We can assume that Cooter made the Riddick decision, and we can assume that Austin made the non-blitz decisions, and they may have. But there is still one guy who can over rule them... the head coach. All that remains to find out is if he over rules them before the game starts or at half time. Is he the problem or the thing that gets things sorted out for the 2nd half? You could say though, since he can do either, the fault is his and his alone for not demanding things differently.

Not everyone is going to agree with me, and that's fine. I'm only pointing out how I see it. Next week the Lions play the Bears away. Perhaps that match up will work out better for the Lions and perhaps they can win the game despite the coaching... or will it be because of the coaching... we shall see next Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Game 2 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Tennessee Titans @ Home

Flag Football

The 1-1 Detroit Lions lose to the 1-1 Tennessee Titans 15-16 after allowing 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The officials called 29 (accepted) penalties for a total of 221 yards interrupting the flow of the game from the beginning to the end. The record in any given game is 37. You would've thought they wouldn't have missed anything with that many penalties but they did, and made up for it by calling things that didn't even happen. I'm wondering what the future of the NFL is, flag football perhaps? But I digress.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 40 (55%) for 260 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The interception was on the last play of the game as Stafford tried to mount a comeback down by 1 point when he threw off his back foot, an old habit that he hadn't fallen back to in a very long time. But that was far from the only mistake made during the game (and I don't mean just by Stafford).

The Lions had jumped out to a 15-3 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter but had by then suffered losses due to injury of Ameer Abdullah, Ezekiel Ansah, DeAndre Levy and for that matter all their linebackers except for Whitehead and Armbrister. CB Lawson appeared lost for most of the game again and some of the other players were constantly out of position as well. I've been saying it for awhile now but DC Austin just doesn't have the Defense ready to play. Last year it took him 8 weeks before the defense started coming together, I hope it doesn't take that long this time around. Mariota completed 25 of 33 (75.76%) for 238 yards 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Titans offense continually picked on the Lions lack of Linebackers (say that 3 times fast) and were able to move down the field (with the help of the officials) quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Despite all of that it was a pretty close game and it could have gone either way.

Once Ameer was injured and unable to come back the Lions run game all but disappeared, so too went most of their 4 minute game (the so called game plan designed to drain time off the clock) and that coupled with the lack of linebackers (needed to get stops) completely destroyed whatever game plan the Lions had developed for the Titans. The problem is, in my mind at least, the game plan didn't get changed to accommodate the situation. For example, with the injured players on defense it would've been a good idea to keep the offense on the field as much as possible. Instead, when a drive stalled at mid-field the Lions opted to punt. I would have gone for it, pass plays were what was working and the need to keep the ball was great. But no, first the punt, then their longest play of the game followed. As did their scoring, over and over again. Getting all conservative after these particular injuries was exactly the wrong thing to do, even with the small lead.

So when assigning "blame" for the loss, I start with the coaching. I would assign a percentage to the injuries as well but then no one can do anything about those. I "blame" part of the loss on the offensive line, the left side of which really fell apart when they were needed most. Decker definitely got schooled, hopefully he'll learn, and Tomlinson still struggles here and there. Even Swanson had a few issues though I will admit he's not being pushed back nearly as much as he used to. All of the pressure they allow is having a negative effect on both the run and the pass game, but they aren't the whole problem. The receivers need to work on catching the ball, there were nearly 10 drops in this game (give or take). Too many for the talent on this team. And no, Ebron was not the primary culprit, in fact, Ebron had some very nice catches. Stafford had a nice run of 24 yards to go with his other 7 but ended up stubbing his toe trying to cut instead of sliding, he also blocked some for other plays risking injury, he was doing way more then most teams ask their QB to do, but at the end, tired and rattled, he reverted back to off balance throws and threw his first interception in 212 pass attempts. Then again, trying to do too much when the rest of your team isn't quite helping out as much isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's still necessary to not revert back to old bad habits.

