NetRat's News


Monday, October 5, 2015

2015 - Week #4 Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks


The 0-4 Detroit Lions lost to the 2-2 Seattle Seahawks 10-13 in a manner only the Lions can. As Calvin Johnson was making his way to the end zone for the probable game winning touchdown the ball was knocked out of his arms at around the one foot line, then swatted out of the back of the end zone. It so happens that doing so (the swatting) is illegal, and it should have been the Lions ball at about the six inch line, and an automatic first down. Instead, the officials gave the ball to the Seahawks at the 20. After just a couple more plays and a first down the Seahawks gathered in the victory formation a couple of times giving the Lions their 4th loss of the season.

Only one team has ever made the playoffs after starting out 0-4, and that was in 1992. It's been awhile since the Lions have lost their season before it ever began. 1998 in fact. When Matt Millen and Marinelli and all of the rest of the 0-16 season criminals were fired. I'm fairly sure this is not what was meant when the current group was hired to "win now". Yeah, this game had a fluke finish as many a Lions game does, but in the end the Lions still lost.

Mathew Stafford was 24 of 35 (68.57%) for 203 yards, 0 TDs and 0 INTs. The Lions also were going to devote plays to the running game, and they did, 18 plays (or about a third of them) for 53 whole yards (or about a fifth of their offensive yardage).

I suppose there is much I could say about this game, or I could go into the 2016 draft I suppose, maybe talk about how the Lions could fire this coaching staff and be on the hook for both the previous one and this one while looking for a third... but if I do any of that then I have to talk about Mayhew... who would be in charge of the draft (as it stands now) or in charge of finding a new coaching staff (again, as it stands now)... and I just can't do that. I've been waiting for Caldwell to get Lombardi moving in the right direction, and that's only happened in small steps for very little results. The mere thought of Mayhew still being around to hire a third set of coaches or of conducting another draft seems purely ridiculous now that this season is all but lost. Instead of going in that direction I shall make one final appeal, this time to Mayhew, if he can't see that his coaches are now putting his job in jeopardy then allow me to break the news to him. It would behoove you to meet with your second hand picked coaching staff and everyone else on the team who stands to be unemployed in the near future and GET THIS SORTED OUT! There are very few in Allen Park left from the Millen disaster, but the top dogs still there from that period are Lewand and Mayhew... and I have to believe that Ford Jr may have his mothers ear as far as what all this losing should entail. It may be too late, it may not be, but you all can no longer take that chance. So someone, somewhere in that organization, put your foot down and say "no more" and get those below you to do a proper job before your job too is lost.

We Lions fans don't really care if the officiating is what gets you fired, we only care that the Lions win games, with the promise of winning more sooner rather then later. Get winning, or get lost.

Monday, September 28, 2015

2015 - Week #3 Detroit Lions vs Denver Broncos @ Home


The 0-3 Detroit Lions lose their home opener to the 3-0 Denver Broncos 12-24. The Lions were actually in the game until about the middle of the 4th quarter when several errors by Lions' players and a few great plays by the Bronco players tilted the results heavily in the Bronco's favor. With very few errors of their own, and almost no great plays by any Lion, the game was slowly, methodically, and inevitably lost. It was practically conceded.

Matthew Stafford was 31 of 45 (68.89%) for 282 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. Peyton Manning was 31 of 42 (73.8%) for 324 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. The Lions wanted to limit the Bronco's run game and did hold them to 41 yards, meanwhile the Bronco's held the Lions to 28 yards. So if both sides were so similar in QB play and limited in their run games how did the Lions lose? Well, I could go into other turnovers, or penalties, or the minor other differences in the two teams, but in my opinion the Lions lost this game for 2 reasons.

1. The Bronco's did what they wanted and the Lions were hard pressed to stop them. For example, if they tried to blitz Manning, he would make them pay. Not every time, but enough times. Or if the Lions double teamed a pass rusher another would get through.

2. The Lion's took what the Bronco's gave them. Rarely imposing their will on them. Trying to minimize mistakes. This also worked fairly well, for example, Stafford had a really good completion percentage. But this also took away any risk taking that might have broken the game open (in their favor). Intentionally trying to keep the game close so to speak.

