Sunday, October 8, 2017

2017, Week 5, Carolina Panthers vs the Detroit Lions @ Home


The 3-2 Detroit Lions lose to the 4-1 Carolina Panthers 24-27 in a lopsided game that was no where near as close as the final score. If you gave out game balls to the losing team the only two guys who would deserve them would be TE Daniel Fells and K Matt Prater, in my opinion. None of the other players stood out and for that matter, neither did any of the coaches. There was so much that went wrong during this game that there isn't much in the line of positives to write about. Very lopsided indeed.

Matthew Stafford was 23 of 35 (65.71%) for 229 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions though he did fumble twice (one recovered by Robinson of the Lions) and Stafford was sacked 6 times. Stafford detractors will be saying that he needs to be more aware of the rush, that he needs to just get rid of the ball instead of taking the sack, and so on. Stafford defenders will be saying that the offensive line needs to pass block better, that the receivers (be they WR, TE or RB) need to get at least some separation to get open, and that the play calling was not conducive to winning the game. I would say that both sides would be right. I understand that Stafford is playing tough, standing tall and trying to give his receivers as much time as he can to get open, desparately trying to win the game. But, he (and his coaching staff) need to admit the OL is not capable of blocking regularly for either the pass or the run and do whatever can be done to mitigate the problem. Be it more roll outs, throwing the ball away instead of taking the sack, re-designing the playbook, or just benching guys for lack of production. Something, anything, as Stafford is getting whomped, he's limping, bleeding, and at times, rushing his throws while at other times taking too long to get rid of the ball. The running backs make a great play then fail the next 6 times (or whatever number it is). The blocking is even more lopsided. In the end Fells caught both touchdowns in what many will call garbage time and Ebron had only 1 catch and many drops, again. Ebron is also not playing like a first round pick. I could go on and on and on about the offense, but, let's look at the other side for a moment.

Cam Newton was 26 of 33 (78.79% which is amazing) for 355 yards 3 touchdowns and no interceptions one fumble (recovered by them) and sacked 3 times. The time of possession was around 35 minutes (to the Lions 25) and the only good stat for the Lions defense is they held the Panthers to just 28 yards rushing (Lions offense had 50 yards rushing). At one point the Panthers had scored 24 unanswered points leaving the Lions to score their only 2 passing touchdowns in the 4th quarter in a failed attempt to come back. The Panthers backup tightend had 5 catches for 175 yards, nearly a team record. The defense will get a pass because they played so well the first 4 games of the season, but really, they don't deserve a pass, they need to find what went wrong and get it fixed or the season will be over before the bye week. Then again, maybe that's just me being upset about the loss and how lopsided the score was until the final minutes.

Now I'm not saying there wasn't a good play here, or a great play there, by the Lions, but there was so many bad plays it kind of ruins the good ones. It is most certainly time for the Lions coaches to figure themselves and their team out, and find ways to have more of the good plays and far fewer of the bad ones... on both sides of the ball. It's time for players to step up or sit down, and no, I'm not actually talking about the quarterback. Even though he does need to be coached about some of the things he is (or is not) doing too. Make Ebron a healthy scratch in favor of playing Fells, that might get his attention. Shuffle the OL if you have to, or find plays they can actually block for, or coach them into doing better, or gee, I just don't know, but any QB who has to play behind this OL is going to need a whole lot of ice if he can even walk after the game no matter who is taking the snaps. Maybe it's the OL coach? Not sure. The WR coach has some work to do too, the WRs are not getting open. Not even getting a step of separation most of the time. Or is it the playbook? The play calling? Not sure on this either, but I do know that something must be done. At the same time the defense who was playing very well needs to get back to doing that, as this game exposed them badly and it can't be something they fall into when you need them to keep the team in the game. No, they shouldn't have to do that by themselves, I just covered that, but until such time as the O does come around the D needs to compensate.

In the end, the game was a Panthers win from the 2nd quarter on, it was completely lopsided despite the final score, and hope for future wins was severely diminished after watching the game. Only Fells and Prater should sleep well and feel good about their game after this.

Next week the Lions play the Saints in New Orleans. If they play like they did today they will lose by 3 or more scores. The bye week is the week after but I suggest they shouldn't wait for that week to fix things, they need to work on it now. I'm sure they are actually, I'm just not sure if they are capable. Probably they are, but forgive me if I have some doubts.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

2017, Week 4, Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings

Just Enough

The 3-1 Detroit Lions defeated the 2-2 Minnesota Vikings 14-7 in a hard fought away game. The offense, defense and special teams did just enough to garner the win. In fact, it could be said that the defense had to do even more then their share in order to make up for some issues elsewhere. The officiating was also fairly relaxed (and no, I'm not complaining). All in all, it's hard to get upset over a win, a tie for the lead in the division, and a team who was only 5 inches (or 3 seconds) away from being 4-0. Let's hope the team does just enough to make the playoffs this year as well. For that matter, more then just enough would be better yet.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 31 (61.29%) for 209 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Ameer Abdullah rushed for 94 yards (before leaving the game injured in the 4th quarter) and the only touchdown of the game. The offense also managed a 2 point conversion in the 3rd quarter. Neither team scored any points at all in the 1st and 4th quarter. It was pretty much a defensive game on both sides, with the Lions defense notching 4 fumble recoveries (3 of the Vikings fumbles and 1 of Staffords) with no interceptions and 2 sacks. The Vikings did not recover any fumbles and got no interceptions (though it was a close thing a few times) and sacked Stafford 5 times, hurrying him many more times, and hitting him in excess of 15 times. Prater hit 2 of 3 field goals and the Vikings missed their attempts. It wasn't a pretty game, but it was just enough to win.

