Sunday, December 27, 2009

Game 15 - 2009 @ SanFrancisco 49ers

Too many turnovers!

Lions lose number 20 in a row on the road and fall to 2-13 for the season and this time it was because of too many turnovers.

Yeah, there were a few of the individual mistakes here and there. Even a penalty or two. But for the most part, all of that was kept to a minimum. However, the Lions kept turning the ball over. If Stanton didn't do it himself, then one of the players would. Of course, I had the 49ers defense in my fantasy league superbowl and won because of them, so I can't help but be a little bit happy about the turnovers... but as a Lion fan first and foremost I can still complain about them.

The front office may have found out a few things in this game, like that Cohen will be able to help the team and that without their #1 TE and #1 RB they need more depth on the offense... but I think they also found out something about their QBs. What they intend to do about it (if anything) I do not know, but should they actually improve the roster and start winning next year and should Stafford go down then they may need to be a little concerned about depth at QB. What with the defense and offense still not running on all cylinders even after 15 games this season there is something I foresee from the front office this off season... more turnovers, as in more roster turnover and shuffling of players on or off the team.

The coaching staff couldn't have been happy with the turnovers either. Here they fix this or that problem to some extent by benching various players and then something new rears it's head. I bet that flight home wasn't nearly as pleasant as it could've been. Neither will it be all that pleasant on Monday I suspect. So I expect to see a little more turnover of the starting roster come next week.

The players themselves are starting to divide themselves up into three groups... those that have "it", those who do not, and those who can't play consistently enough to fall into either category. Those that have "it" will be the core of the team next year. Those who have "it" one week or one play and not the next will probably be back but will have a fight to make the roster. Those that don't have "it" and have proven so will be turning over their playbooks in about a week and day or two.

As we enter the upcoming off season it'll be interesting to watch the moves the team makes (as usual). There may be a few twists... the Lions coaching staff may end up coaching the senior bowl at the end of January... the Lions will likely draft 2nd or maybe 1st... and there may be no CBA in which to concern the front office with a salary cap... so guys like Bryan Johnson, Dennis Northcutt and some others may need to prepare for another turnover of their own, that being from the NFL to the non-football life.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Game 14 - 2009 Cardinals @ Home


Well, it would have been if I could've seen more then 10% of the game. I was forced to watch it online and the feeds were pixelated horribly. However, I did get to see many of the key plays and was able to participate in the excitement that this game eventually had in it. Even though the Lions lost, it was a very entertaining game.

It didn't start out that way. Too many mistakes and bad play that seemed to be just getting worse and worse as the game went along. As half-time was about to began I posted in the MLive forum that Schwartz needed to bench Culpepper and play Stanton, not because I expected better QB play, but because the whole team needed a slap... something to wake them up. I got laughed at, of course, because so many seem to think that Stanton really would play QB better then Culpepper even without practice snaps most of the season with the starters, but I was proven correct.

The Lions got a spark, played to tie in the 3rd quarter (their best 3rd quarter all season) and only started to get lax in the 4th. They tried to rally again and fell short, but that is what made it so entertaining.

Meanwhile, the coaching staff is starting to figure out who needs to sit even during a game and who needs to get talked to in order for them to respond on the field. I am not so sure all the players have quite figured out yet that repeating the same mistakes will not be tolerated. Or maybe they do know it, they just aren't able to actually play mistake-free ball. That too is an important thing to learn. It's one thing to practice well, it's another to step it up when the team needs you to in a game. This coming off season should be nearly as interesting as last year. It's a shame that without a new CBA that free agency is going to be so... thin.

The coaches are figuring out how to motivate the players to finish the year without any chance of playoffs and in the end, this will make the team stronger.

Now if only Stafford could get healthy to continue his on the job training. He isn't ready to put the team on his shoulders and carry them just yet, but of the 3 QBs on the roster, he too is the most entertaining. And that is what the big picture of NFL football is all about, entertainment.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Game 13 - 2009 @ Baltimore Ravens

"should not have done that."

Instead of one word to describe much of what happened in this game, it's a whole sentence.

The refs, yeah, bad officiating if you ask me. I think I said they "should not have done that" about a half dozen times. Did it have much of an affect on the game? Not much, some yes, but not all that much.

One positive for the defense has been the run defense. Well they "should not have done that" a whole bunch today. Horrible terrible defense, both run and pass, in todays game. Many players just put a huge black mark on their resumes and there is a reason why the mark is bigger then most which I'll explain later.

The offense with Culpepper at QB is no where near as interesting as it is with Stafford. I don't think the depth chart will change even after this game, but I wonder if maybe should Culpepper start again if his leash won't be very short. Stanton needs another off season in the Linehan's offense before the coaches trust him (to start) but if Culpepper was trying to find a starting job next year well then he "should not have done that".

Kevin Smith, even though he is not exactly a home run threat, was and has been doing very well in the hard yardage department. 2nd on the team in receptions as well. Well, that injury he incurred during the game looked like a season ender to me. Yet another weapon gone. The 2-14 season prediction that some made is looking real probable now.

I could go on and on and on about various players, saying how they "should not have done that" but what's the point? No, there is but one major thing I alluded to earlier that matters in all this... and that is that this game was in the head coaches home state. All of Schwartz's family was there. Friends. Former teammates and coaches. Many of the people who came to watch in the pouring rain their guy be the head coach of the Lions... and to end up watching the team embarrass the head coach utterly and totally. They "should not have done that"!

What a week they have just made for themselves. How many changes are going to happen, both now and later. The anger on Schwartz's face should tell you that it is not going to be pleasant. As a huge fan of the team, I think it may help a ton in the end. There won't be any glossing this over, and there is not going to be much forgiveness unless earned. Many (and I do mean many) of the players in this game will be saying to themselves, both this week and at the end of the season, "boy I should not have done that" and they will be absolutely correct.

Game 12 - 2009 @ Cincinnati Bengals

Ouch. (Oh, sorry for the delay in posting this game blog)

The Lions gave away another one. Everything was going just fine until 3 minutes into the 2nd quarter when Stafford threw an interception for a touchdown (pick 6). Ouch, that hurt. After that, it was a race to see who could mess things up the best on any given play.

How a guy with a separated shoulder could take that many hits and not get knocked out sooner is beyond me, but knocked out of the game he did, near the very end of the game. And ouch, did it look horribly painful.

Culpepper had one great pass to CJ and a number of checkdowns but this team isn't quite ready for the come from 2 scores behind type game just yet. They have enough trouble with the one score behind. Heck, they have enough trouble with a score or two ahead.

Needless to say, this team has not come as far as I had anticipated back in preseason. I know it takes time to install a new O, or a new D, or in this case both. I know it takes time for rookie players to learn the NFL game. I know there are ups and downs. But I thought that near the end of this season at least the majority of the players on this team would be more up then down. I was wrong.

They are not able to overcome setback after setback, and they are not able to stop creating setbacks. Some of the players are starting to get it and some are beginning to prove they will never get it. That's another ouch. What looked like a half way decent off season in free agency is starting to look less then stellar now. That is a big OUCH. On the bright side, at least to me, the draft looks better and better. Now if they can do it again but leaning a little more on the defensive side of things.

Anyway, the Lions are looking (still) at the 4th pick in the draft, and even though the contract is another ouch... the chance at yet another difference maker is not.

I can only hope the next draft has no reasons in it to say ouch.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game 11 - 2009 Packers @ Home on Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Well, perhaps being happy might be too much to ask for some, especially those on the 53 man Lions roster. Still, it was a nice start to the day. Turkey's in the oven, Lions get a turnover right off the bat and take the lead, got to see my oldest for only the second time since August.

Then the day started getting a little worse. Kid got her car stuck in the rain soaked mucky yard (don't ask me why the car was in the yard instead of the driveway), Lions started giving up plays after holding their own for a little while, and the pie crust was totally stuck to the pan and would not come out.

All of these things are or will be fixed. Neighbor helped pull the car out and with a strong enough knife the pie was chiseled out (looking a little rough for wear but still very tasty). Even the Lions will be fixed, it just will take a little more time. Something that would be easier to give if it wasn't for the last 9 years of Millen-ball.

Speaking of which, let us all be thankful that Matt is no longer in charge of player acquisition for the Detroit Lions. Every time I see his mug on television I completely tune him out. But I digress...

The team roster is still in need of more talent as we all knew. Some of the new free agent acquisitions are going to help the team in the future, and some of them will not. The rookies are learning, the coaches are learning, the fans will catch on eventually, those who haven't already. This year was not and never was about winning games so much as getting everyone on the same page to see who can help now, who will help eventually, and who just aren't going to be a part of things down the road.

Yes, the Lions lost. But I got to watch most of the game with my 6 month old granddaughter and part of the game with my 3 month old grandson, so the Thanksgiving day traditions of family and Lions football continue in the NetRat household... and THAT I am thankful for.

The final evaluation of the talent on the roster can wait until the season ends.

I sincerely hope you too are having a family filled Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Game 10 - 2009 Browns @ Home

What a difference a week makes!

There were people questioning Staffords ability. There were people questioning the draft pick of the tight end Pettigrew. There were people questioning the coaching. Heck, people were questioning every aspect of the team.

Will this one game silence them? No. Well, maybe for 3 days. But to think that the questions won't start up again with the very next loss is not really reasonable. Fans are just that way, well, many are anyway.

I looked at this as a losing season from the get-go. I looked at it as a season to install the offense and defense and to weed out the players and to get game time experience for the rookies they drafted and the free agents they kept. I looked at it as a beginning. What I saw in this game was a game changing capable TE. A never say die QB. A team that didn't fold when they could've. What I saw was a LOT of potential. Actually, I've been seeing some here and there all along, but this time, most everyone could see it. That makes it easier to preach to the choir. A choir with their ears open rather then closed.

Yes, it was "just" the Browns. Yes the refs appeared to maybe help the Lions out some at the end of the game. All that can be argued to death. What can't be argued though is that the negative nancies expected the Lions to lose, right up to when there was 0 seconds left in the game, and the Lions DID NOT LOSE. Various players showed what they had, Browns as the opponent or no. And the Lions were victorious in a game they both needed to win (for mental health sake) and were expected to win. That hasn't been happening lately. So don't take away from the win just because it was the Browns they were playing. Some of the other "great" teams in the league nearly (or did) lose their games this week.