The other aspect of the game that was front and center though was the flag football. Not the tackling, just the sheer volume of yellow flags that were thrown. 29 penalties in all, and those just the ones that were accepted, there were many others that were not. Fans don't watch the games to see yellow flags all game long. The officials got more air time then the QBs, and nearly as many yards. I'm not sure how all the penalties affected the game, or which team benefited more, perhaps it was a wash, who knows, but it sure was unpleasant to watch! I'm hoping the Lions never have to put up with that officiating crew again, but with the way things go sometimes it wouldn't surprise me if they were in the majority of games this year instead.

In the end the reason the Lions lost was too many injuries, followed by the coaching unable to overcome, and finally by the players who didn't execute when they had chances to do so, and possibly the officiating. The only thing that went right as far as I know is the debut of the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders. So at least there is that.

Photo courtesy of

Next Sunday the Lions play the Packers in Wisconsin, then the Bears in Chicago the week after. Two very important road games. They must get healthy, and they must have a means to overcome injuries to adapt on the fly during games, they must practice (catching, footwork, blocking, tackling, etc), and they need a means to ignore the poor officiating. Can it be done? Sure. Will it happen? That also remains to be seen. One thing for sure, neither the Packers nor the Bears will be playing flag football, so it's time to get to work.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Game 1 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts

Wild Ride.

The 1-0 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 0-1 Indianapolis Colts 39-35. After starting out 21-3 the Lions after the 2 minute warning at the end of the first half must have felt they had the game in hand and nearly prevented themselves from getting the win with some rather poor defensive plays, both at that point in time and later in the 2nd half. The Colts managed to even tie things up only to lose the lead and then regain the lead (by one point) before the Lions final drive of the game when Prater, who had missed an extra point not that long before, hit for 3 and the lead. With only 4 seconds left on the clock the Colts tried some razzle dazzle but ended up with a forward pass in the endzone for a penalty, also known as a safety (because it happened in their endzone) giving the Lions an extra 2 points. It was a wild ride.

Matthew Stafford was 31 of 39 (79.487%) <---- and that's amazing <---- for 340 yards 3 TDs and no interceptions. Compare that to Andrew Luck's 31 of 47 (65.957%) which is good (or really bad defense by the Lions and Colts) and you can see that both teams have a potent offense... or both teams have defenses in need of some TLC.... otherwise both teams might in for a lot more wild rides.

The Lions had 116 yards on the ground via 5 different runners (Stafford had 5 yards) and the 340 through the air to 8 different players. Considering they only have 4 wide receivers on the roster, that's not too bad. New Wide Receiver Marvin Jones Jr had 4 receptions for 85 yards, Theo Riddick had 5 for 63 yards, Ameer Abdullah had 5 for 57 yards, Eric Ebron had 5 for 46 yards, Golden Tate had 7 for 41 yards, Boldin 3 for 35 yards, with Roberts and Wick a reception apiece for 8 and 5 yards respectively. Most of the missed passes were well defended plays not counting the one intentional throw away at the end of the game. Of course, there were only 7 missed passes that got defended or missed unintentionally, so there's not much to complain about. I would say the goat on offense would have to be left guard Tomlinson, who still is having issues keeping his guy in front of him.

On defense there were two touchdowns given up when Whitehead would release a tight end to continue his route behind him and no one, no one even close, came over to pick him up. I think that happened to a corner and a safety on those two plays, but I can't be sure who messed up. Regardless, the entire wild ride wouldn't have happened if those two plays didn't occur. Then again, there was a stop in the 4th quarter that got negated due to a 15 yard penalty when a Lions player was called for taunting (he was taunting the crowd, not an opponent). It was a stupid thing to do and nearly cost them the game too. Needless to say, the coaching staff has a few things to work on, but at least they are obvious things, and hopefully these things will not happen again this year.

A win on the road to start the season is great, and the ride home for the players will be a whole lot more pleasant then if they had lost, but the team has got work to do unless they want even more wild rides like this one. Tomlinson needs a lot of help with his footwork, and the LBs and DBs need to get on the same page with their coverages. Prater, Muhlbach, and Martin need to get comfortable with extra points as well (on that last field goal for the win Muhlbach sent the ball high, nearly hitting Martin in the chin, then there was the missed extra point by Prater before that). Like I said, plenty to work on, but at least the quarterback isn't one of those things. That was perhaps one of the best games by a Lions quarterback that I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of games and Lions quarterbacks. Stafford truly put the team on his shoulders and carried them into the win column, wild ride or no.

