Sunday, December 27, 2015

2015 - Week #16 Detroit Lions vs San Francisco 49ers @ Home


The 6-9 Detroit Lions schooled the 4-11 San Francisco 49ers 32 to 17 this afternoon making it an impressive 5 wins out the past 7 games since the Lions front office was "reorganized".

Matthew Stafford was 29 of 37 (78.378%) for 301 yards 2 Touchdowns and 0 Interceptions. The TDs were 1 from Joique Bell rushing one from CJ receiving and the first TD ever for T.J. Jones also receiving. The Lions defense allowed 121 yards rushing and 225 yards passing with 2 TDs. Everyone on the Lions had a pretty good game but I have to give Stafford the award for MVP this game and MLB Tulloch the goat award, if I were giving out awards that is. In fact, the only player on defense failing his job interview for next year (via playing out the losing season) is Stephen Tulloch. On offense it's a tie between various member of the offensive line. More on player evaluation in a later blog entry though.

As for coaching, it took DC Austin half the season but he finally has the defense playing fairly decent, the special teams coach has them doing little wrong, and Jim Bob Cooter is doing a phenomenal job at OC after taking over from Lombardi making few rookie OC mistakes and getting the entire O to play quality football, or at least well enough within their limitations. With most of these same players and adding a quality MLB and some OL talent this team would be down right productive. Throw in a left DE, another DB, and some depth here and there and they could easily make some noise in the playoffs... but will the majority of the team stay intact? Will the coaching staff be replaced in mass or kept mostly intact? Who will be the new GM and what will he do with the coaching staff? Will the new GM be able to add the talent needed to put the team over the top or will we begin another period of perpetual rebuild? So many questions and at this point in time, no answers.

The next and final game of the 2015 season will be next Sunday outside against the Chicago Bears. If these coaches can get this team to play solid ball outside away in a losing season that will likely go a long way as far as their own personal resumes. It certainly has been a tale of two halves this year, the half with Lombardi and Mayhew and company, and the half without them in the picture. The 2nd half picture is of pro quality, the other, poor paint-by-number water colors in comparison.

Color me impressed.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

2015 - Week #15 Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints (Monday Night Football)

To do.

The 5-9 Detroit Lions narrowly escaped with a win over the 5-9 New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football this week with a score of 35-27. Matthew Stafford was an astounding 22 of 25 (88%) for 254 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions. Drew Brees was 34 of 52 (65.3846%) for 341 yards and 3 TDs with no interceptions. While both men did a lot for their teams it takes the whole team to win football games and this time the Lions team beat the Saints team, much to the chagrin of draft aficionados. You see, by winning the game the Lions move down in the upcoming 2016 draft selecting later then they otherwise would have. Myself, I want the Lions to win games. You can find good players to pick up anywhere in the draft (and an equal or better number of bad ones) but instilling the will to win is much harder to do.

RB Ameer Abdullah went for 77 yards rushing and 12 yards receiving plus a touchdown while RB Joique Bell was 71 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving plus a touchdown. The Lions were able to establish a run game (finally) and it helped in all facets of the offense. The top receiver (in yards) this game was TE Eric Ebron with 79 yards. Perhaps he too is progressing in his education of what it takes to be successful in the NFL, but there is still much to do.

The Lions are still in need a of GM yet they aren't allowed to talk to members of other front offices until said team is out of their season, that's weeks away yet for many teams and many more for those in the playoffs. Until the GM is decided upon the head coach (Caldwell) won't know if he will remain as HC. Until then, the OC and DC don't know their status and so on for the rest of the coaching staff. Once we know who the coaches are then we can find out what schemes might be implemented, and from there which players on the Lions roster fit those schemes, and which do not. In addition to that, there are preparations for free agency and the before mentioned draft. Yet none of it goes anywhere until the GM is sitting at his desk (unless he already is, the Lions do have a temporary GM in place).

I would love to do more player evaluation but really, until I know which direction everyone should be pointed towards there isn't much to do in that area. I suppose I'll just bide my time watching the Lions win (or lose) their remaining games. Next up, the final home game of 2015 against the San Francisco 49ers on the 27th. Have a Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

2015 - Week #14 Detroit Lions @ St Louis Rams

The end.

The 4-9 Detroit Lions lost to the 5-8 St Louis Rams 14-21 today, ending any talk about making the playoffs for the Lions in 2015 who have taken sole ownership of last place in the NFC. The only score in the first half was by Trumaine Johnson of the Rams who took Stafford's interception back for a TD. Trumaine also held CJ to just one catch for 16 yards, although CJ did run the wrong route twice by my count, probably due to Cooter installing new plays each week as he moves further away from the Lombardi disaster type of offense.

Mathew Stafford was 30 of 46 (65.217%) for 245 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. He wasn't as sharp as he has been in recent games and that helped to improve the Lions draft position (meaning he helped them lose). Casey Keenum was held to almost half that many yards (124) with no TDs and an INT, but the Lions defense allowed 203 yards rushing so it didn't matter. In the end the Rams did just enough to win the game. Well, some would argue, they had a little help from the officiating, which was exceedingly poor this game.

On top of the poor rush defense, the poor Lions offense, the inadequate quarterbacking, and various other head scratching items there was the TE Eric Ebron (3 catches for 27 yards) versus the DT Aaron Donald (3 sacks and 4 tackles) comparison (due to the 2014 draft). A large part of the Donald success in this game was due to the extremely poor offensive line play which while improved from earlier in the year is still a long way from being NFL ready.

We still don't know who the Lions GM will be for next year, and with that we don't know who the coaching staff will be since most new GMs would want a new coaching staff, so it's still going to be hard to talk draft, but that is where we are at this year. Had the Lions continued their short winning streak from a few weeks ago it was possible the interim GM and OC would remain in their positions along with the rest of the coaching staff but now that the Lions are moving the wrong way in the standings the needle is starting to swing into the other direction. I now longer know what to expect at the end of the year as things stand now.

As time permits I will update my salary cap chart and perhaps create a 2016 estimated depth chart so we may begin the slow arduous task of talking "next year" in December of "this year" once again. Welcome to the new version of the same old Lions everyone.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

2015 - Week #13 Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers @ Home on Thursday Night Football


The 4-8 Detroit Lions lost to the 8-4 Green Bay Packers 23-27 due to a successful last minute hail-mary pass with time expired by the Packers. They took an early 17-0 lead in the first quarter but could not put the game away, partially due to going too conservative (on both O and D) and partially due to officiating (though it could have gone in many directions with the various calls and non-calls all game long). Anyway, the Lions are now last in the division, in fact, they are now last in the NFC.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 35 (65.714%) for 220 yards, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Rodgers had exactly one more completion but it was the one that won the game on the final play, so it was relatively important. Most are blaming the head coach Caldwell but I tend to lean towards the DC on this one as Austin definitely had not put in a hail-mary defense... and I suspect he was not overruled by Caldwell, though I could be wrong.

. I waited until the last minute to write this blog as I was out of town Thursday night and then unavailable to do so until now. By last minute I mean the Lions have their week 14 game tomorrow when they play the St Louis Rams. I'm sure the Ebron versus Donald contingent will be in full force so here's hoping that Donald has a quiet day and Ebron does very well, just so I don't have to hear about it for the next 3 or 4 YEARS.