The OL did a much better job this game, the OC was still over his head, the HC still says all the right things but none of those things ever seem to result in a change, or a win. I read on twitter several interesting tweets, one being the Bronco's pretty much knew what the Lions would do (in any circumstance) and the Lions then did exactly that. Also, that Lombardi thinks he came to the Lions to install his system and not to adapt a system that fits the Lions abilities (this an observation by the author, not a direct quote or anything of the sort). The last being the opposite of what was said would happen, and unfortunately, not what needed to happen. In other words, as long as Lombardi is the offensive coordinator calling the plays the Lions will continue to concede every game they play until someone (looking at you Caldwell) fixes the underlying problem with the team... that in fact the coaches are NOT putting the players into a position to win games.

Would the Lions have won with a few more calls going their way? With a couple freak turnovers not happening? With better QB play? A better OL, or a better DL? With better health? Or any one of a hundred other variable changes? Sure, by maybe 2 points, maybe, or maybe not. Certainly not by 12 points like the Broncos did, that would require a killer instinct that simply does not exist with the Lions. They are not using their resources correctly, they do not confuse their opponents, they are not being aggressive or inflicting their will on anyone. In fact, most of the time, you can't even recognize they have a will to inflict. Playing careful, playing scared. Conceding the game before it even starts.

Sooner or later the Lions may accidentally win a game or two or three. That is not exactly the way I would prefer to go through a season, no matter what sport it is. It's one thing to protect the ball, it's another to never try for fear of messing up, and it's a very fine line between the two. A line that the current coaching staff seems to be having a very serious problem identifying. Quit conceding every game to the opponent, know what your players can do and allow them to do it, allow them to take calculated risks that produce results. Allow them to win.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 Week #2 - Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings


The 0-2 Detroit Lions lost to the 1-1 Minnesota Vikings 16-26 in a dismal display of football prowess today. So many things went wrong or were wrong that it's hard to know where to begin. In fact, that is actually the problem... everything does in fact affect everything else... like a giant knot. One that needs to be unraveled in order to sort out what is wrong, what can be fixed, and what can not.

Matthew Stafford was 32 of 53 (60.38%) for 286 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. He was also knocked down, knocked around, and generally in trouble way too much in the game.

Meanwhile Teddy Bridgewater was 14 of 18 (77.78%) for only 153 yards 1 touchdown and no interceptions. Sounds great until you see that the Vikings had 199 yards rushing (134 just by Adrian Peterson) compared to the Lions 38 (and 20 of those were by Stafford, today's leading rusher).

I read someone say that the Lions are going to need a mobile QB to start winning games. I'm there thinking they are nuts, QB is not the issue. It is A issue, but not the THE issue. Yes Stafford is a pocket passer, which means he actually needs a pocket to work from, and that isn't happening. Sure you could fix that by having a mobile QB (one who can throw on the run) but would it not be smarter to fix the offensive line, especially since they aren't run blocking either? It's actually more complicated then that though. The coaches don't like to play rookies because they can't trust them to do all the little things right. Well, news flash, neither are the guys you have starting instead. Pettigrew is a key part of the blocking scheme on many plays, but he was injured and not playing this game, and despite all those who hate Pettigrew, his missing the game had a large impact on things going bad. The lack of pass blocking had a very sore Stafford not trusting them which causes him to rush things (and why wouldn't he?) even when they do an occasional good job of blocking. The lack of pass blocking means you can't run the deep routes, so CJ is running short routes and they're sending Fuller deep, otherwise you end up with last week and no targets for CJ. What defense is afraid of Fuller deep? On top of this, Stafford is more accurate in his mid to deep throws, it's a stat fact, but the routes for that aren't being called, and since the run game isn't happening, defenses can crowd the line of scrimmage and cover both the pass and the run without worry about a deep ball. Oh, and the run game is attempting to be run by Joique Bell who has nothing (probably not healed all the way yet), two promising rookies who the coaches don't trust (not the players, just rookies in general), and Riddick. I don't think defenses are extremely concerned about Riddick running them over. The whole offense is tied up in a knot, and it's partly due to injury (Warford, Waddle, Bell, Pettigrew, and now Stafford), partly due to the OL as a whole, and partly due to the coaching. Okay, mostly due to injury and coaching. So we should all keep blaming Stafford? Not.