Take from this that the nucleus of the team is in fact solid, or will be as time goes by. Take from it what I've been saying over and over again, they are building a team, this is the way you do it, and there are results that can be found if you care to look.

The injuries continue to mount, the season continues to be challenging, and the next game is a mere 4 days away. But, this a team that is being rebuilt from what would've been 50th place if there would've been 50 teams in the league last year, and they have grown a lot from that team in just one year. They will continue to build, and we get to all enjoy watching that build take place.

Will they win 4 days from now? Probably not. But they might, after all, it's been a pretty good week so far. Let's not just discount this team out of hand whether they win or lose, rather, let's enjoy the team that is being built, and for those who just can't do that, well try anyway, even if it's only for one week, or rather 3 days, as the case may be.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Game 9 - 2009 @ Minnesota

It's official. The Lions are out of the playoff hunt. Yes, I'm joking. They were never in it except mathematically, but 8 losses is traditionally the point in the season where you consider your team out of the playoffs and that is where the Lions find themselves at, with 8 losses.

The Lions have never beat Brett Favre in a road game (unless Favre was a Packer in 1991, I'm too lazy to look it up) and they've lost in Minnesota for nearly that many years. So add another one to both streaks.

Meanwhile, the Lions are looking at a much easier game next week against the Browns (on paper), if there is anyone on the team left able to play. There were so many injured and out for the Lions I was expecting some WRs to have to start playing DB and some TEs to start playing on the OLine every down for the rest of the Vikings game. A lot of guys tried to leave it all on the field, and some literally did. If they can do that next week the Browns don't stand a chance. But will next week be an up game or a down game... and can they also do that and still be ready for their only nationally televised game on Thanksgiving day just 4 days later? It should be an interesting week (and a half).

I think the players are starting to get that if they mess up they won't be playing. Brown was a healthy scratch after going the wrong side on a screen play and making some other errors last week. One Cohen was replaced with another supposedly for special teams reasons. On top of that, first play of the 2nd half in this game we saw Kevin Smith lose the football a split second before hitting the ground and then didn't see him again for most of the 2nd half. The players also appear to be trying harder to get open, to make a tackle, to break a tackle, and so on. They know if they don't they won't get playing time. It's hard to believe it took this many coaches and this many years and this year that many games to get the point across. It would appear the team was a bit worse off then many thought.

Normally at this point in the season (after being out of the playoffs) the coaches might play the rookies to get ready for next year, but the Lions have been doing that since game 1. You would also evaluate your roster for the off season, but the Lions have been doing that since game 1 as well. The fans would be starting to talk draft, that started weeks ago. So what's left to look forward to? The same thing as there was in week 1. Watching the rookies who are playing try to learn and improve their game. Will they suddenly become pro-bowlers overnight? Nope. Will they suddenly play like seasoned vets? Nope. They will simply have more ups then downs, here and there, and learn the NFL level of the game so that next off season they can prepare better.

Meanwhile, the coaching staff will try everything they can think of to get a few more wins, as winning or more importantly not losing, is critical in building a team too. Just as important as evaluating the roster really. You want those who will come back next year to not be so despondent that they get into the "here we go again" rut... something that Calvin Johnson has already apparently fell into this year.

The team needs a few more wins. The coaching staff does as well. And for that matter, so do the fans. The Browns might just be willing to oblige the team in that matter next Sunday. For the sake of all involved, the Lions need to win this coming game if they can. Plus, it'll help make my preseason prediction not look so horrible.

Of course, my prediction was in jeopardy anyway now that some of the perennial basement teams are actually doing well (read as Bengals for example). Still I never predicted the playoffs for the Lions this year and I expected at least 10 losses while the rookies learn the game. I'm just glad these coaches actually play the rookies unlike previous coaching staffs. In the end, the team will be better for it.

I simply can't get all upset about the Lions for doing what I expected. That seems to be driving a few fans nuts. I can't help them. I could get upset about the 2009 draft except I think it was a great draft. I could get upset about the coaching except I think the coaching staff had an extremely difficult task and are finally starting to get through. I could get upset if the coaches weren't playing the rookies but they are doing that. All in all, things are going just about as I expected they would, not feared, expected. How can I be upset about that?

In summary. Don't get so upset about the Lions losing, almost everyone expected them to have a losing season in 2009.

Things to get upset about: officiating, dropped balls, repeating the same mistake over and over, and Favre doing well...


Things to not get upset about: being out of the playoffs and playing the rookies.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Game 8 - 2009 @ Seattle

You just got to love rookie NFL football players.

Especially when your team is playing a lot of them. In the NFL every player makes mistakes, every team makes mistakes, and the general consensus is that the Vet players have learned from most of those mistakes and therefor make fewer of them. (Same goes for the coaching staff). Many games come down to the team who's players made the fewer mistakes, or at least fewer of the mistakes that actually affect the outcome of the game. Some would say that every mistake affects the outcome of the game, but that isn't always the case.

For example. Jason Hanson misses a chip shot field goal. The very next play by Seattle turns the ball over to the Lions, and the Lions are even closer to the end zone, and the Lions then turn it into a touchdown. Would the Lions have gotten those 7 points on top of the 3 points should the field goal have gone through? No way to know (short of a visit to an alternate universe). They certainly wouldn't have another set of downs with that great field position (most likely anyway), so you have to believe that no, the field goal would've produced only 3 points and the miss allowed the team to (eventually) get 7 points instead.

What I'm getting at is in this game the rookies Delmas, Levy, Hill, Williams, Brown, and Pettigrew all managed to greatly reduce their number of mistakes and play a fairly decent game (for the parts they played in it). Stafford however, did not.

The team played well enough (and that includes the good things Stafford did) to overcome 4 interceptions, but the 5th one was one too many. Does that mean the last one was the worst one? Maybe. But any of the others may also have netted a score (eventually) and changed the outcome of the game. It's also possible in an alternate universe you would find that with zero interceptions the Lions would've still lost. Who knows (for sure).

The whole team needed to make fewer mistakes in every game they've played this year, and in this game many players did make fewer mistakes (the receivers actually caught the ball for the most part), but one key player made a bunch of rookie mistakes, and that contributed (in this universe) greatly to the loss.

This loss only matters if Stafford learns from it. If he does not, it was a gigantic waste of time (and money). But if he becomes a better QB for it, if when he is the vet player those things don't happen, then it's worth it... because the wins the Lions aren't getting this year wouldn't have taken them to the playoffs anyway. They weren't going to get enough of them. But the learning the rookies are doing is VERY important. Painful, but needed.

Despite it all, the Lions were 2 minutes and 1 TD away from winning this game against a bunch of veteran players on their home field. Our rookie QB did manage to throw the TD, just to the wrong player on the wrong team. Please let him learn from it.

That's all you can do when you play this many rookies at once, hope they learn from it. Hope that when they become Vet players, they won't make all the same mistakes all the time. Hope you will have a good group of vets so you don't have to play as many rookies. Unfortunately, we fans get to have the fun of waiting the time out in this universe to get to that future.

New coaching, new schemes, new players, new rookies starting, all on the 2008 worst team of the league. You can't really have expected instant success. It's a recipe for ups and downs. And that is why you have to love watching rookie NFL players play (and hopefully learn)... it's how you (re)build a team. it's the only way to get there from here. It sure beats not playing them at all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Game 7 - 2009 Rams @ Home

Pay Attention!

The lions players were not paying attention. Also known (in this case) as lack of concentration or lack of focus.

Mental errors ruined the Lions chances for an easy win. The Lions blew this one big time all by themselves. False starts, holding, slapping a helmet, you name it on penalties and they happened at the worst time. But that paled compared to the drops. Over and over again the opportunity to march down the field was ruined by drop after drop. It was team wide, it was lack of focus (not lack of talent). Now, it can be said that it takes talent to pay attention, but I don't believe this is one of those cases. This was a team wide inability to concentrate.

The Rams also had no focus. They didn't even score an offensive TD until the final 2 minutes of the game. But they did use some trickery, with the fake field goal for a TD being the most obvious. The Lions who supposedly practiced against trickery during the bye week were caught with their pants down on that one.

There was some good in the game like the Lions using cut back lanes for the running backs more in this game but so much bad, like throwing the ball away on 4th down instead of doing everything humanly possible to convert the 4th down, that I don't want to even talk about the good things.

I don't want to talk about the bad things either for that matter. This was my sure thing game the Lions would win (after the Redskins game) and now I'm very concerned about my other predicted wins. The only reason I'm not completely despondent about it is I know that the coaching staff will be all over the players for the penalties, and the drops, and the bad tackling, and some of them might even respond in the next game well enough to make a difference.

So, my 6-10 season prediction is now in jeopardy, but there are some Lions players who's very careers (as in livelihood) are in more jeopardy and that makes my issues seem small in comparison. Those players who wish to continue to play (either for the Lions or at all) might just want to start paying attention. As in FOCUS!



After I wrote this I realized something. The Lions players were not undergoing a lack of focus because of bad coaching (like some are sure to say). No, they are putting too much pressure on themselves and that obstructs the ability to focus. What they need to do, what will be nearly impossible to coach, is to have fun. Have fun playing football. That is the "it" that is missing.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bye Week

Just some odds and ends (this entry may get edited/added to over the next few days).

First, my prediction as posted in my forum for those who haven't visited there.

Lions Prediction Contest
« Thread Started on Sept 13, 2009, 11:57am »

The deadline is in 1 hour and a couple minutes. Since I won't have the entries up until after the game sometime, I wanted to post my entry here before the game so no one calls "shennanigans" on me.

4th in Division
13th Draft Pick

This part isn't required, but here is my line of thinking....

Games they win are:



That's 1-5 at the bye week, a long start but a nice 5-5 finish.

I am 5 for 5 so far, of course, predicting the Lions to lose hasn't been that difficult this decade. Still, IF Stafford gets healthy I am staying with my 6 wins prediction... but I might change which games if I had the chance to do so. My expectations are based on my belief that a team starting so many rookies would get better after a rocky start as the year goes on. The rocky start was exactly as I figured, now we'll see if my assumption that they will learn from it and take off on a 5-5 "rampage" will hold.

