Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Game 15 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football


The 9-6 Detroit Lions get buried by the 13-2 Dallas Cowboys 42-21 on Monday Night Football. The results limit the Lions to either beating the Packers in the last game of the year to win the division (and thus making the playoffs) or hoping the Redskins lose so that the Lions make the playoffs as a wildcard team. Considering the beating they just took neither option is all that appealing to most Lions' fans, yet making the playoffs is all fans want at the beginning of the season.

Matthew Stafford was 26 of 46 (56.52%) for 260 yards with no passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown, and an interception. Zach Zenner had the other two touchdowns for the Lions. Yet they looked like rookies compared to the Cowboys.

Prescott was "only" 15 of 20 (75%) for 212 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. WR Bryant also threw a touchdown. RB Ezekiel Elliott had two more TDs plus 80 yards rushing. Both Prescott and Elliott are rookies, there should have been no way they were able to take apart the Lions the way they did, but the Lions players and coaches allowed them just that.

The Lions were tied 21-21 at the half, but the Cowboys made half time adjustments and the Lions never scored again. Since the OC for the Cowboys is Linehan, a former Lions offensive coordinator, and the Cowboys DC is Marinelli, the former Lions head coach who went 0-16 before getting fired, it is unacceptable that the Cowboys scored 21 unanswered points in the second half in a game the Lions really needed to win and the Cowboys did not.

Playoffs or not, if the Lions continue to play worse then rookies they won't be winning any more footballs games in the near future. The fans shouldn't have to take it, and the coaching staff shouldn't be allowing it, but most of all, the players should be completely ashamed. I'm not sure though if any of that is going to be enough. Lions play the Packers next Sunday, on Sunday night football, for the division title. The Packers are playing like the veteran team they are, whilst the Lions are not, so there are 6 days to get their collective acts together and I'm not totally convinced it can happen. I want to not feel this way, but I still do. So what is it going to be Lions? Are you NFL championship players? or are you a bunch of rookies? You got exactly one more game to prove it.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Game 14 2016 - Detroit Lions @ New York Giants

Too many

The 9-5 Detroit Lions lose to the 10-4 New York Giants 6-17 after making way too many mistakes. The Giants scored a touchdown in the first possession of the game (thanks in part to being awarded a completion that was clearly not one) and they never relinquished the lead, though the Lions had chances to do so.

Matthew Stafford was 24 of 39 (61.538%) for 273 yards with no touchdowns (for the first time this year) and one interception despite playing with a dislocated middle finger on his throwing hand. Obviously the interception was a mistake but an even larger one was when Zack Zenner fumbled into the end zone losing the ball on a scoring drive. I already mentioned the completion awarded to the Giants that wasn't one (that was on the officiating) but the Lions also failed to challenge it, a mistake on the Lions part. I have no problem agreeing with those who believe the Lions left 14 or even 21 points on the field. The Giants have a good defense, but it was the Lions who beat the Lions this game.

The Lions defense really didn't start getting much pressure on Eli Manning until the 2nd half, which helped slow down the Giants scoring. Eli ended up 20 of 28 (71.4%) for 201 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. It didn't help that Slay was injured and sat out much of the game, Jackson was picked on relentlessly from then on... a strategy the Lions never seem to take advantage of.

The Vikings managed to lose their game today, they are no longer a threat to win the division, even if they win their next 2 games and the Lions lose both of theirs. However. Should the Vikings beat the Packers next week it could have a great effect on the wild card teams. The Lions meanwhile play the Dallas Cowboys in their last away game of the regular season, a game that will affect first round playoff bye weeks. If both the Vikings and the Lions win next week the Lions clinch the division. Should the Lions lose to Dallas they can still clinch the division the last week of the season when they play the Packers at home. Two losses by the Lions ends their season and the Packers win the division. Hopefully that wasn't too many scenarios to confuse the issue.

Here's hoping the Lions get healthier, and Merry Christmas everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Game 13 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Chicago Bears @ Home


The 9-4 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 3-10 Chicago Bears 20-17 to remain first in the division. This makes the 8th time this season the Lions came from behind in the 4th quarter to win the game, after having led the scoreboard up until the 4th quarter when the Bears briefly took the lead from them. Luckily the game was played in a dome as the weather outside was quite frightful, snowing so hard that players, fans and employees will find it difficult to make it home.

Matthew Stafford was 21 of 35 (60.00%) for 223 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. While he had injured his middle finger on his throwing hand early in the game he wasn't playing particularly crisp before it happened. He was forced to play with a glove on his throwing hand the rest of the game, which was likely at least partially responsible for both some errant throws and for his having to concentrate even more about throwing. One of the interceptions was a great defensive play by the Bears, and came about due to a tipped ball that bounced off of the receiver in the end zone and conveniently landed in the hands of another defender. The other was a very poor choice of a throw that was picked off and returned for 6 points nearly costing the Lions the game.

Meanwhile, the Bears quarterback (Barkley) was 20 of 32 (62.5%) for 212 yards 1 touchdown and no interceptions. The Lions rarely blitzed (again) but when they did it was quite effective. Why it didn't happen more is beyond me, but somehow the Lions pulled off a win so once again my complaints about this will fall on deaf ears. One thing the Lions defense did fairly well with was preventing Howard from gaining too many yards on the ground, limiting him to 86 yards (and 24 receiving).

The Lions played without their starting center (Swanson) and they moved Glasgow the rookie starting left guard to center and played former first round pick Tomlinson at left guard. This was a noticeable reduction in offensive line quality and probably responsible for Stafford's finger injury. They also played without their top receiving running back, but despite not having Riddick the others managed to get 114 yards (15 by Stafford himself) on the ground. The Bears also played without a lot of their starters due to injury, obviously, considering who was at QB, but others on their team stepped up and played a tough game. Whether the Lions played down to their competition or if the Bears were truly that close to being a decent team this year is up for debate, but as a fan just watching the game was once again a frightful nail biting game right to the last seconds. It's the reason why more fans haven't jumped aboard the Lions bandwagon just yet.

In the end, the Lions pulled off the win, taking another divisional game (for possible future tie breaker purposes) and remaining in control of the NFC North. The Vikings won their game today and as I type this the Packers have the lead against the Seahawks so it's a good deal that the Lions did win their game today to not lose ground in the playoff race. Of course, the ongoing Packers/Seahawks game has more at stake then just the divisional record, as Seattle has the 2nd seed spot (or 2nd bye week spot) for the playoffs, if they lose the Lions take that spot for this week but of course the Packers stay on their heals for the division, while if the Packers lose the Lions get another game ahead of them in the division but lose a game on the Seahawks for the bye week in the playoffs. So I am rooting for a tie game, of course.

There was one or two tidbits in the Lions game that I'll add in here, one is that Golden Tate leads the NFL in yards after the catch, which is no small thing. The other is that the officials during the game gave the Lions a penalty for hands to the face when it was the Bear player who actually had his hands in the Lions players' face.

How do officials get it so wrong, and it seems always against the Lions? Truly frightful.

Okay, so, despite it all, the Lions won, retain the division lead, and need to prepare to play in New York against the Giants. They need to get healthy if possible, and play much better then they did this week, for the Giants aren't quite as hurt as the Bears and will give them a run for the money. Not only that, but the Lions are either the 2nd or 3rd best team in the NFC (depending on how the Seahawks do this afternoon), it's high time they started acting like it. That means imposing the teams' will on other teams, not squeaking out a win in the final minutes of the game... even if all wins count the same in the record book. Having some swagger, some confidence, as you go into the playoffs is no small thing, especially if your defense hardly ever blitzes.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Game 12 2016 - Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints


The 8-4 Detroit Lions beat the 5-7 Saints 28 to 13 in New Orleans. The Lions never fell behind in this game, for the first time this season. They also won by more then one score, for the first time this year. On top of that, the Vikings lost their game week 12 to put the Lions first in the division with a little extra room to spare, though the Packers are now the team to keep an eye on over the rest of the month. They have Seattle at home next week then play each of their divisional rivals over the last 3 weeks (Chicago, Minnesota and Detroit). It will truly be a race to the finish as far as the divisional winner is concerned, luckily the Lions have already been spotted a lead.

Matthew Stafford was 30 of 42 (71.43%) for 341 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions. Meanwhile Drew Brees was 31 of 44 (70.45%) for 326 yards and 3 interceptions. The Lions were the better defense on the field today, and Stafford was the better quarterback. I believe I saw a graphic during the game that Matthew Stafford is first in the NFL in red zone efficiency or perhaps it was scoring. Either way the Lions will not be having a losing season this year, as they are already at 8 wins with 4 more games to go. Those 4 games include home against the Bears, away at the Giants and at the Cowboys, then on New Year's Day it's the Lions hosting the Packers for what could be the big finish.

Passes were completed to 7 different players, including Eric Ebron (4 for 38 yards) and two running backs. There were 4 running back with carries in the game if you include Staffords 3 runs for 22 yards, and those 4 managed 85 yards total while the Lions defense only allowed 50 yards rushing.

November's NFC Special Teams Player of the Month (Matt Prater) was 5 for 5 kicking field goals, with a long of 52. That's a good start for December as well.

The whole team (the part that was healthy anyway) showed up to prove they are contenders in this year's playoff race, not just "lucky". With there being no turnovers for the Lions at all, this away game was never in serious jeopardy of being lost. It may be the first time this year where Lions fans managed to keep their blood pressure down and their nails intact.

Next week the 3-9 Bears come to Detroit, they will try to play spoiler as they are no longer in contention for the division lead with only 4 weeks to go. Meanwhile the Packers won and are at 6-6 but hold the tie breaker over the Lions at present so they are only 1.5 games behind. The Packers are ahead of the Vikings now, who also are at 6-6 which makes them 2.5 games behind the Lions due to the Lions owning the tie breaker over them. With all the divisional games yet to be played the number of playoff scenarios are many, but the Lions are in the drivers seat by virtue of their current lead in the division. It's good to be first.