Despite all of those strands of things that are wrong with the offense Stafford was still above 60% completions for the 2nd week in a row. The opposing QB however was once again sitting with a completion percentage at least 16% better... and I'm continually hearing how it's all the fault of losing Suh to the dolphins. Once again, it's more complicated then that. Much more. The first problem on D is that Levy isn't playing. His range, coverage skills, tackling, and instincts make him a CRITICAL part of the defense. Tulloch hasn't played in almost a year and it shows. Ngata didn't play all pre-season, not one snap, and it shows. Walker isn't exactly getting the job done, and most of the time Jones isn't either. Reid is out, and that hurts the rotation and keeping them fresh, and on and on it goes. It's not all injury though, coverages aren't being disguised (partly because they are always running the same coverage it seems) and there is no blitzing (even when there is, no one is getting to the QB). There is no attack, there is no drive, there is no imposing of will, there isn't really anything to stop opposing offenses from doing whatever they want.

I wasn't a fan of the team being the last one to start camp this summer. I wasn't a fan of sitting many of the key starters in most of the pre-season games. Sure it may have kept some fresh, but now they are rusty instead. You can't even say it prevented injury since so many got injured anyway, or are playing injured now without having taken the time to heal completely, partly because the coaches would rather make healthy players inactive then to trust them to play. The coaching staff has got to get over this fear thing and start imposing the will of the team upon their opponents, on both sides of the ball. Being too careful in preseason has led to being too careful in the regular season. The team is a gigantic knot, with too many things affecting too many other things, and it's time to get this unraveled, and righted, now.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015 Week #1 - Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers

Who's to Blame?

The Detroit Lions lose their first game of the season to the San Diego Chargers 28-33. Considering they were up 21-3 at one point half way through the 2nd quarter it was an exceptionally disappointing loss. My forum, twitter, and just about every Lions fan is talking about the game and asking questions that pretty much are all inquiries into who is to blame... that is if a particular favorite hasn't already been designated by said fan. Let's see if I can't help those who are as of yet undecided find out who was (or may have been) to blame.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 30 (63.33%) for 246 yards 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The interceptions looked horrid BUT to me it appeared as though Stafford and the wide receiver weren't on the same page, the route did not go to where the QB thought it was going to go to, and the WR was not where he was supposed to be. Those two turnovers certainly did not help the situation, but determining if it was the fault of the WR or the fault of the QB is not going to be possible without knowing the play and the keys involved along with what was called. We'll have to come back to this after some more thought.

Phillip Rivers was 35 of 42 (83.33%) for 404 yards 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The two interceptions sound good but a defense that allows 83.33% completion rates and over 400 passing yards just might make winning a game slightly difficult. There was only 87 yards rushing but then San Diego was behind for a lot of the game so that part makes sense. Did I mention the Lions had 69 yards rushing? No? Most teams with a lead for the majority of the game might utilize their very talented running backs in a more proficient manner to drain the clock, keep the ball out of the other teams' hands, and perhaps keep the opponents defense on the field in the 105 degree temperature that they were playing in. So was it the weather (temperature) that is to blame? The lack of a run game? Too many minutes in an hour?

Calvin Johnson, arguably the most talented WR in the NFL, had 2 receptions for 39 yards. No, he wasn't injured. CJ said after the game that the coverage dictated the ball not be thrown to him. Since the coverage was one over and one under (double covered) and since CJ is likely to be double covered pretty much on every single play for the year, apparently we will need to get used to this kind of thing.

Speaking of injury, the Lions were without their starting RG, their starting RT, their pro-bowl LB, and a number of other players that could have helped the team win but alas they were too injured to play in this game. Levy, the pro-bowl linebacker was definitely missed, without his presence it seemed the entire middle area of the field was open for easy completions, many taking less then 1.5 seconds to complete. When an opponent can work their way down the field at will simply by completing short quick passes you really need your linebackers to step up, that did not happen, so perhaps injury should be blamed? or the Linebackers?

Of course the reason a QB goes to the short quick passes is to negate the pass rush, including the blitzes, so one would think the Lions who were allowing a ton of pressure would also go to that type of play perhaps more often then not... but they did not, instead continuing to blindly follow their playbook for the game seemingly without any adjustments at all (though I'm sure there were, they were just expertly countered).

As I mentioned earlier, the Lions jumped out to a 21-3 point lead... could it be those plays were scripted and well practiced then when that was over and when production all but stopped the play calling was to blame for the lack of offensive production? Why was the run game practically abandoned? Why weren't screens, quick short passes, and draws used to slow down the attacking defense? How come the Lions appeared to go into an ultra conservative approach once a lead was established instead of nailing shut the coffin? If it was Stafford (who has been accused of this in the past) why didn't a coach take those options away? If it was the OC why didn't the HC offer his sage advice on the matter?