Second. Even though Stafford has a long way to go (as a rookie he should) I must admit he is proving to be much better this year then I had ever expected. The offense isn't the same without him.

Third. The defense misses Sammie Hill. He and Levy are two D guys that are also proving to be much better in their rookie year then I (or probably anyone) had expected.

Fourth. I expect that the 2010 draft will be heavily debated (again) in most Lions forums. Even though I would love to take a dominate left tackle with the 1st round pick, it's looking more and more like the Lions will (and should) go either DE or CB... and DT has to be thrown in there as well. I'm not talking the "rest of the draft", just their first pick, which at this time I still think will not be in the top 10 (most will not agree with me there, so be it).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Game 6 - 2009 @ Green Bay


The Lions lose 0-26 at Lambeau Field, for the 18th year in a row. That's right, the Lions have lost every single year in Green Bay since the year before Jason Hanson was drafted (that is to say, Hanson has NEVER seen the Lions win in Green Bay since he's been on the team).

In watching the game, I don't think I could point to a player who didn't make a mistake. I'm not so sure I could point to a coach either. They ALL made at least one mistake.

That's a lot of mistakes.

Good thing it's a bye week. Coaches can do some film work. Players can do some sole searching. The team can get ready for the "rest of the season". And, to top it off, they start out against the Rams when they come back from the bye.

Yeah, they win that game! (I have been predicting that since August of course, just like I predicted this loss).

The Lions lost by 26 points, but the Giants lost by 21, so it's not the end of the world (unless you have a lot of Lions and Giants players on your FFL team).

The only thing that totally surprised me is that Stanton looks just a touch better then Culpepper. There just might be a small adjustment to the depth chart after the bye... assuming that Stafford is healed up enough by then to play. I'm not sure, not positive that is, that I would want Culpepper to back up Stafford while Stanton holds the clipboard... and that I would've never ever thought I would say. Congrats to Stanton, sorry about your mistake(s), especially that red zone one.

Those inactive players... well, they are very important to the success of the team. Each and every one of them. There is no depth behind those guys. Meanwhile, the secondary is filling in the blanks on their resume for next year... mostly blanks... but hey, there's always invisible ink... and 10 more games to play... so get your collective heads out of your collective behinds and play like your career depends on it.... because, in total and complete truth, IT DOES!!!

My only thinking throughout this game was how ruthless the coaches (and front office) are... and you sorry S.O.B.'s are going to pay for those horrid mistakes. Each and every one of you.... and the team will be a little better for it. So thank you... for proving the various points, about who can be upgraded and all that.

The trade deadline is fast approaching, anyone who finds themself still on the team has 10 games to prove they are better then the street guys (who may be coming in very very soon). This is it. This may very well be your last hurrah! Take the time off to contemplate your career, and if you do get the chance to play again, do not blow it. You won't like what happens if you blow it again.

Okay, so what's next? Well, as I said since August, and still say now (assuming Stafford is the starting QB) the Lions will win 5 of the next 10 games. They will win the games they are supposed to win, plus one more. They will give all of us a little hope for next year. The coaches will sort more out this bye week. Etc etc etc.

Look, I said it would be 1-5 at the bye. I said the forum was going to go nuts with that. I said that it's part of playing rookies who are learning under fire. And I said you could expect all these things that have happened.

If I am right. If the roster does have some talent as I believe it does. If I continue to support the coaches as I am willing to do. If I believe what I saw preseason and assumed would happen, then I have no reason not to continue with my prediction. That remains a 6-10 season, with 5 of those wins after the bye (so far I'm batting a thousand).

So, they have a bye week to get things sorted out, and they beat the Rams next game. Until that doesn't happen I'm fine with things as they are. I mean that, 100%. This is EXACTLY how I saw things playing out this far into the season. How can I be upset about that? I can not. I laughed a lot, but I am not upset. A little (okay, a lot) surprised about how Culpepper has done, and how much better Stanton has looked, but not upset or angry.

Now, if the Lions lose to the Rams... well, NetRat is not pleasant to be around if he gets angry. The Lions will win the next game, and 5 of the next 10.

That, or the NetRat made an Oopsie.... and that just isn't going to happen.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Game 5 - 2009 Steelers @ Home

Almost. The Lions almost won this one. They still made mistakes and they still need more confidence but the Lions almost beat the superbowl champions from last year. A team that plays a 3-4 defense, a defense the Lions have shown to have problems with in preseason. A defense they will face again next week.

The Lions almost had a home game. Thousands of seats were waving a yellow towel because Lions fans didn’t buy tickets, Steelers fans did. Counting the season ticket holders that didn’t show up, the Steelers fans almost outnumbered the Lions fans.

Calvin Johnson almost helped the team. But a knee injury put him on the sidelines near the beginning of the game and he never returned.

The defense and special teams almost helped the offense out. There was better field position, there were some stops. Both were almost playing as well as the opposition.

Stafford almost was able to play. His injury kept him as the reserve QB, but he is almost healed up.

Culpepper almost played okay. At times the plays were good, or smart, or showed that he isn’t totally washed up. At other times you wonder if the sack was his fault or the fault of his teammates. Still, he almost led the team to a win.

Coaching was suspicious at times, but fantastic at others. The team as a whole was almost very competitive, almost for the entire game. No third quarter collapses, no head scratching play calls, not too many things to really complain about, not really. Almost well played.

I for one am pleased to see the growth of the “rest of the team”. With Stafford out the whole game, and with CJ out for most of it, the players who did play played well for the most part. Room for growth? Sure. That is to be expected (as I’ve said before). In fact, this loss was my prediction as well (I’m now 5 for 5). A great road game next week isn’t too likely either, but a competitive one is possible. I expect a loss next week, then after the bye week, a win against the Rams. I’d settle for being almost right though, if the Lions are able to pull off a win at Lambeau Field.

The team is almost there. After the bye week I still predict a 5-5 season. This game was part of the growth to get them to that point. As will be the next one. The fans will almost be happy with a 6-10 season if the team does show improvement, the improvement that I have been predicting.

So yes, the Lions lost and are now at 1-4, but they are improving. The are almost there, almost ready to compete at a true NFL level. Almost going to be able to do it every week, not just a few times a year. There are a few players that will need to be "upgraded", but we all knew that. There will be more mistakes made, but we all know that as well. Can I really truly be happy about this game even though they lost? Yeah, almost. As long as it means they will be better later. As long as they are improving. As long as there is a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Then yes, I can be okay with them losing the game. Almost.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Game 4 - 2009 @ Chicago

Tough game. The Lions lost the game (as predicted by yours truly) after being tied at half time. The second half kick off that was returned for a TD by Chicago seemed to have a very negative affect on the entire team. I guess they just aren't mentally tough enough (yet).

There is a certain lack of confidence that shows through when things go wrong and unless something big and good happens soon after then the team tanks even harder. That too is more or less predictable. That is why it'll be hard to win until they play some teams that are also lacking in confidence (such as Washington last week and the Rams after the bye week). It'll take time for the coaching staff to build up team confidence, in the meantime there are some things I noticed that will help out the coaching staff, and some that will hurt.

Matt Stafford proved it's not a fluke. He can indeed drive the offense down the field on a time consuming series of plays that result in a score. More then once during the same game even. Considering it was merely his 4th NFL start in his first year in the league, that is really quite remarkable. Yes, he still makes rookie mistakes (there is a limit to miracles after all) but it bodes well for the future of the team.

The run defense isn't horrible. They've pretty much contained AP, Portis, and Forte (except for one or two big plays) which is no easy task. Compared to last year when teams could run at will it is a very big improvement. If they can continue to improve there (by eliminating those big plays) and also work some on the pass defense the games will get easier to win.

Special teams looked like special ed in this game, I don't know if that was due to the injured players who were out or if they simply forgot how to play. I predict there will be ton of special teams work this week (not really stretching my neck out there am I). They don't need to be the best in the league, but they do need to be better then what they were in this game.

Pettigrew needs to work on his focus. Too many dropped balls. Same goes for Aaron Brown in the return game who bobbles the ball nearly every time. Kevin Smith needs to get healthy (or healthier), he has heart but his production was just not there today. CJ, Stafford, and a few others were hit pretty hard in this game. Chicago was the team playing "tough" not the Lions. Chicago was the team inflicting pain. That too seemed to sap the Lions mental toughness.

If they can heal up, work on special teams a ton, keep with the decent run defense and learn to have a little fun during the game the competitiveness will show itself... and once that happens, the confidence will build and the wins will come.

Time to get tough... both mentally and physically... enjoy the match and feel good about how hard you fought, win or lose.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Game 3 - 2009 Redskins @ Home

The Lions WIN !!!

And I'm not just talking the coin flip either. They took the lead, kept it, and managed to hold on until time expired. Since the last win was in December of 2007, I almost forgot how to spell w-i-n.

Would this be a good time to point out that I predicted this win... in August?! Probably not, since I also predicted the next win wouldn't happen until after the bye week, against the Rams. I also don't plan on changing that prediction. 1-5 before the bye, 5-5 after. 13th pick in the 2010 draft.

Anyway, back to game #3. There was some very good things that happened in this game. Not so much in specific plays, though there were some of those, but in general, team-wise and individual-wise.

Stafford was having fun (unlike the first two games) and it showed. He also showed he is able to learn, both from past games when he intentionally threw the ball away in this game instead of forcing a ball into a bad spot, to later in the same game when he put some touch on a pass that previously he tried to rifle in without success. That doesn't mean he has permanently learned and will never repeat the mistakes again, he will, but it's the start that counts.

Kevin Smith (who I hope is okay) was doing some good things in the run game, as was the OLine. Just like rookie QBs, OLines need time together to improve, and this group is doing some of that. They will be limited to the weakest link on the line, but at least these coaches are getting the most out of them instead of making it worse. As for pass protection, at times it was okay, at others it was still bad. When the $100 million man (Haynesworth) sacked Stafford I was expecting a cart to have to come onto the field to haul our QB away... instead, somehow, our QB gets up okay and Haynesworth needs medical attention. One could say that maybe some of the bad luck has turned... happy players could make some more of their own good luck, and we're sure to see some of that yet later this year.