After post edit: Here's the graphic I spoke of https://twitter.com/1PridePrincess/status/805496246706307076 And another new item. First away win after Thanksgiving game since 1974. https://twitter.com/richeisen/status/805196121106546688

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Game 11 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Minnesota Vikings @ Home

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

The 7-4 Detroit Lions beat the 6-5 Minnesota Vikings for the 2nd time this year with a score of 16-13 at home on Thanksgiving Day. This makes it 11 games out of 11 that were either won or lost by one score and the 7th win out of 7 where the Lions were behind in the 4th quarter then came back to win. This time though, it wasn't all on Stafford, sure he got the team down the field far enough to get within field goal range for Matt Prater to tie the game, but it was the defense, more specifically it was Darius Slay, who got the interception within field goal range for Prater to hit the game winning field goal as time expired.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 40 (57.5%) for 232 yards one touchdown and no interceptions. His percentage was the lowest in over a year but then there were a couple of drops, a few passes thrown away to avoid being sacked, and 3 spikes to stop the clock. Without all those things (6 of which were required to win the game) he would've easily exceeded 75% completion. Now even though the defense won the game at the end, they did allow Bradford to hit 83.87% of his passes... an extremely effective day, primarily due once again to the lack of any kind of pressure. If defense wins championships then the Lions may be in trouble down the road.

Why am I mentioning the possibility of the playoffs? Well the Lions are now in sole command of the division, having the tie breaker over the Vikings means they are a full 2 games ahead of both the Vikings and the Packers, three ahead of the Packers should they lose on Monday night football this week. Meanwhile the Lions have a few extra days to get healthy and prepare for the playoff push that is coming up (can you say 'important games in December' anyone?).

The Lions also tied the NFL record for the number of continuous games played with results of 7 points or less. All in all it's a great season so far, and their next game is December 4th in New Orleans. I suspect that to be a very high scoring game, and a tough one to win. But no matter what, you have to watch the game until the final seconds as you just can't count the offense out no matter the score. As unbelievable as that is.

Lions have games away at the Saints, then home against the Bears, away at the Giants and the Cowboys, then finally at home on New Years' day against the Packers. It's going to take a lot of hard work and if indeed any of this season is due to it, some good luck, to continue with the plot the Lions have been following so far this year. Just like today though, I'm looking for to what's next. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Game 10 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Jacksonville Jaguars @ Home

Slow Start

The 6-4 Division Leading Detroit Lions beat the 2-8 Jacksonville Jaguars 26-19 with the Lions' sixth 4th quarter come-from-behind victory. The game was tied 9-9 at half time in a contest that was off to a very slow start. The Lions scored a touchdown ala a punt return and via an interception (pick 6) to go along with Eric Ebron's first run (from a hand off) for a score in the NFL and a couple of Matt Prater field goals.

Matthew Stafford was 24 of 33 (72.73%) for 278 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. The Lions netted a whopping 14 yards rushing and 7 different players had at least one reception. Bortles was never sacked but he did give away two interceptions. Fumbles were lost by both teams, one by the Jaguars and two by the Lions. It wasn't a great game, but it was a win, keeping the Lions in the lead in the NFC North.

The Lions continue to be overly cautious in their play and their play calling. Doing enough to win (well, 6 out of 10 times anyway) and all ten games so far were either won or lost by no more then one score (8 points or less). I'm uncertain if this kind of constant conservative play calling will produce a playoff team or not... but it has produced a lead... so it's hard to criticize things too much, especially when they win. You'd think they could do more then win by less then one score and you'd think they wouldn't have to come back from behind every single fourth quarter, but when you play to keep it close that's what you get, a close game.

The next game is only 4 days away, the traditional Thanksgiving Day game. This year it's against the Minnesota Vikings who also won today. In fact, the Vikings are also 6-4 but the Lions have already won their first game against the Vikings this year which breaks the tie in their favor... so the winner of this turkey day game will become the sole leader of the division and will have control over their destiny during the final 5 games of the regular season. With a Vikings win the Lions will fall one game behind and the head-to-head tie breaker will remain a tie making the divisional record the tie breaker going forward. With a Lions win the Vikings will have to win 2 games more then the Lions in the remaining 5 games of the season for the Lions will lead in any tie from then on. It's a critical game in the playoff hunt, and whether the game also has a slow start or not, the Lions need to somehow find a way to win the day. At least they are used to that sort of thing this year, even if we fans aren't used to it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Game 9 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings

At present.

The 5-4 Detroit Lions defeat the 5-3 Minnesota Vikings 22-16 in overtime. Since the Lions win the tie breaker (at present) they lead the division, right? Well no, the Vikings have already had their bye week so they have a half game lead, but next week, when the Lions are on their bye week, should the Vikings lose at the Washington Redskins, the Lions then would have a half game lead over the Vikings, and depending on how the Packers do, either a one game or two game lead over them, making the Lions the division leaders.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 36 (63.889) for 219 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception, in one of his worst games of the year so far. Yet, he was the guy, he lead the team to field goal range in the final seconds of the game to give Prater a chance to tie things up, and he led the first (and final) drive in overtime to score the game winning touchdown. The running game produced 97 yards on 25 attempts, led by Riddick for 70 of those. The leading receiver was none other then Eric Ebron for 92 yards on 7 receptions. Riddick had but 1 reception for 6 yards. The defense allowed Bradford to get 31 of 40 (77.5%) for 273 yards and a TD with no INTs (or any other turnovers for that matter). The defense helped with a few key stops, and special teams definitely helped as well, but even though Stafford had some issues with true accuracy and touch he was definitely the MVP of the game via putting together a couple of drives at the end of the game when it mattered the most.

The Lions have some issues still with coaching, and with keeping their composure, and even with consistency, but when it comes to focusing and driving in the final moments of a game, Matthew Stafford and his offense are able to get the job done, even against a top NFL defense.

Next week nearly every Lions fan will reluctantly root for the Redskins to beat the Vikings while hopefully the Lions get healthier, do some self evaluation, and even more hopefully, get better, as they prepare to either gain or maintain their lead in the NFC North. It's not like they are a power team, but they do have just as much a chance of making noise this year as any other team, not only in the NFC North but in the NFC period. Not every fan is "there" yet, not many fans are willing to get their hopes up, and they have some very good reasons for that, but despite it all, at present the Lions are among the top teams in the NFC, and in fact, in the NFL. So get ready for an interesting ride.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Game 8 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Houston Texans


The 4-4 Detroit Lions lost to the 5-3 Houston Texans 13 to 20. The Lions have won all 4 and lost all 4 so far this year by one score. If their goal is to just keep the game close and then try to win it at the end they are going to continue to struggle to win around half their games. Teams are just too good, too close to parity, to count on getting that one extra try you need every single game. Half the time it won't work, and that kind of explains the 4-4 start to this season.

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 41 (65.854%) for 240 yards a touchdown and no interceptions. A nice clean basic standard game (stat-wise). There were only 58 yards rushing, but then their best running back (pure runner, and also in my opinion) was not active (talking about Washington). Riddick did have 77 yards receiving, (2nd on the team), and a touchdown, to go with his 56 yards rushing, a great fantasy league situation, but the best receiver on the team today was Eric Ebron (7 catches for 79 yards). Drops continue to be an issue, Lions are the worst in the league for that, and 8 penalties for 75 yards wasn't efficient either. The defense allowed Osweiler to go 20 of 29 (68.966%) for 186 yards, which isn't horrible stat-wise, but there was rarely any pressure to keep him from accumulating what he did. It was stated during the broadcast that the DC Austin doesn't prefer to blitz to create pressure, which is obvious, but I dare say that is a recipe for disaster (actually, I've said that pretty much forever so yeah). So what (else) went wrong?

I would say that most fans, and probably many others as well, would say the failure to challenge what appeared to be a fumble that was recovered by the Lions would be the number one issue with the game. That falls squarely on the shoulders of head coach Caldwell. I too believe he should have challenged it, and have no idea why he did not.

Some fans would say the officials were purposely flagging the Lions, and they were calling a tight game, but then this group of officials are known for doing that, they do the 2nd most flags in the NFL. This should have been known prior to the game and stressed before the game even started. I didn't get the sense that the players were prepared for a tight called game. Instead of throwing this on the officials I might throw at least some of it on Caldwell.

With time left on the clock to perhaps get a stop and get the ball back the Lions elected to try an on-sides kick. Martin (the Lions Punter who does the kick offs now) is no Hanson, he is not good at it, and most everyone would say 'kick it deep' was the right move. So look at splitting the blame up between the special teams coach and the head coach on this one too.

Did I mention the lack of pressure by the defense? The Lions may have the wrong defensive coordinator, but then I've harped on Austin before and it gets me no where, so I'll save it for when it's more obvious, as I'm sure at some near future game it will be.

Lack of execution could be talent, or depth (due to injury), and some may point at Quin... while others do but give him a pass as he's only had one year to work on the roster. My hope, other then that he's learned a few things about talent acquisition, is that he's learning what I (or should I say, we) have learned about our coaches. The only truly decent top coach on the team is Cooter. But at 4-4 you don't make changes yet, though you could perhaps discuss some of the issues with the staff and see if perhaps they can't do better. Maybe he has, maybe this is the result and it would have been worse had he not, we (I) just don't know.

So the Lions head towards the Vikings next week before their bye week. While the Vikings have this week's Monday Night game. Despite their short week, I don't see anything good coming our way for this upcoming game, but I've been wrong before. I'm sure the team would like a win before they get the bye week, and I know as a fan and owner of a forum I would definitely want one, but getting this next one is going to be hard work. By all involved. Instead I just have this feeling the Lions goal will be to make it to the bye week without getting any more players injured.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Game 7 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Washington Redskins @ Home

For the Record.

The 4-3 Detroit Lions defeat the 4-3 Washington Redskins 20-17 in yet another come from behind victory. Of course, had the defense held off the scoring of the skins late in the 4th quarter the Lions wouldn't have fell behind and needed a touchdown to win. But they did and they did (did fall behind, did score the td to win). The Redskins were trying for their 5th win in a row after winning their previous 4 but failed to do so allowing the Lions their 3rd win in a row instead. Meanwhile, the Vikings lost their first game of the year putting the Lions one game behind in the divisional standings. It's early yet, I'm not advocating anything, just stating it for the record.