Next week the Lions open at home against the Tennessee Titans. Since the Packers and the Vikings also won this week the Lions need to continue their success by taking this game as well. Preferably without all the highs and lows, after all, there are some Lions fans out there watching who have heart conditions, and I worry for their health, assuming that is that they survived this Colts game. As for myself, I think I'll take an aspirin before the game starts next week, just to be safe.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 31st 2016 - Defensive Line

The post draft defensive line situation.

The Detroit Lions have 15 defensive lineman currently on the roster. They will likely keep 9 on the final 53. Sure, like other positions, it could be one more or one less (8 to 10) but in a normal year 9 players would be the target. So let's see what we have to work with here at this point in time.

At Defensive End we have our first lock to make the final 53, that being Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah. There is some confusion here as a few of the players on the team can play both inside (defensive tackle) and outside (defensive end). To further confuse things, outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been called a defensive end by the Lions a couple of times already this off season, yet he wears a linebacker number. That means he'll play a bit of both most likely. It also makes him valuable, able to play two positions for the Lions. So, if he makes the team as a linebacker, it's very likely the Lions will only keep 4 true defensive ends and 5 tackles, one of which can also rotate out from time to time. The other three defensive ends to likely make the roster are Devin Taylor who for a long while this off season was only the 2nd of 2 DEs on the roster; free agent pick up Wallace Gilberry who was paid a signing bonus of $340,000 and has a workout bonus of $25,000 plus an $885,000 salary AND $500,000 in NLTBE bonuses in his contract; then there is the 6th round draft pick Anthony Zettle who is a very athletic DE (as mentioned in previous blog entries) who received a $123,724 signing bonus. Fighting for a spot (and insurance for any injuries are 3 undrafted players (who are likely playing for a practice squad spot) James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, and Louis Palmer. It would really take some impressive play (and practices) to have one of these 3 undrafted players take a roster spot away from the other four.

At defensive tackle we have a couple of locks to make the team. Haloti Ngata received a 2 year contract a couple months ago along with a $4 million signing bonus. That money along with his experience and ability makes him a lock to make the final roster. The Lions 2nd round draft pick A'Shawn Robinson has his salary guaranteed and had a $2,006,280 signing bonus last month paid to him, he is obviously a lock. Stefan Charles has a 1 year $1 million contract to go with his $550,000 signing bonus, he is not exactly a lock but is definitely on the "Likely to make the final 53" list.

That leaves 2 spots for Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid to fight off challengers Gabe Wright, Kerry Hyder and Khyri Thornton. Once again I think we are looking at injury insurance however should one of these guys prove he deserves a roster spot then one of the others could be in trouble, not just the DTs but at some other position. You just never now when the team will go short somewhere else to keep a guy they just can't part with.

So the final analysis is this, Kyle Van Noy (OLB) if he makes the team, will help back up at DE.
Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata, and A'Shawn Robinson are all three locks to make the final roster.
Devin Taylor, Wallace Gilberry, Stefan Charles and Anthony Zettle are all "likely to make the final roster".
Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid are fighting to keep their roster spots against Gabe Wright, Kerry Hyder, and Khyri Thornton, who are also trying to open up a 10th DL spot with their play.
Finally there is James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, and Louis Palmer all fighting for that same roster spot but are also trying to at least make the practice squad.