I can understand how the temperatures played a role in the game but that affects both teams, the team who's defense was stuck on the field the longest was going to lose production as the heat zapped their strength. The Chargers O was on the field for 38 minutes and 12 seconds. They won time of possession, and the game.

Hopefully I've painted the picture for those who have stuck with me to this point. Yes the defense played poorly. BUT Levy wasn't in the game and he is a huge part of the reason the Lions defense is (or was) good. Other players never played one snap together due to injuries earlier (pre-season). The heat was going to gun for the defense who lost the time of possession battle and the Lions lost that battle. The Lions could not stop the short quick passing attack, which in turn is why they lost the time of possession battle. No amount of coaching on defense was going to stop the energy drain and no amount of blitzing can happen in 1.5 seconds. No amount of coverage is going to stop an offense that will actually go to their best players regardless of the coverage like the Chargers did (and the Lions did not). In fact, I saw a bumper sticker once that might sum up the problem perfectly... "You Can't Fix Stupid". For me, the coaching of the offense was just that, stupid. For me, that's who I choose to blame... I blame stupidity. It's name in this case appears to be Lombardi. For this game, that is who I blame.

If it continues to happen in the future, then I shall shift the blame to his boss, the head coach. Not sure why he allows his coordinator to fall into this trap or what can be done about it in game, but if there are things he could do and did not do then perhaps I assigned the blame to the wrong person. For now though, I'll stick with the OC is to blame. For now.

The WRs should know their keys and routes by now. So too should the QB. The run game with an 18 point lead should not be abandoned, especially when time of possession is critical to wear out their defense in the 105 degree heat instead of your own. Short quick throws (as proven by the opponent) are a great way to stop the pass rush and blitzing. Using your best WR is the primary way (also as proven by the opponent) to help your team score points. Using your better RB, regardless of how recently he joined the team, might also prove beneficial. Being able to call plays after the scripted ones are done is a necessary talent for an OC (assuming any were scripted to begin with). When 2/5 of your OL is injured and not playing you might want to call fewer 5 and 7 step drops, and all long developing routes should be used sparingly. If you have the lead you need to pad that lead, not sit on it, unless you are in the final 4 or 5 minutes of the game... going ultra conservative too early will only serve to allow your opponent back into the game. When your opponent makes adjustments you have to be able to counter them. And finally, if you insist on not throwing the ball to a WR who is covered both above and below then you had better be able to move the ball using the other 10 guys against their other 9, failure to do so is very nearly a crime. Given some more time I might be able to come up with a few more tidbits, hints, clues, and sage advice. I may even be able to find others to blame, or to share the blame. However, for now at least, I'll stick with the impossible, that is, hope they actually fix stupid.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Detroit Lions final 53 for 2015

So we now have the Detroit Lions final 53 for the 2015 season... or do we? I mean, one day after the final cut down day the 3rd round draft pick CB Alex Carter was placed on Injured Reserve with the option to return (in 8 weeks) and then Jermelle Cudjo was re-signed. So what happens next?

First it should be noted that Cudjo knew he would be re-signed the next day but kept it quiet, and the Lions had to wait the one day to put Carter on "IR to return" as you can't do that before the day after final cut down day. It was planned, from start to finish. Tuesday the Lions finished creating their 10 man practice squad, signing the following players:

Braxston Cave C
Kerry Hyder DT
Isaiah Johnson S
Andrew Peacock WR
Casey Pierce TE
Larry Webster DE
George Winn RB
Ricky Stanzi QB
Jean-Baptiste CB
Saalim Abdul Hakim WR/KR/PR

But it was not easy for the Lions to choose who would stay and who would go, some players who may not have stayed did so due to others on the team being injured, and once those guys are healed up and playing the players kept for depth may suddenly find themselves out of work. The practice squad is also going to turn over, a lot, between now and the end of the season. Every player who is not the starter in week 1 needs to keep working, hard, and not give up impressing the coaches as they are all still on the never ending job interview that is the NFL roster.