The wide receivers and tight ends as a group played a decent game, hopefully that's a sign they are all starting to "get it". Let the ups and downs commence... just be there more ups then downs (along with fewer and fewer downs as the year goes along).

The players on defense also showed a little talent here and there. Nothing earth shattering, nothing 100% perfect, just a hint of individual ability smattered in with team play. The accolades they are sure to get for this game won't hurt their confidence, that's for sure.

The team won this game despite individual errors, and they will win more, when the various elements align again. I suspect the team will be a little more competitive from now on, but the losses will still occur, simply due to how far behind the Lions were compared to the other teams in the league after Millen's fabulous assistance.

Oh, the Lions now have a better record then the Titans... does anyone think they miss coach Schwartz yet? I'm thinking they do. I know a lot of people were worried on those last two drives when the Lions went to prevent (I hate prevent as most of you know) but at least our new coaching staff actually knows how to run it, and when to run it. Unlike the previous coaching staff who ran it for the entire game (I'm sure those last two drives looked VERY familiar, except for the outcome .. to those who watched all the games last year).

So take it from me, this is not the last w-i-n of the season, the team will still lose more games then they win but will improve as the year progresses while being competitive in nearly all of them, and we have a really good coaching staff that knows how to bring a team up from the depths of despair. I would add that the rookie QB is progressing exactly as I suspected, as is the OLine, receivers, special teams and defense. Just do me a favor, after each of the next 3 losses, don't get all down, but rather look forward to the better games that are coming in the 2nd half of the season. Tonight feel free to bask in the glow of the word W-I-N.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Game 2 - 2009 Vikings Home Opener

Once again the Lions played just about exactly as I had expected they would, better then last week, not good enough to win.

Last week the 2008 worst defense played the 2008 best offense, and it showed. This week, it was the 2008 worst run offense against the 2008 best run defense... and the Lions actually had success running the ball.

The Lions also contained Adrian Peterson to some extent, and made Favre uncomfortable for all but the 3rd quarter (when he killed them).

I can just imagine the half time talk in the Vikings locker room... "you are losing to the 0-16 Lions, do you really want to be 'THAT TEAM'?! The one they finally get a win against?" The mistakes in the 3rd quarter by the rookie QB didn't help, in fact, between him and the offensive line penalties, you don't have to look much further to find why the team lost.

But the OLine isn't magically going to get better without a lot of time together (and some of them not even then) and the quarterback isn't going to learn from his mistakes until he makes them, so again, all as expected.

The coaches did prove they can assist at improving the team play by changing personel or by further instructing the players to play better. They did their job.

The fans shouldn't have really expected the Lions to win this game any more then the last one, too many things would've had to gone perfectly right for it to happen. But next week is different, there will be some room for error next week. And that is why I predict the Lions to win at home against the Redskins.

So keep coaching, coaches. Keep learning, Stafford. Keep practicing and playing together, trenches. And keep improving as a team... for there are many more challenges ahead.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Game 1 - 2009 @ New Orleans

To the twelve people who actually believed that the Lions had a chance to win this game before it started I just want to say "you're nuts"... certifiable... watch out for men in white coats.

As for me, things went just about as I had suggested it would (in the various forums I post in). I had expected Stafford to make mistakes (posted that here) and as all rookie QBs do, he did. I figured he was good for two interceptions and a TD. I figured a little over 200 yards (I think I posted 220 yards). I believe the completion percentage I guessed at was something like 20 of 36. All came pretty close, so I for one was not upset or surprised or really fazed any way by his play.

As for the team as a whole, well, the 2008 #32 defense (would've been #40 if there were 40 teams) against the 2008 #1 offense after just one off season... yeah... surprised? No, not me. The offense couldn't run block and the same guys did some of the dumbest penalties at the worst time... no surprise there either. Improvement is going to take time, lots of practice, good coaching, and even more time.

The whole point I'm trying to make and as I said here before, NOW the coaches know what they need to work on, as do the players. But this year, I expect that instead of tuning out the coaching staff by the entire team, that work will actually begin on fixing the problems. I expect some ups and downs, but more ups then downs. I expect these coaches to actually help the team improve. This is the starting point, not the end point. That may sound like a kool-aid drinking Lions fan, but it's truly what I expect. It's only if these coaches AREN'T able to make the team play better that I will get worried.

So, next week, another loss, but not as bad. Then in week 3, a win... ending the talk of breaking losing streak records. Then a couple more losses due to the quality of the opponent more so then any regression, though there may be some of that... then after the bye... I expect them to win 5 and lose 5 (not in that order of course) to finish the season 6-10. I believe that is a reasonable expectation and an obtainable result. Not a goal, the goal is to make the playoffs, no one should ever stop trying to do that or they shouldn't be playing... but if the end result is 6-10... then the team is on the right track.

The trick here is to learn from the mistakes... that goes for the coaching staff, the players, and the 12 fans who picked the Lions to win.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Preseason Game 2, 3 and 4 thoughts... along with final cuts.

I must apologize for the delay in updating this blog. I have all the remaining preseason games on my DVR but had no chance to record them to DVD yet. I never realized how working about 70 hours a week can remove all your free time.

Okay, so preseason game 2, the Great Lakes Classic, was horrific. A reminder of some of the 2008 games and it left everyone feeling a little flat in a big hurry. Thing was, the team didn't game plan for the 3-4 defense, and it showed. That's the thing about 3-4, it's radically different enough that you DO have make changes to your game plan or you are toast. So, the Lions proved that they can play really bad if they don't try... just like 2008. The next game against a 3-4 team won't be as bad, but it could still be interesting to say the least.

Preseason game 3. I posted on the forum that it was interesting that even though Culpepper started (usually a sign of the regular season depth chart) that Stafford actually got more playing time in, and much of that with many of the supposed starters. Turns out that was indeed a hint of things to come. In addition, if you do watch the game with an eye to seeing what the coaching staff is doing, you will note they repeatedly try things... "just to see what happens". They move DTs out to DE, and vice-versa. They move the LBs around. Same with the DBs. Same with the offensive players. They run the same plays more then once in a row. Call the same players number to get the ball ... just to what happens the next time. Game 3 was partly used as a dress rehearsal for the regular season, but was used even more for evaluation (still).

Preseason game 4. Injuries really messed up the plans here, to an extent. But I must say the street QB didn't do all that bad. I was impressed they got him up to that speed that fast. Apparently the Jets were too since they traded for him. It was during this game that I began to feel that Stafford was going to be the starting QB sooner rather then later (despite my line of thinking that the coaches like experience). I posted in the forum how the ability to take the hits and still throw the ball was a sure sign that Stafford was maturing into the role. I also stated that some of the throws were purely amazing. Some were totally wrong, wacked, or otherwise not right... but of those that connected, some of them were nothing short of awesome. He may turn out to be a nut case, or an ego-maniac, or an interception king like no other, but if he isn't one of those things, then the guy is going to be a very exciting player to watch... down the road. Hey, he's still a rookie QB. Rookie QBs make mistakes... always. Many fans (like myself) hate that learning curve they go through... but if you can (and I can) get my mind around it properly... then I can sit back and enjoy watching the progress that appears this young man is going to make... as he becomes a top QB in the NFL.

So, that is what I will do. Throw away the Joey Harrington results and once again hope that the mistakes I am going to be watching will actually make the QB better as the season progresses.

The cuts. First, they aren't done yet. The coaches are telling the front office who isn't measuring up and the front office is keeping a look out for replacements to try out. This will continue for the entire year. Although the moves may be fewer and further between after game 1 (due to salary cap issues).

I saw that they put Hill as a starter next to Jackson, rotating in Cohen in Jackson's spot. They moved Fluellen out to DE but he will still play DT, so he became the swing player. The Linebackers appear to be much better, and a warning to Ernie Sims... Dizon is closing in on your starting job. Time to make those stops and to quit overrunning the plays. The DBs may or may not be productive at first, but I think they will improve as time goes on... it just might be a little ugly (okay, a lot ugly) for a while. The offense is improving due to talent, coaching, scheme, but mostly because the offensive line is improving (and that is also due to coaching, scheme, and just a pinch more talent). 4/5ths of the OL were playing last year, yet even in base in preseason you can see an improvement... that is because of the coaches. Pure and simple.

Will the O help out the D enough to garner some wins? Hard to say at the moment. But at least the coaching staff does indeed know what it is doing, and that will help (instead of hurt) the team more then most people realize.

Too bad the first game is against Drew Brees and the New Orlean Saints. But then again, what would they learn from a cakewalk game? Might as well learn in game 1 where you need to do the most work.

And that is all I have time for right now, hopefully that (free time) improves soon as well as the Lions.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Preseason Game 1 thoughts

I was going to review the game in detail but I can see now I won't have time this week, instead of waiting I'm going to post some thoughts on the game now...

First, Atlanta played that game without two guys who were injured, the Lions played without these guys (and how I believe they land on the non-existant depth chart):

RB Maurice Morris (2nd string)

WRs Calvin Johnson (starter), Bryant Johnson (starter), Dennis Northcutt (starter at slot), John Standeford (fighting to make roster over a handful of guys)

TEs Brandon Pettigrew (starter), Casey FitzSimmons (fighting to make roster over Gronkowski)

OL Dyland Gandy (fighting to make roster over a couple players), Kirk Barton (not likely to make final roster)

DT Grady Jackson (starter, or at least in rotation at DT)

LB Jordon Dizon (2nd string), Zack Follett (fighting to make roster over a couple players)

S Louis Delmas (starter), Marquand Manuel (2nd string or possible starter), Daniel Bullocks (2nd string or possible starter)

CB Keith Smith (2nd string or possible nickle or even a starter if Henry moves to Safety)

That's 7 or 8 starters they went without, a third of the team!

Of those, only the Bullocks injury could be season threatening (so I believe at this point anyway).

Health will play a critical role in how well the Lions do this season. Of course, that's no different then any other season or any other team, but I said it anyway.