Matthew Stafford was 18 of 29 (62.07%) for 266 yards and a TD with no interceptions in a game that saw more drops (Lions rank 2nd in the league in drops) and some very inaccurate throws. However, there were some amazingly great plays mixed in as well, including yet another game winning series with under 2 minutes to go. Despite missing many of the quality players that would otherwise make up the Lions roster, Stafford was able to produce when it was needed the most. Not only that, but apparently he has set a new record, for most yards in his first 100 games. http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2016/10/23/matthew-stafford-makes-100th-game-history/

Despite some issues with some throws, and injuries, and even the replacement of left guard Laken Tomlinson with this year's 3rd round pick Glasgow (a rookie center playing left guard) the offense is not really the problem with the team overall. The problem, and injuries are a part of it, is the defense. They allowed Cousins to go 30 of 39 (76.92%) for 301 yards and a TD with no INTs. In fact, the Redskins won every statistical category (or tied) except for punting average, including time of possession and penalty yards, yet due to the timely difference in when various aspects of the game happened, the Lions managed to end up victorious. I did note a number of effective blitzes (or the appearance/faking of the same) that in past games didn't happen, and i remain hopeful that more of that will be forthcoming.

The Lions remain 3rd in the division http://www.nfl.com/teams/profile?team=DET and yet are only 1 win behind the Vikings for a tie for the division lead. Next week, the Lions head to Texas to play Houston. I don't know if the defense has it in them to set the stage for the Lions to win this game, but I do believe the offense will make a game of it one way or another. I only hope it'll be enough to keep the pressure on the rest of the division, for as I've been preaching from my rather unattended stage, pressure is what wins (or loses) games. Just for the record.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Game 6 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the LA Rams @ Home


The 3-3 Detroit Lion narrowly defeat the 3-3 LA Rams 31-28 in a somewhat evenly matched game. I can promise you that just about every Lion's fan gave up on this game at one point or another, and yet despite allowing the Rams to score a TD once in each quarter the Lions somehow managed to do the same plus add an extra field goal to it in the 4th quarter to snag the win. Zach Zenner matched up with Gurley (stat wise) and Golden Tate slightly exceeded the doings of Kenny Britt, while Keenum may have actually did better then Matthew Stafford again stat-wise, or so the Lions defense allowed him to... yet in the end the Lions defense out performed the Rams (despite a certain DT named Donald on the team).

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 31 (74.19%) for 270 yards, 4 touchdowns and no interceptions while Keenum managed 27 of 32 (84.375%) for 321 yards, 3 touchdowns and the one interception. Gurley managed 58 yards on 14 attempts, compared to Zenner with 58 yards on 14 attempts (so yeah, a tie). Britt at 7 receptions for 136 yards and 2 TDs compared to Tate's 8 receptions for 165 yards and a single TD. Quick and Boldin were one yard apart. Like I said, "evenly matched". You'd be hard pressed to just look at the stats and figure out how it is the Lions won the game... unless you stared singularly at the score, 31-28. Eventually you'd have to look at turnovers and then the stats give up the story.

Now I'm not proclaiming the Lions defense to be all that, but in this game they finally did just enough to help their team win. I've no idea if they can do it again or not, or how they managed on this day, but they did. That despite the obvious lack of pressure on the opposing QB and the total lack of any kind of aggressiveness such as blitzing. It's hard for me to argue with a victory though, so I shall refrain from further harping on the conservative play calling. Though I do suspect this kind of play will be hard to win with in future games.

Next Sunday the Washington Redskins come to town for the Lions 3rd home game in a row. I truly believe they will need to do more if they wish to win this next game. But I also truly believe the play calling needed to win won't be there. I'm really having issues with Austin as DC and yet I've just attributed the win in this Ram's game to the defense. Not sure how to reconcile that, but there it is. We shall see if the Lions defense continues to play conservative ball and if that will be enough to win next week. Both the upcoming QBs are slowly getting known for their completion percentages and ball security. If it truly does come down to the defenses on both sides, I fear for the Lions fans in this one.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Game 5 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Philadelphia Eagles @ Home

It's a start.

The 2-3 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 3-1 (and previously undefeated) Philadelphia Eagles 24-23. The Lions were up 21-7 in the 2nd quarter before slowly allowing the Eagles back into the game and eventually giving up the lead. The Lions managed a couple of really nice plays at the end to retake the lead and then Slay sealed the deal with an interception to allow the offense to show off their victory formation (kneeling it). It doesn't mean that all the Lions ills are overcome, but it's a start.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 25 (76%) for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions (though he did have a fumble). There was another drop or two in the game and prior to this weekend the Lions lead the league in drops, but there were also some quality catches. There was some erratic QB mechanics especially when the OL struggled or appeared they might struggle but Stafford was able to recover and make many a decent throw. The OL is still the weak link in the offense. It appeared that Tomlinson was benched for a part of the game, plus there were a number of plays that included 6 instead of 5 linemen, but there were times when the OL held up and played well. The problem with the occasional lapse is it makes a quarterback (any quarterback) a bit jumpy. Feeling relatively safe in the pocket and trusting the OL is definitely not happening at this point in time. It does appear though that at least some progress is being made there (finally).

The much beleaguered Lions defense was able to occasionally generate some pressure, and they did create some turnovers this game, all of which were needed. Wentz was 25 of 33 (75.8%) for 238 yards 2 TDs and an INT. The problem on defense still seems to be the times when there is no pressure at all, of which happens way to often. That and the failure to tackle properly is making these games much more difficult to win. Defeating an undefeated team may just instill some confidence in the team and perhaps will create some much needed synergy for the next game.

The Eagles have a very high ranked defense, so it was nice to see the early lead. At times the Lions made it look easy even. But eventually things tightened up and the game was starting to go the way most expected the entire game to go. The Lions were resilient enough to retake the lead and then hold it in the final minutes. So while it was a struggle, it was a win against a very good team. There are still a lot of things to work on, but it's a start.

The Lions have the Rams coming to town next Sunday. They too have a decent defense so I expect it to be another hard fought game. Hopefully the Lions can feed off of the Eagles win and keep the energy going into the Rams game.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Game 4 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears


The 1-3 Detroit Lions lose to the 1-3 Chicago Bears in a 14-17 mediocre game (you Mad Maxx fans will note the reference) that was today's contest. In a game in which no one stood out except in various forms of inadequacy, there can be no winners. In fact, the 2016 season is slowly becoming yet another train wreck playing out in slow motion. It's no longer required to point out the blame, since you can pretty much spin a bottle and find something to blame regardless of direction. Yet and still, I shall attempt to describe the term "Medicocre" as it applies to the 2016 Lions.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 36 (63.899%) for 213 yards 0 Touchdowns and 2 Interceptions (one of which wasn't his fault in the least, and it's debatable on the other). While at the same time Hoyer, the backup QB for the bears, was 28 of 36 (77.778%) for 302 yards 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. Some of that was to be expected, the Lions were playing without DE Ansah and MLB Levy, to name but two. Still, remaining in the spin the bottle mode, let's see if there can be blame other then injury to this debacle.

Matthew Stafford was not terribly accurate. His mechanics including footwork left much to be desired. He was blitzed, sacked, hurried, and generally uncomfortable for much of the game. He refuses to trust his offensive line and rushes play after play. Of course, he has reason to not trust them, after all the worst player on the offense in my opinion in this game was Swanson, but that does not mean you can play "scared"... or perhaps a better word for it would be "nervous". Still, that is not an excuse for forgetting to step into your throws, to throw out an accurate pass, to give your receivers at least a chance to not only complete the catch but to attempt some yards after. Nah, I'd have to give Stafford a C (as in, mediocre).

The officiating was once again suspect. The Lions having 10 flags (accepted ) for 76 yards in penalties versus 8 for 55 yards by the Bears. In the early part of the game the officiating appeared to be fairly one sided, and it appeared to upset a number of Lions players, before things started to even out at least somewhat. The problem is the coaches seem to have a problem getting the players to actually settle in and play in a controlled manner.

I suppose this is a perfect opportunity to now list the coaching as mediocre as well. The Lions were 1st and goal at one point when the score was close but were being man-handled most of the game as far as the center of the offensive line goes when someone apparently decided that running little ole Riddick up the center of the line 3 times in a row was the best chance to score instead of a roll out, or a pass play, or a QB option, or pretty much anything other then rushing an undersized RB next to or slightly behind an undersized center with obvious issues in this game. In addition to that, someone on defense decided early in the game that undersized corner Lawson should handle the defending of none other then Alshon Jeffrey man on man for nearly the entire first quarter. These are but two examples of the mediocre coaching that was being exhibited this game.

Golden Tate had but one catch for one yard (a 2 point conversion), the only touchdown in the game was by none other then Roberts on a punt return, and there were once again way too many drops. On top of that, Stafford was inaccurate at times, receivers were running incorrect routes, the OL blocking was terrible in both pass and run, and tackling was mostly a figment of someones imagination. We won't even discuss the half time adjustments (or lack thereof) and other aspects of the game not already mentioned, because for the most part, there was nothing particularly good or particularly bad to say.

The NFL is a game of inches, of the team with the fewer mistakes often winning, of the better coached team having an advantage, and of talent proving they will succeed despite other factors. Injuries and officiating not withstanding, most of the rest of the team play is directly related to coaching in one form or another, and in today's game that, along with every other aspect of the game, was at best, mediocre.

Next week the Lions play the Eagles at home, and unless something changes, I can not possibly foresee any chance of a win. That's not to say that a win isn't possible, it's just not nearly as likely as it was a few weeks back. Back before it started to become painfully obvious that the team can not overcome a couple of injuries, that the coaching was going to continually challenge no none, and that once things started to go bad that almost everyone on the team would fold instead of standing tall. I'm not seeing the leadership needed to turn this season around at this point in time, and I'm not always talking about the players alone when I'm stating this.