By the way, their backup QB Keenum was 16 of 30 (53.33%) for 219 yards. The Lions defense held their running game to only 87 yards and one touchdown, but, in a non-contact run their rookie running back Cook went down with a knee injury... word is nearly a complete ACL tear. He'll likely be out for the rest of the year and possibly into next season. Lions played without their 1st round pick (Davis) at MLB and an hodge-podge offensive line that is really having issues run blocking and pass blocking. Not sure what they are good at actually. Getting injured for sure, but one would think they could do at least one type of blocking adequately... then again, the Lions won, their tied for first in the division, and so I guess it was just enough.

Next week the Lions play the Carolina Panthers at home. I have a feeling it'll be another 1 score difference game, just not sure who will be healthy enough to play so I'm also not sure which team will come out on top. The homer pick is the Lions, but my mind is telling me the Panthers just might do just enough to win instead.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

2017, Week 3, Detroit Lions versus Atlanta Falcons @ Home

Wait! What?

The 3-0 2-1 Detroit Lions beat the lose to the 2-1 3-0 Atlanta Falcons at home with a score of 33-30 26-30. In what was ruled as the go ahead Lions touchdown by the officials with 8 seconds on the clock the play went under review and was reversed. THEN the officials ran 10 seconds off the clock because the rule book says they had to. Game over. Instead of the Lions winning the game they were declared the losers.

Now, had Golden Tate III not been touched as he fell to the goal line he could have rolled, crawled, walked, ran or did cartwheels in and still scored the TD. But Golden was touched so when his knee hit the ground the ball was to be spotted where the nose of it was located, which was about 5 inches shy of the goal line. Okay fine, it's 4th down, there is still 8 seconds on the clock, the Lions are 5 inches away from winning... BUT because they have no timeouts left there is a 10 second clock run off (or at least that is how I understand it). 10 from 8 makes negative 2... or game over. Now understand, the Lions did nothing wrong. There was no flag. There was no penalty or other thing to point at the Lions and say "no sir, you are in the wrong". The officials called it a TD. Had they not the Lions had time to re-line up and probably get off one last play to attempt to score, from the 5 inch line. But no, they are forced to have 10 seconds run off the clock. I asked a Hockey "super" fan if Hockey had any such clock depleting rules... he said nope. I asked a basketball fan, nope. I already know there is no clock in baseball, so that's a nope. Thus, the Lions lost their first game of the year against the NFC 2016 Champion team because the officials got the call wrong and due to the rules wouldn't let them try their 4th down attempt. No other major sport in the USA has any such kind of rule of any kind. If ever there was a football version of the definition of the semi-modern phrase of Wait! What? this would be it.

Okay, so now that I clarified my position on that... let's see actual facts. Mathew Stafford was 25 of 45 (55.56%) for 264 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions. A respectable but not really great or efficient game set of stats. He did throw off his back foot a couple of times showing poor mechanics (on those couple throws) and he was off on his placement a few times as well. Other then those 4 or 5 (or if pushing it, 6) times, Matthew Stafford did a pretty decent job of running the Lions offense. Not everyone else on the offense even got that close to good (looking at you Ebron, and the OL).

Eric Ebron had a number of drops, at least one of (if not two of) which might have had the Lions scoring the go ahead score before the 8 seconds on the clock thing, and we would still not know about that rule that's in the books. Other players also had issues during the game, even the coaches who took at least a quarter and a half before figuring out they could not run to the left (I had that figured out a week ago and re-iterated it pregame and during the first quarter). Meanwhile, the defense and special teams played a pretty decent game. Not perfect, oh no, they will have plenty of things to talk about in the film review tomorrow. But all in all, the offense lost this game, with help by the coaching staff and the officials and the NFL Rule book. Odd how that always seems to happen to the Lions.

Now I don't want to make this all about the Lions, or the officials, or the rule book, or the coaching staff, as the Falcons played a very VERY good game. Matt Ryan (the QBs were Mathew and Matt, the kickers were Matt and Matt, how's that for odd?) was 24 of 35 (68.57%) for 294 yards with 2 touchdowns but 3 interceptions (further proof of the Lions defense doing well, in the take away department anyway). The Lions had only 71 yards rushing (19 by Stafford) while the Falcons managed 151 yards (not their usual efficient run defense there). Both teams were without some key players, though I'd say the key players on the Lions side were maybe just a bit more key then their opponent. I suppose that can be debated as much as the rule book, so I won't.

