Friday, December 21, 2012

The 2013 Rebuild Part III

Various Lions players need to execute the plays much better then they have in 2012. Some aren't capable of actually playing any better and an upgrade may be required (if it's feasible to do so) to improve the team. One player will be hard pressed to improve... that's Calvin Johnson of course. Even he has made an error here or there that could help the team win games, but they are few and far between and to tell the truth, may not actually help the win column at all. The other 52 players on the team have more work to do.

Matthew Stafford has had up and down games this year. In fact, he's had up and down series within the games this year. He's also getting some blame that is undeserved because various guys who are paid to catch the ball are not catching them, not running their routes correctly, not fighting to get open correctly, not coming back to the QB when flushed out the pocket correctly, and in other words just aren't helping matters much. That said, there are times when his mechanics are off, way off, and there are times when his accuracy isn't anywhere near what it needs to be to thread needles that need threading. In addition to that, he's not going through all his reads and is instead checking down a lot... partly because receivers aren't getting open, partly because the OLine isn't giving him more time... partly because he assumes these things when not true and checks down when it's not needed. I realize that the trust may not be there, I realize the talent may or may not be there, but pocket awareness and mechanics are still key to accurate throws.

The Lions run game is being forced. The OLine may be somewhat decent some of the time at pass blocking but they aren't a power run blocking unit. Never will be. Leshoure was drafted to be a power back when short yardage is needed, he is not an every down back. He shouldn't be being used as one. He's slow, his hands are not that great, and it's not helping the team win games when he's playing. The Lions need a running back and they need better players on the OLine that can both run block AND pass block. Even if it's just one side of the line (as Raiola will never be a power center). Until you have those pieces of the puzzle you should stick to your strengths.

The Lions defense is predicated on a heavy pass rush from the front 4. When healthy the defensive tackles are better then most even if they too have room to improve their game. That said, they are good enough to be getting double teamed most of the time leaving one-on-one coverage with the defensive ends. Play after play the DEs are not getting the job done. Some fans have suggested scrapping the wide 9, others say the Lions need to blitz more (and it wouldn't hurt to do that once in awhile I will grant you), but the biggest need on defense is better DEs. KVB hasn't the gas to make it 60 minutes a game nor 16 games a season any more and Avril isn't the monster he thinks he is. Defensive need number 1 is DE in 2013 especially if you are keeping a defense that absolutely requires a pass rush from the front 4.

The Lions linebackers are playing better of late, unfortunately 2/3 of the corp are free agents next year. The front office needs to make sure that unit doesn't go backwards and obviously improvement would be fantastic but it must at least stay elevated to the level it's currently at.

The Lions secondary saw some draft picks added to their ranks last year and hopefully one or more of them will be worth adding to the starting corp in 2013. Hopefully Delmas will remain healthy and hopefully Houston can be re-signed too. But regardless if those things happen there is a need for some new talent at the safety position and perhaps at the corner position as well. Guys who can tackle (and stay healthy) preferably.

As I've said and as it's been reported the Lions are going to be tight on cap space next year and they have a lot of free agents to either sign or replace. As the Lions have said, they want to build through the draft. When you look at the 2012 season that is currently 4-10 and looking bleak for the last 2 games you wonder how they can turn it around with the current regime in place. But it's not really that black of a future... a few better game management decisions and the Lions had another 2012 win... a few better red zone calls by the OC along with better execution of the plays and the Lions had another couple of 2012 wins... better players on and a more disciplined special teams unit garners at least one win... and more talent on the defense, more young blood actually played, a few key blitzes to make up for the lack of pressure... yeah there's got to be a win there too... add it all up and the 2012 Lions are 9-5 instead of 4-10 and looking to push the Packers out of the way for the division title.

It's (the 2012 season that was) not any one thing that went wrong, it's a little bit of everything that went wrong, and that's why it's so hard to answer the questions being asked. Not one coach or player (perhaps other then CJ) can point a finger at another without also first pointing a finger at themselves.

In my forum ( ) I posted a roster of 53 made up solely of returning players, the forthcoming draft, a few cuts and even fewer re-signed free agents along with some players off the current practice squad (in other words, not a single free agent outside of the Lions organization), and with just a little work it could have fit under next year's cap... so it is possible for the front office to field a team next year without having to suffer cap hell first, it just won't be easy. In the end however, if the players drafted aren't of a better caliber then of late (see part I) and if the coaching staff doesn't do it's part (see part II) then nothing about part III (this blog entry) will matter. After the season is over in a couple of weeks I'll blog here about some potential roster makeups (or mock ups if you will) for next season.

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