Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Game 16 - Lions @ Green Bay Packers


Clinched.

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

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

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

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

Now that the Lions regular season is over and their spot in the playoffs secured (as the 6th seed) we fans got to find out their 2015 opponents (not the schedule, that comes out in April). The Lions will be playing the NFC and AFC West teams, along with their divisional foes, and the picture looks like this: ( info provided by http://www.prideofdetroit.com/2014/12/28/7437845/detroit-lions-2015-schedule-opponents )

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2014

2014 Game 15 - Lions @ Chicago Bears


Cold.

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

2014 Game 14 - Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings
@ Home


Kickers!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 8, 2014

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


Dominating.

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Game 12 - Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears @ Home


Thankful.

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving Lions fans.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

2014 Game 11 - Lions @ New England Patriots


We Can Only Hope

The Lions are now 7-3 after losing their second game in a row to the 9-2 New England Patriots by a score of 9-34. Matthew Stafford was a dismal 18/46 (39.13%) for 264 yards, no touchdowns and 1 interception. Meanwhile Tom Brady was 38/53 (71.7%) for 349 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. We can only hope that the Lions will be better prepared for their next game which is in 4 days on Thanksgiving Day against the Chicago Bears.

The Lions had 91 yards rushing if you count the 3 times Stafford ran for his life, and the Lions defense allowed the Patriots to run for 90 yards (and 2 TDs). They sure didn't look like the NFL's number 1 defense this game, at least, not after the first couple of series. In the beginning of the game Suh and Ansah were stopping the Patriots, making huge play after play, then they nearly disappeared for much of the rest of the game. The players on defense seemed to have forgotten how to tackle, and to cover, and to disrupt, or to blitz, or even how to wait for the ball to be snapped. We can only hope this was some kind of hiccup in the season and not a prelude of things to come.

The offense dropped so many passes that I think it outnumbered the completions, pretty sure of it in fact. The offensive line continues to not block. The run game continues to not really scare anyone. Stafford still does stupid things (though he was doing better for much of the game this week). Did I mention the drops? Yeah, there were LOTS of those. Ebron looks like he's not interested in blocking, or running a route if he's not going to get the ball, or to be the least bit physical, and that probably worries me more then the rest of the things I saw go wrong. We can only hope the coaching staff can get this straightened out somehow. They supposedly cut out 1/5 of the plays to make it easier for the players to implement the plays and they responded by doing even worse then in previous games. Meanwhile, the Lions went from 1st in the division to 2nd and play again in 4 days against another divisional team. Stop me if you've seen this scenario before.

Not to be outdone, the special teams continues to miss field goals (did make 3 though) and fail to hit deep punts consistently or to stop long returns by the opposing team. Ross spent more time heading towards the sidelines then he did going towards the end zone. It was really frustrating to watch.

The only thing I saw that was positive from this game was that the officiating was much more fair and generally correct all game long.

As I type this the Lions only scored more points this week then the Jacksonville Jaguars (3) and the Arizona Cardinals (3). Yeah, those Cardinals. Hard to believe really.

I thought about going into a great multi-page rant about various individual players, and coaches, and that spot on the wall over there that is really bothering me... but what good would it do? Other then wiping off the spot on the wall (which I already did) I can not affect the outcome of these games in any way, so I, like everyone else, has to simply sit (or stand or lay down or even pace) and hope the team somehow, someway, improves and starts to win games again.

Will I find myself on Thursday giving thanks for a Lions win? We can only hope.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

2014 Game 10 - Lions @ Arizona Cardinals


Inadequate.

The 7-3 Detroit Lions lost to the 9-1 Arizona Cardinals by a score of 6-14. For the first time this season the Detroit Lions did not score a touchdown in the game. Some seem to think the Cardinals would be an easy win, but in truth, if the Indianapolis Colts beat the New England Patriots tonight then the Cardinals will have a two game lead... on the entire NFL. The Cardinals team is for real. So are the Lions. Both have their flaws, both can be exploited, and in this contest it was the Detroit Lions who were exploited more. In fact, by exploiting just one weakness the entire offense sputtered. That being the offensive line. Part of the issue was injuries. The RT Waddle got injured about half way through the game and the RG Warford didn't play at all, though the backup center Swanson filled in fairly well. Still, Matthew Stafford faced tons of pressure all game long and the offensive line was inadequate when it came to protecting the QB, or creating run lanes, or pretty much anything else pertaining to their job.

This phenomena happens with all teams and their quarterbacks from time to time; including Tom Brady earlier in the season, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees in today's contests, and most other quarterbacks both in the game now and who have played in the past. Without a semblance of a run game and without at least a little time to read the field then to set and throw, any quarterback, neigh, any team, will have trouble producing points. Luckily, not every team has the assets in place on defense to produce this type of exploitation of the offense. At least, not without corrective measures being taken. Today however, those corrective measures were also... inadequate.

One corrective measure that can be taken is the deep ball. If a defense has to defend the deep ball it can't crowd the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately you have to give the quarterback time, or the quarterback has to scamper to make time, for the receivers to get deep enough for it to work. Matthew Stafford is the fastest QB to 20,000 passing yards, taking only 71 games to do it (surpassing Dan Marino who took 74 games to do the same), but that has happened despite his long ball inaccuracies and his lack of production throwing on the run, not because of it. In fact, since Stafford appears to not actually trust his OL for more then a couple of seconds (and for good reason) he rarely has time for the long ball and when he does scamper he tends to run right into the incoming defense. Let's just say his pocket awareness is till a work in progress. So this method of fighting the rush the Lions faced is inadequate to the task.

Some other things you can do include using TEs to give you extra blocking on the OL and screen passes. However, the Lions TEs in this game aren't quite up to blocking just yet, their entire combined NFL careers can be measured in hours, if not minutes, of play. The screen passes that can help slow down the pass rush require your OL to sell the chip block as a failed block (that part is easy) and then set up to run in front of the RB... the Arizona defense is so fast that they could sniff out and destroy the screen rather quickly. In fact, just about every move that could be made to slow down the Arizona Cardinals was made, except for the quick inside timing routes that a small speedy WR can get some yards after the catch with. Unfortunately that was not tried, or failed if it was tried, I am not sure if it was because Broyles was inactive (a coaching decision and issue in it's own right) or if Broyles has lost his speed, or if Stafford can't actually produce in timing plays, or ... well, I don't know why the Lions can not do it but they don't.

Matthew Stafford was 18 of 30 (an even 60%) for only 183 yards no TDs and 1 INT. The Lions rushed for 98 yards. The defense was unable to score. All 6 of the Lions points were in the first half. These numbers were quite inadequate to win the game.

But wait! The Lions have the #1 defense in the league, so what did they do? Well, they held Drew Stanton to 21 of 32 (65.625%) for 306 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. The Lions also held the Cardinals to only 46 yards rushing. So while the Lions defense was twice as good at run defense they allowed 3 more catches (amazing what 3 catches can do) and 123 more passing yards (amazing how the long ball can help out the OL with the pass rush) giving up two touchdowns in the first half, and then not a single point more throughout the second half. Normally, what the Lions defense did would be sufficient to win a game, but this time it was inadequate because the Cardinals defense was better against the pass... unless you believe that Stanton was better then Stafford... I suppose that would depend on if you are pro or anti Stafford. I personally think that blaming Stafford for all of it, or blaming the defense for all of it, or even blaming the offensive line for all of it would be incorrect... as it was some of each.

Then, no matter what side you are on, you can put a bit of blame onto the hands that throw the yellow flags during the game. The officiating in this game was some of the worst, most lopsided, officiating that I've seen in a while. There is no knowing if the Lions ever would have scored a touchdown without the refs help, but there is no doubt the officiating was wholly inadequate for NFL standards. Unfortunately, we will never know what the NFL will do about it, if anything.

To summarize: I state without hesitation that the officiating was poor at best; that the Lions coaching may have handicapped themselves to an extent, that Stafford had yet another poor game, that the Cardinals pass defense outplayed the Lions pass defense but that the Lions run defense was better then the Cardinals run defense; and most of all, the Lions offensive line was exploited by a very talented Cardinal team.

The Lions have another road game next weekend when they play the New England Patriots. I'm fairly sure nearly everyone will give the Lions no chance in this game, but I say it all depends on the matchup, and who can exploit who better. The Patriots are very good at this sort of thing... so it isn't going to be easy... but it is far from automatic as well. If the Lions haven't lost all their confidence, if they are mad they lost in Arizona and are going to put forth the effort in their next game, then perhaps it will be the Patriots who find they are inadequate when it comes to matching up with the Lions.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

2014 Game 9 - Detroit Lions vs Miami Dolphins @ Home


I have a feeling.