For today though, we can take a snap shot of the team, of the roster, and see how it compares to what was expected. Me, I create a very public estimated depth chart (see link to the right) and lock it in just prior to the 3rd pre-season game, every year. My best year was last year with 49 right. This year I once again got 48 right, I believe that makes it 4 out of the last 5 years of being at 48 right. Locking it in prior to week 3 gives me a disadvantage though, I didn't get to see Philip Hunt's great games, nor did I know about the severity of Warford's and Reid's injuries. The trade for Tim Wright had just happened but I didn't trust that Tim Wright would show anything in the time given to warrant he make the roster. There are quite a few things that may have made me change my way of thinking had I waited, but to do so makes me the same as everyone else who does an estimated depth chart, and I want to base it on more then the last two pre-season games. I want to base it somewhat on what I see in practices, on special teams, on how the coaches behave towards certain players (like I knew that Broyle's was toast) and how the front office brings in players (showing me the lack of interest in KR Jeremy Ross) and so forth.

So where did I go wrong? Well, I'll just copy and paste a couple paragraphs from my forum:

They kept WR Lance Moore over WR Greg Salas (Salas went to IR on cut down day, no way to account for that)
They kept Tim Wright over Joseph Fauria (late trade, and Brindza made the Bucs roster over the former Bronco's kicker they had signed)
They kept LT Corey Robinson over FB Emil Igwenagu (and Robinson did nothing until a bit in game 3 and a lot in game 4, late bloomer)
They kept Phillip Hunt over Cudjo (I had assumed after game 3 they'd keep Hunt over Tapp, they kept both Tapp and Hunt)
They kept Van Noy over QB Kellen Moore (I assumed before game 3 they'd put Van Noy on IR, instead he started practicing right after it).

I think they made an error in keeping Tapp over Cudjo, other then that I can understand and appreciate all their moves they made. One extra note; OT Mike Williams made the Patriots final 53 roster, already said Brindza made his roster over a vet, and Seisay went to IR with an injury for his new team.

I wasn't too far off, considering I didn't wait for kick off of week 3 pre-season.

What's next? The Lions need to decide who will do kick offs and punt returns, and as guys get healed up while others get injured you can expect some more roster moves. Guys like Hunt, Cudjo, and Tapp are still competing for their jobs. So is Tim Wright, Lance Moore, and a few others. There is no time to slack off, no time to relax, no point in which any of these guys can say with certainty they won't be the next guy cut. It would be like working in a job where your fellow employees get pink slips each week and you would never know if this week was your week to get yours. Hard to concentrate... huh? Especially when it all might not have anything to do with your ability but who else on the team gets injured. So here's to health, for a healthy team tends to be a successful team.

Since we don't know who will heal up, who will get hurt, or what new plans the Lions will make as it concerns the roster, we need to look towards the next thing on the agenda. No, not game 1 of the regular season. Next up is the day when all NFL teams have to be under the salary cap not with the current top 51 player rule, but with the full 53 plus injured reserve plus practice squad. At the moment the Lions have 6 on IR costing the cap $3.54 million... and those 10 guys on the practice squad are costing the cap at least $897,600... and some of those guys cut created dead cap space that also has to be accounted for, to the tune of $556,630. So what's the issue? The Lions didn't have $5 million in cap space to spare to cover all of these things. It'll be what happens next, addressing this cap issue, via injury settlements (and losing the players rights) or contract re-structures, or other cuts. Stay tuned.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Pre-season Game 1: Detroit Lions vs New York Jets

The Detroit Lions won the first pre-season game 23-3 against the New York Jets. The Lions showed good depth and never looked "lost" like so many teams are prone to do early in the season (or pre-season if you will). Instead of breaking down the game I'm going to just mention some players who surprised me, for better or for worse.

I haven't seen enough of Orlovsky or Moore yet to determine which should be #2 (Stafford's backup)... or I should say, I didn't see enough good things from either to determine who should win the job. More time required for this one.

At RB I thought Ameer Abdullah looked great, Theo Riddick looked much better then previously, and Zack Zenner is ahead of George Winn, pretty much as I suspected he would be... it's just nice to see it actually playing out that way.

At TE I didn't see much after Pettigrew and Ebron so that race for #3 is still wide open, and Fauria may yet claim the job.

At WR I was surprised to see how well Greg Salas looked. I will need to see a continuation of this the next game to see if it was a fluke or not, but at the moment consider my eyebrows raised. T.J. Jones looked pretty good on kick returns but his route running isn't there yet. No one else really stood out to me this game but it's early yet.

On the OL the one who surprised me a little was the converted TE Michael Williams, they just might make an offensive tackle out of him yet. Good thing too, since no one else is claiming the RT job yet, though Lucas didn't do anything to lose it either. This may turn out to be a very competitive battle.

