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.


Mark said...

"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?"

Actually, I think this is one part of the Marinelli legacy that is praise worthy.

Marinelli's team, despite being at the end of a no win season, sadly outmatched at the DL, and without their starting QB and their Pro-bowl WR Roy Wililams, still played hard til the end.

NetRat's Lions Blog said...

They played hard, but they knew it was not going to work... they had no faith (all year) in the defense, the offense, the special teams, or the coaching. One by one the players gave up on the schemes and waited it out.

They still tried, but there was no faith it would work, and that gets you less then stellar effort... regardless of appearances.