Okay, so I replayed a part of the game, I must say in that opening offensive series for the Lions, that was some of the best play out of Raiola I've seen in years. I don't know (yet) if he did that well all game, or if he can be counted on to do that well all season, but if he can then I will owe him a big apology... and I will owe the previous coaching staffs another bad mark for using him wrong.

I did watch the whole game (live, well, tape delayed, at full speed) once and had some other observations. With the first 3 wide receivers out of the lineup the rest of the pack had a perfect opportunity to show their worth in a game situation to help them make the team. I did not notice anyone flash out of the whole group. Now, I would normally want to review the game using slo-mo and rewind here and there to get more detail, but just going by the once over method, the players didn't "get'r done". I had high expectations for Colbert, but of the group he failed to impress. Having said that though, you don't take the playing time for part of one game and call it SO! There was 2 weeks of practice film prior to the partial game Colbert and the rest played in, and that does count in the coaches review of the players when cut down day arrives. I did see 3 Lions practices and in those Colbert was not the Colbert in game 1 of preseason. So, did he just have a bad day, or is he unable to translate what happens at practice to game day? That is critical to know. All I can say is, the pressure is now on, he must NOT do this poorly next preseason game or he may not recover his chances to remain on the team. Sippio, who did look terrible in the practices I saw, has already been cut. Colbert can not have any more "bad days" if that is indeed what it was. The same goes for the rest of the WR corp. Time to shine, if you are still on the roster by game 2, you may never see game 3 unless you do what you have to do, and the #1 thing a wide receiver has to do is CATCH THE BALL. There is also blocking, and special teams, route running, lining up correctly and all that... but catching the ball is and always will be the number one thing you do as a wide out.

The OLine in not yet set, and they obviously haven't jelled. Plus they haven't had live play yet to get coached by the new coaches on what they did wrong. So, for them, it'll be important to show who can learn and be coached and improve. The same exact thing goes for the DLine. Those that can be coached up and learn will stick, those who can not will be gone (except for Goz, his guaranteed money means he has a roster spot, period). No one, as in you or me or anyone else, should be under the delusion that the OLine and DLine are going to be okay. They were not addressed much in 2009 while other areas were. Right or wrong that is what happened. But these players do have new schemes and new coaches to help them improve. If they do, the team improves. However well the two lines play will determine how well the Lions do in 2009. We all know that (or should know that). We just need to remember that. The coaches meanwhile need to sort out the players and keep the best ones, and not get it wrong, to speed up the team building process. We mustn't lose sight of that. Next year upgrading the lines can become paramount, this year is about instituting the schemes, coaching those who can improve, and seeing what you have to work with for next season. It's not an excuse, it is a necessary step in fixing a really broken team.

Some other things I noted...

Stanton showed great poise when he got the team in field goal range and had to spike the ball to stop the clock. He did not panick and spike it too quickly, but rather took his time and waited the clock out to make sure that Jason would drain the clock with his field goal attempt. I was quite impressed with that poise.

While most say that Stanton won the game, you could also argue that the blocked extra point was the game. After all, the Lions won by 1 point. That was the special teams game ball play of the game.

Stafford showed some nice look offs and pump fakes. I was impressed with that more so then the throws, he is known far and wide for his arm, it's the rest of the stuff I questioned (both the if he can do it and when will be ready to do it questions). So far so good with the exception of the poor decision to throw a pick six. A rather big exception, but unless it becomes a very nasty habit, nothing to worry about just yet.

Culpepper meanwhile showed that he is regaining his old form. Give him CJ on that first long throw instead of the (at best) 4th string WR and maybe that bomb is a TD and his entire tenure in the game looks quite brilliant. I find no fault with the rest of the plays to speak of and it just felt nice to know that a QB that knows what it's all about was in charge at QB.

A few other things that are sometimes forgotten... it was only the first preseason game. There was no game planning. Plays were run at times just to see what would happen. Players were tested just to see what would happen. The full playbook was not used, nor should it be. Oh, and the back flip in the end zone was no worse excessive celebration then diving into the stands in green bay... plus, the RB coach Gash all but dared Brown to do it.

All in all, it was an interesting game. For a 0-16 team though, I think the most important part was that the team did NOT quit fighting and did get the win. Would that have happened with the previous coaching staff? (No is the appropriate answer by the way). And be honest, with the clock ticking down towards the end of the game down by two scores, did you think the Lions were going to end up winning the game?

No, me either.

This is not the 2008 Lions my friends. They may not be ready for post season play just yet, but they are definitely not the 2008 Lions. And that is good to know.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sunday, August 9th, afternoon (and only) practice.

It’s 97 degrees out. Shade? What shade? I think I’m standing on the sun. How they got bleachers there I’ll never know… and what wrong turn I took to also get there still baffles me. So anyway, its 97 degrees on the Sun and about 1,000 others are there with me and around 80 guys who resemble the 2009 lions.

I have my pad and pen and camera (and backup camera) and realize that writing play by play takes a lot of work, I miss a lot of action, and I don’t even know which method of reporting people like. So I mixed it up today, some of one, some of the other. Hey, it was ON THE SUN and it was HOT, okay?!

First, I’m there early, maybe 15 minutes before practice “officially” starts. Half the team is out there doing stuff. Jason and Nick are kicking to a group of players on one side of one field, the QBs are talking over to the right. There are other groups scattered about doing various things ON THE SUN before practice even starts. Dedicated players they are.

So anyway, the one player I thought I saw practicing catching kick offs was Bullocks. Now I thought he was hurt, and I couldn’t figure out why he was trying his hand at catching kick offs. In fact, it wasn’t until 10 minutes ago that I figured it out. Bullocks is number 27, the number of the player I thought I saw, then I realized a few minutes ago that maybe it was a 21, which would’ve been Aaron Brown, and DING, I figured it out!!! It’s those stupid, retarded, fonts they are using for the numbers. The 1’s look like 7’s. Especially on the Sun!

So, anyway, Bullocks was no where to be seen, but Aaron Brown was practicing along with 5 others before practice started.

So the horn blows, they all start to do their stretching, and I’m wondering if that pool of water by my feet was because they had watered the grass just before I got there, or if I was really sweating that badly. (Turns out… both).

After the stretching, those players still alive took to the fields into their position groups. This time I was nearest the wide receivers. So whoever Ernie Sims growled at today I do not know.

First thing I notice about the WRs is that B. Johnson is there, helping out the coaches with the drills. Most injured players don’t do that… or at least I hadn’t seen it in the past. I thought is was interesting. After a while the QBs quit their drills with their coach and joined the WRs. Crossing route practice ensued. From there various other drills commenced, with a coach here and there flipping over their clipboards from time to time to see what drills they were to cover that day.

As the other position groups finished they joined in, eventually there were fullbacks, tightends, running backs and all those coaches there too. I saw Stafford hitting about 3 out 4 nice throws with the other being quite a bit off (75% isn’t bad though). Culpepper was hitting about the same. Stanton has some work to do still. When they started doing something that looked like a spread offense drill (5 wide, but 1 or 2 might be a RB, or FB, or TE, or combo) the press started to wander over from where they had been. I had never seen this drill before so I’m hopeful someone in the press can fill me in on what I was watching.

When they did some special teams work I noticed that the rest of the players were not drilling… but standing and watching. I took it that the coach was giving them a break since it was so hot and that long hot trip to the sun probably tired them out some. I also noticed that Colbert was playing gunner on special teams. More and more I saw players taking it easy watching this or that drill, I thought it was pretty nice of the coach to only drill some of the team at once and give the other time to acclimate to the conditions on the sun, being none of them were any more used to it then I was.

I saw Salaam get hurt, and Gandy (a center) took his place playing LT. I thought that was odd. But I have checked and I can't figure out how the numbers 6 and 5 could be anything but a 65 even with those horrid fonts. Later I saw Salaam playing again, so it must not have been serious.

They did some kind of 11 on 11 drill. Heller dropped a pass. Someone else then dropped. To the ground. Wet towels were rushed to him, a whole wagon load of gatorade was driven there (where it had to be unloaded so they could load the guy on the wagon to take him inside). He had wet towels draped all over him so I could not tell if it was a player, a coach, or someone from the press (or someone visiting). Never did find out. Stafford then threw a ball that was way off. I think it was way off, maybe someone didn’t go towards Mars when they should’ve, can’t ever be sure of these things. I did see Henry make another defensive play.

Later they worked on punt returns, again resting players not involved. Buchanan was still working punt returns. Then Williams caught one, side note… When he threw the ball back to a coach it was a good 30 yards and he threw a perfect spiral. Can you say “wildcat”? Delmas was watching punt coverage, as was Henry when he joined them… not saying others weren’t watching, but they were on my side of the action watching something specific, and I do not know what. Colbert was again working as a gunner on punt coverage. A bit later Ken Harris took his place to give him a rest. Suddenly someone didn’t get into position and the coach flipped. No more of that drill. He was hot!!! Of course, he was on the Sun, so what do you expect, but still, that player must have really done a no-no!

Later on, Levy made a nice move on D to break up a Stanton pass. Then I think I passed out… as I recall picking on the Killer for a minute or two, and he picking on me, then next thing I know practice is over. ¾ of the people never made it that far, so the lineup for autographs was short, and most of the players probably appreciated that. Some still came over to sign or talk, including Larry Foote, Gronkowski (he was actually first over), and some others who’s names I didn’t write down but pictures I have. They will be up later, if I can get either camera working again. They do not like the Sun.

For that matter, neither do I… at least… not visiting it.

Ps. On the way home I think I drove through a tornado. The car tried to take flight into a field quite suddenly, but I managed to stay on pavement. A bit up the road there were trees down blocking one lane or the other, leaves and twigs and branches everywhere, several of those very large very heavy signs that light up were upside down, one smashed to very small pieces, and right after that was a truck with a chain trying to pull a full sized tree off the expressway so everyone could stop having to drive the shoulder to continue on down the road. What a mess. I blamed it all … on the sun. (departs whistling a Stevie Wonder tune).

Saturday, August 8th, Ford Field practice.