Maybe this game the Lions will attack, both on offense and defense, then actually continue to do so for the rest of the game, because a 3 score lead means nothing if you are going to give up 3 scores in the second half and then a 4th as time expires. No, it would be, as I state on a continual basis, best to attack for a full 60 minutes, or even 60 minutes and 1 second. If you know what I mean.

No amount of talent can beat the other team, the officiating, and then poor coaching on your own team, regardless of how good you are. Having to do so is how you end up last, and last is only good if we're talking about the draft spot in round 1 (meaning you won the superbowl, not traded the pick to move there).

Thursday, November 26, 2015

2015 - Week #12 Detroit Lions vs Philadelphia Eagles @ Home on Thanksgiving Day

Thank you.

The 4-7 Detroit Lions whooped on the 4-7 Philadelphia Eagles 45-14 in an impressive victory on Thanksgiving Day. Considering it was the 2nd game the Lions played (and won) in a 4 day span the fact the Lions came out and played hard, under control, and with proper execution is almost beyond imagining, especially after the way the season started. As a big time Lions fan all I can say is thank you. In the only game being played and nationally televised it's great to not have to hide my Lions apparel for the upcoming weekend. Jim Bob Cooter had the offense making play after play and the Lions defense took the excitement they generated and turned it up another notch.

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 38 (71.05%) for 337 yards and 5 touchdowns with no interceptions and he two runs for another 13 yards on top of that. I understand his passer rating was 137.8 but more importantly, he looked like the QB we have all been expecting for, well, ever. Cooter has the OL blocking better, the offense is once again productive, and the play calling is not predictable nor appearing lost. I still lament the switch from Lombardi to Cooter didn't happen 4 weeks sooner, but thank you for finally making the switch.

Calvin Johnson had 3 touchdowns to go with the one from Theo Riddick and Golden Tate not to mention the one rushing TD from Joique Bell. In total the Lions exceeded 100 yards once again in the run game and spread the catches around to 8 different players. I have no complaints about the play calling, the officiating, the defense, the offense, the QB, any of the coaching, nothing. I feel I should be complaining about something, but in all honesty, I just don't want to. The game was a thing of beauty. I'd rather just lavish in the wonderful feeling it produced.

Next up is another Thursday night game, at home (for the 3rd time in a row), against the Green Bay Packers. Lions fans are going to be hoping for a sweep after the Lions already beat the Packers in Green Bay just 3 weeks ago. After that game the Lions travel to St Louis and then New Orleans, some more tests for the newly revived team (and updated coaching staff). I'm actually looking forward to it. Go Lions, and thank you.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

2015 - Week #11 Detroit Lions vs Oakland Raiders @ Home


The 3-7 Detroit Lions beat the 4-6 Oakland Raiders at home 18-13 despite losing the lead in the 3rd quarter with too many conservative play calls. Once the Lions turned back up the heat they retook the lead and kept it for the win. They now have only 4 days to prepare the entire team for the Thanksgiving day game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 35 (62.857%) for 282 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The Lions even managed to rush for 109 yards if you include Stafford as one of the 5 rushers. More importantly, the defense held Carr to 13 of 25 (52%) for only 169 yards also with no touchdowns or interceptions. There actually was an interception by Diggs but the officials called holding on Lawson (when there was none) and the play was voided. The Lions defense did get a safety in a game that saw no official turnovers lost by either team.

The Raiders gave up one sack while the Lions offensive line gave up 4. Had the Lions drafted better offensive line players and then developed them correctly it's entirely possible the team would've had a winning record this year, well that and had they fired Lombardi and the offensive line coaches much sooner then they did. Still, it's great to see the team winning games once again even though there is basically no chance of them making the playoffs. It means the people who were fired were in fact the correct ones that needed to go. Now it's a matter of getting a GM who can actually improve the team through the draft rather then making the roster worse. Whether that person is already an employee of the Lions or if they go outside the organization remains to be seen, I know where my money is even if it's not what I would want them to do. But if it's not Xanders or White or someone else already working there then perhaps it'll be an experienced qualified individual who can build and sustain a winning team. This year has proven it's more then just the players that are needed to make a team win.

Another aspect of the team that appears to have helped them win games is the benching or replacing of various players that were not producing as expected. At right tackle Michael Ola took over for LeAdrian Waddle in the middle of the first quarter last week and kept the job this week which has helped the OL somewhat. Ola was picked up by the Lions on 10-21 most likely under the recommendation of the current interim GM White (who was in charge of pro-personnel then). Safety Isa Abdul-Quddus has seen the majority of snaps at starting safety over James Ihedigbo which also began last week. Finally, I've been seeing linebacker Tahir Whitehead instead of Travis Lewis though that may be due to injury rather then production. Identifying which players deserve snaps took way too long but it finally happened and it's likely the recent team shakeup (White?) is responsible for this as well.

The more this team wins the more they prove that a complete sweep and rebuild may not be necessary. A new GM is going to want his own coaches and they as a group their own starting QB and so forth. The wins and these other facts make me believe that Mrs Ford and her daughter might keep White in as the GM to see if he can improve the drafting and thus the team without the need of replacing the entire coaching staff and the roster turnover that always follows that type of move. Many fans won't want to hear me say this, but a handful of moves appears to have made this team competitive, it's quite possible the owners will not further upset the apple cart unless things turn back down again. Especially when a simple "salary cap advisor" position (newly created) might solve the remainder of the problems this team has endured lately.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

2015 - Week #10 Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers (Week 9 was the Bye Week)

Not a misprint.

The 2-7 Detroit Lions narrowing beat the 6-3 Green Bay Packers (no, that is not a misprint) in Green Bay for the first time since the year 1991 (no, that is not a misprint either). Matthew Stafford was 24 of 38 (63.157%) for 242 yards 2 TDs and 1 INT. Aaron Rodgers was 35 of 61 (57.377%) for 333 yards 2 TDs and 0 INTs (you guessed it, not a misprint). Nevin Lawson, who was targeted at least 7 times during the game, had got the start for Rashean Mathis who the Lions placed on injured reserve the other day to join teammate Deandre Levy. Appears the Packers game plan consisted of targeting the corner during his first start, and it nearly worked, until he too went out with an injury and the recently signed (as in yesterday) Crezdon Butler took over to prevent the game tying 2 point conversion.

There was plenty of bad during this game, but there was also some good, and I must say the coaching from before the bye to this week did seem to improve at least a little, perhaps the self reflection that likely occurred during the bye week had just enough of an affect to show the problems with the Lions is not 100% on the players but was and is in effect partially and correctly placed also on the coaching staff. A few players received snaps due to injury and during the game RT Waddle was benched in favor of Michael Ola (signed on October 21st) who made some errors but not nearly as many as Waddle had in his limited play. I expect the Lions will be trying out a number of different players along the offensive line as they work towards trying to find out what they have before this upcoming off season.

The moves and try outs on the OL won't be the only changes though, out of necessity the defense will be getting new looks as well, primarily due to more injuries, but also due to some players not producing as they should. I would have loved to have heard all the discussions that happened during the bye week that got the entire team to turn things around (at least for one game) and to get the win at Lambeau Field (I swear, no, that is not a misprint).