At DE no one really jumped out, though it appears Taylor is starting to "get it" as far as the new D is concerned. AT DT I thought Reid and surprisingly Cudjo looked pretty good. Cudjo should have earned more looks a little sooner in the game I believe, but we'll see if the coaches saw the same thing. Tyrunn Walker may want to get it in gear, sooner rather then later.

At LB Whitehead looks better then Van Noy or Tulloch, not that I want to see them go, depth at LB is a good thing.

The secondary looked ready to play, I see what the talk is about Diggs at nickel, he stood out in that role. That said, they all seemed to do okay at one time or another as the D overall held the Jets to just one field goal. In fact, it wasn't until quite late in the game that the 2nd converted 3rd down happened. This bodes well for those that didn't follow the doom-sayers when Suh left for way too much money... not that one game proves anything.

In summary, competition is ramping up especially at RT, RB, DT, and LB. A few of last year's 53 (or perhaps I should say the consensus 53 for this year) need to step it up as there are guys behind them who are getting ready to prove they deserve more playing time and that is quite unexpected, both to me as it is to those who may think they have their job locked in.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Estimated Charts for the Lions

For many years now I have been doing an estimated Salary Cap chart for the Detroit Lions and for about half as long I've also been working on an estimated depth chart. While the salary cap chart gets updated continually all year long the estimated depth chart tends to last just over half a year... that is from the beginning of February to the beginning of September. The other day I copied both to google docs and now have a permanent link to both, they can be found over to the right here in the blog and also there are permanent links now in my forum. Remember, these are ongoing, they will change, they never really stop changing this time of the year... I only halt the estimated depth chart about a week before they starting cutting the roster to see how accurate I am before they create the actual 53 man roster (my best was in 2014 with only 4 wrong).

At this time of the year I always include all the draft picks, since they wouldn't have drafted them had they not figured on at least hoping to keep (and possibly play) them. By mid-August I may change my mind on a one or more but until then (or an injury) I keep them on. I also tend to stick in an undrafted player or two if I think there are any that might make the final roster despite the unlikeliness of that happening. This year there happens to be a few I truly feel have a chance. As the summer goes on I may change my mind on them as well. In fact, the whole thing (as I said before) is in flux but that's the point of an estimated depth chart, taking information as it becomes available then making appropriate educated guesses from there.

The salary cap chart has a ton of info as well, I use it to keep track of the salary cap numbers for the Lions to do my weekly tweet updates. Rather then cover both charts in one blog entry I think I shall focus on just the estimated depth chart for now. If you do look at the chart you will see it's split into a left and right section. The left side is the 53 I think presently may make the final roster (to start game 1). The right side are those who I believe are going to have to work the hardest to fight for a roster spot. I try to also keep them lined up across from those they are competing against, but that doesn't always work since some years it's the 7th LB fighting the 6th WR fighting the 10th DL and the 9th OL for two spots (for example). Regardless, even though it's constantly in flux, having a graphic visual of the estimated depth chart seems to work for me better then just some list (such as in the cap chart).

Now to be a little more specific on why I have what I have listed. At Wide Receiver I currently have 5 listed, there could be 6 but for now I'm going with 5. Calvin Johnson (CJ) and Golden Tate make the team barring injury, but so do their respective backups; Corey Fuller and Ryan Broyles. That leaves room for a slot receiver and presently I have T.J. Jones in that spot until I see someone more likely. In the past they also kept a 6th WR (Jeremy Ross) because he was the kick and punt returner, this year the KR/PR might be a RB or a CB instead, so I went down to 5 for now. I personally like Andrew Peacock but he might not be able to crack the final 53 just yet, perhaps after another year on the practice squad. Some of the others fighting for the WR spots I believe will also make the practice squad if they fail to take the slot WR job or one of the backup jobs, there just happens to be a few months to go yet before I can make that call.

The next 5 spots listed are the offensive line... both starters and backups. My preferred starting left tackle would be Cornelius Lucas but the Lions seem to like Riley Reiff there. They also drafted Corey Robinson and then promptly stated he's a left tackle, but I'm not so sure that's where he finishes up at. I also am not sure the Lions will be comfortable with three undrafteds as the starter and two backups on the offensive tackle positions, so I'm keeping a 5th, presently that is the converted TE Michael Williams (Waddle being the other current starter at RT). How this shakes out in the end has yet to be determined. The starting center and guards along with their backups is also in a total state of flux. Lot's of youth and new bodies to sort out, so for now you can see I went with Laken Tomlinson at LG, Manny Ramirez at C, and Larry Warford at RG (this is the only one I'm comfortable with at present). Backups being Travis Swanson and maybe Torian Wilson (or Al Bond)... or maybe even someone not yet on the team.