Day two of my excursion into downtown Detroit brings Lions news that a lot of you may have already heard, or read, or where told about. But since I have nearly 7 pages of notes to type up, I’m going to tell it as I saw it (and as we all know, any two Lions fans watching the same thing can come up with completely opposite views of what they saw).

Got a couple of nice seats around the 25 yard line about row 6 or so, close enough that someone in the row in front of me said something like “good look Ernie” and the entire section was welcomed to an angry look from Mr. Sims who had heard it. (I’m just not sure he heard what was said correctly, in fact I assume he did not.) Ernie Sims is one very intense man. He is full of 0-16 and needs to release it on someone. I pity the poor team he releases all that on.

Turns out that the Commish was there. I thought it great he got to see over 15,000 people show up to a practice for a 0-16 team, most of whom waited in the rain (a heavy rain) to get in. I applaud all who attended. There is no better way to show your support of your team to a guy like Goodell then what happened, especially after the recent past.

I think it impressed coach Schwartz as well. He stated in his address to the attending fans that the commissioner was there and that it would be very wrong to take away the tradition of the Thanksgiving game from the Lions. He used the size of the crowd to support his stance. Now if only he could get BishopDon to shut up about it. (If you don’t know who that is or his stance on this issue, you haven’t spent enough time at the Mlive Lions Forum.)

While the players were warming up, stretching, and what-not, Jason Hanson worked on his field goals using a wire to hold the ball. Basically, he was warming up, in his own way. By my count, he made 4 out of 5 kicks from 53 yards out, and 2 of 3 from 55 yards out. He was not exactly happy with that (but I was).

I saw Cook, Dizon, Fitzsimmons, Pettigrew and Morris there but not participating. There were probably other hurt guys there but they either weren’t visible to me or weren’t wearing their jerseys.

The team broke up into their usual positional groups for drills; in front of me were the linebackers (again) so I watched the defensive line across the field from me. Not going by height, or actual weight, but by appearance, it seems to me that Jackson is the largest dlineman on the team. Second goes to Darby. Third to Ikaika Alma-Francis. And the fourth largest is John Gill. Strongest? Heaviest? Best player? No idea. Wasn’t comparing that. Just the visible size difference as they stood there in a group.

Now the play by play. Due to people leaving their seats and my having to move to allow them through, and due to my camera not cooperating all the time, and answering questions by those around me, I missed some of the plays. So the following is not complete. Not accurate. And when it comes to whether a play failed because of a bad throw, a bad attempt at a catch, or a well defended play… well, that comes down to the interpretation of the viewer. Having said that, this is what (I say) happened… (oh, and trying to keep track of who threw it, who caught or didn’t catch it, and who defended it… ha! (I’m only ONE person.)

In the one-on-one drills:

Culpepper threw to CJ, it was not a catch, very well defended. Kevin Smith dropped a pass. Threw out of bounds to Williams (overthrow). Then Jennings caught a great pass in traffic.

Stafford threw to a TD to Boldin on a great pump fake play. To Fowler a nice catch in stride. Then an incomplete to Sippio who appeared to have run the wrong route. (For sure missed some plays in there)

Stanton overthrew the receiver on the first pass. Dumped off a pass to the RB perfectly. Threw to Williams who slipped and missed the catch.

Back to Culpepper who threw to Jennings for an incompletion. Then Boldin had a nice catch. Sippio in stride. Then a good short pass to Gronkowski.

Stafford to CJ complete in good coverage. To Williams but would need instant replay to see if Williams was inbounds on the catch. To Harris overthrown deep.

Stanton to Boldin who slipped and nearly caught it anyway.

Summary. Nothing great, nothing horrid, and they ALL have a LOT of work ahead of them.

7 on 7 drill….

Culpepper to Kevin Smith nice short pass in stride. Throw 2 was an incomplete (was pass interference by Sims but not called). #3 to Heller for a completion. #4 out of bounds (bad throw, bad route, intentional? No way to know, like I said, it’s that way for any play). #5 to CJ one handed try with good D coverage. #6 had to kneel to set up field goal (the goal of the series of plays was to get in field goal range in so many seconds). A successful series.

Stafford to Cason for short yardage. #2 to Gronkowski incomplete deep. #3 to Colbert, out of bounds (again, throw, route, intentional?). #4 to Gronkowski complete for a first down. #5 to Colbert high and out of bounds. #6 to Gronkowski 1st down. #7 was a spike to stop the clock. 10 seconds remaining… threw another 1st down to Colbert and called timeout for field goal. A successful series.

Stanton to Jennings 1st down. #2 to Heller 1st down. #3 too high for Harris. #4 incomplete by Bodin. 4th down pass #5 for a first down to Jennings. 15 seconds left. Spiked it to stop the clock. #6 overthrown out of bounds. #7 kneel down to stop the clock for a field goal. A successful series.

Special teams then worked out, with Jason getting live action attempts (versus a wire holding the ball as before practice started). He was good from 38, 41, 43, 47, 50, and then 53 yards. Perfect.

Then they went to a live team drill….

Stafford started it with DeVries knocking down his pass. Run play by K. Smith for short yardage tackle by Sims. Complete to Felton (I made some kind of note here about Buchanan that I can not read). Smith had a nice run to the outside. Overthrew a nice pass to Heller deep middle. Felton had a nice run up the middle. (note the use of the fullbacks in both runs and passing? Yeah, me too)

Culpepper to Allen Ervin who caught the dump off pass. Kevin Smith ran hard up the middle. Felton ran up the middle. A nice deep pass to CJ who caught it (but he did push off it was not called). Sippio same play, fell flat trying to catch it. He just wasn’t fast enough.

Stanton hands it to Aaron Brown for short yardage. Naked boot leg, ran it for a few yards. Naked boot leg (faked) it was handed to Aaron Brown who ran into a pile of guys and reversed field for a nice run (haven’t seen that in, oh, about 12 years I’d say). Fowler drops a nice deep pass up the sideline. Aaron Brown worms his way up the middle for a nice gain. Allen Ervin was stopped quick on his run. Darby then stuffed Brown real quick.

From there they took up Kick Off practice…

Buchanan was one of the kick returners. As was Derrick Williams, Dexter Wynn who let it go over his head.. twice (by design?), Ramzee Robinson dropped his, Jennings dropped one. Chris Robinson good.

Now back to team drills…

Culpepper to CJ on a short pass, stopped quick by Henry. Pass #2 would’ve been a sack but Dante completed it to Jennings. #3 was a double blitz (left and right), not picked up, throw to CJ was over his head. Very nice Defensive series. Sammie Hill has his hands on his hips already. (Means he’s tiring). Cason tried a run up the middle, Peterson stopped him. Short pass to Colbert is good. Nice pass to Fowler is good.

Stafford hand it to Aaron Brown who is quick up the middle. Williams caught a short pass as he was wide open. Took exception to the tackle. Didn’t see who the D was, but a small fight broke out between them. Throw to Williams again, it went off his shoulder (consider it a drop, or miss, whatever). To Colbert, nice catch in stride. Appears bigger then he supposedly is. A throw to #46 Carson Butler. Then a nice long pass to Colbert.

Stanton did not play in that series.

New drill. 10 seconds on the clock, 1 time out. 30 yard line. Need a score….

Stafford to Williams… stopped by Ramzee Robinson short. Pass to Jennings incomplete.

Culpepper to Jennings, complete. Pass to Williams is dropped (or just not caught).

Stanton throws it way way way out of bounds. Jennings catches the next for a 1st down, and the only QB to score.

Now the drill is a full team for the full field…

Culpepper to CJ deep, sails over his head as he never saw the ball and wasn’t to the spot. A nice run by K Smith, now 3rd and 3. Sacked by Hill. Time out. Cason runs it, 2nd and 2. (obviously I missed something in this series). CJ wide open for 11 yard catch. Cason up the middle. 2nd and 8. Fluellen at DT, Jason Hunter at DE. Dump pass to Cason for 1 yard, 3rd and 7. Incomplete to CJ, nice Defense.

Stafford hands it to Aaron Brown, stuffed by Levy. 2nd and 10. Incomplete pass, broke up by Robinson. Pass complete to Boldin, 16 yards. 1st down. Aaron Brown for 1 yard, stopped by Levy. Overthrow to Colbert. Incomplete to Fowler, penalty, automatic 1st down. To Colbert incomplete.
Allen Ervin runs for 6. On a high snap in the shot gun he gets it to Colbert for a first down.

Stanton to Harris, through his hands. Aaron Brown gang tackled, 3rd and 6. To Heller who dropped it. To Felton who was hit hard with the tackle. 2nd and 6 after 15 yard penalty. Felton up the middle for 9. Felton hit the defender hard, very loud hit. Throw to Williams 1st down. Incomplete pass to post, not one WR was near it (bad route maybe?). Carson Butler (or was it Felton, stupid fonts for numbers anyway, hard to read) TD.

After the practice I stuck around until they started sweeping. Saw #76 (Jeff Backus) with ice wrapped around his arm (I think it was ice). Saw Loper and Schwartz’s wives and kids (kids were handed over the wall to them). Schwartz stayed and signed autographs and talked to about 2 dozen fans at the end. Finally, Cody Spencer started throwing his clothes into the audience, first his shoes, then his socks, and I think an arm band. Later he was interviewed by the press, then on his way (barefoot) into the tunnel he signed the stuff for the fans who caught it… or maybe he signed footballs, hats and such… couldn’t tell.

And that folks was the way I saw it. (Then a few hours later I saw the Tigers get whipped by the Twins, but man, the fireworks after were something to see! Still have not seen the Tigers win a game when I was in the stadium, do I get more then 3 strikes?)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday, August 7th, afternoon practice only.

After nearly 4 hours on the road I (we) made it to Allen Park with 3 minutes to spare. Grabbed the cameras, locked the car, walked with the wife to the end of the parking lot, realized I forgot the wallet, went back to car, got the wallet, locked and caught up with wife on the way to the bleachers to watch the practice already in progress. Then realized I forgot my pad of notepaper and my pen.

So instead of missing more practice I stayed. Big mistake, can’t remember half of what I was going to write. I hate being rushed, too easy to forget things.

Okay, so, the Lions.