Next Sunday the Lions host the Oakland Raiders then 4 days later they host the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving day. I'm not predicting wins for the Lions at either game but I will take more all out play by whoever is healthy enough to take the field. I also rather enjoyed the slightly improved coaching, may it too continue. While some fans feel the Lions should lose all their games just to make sure the front office is cleaned out and they get the 1st overall pick in the draft, I am not of that camp. Never settle, never quit, never stop trying to win. It's a culture the Lions need to instill in their team regardless of who is in charge.

At present the Minnesota Vikings are leading the division (no, that is not a misprint) and I'm pleased the Lions were able to prevent the Packers from sharing that spot with them. May they continue to play the spoiler this year as much as possible.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

2015 - Week #8 Detroit Lions vs Kansas City Chiefs in England


The 1-7 Detroit Lions lose this one to the 3-5 Kansas City Chiefs 10-45 while playing in England proving the roster built by Martin Mayhew is the underlying problem with the 2015 Lions just as much as the coaching, if not more so.

After the Lions loss last week the Lions fired their OC Joe Lombardi and two OL coaches. Despite having their coaches fired the offensive line still did not improve their quality of play allowing sacks and pressure throughout the game. That's not to say there wasn't issues with the coaching as there was, but it most certainly wasn't the ONLY problem with the team. Just like Matthew Stafford's inability to recognize blitzes isn't the only problem at QB, or Ebron and Calvin Johnson's drops aren't their only problems at WR. Now the new OC has had almost no time to affect any major changes to the offense since he's only been on the job 6 days and much of that was taken up traveling to England and preparing for the Chiefs game in a foreign country... but the coaching changes most assuredly did not light a fire under the under-performing roster, it merely removed the problems that those coaches were adding to the mix.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 36 (61.11%) for 217 yards a touchdown and two interceptions (though one was delivered and almost caught before deflecting the pass into the waiting defenders hands, a stat that shouldn't fall on the QB but does for all QBs in the league). Stafford was also seeing ghosts, that is, feeling pressure that was not there because of all the times there was actually pressure. In addition to this, the Lions wanted to run the ball at least 25 times this game, but managed only 14 (one by Stafford himself) for 81 yards total. Much of the above issues, in fact much of the problems on offense period, is the offensive line. It's just not the only problem.

On defense the Lions allowed 20 completions (out of 28 attempts) for only 149 yards but two touchdowns and got no interceptions. In fact, the defense got no turnovers of any kind. They also allowed 4 rushing touchdowns by four different players along with 206 yards. This is the same DC who's run defense was one of the best in the league just last year. One major problem of course is that WLB Levy is and has been injured for most of the season... plus the DL isn't causing as much pressure as they did when Suh and company were on the team, but that doesn't mean you can just give up. I'm not saying the players are giving up, but they sure are giving up points, yards, and helping opposing teams with untimely penalties. No one on the team seems to have any answers for any of these problems either.

I do not see how Martin Mayhew can possibly salvage his GM job with the Lions after this 1-7 start, nor do I see much that he (or anyone else for that matter) could do to correct things as they currently stand. When a GM is fired the new guy typically wants his own coaching staff, and I think the Lions coaching staff can see the writing on the wall. The players who have 8 more games of pain to play through having basically no chance of making the playoffs need to dig deep to find some pride to play for (as well as their own jobs). When a team has this many problems spread throughout the entire organization there is little hope of a bright future, but as they say on broadway, the show must go on. Perhaps during this upcoming bye week the Lions players, coaches and front office can make a few corrections that help things, perhaps these will help other things instead of having an opposite negative domino affect, but personally I am not holding my breath. The time to build a solid team was prior to August, not November. This is the hand that has been dealt, and no amount of bluffing is going to fix the problems... it just would be nice if they could fix A problem here and A problem there, like they did last week by replacing several on the coaching staff. What these new moves might be, or what problems they may still be able to correct, is hard to say. No one has exactly shown they can identify or correct much of anything so far this year. Myself, I would start by actually coaching the players on the roster even though it'll probably benefit the next coaching staff and not the current, just so they can have it on their resume.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

2015 - Week #7 Detroit Lions vs Minnesota Vikings @ Home


The 1-6 Detroit Lions lost to the 4-2 Minnesota Vikings 19-28. Matthew Stafford was 18 of 26 (69.23%) for 256 yards 2 TDs and 0 INTs. The Lions led at the end of the first quarter 14-3 and both the offense and the defense looked pretty good and then like a switch was flipped both the O and the D couldn't do anything right. It was, in a word a... nightmare.

It would seem that when pressed the entire team has a problem with focus, and thus execution. I'm not just talking the players either, the coaching staff appear to be unable to handle in game adjustments or to find counter moves that work. The inability of the players to recognize blitzes, the inability of the coaching staff to find ways to slow blitzing down, and the inability of the coaching staff to keep pressure on opposing offenses by blitzing is like a broken record. Every game there is multiple breakdowns by multiple players and multiple "interesting" coaching decisions. In the world of NFL football this constitutes a nightmare, especially since it keeps happening.

Golden Tate has the body language of someone who hates his job, or maybe it's someone period. When the running game gets going well the team starts getting pass happy. There is not one aspect of the team that is functioning well. What is really odd is that the offense, sans two (considered not so great) offensive lineman are the same players as last year and the defense, sans two defensive lineman, are also the same players, and on both sides it's the same coaches and supposedly the same scheme. The entire coaching staff was brought in to win now and after going 11-5 last year it looked like they knew what they were doing. This year they continually say the players aren't executing the plays... yet they said a year and a half ago (and they were supposed to) tailor the plays/schemes to the players' abilities. How if you have tailored the playbook to the players' abilities are they suddenly a year later incapable of executing the plays they are best at? It's mind boggling. It can't be real. Someone is feeding us a line of bull. So let's see if we can't clarify it.

If the players can't execute the plays then either they are not being coached correctly or they shouldn't be on the roster. One shows a coaching issue, the other a front office issue. If the playbook is the issue it's a coaching issue... the coaching staff the front office hired and has not fired. If the problem is Matthew Stafford as some fans suggest then the playbook/scheme/play calling is NOT tailored to fit his strengths and thus a coaching issue. If Matthew Stafford is simply not a good QB then the front office has two issues, their starting QB and their lack of quality backup with no one being developed for the future. If the issue is Stafford calling the OL blocking schemes then either the schemes suck or Stafford sucks at it. If that is it then why is he still doing the calling? Why isn't someone else doing that? Why hasn't he been properly instructed on how to do it correctly? Why is it after 7 games still an issue? In fact, no matter what issue you point to, no matter which side of the ball, it comes down to "why is it still an issue after 7 weeks in year 2?" and that points to the coaches... and since the coaches are still coaching THAT points to the front office.

Our nightmare deserves to be shared, identify the culprit and fire him. If it's not a him then it's a them. Fire them. If the person in charge of firing won't do the firing, fire him. Etc. Sooner or later you'll get the right one. Since new front offices will want new coaches, and since new coaches will likely want a new QB, and since the Lions will have a lot of cap space in 2016 and a lot of draft picks, and a high draft pick in round one... this is the perfect time to start over. You don't have to wait until the end of the season. Wake up, end the nightmare, start handing out pink slips like they are candy... and don't let up until you get all those that are creating or have created this problem. The problem? 1 and 6 in the first 7 games following a 11 win season. Focus on that and nothing else. Do not listen to the bull they are giving out. Do not believe they know what is wrong, for unless it involves a mirror they are probably wrong. I realize it's a nightmare in its self to start over again from the top on down, but if the tower you built is falling over you don't have much of a choice. Get a new architect, a new contractor, use better materials, and stop the bleeding.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015 - Week #6 Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears @ Home


The 1-5 Detroit Lions beat the 2-4 Chicago Bears at home 37-34 in overtime with just under 3 minutes to go giving the Lions their very first win of the 2015 season. It wasn't a great win, not dominating in any regard, but it wasn't a loss either, it was, in a word, okay.