{update}: after completing the blog I realized that the retired scout with 30 years of NFL experience ranked Anthony Zettel as a B with a score of 6.40; the B means a player you would draft in rounds 2 or 3 and the 6.40 means "A solid college player with traits to succeed at the next level. Hey may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power." That is why I have him as likely to make the final roster. Also he ranked Robinson as an A with a 6.90 score which means "A player with not quite as talented as a 7.0. Should start early in his career, hopefully as a rookie. Has the potential to ascend to a Pro Bowl type player. Will be one of the better players on your team. Has multiple traits for the position. Can be dominant at times. At top 20-25 pick." It's going to be a tough year to make the roster this year, but everyone has a chance depending on how they do, as you can tell if you read all my blog entries in the estimated depth chart series. Am I forgetting special team? No, not really, Matt Prater will be the kicker, Sam Martin the punter, Kyle Christy is insurance and looking to catch on with another team as long as Sam Martin stays healthy, and as I explained in my after draft segment, 6th round draft pick Jimmy Landes will win the long snapper job if he can do the job, and if he can not, Don Muhlbach stays on for another year when the Lions will try again to find a new long snapper. Since that paragraph isn't long enough or provide any new information there is no reason to make a blog entry out of that, hence wrapping things up with this entry, on the defensive line.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 30th 2016 - Linebackers

The post draft linebacker situation.

The Detroit Lions have 11 Linebackers on their roster at present. They usually keep 6 players at that position. It is entirely possible they could keep 5 or 7 depending on circumstances (such as other talent to important to lose or other players able to play linebacker and say safety or defensive end) but the typical result is 6 linebackers on the final roster, so let's take a closer look at what they have to work with.

There are two locks to make the final roster; DeAndre Levy (due to his talent) and Tahir Whitehead (talent and the fact he just received $3 million in signing bonuses this year). Both of those players can be slotted in right now at weakside and middle linebacker respectively.

The highly likely to not make the team goes to Stephen Tulloch. Cutting him saves $5.5 million in salary cap space this year plus it was announced by him in February that he wouldn't be on the team this year. Yet the Lions paid him $500,000 as a roster bonus in March, apparently because it was guaranteed. The press has tried multiple times to find out why he's still on the roster but don't get a full explanation. My guess is that there is some kind of wording issue in his contract that is preventing them from making the cut. I assume that it will eventually be worked out, so I am not including him on the roster or even in the fight for a spot on the team.

The 5th round draft pick Antwione Williams was paid a signing bonus of $204,640 which is not enough to consider him a lock, but as a 5th round pick he would have to suck big time to end up on the cut list. He ends up on the "highly likely to make the team" list. Another on that list is Jon Bostic, since Quinn traded to get him with his former team, giving up the 7th round pick the Lions got for a trade 2 years ago with them. Neither player cost so much that they couldn't be cut, but all things being equal I would have to say they make the team.

That leaves 2 spots open for 6 players. Kyle Van Noy still has 2 years remaining on his contract but he really needs to show something this year to be considered. Josh Bynes did fairly well filling in last year, he probably has a leg up on the others but it's by no means assured. Brandon Copeland is on the team due to his special teams play, but with so many others now on the team that can also play special teams this no longer may be enough for him to make it. Then the three free agents picked up this year come into play as well; they being Jerry Franklin, Khaseem Greene, and Zaviar Gooden. While it's easy to just say Van Noy and Bynes have the final two spots locked up, I don't think it's going to be that easy when it's all said and done. Still, for now at least, that is the way I am leaning... but I'm also keeping my eyes and ears open for guys who could upset that apple cart.

In summary then:
2 Locks: DeAndre Levy and Tahir Whitehead.
2 Highly likely to make the team: Antwione Williams and Jon Bostic.
2 Open spots with Van Noy and Bynes penciled in but with Franklin, Greene, Gooden, and Copeland hot on their heels.
1 Likely to be cut: Stephen Tulloch, presumably after June 1st sometime yet no one knows why the delay.

That is how the linebacker corp appears to me at this point in time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 27th 2016 - Defensive Backs

The post draft defensive backs situation.