I was sitting right in front of where the linebackers were working on individual drills. Off to the right were the tight ends. Off to the left were the running backs. Way way way across the field was the rest of them. (There are 2 football fields there, side by side, and most of the team was on the back (furthest away) field, which was okay for individual drills, but the 7 on 7 drills and all that sucked as far as seeing what was happening goes).

Sims went first on each LB drill. The man is possessed! He is so ready to go hit someone it’s ridiculous. He would hit the equipment like he was trying to destroy it and he didn’t much care. He was definitely the best at squaring up and smacking the heck out of the equipment. Levy twice took two tries to square up for a good solid hit, he would be ranked as the worst of the group (in that one drill, not as the worst LB). Peterson was the most vocal, trying to get the crowd riled up. A regular comedian. Looked right at me when he commented on how hard Sims had hit the sled. “That’s the way you do THAT!”

At one point a guy seated 3 spots over from me said something like “I could do that” (meaning he could drive into the sled like they were) and got a very dirty look from at least 4 of the LBs, including Sims. Thought they were going to come over and drag the dude over to the equipment to see what he could do. I wonder if those guys will make it to the first preseason game before they cremate someone.

Over at the TE area they were working on getting around a guy (one of the coaches) and then rushing a bag (one of those that wobble but do not fall down) smacking it (hard) out of the way and then continuing on. The first TE did it wrong, apparently as the TE goes beyond the bag he is also supposed to whip his other arm around behind him and really smack it again… just as hard. The coach showed them all how to do it again (about 5 times) and after that all I could think about was how much pain they intend to inflict upon the defenders in the route.

This isn’t going to be the mambie-pambie defense that was Barry’s/Marinelli’s. In fact, the entire practice was different, from the stretching to the other warm-ups, from the each of the drills being run to the plays being called in all the team drills. Now I thought last year when I saw them doing Marinelli’s drills they were getting worked hard, I really did (then) but I do not think so any more. Plus they are actually practicing situational play calling… intentionally. Instead of only after the team shows they can’t do something in a game.

There was some special teams practice as well as 7 on 7 and the like... most of which I couldn’t see well from where I was at. So I’m not going to detail every play by every player, or even be able to answer questions about specific players… not yet anyway. (I’m down here for two more days).

I will say that on kick returns #12 Derrick Williams was the quickest, surest handed, and smoothest runner. Cason makes the catching part look like second nature, but then there’s not much there. Aaron Brown can catch, but he isn’t as smooth or as sure handed as the other two. Okay for a backup I believe, but from this one practice I’d say Williams is the kick returner.

I saw the running backs and full backs doing their fair share of catching (yes, I said half backs AND full backs). Also saw the full backs running the ball. Both FBs caught my eye more then once. They have some weapons there and these coaches appear to realize that. I think Aaron Brown takes the #3 spot from Cason. He is just fast. Noted that a couple times before I knew who I was watching. #3 running back and backup kick returner.

CJ when up to speed (which takes one step) can cover 10 yards plus in 3 strides, usually before my mind can tell me that the guy is running. He is huge (compared to, well, anyone else on the team). Then there are the rest of the WRs. Maybe they should break the bricks back out… learn to softly catch the ball and to look it into the hands. More drops then I could count. They have to fix that somehow, quick.

Saw some good plays and some bad plays by just about everyone on the roster, need more info before I comment further on anyone else (and a closer view).

I did meet the Killer. He asked if I had noticed that Henry was practicing at safety all day (never did see much of the DBs from where I was at, so I had not noticed). I told him things were rather quiet as compared to last year, when “working on the chain gang” blared from a rather poor speaker throughout the entire practice, over and over again, for hours, every day. He thanked me for the bad memory. He was in a hurry (presumably to write his “Henry to Safety” article) so we shook hands and continued on from there (he to write, me to get lost in downtown Detroit looking for my hotel, thanks google maps!!!).

That’s all for today, tomorrow it’s the open practice at Ford Field and then one last practice at Allen Park before I head home on Sunday. Hopefully I will not be pressed for time and forget the paper and pen this time.

Picture Slide Show

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The 2009 Detroit Lions Draft (Part II)

Results of the plan. First some additional observations.

Almost all the players selected were team captains, so leadership garnered points for each player in the ranking system the Lions are now using. That doesn’t mean a player has to have been a team captain to get drafted, it just means when ranking players it didn’t hurt their status any. It also means a non-captain had other qualities that increased his desirability to the Lions.

Second, when addressing needs the Lions weren’t just looking at starters. No one truly expects round 4 or later picks to be starters until a couple years later, if ever. However, backup slots are needs too, and if the current backup on the team hasn’t shown the promise to eventually become a starter then getting replaced by a later round draft pick who eventually might be able to become a starter is a distinct possibility.

Third, playing special teams is nearly a requirement for a backup to make the team. It’s very difficult to hold your roster spot if you are not a starter and also don’t play special teams. Thus potential draft picks in the later rounds got extra credit for special teams play. There is no sense drafting a guy after round 3 if he’s not going to be able to help special teams as he is then unlikely to be able to make the roster anyway.

I do not believe the Lions have used these 3 “methods” in the past.

Some notes on players that were not selected… we all know what “red flags” are as it pertains to draft picks. Drug use. Lingering injuries that never seem to heal. Mental issues of one kind or another. But I believe the Lions also now downgrade (in their ranking system) players that don’t fit their definition of body type for the position. For example, a 300 pound DT was going to get points taken away while a 330 pounder wouldn’t. A fast LB at 235 plus pounds is going to get more points then a faster LB at 220. In other words, the ranking allowed for preferred body types for each position. In addition to that, players who help the run game (or help stop the run game) got perhaps some small advantage over players who do not. That’s not to say a player HAD to have these traits. Just that where they ranked might be affected. To end up at the top of the Lions draft board at any particular slot would require an exceptional player with some fantastic traits… good enough to keep them up above the rest of the remaining hopeful draft picks that maybe CAN do special teams, or has the better weight, or is a team captain, whatever.

Now for the picks themselves, what do I think of them, and how will they fit with the Lions roster?

1a. Matt Stafford. His contract could’ve easily been higher, and it would seem it also could’ve been less. Since it’s (in my opinion) somewhere in between I’m just going to leave this part alone. #1 draft picks get paid way too much (as do all the top 7 actually) and until they fix that there is no point complaining about his contract. I’m not going to do an in-depth analysis of this (or any other) pick, dissecting every play, every throw and foot placement, etc. The summarized version of it is this… when Matt’s on, he is a terrific quarterback. When he’s a bit off, he has a really bad day. It will be up to the coaches to work on his mechanics so that he has something to fall back on when things go haywire… something to get him back to comfortable… much as was saw in the 2nd half of the bowl game against MSU last January. There is a chance that he could actually become a franchise QB. Something most of us Lions fans who are alive now have never seen (sorry old timers). Not saying he will, or should, only that there is a chance (yeah, I know, “so you’re saying there’s a chance”).

Then look at all the intangibles. Not his intangibles, but these ones… it’s been 50 years (going on 51) since the Bobby Layne 50 year curse was laid upon the organization. Not months after the curse being over the Lions draft a QB who went to the same high school as Bobby Layne. Matt’s first name is really John. The last QB the Lions drafted in round 1 also had a first name he didn’t use of John. M-a-t-t Millen was fired before M-a-t-t Stafford was drafted. Then of course there’s the last name, the last four letters being f-o-r-d. Doesn’t it just feel right? No? Well, at least know this, Schwartz, Mayhew, Lewand and the rest of the Lions front office and coaching staff have pretty much laid their futures on Stafford’s shoulders… if he doesn’t turn out they will likely not last the fallout in a few years. Do these individuals not strike you as the types that would try their very best to keep the odds on their side? They strike me that way. Stafford may not start the season, but if Culpepper struggles, or in blow out games (in either direction) you may see Stafford get playing time. If Culpepper plays in top form then you may have to wait a long time before seeing Stafford this year.

1b. Brandon Pettigrew TE. The best tight end in the draft, an old school type who can block and block well, as well as catch. The Lions haven’t really had a quality TE that stayed healthy enough to help the team in any one season in nearly 2 decades. Like QB, many of us fans have forgotten what a truly good TE can do for your team. The run game, the passing game, the ability to help a lineman who is struggling, and the best friend of any young QB. There were 236 other players drafted after Pettigrew, and perhaps some of them will be better in the NFL then him, but for a team who does not have a quality TE you can hardly go wrong getting one of the best available. I do not foresee Brandon having any trouble adjusting to the NFL and of the top notch TE’s currently in the league, he might just have one of the better personalities. There was a reason the Lions had him ranked this high, higher then those other 236 guys, and I figure it won’t take us all long to see what it was come this season.

2. Louis Delmas, Safety. This guy hits hard. Remember the player who hit Keyshawn a few years ago? You do? Why? Because it was a devastating hit, right? That was one hit… in what… years? Now picture a few of those every single game! It’ll be contagious. The other players will play harder, they’ll be juiced up. This pick (ignore who else was there instead) is going to entertain us… and make the opponents hear things (that are really there).

3a. DeAndre Levy. A future Arizona Cardinal… until the Lions foiled their plans. I’ll throw out a link to some info on the guy, nothing much, just some numbers. He’s big but not huge and can get bigger. He’s fast. He’s able to hit with authority. In fact, I believe he’s the same exact size as Foote, a potential free agent LB Steeler who actually wants to be a Lion. I am moderately certain the Lions planned on starting Levy at MLB this year from game 1. However, if Foote does become a Lion the young man will have a year or two to learn from a vet. I don’t have a problem with either plan myself. No offense to Paris Lenon. By the way, his jersey is available for sale at the Detroit Lions Store (the other 3rd round pick’s is not).

3b. Derrick Williams WR/KR. Say hello to our new return guy. We may see him on the field even more if he can win the slot receiver spot. If I got my gut feelings right, the Lions got 4 guys with the first 4 picks that will be seeing the field and helping the team out a lot for the next 6 years before they hopefully all warrant and get contract extensions.