The 7-2 Detroit Lions narrowly beat out the 5-4 Miami Dolphins at home today 20-16 after trailing them for much of the 2nd half. In fact, the Lions didn't regain the lead until there was 29 seconds left on the clock when Stafford threw a TD to the 3rd string running back Riddick. Stafford ended up 25 of 40 (62.5%) for 280 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. It was definitely not one of his better games (like I haven't said THAT before) but he started out okay and finished in great come back fashion. The problem is, he didn't need to have to come back from behind if he simply wouldn't take so many risks throwing to CJ when it wasn't warranted or necessary, and if he could but throw more accurately more often. I have a feeling I will be saying that an awful lot over the forthcoming games and probably years.

Meanwhile the Lions defense held Miami to just 207 passing yards, just 50 rushing yards, got an interception and caused three fumbles recovering one of them along with 3 sacks. Those are astoundingly great numbers for any NFL defense. No, they weren't perfect every single snap, and no, they gave up some yardage here and there (especially in the 3rd quarter when they were gassed) but overall, in the grand scheme of things, the Lions defense proved they are for real. I have a feeling I will be saying that more often as well.

I hate it when I have to bring up the officiating but man, there were some calls and non-calls this game that were so offendingly one sided that it's hard to ignore. Had the Lions actually lost this game I do believe there would have been a rather large outcry about the officiating, but I could be wrong. Of course, as we have learned in the past, any kind of outcry about the officiating is met with pretty much no response at all, officially or even publicly. I only hope that in their weekly report to the NFL that the Lions coaches do politely broach the subject. I also hope that in the end it does some good somehow. I have a feeling it probably won't though.

Okay, so, the Lions are now 7-2. The last time that happened the babies that were born that year are this year having their first legal drinks in their local bars (that's right people, the last 7-2 start was in 1993, the Barry Sander's years). Anyone remember those? I do. Barry Sanders got me hooked on the NFL in general and the Lions in particular. After almost making the superbowl in 1991 and the letdown of 1992 many of us Lions fans were feeling pretty good about 1993 until the wheels fell off. Here's hoping I never have to say that kind of thing ever again.

So here we are, the Lions have a great defense, they have a quarterback who appears to need great quantities of adrenaline to play well enough to pull off a last minute win (3 times in the last 3 games, winning the 3 games by a accumulated total of 6 points, all come from behind victories), and remain in sole possession of 1st place in the division with the Green Bay Packers still nipping at their heals. I have a feeling I will be saying that again too in the weeks to come.

Next week the Lions have a road game, in Arizona, against the Cardinals, who are 8 and 1. Plus, to top it off, the recently re-signed Palmer may have hurt his ACL and might miss the rest of the year to injury leaving Drew Stanton as their QB for this upcoming and all future 2014 games. I can't even begin to describe my feelings about that. This is an all important conference game, possibly with a team vying for home field advantage in the playoffs. A team the Lions may actually have to face in the playoffs (yes I said the "p" word). And at QB for them is none other then the former Lion Drew Stanton. With the NFL's number 1 defense (hard to get used to saying that too) the Lions stand a reasonable chance at a win in the desert... I have a feeling... ah, no, can't say it, can't jinx it, won't predict it, just let's get to next week already so we can all view another Lions game, and thank you for joining me in knocking on wood.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

2014 Game 8 - Detroit Lions vs Atlanta Falcons @ England (across the pond)


Lucky!

Here is something that I have never typed... the "Lucky" 6-2 Detroit Lions beat the unlucky 2-6 Atlanta Falcons 22-21 on a beautiful day in England. In throwing 2 TDs Matthew Stafford is now at a NFL career 120 TDs and breaks the long standing Lions record of 118 TDs held by Bobby Layne (Stafford went to the same High School as the great Bobby Layne too... nearly 50 years apart). In fact Matthew Stafford was 24 of 47 (for an ugly 51.06%) for 325 yards to go along with his 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Just for comparison, Matt Ryan was 20 of 27 (for an impressive 74.07%) and 228 yards along with the same 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Yet the Lions were the winning team, and many would say, very lucky.

In order for the Lions to win the game they needed a full 60 minutes plus 4 more seconds of playing time. Normally that means time expires before the game could be won... but the refs called a delay of game penalty with 4 seconds remaining on the game clock as the ball was hiked... which Prater kicked... and missed. The full 60 minutes were up. But the play never happened so the Lions were backed up 5 yards, 4 seconds were put back on the play clock, and Prater got another chance... this time from 48 yards out... and this time there were no flags and the Lions (well, Prater) made the field goal to bring the score from 19-21 to win it 22-21. In super duper slo-mo it kind of looks like the delay of game penalty was called with perhaps a half a second on the clock and just as the ball was hiked... more or less simultaneously. Typically that never gets called. Or typically, even if called, the kick would've been good the first time and the Lions would've gotten that penalty only to miss it on the 2nd try. But not this time, this time, it was good for the win. Yep, lucky. Guess this is not the "Same ole Lions".

The Falcons scored all 21 points in the first half. The Lions scored all 22 points in the second half. That's some major half time adjustments right there. Did I ever mention I like this new coaching staff? Well, I do. Anyway, it seemed like the NFL's #1 defense was blowing it all game long... and it seemed like Stafford was also blowing it all game long, and indeed there were many errors during the 60 minutes of game time... but the defense only actually allowed 78 yards rushing and 228 yards passing... so they did their part (despite missing a major part of the their run defense in C.J. Mosley who was suspended 2 games by the Lions and sent home to the USA alone yesterday; and despite Fairley getting hurt early in the 2nd half and going to the locker room)... plus Stafford had the same TDs to INT ratio as Ryan with 97 more passing yards... I'm rambling... ah, anyway, the bad plays and the lopsided score made it seem like the Lions had regressed and were going to lose... well, actually, they were losing for 60 minutes... but did I mention the Lions won? You see, the refs have, in the past, made it so hard for the Lions to win a game and in fact many times were a major factor in the loss that I am simply at a loss as how to write about the refs helping the Lions to win a game... even if they didn't... more or less (there was that questionable non-call on the 2 point conversion earlier, along with some other if'y calls here and there)... okay, I guess I'll just have to get over how lucky the Lions were and accept they won the game fair and square despite all the obstacles they had to overcome.

The Lions now head into their bye week, plenty of time to get over their jet lag, plenty of time to heal up Reggie Bush, and Calvin Johnson, and Eric Ebron, and Fauria and Pettigrew and perhaps Fairley, and all the others on the team that are hurting... or at least plenty of time for most of them to heal up... and perhaps plenty of time for me to get used to the new Lions, or not, as the case may be. The next game will be November 9th in Detroit versus the Miami Dolphins, and I do believe it'll be a great contest. I would even predict a Lions win if I were still in the prediction business. But I gave that up a few weeks back so instead I'll just say I'm looking forward to the matchup, and if need be, I will even try to get used to the Detroit Lions being, ah, lucky.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2014 Game 7 - Detroit Lions vs New Orleans Saints @ Home


Getting there.

The 5-2 Detroit Lions barely beat the New Orleans Saints by a score of 24-23 at home today. It was never a sure thing (unless you were sure the Lions were going to lose) and the Saints aren't always all that great on the road, but in the end the Lions did just enough to pull off a win. If you missed the final 4 or so minutes of the game you missed the Lions scoring 14 points to make up for the 2 scores they were behind to seal the deal with their defense. That's right, Brees had time to drive to within field goal range but the Lions (currently #1 ranked) defense (yes, I said DEFENSE) held... eventually getting the ball back to the Lions Offense on downs.

This minor miracle (the win) was performed without the help of Calvin Johnson, or Eric Ebron, or Joseph Fauria, or with tons of yardage. In fact, there was only 59 yards rushing for the Lions in the entire game... and Stafford only threw for 299 yards, completing 27 of 40 (67.5%) with 2 TDs and 2 INTs (1 of which was definitely not his fault). As a group, I would say this team is getting there.

No, they are not a well oiled machine. No, Stafford isn't garnering the attention that a Peyton Manning would. Some would even call the offense boring and semi-predictable for the majority of each game... but you have to crawl before you can walk, and walk before you can run. Golden Tate had 10 receptions for 154 yards and a TD. The next best player on offense was RB Joique Bell with his 18 rushing attempts for 48 yards and a TD along with 2 catches for 19 yards. Then WR Corey Fuller with 3 catches for 44 yards and a TD. Multiple players are contributing to the win, it's not just Calvin Johnson, Calvin Johnson, Calvin Johnson any more.

The defense is definitely using the right combination of speed, youth, intelligence and coaching to excel. I was wondering if their #1 rank was earned or a disguise due to them playing poor offenses to date. After watching this game, and despite a few hiccups here and there, I no longer have as many of those kind of doubts. I too am getting there.