Mathew Stafford was 27 of 42 (64.29%) for 405 yards 4 touchdowns and 1 interception. More importantly, the Lions managed 155 yards running even though Bell was inactive and Ameer Abdullah spent a lot of the game on the bench after losing yet another fumble earlier in the game. Zach Zenner who looked good in his reps in the 1st quarter also left due to injury. The second leading rusher was Stafford with 38 yards on 6 plays. Overall there were fewer errors in the game in blocking, passing, catching, and so forth but the defense allowed a FG game tying drive in the final 21 seconds of the 4th quarter to let the game go into overtime. Coaching was at times good, and other times exceptionally questionable, but in the end they won and that makes it okay. One change of note was the QB coach was on the sidelines while Lombardi the OC was up in the box... a move that seems to have helped.

The Lions play at home next week against the Vikings and the week after in London against the Chiefs before their bye. Both are winnable games but they will have to do much better then just okay. There is a chance now that the coaches are at least starting to move the team in the right direction (no idea why it took them 6 weeks plus 4 weeks of preseason though) and the players are beginning to execute at least some plays with precision, but that's a long way from saying they have it all figured out. We are only 3 losses away from talking 2016 draft, I had expected after today for it to be only 2 more weeks, but that's okay, I'm really not ready to talk draft just yet.

In fact, I'm not ready to discuss salary cap space, free agency, new front office personnel, or a new coaching staff either but had the Lions lost today I certainly would have at least been going off on a large part of the latter. I'm fairly certain I will eventually but this win gives me (and everyone else) at least another week or two. Can the coaching staff continue to fix themselves while they also implement weekly game plans for the players they have healthy enough to play? Are they willing to even admit they are a part of the problem, even if it's not public? I suppose that will be the question each week for the foreseeable future. One we won't get an answer to but only the results of, and if they can find a way to win games then they too know they will be okay.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

2015 - Week #5 Detroit Lions vs Arizona Cardinals @ Home


The 0-5 Detroit Lions lost to the 4-1 Arizona Cardinals 17-42 in their 2nd home game of the season. The sheer number of turnovers that occurred during the game was nothing short of amazing. Lions gave up 6 of them. Stafford had 2 interceptions before half time when he was apparently told by head coach Caldwell that if he threw another he would be benched. Half way through the 3rd quarter he did and he was. What kind of head coach tells his starting quarterback during the game if he throws another INT he'll be benched? One that is clueless, that's what kind.

This coaching staff was brought in last year to "win now" and last year they did a fairly good job of it until the playoff loss... but this year they suddenly find themselves with a team that is playing like they are lost, or clueless, as to what they need or can do. So instead of fitting the scheme and plays to the players they are blaming the players for not executing the plays and scheme. That is NOT what they said they would be doing. That is NOT what they are supposed to be doing. That is NOT going to put the players in a position to win games, as evidenced by the 0-5 start.

Matthew Stafford was 20 of 32 (62.5%) for 188 yards 1 TD and 3 INTs. Dan Orlovsky was 21 of 38 (55.26%) for 191 yards also with 1 TD and 1 INT. Meanwhile Carson Palmer needed only 11 completions on 14 attempts for 161 yards and 3 TDs (with no interceptions). Yet the Lions coaching staff appear to think it's Staffords fault they were losing the game. Now don't get me wrong, Stafford has plenty of things he could do better. That said, poor tackling, poor blocking, poor play by almost every one on the team including the quarterback can't be all on the players. If the plays are not executable by the guys on the field (but other plays are) who's fault is it, the players or the coaches? Since the coaching staff seems to think it's not them, this is going to go nowhere fast.

Stafford wasn't the only player benched, earlier in the game Ameer Abdullah was benched after his second fumble. That one I can understand, as long as ball security is the point being made and this doesn't permanently put Ameer in the doghouse. Of course, if you are going to draft a running back with small hands you are going to have a player who fumbles from time to time, it's what happens. Now it could be said that Stafford was also benched for ball security issues and for showing the team that you're not playing favorites, I just don't agree that telling the QB during the game he will be benched if he does it again is the right way to go about coaching. Playing afraid isn't putting the players into a position to win, or even try hard. To me, this shows the coaching staff has or is about to lose the players. They certainly are losing the fans. Unlike the coaching staff, the fans are not clueless.

Monday, October 5, 2015

2015 - Week #4 Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks


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

Only one team has ever made the playoffs after starting out 0-4, and that was in 1992. It's been awhile since the Lions have lost their season before it ever began. 2008 in fact. When Matt Millen and Marinelli and all of the rest of the 0-16 season criminals were fired. I'm fairly sure this is not what was meant when the current group was hired to "win now". Yeah, this game had a fluke finish as many a Lions game does, but in the end the Lions still lost.

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

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

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

2015 Week #2 - Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings


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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 13, 2015

2015 Week #1 - Detroit Lions at San Diego Chargers

Who's to Blame?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Detroit Lions final 53 for 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Estimated Charts for the Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 4, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - the after math.

I have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the draft overall, the players the Lions drafted, the undrafted players they signed or have at least invited to their rookie camp, and my own emotions which were run through the ringer throughout this draft... and have come to this conclusion... I'm still very happy and very upset with this draft. Those two things really don't work well together so apparently time and observation is the only way I can fix me.

As for the draft, the positives and negatives, I've pretty much said what I wanted to say but will recap and/or perhaps add to what I wrote before if there is a tidbit to add. First I've read a ton of "grades" on this draft and the Lions have scored anywhere from an A+ to a C- ... but it's 3 years too early to grade this draft for me to do that. Second, the Lions definitely ranked the players in this draft but then narrowed it down to a much much smaller list first by making it mandatory the player be an upright, intelligent, hard working young man then by producing an even smaller list of players for each position they wanted to fill. They had a plan. They implemented it and are quite happy with the results. The rest of us will agree with them only if it turns out they were correct more often then not with who they selected. It's hard for me to like the results because it seemed every pick had some kind of issue that bothered me.

For example; in round one they selected offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (Duke) with the 28th pick after trading down five spots. I love that they traded down. I love that they acquired Manny Ramirez plus the 2015 5th round pick and the 2016 fifth round pick, and I'm happy they filled the starting guard spot. I even like a lot of the things I've seen and read about Laken... and most of his negatives are things the coaching staff can work on to make him even better. I understand many had him ranked as the best pure guard in the draft. But I would never draft a guard in the first round. Probably not in the 2nd round either. But that's just me, well no, it's not, it's a lot of people, the majority in fact... still, they got more then just a guard, they got perhaps the best one, and two draft picks, and perhaps a starting center too. Call me torn.