Over the past week the Lions have made a couple of roster moves, two cuts, both due to injury. RFA Tight End Timothy Wright was cut due to injury today and a couple of days ago they cut UDFA Offensive Tackle Darius Johnson. Neither cut changes the salary cap situation for the Lions who currently have $14,965,950 in cap space available using the league's top 51 contract rule that is in effect until the first week of the regular season. Both players were guys who I thought had a very good chance of making the final roster and I suppose either could be re-signed at a later time once they can pass a physical. This gives GM Quinn two open spots on the roster to bring in bodies that he otherwise could not have without making these cuts. This also alters my estimated depth chart. I now move both cuts to the cut column and move over TE Matthew Mulligan and RT Michael Ola onto the 53. More moves will be forthcoming, just giving an update on the moves made to date (since my last update).

Now as to the defensive backs, the Lions typically keep 10, some years 9, some years 11, but for the most part, 10. It's usually pretty much 5 corners and 5 safeties as well, but it could go 6 and 4 or 4 and 6 if the players warrant such a move. At this point in time we will assume the total will remain 10 and the ratio will remain at 5 each.

Looking at Safety, the Lions have two Locks. Pro Bowler Glover Quin and their 2016 4th round draft pick Miles Killebrew. They also have two newly signed (this year) free agents in Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson who I believe have the edge over the incumbents Don Carey and Isaiah Johnson. In my opinion, both Don and Isaiah are competing against Johnson Bademosi for the final spot. Bademosi can supposedly play either safety or corner and would be a mainstay on special teams. I do believe Don and Isaiah are mostly insurance against injury but I can not say that Bademosi or Wilson or Bush are locks. So, on paper at least, there are actually 5 playing for 3 spots. Presently.

Now at Cornerback there is one lock in Darius Slay. There are 3 more that are highly likely to make the final 53 and they are Alex Carter, Quandre Diggs, and Nevin Lawson. Diggs and Lawson because they showed last year they are capable of playing in the NFL and Carter because he's got talent and despite his year off due to injury I fully expect him to own a roster spot on his talent alone. If I'm accurate here that leaves one spot for undrafted rookie Ian Wells (who I think has a great chance here) to compete against free agents Darrin Wells and Crezdon Butler and fellow undrafted rookies in Charles Washington and Adairius Barnes. Now if Bademosi doesn't play any safety at all and is in this group instead of at safety the team will have to decide if they go 6 and 4 or possibly keep 11 instead of 10 DBs on the final roster. There is going to be a lot of competition for the one or possibly two spots that appear to be contested here, yet that doesn't mean that a player not expected to win a roster spot can't prove his worth and force the team to keep him on. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying their hardest to make the team, just pointing out how it appears at this point in time, and how it appears now may not be anything like it will appear by the end of August.

So with that qualifier, this is the summary of how I see it playing out at this point in time:
Locks: Safety Glover Quin, Safety Miles Killebrew, and Corner Darious Slay.
Likely to claim a roster spot: Safety Rafael Bush, Safety Tavon Wilson, Corner(Safety?) Johnson Bademosi, Corner Alex Carter, Corner Quandre Diggs, and Corner Nevin Lawson.
Probable final spot available: Corner Ian Wells versus Safety Don Carey, Safety Isaiah Johnson, Corner Darrin Wells, corner Crezdon Butler, corner Charles Washington and corner Adairius Barnes.

Injuries would (of course) open up more then one spot, and a player who performs so well they Lions can't make themselves cut him could open up an 11th spot at DB, so this "final spot" scenario is not carved in stone either. Then there is always the chance of regression, where a player from a prior season doesn't, for whatever reason, progress but rather regresses and is then surpassed by another player on the team. However things work out though, it's going to be a highly contested group of players fighting it out for the roles available, and that is a good thing.

Update: After completing this blog I realized that Bademosi was given a $2 million signing bonus in 2016 on a 2 year contract AND has $900,000 of his salary guaranteed so he truly belongs in the "Lock" category and not in the "Likely to claim a roster spot" category. There is almost no chance of his being cut. While there were signing bonuses for the two free agent safeties as well, they were at a quarter million and half million and therefor are not high enough to consider those players locks, though perhaps they should be slightly higher then just "Likely" to make the team.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 18th 2016 - Offensive Line

The post draft offensive line situation.