The offense still has a ways to go, but if the defense can continue to keep them in the games while the offense grows into their own skin, this team has a chance, no matter how slim, to make some noise in January... as in, the "p" word. It won't be easy, or automatic, and there is still many obstacles to overcome (not the least of which is the upcoming game played in England), but more then one team recently has made noise in the post season with the recipe that begins with a great defense. Before I jinx it I shall say no more on the matter... this week.

Those reading this may have noticed I missed the past couple of weeks of blog entries. My father (Terry Nielsen) passed away during the game two weeks ago and his funeral (up by Mackinaw City) was last Saturday, so needless to say I was unavailable and rather unwilling to write anything. My father taught me a great many things about life, more then I could possibly re-iterate, so I won't get into that in any great detail, but one thing he stressed more then anything else was about planning ahead. Being prepared. These hard fought football games, teammates helping other teammates to win despite whatever comes up, even the next game in England instead of in Atlanta, will go a long way to prepare the Lions for a possible playoff run. They need to take nothing for granted and continue the hard work day after day, game after game, and work together to overcome the next obstacle, because there will always be a "next obstacle". Learning just how to do that and trusting your fellow teammates to help with that is a critical ingredient to having success. In that regard, I think the Lions are indeed getting there.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

2014 Game 4 - Lions @ New York Jets


How about that.

The 3-1 Detroit Lions beat the 1-3 New York Jets 24-17... outside... in an away game... had led them all game long... making the Lions 1st in the NFC North division.

TDs were caught by Jeremy Ross and Eric Ebron, with another TD ran in by Matthew Stafford himself. Matthew Stafford was 24 of 34 (70.588%) for 293 yards and 2 TDs with 0 INTs. Calvin Johnson had 2 receptions for 12 yards. Let me repeat the important parts here... this was an away game, played outdoors, CJ had only 2 receptions for 12 yards, Stafford completed over 70% of his passes and there were no turnovers by anyone on the Lions team. How about that, huh?

The new kicker missed a field goal, there were mistakes made by various players that they can work on this week, but by and large, this team was ready to play, played well, and won a game they deserved to win. In the end, you can't really ask for more then that. Now that other teams are starting to "get it" and are beginning to show up (such as the Packers) this small head start could come in quite handy in the future... should the Lions make any post season like noise in December. But let's not count the champagne bottles before their opened (such as the Detroit Tigers were doing, only finally winning the division on the last regular season game of the year, today in fact, and thank you Tigers)... there are still 12 long grueling football games to go yet. The next being at home against the Buffalo Bills (and former head coach Jim Schwartz as the DC).

A few players need to get healthy, such as Joique Bell (concussion), CJ (knee), Waddle (or any RT please), and Stafford (who had a bad turf burn on the back of his throwing hand along with a limp before half time that carried over into the ride home). I don't want to see the Lions just beat the Buffalo Bills next week, I want to see the Lions offense annihilate them. I'm not predicting that, don't want to jinx them, just hoping I get to see it. In fact, when I predicted the Lions would win against the Panthers (read below) they lost, and when I predicted the Lions would lose to the Jets they won. So either I keep predicting the Lions to lose to avoid jinxing them or I stop making predictions altogether. I'll go with the latter.

Here are a few things I would like to see during the game next week though. At least 2 sacks made by Lions Defensive Ends. More TDs then turnovers lost, again. And, another good game that makes me want to say "How about that!" after it's over... and not because something bad happened either.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

2014 Game 3 - Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers @ Home


Speechless.

The Detroit Lions beat the Green Bay Packers at home with a score of 19-7. This marks the first time the Lions have EVER beaten the Packers whilst Rodgers was the QB for the entire game. AND, the game was won because of the Lions DEFENSE! I am speechless!

I mean, Nate Freese missed yet another field goal which now gives him a rockier start then the Lions last rookie kicker, Jason Hanson (who was 3 for 6 his first 3 games). The Lions Offense gave up 3 turnovers. Matthew Stafford had completed less then half his passes by half time. But the defense had kept the Lions in the game with a pick-6 early on in the first quarter and a safety in the second, then after half time a completely different team took the field with Stafford completing something like all but 2 of his passes and thankfully no more interceptions (he had 2). It was quite a game, to say the least.

In the end, Matthew Stafford was 22 of 34 for 246 yards, no TDs and 2 INTs. That's a 64.7% completion rate (and as I said, it was under 50% around half time). In comparison, the mighty Rodgers was only 16 of 27 for 162 yards and 1 TD. If I was giving the game ball to just one person though it would be going to the weak side linebacker; DeAndre Levy, who put on a pro-bowl worthy performance yet again. It was a fun game to watch, a great game for Lions fans, and I want to say more about it but as I said, I'm speechless.

Congratulations to all the players on playing for all they were worth. Congrats to the coaches on proving you do have what it takes. And, good job fans for making it loud. I will also add that I am oh so glad my prediction of a Lions loss did not come true. Makes me want to predict a loss for every game from now on, but I try not to get too superstitious, so I will simply go with this... the Jets will have one less day to practice (they play Monday night against the Bears, go Jets!) and though they are tough... oh wait, it's an away game, hmmm... okay, I can't predict a tie, so I'll go with the Lions losing by 1 point... something like 24-23. (Okay, perhaps I do believe in jinxes).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

2014 Game 2 - Lions @ Carolina Panthers


Never mind.

The Detroit Lions lost this one to the Carolina Panthers by a score of 7-24. While it's true the Panther's have a great defense, it's also true the Lions needed to be tested by a great defense and also by a road game. They failed the test. Utterly. Never mind that at one point in the 3rd they were ahead 7-6. Once they had the lead they could not build on it nor hang tough and keep the Panthers from scoring.

Part of that failure to build on the lead was due to their rookie kicker, Nate Freese. Prior to taking the lead he failed to convert both field goal attempts. It was quite possibly a career ending day for him, depending on how the coaches handle it. Myself, I might try to see if a way can be found to calm down the ole nerves and get him to do what he is quite capable of doing, that is hitting field goals at pretty much any NFL range. Not sure if it was because he was outside (probably not) or away (probably not) or just nerves (probably so) but missing two field goals under 50 yards in the same game is usually frowned upon so look for the Lions to at least bring in some kickers to evaluate.

That said, Matthew Stafford was only 27 of 48 for 291 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. That's 56.25% which is just as bad as the kicker in NFL terms. Especially since the INT was near the end zone as they were driving, in the lead, and the receiver was well covered. Basically, the play should've never ever been attempted. What makes it even worse, the running game was an anemic 18 attempts for 70 yards, one of which was Stafford for 8 yards. If you want to worry about something, never mind the kicker and special teams, look at the offense as an equal part of the problem.

I'm not saying the game was lost by special teams and the offense, oh no. The defense gets to have their share assigned to them as well. Allowing a partially healed Cam Newton to complete over 64% of his passes for 281 yards and a TD plus allowing another rushing TD despite keeping them to less rushing yards then the Lions had was also disheartening. The Lions also failed to create a single turnover.

Speaking of turnovers, the Lions had a couple, but the reason I'm not harping on anyone about them is because the one was recovered by the Lions and the other two were created by absolutely great defensive plays... where the defenders (as in more then one) would keep the ball carrier from advancing while another defender would have time to wind up and punch the ball, hard, right out of the ball carriers grip. That is nearly impossible to prevent if you are going to try for those extra yards instead of hitting the deck. I suppose if you want to split hairs the ball carrier needs to hold on better, but doing that takes away some speed and power and balance (holding with both arms like that) to the point I'm not sure I would be all that crazy about it happening all the time. I give cudo's to the Panthers on their turnover prowess... and glare at the Lions for failing to do the same.

Another issue with the game is the Lions lost yet another nickel cornerback, possibly for the season, when their 4th round draft pick left the game injured. I think the Lions are fresh out of nickelbacks (not talking the music group here) and since they play in the nickel almost all of the time they are going to have to go shopping for someone on Tuesday. I hope the front office has a good short list.

Finally there's our new coaching staff. They weren't quite a prepared for this game as they were for the Giants. The Panthers were able to turn things around before the 4th quarter got here and stay ahead of the moves the Lions made. That includes the horrible decision to play in cover 2/cover 3 late in the game... the Lions really got gashed then. They couldn't get the kicker to settle down and just play, nor could they keep their star highly paid DTs in the game when they were needed most, in the final quarter. I'm sure there are all kinds of reasons and such, injuries and game plan, never mind the apparent lack of stamina or conditioning or whatever you call it... but if a certain DT wants to make near star QB money he needs to be playing pretty much every snap and creating havoc in my opinion, a lot of havoc, not just a couple times a game.