4. Sammie Lee Hill DT. 6’4” 329 pounds. I don’t think the Lions were going to draft a DT smaller then this guy. He’s not quite ready to take the starters job away from the vets, but he will make the team and rotate in while he learns. He does have a lot to learn though, and assuming he does this “little” project has the potential to be every bit as good as a former DT that the Lions traded away recently, without the attitude. Dare I say it? The Lions may have finally got a 4th round pick that will actually contribute to the team… for the first time in what, 3 decades? Something like that.

6. Aaron Brown RB/KR. Assuming this guy can do it, he’ll be replacing two “vets”. If he can be a 3rd down RB and be either the backup return guy or if they split the return duties for kicking and punting, then Calhoun and Cason are both goners. Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, and Aaron Brown should hog the 3 half back roster spots. It doesn’t hurt to have two returners on the team either, for depth in case of injury. Plus, if something were to happen, Cason always seems to be available to re-sign for some reason.

7a. Lydon Murtha T. 6’7” 306 lbs. I think Lydon’s task is to beat George Foster out of the backup offensive tackle job. It is likely to be his only chance to make the team and not the practice squad.

7b. Zack Follett LB 6’2” 236 lbs. Zack it the exact same height and weight as Levy (believe it or not). Zack’s task is to beat Graham and Spencer out of a backup LB job. I suspect the man has it in him to do just that. The linebackers will eventually be expected to be able to play more then one LB position, so it doesn’t really matter which backup position he obtains, he just needs to get past the vets to earn a roster spot. His special team play might be enough to do just that, as long as his LB play isn’t too far off the mark. He already has a fan base in Detroit, so it should be interesting watching the young man battle. And it will be a battle.

7c. Dan Gronkowski TE. 6’6” 255 lbs. One of those “too good to pass up” picks. They already got Pettigrew so they didn’t “need” another TE, except that isn’t true. A team keeps more then one TE, a 7th round pick isn’t likely to earn a starting job, and upgrading backups who have shown they are unlikely to ever be starters is just as important as drafting starters in the early rounds. So Dan needs to take Fitzsimmons job away, simple as that. He has one thing going for him already, his cap hit will be a 1/6th of what Fitzsimmons is. If he doesn’t take the job, that means that Fitz is playing healthy and well, and there is nothing wrong with that either.

There are 9 undrafted rookies who were also signed by the Lions. I’m rooting for a hard working LB named Holtzclaw to make the team… if he can impress despite his “short arms” he may have a chance, after all, LB is the one position on this team that before the draft had only 2 sure fire keepers on it, that leaves room for up to 5 new faces. The returning players should all be ready for a duel, and that includes the vets signed during free agency too.

That’s not to say the other undrafted guys don’t have a chance, I’m just not as familiar with them as I am with the guy that so many Chiefs’ fans had hoped would be on their team.

On my Lions page I have a link to my estimated depth chart for 2009. I’ve had it there all off-season but I’m about to add a page to the front of it that includes the results from the draft. It’s only a guess, some mental projections if you will, and subject to change as matters develop, but by the middle of August I will once again try to top my best estimate of year’s past, of 5 wrong (based on the final 53 man roster).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The 2009 Detroit Lions Draft (Part I)

They have a plan. They said they did, we all heard them, but until the Lions were on the clock just exactly what that plan was wasn’t quite known or if known, not understood.

As the draft unfolded I realized exactly what the draft plan was. It’s not something that a lot of people can grasp at first. Sometimes even after explaining it. Despite that, I shall give it a go.

The Lions drafted the best available player on their draft board that fit any need.

The key words there are “their draft board” and “any need”. The lions spent thousands upon thousands of man hours, and hundreds of thousands of dollars (or perhaps millions) scouting players throughout the United States, as all teams do to differing extent. They pay scouts, they spend hours scouring film, they travel to pro days, to the combine, they pay for players to come to Detroit. They update their information daily 365 days a year. Then they spend the weeks leading up to the draft ranking each player that will enter the draft vertically, by position. So they have the best LB at the top, then the 2nd best, then the 3rd, etc. They do this for each position. Then after they have hundreds of potential draft picks ranked, they combine the players into a horizontal ranking, meaning the best in the draft, the 2nd best player in the draft, the 3rd, etc. This gives them their draft board. They rank the players by adding to or taking away from their score based on play, based on competition, based on tangibles like height, weight, and even mental capacity. They learn less then a week before the draft which players failed the drug tests at the combine, and lower the scores of those players. The higher picks they talk to their college coaches, their families, their friends, their opponents. All of this is done in an attempt to get the best ranked draft board possible. Every team does this. But, every team puts more emphasis on one area or another, no two teams rank the players the same. No two teams scout players the same way, or have scouts who see the same things. So okay, the Lions now have their draft board set about a day or two before the draft.

They also have reviewed their own team, along with every other team in the league. They have a good idea of what teams need what… including all their own needs. The temptation during the draft for many is to rate the needs of the team into some sort of order then draft a player to fill the most important need, then the next, etc. This method tends to make for a pretty draft, but it causes a team to “reach” for players that normally wouldn’t be taken right there. In essence, the team drafts by ignoring all that work and all that money they put into their draft board. What the Lions did was draft based on the highest rated player on their draft board that filled one of their needs, any need, and in no particular order. If a team is successful in this, they will slowly fill their roster with the best player they could possibly get, and if they did their homework correctly, that position STAYS filled. The next year, there are that many more positions that do not need to be drafted. The main problem is that the this style of draft does not appear to be addressing needs. It is, obviously, but not in any particular order. Nor will it necessarily address the most important need, or the most needy need. Whatever. Teams that go with this method know they will have to address the remaining needs not filled in the draft after the draft as best they can, then draft again the next year. Like I said, eventually, as long as you fill your needs and they stay filled, you build a team, a very good team, the best team you possibly could build based on who was available as you were drafting.

That is what the Lions (presumably) did. Now, I am biased here. I totally agree with this method of drafting. The pressure to stray from the plan is always there, and sometimes a team will cave… and draft a player by reaching for him simply to fill a need. The trick is to resist that temptation and build your team with the very best players you can get your hands on. That way, if there are mistakes made, it’s not because you ignored all your time and money making your daft board, it’s because you made the wrong draft board.

A fan might not like this method, and I can appreciate that. A fan might not agree with the picks a team made, but the fan doesn’t have all the information a team has, so the fan might be wrong, or the team might be wrong. Unfortunately no one knows how a pick will turn out in advance, so it’ll be a year or two or three before it’s known if the team was right or the fan. Regardless of how the draft turns out, a fan needs to realize the team had no intention whatsoever to address all their needs, or even necessarily their most pressing need, they planned to fix ANY need they have with the best players they could get. And that part is very hard to accept.

So on to the Lions 2009 draft. Pick #1, Matthew Stafford. The Lions had him ranked #1 on their board, they had the first pick, and the only thing that would’ve stopped them from drafting him was if the player’s agent and the team couldn’t agree to a contract before the draft… or if some other team made an offer to trade that was just too good to resist. There was no blockbuster trade offer, or for all I know, any trade offer, and the contract was agreed to the day before the draft. The Lions picked their QB for the future. A need. Will he turn out? I have no idea at all. It was a need, he was the highest player on their board. End of pick #1.

Note: I would’ve probably had Eugene Monroe or Jason Smith rated higher then Stafford. So my first pick if a contract was agreed to would’ve been a left tackle. Also a need, in my opinion.

Pick #20 puts the Lions on the clock with (presumably) Brandon Pettigrew TE on the top of their board. A need. The pick is made. They had him rated higher then the 4th left tackle on the vertical board, higher then the middle line backer who dropped nearly a full round from here, so there was info there that fans don’t have. (I might have had Alex Mack rated higher, a center/guard, so my pick would’ve been another Oline pick).

Pick #33 the Lions take their next top rated player, Louis Delmas, the best Safety in the draft. Another need. They had him ranked higher then say Laurinaitis, a much more pressing need, but they are not drafting for need, they are drafting the best player they can at any need. I probably would’ve had the same player on my list (the one I really wanted was drafted the pick before), so a Safety for me as well.

At this point they have their best players picked, QB, TE, S. I would’ve have LT, C/G, S. All these players were on the “list”. The list is posted under this post. It consists of all the players the Lions were known to have contact with. Last year, the list contains every single draft pick they took except for one. This year LionHawkeye, the fan who spent probably hundreds of hours scouring the internet for news and photos to determine who the lions contacted, made an even more in depth list. Between round 2 and round 3 we had no idea the Lions had been sneaky. They had brought in at least 3 players to Allen Park and no one knew (including DeAndre Levy on April 17th). In addition, they told players not to say anything, according to a guy in Iowa, they told the scouts to quit making comments after a couple got out. In other words, they shut down all leaks and the list was utterly incomplete… when we were thinking it was even more complete then the year before. I don’t know if it helped them in the draft, but they managed to get 6 players drafted that were not on our list. I applaud the front office being able to have that much control despite our efforts, we will of course have to try harder… anyone know how to do wire taps? *Just kidding*

The rest of the draft I’m sure you followed (you didn’t read all the way to here without being a big fan). The trades, the picks they took. How thin the draft was in the final two rounds. When all is said and done the Lions got (presumably) the best players they could possibly get based on their own scoring system to fill needs on the team. Not all of them. Maybe not even the most dire needs. Or the most important. Whatever. But if they did it right, they won’t need to fill those needs again next year. This year they didn’t need a #1 WR, or a #1 RB. A right tackle, a kicker, punter, long snapper, or starting weakside linebacker. Next year they also won’t need (hopefully) a starting QB, a starting TE, a starting Safety, and with luck, some other starting positions, or if not that, some backup positions (those are needs too). The more needs that get filled, the more players they will skip over even if rated the highest, because that highest rated player on their board won’t fill a need. If the next 10 players aren’t needs they will accept more trade downs in the higher rounds. Eventually they will be drafting players only to replace free agents and the older vets. The draft then might even appear to the fan like some of the Patriots or Pittsburgh drafts. That’s the plan. That's what the Lions planned to do and as near as I can tell, that is exactly what they did.

In a few days or so I’ll post part II. My opinions of the actual picks, and where I think they will fit in on the roster (or if they will make the roster)… and my opinion of what needs they will yet address in free agency.