NetRat's News


Sunday, January 11, 2015

First week of the 2015 off season for the Lions

Now that the Detroit Lions are out of the playoff picture it's time to set our sights on the 2015 team. The first issue with the off season is that there are no less then 3 clubs thinking about signing the Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin as their new head coach. I think most Lions fans would agree that keeping him as the DC is likely very critical to having a chance at a decent 2015. Here's hoping he remains right where he currently is.

The next issue for the team is taking a look at the salary cap situation. The Lions had 39 players with 2015 contracts, 1 of which is Ndamukong Suh who's contract voids 5 days after the super bowl. The Lions then proceeded to sign 14 guys to future/reserve contracts. These are contracts that will take affect when the new league year officially starts. 5 days after the super bowl they can sign one more, or keep the spot open to franchise tag Suh (a very expensive gamble if they go that route, more on this later). The 39 original 2015 contracts plus the 14 future/reserve contracts gives the Lions 53 players using up $126,285,255 of the 2015 salary cap (this will change nearly every day during the off season as moves are made).

The Lions had $939,170 in 2014 cap they did not use up, this will be carried forward into 2015.

The NFL has not yet set the official cap space each team can use in 2015, though they did say that for now use the number $138 million. I actually think the real cap number for each team will approach $142 million, this is just my educated guess however. If I am correct, then you would add the carryover to the cap limit and the Lions would have $142,939,170 to work with. With $126,285,255 already committed, that gives them $16,653,915 in salary cap to work with. Once the new league year officially starts only the top 51 contracts will count against the cap for the entire off season until about a week before kickoff of week 1 in September. Between now and then they will try to re-sign many of their own free agents, bring in new blood through free agency, select their players from the NFL draft, and turn over every stone they can to find guys to fill the 90 man roster they can take into OTAs (Organized Team Activities) and Mini-Camps.

Here are the 14 guys they signed to future/reserve contracts:
RB Emil Igwenagu
WR Skye Dawson
WR Andrew Peacock
WR/TE Ifeanyi Momah
TE Jordan Thompson
C Taylor Boggs
C Braxston Cave
OT Michael Williams
DE/DT Kerry Hyder
DE/DT Roy Philon
DT Xavier Proctor
LB Jerrell Harris
S Nate Ness
CB Crezdon Butler

The Detroit Lions draft 23rd in the 2015 draft which will be held April 30th - May 2nd in Chicago. I estimate they will need $4,253,600 for the rookie salary cap pool (the amount of cap space needed to sign all their draft picks). They will have no problem doing that as only the top 51 contracts count throughout the off season.

The Lions also have a number of free agents, guys who's contracts expire. The main being Ndamukong Suh. I expect them to try to re-sign him to a multi-year deal worth around $15 to $16 million a year. Anything more then that and I expect he'll be playing for another team instead. The Lions have 14 other guys without contracts too, some of them they will want back and some of them they will not. Hopefully they are able to sign all of the ones they do want back. I know I would like to see a lot of them back myself, such as the kicker Matt Prater, DE Darryl Tapp, DT CJ Mosley, maybe even DT Nick Fairley among others. My current estimated depth chart (color coded to show the free agents) is an excel spreadsheet that can be found at (watch the tabs at the bottom). There are also a few free agents I would prefer not to see back, such as C Dominic Raiola and KR Jeremy Ross. That said, if they could be signed for vet minimum it wouldn't hurt to have them on the team until someone else actually takes their job away in camp (which for those two I am thinking might actually happen).

If the Lions do re-sign all the free agents there won't be room for all the draft picks on the final 53 ... meaning some later round draft picks might not make the team, or some vets might be replaced with newbies. This is a scenario the team hasn't really had to contend with in quite some time. We fans might not be ready for that kind of roster turnover just yet, but I suspect we will have to start (getting used to it).

My salary cap chart for 2015 is also updated, it can be found at the same link as above, just click on the menu for salary cap instead of depth chart. Next blog, a little more information on the roster as I see it, both this past year and the upcoming one. If I get too wordy I may break it up into several entries, we shall see how that goes.