It's not too late to turn things around, but it is too late to assume that doing the same thing will produce different results. Time to shake things up, in my opinion, though I know that doesn't usually happen until mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Who in the Lions organization will recognize what is needed remains to be seen. I can only hope I am wrong in the direction my compass is pointing, it's hard to win when everything points to mediocre.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Game 3 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers

A tale of two halves.

The 1-2 Detroit Lions lost this game to the 2-1 Green Bay Packers with a score of 27-34, well actually they lost the game during the first half when the score at the end of the half was 10-31. In my opinion there is exactly two reasons why the Lions lost this particular game, with a couple of extra sides that didn't help matters along any. But more on this tale of two halves in a moment.

Matthew Stafford was 28 of 41 (68.29%) for 385 yards 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Sounds great, except in the first half his completion percentage was no where near that. However, once he started stepping into his throws, started using proper mechanics, in the second half, he was once again his accurate self. So Stafford was one of the two reasons the Lions lost this game right? Wrong, that's one of the sides, and while some fans call it an excuse, I call it a reason, for if you can identify the reason you can fix it, an excuse is when you have no intention of fixing anything. So why was Stafford's mechanics so messed up in the first half? Part of it was that the offensive line isn't going to rank in the top half of the league and part of it was the Packer's defense was dictating what the plays being called on offense were. Once again why? Because the coaching staff for whatever reason decided to keep Riddick in the game on all run plays and apparently thought running him up the middle over and over was a great idea. Riddick had 10 run plays for a grand total of 9 yards in the game with a long of 8 yards (so the other 9 tries netted 1 yard). In the second half they played Washington on many running play snaps and he got 38 yards on his 10 attempts with a long of 9. Why is this one of the two reasons the Lions lost the game? Because just about every knowledgeable fan absolutely knows you can not run Riddick up the middle and expect any kind of result unless the OL is run blocking in a manner in which they are not capable of. So some are going to say it was lack of execution (and blame the players). Some are going to say it was poor obtaining of talent (and blame the GM). Others will insist the blame goes on Stafford alone. I shall look no further then the coaching. I have no idea who made the decision to not only start Riddick over the other options this game, but then to keep Riddick in despite it not working for nearly the entire first half. Whoever it was, that's one you can blame.

Rodgers was 15 of 24 (62.5%) for 205 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Except for the touchdowns it sounds like some decent defense, and it was, in the 2nd half, when the Packers could only manage 3 points on the scoreboard. Most of the yards and all the touchdowns happened in the first half. Why? No pressure on Rodgers. Just last week the Packers opponent showed the world how to win against Rodgers, and that is pressure. So obviously the blame goes to the defensive line, right? Or perhaps injury since Ansah and Levy were both out for this game. No, those are sides. The difference between the first half and the second half is that the Lions started to blitz in the second half. That led to hurried throws and other bad decisions all through the 2nd half. Why Austin will not blitz unless, in his words, he has to, is some kind of personal belief (obviously). But just last week it was proven how to win, and to me that means "you have to" blitz... not just in the second half, but from the first play from scrimmage. So some will blame injury, some will blame lack of execution by the players, others will blame Stafford (no idea how that works), and I will blame Austin, the defensive coordinator... unless I find out Caldwell told him not to blitz then I shall blame him instead.

So there you have, my tale of the two halves point to the stubborn determined insistence to play Riddick on every running play in the first half along with the stubborn determined insistence to not blitz at all during the same half. Those two factors directly caused (again, in my opinion) the Lions to go 10-31 by half time only to come back 17-3 in the second half. Same QB, same OL, same DL, heck same players period, same playbooks, same coaching staff, same field of play. In the second half the Lions played Washington at RB and blitzed on defense. That is what worked, and failing to do that in the first half is why they lost. Some would say they made half time adjustments and it almost worked, that the coaching identified the issue(s) and almost got the win because of it. I call b.s. Nearly every fan knows you don't run Riddick up the middle over and over especially if you have other options, and many a fan watched the game last week and knows there is a way to defeat the Packers... that being to rattle Rodgers and his iffy offensive line by getting pressure. So blitz, and play the rookies, stop the mandatory start of veterans only and waiting until it's too late to give the rookies some play time. It's going to cause the entire season to be a waste of everyone's time.

We can assume that Cooter made the Riddick decision, and we can assume that Austin made the non-blitz decisions, and they may have. But there is still one guy who can over rule them... the head coach. All that remains to find out is if he over rules them before the game starts or at half time. Is he the problem or the thing that gets things sorted out for the 2nd half? You could say though, since he can do either, the fault is his and his alone for not demanding things differently.

Not everyone is going to agree with me, and that's fine. I'm only pointing out how I see it. Next week the Lions play the Bears away. Perhaps that match up will work out better for the Lions and perhaps they can win the game despite the coaching... or will it be because of the coaching... we shall see next Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Game 2 2016 - Detroit Lions vs the Tennessee Titans @ Home

Flag Football

The 1-1 Detroit Lions lose to the 1-1 Tennessee Titans 15-16 after allowing 13 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. The officials called 29 (accepted) penalties for a total of 221 yards interrupting the flow of the game from the beginning to the end. The record in any given game is 37. You would've thought they wouldn't have missed anything with that many penalties but they did, and made up for it by calling things that didn't even happen. I'm wondering what the future of the NFL is, flag football perhaps? But I digress.

Matthew Stafford was 22 of 40 (55%) for 260 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. The interception was on the last play of the game as Stafford tried to mount a comeback down by 1 point when he threw off his back foot, an old habit that he hadn't fallen back to in a very long time. But that was far from the only mistake made during the game (and I don't mean just by Stafford).

The Lions had jumped out to a 15-3 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter but had by then suffered losses due to injury of Ameer Abdullah, Ezekiel Ansah, DeAndre Levy and for that matter all their linebackers except for Whitehead and Armbrister. CB Lawson appeared lost for most of the game again and some of the other players were constantly out of position as well. I've been saying it for awhile now but DC Austin just doesn't have the Defense ready to play. Last year it took him 8 weeks before the defense started coming together, I hope it doesn't take that long this time around. Mariota completed 25 of 33 (75.76%) for 238 yards 2 touchdowns and an interception. The Titans offense continually picked on the Lions lack of Linebackers (say that 3 times fast) and were able to move down the field (with the help of the officials) quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Despite all of that it was a pretty close game and it could have gone either way.

Once Ameer was injured and unable to come back the Lions run game all but disappeared, so too went most of their 4 minute game (the so called game plan designed to drain time off the clock) and that coupled with the lack of linebackers (needed to get stops) completely destroyed whatever game plan the Lions had developed for the Titans. The problem is, in my mind at least, the game plan didn't get changed to accommodate the situation. For example, with the injured players on defense it would've been a good idea to keep the offense on the field as much as possible. Instead, when a drive stalled at mid-field the Lions opted to punt. I would have gone for it, pass plays were what was working and the need to keep the ball was great. But no, first the punt, then their longest play of the game followed. As did their scoring, over and over again. Getting all conservative after these particular injuries was exactly the wrong thing to do, even with the small lead.

So when assigning "blame" for the loss, I start with the coaching. I would assign a percentage to the injuries as well but then no one can do anything about those. I "blame" part of the loss on the offensive line, the left side of which really fell apart when they were needed most. Decker definitely got schooled, hopefully he'll learn, and Tomlinson still struggles here and there. Even Swanson had a few issues though I will admit he's not being pushed back nearly as much as he used to. All of the pressure they allow is having a negative effect on both the run and the pass game, but they aren't the whole problem. The receivers need to work on catching the ball, there were nearly 10 drops in this game (give or take). Too many for the talent on this team. And no, Ebron was not the primary culprit, in fact, Ebron had some very nice catches. Stafford had a nice run of 24 yards to go with his other 7 but ended up stubbing his toe trying to cut instead of sliding, he also blocked some for other plays risking injury, he was doing way more then most teams ask their QB to do, but at the end, tired and rattled, he reverted back to off balance throws and threw his first interception in 212 pass attempts. Then again, trying to do too much when the rest of your team isn't quite helping out as much isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's still necessary to not revert back to old bad habits.

The other aspect of the game that was front and center though was the flag football. Not the tackling, just the sheer volume of yellow flags that were thrown. 29 penalties in all, and those just the ones that were accepted, there were many others that were not. Fans don't watch the games to see yellow flags all game long. The officials got more air time then the QBs, and nearly as many yards. I'm not sure how all the penalties affected the game, or which team benefited more, perhaps it was a wash, who knows, but it sure was unpleasant to watch! I'm hoping the Lions never have to put up with that officiating crew again, but with the way things go sometimes it wouldn't surprise me if they were in the majority of games this year instead.

In the end the reason the Lions lost was too many injuries, followed by the coaching unable to overcome, and finally by the players who didn't execute when they had chances to do so, and possibly the officiating. The only thing that went right as far as I know is the debut of the Detroit Lions Cheerleaders. So at least there is that.

Photo courtesy of http://detroitsportsnation.com/detroit-nfl/jeff/meet-the-detroit-lions-cheerleaders/80676/

Next Sunday the Lions play the Packers in Wisconsin, then the Bears in Chicago the week after. Two very important road games. They must get healthy, and they must have a means to overcome injuries to adapt on the fly during games, they must practice (catching, footwork, blocking, tackling, etc), and they need a means to ignore the poor officiating. Can it be done? Sure. Will it happen? That also remains to be seen. One thing for sure, neither the Packers nor the Bears will be playing flag football, so it's time to get to work.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Game 1 2016 - Detroit Lions @ Indianapolis Colts

Wild Ride.

The 1-0 Detroit Lions narrowly defeated the 0-1 Indianapolis Colts 39-35. After starting out 21-3 the Lions after the 2 minute warning at the end of the first half must have felt they had the game in hand and nearly prevented themselves from getting the win with some rather poor defensive plays, both at that point in time and later in the 2nd half. The Colts managed to even tie things up only to lose the lead and then regain the lead (by one point) before the Lions final drive of the game when Prater, who had missed an extra point not that long before, hit for 3 and the lead. With only 4 seconds left on the clock the Colts tried some razzle dazzle but ended up with a forward pass in the endzone for a penalty, also known as a safety (because it happened in their endzone) giving the Lions an extra 2 points. It was a wild ride.