At tight end I'm shaking things up by pushing Joseph Fauria out and keeping the undrafted free agent Casey Pierce. Why? Fauria did well his rookie year for the other coaching staff and their scheme but has shown nothing to these coaches and they have no personal skin in keeping him. Also, Pierce is noted for having sure hands and good blocking ability in college, a skill set I can see these coaches desiring on the roster. He may not be able to be NFL ready in his rookie year so may end up on the practice squad but for the moment I've got him at TE #3. Pettigrew's salary is mostly guaranteed as is all of Ebron's so they are both staying put.

At QB you have Stafford, Orlovsky and Moore. They stay. The undrafted rookie Anthony Boone will likely be the camp arm that never sees any action in preseason so that the Lions can feel comfortable cutting him to sign him to the practice squad, just as they did last year.

At Running back they will keep Joique Bell and Theo Riddick and of course their 2nd round pick will stay (Ameer Abdullah) but I feel that Bell's backup will be Zach Zenner an undrafted player this year instead of George Winn, just an early guess on my part (and ZZ might be the kick returner if Ameer is not).

At fullback the Lions will want a pass catching player and that spot goes to 5th round pick Michael Burton until someone beats him out of it.

That 26 on offense, there is almost no chance of there being 27 and they could go to 25 but I currently feel comfortable with 26.

At defensive end Ansah stays on one side and Jason Jones on the other with the backups likely to be Larry Webster and either Darryl Tapp or Devin Taylor or even Phillip Hunt. Taylor did well with the old coaching staff and scheme but struggled last year with the new coaches and scheme so we'll have to wait and see how this one progresses from here. At defensive tackle the Lions are forced to do wholesale changes but I like Ngata and Tyrunn Walker with backups Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright so I'll stick with them for the time being. The Lions could look at some free agents for more help to compete amongst the DL or one of the guys fighting for a spot (like Proctor or Cudjo) could push someone for a job, it's just too early to tell right now. I have made my educated guesses and plan to stick with them for now.

At LB the Lions are sitting pretty with starters Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, and Kyle Van Noy... but of course they only need 3 starters so Van Noy might be reduced to situational plays only... but that makes for some great quality depth for the Lions. Add to that Travis Lewis and Brandon Copeland (a special teams player) and you have a solid LB corp... or even better if someone like Bynes, Harris or Stanford beats out one of them for a job, meaning they are an upgrade from my suspected core group.

At corner you have starters Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis along with draft pick Alex Carter, the Lions usually keep 5 CBs and they liked Seisay last year plus they drafted Diggs to play nickel so that should round out that group nicely unless one of the others plays lights out and takes a job from someone else.

At safey you have starters Glover Quinn and James Ihedigbo (who is currently holding out for what will likely be an unsuccessful demand for more money) along with backups Don Carey (special teams), Isa Abdul-Quddus and perhaps Nate Ness or one of the others vying for a roster spot.

This makes for 24 on defense and the most likely scenario unless they go to 23 or 25, which I don't see at present unless Carter wins the kick return job then they might keep only 3 RBs and 6 CBs (for example).

The special teams group of 3 will remain Martin at punter, Prater at kicker and Muhlbach at long snapper. They already brought in a camp kicker (Kyle Brindza) and soon will sign a camp punter, and most likely a camp long snapper as well. Prater was once a camp kicker when Hanson was the Lions starter and was then signed by Denver before ending up back here as a Lion.

There is my current estimated depth chart, subject to multiple future changes, and a handy visual tool for trying to determine who might make the final roster and who has work to do if they want to take a job, for that is what they will have to do, earn it. As I hear about those making that kind of effort, or injuries, or new signees, I'll update the chart accordingly. At other times I may make a change simply because of a gut feeling, some of which even occasionally pay off.

Before I go I'll mention that the salary cap available for the Lions is sitting at around $3,950,693... this figure will change slightly as the draft picks are signed... but only the top 51 contracts count presently so for every new contract another lesser one falls off keeping the cap situation under control for the time being. Don't expect any major free agent signings however, the Lions are trying to keep their comp picks for next year's draft as high as possible and not signing expensive free agents is part of that formula.