In round 2 the Lions select another needed position, running back Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) with the 54th pick. If you want to know what I like about him just read the positives at draftinsiders (it's free) and if you want to see why I don't like the pick read the negatives (hint: small hands). They didn't draft him because of need, it wasn't a reach, he was actually ranked at this spot or slightly above it... they had more then one RB on their RB card... this was the top one though, I'm sure of that. Some of the moves I've seen remind me of one Barry Sanders, not all of them, but some. Watch some video on him, especially in the open field and one-on-one. One other tidbit, Ameer got MVP of the Senior Bowl and one of his blockers in that game was Laken. Still, I never ever draft a player with hands smaller then 9.5" because they tend to fumble.

In round 3 the Lions select cornerback Alex Carter (Stanford) with the 80th pick. I like everything I read about Alex especially by NDT... most sites had Alex ranked higher then he was drafted at, meaning he was decent value here too. He will have a year or two (hopefully) to learn and slowly get more and more reps to eventually take over for Mathis when that time comes. So what's my problem here? The Lions were supposed to pick at 88 but felt the need to trade away their newly acquired high 5th round pick from Denver to move up 8 spots. They used two picks to get one player. That is another thing I would never do, ever. Got two picks, get two players, or more if you can move down and it makes sense to. I assume the Lions felt they couldn't afford to lose Alex to another team, and maybe they even felt someone was about to pull the trigger... or maybe they just got nervous, maybe he was the last CB on their CB card of desirable choices. Fairly sure it was one or the other, I haven't come up with a third reason to move up.

Round 4 starts and as most know the Lions traded a 3rd from 2016 to get the 4th round pick, they then selected DT Gabe Wright (Auburn) at 113. Many sites had Gabe ranked as a 3rd rounder already, and I'm sure the Lions felt there was no way he'd make it to the 5th round, plus they didn't have to use up additional picks to move up, and Gabe does appear to be a player who can help the defensive tackle rotation this and in future years... the only way this pick sucks is if he fails to be worth a 3rd round pick. Yes it sucks losing a 3rd round pick next year, but... but if Gabe is worth it then he is worth it. Some NFL diet and weight room work along with coaching and this could easily be a great player, but was it a great move? It is if he turns out... it's just that it's... risky.

Round 5 gets near the end to where the Lions are sitting and they select FB Michael Burton (Rutgers) at 168 overall. I knew the Lions were going to take a fullback and I knew it would be one who has the hands to catch passes... but this is the 5th round, not the 7th. Fullbacks don't hardly ever get a profile created for them by most sites because they end up undrafted or if a team wants to make sure they get their guy they take him in round 7. Typically. The Lions though pull the trigger in round 5. Yes, he'll likely be the starting fullback, but round 5?!?!? Ouch.

When the Lions selected Nickel CB Quandre Diggs (Texas) in round 6 with pick 200 I had not realized that current nickel CB Lawson has a dislocated foot that is not yet healed up and their other nickel CB Bentley went out last year with an ACL that takes time to heal, usually 10 months or so. Now that I do this pick makes more sense, they must of had a card with a number of nickel corners on it and picked the highest ranked one still available in this round. Oh, and his older brother (by 12 years) is one Quentin Jammer, the player the Lions passed up to draft Joey Harrington. The only issue I had with this pick and still do have is that he is barely 5' 9" tall... he's going to have to really be special to be able to do anything being that short in the NFL backfield.

Round 7 and the Lions finally draft the right tackle I thought they would take in round 1... no not the same guy but that position... anyway they took T Corey Robinson (South Carolina) who actually had a couple of 5th round grades, great value at this pick in my opinion. So what issue do I have with this pick? Nothing really, other then in round 7 that is when you draft your fullback, in round 5 that would work for a guard, round 1... the offensive tackle. Okay, so this way may also work out, there is nothing to say it won't, it's just a lot riskier this way.

The draft ends and the Lions start being connected with undrafted players, they are:
TE Casey Pierce (Kent State)
RB Zach Zenner (South Dakota State)
G Torrian Wilson (UCF)
QB Anthony Boone (Duke)
S Isaiah Johnson (Georgia Tech)
K Kyle Brindza (Notre Dame)
G Al Bond (Memphis)
WR Vernon Johnson (Texas A&M-Commerce)
LB Kevin Snyder (Rutgers)
DB Delonte Hollowell (Michigan)
RB Rasheed Williams (Alfred State)
S Brian Suite (Utah State)
S Nathan Lindsey (Fort Hays State)
WR Marcus Beaurem (Tiffin)

For once I have got no issues with Mayhew and the Lions. I like many of these prospects, even predicted that the Lions would sign the kicker Kyle Brindza before the draft started. Some other things of note... TE Casey Pierce had a solid 7th round grade who has great hands and blocking ability. If any of the 3 TEs the Lions plan to start get hurt this dude makes the roster (or so I predict today). RB Zach Zenner also had a very productive college career and most thought he'd be drafted but he wasn't, he'll push for a roster spot. G Torrian Wilson has a 6th/7th round grade and many are surprised he was not drafted, keep an eye on this guy. QB Anthony Boone also had a 6th/7th round grade but if the Lions treat him like the recent past 4th arms in camp he'll never play a down in preseason and will end up on the practice squad. S Isaiah Johnson just missed having a 7th round grade and could push for a roster spot. Kyle is the camp kicker this year while G Al Bond, WR Vernon Johnson, and LB Kevin Snyder will all likely end up on the practice squad this year and will get 2 years to break onto the final roster (this year and next). The other small school guys I have almost no info on, they weren't ranked at all by anyone so far that I've seen, but that doesn't mean they aren't talented just that they went to a small school so no one knows them and never wrote anything up on them.

The Lions filled all the holes on their roster or so it would seem, it is certainly one of the most talented rosters I've seen them field since 1991... which means this could be a very interesting season. Too early to go there yet though. A lot of risks were taken in this draft and it'll be a minor miracle if all of them pan out. Doesn't mean it won't, just that risk is a risk, and gamblers sometimes lose.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - Rounds 4 - 7

The Lions had no 4th round draft pick due to the trade for Ngata but that didn't stop Mayhew, he simply traded a 3rd from next year for a 4th this year with the Philadelphia Eagles. It appears the Lions will be receiving a 3rd round comp pick next year for losing Suh and that one can not be traded, so that one they will use next year to draft in the 3rd round, but their normal one can and was traded... so they could draft Defensive Tackle Gabe Wright from Auburn. He is the 4th (and final) player selected to be on the Lions contact list.

4th round pick DT Gabe Wright (Auburn) is 6' 2 5/8" tall and weighs in at 300 pounds. He's 1 3/8" shorter then the proto-typical DT, about 11 pounds light, and has arms 2 1/4" shorter then ideal. He was a team captain and gives all he has when he plays. He has great first step quickness and should be a rotational pass rush DT in the Lions 4-3 defensive line. I had him ranked at 103, NDT has him at 169, and Optimum Scouting has him at 97. He pursues plays and plays to the whistle every snap. Has big strong hands but doesn't get a lot of vertical height on his jumps. He was forced to play a lot of DE due to injury but DT is his natural position. He is comparable to Jordan Hill. He will need an NFL diet and gym time and to improve on his run defense before seeing more snaps then only on obvious passing downs.