Matthew Stafford was 31 of 39 (79.487%) <---- and that's amazing <---- for 340 yards 3 TDs and no interceptions. Compare that to Andrew Luck's 31 of 47 (65.957%) which is good (or really bad defense by the Lions and Colts) and you can see that both teams have a potent offense... or both teams have defenses in need of some TLC.... otherwise both teams might in for a lot more wild rides.

The Lions had 116 yards on the ground via 5 different runners (Stafford had 5 yards) and the 340 through the air to 8 different players. Considering they only have 4 wide receivers on the roster, that's not too bad. New Wide Receiver Marvin Jones Jr had 4 receptions for 85 yards, Theo Riddick had 5 for 63 yards, Ameer Abdullah had 5 for 57 yards, Eric Ebron had 5 for 46 yards, Golden Tate had 7 for 41 yards, Boldin 3 for 35 yards, with Roberts and Wick a reception apiece for 8 and 5 yards respectively. Most of the missed passes were well defended plays not counting the one intentional throw away at the end of the game. Of course, there were only 7 missed passes that got defended or missed unintentionally, so there's not much to complain about. I would say the goat on offense would have to be left guard Tomlinson, who still is having issues keeping his guy in front of him.

On defense there were two touchdowns given up when Whitehead would release a tight end to continue his route behind him and no one, no one even close, came over to pick him up. I think that happened to a corner and a safety on those two plays, but I can't be sure who messed up. Regardless, the entire wild ride wouldn't have happened if those two plays didn't occur. Then again, there was a stop in the 4th quarter that got negated due to a 15 yard penalty when a Lions player was called for taunting (he was taunting the crowd, not an opponent). It was a stupid thing to do and nearly cost them the game too. Needless to say, the coaching staff has a few things to work on, but at least they are obvious things, and hopefully these things will not happen again this year.

A win on the road to start the season is great, and the ride home for the players will be a whole lot more pleasant then if they had lost, but the team has got work to do unless they want even more wild rides like this one. Tomlinson needs a lot of help with his footwork, and the LBs and DBs need to get on the same page with their coverages. Prater, Muhlbach, and Martin need to get comfortable with extra points as well (on that last field goal for the win Muhlbach sent the ball high, nearly hitting Martin in the chin, then there was the missed extra point by Prater before that). Like I said, plenty to work on, but at least the quarterback isn't one of those things. That was perhaps one of the best games by a Lions quarterback that I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of games and Lions quarterbacks. Stafford truly put the team on his shoulders and carried them into the win column, wild ride or no.

Next week the Lions open at home against the Tennessee Titans. Since the Packers and the Vikings also won this week the Lions need to continue their success by taking this game as well. Preferably without all the highs and lows, after all, there are some Lions fans out there watching who have heart conditions, and I worry for their health, assuming that is that they survived this Colts game. As for myself, I think I'll take an aspirin before the game starts next week, just to be safe.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 31st 2016 - Defensive Line

The post draft defensive line situation.

The Detroit Lions have 15 defensive lineman currently on the roster. They will likely keep 9 on the final 53. Sure, like other positions, it could be one more or one less (8 to 10) but in a normal year 9 players would be the target. So let's see what we have to work with here at this point in time.

At Defensive End we have our first lock to make the final 53, that being Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah. There is some confusion here as a few of the players on the team can play both inside (defensive tackle) and outside (defensive end). To further confuse things, outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy has been called a defensive end by the Lions a couple of times already this off season, yet he wears a linebacker number. That means he'll play a bit of both most likely. It also makes him valuable, able to play two positions for the Lions. So, if he makes the team as a linebacker, it's very likely the Lions will only keep 4 true defensive ends and 5 tackles, one of which can also rotate out from time to time. The other three defensive ends to likely make the roster are Devin Taylor who for a long while this off season was only the 2nd of 2 DEs on the roster; free agent pick up Wallace Gilberry who was paid a signing bonus of $340,000 and has a workout bonus of $25,000 plus an $885,000 salary AND $500,000 in NLTBE bonuses in his contract; then there is the 6th round draft pick Anthony Zettle who is a very athletic DE (as mentioned in previous blog entries) who received a $123,724 signing bonus. Fighting for a spot (and insurance for any injuries are 3 undrafted players (who are likely playing for a practice squad spot) James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, and Louis Palmer. It would really take some impressive play (and practices) to have one of these 3 undrafted players take a roster spot away from the other four.

At defensive tackle we have a couple of locks to make the team. Haloti Ngata received a 2 year contract a couple months ago along with a $4 million signing bonus. That money along with his experience and ability makes him a lock to make the final roster. The Lions 2nd round draft pick A'Shawn Robinson has his salary guaranteed and had a $2,006,280 signing bonus last month paid to him, he is obviously a lock. Stefan Charles has a 1 year $1 million contract to go with his $550,000 signing bonus, he is not exactly a lock but is definitely on the "Likely to make the final 53" list.

That leaves 2 spots for Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid to fight off challengers Gabe Wright, Kerry Hyder and Khyri Thornton. Once again I think we are looking at injury insurance however should one of these guys prove he deserves a roster spot then one of the others could be in trouble, not just the DTs but at some other position. You just never now when the team will go short somewhere else to keep a guy they just can't part with.

So the final analysis is this, Kyle Van Noy (OLB) if he makes the team, will help back up at DE.
Ziggy Ansah, Haloti Ngata, and A'Shawn Robinson are all three locks to make the final roster.
Devin Taylor, Wallace Gilberry, Stefan Charles and Anthony Zettle are all "likely to make the final roster".
Tyrunn Walker and Caraun Reid are fighting to keep their roster spots against Gabe Wright, Kerry Hyder, and Khyri Thornton, who are also trying to open up a 10th DL spot with their play.
Finally there is James DeLoach, Deonte Gibson, and Louis Palmer all fighting for that same roster spot but are also trying to at least make the practice squad.

{update}: after completing the blog I realized that the retired scout with 30 years of NFL experience ranked Anthony Zettel as a B with a score of 6.40; the B means a player you would draft in rounds 2 or 3 and the 6.40 means "A solid college player with traits to succeed at the next level. Hey may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power." That is why I have him as likely to make the final roster. Also he ranked Robinson as an A with a 6.90 score which means "A player with not quite as talented as a 7.0. Should start early in his career, hopefully as a rookie. Has the potential to ascend to a Pro Bowl type player. Will be one of the better players on your team. Has multiple traits for the position. Can be dominant at times. At top 20-25 pick." It's going to be a tough year to make the roster this year, but everyone has a chance depending on how they do, as you can tell if you read all my blog entries in the estimated depth chart series. Am I forgetting special team? No, not really, Matt Prater will be the kicker, Sam Martin the punter, Kyle Christy is insurance and looking to catch on with another team as long as Sam Martin stays healthy, and as I explained in my after draft segment, 6th round draft pick Jimmy Landes will win the long snapper job if he can do the job, and if he can not, Don Muhlbach stays on for another year when the Lions will try again to find a new long snapper. Since that paragraph isn't long enough or provide any new information there is no reason to make a blog entry out of that, hence wrapping things up with this entry, on the defensive line.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 30th 2016 - Linebackers

The post draft linebacker situation.

The Detroit Lions have 11 Linebackers on their roster at present. They usually keep 6 players at that position. It is entirely possible they could keep 5 or 7 depending on circumstances (such as other talent to important to lose or other players able to play linebacker and say safety or defensive end) but the typical result is 6 linebackers on the final roster, so let's take a closer look at what they have to work with.

There are two locks to make the final roster; DeAndre Levy (due to his talent) and Tahir Whitehead (talent and the fact he just received $3 million in signing bonuses this year). Both of those players can be slotted in right now at weakside and middle linebacker respectively.

The highly likely to not make the team goes to Stephen Tulloch. Cutting him saves $5.5 million in salary cap space this year plus it was announced by him in February that he wouldn't be on the team this year. Yet the Lions paid him $500,000 as a roster bonus in March, apparently because it was guaranteed. The press has tried multiple times to find out why he's still on the roster but don't get a full explanation. My guess is that there is some kind of wording issue in his contract that is preventing them from making the cut. I assume that it will eventually be worked out, so I am not including him on the roster or even in the fight for a spot on the team.

The 5th round draft pick Antwione Williams was paid a signing bonus of $204,640 which is not enough to consider him a lock, but as a 5th round pick he would have to suck big time to end up on the cut list. He ends up on the "highly likely to make the team" list. Another on that list is Jon Bostic, since Quinn traded to get him with his former team, giving up the 7th round pick the Lions got for a trade 2 years ago with them. Neither player cost so much that they couldn't be cut, but all things being equal I would have to say they make the team.

That leaves 2 spots open for 6 players. Kyle Van Noy still has 2 years remaining on his contract but he really needs to show something this year to be considered. Josh Bynes did fairly well filling in last year, he probably has a leg up on the others but it's by no means assured. Brandon Copeland is on the team due to his special teams play, but with so many others now on the team that can also play special teams this no longer may be enough for him to make it. Then the three free agents picked up this year come into play as well; they being Jerry Franklin, Khaseem Greene, and Zaviar Gooden. While it's easy to just say Van Noy and Bynes have the final two spots locked up, I don't think it's going to be that easy when it's all said and done. Still, for now at least, that is the way I am leaning... but I'm also keeping my eyes and ears open for guys who could upset that apple cart.

In summary then:
2 Locks: DeAndre Levy and Tahir Whitehead.
2 Highly likely to make the team: Antwione Williams and Jon Bostic.
2 Open spots with Van Noy and Bynes penciled in but with Franklin, Greene, Gooden, and Copeland hot on their heels.
1 Likely to be cut: Stephen Tulloch, presumably after June 1st sometime yet no one knows why the delay.

That is how the linebacker corp appears to me at this point in time.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 27th 2016 - Defensive Backs

The post draft defensive backs situation.