For now, the Lions have 53 contracts (52 once Suh's is voided 5 days after the super bowl) and enough salary cap to re-sign whichever free agents of their own they want. The plan always was to build through the draft and they should have no problem signing those picks either. As for being a player in free agency, that would depend on who is available and for how much, and who they wanted back but were unable to sign. I foresee a couple moves, but I don't foresee a ton of them. Somewhat like last year, only maybe not quite as active.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Game 17 - Lions @ Dallas Cowboys (wildcard playoffs)


The Detroit Lions lost to the NFL Officials 20-24 today... err, I mean, to the Dallas Cowboys of course. I can't even read a headline about the Cowboys win without putting an asterisk at the end of the sentence. There is simply no way a Lions fan could have watched the game and not have an extremely negative opinion on the officiating. For that matter, neutral viewers and even a few Cowboy fans would follow suit... though the Cowboy fans would have to stop laughing first. If I can think of some way to boycott the NFL and still watch my team I would.

The Lions had the lead, were within field goal range with a pass interference penalty on the Cowboys, the official announced the penalty over the PA system, the players moved down the field a ways, then the flag was picked up, after a Cowboy player ran onto the field without his helmet and complained about the call. He too should have been flagged, but was not. The drive resulted in a punt instead of points and then Dallas scored the game winning TD immediately after (because of course our star young punter had to shank the punt).

During the game the officials failed to call holding well over a dozen times, but I was prepared for that, as they did the same thing in New Orleans a couple years ago. I warned many all week leading up to the game that the officials would take away the effectiveness of the DL unless the DL actually sacked or pressured Romo, which they did early but failed to keep doing it all game long. Also during the game a Dallas player stomped on Bell and that was not called, we shall see if he gets a $70,000 fine, but I suspect not.

(had a link here, it's been taken down already, of the stomp)

I shall try this one instead.

Now that the Lions lost* this game, they are set to pick 23rd in the upcoming NFL draft. Since I am pretty sure you can't draft officials we will need to set our sites on possibly new players... after we see if the Lions lose their DC to a head coaching job elsewhere... and free agency... and all the rest, you know the drill. Of course, the Lions could get a party bus instead of drafting an official, as TMZ posted this pic of the head of officiating exiting a Cowboys party bus that started circulating on twitter during the game (I'm sure it was well before that, just hadn't noticed).

(had a link here too, it's also now gone, of the official exiting the bus)

Anyway, Matthew Stafford was 28 of 42 (66.667%) for 323 yards a TD and an INT (sacked 3 times). The Lions defense kept Romo to 19 of 31 (61.29%) for 293 yards 2 TDs and 0 INTs (sacked 6 times). They also kept the run game to 75 yards but allowed one rushing TD. The Lions still need to work more on special teams, but overall I'd say this game was lost due to turnovers and officiating.

Many Lions fans would say officiating, first last and everything inbetween. However, until someone can tell me how we fans can fine the officials for stomping on the Lions all we got to work with is getting better, so much better that our team can beat another team AND the officials. For that is what it will take.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Game 16 - Lions @ Green Bay Packers


The 11-5 Detroit Lions lose to the 12-4 Green Bay Packers 20-30 in Lambeau Field, again, for the 23rd year in a row allowing the Packers to clinch the NFC North, get a bye week in the playoffs, and get home field in the playoffs as the number 2 seed. Had the Lions won they would have had all of those things for themselves, the record, the bye week, the banner, the home field, all of it. Instead though, the Lions found multiple ways to blow the game.

That doesn't mean the Lions are out of the playoffs though, now they get to play next week in the wildcard game on Sunday at 4:40pm et, in Dallas. Their opponents will include the former Lions head coach Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, and Scott Linehan, the former offensive coordinator for the Lions under Jim Schwartz, who has the same position in Dallas. If the current Lions players feel about these former coaches as many fans do they would do everything they can to not just win the game but to tromp on Dallas hard. Not tromp like Suh did to Rodger's leg (whether intentionally or not is yet to be judged) but figuratively, as in on the score board. Hopefully Suh will be available to play in that game. In fact, hopefully, everyone currently on the roster will be available for the game, such as the oft injured right guard Warford, the currently suspended center Raiola, and various others who have bumps and bruises here or there, not the least of which is Nick Fairley.