The Lions had also traded away their original 5th round pick in the Ngata trade, then received one from Denver in the trade in round 1 with them, then lost that one when trading up in round 3. Prior to that the Lions were losing DE George Johnson to Tampa Bay Bucaneers due to them signing him to a restricted free agent offer the Lions weren't going to match, but instead of risking losing him in arbitration the bucs traded their 5th to the Lions for their 7th, giving the Lions the 168th pick (#32 in round 5).

5th round pick FB Michael Burton (Rutgers) is 5'11" tall and weighs in at 242 pounds. Neither NDT nor Optimum Scouting did a profile on Burton. I had him ranked at 460, or as an undrafted free agent. I fully expected the Lions to pick up a full back in the draft, in the 7th round, to make sure they got the one they wanted, instead of waiting until after the draft. I never expected them to do it in the 5th round. I'm also a little surprised the one they wanted is only 242 pounds and has very little college production running the ball, though he does catch well. A pass catching TE slash FB was exactly what I was expecting so perhaps they plan to beef ole Michael up with an NFL diet and gym room, not sure. He can run the 40 in 4.74 and did 25 reps so he has a good start to an NFL career at fullback. He is expected to contribute to special teams, but then ALL fullbacks should. Taking an undrafted ranked player in round 5 is usually not the best way to handle your draft however, especially one who is undersized, so we will see if he's worth this investment.

Continuing on with this interesting draft the Lions stayed put at pick #200 and made their selection, a nickel back (not talking about the musical group) who is also very much undersized. Assuming that the Lions current nickel is injured and may not play right away if at all this year, the position to fill makes some since, so what's with this player?

6th round pick CB Quandre Diggs (Texas) is 5' 9" if you bend your ruler a little and weighs in at 196 pounds, a bit stout for that height. NDT ranked him at 150, I had him at 207, and Optimum Scouting is at 142... not bad for pick 200. He can blitz, play cover, kick and punt return, but won't be able to man up as a starting corner, ever. He too was a team captain, is smart, and has good instincts. I like everything about him, if he was 3" taller.

The Lions also kept their 7th round pick after gaining one and losing the same one in trades. In the end they finally drafted their offensive tackle with the 240th pick.

7th round pick OT Corey Robinson (South Carolina) is 6' 7" tall and weighs in at 324 pounds. I had him ranked at 198, 9 spots ahead of their 6th round pick. Optimum Scouting has him at 138 and NDT is at 145... so two 5th round grades and a 6th. Corey is 1" taller then proto-typical, 4 pounds heavier, and arms are .63" longer. So nothing wrong there. NDT calls him a massive power player who's frame may be a hindrance and will be needing a lot of polish to overcome his size. His experience is at left tackle but is going to prove too slow for LT and will likely end up starting as a backup RT in the NFL. If he can't improve his kick-slide and speed with a bit less weight and coaching he may be moved into the inside. In a word, he's a Prospect.

There are a lot of positives in this draft, both overall and with individual players. BUT. There are some negatives too, more then I prefer. It could work out, it could flop, it's such a toss up I'm not sure if I like it or not. I'm going to have to sulk, I mean think, on this some more, do more research, read what others are saying, find out about the undrafted signees, then report back with another blog entry. This is just too much to absorb all at once.

Hope you had a happy draft day (ala 3 days) also known as the annual Lions superbowl. Shame it's not the crueling weekend long event it used to be but this format has it's pluses and minuses too. Kind of like the Lions draft. Think I'll pour myself a drink and contemplate life for awhile, then dig in some more for further analysis. Aloha.

Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - Rounds 2 and 3

The not particularly ideal Lions draft continues on night two with the drafting of running back Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska with the 54th pick and then after trading up (and losing the 5th round pick they got from the 1st round trade) they select corner back (or maybe he's a safety) Alex Carter from Stanford with the 80th pick.

Why am I not entirely happy with the draft so far? Let's take them one round at a time. I had running back Ameer Abdullah ranked 60th on my board so he wasn't a reach per se as far as I am concerned, though NDT Scouting had him ranked as the 124th player on their board and Optimum Scouting had him ranked 77th overall. I had Ameer ranked as the 5th best RB in the draft, whereas NDT had him 13th and Opt S had him 8th. My main issue with the pick is hand size. A prototypical running back has a hand measurement of at least 9" (I prefer 9.5" myself), the reason for this is fumbles during the game and drops in the passing game. The bigger the hand size the better, typically. Some backs do overcome this but most have issues. Ameer's hand size is 8.38". He would not have even been on my draft board, period, regardless of how high I had him "ranked". Now there is plenty to like about him, he was a team captain, he was very productive with the cornhuskers, and he has very good agility, a nice burst (though he's not fast), he's decisive and he plays on special teams. He's only a bit over 5' 8" tall but weighs in at 198 pounds, which is not big unless you happen to be 3" shorter then a proto-typical running back. He will have issues doing blitz pickups, but will be a weapon running from the slot position. He will be able to hide behind the now larger OLine and spit out to the side taking the defenses by surprise. He has great vision and can juke his way around a lot of defenders when in the open. He had a fantastic Senior Bowl and made MVP. He might be your modern day Warrick Dunn if he can get some NFL gym time and good coaching. He may also fumble the ball at the worst possible times or get the QB killed by not picking up a blitz when he has to. This is not exactly the type of player I would target with my 2nd round pick but at least he ranked 4 spots better on my draft board then the Lions first round pick. Oh, and yes, he was on the Lions contact list.

In the third round the Lions were set to draft at pick #88 and a lot of the talent I would've liked them to take with their pick was falling to them... when suddenly they felt the need to trade away that high 5th round draft pick they got in round 1 from the Broncos to move up 8 spots to the 80th pick and select Cornerback Alex Carter who was 71st on my board. NDT had him at 24th (early 2nd round grade) and Optimum Scouting at 100 even (4th round grade). There was a whole lot of talent that was skipped in order to trade up 8 spots for Corner that Opt S and Huddle Report both didn't even bother doing a profile on. NDT did and apparently liked what they saw, the info I get is this: he's 6' tall and 196 pounds (basically my twin in height and weight). His hands measure 9.13" so perhaps interceptions are in his future. In fact, his measurements are what you look for in a corner. He went to Stanford so he's intelligent. He got high scores for measurements, talent, and leadership, but low scores for production. Perhaps he was used wrong. NDT commends him for his press man coverage abilities and though he lacks elite speed figures he can challenge any WR for a defense that employs man coverage (which the Lions do). Some question he may be a safety in the NFL but the Lions plan to use him outside at corner, so Mathis' protege. Was he worth both a 3rd round and a 5th round pick? I'm not quite as sure about that just yet.

I confess, when I started typing this blog I was still upset about the missed opportunities to take players I felt the Lions should have taken instead of who they did. After digging deeper in order to write this though I find that I'm just a little bit curious about what Alex Carter can do at corner in the future. I guess I can thank NDT for helping me sleep tonight. On the other hand Ameer Abdullah has so many pluses and minuses I don't know what to think, if he was a 4th rounder or later I'd be thrilled to have this part time weapon on the team... but I ranked him in the 2nd round, he was taken in the 2nd round, and so I shouldn't be upset... yet I'm still very nervous... I personally would never ever draft a running back with small hands. Ever. The Lions did and now I have to wait and see if he can overcome this product of his DNA. Oh, and Alex was also on the Lions contact list.