Okay, I'll try to calm down here enough to make my prediction for next week. After signing a new cornerback and quite possibly a new kicker (but not necessarily) they will have to prepare for the Packers at home. The same Packers who very nearly lost to the Jets today. If some of this mess can be worked on and fixed I think the Lions can give a good game but I'm concerned they will fall short... so I will predict a loss of 24-17.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Game 1 - Detroit Lions vs New York Giants @ Home


Something's missing.

Yeah, I know, about 6 weeks worth of blog entries are missing for one thing. Sometimes life just takes too much time and something has to give, in this case it was writing blog entries. Yet that's not what I'm talking about.

Since it's brought up though, let's do a little catching up. As my previous 4 blog entries indicate, I went to the Lions training camp practices for a couple of days and used that information to update my estimated depth chart as I do every year... prior to game 3 of the preseason. Managed to do the best yet, 49 right.

They kept

QB Moore over G Rodney Austin
WR Ogletree over WR Durham
FB Montell Owens over HB George Winn
CB Lawson over CB Mohammed Seisay

Nailed the rest of it. Not bad for locking it in prior to game 3 in preseason.

Just to steal my thunder though, 2 others in my forum got 50 right (LionHawk and TimT). I'll use that as incentive to do better next year. Then again, I think perhaps they didn't lock in prior to game 3 in preseason, ah heck with it, still need to do better.

The next thing missing is my prediction for the Lions season. I entered it into my contest as 10-6, with that being good enough for 2nd in the division, but not quite enough to make the playoffs... thus ending up drafting 19th overall in the 2015 draft. Since only game 1 is over with there is still plenty of time to beat me out of this prediction as well, which would be fine by me.

Enough catching up, the Lions stomped on the Giants in week 1 with a score of 35-14. Matthew Stafford was 22 of 32 for 346 yards and 2 TDs with no INTs. He even ran in a TD himself. The defense didn't embarrass themselves, nor did special teams. On top of all that the coaching appeared to be top notch. Are they ready for the playoffs after just one week? No. There is still a lot of things they can work on to get better, but they were definitely ready to play week 1, and with new systems on both sides of the ball that's a pretty good feat in and of itself.

No, there was something missing though... I just can't... hmmm... it wasn't Stafford's mechanics, they weren't perfect but they were definitely much improved. It wasn't the game plan, that seemed solid. It wasn't a lack of adjustments in game, that did occur and worked out superbly. It wasn't bad clock management, that too was solid. It wasn't any one thing... ah... that's it... what was missing was the previous coaching staff who couldn't do any of these things correctly. I admit the lack of experience at both OC and DC had me worried. I'm sure that there will be a hiccup here and there still, but as of right now it just plain feels good to have competent leadership running the Lions for a change.

Now, hopefully, they don't do anything to make me eat my words, it took me too long to get around to writing them for that to happen! Still, now the real tests begin. The Panthers now have some film to work with (as do the Lions) and the Panthers have the talent and the coaching to make this road game a tough one. That said, I feel another prediction is in order, so here we go... the Lions win in Carolina beating the Panthers by less then one score (between 1 and 7 points) in a hard fought contest.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Lions Training Camp 2014 - Part IV


Allen Park, Thursday afternoon August 7, 2014

This will be my final installation of my training camp articles relaying the things I saw, some play-by-play, and other tidbits. After the first preseason game (which starts in about an hour) I will go over that and then start on my roster articles. I shall start off with the Quarterbacks.

The QB Coach and all 4 quarterbacks were working on the mechanics of being an NFL QB near the VIP tent which was 50 feet or so to the right of where I was in the stands (5th row, 50 yard line, field closest to their indoor facility). I'm afraid to admit this, but I watched the entire practice at Ford Field last night and never once caught on to the fact that #17 Kellen Moore is a left handed QB. What does this have to do with anything? Well, a lefty throws the ball from a different angle then WRs are used to, and the spiral is exactly the opposite, in other words, the ball is spinning backwards. That makes it harder to catch, for some. Anyway, since at this practice the QBs are much closer to where I am seated I am able to notice how the drill they are working on is stressing good QB mechanics. I also note that #14 Franklin is taller then Moore, as tall and stocky as #9 Stafford, shorter then #8 Orlovsky who has a very thin body frame, and rarely gets in on the team drills, but plays every snap in his positional group drills. I suspect that will make him practice squad material.

I see #62 has on an arm brace, probably for an elbow, #62 is a guard named Darren Keyton. The Centers working with the 4 QBs are #51 Raiola, #64 Swanson (this year's draft pick), #74 Rodney Austin, and #60 Alex Bullard (shows as a guard in the program they just gave me as I entered camp). For some drills they use all 4 centers and all 4 QBs at the same time. This is a new drill I never saw before in the 16 or so years I've been going to camps.

After I noted the QB drills to my right, and the injured players out a ways, the Safeties group move to directly in front of me to work on some drills.
The cameras are 100 yards away in front of me and 100 yards away to my right... so directly in front of me isn't exactly being recorded for later perusal by the coaches, giving some players the opportunity to slack off a bit if they were inclined to do so. I noted that #30 Gomes was just such a player. The drills that stressed coverage or interceptions he was all over, but the tackling drills he merely went through the motions, or so it appeared to me. I shall be curious to see how he does in the games (at tackling). There were very few other players doing this "evasive maneuver" and certainly not as many as I have seen at almost every camp I have ever been to, but if I had to pick one example in the 2014 Lions camp it would be Gomes.

While the DBs were working in front of me 60 or 70 yards away were the QBs, Centers, and WRs. All 4 centers would hike the ball to all 4 QBs at the same time as all 4 WRs would take off and one by one each WR would become a target by one of the QBs. This was a new drill for me, I wish they were closer so I could talk more about it. As it was, I could barely make out what was going on let alone who did well or who did not. I did catch one negative and two flashes of the positive kind... the negative was seeing Durham drop one of the multi-passes, the positives were a great deep route and catch by Ogletree and another excellent catch by Fuller.

Next was the O and D working not on routes or anything but what appeared to be they were working on pre-snap recognition. After that session, I noted Orlo throw a pass and #18 Durham making a great catch, one of those flash types I have mentioned before. I saw Durham make another flash play in the next series too. That would make him pretty even in bad plays and flash plays over the two days I saw. In one of those two series I noted a flash play by TE Fauria who caught another nice pass by Orlo. Orlovsky had a much better practice Thursday then he did Wednesday. Much much better. Though there was one play that was replay worthy, a pass to a WR that got tipped instead of caught, then the defender popped it into the air only to allow #49 Maxwell the TE to make the catch. Nice concentration on his part.

There was a lot of drills going on all over Allen Park Thursday, unfortunately due to the size of the area it was excessively difficult, nye on impossible, to make a lot of it. A few more pics to see just how much area there is to cover there.




Following the practice the fans once again flocked to the fences to get autographs while I prepared for the long drive home. Here you can see just how close the fans get to the players at these practices, just in case you haven't made it to one of them yet.


So there you have it, time to see how these guys do under live bullets, so to speak. For the first time ever (for some of these guys) the Lions will be tackling, getting tackled, sacking and getting sacked... as they take the field and take on the Cleveland Browns. I predict a winning score by the Lions by half time. I have no idea if Moore can maintain that lead until the end of the game or not, but considering the quality of the skilled players on O to help him out, I think they can. I shall predict a meaningless preseason game 1 score of Lions 27 and Browns 20.

Here's to no injuries! Go Lions!!!

Lions Training Camp 2014 - Part III


In continuing from my notes at the Ford Field practice (see the two previous blog entries below) and following another whistle the main practice area added more players from other position groups who were practicing elsewhere and I was able to jot down a few numbers and notes on who was working in the first group (1st string), second group (2nd string) etc. I had already figured out from reading other bloggers articles that the rookies were, to a man, working further down the depth chart. No one was being given a free ride to first string based on the round, or year, they were drafted in. Many coaching staffs do it this way so it wasn't anything unexpected as far as I was concerned.

First thing with this drill I noticed was that #11 Ogeltree was in the slot working with CJ, Tate, Pettigrew, Bell and Hilliard at right tackle. Nothing stood out negative or flashed super positive in this drill as my very next note was the lineup for the 2nd group... which was Waddle at right tackle; Orlovsky at QB, Ross, Broyles and Durham at WR; Lucas at left tackle and Fauria at TE. At RB was Riddick and I think Leshoure. A star by Riddicks name in my notes means he did something in this drill that stood out, unfortunately I hadn't the time to write down what it was. I did have my "up arrow" sign in for Lucas and Fauria meaning that both these dudes look huge compared to their teammates. When I say huge, I don't mean fat. I mean very tall, very solidly built, just giants compared to others on the team next to them. It takes you half a second to realize you want them on your side in a fight, or when collecting money from someone, or whatever it is you are doing. Big big men. I will also add in here that there is no player on the 90 who appears out of shape, fat, overweight, or in any way not svelte. Honed and toned, I felt quite literally like signing up with a gym and exercising more before leaving the building. Now where was I, oh yeah, the 3rd string came up to the line and it was #17 Moore at QB; Reynolds at RT; Thompson at TE; Andrew Peacock, Quintin Payton and Patrick Edwards at WR; #40 Steven Miller at RB. I never did catch if Bush, Fuller and several others were ever substituted in. Like I said, there is a lot going on, too much most of the time to catch it all without that imaginary DVR remote control.