Over the past week the Lions have made a couple of roster moves, two cuts, both due to injury. RFA Tight End Timothy Wright was cut due to injury today and a couple of days ago they cut UDFA Offensive Tackle Darius Johnson. Neither cut changes the salary cap situation for the Lions who currently have $14,965,950 in cap space available using the league's top 51 contract rule that is in effect until the first week of the regular season. Both players were guys who I thought had a very good chance of making the final roster and I suppose either could be re-signed at a later time once they can pass a physical. This gives GM Quinn two open spots on the roster to bring in bodies that he otherwise could not have without making these cuts. This also alters my estimated depth chart. I now move both cuts to the cut column and move over TE Matthew Mulligan and RT Michael Ola onto the 53. More moves will be forthcoming, just giving an update on the moves made to date (since my last update).

Now as to the defensive backs, the Lions typically keep 10, some years 9, some years 11, but for the most part, 10. It's usually pretty much 5 corners and 5 safeties as well, but it could go 6 and 4 or 4 and 6 if the players warrant such a move. At this point in time we will assume the total will remain 10 and the ratio will remain at 5 each.

Looking at Safety, the Lions have two Locks. Pro Bowler Glover Quin and their 2016 4th round draft pick Miles Killebrew. They also have two newly signed (this year) free agents in Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson who I believe have the edge over the incumbents Don Carey and Isaiah Johnson. In my opinion, both Don and Isaiah are competing against Johnson Bademosi for the final spot. Bademosi can supposedly play either safety or corner and would be a mainstay on special teams. I do believe Don and Isaiah are mostly insurance against injury but I can not say that Bademosi or Wilson or Bush are locks. So, on paper at least, there are actually 5 playing for 3 spots. Presently.

Now at Cornerback there is one lock in Darius Slay. There are 3 more that are highly likely to make the final 53 and they are Alex Carter, Quandre Diggs, and Nevin Lawson. Diggs and Lawson because they showed last year they are capable of playing in the NFL and Carter because he's got talent and despite his year off due to injury I fully expect him to own a roster spot on his talent alone. If I'm accurate here that leaves one spot for undrafted rookie Ian Wells (who I think has a great chance here) to compete against free agents Darrin Wells and Crezdon Butler and fellow undrafted rookies in Charles Washington and Adairius Barnes. Now if Bademosi doesn't play any safety at all and is in this group instead of at safety the team will have to decide if they go 6 and 4 or possibly keep 11 instead of 10 DBs on the final roster. There is going to be a lot of competition for the one or possibly two spots that appear to be contested here, yet that doesn't mean that a player not expected to win a roster spot can't prove his worth and force the team to keep him on. I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying their hardest to make the team, just pointing out how it appears at this point in time, and how it appears now may not be anything like it will appear by the end of August.

So with that qualifier, this is the summary of how I see it playing out at this point in time:
Locks: Safety Glover Quin, Safety Miles Killebrew, and Corner Darious Slay.
Likely to claim a roster spot: Safety Rafael Bush, Safety Tavon Wilson, Corner(Safety?) Johnson Bademosi, Corner Alex Carter, Corner Quandre Diggs, and Corner Nevin Lawson.
Probable final spot available: Corner Ian Wells versus Safety Don Carey, Safety Isaiah Johnson, Corner Darrin Wells, corner Crezdon Butler, corner Charles Washington and corner Adairius Barnes.

Injuries would (of course) open up more then one spot, and a player who performs so well they Lions can't make themselves cut him could open up an 11th spot at DB, so this "final spot" scenario is not carved in stone either. Then there is always the chance of regression, where a player from a prior season doesn't, for whatever reason, progress but rather regresses and is then surpassed by another player on the team. However things work out though, it's going to be a highly contested group of players fighting it out for the roles available, and that is a good thing.

Update: After completing this blog I realized that Bademosi was given a $2 million signing bonus in 2016 on a 2 year contract AND has $900,000 of his salary guaranteed so he truly belongs in the "Lock" category and not in the "Likely to claim a roster spot" category. There is almost no chance of his being cut. While there were signing bonuses for the two free agent safeties as well, they were at a quarter million and half million and therefor are not high enough to consider those players locks, though perhaps they should be slightly higher then just "Likely" to make the team.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 18th 2016 - Offensive Line

The post draft offensive line situation.

As of today the Detroit Lions have 15 players on their roster that play on the offensive line. Teams in the NFL tend to keep the 5 starters and then 5 backups for a total of 10 players (well some teams do, definitely not all teams). The Lions tend to keep 9, with one player who can back up two positions. Sometimes they get lucky and have more then one player who can backup more then one position. Either way, they usually keep 9 players, so let's see what the options are as of today.

There are currently 3 players on the team who can play center (that I now of, I haven't heard of any guards practicing at center so far this year). They are last year's starter Travis Swanson the 3rd round pick in the 2014 draft but who was ranked as the worst center in the NFL last year (if I recall correctly). There is this year's 3rd round draft pick Graham Glasgow and then there is Gabe Ikard who the Lions signed last year as a free agent player but is the same age as Swanson. These guys could play guard in an emergency, but I suspect the Lions will keep two of them. As the 3rd round draft pick this year the lock is Graham Glasgow. He may even win the starting center job, after all, you can't complain about how bad the OL was last year, draft a number of players that play OL, then not actually play them. With Glasgow the lock, that leaves the two 25 year olds Swanson and Ikard fighting it out for the other roster spot at center. Most assume that Swanson is a lock here, I do not believe that is the case. Oh sure, he's got more starting experience then Ikard, but his progress in developing into a quality starting center in the NFL was no where to be found this past year. For now, I'm giving Swanson the edge in making the final roster over Ikard, but I'm not going to call it a lock, not by any stretch of the imagination.

The Lions have 7 players on the roster who can play guard. Some will be better at left, some at right, and 4 of these 7 could play tackle as well, one or more might even be at tackle instead of guard by the end of August. Last year's starter and 1st round pick in 2015 Laken Tomlinson is purely a guard, he did develop a little as the year progressed last year, just what his ceiling is I do not know, but his entire contract is guaranteed so he will make the final roster (unless he was to get traded, which I doubt). Larry Warford, last year's starting right guard, is still on the team, but he will be facing competition for that job this year, and facing competition for a spot on the roster as well. If he can stay healthy he stands a chance of making the team, but he doesn't seem to stay healthy so this year needs to be his first year he does (stay healthy). One such competitor for his spot (and starting job) is the free agent pick up Geoff Schwartz. Unlike Warford, Schwartz can play guard or tackle, making him more valuable. Schwartz was only paid an $80,000 signing bonus but he has $120,000 of his salary guaranteed. Now $200,000 in guarantees doesn't make a player a lock to make the team, but Quinn obviously really wanted him on the roster, so it's going to take some significant play by others to knock him off of it.

Another player with some momentum to make the roster is this year's 5th round draft pick Joe Dahl. His signing bonus was $245,916... but Mr Dahl is being tried out at tackle and guard right from the get go, and he's more athletic then all the starters from last year at either position, so he is actually talented enough to play either. He's not a lock, but like Schwartz, it's going to take some effort by others to knock him off the team. Edit: I forgot to include this info on Dahl, the 30 year ex-scout who I referred to before on other players has Dahl ranked ahead of Lee and the others, in fact, he gave him an A grade (player you draft in the first two rounds) and a 6.60 score which is "A very good college player who should develop into a solid and consistent NFL player after a period of adjustment. Will eventually start and help a championship team win on a consistent basis. A late first or top half of second round player. You win BECAUSE of this type of player."

That's four. But, like I said, Dahl is being tried at tackle, he might be one of the four guards, and Warford is not a lock to make the final roster, or even to stay healthy, so there are some more players fighting for the one or two spots remaining. They are the undrafted guard Chase Farris who was paid $10,000 to sign an undrafted contract with the Lions; then there is Andrew Zeller also undrafted who can play guard or tackle and is also, like Dahl, extremely talented and physical. The last member of this group is another undrafted, in fact he was signed after the rookie OTAs where he was invited as a try out player and then signed, and he also players tackle or guard. His name is Darius Johnson. Which spot they settle on for him is not yet known.

Another lock to make the final roster is tackle Riley Reiff (again, unless he is traded). Reiff had his 5th year contract option picked up last year, which makes it guaranteed. When you guarantee a player's salary and that salary is $8.07 million then that player is a lock to make the roster. Now he may not end up as the left tackle, maybe not even the starter, but he'll make the final 53. I did not mark him down as a possible guard because even though pundits say he should be moved inside he hasn't actually played inside so it's unknown if he even could. It's also unknown if he could play right tackle in the NFL. I anticipate that perhaps, with the large influx of new talent on the OL, that Reiff might get moved around some early on to see exactly where he might be best at in Cooter's offensive scheme.

Yet another lock is this year's 1st round draft pick Taylor Decker. His entire 4 year contract is guaranteed, so he's a lock to make the team (again, unless traded) for the next 4 years. Whether he ends up at left tackle or right tackle remains to be seen, though I heard they are trying him at left tackle first (no idea how truthful that is).

The last set of players fighting for a roster spot are some of last year's roster; they are Michael Ola, Corey Robinson, and Cornelius Lucas. None of these guys have a salary cap reason for making the team. None of these guys were signed by Quinn. So all 3 of these guys would need to win a roster spot via their talent only. As none of them is known to play guard, their versatility is limited to playing right or left tackle. With Ola's starting experience last year he is probably a step ahead of the other two, but it's not a giant step... nothing that couldn't be overcome anyway. If you're still with me you are probably trying to remember how many locks there and who is fighting for what... and I plan to summarize that in just a bit. I just want to clarify, there are definitely locks to make the roster, there are no locks to be the starter. That includes every single one of the starters from the OL in 2015. And I do mean every single one. When your OL was as bad as the Lions' was last year, you can not even start to think you have it made. The fans shouldn't think that way, and the players had better not think that way.

Center Lock: Graham Glasgow. Swanson as the backup (or starter) with Ikard hard on his tale to take his spot away from him if he's not the starter.