According to my board; the Lions have drafted the 64th, 60th and 71st ranked players, in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively. They gained Manny Ramirez for at least a year to either start at center or if needed, guard... or if the youth beats him out he will back up those positions, either way he will mentor the young guys during camp. The Lions gained a 5th round pick in 2016. They had gained a 5th rounder for 2015 as well but then used it up to get Alex Carter. They drafted a guard in round 1, which is something I would never do, but got more then just that from the move... including according to many the best pure guard in the entire draft. They got a very productive, agile, 3rd down back with small hands who is too small to pick up blitzes but can take it to the house if he gets some one-on-one routes going. They got a press man corner to coach up to be the eventual starter. I can't decide if I want to be happy, upset, interested or depressed. I do know this is not how I would have done the draft, but that doesn't mean they are wrong and I would've been right. Guess I need to sleep on it, maybe more then one sleep.

There is one more day to go in this year's draft. They no longer need a guard, or a running back, or a corner. They still could use a defensive tackle, or a right offensive tackle, and a fullback, and a fourth quarterback for camp, plus any other camp bodies they can acquire... so Saturday still holds some intrigue, but if it falls the way the first two nights of the draft have I may still cringe and type while trying to both cry and smile at the same time for a third night writing tomorrow nights blog.

Do I sound unsure? uncertain? dazed perhaps? happily depressed? The only thing that is going to cure me is if the good Mayhew shows up tomorrow instead of the bad Mayhew... if you know what I mean.

2015 NFL Draft - Round 1

With the 28th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select... Guard Laken Tomlinson from Duke...

Hold on... the 28th pick? Did you think they were supposed to draft 23rd? Well they were supposed to, until Martin Mayhew managed to seal the deal on the second (and only other) trade in the first round. The Lions traded away pick #23 to move down 5 spots to pick #28 and also got a fifth round (#143 overall) pick in this draft AND a fifth round pick from Denver in 2016 AND they also got starting center Manny Ramirez, a former 4th round Lions draft pick, who has one year left on his contract and is 32 years old. Most are saying he'll be the backup to Swanson, last year's 3rd round pick, but I believe ManRam will win the starting job for 2015 while Swanson continues to get stronger and learns from the vet... a situation that may continue beyond 2015. Of course, I'm biased, as I'm still not thrilled with the Swanson pick from last year. But you got to admit with Tomlinson (6'3" 323lbs) at LG, ManRam at C, and Warford at RG, the interior of the OLine would be quite formidable.

So I'm happy with the selection of a guard in the first round? No, not exactly. I don't hate it, and the Lions did in fact pick up a great deal of bonus with the trade, but Laken Tomlinson still was ranked as a 2nd round pick by me, the most recent 6 sites I checked with, and many others as well. Still, it's entirely possible that the Lions snagged two starting offensive line players with one first round pick, along with 2 extra draft picks... and that's not all bad. In fact, the more I think about it, and the more I look into it, and then after hearing why the Lions couldn't wait until round 2 to make this draft selection (apparently the Patriots were all set to draft him at 32), I start to like it more and more. I may even grow to love it, depending on how the rest of the draft goes.

Optimum Scouting's guide (a paid subscription) ranks Laken at 39, which is the best I've found so far. Taking him at 28 isn't all that bad when you add in the extra 5th for this year, the extra 5th next year, AND Manny. For that matter, Optimum Scouting had Laken as their top Guard, none better. The next best had a 3rd round grade. That's quite a gap. So I looked into it more... Laken benched 25 times (means he's strong)... started 52 straight games at RG (means he's durable)... is extremely smart with not one but two degrees and is considered to be a first class person with a huge work ethic (the coaches will love that). He has an NFL body and if he can make the switch to LG easily enough will be a dominant run blocker in the NFL.

My NDT guide (another paid subscription) says Laken was a team captain, had a great senior bowl, and ranked him 59th overall with zero red flags and zero injury concerns. His score placed him in the 2nd round as a reliable starter. Of course, as I said, he wasn't likely going to drop into the 2nd round as the Patriots were reported to be set to draft him at 32.

I decided to read up on Laken at Huddle Report too (my other paid subscription) since those of you reading this can find for yourself the free sites with their profiles, the first sentence there reads "Laken is one of the best pulling guards in this draft" which is certainly a good thing, no, a great thing. Drew goes on to say "if he can just learn better in-line blocking techniques he could become an excellent left guard" ... now this was written in March and Drew had no clue who would be drafting him. He does warn that whoever his coaches end up being they will need to help mold Laken into the job but he believes the talent is there, hidden, waiting for a coach to find it... or some such comment as that.

So here you have a classy dude, smart, hard working, strong, able to do the hard things but needs some coaching to get up to NFL standards doing things that are teachable while he already does the things you can't teach. He "fits the suit" of guard, is already a good run blocker, and has kept his QB clean in college. Not a bad option to draft... considering the Lions other options for OL were either taken or are having some legal issues at this point in time.

I predicted the Lions would go OL in round 1, but I also thought it would be a RT, alas that was not to be. Still, most all the potential defensive tackles I said the Lions might take in round one instead of OL are still available... and they still have a large contingent of options coming up. Laken was indeed on the contact list, but by my count right now the Lions have 21 contacted players on the list available to draft and ALL of them are ranked below pick 65 on my board. Obviously their board looks different then mine, but that's a lot of options in any draft, more then I've ever seen before. I've no idea who they will take but I'm still of the mind that DT might be very likely.

I'll have more on Laken and the other draft picks later... enjoy day 2 of the NFL draft and I'll catch you all up after it's over.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The 2015 Detroit Lions Draft (Mock Scenarios)

The 2015 NFL draft is starting tomorrow night (or if you are reading this on Thursday, it starts tonight). So how will they actually do, who will they actually select? No one really has any idea. In fact, the Lions themselves have mocked it multiple times to be prepared for however the draft may fall yet by sitting at pick number 23 they won't have hit on the correct one even now... there are just too many scenarios that could play out, not just 23, since someone could (and likely will) trade into the first round above them to really throw a wrench into it. The only scenario I hope they skipped out of was trading up, I fail to see how giving away picks can make you a better team if you are trying to build your team through the draft, which the Lions are supposedly trying to do.

Since the Lions do not know who they will pick yet it's nigh on impossible for me to do it for them. But I will try anyway, because it's fun. Because I have all this time into it anyway so why not. Because, who knows, maybe I'm even right! So first I resist all temptation to move up in the draft to target a player, then when on the clock I listen to all offers to see if anyone else is crazy enough to want to move up to be able to get a good deal and trade down, garnering more picks. If there is no solid (or better) offer I make the selection... and that would be:

RT/G/LT La'el Collins from LSU. He's the 14th ranked player on my board and still available because of a police investigation that the police have stated does not include him as a suspect (heard they wanted him for maternity evaluation). He chose to leave Chicago and his one chance in life of being on TV for the draft to do what the police requested of him. Between what the police stated, how he handled this matter, and all previous contact with him most doubts are squashed and the selection is made. Now of course that's what I would do if he was still undrafted, what the Lions actually do is possibly another matter, the top 5 possibilities here are (of course, this is in my opinion):

RB Melvin (Mel) Gordon - Wisconsin
DT Arik Armstead - Oregon
DT Eddie Goldman - Florida State
OT T.J. Clemmings - Pittsburgh
RB Todd Gurley - Georgia

Mainly because these 3 will already be gone:
DT Malcom Brown - Texas
WR DeVante Parker - Louisville
OT La'el Collins - LSU

and these two are not on the contact list, of course that could mean we just missed them or that the Lions didn't want to tip anyone off by being caught contacting them:

C Cameron Erving - Florida State
OT Ereck Flowers - Miami (Fla.)