After the whistle another set of plays are run practicing who knows what, this time instead of jotting down who was playing where, or what the situation they were working on was, I just watched to see who did things well, or who blew it... a little "me time" if you will. Anyway, Stafford threw a nice easy uncomplicated simple pass to Calvin Johnson who caught it effortlessly but you'd have thought the pass had won them the national championship the way the crowd went nuts. I just shook my head and chuckled a little, sometimes the simplest of things impress people. I did note that during this drill most of the players stayed the same but the RBs were switched out each snap. After one run through the QB was switched out and Orlovsky was in. I made note that Bentley very nearly picked off a pass right off the bat on a nice angle. #99 (Mosley) then flashed with a great solo "tackle" on RB Miller. When the Lions practice there is no tackling per se, but had Mosley been allowed to, Miller was going to be buried in Ford Field that play. I also had down a flash by Ross on a leaping catch. The next note was that it appeared the 2's and 3's would've missed some tackles were things live, but that may have been due to the no contact thing too. Hard to fly to the ball when you can't actually make contact upon arrival. My notes next contain another up arrow by the number 77, I see that's Lucas again, he must have been huddled up next to his much smaller OL teammates. Right about this time Webster flashed a little something, against Lucas, but Lucas also flashed something, so it was a nice matchup that play.

On the whistle it turns into a field goal drill. #3 Freese is up first. This drill started with getting onto the field FAST and setting up then kicking. As if the clock was at 15 seconds and counting down with no time outs. Freese hit from 37, 42, and 47 with plenty of room to spare. Then #5 and his group rush out to do the same drill, he also nails it from 37, 42 and 47 yards... but hold up... #5 Tavecchio is left footed! He's also shorter, weighs less, and his holder for the entire 2 days of practice was always #2 Butler, and except for the pre-practice time with Muhlbach earlier in the night, his long snapper is always someone else (which explains why Butler and Tavecchio were working with Muhlbach together while Martin and Freese did nothing an hour before, it was their only opportunity to work with Muhlbach). Following that drill Freese is up again in another field goal drill and is good from 44 and then 47 yards with plenty of room to spare. Left footed Tavecchio and Butler set up and he's good from 44 but hits the right upright from 47 and the ball bounces off to the right for a miss. I never once saw Martin hold the ball for Tavecchio which says to me that the Kicker for the Lions this year will not be #5 as I believe Martin is a lock as the Punter making #3 Freese the kicker... after day 2 was over though I realized something else, Freese isn't actually safe. It is very unlikely, in my opinion, that Tavecchio makes the team as the kicker, but Freese is competing against every single right footed kicker who gets cut from the other 31 teams too.

Next drill, no trenches (no OL or DL) and 4 wide (one of which might be a TE or a RB). Stafford to CJ for 20 yards, perfect ball placement. Next play, 2nd or 3rd read, 6 yards to Riddick, also perfect. Next is to Pettigrew for 5 yards, but it's dropped (if you don't like Pettigrew) or it was great defense (if you want the truth). Next snap goes to Leshoure who was the 3rd read for 5 yards, good play. Then one goes to Durham for 10 yards on a come back route. Finally a 20 yard completion to the RB Miller who has good hands. That last might have been Orlovsky or Stafford at QB, not sure when they switched out. Next play Orlo is interecepted by Palmer after popping the ball up, great defensive play. Orlo then hits Leshoure for around 10 yards on a nice pass. The next pass to Ross hits the ground who was in traffic, so while the defense was good, the choice to throw to Ross was not so good. The QB is now Moore, who throws to #82 Jordan Thompson and is defended very well by #50 Lewis. Moore to #41 Riddick is at least 5 yards off target and wasted Riddicks snap. The final play by Moore was broke up by a great play by #36 Green, I missed to the intended target was. No snaps for #14 Franklin in this drill at all, which happens about half the time it seems. Franklin is definitely the #4 QB and has no chance of overtaking Moore... but I am no longer sure either makes the final roster.

Next drill still involves no O or D line, but now it's a redzone drill. #9 to #41 for a TD! (Stafford to Riddick). 39 to #87 (Pettigrew) for 7 yards and maybe with YACs (yards after the catch) was a TD. #9 to #21 (Bush) for only 3 yards. Then, from the 5, Stafford throws off his back foot for the first and only time I saw all practice and hits the crossbar instead of whoever his target was. Way high. Next, another flash play, but the D. Stafford at the 5 to (unsure who) and #33 Greenwood makes a fantastic play to knock the ball down all by himself. #8 Orlovsky takes over and hits #41 Riddick for 5 yards who gets knocked hard to the ground by the defender who couldn't pull up in time. #8 to #12 (Ross) for 4 yards. From the 15 it's #8 to #84 (Broyles) for a TD. Next it's #8 to #32 Winn for 14 yards just short of the TD. New QB, #17 (Moore) to #25 Leshoure for 14 yards. #17 to #40 (Miller) for 2 yards. #17 to #38 (Winn) for negative yards (tackled for a loss). The whistle blows.

Time for some 11 on 11, from the 24 and a long field. The drill appears to be all 3rd downs, from varying to goes. This is a new drill for me, the team would set and re-set at all kinds of 3rd down and distances. Took me awhile just to figure out that this was what they were working on. Anyway, #9 to CJ for 27 yards, 1st down. #9 to #35 Bell but was popped in the air by a great play on D, failed to see who it was though (where's that remote!). #9 to #15 Tate who bobbles it then pulls it in playing against Vaughn I think who almost broke it up. #9 to #35 Bell for a nice gain. #9 to #87 Pettigrew for a nice gain, nice sweet play too. Then another sweet completion from #9 to #10 Fuller. #8 Orlo to #84 Broyles is good for a first down. #8 to #80 Fauria is a first down. #8 to ??? intercepted by #42 Isa Abdul-Quddus but if this was live it's likely Orlo was sacked and never got the throw off. #8 ... whistle, play called dead by officials (who hadn't done that up until that play). #17 Moore throws to #1 Peacock but it's 3 yards out of bounds. #17 to #10 Fuller, even further out of bounds, flag on #42 Isa for a PI, looked uncatchable to me but whatever. #17 to no one, he ran it for a 1st down. #17 to #25 Leshoure, blown dead, it was 2nd or 3rd read and he had dumped it off to Leshoure who played with the 3rd group a lot in this practice. Whistle for a new drill. Still no Franklin time.

It's a 11 on 11 Redzone drill from the 20. #9 to #15 Tate misses wide, I think it was miscommunication more so then a bad throw, but I can't be sure. #9 to #21 Bush for a short gain, nice catch, 2nd down. #9 to #18 Durham for no catch, Durham tripped over his own feet on the drill and stumbled along the route but couldn't recover in time. A 5 yard catch by #80 Fauria then an air ball to no one (someone ran the wrong route I think). A sloppy set of plays really. Now it's #8 to #29 Vaughn who flashed a really good defensive play there (jump ball). #8 handed the ball off on a delay to Leshoure, I think they were trying to surprise the D by running the ball on a pass drill, the D stopped him after an 8 yard gain though. I liked the play. I either missed a play or there was a 10 yard penalty in there somewhere as it was now 1st and goal from the 2. #8 to #84 Broyles for the TD. Back to the 20 yard line, #17 Moore to handoff to #38 Winn, the surprise didn't work this time, only 2 yards. #17 to #49 TE Maxwell, but #86 Payton was out of position and they had to wait for him. Maxwell fumbles, #45 Seisay picks it up for an easy 6. Last play was #17 to (couldn't tell) nicely broke up by #39 Hester in the end zone. I'm going to assume from the lack of execution that this particular set of plays was new that day and they hadn't worked on them until now.

The team huddles up in the middle of the field for a few minutes then breaks up, many of the players head to the sidelines to sign autographs with Bentley in the lead on our side. I watch the mad dash by the crowd for awhile then leave, normally I stay until the brooms come out to clean up but this time I didn't stick around.