Guard Lock: Laken Tomlinson. His entire remaining contract is guaranteed. Unless he's traded he makes the final roster.

Tackle Lock: Riley Reiff AND Taylor Decker. Both contracts fully guaranteed for this year (and 3 more years to follow in Decker's case).

That's 4 locks and 1 backup center that's between two players, so 5 spots locked in out of 9. These next guys are highly likely to make the final roster, not exactly a lock, but the next best thing to it.

Likely to claim a roster spot: G/T Geoff Schwartz AND G/T Joe Dahl. One a free agent signed by Quinn and the other a 5th round draft pick selected by Quinn.

That leaves us with 2 roster spots left for these 7 guys to fight over.
G Larry Warford
G Chase Farris
G/T Andrew Zeller
T/G Darius Johnson
T Cornelius Lucas
T Michael Ola
T Corey Robinson

As you can see, some serious talent may not make the final roster. In fact, it's possible that two of last year's starters may not even make the team. It's also possible that two more of last year's starters will be backup's and not starters this year. Fans and pundits alike were after the Lions to fix the OL, and this is how they are going to try doing just that. After writing this blog entry today I'm actually going to have to change my estimated depth chart, as it doesn't match the locks and the guys likely to make it. So I'm changing my estimated depth chart to this:

LT: Riley Reiff and Joe Dahl.
LG: Laken Tomlinson (also backed up by Joe Dahl).
C: Graham Glasgow and Travis Swanson (or it could be Ikard).
RG: Geoff Schwartz and Andrew Zeller.
RT: Taylor Decker and Darius Johnson. (edit: Ola may make the roster over Johnson if he doesn't show enough).

Chase Farris is going to be challenging both Zeller and Johnson for a roster spot, and the loser makes the practice squad. Since I don't know for sure who ends up at guard and who ends up at tackle the mix could be re-scrambled at a later time once word leaks out who is settling in where. For the time being though, this is how I see it going. Of course, the other 6 guys aren't going to just lay down either, and then there's the possibility of Quinn finding a trade partner, heck there is even a chance more free agents will be signed to get into the mix. A lot of variables in play, I only know a shake up is going to happen, and we all know, somewhere deep inside, a shakeup needs to happen, as far as the offensive line is concerned.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 16th 2016 - Tight Ends

The post draft tight end situation.

The Detroit Lions currently have 6 tight ends on the roster but one of them, Brandon Pettigrew, injured his knee in week 14 of the 2015 season. While players do come back from an ACL, and often before a full year has gone by, they usually aren't themselves until the season after. Pettigrew turned 31 a couple of months ago. If he's cut after June 1st (a couple of weeks from now) he'll cost the cap $1 million this year and the same next year... but it'll save $3.65 million this year and $4.35 million next year in salary... for a net savings of $2.65 million in 2016 and a net savings of $3.35 million in 2017. Instead of freeing up that cap space the Lions could keep Pettigrew if he is in fact healthy enough to play, put him on PUP if it's going to take a couple extra months, or even put him on IR with the intent on keeping him for next year when he will be 32 years old. I do not believe that is what will happen. In fact, I'm not sure if they will keep him until August to see how his knee is doing, but they might. After all, with only 5 others and probably 3 spots up for grabs there is no hurry, it's not like Pettigrew could pass a physical for another team just now.

Lock #1: Eric Ebron. Ebron will cost the salary cap $3,340,676 in 2016 whether he is kept or cut. His salary is guaranteed. Therefor he is a lock to make the team in 2016 (and probably in 2017 as well). Even without that guarantee he probable is still a lock to make the team in 2016, this is his year 3, the year when rookie tight ends usually make their biggest leap and show by the end of the season what kind of NFL player they will really be (from here on out).

If Pettigrew is cut, traded, put on PUP, or put on IR, then that leaves 2 more roster spots for these 4 players. The 2016 Restricted Free Agent Timothy Wright (who Quinn knows from the Patriots and we now from last year's Lions roster); the 2016 free agent that was signed by Quinn Matthew Mulligan; and two undrafted free agents form this draft class of Adam Fuehne and Cole Wick. Timothy Wright has a nice salary IF he earns all his NLTBE bonuses, but to earn them he must make the roster and play in the games. That is not a sure thing at this point by any means. If he were cut at any point this summer it would cost the salary cap $96,250 in dead space and that would be it. If Matthew Mulligan was cut it would cost the cap $80,000 in dead money. If Wick is cut it would cost the cap $10,000 in dead money. And at this point we don't know if Fuehne would cost the cap anything if cut (no contract details have come to light as of yet for him). So really, salary cap will play no part in the decision on who to keep or cut. I think Timothy Wright is the vet presence, pass catching type TE (not so much of a blocker) that could lose his roster spot to either of the undrafted guys if they show enough in pre-season.

Matthew Mulligan is the veteran presence, blocking type tight end. Formerly of the Jets (so once again, Quinn knows him well from the Patriots division opponents) and not so much a pass catching type. Like Wright, his roster spot is in jeopardy only if one of the rookies shows something in the pass blocking area. As I said before though, his 1 year contract is not going to ensure him a roster spot by its self. He will have to fend off the competition (and hope that Pettigrew is indeed too hurt to play or won't remain on the team). Mulligan isn't a lock to make the team, but he is definitely leaning on to that side of that fence.

Adam Fuehne is 6'7" tall and 253 pounds which is big for a TE, but then Cole Wick is 6'5" and 256 pounds which is also big. Wick has more explosion, is faster, and has a better vertical, then Fuehne, but either could prove to be a decent TE (in time). As I explained before though, Wick wins the #RAS score and meets many of the measurables that top TE's have... it just remains to be seen how his skills translates into the NFL, and the same for Fuehne. It also remains to be seen if either Wick or Fuehne can show enough in pre-season to take the roster spots away from either Wright or Mulligan (or both).

In summary, at tight end, it appears at this point in time to be:
TE: Brandon Pettigrew; a post June 1st cut.
TE #1: Eric Ebron; a lock to make the final roster.
TE #2: a Blocking Tight End in Matthew Mulligan makes the roster unless either Wick or Fuehne can unseat him.
TE #3: a pass catching Tight End in Timothy Wright makes the roster unless either Wick or Fuehne can unseat him.
TE for practice squad: if either Wick or Fuehne fail to take a roster spot from the vets Wright or Mulligan then they are the only two who could qualify out of the six for a seat on the practice squad.

I like the potential that is Cole Wick, I'm just not sure if he can unseat Timothy Wright as the #2 TE in his rookie year. I also like the potential in Fuehne, but I don't think he will unseat Mulligan, so it's the practice squad for him. Between the two undrafted players I would keep an eye on Cole Wick, and if he shows something I'm not sure I'd risk trying to get him to the practice squad, but I don't now what Quinn's gambling level is in that regard, at least not yet. I do, however, like the odds of Wick beating out Mulligan as the blocking TE, at least right now, I may change my mind on that later.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 15th 2016 - Wide Receivers

The post draft wide receiver situation.

With the retirement of Calvin Johnson many pundits expected the Detroit Lions to draft a wide receiver in the 2016 draft, and early at that. Most mocks had that nearly as a mandate in the first couple rounds. The Lions however drafted nary a one in 10 pics. They did sign 3 undrafted players however, and before the draft, signed 6 free agents, giving them a total of 12 wide receivers (currently) on the roster. They will probably keep 5 on the roster after the final cuts, unless someone beats out the 3rd QB, or the 4th RB, or the 10th Dlineman, or the 7th LB, or the 10th DB, or whatever position gets trimmed back in order to keep that one WR dude they just can't let go. So yeah, it could be 6 or even 7 but it will most likely be five.

Lock #1: Golden Tate. Tate was signed in 2014 to a 5 year deal and has already proven his worth to the team and to the fans. He is as much of a sure thing to make the team as there is.

Lock #2: Marvin Jones. Jones was signed this year to a 5 year contract that is nearly identical to the one signed by Golden Tate two years ago even including the same $8 million signing bonus. For cap reasons alone he makes the team, but he is also expected to bookend the WR spots with Golden Tate to make up the beginning of what could become a very interesting offense for Mr Cooter.

Highly probable #1: Jeremy Kerley. The Lions picked up Kerley in free agency on a one year prove it type deal to bolster the WR corps. Neither his $50,000 signing bonus nor his $40,000 workout bonus will prevent him being cut if need be, but he only gets his bonuses of $260,000 (as in not likely to be earned bonuses) if he hits play time incentives, this would be on top of his one year salary of only $760,000. Yet this meager contract still makes him the 3rd highest paid WR on the Lions, that plus his age, familiarity with Quinn, and abilities makes him highly probable to make the final roster.

Most likely to take the 4th spot: TJ Jones. Jones has begun to show progress on his development and has 2 years remaining on his 6th round 4 year contract he signed after the draft in 2014. In my opinion he has shown more value then his fellow 6th round pick (from 2013, the year before) Corey Fuller. He has the upper hand to be the 4th WR on the roster but it is by no means guaranteed a spot. He will be challenged not only by Fuller but by everyone else on the current roster.

Insurance: Andre Caldwell. Caldwell is insurance in case anyone of the above gets injured. He was signed to a one year vet minimum deal, the $80,000 signing bonus is cheap insurance if anything goes wrong due to injury or lack of development of the youngsters. However, if all the top 4 are healthy he likely fails to make the final roster. Like I said before, Quinn is ruthless.

The final WR spot(s): Corey Fuller, Ryan Spadola, Corey Washington, Austin Willis, Jace Billingsley, Quinshad Davis, or Jay Lee. Lions fans know Fuller from the past 3 years of course. Spadola, Washington and Willis were signed this off season to compete. Billingsley, Davis and Lee were signed after the draft when they went undrafted and also are in the mix. You would think that Fuller would have the best chance of making the final roster but I don't feel that is the case at all. His time to shine was last year, and he failed to make that 3rd year jump that wide receivers make if they are to succeed in the NFL. He gets this one extra off season to prove otherwise, but I have a feeling it is someone elses turn to begin the process of development.