Where was I? Oh yeah, multiple ways to blow the game... let's start with allowing the Packers to return a punt for a touchdown, or kicking the ball off out of bounds to give them the ball on the 40, or not trying for a field goal when just in range (actually I was okay with that one). Basically special teams made mistakes and that helped the Packers win the game. But they were not alone. Bell never cradled a hand off and fumbled the ball away, Stafford tried several times to complete passes not with his feet pointing in the wrong direction but off the ground entirely (and missing the target every time horribly). The offensive line was a patchwork once again and played like it, only worse. Then the NFL's number 2 defense decided to take the day off allowing 152 yards rushing and 232 yards passing along with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions and only 1 sack. Matthew Stafford was 20 of 41 (48.78%) for 217 yards 3 TDs and 0 INTs.

I would be remiss if I didn't complain at least a little about the officiating in the Packers game. As I recall, the Packers and Lions Offensive Lines never once held anyone, the whole game. Unbelievable isn't it? Oh, and even though the Lions made a 2 point conversion it was taken back after review in which the angle I saw on tv appeared to be correctly called on the field and definitely not worth reversing... especially since earlier they gave a TD to a running Rodgers who was down before the goal line and was awarded the TD anyway. But, it wasn't the officiating that cost the Lions the game, wasn't even the Packers, it was the Lions. They and they alone get to be responsible for the outcome of the game.

Now that the Lions regular season is over and their spot in the playoffs secured (as the 6th seed) we fans got to find out their 2015 opponents (not the schedule, that comes out in April). The Lions will be playing the NFC and AFC West teams, along with their divisional foes, and the picture looks like this: ( info provided by )

Home opponents: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Away opponents: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Kansas City Chiefs (in London), San Diego Chargers, and the New Orleans Saints.

Does reading that list of opponents for next year make you clinch anything? Anyway, the Lions made it to 11-5 and the playoffs. 11 wins is something they have done so few times in their history that you can count the number on one hand. They are the final wild card team and play in Dallas next week against a couple of their former coaches. All good things... except that Matthew Stafford has never ever won an away game against a team with a winning record. If that doesn't make you clinch something, then I don't know what will.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 Game 15 - Lions @ Chicago Bears


The 11-4 Detroit Lions narrowly beat the 5-10 Chicago Bears 20-14 but had already been guaranteed a playoff spot before the game even started virtue of the Philadelphia Eagles losing their game this week. The Bears was an outside game, and cold, and the Lions rarely win when it's under 40 degrees out... but this time they did just enough to end whatever streak they were on there. This is also only the fourth time the Lions have won 11 games in a season, ever. On top of that, Matthew Stafford topped 4,000 yards for the fourth straight year and Calvin Johnson has once again topped 1,000 yards (I think that makes 6 years for him).

None of this information would've been the least interesting had the Lions lost and they very nearly did. Not because Chicago is a better team, or was playing better, but because of 4 plays. WR/KR Ross allowed a punt to hit him and Chicago recovered the ball in the red zone which led immediately to 7 points for them. Also on special teams, backup TE Stanford ran into the kicker giving the Bears a new set of downs which led to another 7 points. A third difference making play was Matthew Stafford's first interception, on a bad throw/decision. The forth play I am referring to was another interception that was due to Tate not taking the route that Stafford had anticipated him taking, and was therefor out of his reach, in the end zone. So basically special teams gave up the yardage necessary for the Bears to score 14 points when the defense had already stopped them and Stafford (with help from Tate) threw 2 interceptions that cost them 14 points. The score could easily have been in the area of 34 to 0. Even though they didn't lose this one, they still allowed the cold to affect them.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 39 (56.41%) for 243 yards, 0 TDs and 2 INTs. Bell and Bush combined for 128 rushing yards and 2 TDs, though Bell didn't play the entire first quarter due to violating team rules (likely late for a meeting). Prater did the rest. On defense the Lions allowed only 64 yards rushing, 55 from Forte, but they did allow Clausen who hasn't played in years to be 23 of 39 (58.97%) for 181 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. Clausen faced a much better defense and yet completed 1 more pass on the same number of attempts, Stafford really needs to focus better if the Lions are going to do anything at all in the post season.