Lions Training Camp 2014 - Part II


I only made it to two practices, but in those two practices I saw many things I have never seen before (at a Lion's camp) and I've been going to them since that first year they went to Saginaw, when was that, in 1997 or 98? I noticed one thing different before even leaving home; and that was that the Lions practices were at different locations and at different times lasting different lengths of time each and every day. This year, practices were held at Wayne State, Allen Park and Ford Field. They started as early as 8:30am or as late as 7:30pm, and all hours in-between. Some practices were 1 hour and 10 minutes, some 2 hours and 5 minutes, others an hour and around 45 minutes or so. I knew before even going to Detroit that things were going to be different, I was curious to see just how.

On Wednesday I made my way to Ford Field where I got a great seat a few rows up at the 50 yard line, though I hadn't realized it was on the opposite side from where all the reporters were. No matter, a Lions practice is always scattered all over the field, I was sure to see a lot from this vantage point. I did. Before practice started various players came out on the field to work on their own stretching or whatever (kickers tend to kick, etc). This year Golden Tate came across the field with a football to around the 30 yard line to my right and threw the ball into the audience. I thought he gave a ball away to someone in the stands then the ball came whizzing back out to Tate and he caught it. He proceeded for the next 15 minutes or so to throw the ball into the stands to those seated on my side of the field anywhere from one end zone to the other end zone, and as many as 30 rows up. I was impressed with his accuracy, always hitting the person standing up waving for a pass, and further impressed with most of the fans who were able to throw it back to him fairly close to where he stood at the time. Most impressive of all though was just his interaction with the fans. Various players in the past have joked around a bit, perhaps threw their gloves into the stands after practice, but I have never seen a player play catch for around 15 minutes before a practice session started.


Following that the players lined up on the field for a team wide stretching session. This I have seen before, every year I went in fact, though this time it was Offense to the far side, QBs in the middle, and Defense closest to my side.

Just a note here, this did not happen for all that long, and even less the next day at Allen Park. Appears the players are expected to loosen up on their own prior to practice starting. If there is suddenly a large rash of tight hamstrings this season it might because players aren't working on their own enough to loosen up before games. I'm hoping that this doesn't come to pass

In my notes at this point I wrote about how Muhlbach, Butler and Tavecchio were all working on holding, hiking, and kicks while #6 (Martin) and #3 (Freese) were mostly standing around. I thought at the time that this didn't bold well for Freese, who appeared to me to be slacking off when he should be working on his craft. I realized later that that wasn't the case, more on that in the future.

Finally the whistles blow and the official start to practice begins, right on time (I had gotten there about 40 minutes early). The first drills they worked on at Ford Field was squib kicks. #3 and #5 (Freese and Tavecchio) were the kickers, the returners (due to it being squib kicks) were #34 (Montell Owens), #44 Chad Abram, #41 Theo Riddick, and #45 Jeb Collins. Next they worked on regular kick offs, but not so much the kicking off or the returns, but worked on staying onsides each kick. From there it was Punts and the punt returners were #15 Golden Tate, #21 Reggie Bush, #12 Jeremy Ross, #40 Steven Miller, #84 Ryan Broyles and #83 Patrick Edwards. #31 Rashean Davis was next in line when the whistle blew, time was up, on to the next series of drills.

I had already noticed that Ebron was not in pads, then I spotted #13 TJ Jones also out of pads. It wasn't until after I got home 2 days later that I realized another standing around was Ziggy Ansah. Anyway, at this point they broke up into position groups and each group took up in a different section of the field to do work. It is completely and totally impossible to watch all of it when this happens. In fact, it's hard just to concentrate watching the one group do their drills from beginning to end. Later, when the groups join back up to drill, I was able to do more play-by-play in my notes. The other thing that happens is the crowd, they stand up in front of you to get concessions, or hit the john, or find their kids, whatever. If they're in your row you need to make room for their exit. It's all the time too, still, I managed to spot things here and there, sometimes bad, sometimes good. For the most part, it's all just one small handful of seconds out of weeks of practice sessions, all of which is filmed for later review by the coaching staff, though I found I wanted to hit re-wind on my non-existent remote control to replay things and see what I missed on any and almost every drill.

The WRs did some crossing routes into the flat (what would be just in front of the linebackers if there were any in this drill) and a ball was thrown to them by one of the coaches (the QBs were off doing something in another area of the field). Each WR gets one route. One ball. First in one direction (and they all caught it) then the other direction, they all caught it this time too except for #18 (Durham). The next drill by the WR group was a crossing route but the ball was intentionally thrown behind them. In this drill each WR has to spin around to make the catch (while running full speed the other way). The only drop in this drill was by #83 Patrick Edwards. If there were more drops by anyone (and there might have been) I didn't get to see it what with all the people coming and going in my row and the row immediately in front of me.

The next drill saw the DBs joining the WRs and practicing jams. For the DBs, it was working on how to jam effectively a WR at the line of scrimmage. For the WRs they were working on defeating the jam. Since we fans want both sides to win, we always lose (well, one player wins, one loses, but we don't want anyone losing, right?). A couple of notes I made on this drill, #1 Peacock easily defeated #45 Seisay, or was it #45 Seisay totally blew the jam on #1 Peacock. I'm afraid I can't tell, certainly Peacock was able to easily complete his route is all I know. During this drill it was Slay on CJ and both nearly went down when they tangled up their feet during the jam. Both regained their balance and Slay managed to stick with CJ the rest of the route. Right after this #39 Hester and #84 Broyles made contact and Hester quickly removed his glove and came towards the sideline. I knew he had jammed a finger or something, and sure enough, the trainer met him with a roll of tape and taped his thumb/hand/wrist. He then put his glove back on and re-joined the DBs. These guys do not want to skip a drill.

The next drill saw the QBs join in. This drill was a sight for sore eyes. I have been complaining for years how none of the WRs EVER come back towards the QB when he has to scramble like many other teams do. This drill was a come back drill. The route the WR ran was out, then a full stop and a few steps back towards the QB for the catch. Stafford was perfect on all 5 of his passes during this drill. That too was a sight to see. Absolutely perfect mechanics and spot on perfect passes every time. After everyone got one shot at this drill there was a short coaching session (to which I could hear nothing) and then the WRs each ran an curl out route (or whatever it's called when they go out roughly 10 yards then curl out towards the sidelines). #14 Franklin missed #86 Payton but that was their one chance to do this drill, no repeats. I realized two things at this point in time. One, Orlovsky looks like a stick man next to the other QBs (tall and thin) and that this coaching staff runs through every drill once, no one gets a 2nd chance no matter who it was that messed it up. That doesn't mean they don't work on things in their respective positional drills, just that when position groups work together you get one chance to do it right... just like in a game situation. Everything is filmed, from at least two angles, and everything is reviewed by the coaching staff (and likely graded or otherwise noted) after every practice. When you only have so much time to do your practices you don't have time to stop and do it again, over and over, only moving as fast as the slowest (to learn). I would think this means you don't want to be that guy on film who constantly makes errors. You want to be the guy who does thing so well it sticks out (I call this "flashes"). If you're a player, you want lots of flashes and no negatives, both in the locker room and on film. (That didn't exactly sound right, oh well, you know what I mean).

The next set of drills were run plays. I wrote down that Riddick and Miller were working with Orlovsky or in other words, they are the 2's. Bell and Bush were with Stafford (the 1's) and Bell flashed a great play. Then all of a sudden the QBs were switched up and Stafford was with the 3's (Leshoure and Winn). I presume this was to see how the running backs did with the different QB's, giving one constant and one variable instead of two. Before this set of drills were over, both Riddick and Bush flashed good (borderline great) plays.

My impressions of the Ford Field practice to this point was that some players on offense are starting to stand out, mainly Stafford, CJ, Tate, Bell, Bush, Riddick, and a few others. I was offense heavy because that is who was practicing in front of my part of the field. Had I been sitting elsewhere my report would've been totally different as I would've been watching entirely different position groups practice. If you try to catch everything you miss just about all of it. I had even jotted down the following at this point in my notes; "hard to keep track of 3 drills at once". I also see in my notes that I am not yet half way done with Ford Field but it's nearly 3am so the rest will have to wait until tomorrow afternoon. Thank you for joining me this far and I promise there will be more, a lot more, to come.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Lions Training Camp 2014 - Part I


I made it to Detroit this year (after being unable to for a few years in a row) to see the Detroit Lions Training Camp both Wednesday night at Ford Field and Thursday afternoon at Allen Park. I had planned to use my notes from these visits to make a large blog post about all things Lions but I now realize it's going to take many hours to write so instead I'm afraid I'll be breaking it down into smaller segments and posting them over the weekend. I'm also going to be using my notes to help update my estimated (final 53) depth chart. I will skip the images I took at the Detroit Zoo and save them for my grand kids, you are welcome.