My pick? The undrafted rookie Jay Lee. His #RAS is better then the rest of the WR corp. His likelihood of NFL success is better then his competition. His future is very bright indeed, if he applies himself to the task fully. In the last post I mentioned a 30 year scout who used real NFL rankings on players and showed his ranking for the QB the Lions drafted, well Lee also made his list, and he was ranked one notch higher the Rudock. Lee also had a B grade (meaning a player you would select in rounds 2 or 3) and his score was a 6.50 which is "Will need a little more time to develop but should become a solid starter. Will be a quality backup his first and second year depending on a team's needs and strengths but could start earlier if a top team is weak at the position. A second to third round pick. You win WITH this type of player." None of the other undrafteds even made the list at all to garner a score.

In summary, at wide receiver, it appears at this point in time to be:
WR: Golden Tate and Marvin Jones; both locks in my opinion.
WR3: Jeremy Kerley (vet presence with slot and outside experience, younger then Caldwell).
WR4: TJ Jones (has been developing better then Fuller).
WR5: Jay Lee (has the most potential of them all).

Andre Caldwell is insurance in case any of the first 4 get injured. Corey Fuller, Ryan Spadola, Corey Washington, Austin Willis, Jace Billingsley and Quinshad Davis are all competing against each other; against Kerley and Jones and Lee for one of those nearly locked up spots; and against the rest of the roster to show they belong as an extra WR instead of another position on the team.

It's going to be some good competition, and some decent talent may end up being cut before the season starts. (if you just had a case of deja vue that is because that is exactly what I said about the RB position). Several of the "losers" will likely make the practice squad though not all of them qualify.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 14th 2016 - Running Backs

The post draft running back situation report.

The previous blog entry was on Quarterbacks, this will be on Running Backs. However, I did forget one comment on the 6th round draft pick QB Rudock. That is, his ranking (pre-draft) from a former scout with 30 years experience (using the NFL version of ranking players). http://www.profootballweekly.com/draft/grades/index.xml Rudock had a B ranking (or a player you would draft in rounds 2 or 3) and a score of 6.4 which is "A solid college player with traits to succeed at the next level. Hey may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power." Okay, now that I got that over with, some running back discussion.

The Lions have one full back on the team unless they try to convert a tight-end to that position. That pretty much assures Michael Burton of his roster spot. Still, that leaves 6 players who play running back and most likely 4 roster spots on the team. Yes, it could be 3 spots or 5 spots but the most likely scenario is 4. I believe the lock at this position is Theo Riddick. His pass catching prowess was on full display last year and there is almost no chance he fails to make the roster in that role (barring injury, knock on wood). Ameer Abdullah is also a lock as his entire salary for this year is guaranteed and also because he was productive in only his 1st year in the league. This leaves one vet, two undrafted players from previous years, and this year's 7th round pick for the final 2 spots. The salary cap will play no part in differing these players from each other, their cap hits are all within $212,000 of each other.

The vet, Stevan Ridley formerly of the Patriots, was playing well for his previous team before injury took him out of the picture. Assuming he is fully healed, will remain healthy, and has not lost anything, he brings a veteran presence to the RB corp that won't be easily dismissed. He isn't a lock to make the team but in a tie he probably wins the spot. Basically, if he's healthy and able he's in. If not, he may be out.

George Winn, the undrafted player for the Lions in 2014, has an uphill battle. His experience with his fellow players and the current coaching staff gives him a small advantage, which he will have to use in full to remain on the team come September.

Zach Zenner, the undrafted player for the Lions in 2015, also has an uphill battle. He too has the one year experience with this coaching staff and that same time period with his fellow players. But, he's up against this year's 7th round draft pick. If Zenner can stay healthy it's possible he could beat out Winn, but he would have to really show some good things in order to beat out either a healthy Ridley or the Lions newest 7th rounder.

Dwayne Washington, this year's 7th round draft pick, is the final player in the group fighting for a roster spot. His first advantage is that he was drafted. His second is his ability to be a scoring threat from anywhere on the field (at least he was in college). It remains to be seen if he can transition into the NFL, if he can remain healthy, and if he can learn enough quick enough to beat out some pretty decent competition for the roster spots involved. His #RAS score is somewhere around fantastic (meaning his measurables are great). As I explained a few posts down, if a running back exceeds 5'10" in height, 4.5 seconds in the 40, and 10' 4" in the long jump he has a 78% of success in the NFL. Dwayne Washington exceeds all those. The only thing I can not find on him, and I've looked 8 pages deep in both google and bing, is his hand size. I have a personal preference of 9.5" or larger hands, but basically it's the larger hand size the better the odds. Dwayne has had some issues with drops/fumbles, but if it's not physical (meaning hand size) then it's correctable, with coaching on focus and ball security. It is entirely conceivable that Dwayne will be the Lions number 1 running back before his 4 year contract is up. It's also possible he'll end up cut and on the practice squad. This is a total boom or bust draft pick, it just happens that the odds are more in favor of a boom then a bust, even though he lasted until the 7th round. One thing for sure, he is going to be giving Ridley, Winn and Zenner a run for their money.

In summary, at running back, it appears at this point in time to be:
FB: Michael Burton; lock.
RB: Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah; both locks in my opinion.
RB: Steven Ridley (vet presence but health and ability remaining are concerns) and Dwayne Washington (draft pick but needs to learn fast) vs Zach Zenner and George Winn (both have shown something but both were undrafted and by previous regime at that) for the final two spots.

It's going to be some good competition, and some decent talent may end up being cut before the season starts.

8 Days Later

In the past 8 days the Detroit Lions have made a number of moves other then the undrafted players I mentioned already (and the 10 draft picks, who they have already got signed)... they are:

05/05/2016 The Detroit Lions sign WR Andre Caldwell, release C Darren Keyton.
05/08/2016 The Detroit Lions sign offensive lineman Darius Johnson, waive offensive tackle Tyrus Thompson.
05/09/2016 The Detroit Lions acquire linebacker Jon Bostic via trade from the New England Patriots.
05/13/2016 The Detroit Lions sign defensive lineman Louis Palmer, release offensive tackle Lamar Holmes.

and on the 6th of May the Lions officially signed their undrafted players, that transaction report looked like this:

05/06/2016 The Detroit Lions sign corner back Adairius Barnes, wide receiver Jace Billingsley, wide receiver Quinshad Davis, defensive end James DeLoach, guard Chase Farris, tight end Adam Fuehne, defensive end Deonte Gibson, wide receiver Jay Lee, defensive back Charles Washington, corner back Ian Wells, tight end Cole Wick and guard Andrew Zeller.

What did they trade to the Patriots for that linebacker? The conditional 7th round pick they received from the Patriots last year when the Lions traded away their tight end turned offensive tackle Mike Williams.

Obviously the Lions have been very busy since the draft, and may continue to be busy revamping the roster, so much so that some of what I write will likely be obsolete before I finish my series of blog entries. I'll have to update on the fly or else I'll never get this finished.

Anyway, I did complete some work on my estimated depth chart and my salary cap chart (perma-links to both are in the menu to the right). Now I will use the information on those two charts and elsewhere to take on a position group at a time. First up... Quarterback.

Matthew Stafford will of course remain the starter (barring injury... knock on wood) and the Lions already signed Dan Orlovsky on a 1 year vet minimum deal to back him up. After that the Lions drafted Jake Rudock as their first pick in round 6. The Lions also have just completed their rookie OTA (Organized Team Activity) and did not bring in a 4th QB. This is significant as usually a 4th arm would be in camp now (under previous regimes) in order for him to not be lost. You would normally expect him signed sooner rather then later so he can begin learning the playbook. Since the Lions opted not to sign a 4th arm it's possible they will be going with 3 for the upcoming OTAs and summer camp. The question is, are they going to keep 3 or just 2 when they go into the season. The answer is, that depends on Rudock's progress. With only 3 camp arms Rudock will be getting more reps then normal, which suggests that if he does progress enough it could be Orlovsky who is competing against the rest of the roster for a spot on the 53. Rudock may also be Orlovsky's replacement... NEXT year... should the Lions decide he needs more then a few months to be the sole backup quarterback, thus keeping 3 on the roster. There is also the possibility that Rudock doesn't progress at all, in which case Orlovsky stays on as the backup and Rudock ends up gone entirely or on the practice squad. By having all their options open the bases are fairly well covered, the ruthless part of it (the cuts) will happen after more info is garnered.

Speaking of "more info" I would recommend everyone read the following link; http://www.thehuddlereport.com/archive/2016profiles/Jake.Rudock.htm I would also recommend that if you read my take on the pick immediately after day 3 of the draft that you also read my follow up entry, since one is very critical of the pick and the other is nearly a reversal of that opinion. There are a lot of draft profiles out there on Rudock (well, all players really) but the link above is based mostly on film review and not so much other factors and in reading so many articles it would seem to be the best summary of them all. Anyway, as of now, I am keeping three QBs on my estimated depth chart... but if Rudock starts showing great progress I may drop Orlovsky down into the "players fighting for a roster spot" side or if Rudock starts showing no progress at all I may drop him into that side... because yes, Quinn would cut Orlovsky even though he's already been paid $80,000 and is a veteran; just like yes, Quinn would cut Rudock even though he's already been paid $133,740 and is a draft pick (albeit a 6th rounder). Being ruthless is going to show more then once in upcoming times, like it or not.

So after 8 days and 1 OTA the Lions have just one new QB learning the playbook, with 3 arms for the next one, plus depending on how Rudock progresses he will help determine if the Lions keep 2 or 3 QBs for the regular season, and if only 2, which one is the backup to Stafford. Greater then normal progress and Rudock becomes the sole backup QB, lesser then normal progress and Orlovsky remains the backup this year while Rudock tries to make the practice squad, then there's the "typical" or "normal" progress meaning both QBs remain on the roster for one more year.

When Quinn said he likes flexibility he didn't just mean players who can play in more then one spot on the roster. He means to have all his options open in the roster makeup as well, via competition for even the backup jobs.