As of today the Detroit Lions have 15 players on their roster that play on the offensive line. Teams in the NFL tend to keep the 5 starters and then 5 backups for a total of 10 players (well some teams do, definitely not all teams). The Lions tend to keep 9, with one player who can back up two positions. Sometimes they get lucky and have more then one player who can backup more then one position. Either way, they usually keep 9 players, so let's see what the options are as of today.

There are currently 3 players on the team who can play center (that I now of, I haven't heard of any guards practicing at center so far this year). They are last year's starter Travis Swanson the 3rd round pick in the 2014 draft but who was ranked as the worst center in the NFL last year (if I recall correctly). There is this year's 3rd round draft pick Graham Glasgow and then there is Gabe Ikard who the Lions signed last year as a free agent player but is the same age as Swanson. These guys could play guard in an emergency, but I suspect the Lions will keep two of them. As the 3rd round draft pick this year the lock is Graham Glasgow. He may even win the starting center job, after all, you can't complain about how bad the OL was last year, draft a number of players that play OL, then not actually play them. With Glasgow the lock, that leaves the two 25 year olds Swanson and Ikard fighting it out for the other roster spot at center. Most assume that Swanson is a lock here, I do not believe that is the case. Oh sure, he's got more starting experience then Ikard, but his progress in developing into a quality starting center in the NFL was no where to be found this past year. For now, I'm giving Swanson the edge in making the final roster over Ikard, but I'm not going to call it a lock, not by any stretch of the imagination.

The Lions have 7 players on the roster who can play guard. Some will be better at left, some at right, and 4 of these 7 could play tackle as well, one or more might even be at tackle instead of guard by the end of August. Last year's starter and 1st round pick in 2015 Laken Tomlinson is purely a guard, he did develop a little as the year progressed last year, just what his ceiling is I do not know, but his entire contract is guaranteed so he will make the final roster (unless he was to get traded, which I doubt). Larry Warford, last year's starting right guard, is still on the team, but he will be facing competition for that job this year, and facing competition for a spot on the roster as well. If he can stay healthy he stands a chance of making the team, but he doesn't seem to stay healthy so this year needs to be his first year he does (stay healthy). One such competitor for his spot (and starting job) is the free agent pick up Geoff Schwartz. Unlike Warford, Schwartz can play guard or tackle, making him more valuable. Schwartz was only paid an $80,000 signing bonus but he has $120,000 of his salary guaranteed. Now $200,000 in guarantees doesn't make a player a lock to make the team, but Quinn obviously really wanted him on the roster, so it's going to take some significant play by others to knock him off of it.

Another player with some momentum to make the roster is this year's 5th round draft pick Joe Dahl. His signing bonus was $245,916... but Mr Dahl is being tried out at tackle and guard right from the get go, and he's more athletic then all the starters from last year at either position, so he is actually talented enough to play either. He's not a lock, but like Schwartz, it's going to take some effort by others to knock him off the team. Edit: I forgot to include this info on Dahl, the 30 year ex-scout who I referred to before on other players has Dahl ranked ahead of Lee and the others, in fact, he gave him an A grade (player you draft in the first two rounds) and a 6.60 score which is "A very good college player who should develop into a solid and consistent NFL player after a period of adjustment. Will eventually start and help a championship team win on a consistent basis. A late first or top half of second round player. You win BECAUSE of this type of player."

That's four. But, like I said, Dahl is being tried at tackle, he might be one of the four guards, and Warford is not a lock to make the final roster, or even to stay healthy, so there are some more players fighting for the one or two spots remaining. They are the undrafted guard Chase Farris who was paid $10,000 to sign an undrafted contract with the Lions; then there is Andrew Zeller also undrafted who can play guard or tackle and is also, like Dahl, extremely talented and physical. The last member of this group is another undrafted, in fact he was signed after the rookie OTAs where he was invited as a try out player and then signed, and he also players tackle or guard. His name is Darius Johnson. Which spot they settle on for him is not yet known.