Instead of writing this in the order that I saw things, I'm going to jump around. For example, a few things on the very last page of my notes...

1. near the end of practice on Thursday the 7th Stafford did a kneel down on one of the plays I was watching from across the field. At first I was like, there are only so many snaps in training camp each day and you waste one on kneeling down (victory formation)? But after a little more thought, I realized that like all plays, everyone on the team does actually have to know how to do that should it come to pass... you sure wouldn't want to not have ever tried a kneel down against the Bucs in a 1 point game (for example) or else you could end up flat on your back with the ball heading towards their end zone in someone else's hands.

2. After practice some players head to the sidelines to sign autographs, some go to the "official" autograph area, some talk to reporters of all ilks, others remain on the field to do some extra work with their teammates, and occasionally a trainer and a player or a handful of players will stay to keep working or testing things out. After Thursday's practice both Ebron and Ansah were running 50 yard "sprints" to and from our sideline to mid-field where they would talk to the trainers for a long while, then up and do it again. I believe this repeated like 5 or 6 times.


The one trainer would run with them and took pleasure in making sure he was first back, taunting them a bit it seemed. No one (as far as I have heard) knows why Ebron is being held out of practice but I suspect (and this is a pure guess on my part) that he may have a tightened hamstring a few days back. I have a hunch they worked on loosening him up all practice then tried out the sprints to see how it would react to the exercise. He never pulled up lame so I know things didn't get worse, I just couldn't hear if he felt okay or still tight (assuming my guess is right) after the running was over. Ansah on the other hand is recovering from minor surgery I believe to his shoulder so his running was possibly to help his legs keep in game shape somewhat. I suspect both will be back to 100% sooner rather then later from the looks of it (to my untrained eye).

3. #14 James Franklin, #28 Bentley and #84 Broyles worked on some things together all on their own out towards the right end of the 2nd field (furthest from us in the crowd). At Allen Park there are two full football fields side by side and another partial one out past the right side endzone at 90 degrees to the first two. I was seated in the bleachers at the 50 yard line of the closest field trying to watch what I could but it's not easy having groups of players and coaches and trainers spread out over 15,000 square yards of football fields.
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I was thinking they were the last Lions players to leave the field when I noticed a guy carrying two sets of pads towards the sidelines (he had been doing his own running all by himself on the far left field area). I figured out it was #63 Dalton carrying #51 Raiola's and his pads. So at least some of the vets still make the rookies carry their pads.

I still have a couple dozen pages of notes to write about. Things about how the practices are different then in year's past. Things that I haven't read about such as which kicker is left footed, which QB is left handed, and why that will possibly make a difference in the final roster. Which players flashed at least something during the practices. Who just goes through the motions and who is working hard in the drills. A ton of material really. Look for more in the coming days and hours as I get them done.

If you ever get the chance to make it to a Lions practice I highly recommend you do so, it's not at all like the games on TV and for some fans at least; you realize these are just guys (some fresh from college) who are trying to earn a living playing a game that is part entertainment, part reality TV, and part dangerous to themselves and others. If you see someone in the stands with a small pad of paper and pen making notes instead of trying to get autographs it just might be me.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Which Undrafted Player signed played at Nebraska, same team as Ndamukong Suh?


First, new contract news; The Lions today signed 5th round pick DT Caraun Reid to a 4 year rookie contract with an estimated signing bonus of $188,880 and a first year salary of $420,000. He is the first Lions draft pick in 2014 to sign his contract. You may recall I really wanted the Lions to draft this particular player and I provided some information on him the night after he was drafted. I fully expect he will flash enough during the pre-season that the Lions will keep him on the 53 man roster.

So far I have gone over a few of the undrafted free agents the Lions have signed and what the signing bonuses were for all of them noting OT Lucas received the largest signing bonus followed by FB Abram and SS Couplin. The fourth highest paid undrafted player plays Cornerback but could play Free Safety and/or Special Teams, he graduated from Nebraska with a degree in Family Sciences. Mohammed (Mo) Seisay is between 6' 1" and 6' 2" tall (different sites have different numbers) and weighs in at 202 pounds. He ran a 4.52 40 at his pro-day but has been timed faster. His vertical is 39" and he managed 13 on the bench. He had transferred to the Huskers from a small school but in the 2 years after arriving there was unable to break into the starting lineup. From CBS Sports "Senior Mo Seisay completed his two-year Nebraska career in 2013. Seisay was a key contributor the past two seasons as a versatile reserve in the Nebraska secondary and one of the Huskers' top special teams performers. Seisay saw action in 2013 in Nebraska's nickel and dime packages. He finished the season with nine tackles, including eight solo stops and one tackle for loss. Seisay was one of 19 Husker seniors to play in the bowl game as a graduate after earning his degree in family sciences in August. "

Despite limited playing time in his two years at Nebraska, cornerback Mohammed (Mo) Seisay signed a free agent deal with the Detroit Lions for 3 years with a $5,000 signing bonus, he’ll join up with former Husker and All-Pro Ndamukong Suh.

I'm not entirely sure now how many possible or projected nickel and dime defensive backs are on the Lions roster, and I don't know how many the team will keep when they cut down to the final 53, but Mo Seisay is yet another one to keep an eye on. It's also possible that even if he doesn't make the final 53 he could easily find himself on the practice squad. As I see all the talent on the Lions roster that may not make the final 53 I find myself hoping that the NFL increases the size of the practice squad from the current 8 players to at least 11, if not more, to like say, 22? :-)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Signing Bonuses for the Undrafted Players and estimates for the Drafted Players


Word is the amount of salary cap that can be spent on the 2014 draft picks will be exactly the same as it was in 2013. That means that each draft pick this year should receive nearly the identical signing bonus (less the increase in the minimum wage) of a player who was selected in the same spot in the draft as last year. That also means we should be able to compute the rookie pool for the Detroit Lions. If my math is right, it will add up to $6,068,559. The Lions currently have about $1.009 million in available cap space, so obviously either Ndamukong Suh will need to agree to a new contract, one or more players will need to work out a cap saving contract adjustment, or some players will be cut before any draft picks can be signed. How much will the draft picks get upon signing their contracts? Let me put up some estimates here:

TE Eric Ebron estimated Signing Bonus $7,228,472
OLB43 Kyle Van Noy estimated Signing Bonus $2,030,620
OC Travis Swanson estimated Signing Bonus $619,472
CB Nevin Lawson estimated Signing Bonus $300,584
DE43 Larry Webster estimated Signing Bonus $300,584
DT43 Caraun Reid estimated Signing Bonus $188,880
WR T.J. Jones estimated Signing Bonus $106,200
K Nate Freese estimated Signing Bonus $59,424

Eleven of the undrafted free agents already have received their signing bonuses (or will on payday), as they have already signed their contracts. Each will have signed a contract for $420,000 in 2014 salary (if they make the team) and a signing bonus payable now of:

FB Chad Abram $7,500
G Alex Bullard $500
S Jerome Couplin $6,000
QB James Franklin $2,000
LB Justin Jackson $2,500
T Cornelius Lucas $20,000
S Gabe Lynn $2,500
TE Jacob Maxwell $3,000
G D.J. Morrell $2,500
WR Andrew Peac0ck $2,500
CB Mohammed Seisay $5,000
The amounts are negotiated by the Lions and the players agent and typically if more then a nominal amount it means another team was (or multiple teams were) also trying to talk the player into signing with them. Each team has a set amount of total signing bonus money they can spend, so a team who signs a lot of players will have less per player to bid with then a team with fewer players. A player may not go with the highest bidder though, if he thinks he has a better chance of making the roster with another team who is unable or unwilling to pay more he may still sign with that team.

I have already talked some about Jerome Couplin III and Cornelius Lucas in previous posts. Tonight I researched FB Chad Abram, FSU. A one year hard hitting starter who played Safety in High School. Bulked up to 236 pounds by his pro-day. Ran a 4.58 40. As a blocker he ran only a few plays with the rock, and had some catches as well (had only seven carries for 29 yards (4.1 ypc), but was a threat as a receiver out of the backfield...had nine receptions for 73 yards and had three touchdowns...caught an 11-yard touchdown in the BCS National Championship game). Played special teams all 4 years in college. More info on his pro-day is here: www.nfldraftscout.com/ratings/dsprofile.php?pyid=104701&draftyear=2014&genpos=FB To make the final roster he needs to beat out Jed Collins and/or Montell Owens, or both (if they only keep 1 FB/TE). I highlighted Chad Abram as he was paid the 2nd highest signing bonus out of the 11 undrafted free agents I noted above. That doesn't mean he automatically will make the team, but it does mean the interest in seeing what he can do was high.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The roster changeover on Monday May 12th, cuts and undrafted free agents signed.