Why is it important to be on the contact list? Because in the past most draft picks were, not always, but most of the time.

Any of these options will make the team better. Some even fill an important need. All could easily find a roster spot. So any of them are indeed possible unless there is a trade down, and even then some of them are still possible.

Okay, now it's Friday and round 2 begins. Assuming someone that will play on the offensive line was taken on Thursday night then in the 2nd round we can look at all positions other then that. My selection for the Lions, if the phones don't ring, would now be:

DT Michael Bennett - Ohio State. Ranked 52nd on my big board, fills a definite need, is unlikely to have his equal be available later in the draft, and is ranked as a possible first round option by some of the scouts. In other words, he would play a lot of snaps during his rookie year while he learns the NFL game.

Who else might the Lions select instead, or in case Michael is already on another team? The contact list and my big board would include these players:

DT Jordan Phillips - Oklahoma
DE Preston Smith - Mississippi State
OT D.J. Humphries - Florida
DT Carl Davis - Iowa
DE Nate Orchard - Utah
RB Jay Ajayi - Boise State
CB/S Quinten Rollins - Miami (Ohio)
CB/S P.J. Williams - Florida State
WR Devin Smith - Ohio State
WR Devin Funchess - Michigan
WR Nelson Agholor - Southern California
QB Brett Hundley - UCLA
RB Duke Johnson - Miami (Fla.)
RB Ameer Abdullah - Nebraska
RB Tevin Coleman - Indiana
OG Laken Tomlinson - Duke

Why so many names? The Lions did their due diligence on a lot of players because you never really know who will be available when they are on the clock... and you never know what kind of trade offers you may receive, not only in the first round but in round 2 as well... and because you don't know who you will get in the first round so you don't know what positions you need to still look at in round 2. Why so many running backs and wide receivers? Because sooner or later one of which (or more) will be selected. Does that mean they will in fact go offense again this round? No. Does that mean they won't? No. This selection will not be based on the previous one so much as making sure there is a roster spot for the pick. If you drafted a RT in round 1 you aren't going to take a RT in round 2; but might take a guard, or a RB, or a WR, or whomever. The above players might be available during round 2 and they are on the contact list and that is why I have shown them here. I would take DT Michael Bennett if he's still on the board, I'm hopeful the Lions would too, but that remains to be seen. Now if the Lions did take a DT in round 1 then I would change my selection in round 2 to OL D.J. Humphries, assuming he was not yet taken.

On to round 3... the Lions may have addressed the trenches with their first two picks and they can't really expect their 3rd round pick to be a starter in his rookie year UNLESS he plays guard, or will split RB duties, or will be a backup WR and also the kick returner. So if he's available (and I truly hope he is but probably won't be) my selection would be:

WR Tyler Lockett - Kansas State. If he's still undrafted when the Lions pick I fully expect this to be their selection as it would be mine. However, it's a long way for Tyler to last so the other options now are:

RB Jeremy Langford - Michigan State
C Reese Dismukes - Auburn
OG Ali Marpet - Hobart
OG Tre' Jackson - Florida State
RB David Johnson - Northern Iowa
WR Tre' McBride - William & Mary
CB Doran Grant - Ohio State
WR Justin Hardy - East Carolina

The Lions also have a number of DTs, DEs, FS, SS, OTs and others on their contact list, so if they went RB or WR or OG earlier then those names would come into play. I'm not going to list all of them here simply because I don't think it's going to happen that way... so I may have to scamper to fix this between Thursday night and Friday night if things don't go so well in round 1.

The Lions don't currently have a 4th round pick BUT they may pick one up via trade. It could be a player, a pick earlier in the draft, or even a 3rd rounder from 2016. IF they end up getting a 4th rounder then my pick would be:

RB Javorius (Buck) Allen - Southern California. He will drop in the draft as he's not considered an every down running back at this point in time, though he could develop into one. What he is is a pass blocking pass catching type RB... exactly what the Lions lost when they cut Reggie Bush. A backup to Riddick, or someone who can beat him out of his roster spot during camp. Someone who can get snaps in his rookie year. A co-starter. Now the Lions may not end up with a 4th round pick and may have to wait until round 5 for their next selection, it's possible Buck will last that long too... or any of these other players could end being a Lion, or even two of them should the Lions acquire an extra pick before round 6 starts.

CB Eric Rowe - Utah
CB Steven (Steve) Nelson - Oregon State
WR Tony Lippett - Michigan State
OG Jamil Douglas - Arizona State
OG Jeremiah Poutasi - Utah
WR Kenny Bell - Nebraska
WR Chris Conley - Georgia
RB Malcolm Brown - Texas

and once again there are a number of other names both on and off the contact list that I could add here but will wait until Friday night/Saturday noon to add after I see what the first 3 rounds bring.

Now we get to round 6, finally, sometime Saturday afternoon and for the Lions I select:

OG Ben Beckwith - Mississippi State. Big Ben is 6'4" tall and weights in at 317 pounds. Some other options the Lions may consider include those above who dropped into round 6 plus these names:

WR Titus Davis - Central Michigan
DT Louis Trinca-Pasat - Iowa
WR Jamarcus (JJ) Nelson - UAB
RB Marcus Murphy - Missouri
RB John Crockett - North Dakota State
QB Brandon Bridge - South Alabama

Now I got to admit, drafting a WR with the first name of Titus gives me the shivers but the guy shouldn't be punished for what his parents named him. Also, QB Brandon Bridge I fully expect will make it until after the draft as an undrafted free agent and still be signed by the Lions but they might not want to take that chance.

In the 7th round you usually don't expect to find a starter but there is one position that needs to be addressed on the team yet and a rookie could fill that starting role... so my pick if he's still on my board is:

TE/FB Jimmay Mundine - Kansas. Fullbacks tend to end up undrafted but I can see the Lions wanting to get a full slate of contributors out of this draft and this would do the job nicely. A few other options if he's gone are:

FB Jalston Fowler - Alabama
QB Brandon Bridge - South Alabama
S Brian Blechen - Utah
OLB/DE Marcus Rush - Michigan State

Then after the draft all of these names above are in play along with:

K Kyle Brindza (camp kicker)
G Antoine Everett
DT Angelo Blackson
WR/KR Kaelin Clay
So there you have it... my Lions mock and other possibilities based on my big board, the Lions roster needs, and the contact list. Just to summarize it for you, not by round but by selection:

1. RT/G/LT La'el Collins - LSU (or Clemings, or Erving, or Flowers or anyone OL)
2. DT Michael Bennett - Ohio State (or other DT)
3. WR Tyler Lockett - Kansas State (or other kick returner)
4. RB Javorius (Buck) Allen - Southern California (or other RB for the RBBC)
5. OG Ben Beckwith - Mississippi State (or other guard)
6. TE/FB Jimmay Mundine - Kansas (or other fullback)

and every single one of my picks would get playing time their rookie year... some of them significant playing time.

Now we wait to see what will really happen. Enjoy.