Next up (and the last one for the regular season) is for the NFC North division title, in Green Bay. Whoever wins is the North Division champs and gets a first week bye in the playoffs, whoever loses gets a wildcard spot. Other teams will determine which seed each team will end up as. Every player on the Lions will have to do much better in the cold of Lambeau Field to win this one, and winning it could really help them not only with the bye, but home field in the playoffs. Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Game 14 - Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings
@ Home


The now division leading 10-4 Detroit Lions narrowly beat the 6-8 Minnesota Vikings effectively taking the Vikings out of their playoff hopes by a score of 16-14. It has been a very long time since the Lions were sitting at the top of the NFC North after 15 weeks of play, but before we crown them the second coming of all thinks football let us realize they won because the free agent kicker they picked up (Prater) made all 3 field goals and the established kicker for the Vikings (Walsh) missed all 3 (very very long) field goals.

Matthew Stafford was only 17 of 28 (60.714%) for 1 TD and 0 INTs while the defense allowed Bridgewater to be 31 of 41 (75.6%) for 1 TD but 2 INTs. The Lions managed to eek out 90 yards of rushing while the Vikings only managed 76 yards. Despite these lopsided figures the true difference in the game was field position and the kickers.

Okay, the Lions safety's also contributed mightily with their 2 interceptions, without which the Lions would not be 10-4. So kudos to the Lions safeties and Matt Prater... game balls all around for them please.

I was actually worried about this game not due it being a supposed trap game, but due to the fact that N. Suh had had the flu (along with others) starting a few days ago, and back then I realized the timing was such that they could've infected many on the team earlier in the week and they would only begin to be symptomatic on Sunday (today). Not saying that is what happened, but boy the offense and defense sure looked like they were running in mud for a good part of the first quarter and a half. Then suddenly the Lions offensive coordinator held an on field meeting with all the offensive players and the next thing we know the penalties stop (on O) and things start to slowly get better (and faster). I would give the next game ball to the OC after Quinn and IH and Prater.

The Lions get to set their sites on the Bears who they play next week and who have been struggling mightily this year. The Lions need to continue to win to control their own destiny and to keep the players and fans into the game, for if I were to look ahead (and I am trying not to) the Lions could have a home playoff game (or more then one even) and it's critical that every aspect of the game fall in their favor for the wins to keep happening, after all, you don't want the kicker to be winning or losing (as happened earlier in the year) your games for you if you can help it.

One other note, if the Lions beat the Bears and the Packers lose next week... the final game of the year in Lambeau against the Packers may still be critical in that losing that game still ties the Packers and the Lions and since they would have split in head to head the additional tie breaker rules would apply... possibly (probably) making the Packers the division champs (and giving them the bye week). True the Lions would likely still make the playoffs at 11-5 as a wildcard team, and also true I am not particularly keen on having a team take a week off as the playoffs start (this isn't FFL after all, the guys need to keep up with game speed) ... I still would like to see the Lions make it deep into the playoffs no matter the consequences or obstacles... even if it means winning all the games from here on out by their street pickup (and former Lion and Bronco) kicker.

Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 Game 13 - Detroit Lions vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Home


The 9-4 Detroit Lions took the lead in the first quarter against the 2-11 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and never relinquished it, winning the 2nd to the last home game by a score of 34-17. Matthew Stafford was 26 of 34 (76.47%) for 311 yards 3 TDs and 0 INTs. A franchise QB like performance. The defense also did their part with 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, a large number of hurries and holding the Buccaneers to 26 yards rushing, 2 TDs, and only 250 passing yards. McCown barely broke 50% completions and if it weren't for Vincent Jackson the entire team would've looked like a high school team against the Lions super competitive defense. Dominating.