Another lock to make the final roster is tackle Riley Reiff (again, unless he is traded). Reiff had his 5th year contract option picked up last year, which makes it guaranteed. When you guarantee a player's salary and that salary is $8.07 million then that player is a lock to make the roster. Now he may not end up as the left tackle, maybe not even the starter, but he'll make the final 53. I did not mark him down as a possible guard because even though pundits say he should be moved inside he hasn't actually played inside so it's unknown if he even could. It's also unknown if he could play right tackle in the NFL. I anticipate that perhaps, with the large influx of new talent on the OL, that Reiff might get moved around some early on to see exactly where he might be best at in Cooter's offensive scheme.

Yet another lock is this year's 1st round draft pick Taylor Decker. His entire 4 year contract is guaranteed, so he's a lock to make the team (again, unless traded) for the next 4 years. Whether he ends up at left tackle or right tackle remains to be seen, though I heard they are trying him at left tackle first (no idea how truthful that is).

The last set of players fighting for a roster spot are some of last year's roster; they are Michael Ola, Corey Robinson, and Cornelius Lucas. None of these guys have a salary cap reason for making the team. None of these guys were signed by Quinn. So all 3 of these guys would need to win a roster spot via their talent only. As none of them is known to play guard, their versatility is limited to playing right or left tackle. With Ola's starting experience last year he is probably a step ahead of the other two, but it's not a giant step... nothing that couldn't be overcome anyway. If you're still with me you are probably trying to remember how many locks there and who is fighting for what... and I plan to summarize that in just a bit. I just want to clarify, there are definitely locks to make the roster, there are no locks to be the starter. That includes every single one of the starters from the OL in 2015. And I do mean every single one. When your OL was as bad as the Lions' was last year, you can not even start to think you have it made. The fans shouldn't think that way, and the players had better not think that way.

Center Lock: Graham Glasgow. Swanson as the backup (or starter) with Ikard hard on his tale to take his spot away from him if he's not the starter.

Guard Lock: Laken Tomlinson. His entire remaining contract is guaranteed. Unless he's traded he makes the final roster.

Tackle Lock: Riley Reiff AND Taylor Decker. Both contracts fully guaranteed for this year (and 3 more years to follow in Decker's case).

That's 4 locks and 1 backup center that's between two players, so 5 spots locked in out of 9. These next guys are highly likely to make the final roster, not exactly a lock, but the next best thing to it.

Likely to claim a roster spot: G/T Geoff Schwartz AND G/T Joe Dahl. One a free agent signed by Quinn and the other a 5th round draft pick selected by Quinn.

That leaves us with 2 roster spots left for these 7 guys to fight over.
G Larry Warford
G Chase Farris
G/T Andrew Zeller
T/G Darius Johnson
T Cornelius Lucas
T Michael Ola
T Corey Robinson

As you can see, some serious talent may not make the final roster. In fact, it's possible that two of last year's starters may not even make the team. It's also possible that two more of last year's starters will be backup's and not starters this year. Fans and pundits alike were after the Lions to fix the OL, and this is how they are going to try doing just that. After writing this blog entry today I'm actually going to have to change my estimated depth chart, as it doesn't match the locks and the guys likely to make it. So I'm changing my estimated depth chart to this:

LT: Riley Reiff and Joe Dahl.
LG: Laken Tomlinson (also backed up by Joe Dahl).
C: Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson (or it could be Ikard).
RG: Geoff Schwartz and Andrew Zeller.
RT: Taylor Decker and Darius Johnson. (edit: Ola may make the roster over Johnson if he doesn't show enough).

Chase Farris is going to be challenging both Zeller and Johnson for a roster spot, and the loser makes the practice squad. Since I don't know for sure who ends up at guard and who ends up at tackle the mix could be re-scrambled at a later time once word leaks out who is settling in where. For the time being though, this is how I see it going. Of course, the other 6 guys aren't going to just lay down either, and then there's the possibility of Quinn finding a trade partner, heck there is even a chance more free agents will be signed to get into the mix. A lot of variables in play, I only know a shake up is going to happen, and we all know, somewhere deep inside, a shakeup needs to happen, as far as the offensive line is concerned.