The Detroit Lions had a busy weekend FOLLOWING the draft. In the roughly 40 hours immediately following the draft they cut 8 players and signed 12 undrafted free agents. The 8 guys who were cut (to make room on the 90 man roster) were: WR Cody Wilson, LB Jon Morgan, CB Nate Ness, TE Matt Veldman, K John Potter, WR Carlin Isles, C Sherman Carter and S Akwasi Owusu Ansah. All 8 were guys on my estimated depth chart I had down as "fighting for a roster spot". As I said, they also signed 12 undrafted free agents including: QB James Franklin, T Cornelius Lucas, WR Andrew Peacock, CB Mohammed Seisay, S Gabe Lynn, FB Chad Abram, G Alex Bullard, G DJ Morrell, LB Justin Jackson, TE Jacob Maxwell, S Isaiah Newsome and S Jerome Couplin (who I discussed in last night's post). These moves bring the Lions roster to the full 90 members allowed at this point in they year.

Here is some information about each of the undrafted free agents (sans C Isaiah Newsome): http://www.detroitlions.com/news/lions-insider/article-1/TWENTYMAN-Lions-sign-11-undrafted-rookie-free-agents-/a2b45448-9398-422d-ae60-572548e3df66 Now reading the little bit on each player and they all sound great, but each has some issue or other that prevented them from being drafted.

For example LT Cornelius Lucas sounds like a great player for the roster, he was even graded as a possible 5th rounder with a 5.27 40, 36 3/4" arms, and 10" hands. But further research gives us a foot fracture in February of 2014 so he did not do any of the other tests his contemporaries did. He has a very High Pad Level due to his extreme height. His size also creates a problem with offensive tackles known as slow feet. He's deemed a project that may or may not ever learn to get his pad level correct, get his feet moving quickly and correctly, and all the rest that goes with the job. I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere yet, but perhaps he would be able to play left guard in the NFL. I'm sure the Lions coaches will put him through his paces (assuming the foot is healed) and see what he might be able to contribute. More info on Lucas (and there isn't much) may be found at http://www.nfl.com/draft/2014/profiles/luke-lucas?id=2543595

I was going to do an in depth paragraph on each of the undrafted and then go into more details on the drafted players for the Lions, but after many hours of work I still find myself regurgitating the same ole info for the most part. In the interest of not duplicating work and in providing more information then I have so far, here is a page that has a link to a page apiece of each draft pick full of links to articles on each player. Tons of reading material. Plus CaptainBlue of my forum would appreciate her hard work being used I'm sure. The link is http://captainbluelionslinks.blogspot.com/2014/05/detroit-lions-2014-draft-picks-articles.html Once there click on the link for each of the 8 draft picks and you will find a ton of articles on each player.

I have updated my cap chart, and my estimated depth chart, and now my blog. Time for some sleep. Before I go I will leave you with this bit of info, the 2nd fastest DE in the draft? (Clowney was #1) The answer is Larry Webster, one of the Lions two fourth round picks. 4.58 vs 4.53 speed. In fact Webster is faster then Van Noy by a lot (4.71 vs 4.58). The problem is Larry needs to add muscle (lots of it) and he needs to learn the game, he was a basketball player for 4 years then a football player for only 2. He is as raw as you can get and still get drafted. Luckily the Lions don't have to rely on him to start (knock on wood) and they can take the time to teach him his craft, if he can pick it up and execute it.

I'm still compiling info and will keep working on trying to find the obscure info my readers like as I research the changes in the roster.

If only I could convert this math problem into a valid numerical equation I could get rich. What a player was (college career and stats) x what a player is (40 time, Vertical, 3 cone, Hand Size, Arm Length, etc) x what a player projects to be in the NFL (scouting reports and player profiles) = how good of an NFL career a player should have. OF course 32 teams do this already and if they get half of it right they are lucky. Oh well, back to digging and reading and hopefully, writing.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Detroit Lions 2014 Draft, recap.


I have updated my 2014 Detroit Lions estimated depth chart to include the 8 draft picks. The link to that spreadsheet is http://www.thenetrat.com/depthchart.html Six of the draft spots pre-draft (see the pre-draft tab at the bottom of the spreadsheet) were filled in this draft, leaving only guard and safety blank (but gaining defensive end and cornerback). I understand the Lions signed an undrafted player named Jerome Couplin III, what little I was able to read on him intrigues me greatly... after Waddle and Fauria last year I didn't really expect to see lightning hit twice, but it's just possible the Lions did just that. I am awaiting a full ACCURATE list of undrafted players signed before I research the guards and the other players supposedly signed.

If you do bring up the depth chart spreadsheet you may edit and save it to do "what-ifs" yourself, print it, or just stare at it but please do not copy it and pretend it is your own, thank you. Anyway, back to the depth chart, the 3rd tab from the right is Post-Draft, you will see I included all 8 picks as making the team, for now that is likely, by the middle of August it may not be so, but this is the way I've handled this chart since it's inception and it works for me. Assuming Ebron can overtake Pettigrew as the starting TE (not that it matters that much, as both will be on the field at the same time quite a bit), and then assuming that Kyle Van Noy overtakes Palmer at SSOLB, that leaves kicker Nate Freese to win the starting kicker job to get Mayhew the 3 starters he wants from this and any draft. It's possible, even probable that C Travis Swanson makes the team as Raiola's backup. Both CB Nevin Lawson and DE Larry Webster have to hold off some competition to make the roster, but I think it's entirely possible at this point for them to do so. DT Caraun Reid has to overtake Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and Andre Fluellen, so he will need to flash in training camp, and I suspect he will. WR TJ Jones has to hold off Ogletree, Wilson, and a slew of other WRs, but it's a new coaching staff and a new offense so everyone has to learn it at the same time (this goes for defense as well, everyone, rookies and vets, have to learn the new systems from the beginning). Assuming the entire draft slate makes the final roster we're looking at 3 starters, 3 2nd stringers - 2 of which will rotate in more and more as the year goes on, and 2 3rd stringers - both of whom will also rotate in and get snaps. Perhaps my next post will include some undrafted guys who may can put up a fight for a spot or two on the final roster, after all, at this point I'm looking at Couplin needing to only overcome Isa Abdul-Quddus or DeJon Gomes to make the roster, if he's as good as the tiny bit of info I have on him that is entirely possible.

I had intended to give more details on the slate of draft picks in this post but I find that most of the information I am finding is pretty much the same as I have already given. I am going to compile notes on each player and see if I can't locate some tidbits that perhaps few have seen to this point on each of them. Sorry for the wait, but I don't want to just repeat everything I and others have already posted. I'm looking for some new(er) material.

For now, some info on Safety Jerome Couplin III.

6'1" 213
4.56 40 with a timed low of 4.47
Tedd in my forum had posted this information:

SENIOR YEAR (2013)
Team captain … Established himself as one of the nation’s top defensive players and was a finalist for the Buchanan Award … Garnered first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, The Sports Network and the Walter Camp Football Foundation … All-CAA first-team selection … ECAC All-Star and VaSID All-State first-team honoree … Ranked third in the conference with 9.1 tackles per game, a figure that ranked first among defensive backs … Ranked 11th nationally in solo tackles per game (5.8) … Led the team with 113 tackles while also totaling 2.5 tackles for a loss, six PBU’s, two forced fumble and one fumble recovery, which was returned 51 yards for a touchdown

Recorded double-digit tackle totals in six games … Honored as the CAA Defensive Player of the Week following the win at No. 15/21 Delaware in which he returned a fumble 51 yards for a touchdown … Posted 14-tackle efforts in the season opener at West Virginia (10 solo) and at No. 14/17 Maine … Also recorded a tackle for a loss versus WVU and a forced fumble at UM … Registered 13 stops against No. 10/7 Towson … Tallied 12 tackles and two PBU’s in the season finale at Richmond … Registered 10-tackles efforts in the wins against Rhode Island and Penn … Forced a fumble in the win at Lafayette … Totaled eight stops and a TFL in the triumph against Hampton … W&M Quarterback Club Defensive Player of the Year … Preseason All-CAA first-team selection by Phil Steele … Earned a share of the John A. Stewart Winter Warrior Award … Honored as the W&M QB Club Defensive Player of the Year

Couplin majored in kinesiology and health science with a health science concentration.

In thread that Tedd started was a quote which reads "Much like the “Osprey,” Couplin has an 81 inch wingspan, which means that he can practically touch his knees when standing straight up. Coupled with his jumping ability, Couplin’s physical attributes are a defensive coordinator’s dream. To put it into perspective, Couplin can catch a football 13 feet in the air (the top of a basketball backboard)"

What no one in my forum can figure out, is why was this dude not drafted?

More on Couplin, the 8 draft picks, and other undrafted free agents coming soon!