I could spout numbers, or play outcomes, or any number of things and it would all come down one word... dominating. The Detroit Lions dominated the Buccaneers and that's all there is to it. I'm finding it difficult to even write up a blog about this particular game... and as a Lions fan... that is a good thing.

Oh sure, there was a few things that in film the coaches will see and address, there are a number of plays that certain players would like to have back, there are even a few flags that either weren't thrown that should have been or were thrown and should not have been... but in the end, in THIS game, there can be no other outcome then for the Lions to have won the game. If one was inclined to nickname a team from this one game it could be that the Detroit Lions could now be called the Detroit Dominators. Catchy isn't it?

Next week is the final home game against the Minnesota Vikings, to be followed by 2 road games against the Bears and Packers. Three all important divisional games in what has become a very talented conference and division. There can be no room for error, the Lions need to dominate every week if they have hopes of making the post season... and with a performance like today there is no reason to not obtain that goal. Can the Detroit Dominators make a playoff run from their current 9-4 position? Sure. Will they? Well, that remains to be seen. I for one will be watching for just that.

Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Game 12 - Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears @ Home


The Detroit Lions improved their record to 8-4 on Thanksgiving Day after defeating the 5-7 Chicago Bears 34-17 at Ford Field. The Lions new coaching staff have managed to not have a losing season their first year at bat and now have 4 more weeks (after a 10 day wait) to work their way into the playoffs. If nothing else Lions fans have that to be thankful for.

The game started out not so great as the Bears took the lead in the first quarter 14-3 but the Bears managed only one more field goal after that while the Lions scored 31. Matthew Stafford was 34/45 (an impressive 75.56%) for 390 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. As I understand it, Stafford had more yards in the first half of this game then in any other first half of a game in his NFL career. Calvin Johnson had 11 receptions for 146 yards and both of Stafford's touchdowns making him the youngest wide receiver ever to get to 10,000 yards. Bell was the only running back with any stats netting 91 yards and 2 touchdowns on 23 attempts. Prater nailed both of his field goals and special teams covered all their aspects of the game fairly well. The defense managed two interceptions and three sacks... Jay Cutler probably needed an ice bath before he could attempt to chow on some Thanksgiving day turkey (if he kept his appetite). Forte was held to a grand total of 6 yards on 5 attempts.

While some fans have started to come to terms with the fact that the Lions defense is actually half way decent (especially if they play man coverage versus say, cover 2) most had started giving up on the offense. The blame has been spread around or at least between Matthew Stafford and the offensive coordinator Lombardi, with the offensive line occasionally mentioned. I've been blaming all 3 as well, but in a different order. Lombardi for calling plays that take time to develop when the OL can't give them that time and Stafford for his various errors and the coaching staff for not helping him correct those issues. Apparently someone figured it out as this game the ball was coming out much faster, something I've been begging for for a few weeks in the forum. The issue with drops by the receivers seems to have corrected it's self as well. The ball was spread around to 9 different players and everyone helped the team to win on national television making Lions fans thankful and the Bears fans dejected.

Now if the defense can continue to play more man coverage then other coverages, if special teams can continue to play disciplined, if the receivers can continue to use their hands correctly and if Stafford can continue to get the ball out quickly negating the patchwork offensive line issues this team can do some damage yet this year, and it all starts in 10 days against Tampa Bay... a team from the former NFC Central that the Lions used to circle as an automatic two wins back in the day (before they got good and made the Tampa 2 defense popular, a form of cover 2 that I also dislike immensely). This is the 2nd of 3 home games in a row for the Lions before they finish the year with 2 road games, one of which is in Green Bay just before Christmas... in other words, these next two home games are very important for the Lions chances to make the playoffs. Playoffs... a word we can be thankful we are using in week 14 of the season instead of "draft".

Happy Thanksgiving Lions fans.