What it comes down to is this: The Lions backups on defense are not starting caliber (at this point in time, as in not ready) and the Lions OL was only 40% intact and very subpar. Stafford was not his self and the officials and rule book were their ever over-present selves, as we Lions fans have learned from repeated exposure. I'm sure I'm not the only fan who went Wait! What?! at the end of this game. I'm also sure some are still confused about it. Hopefully someone in the NFL is as well, so yet another rule can be fixed due to the Lions losing because of it.

Okay, so let's say the Lions should have won before the final play that killed the fun... well then, the Lions just went toe to toe with the current NFC Conference Champions and held their own for the most part. Not due to an overpowering offense, nor to a un-duplicate-able (sp?) defense, as the defense has done similar feats already this year. Not even to some fluke plays by special teams. No, the Lions, as a team, competed, very well, for about 59 minutes and some odd seconds. Some would even say 59 minutes and 52 seconds, and I'd have no qualms with that. So despite the loss, despite the way it was lost, I'm at least encouraged by the game being as close as it was. Since the division has suddenly become highly competitive this, if it can continue, just might make a difference before the year is over. Not this game, but the lessons learned from it and continued great play by the team its self.

Next week the Lions go to Minnesota to play the Vikings. I expect the results of that game to be a whole lot better. I don't think the Vikings will be prepared for the "payback" the Lions are going to be willing to give out by then. There is no way this loss will be taken lightly and I expect the team as a whole to respond accordingly. My prediction for next week, Lions 27-Vikings 17.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

2017, Week 2, Detroit Lions @ New York Giants

Team win.

The 2-0 Detroit Lions defeated the 0-2 New York Giants with a score of 24-10. After recording the go-ahead score in the first quarter the Lions never once gave up the lead. But, it wasn't all offense. It wasn't all defense. It wasn't all special teams. It was, in just a few words, a Team Win!

Now I realize the defense doesn't have the highest paid player in the NFL on their side, that title belongs to Matthew Stafford. However, in 2017, at present, the Lions have more cap space devoted to defense then offense. That may not be true at any point in the future, or it may be so every year for years to come, but without a verifiable accurate crystal ball, all we can see is THIS year and THIS year the defense tops the offense (in 2017 cap space).

Matthew Stafford was 15 of 21 (ugh) for a 71.429% completion percentage (wow) and a whopping 122 yards (omg) but for 2 TDs and 0 INTs (yippee). All in all, it was a highly productive performance. Despite the poke in the eye and the lack of balanced officiating (yes I went there). I have long believed that a QB who can exceed 65% completions and a 2-to-1 TD-to-INT percentage can be a winning QB in the NFL, and the Lions helped towards proving that tonight.

Now the Lions defense held Eli Manning to 22 of 32 (68.75%) for 239 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT (yeah, about that, see above). The Lions rushed for 138 yards (23 by Stafford for 2nd on the team) and the Giants for a whomping 62 yards total (none by Eli). The leading receiver on both teams were tight ends (Ebron and Engram). That speaks of some pretty good defense by both teams. No one will or can deny that.

The Lions had a punt return (Agnew) for a TD and a FG that just barely bounced off of and over the goal posts. That still gives the Lions offense a 4 point upper hand, then again, the short fields provided by defense and special teams also likely helped the offense... so yes, it was a Team Win!!! And I'm here to tell you, there is nothing wrong with that, especially on the road!

Next week the Lions play the Atlanta Falcons at home, the superbowl losing team from last year. I predicted pre-season they would lose this game, but right now, I'm not quite as confident of that prediction. If I could do it over again I might be inclined to predict the Lions as winning this game, simply because they have some depth, they have a complete team, and they appear to have some players all throughout the roster that can at any given time contribute to the win. That is a recipe for success in the NFL, and I don't want to see it get lopsided. I like the "team win" aspect of the team. I for one don't think the Qb HAS to win it all, all of the time.

To complete my comparisons of the Lions and the Giants, both teams had 50 yards of penalties (though I would agree with Lions fans that this was somewhat lopsided towards the other team). Both teams had a fumble, but only the Lions lost theirs. Both teams made 100% of their field goals and extra points. The Lions did generate an interception whereas the Giants did not. The Giants had 14 first downs compared to the Lions 12. In many ways, the two teams were equal (stat-wise) but at no point were the Lions losing this game, despite being only one score ahead at various times in the game. It was, as I stated before, a team win.

The Bears, Vikings, and Packers have lost their first away games this year, putting the Lions solidly in first place in the division. Various, ah, fans, will say "but" and yet, despite whatever stats can be "qualified" the end result is, the Lions have played a home game and a road game and won them both. They are first in the division, and they do not appear to be any sort of a "push over" type of team at any point in the near future. I'll take a 4th quarter come-from-behind victory such as last week at home, and I'll take a "take charge lead and don't give it up" game on the road, and I won't apologize for either. If you are a fan who still feels the need to peek at the game instead of giving in to the mostly loaded bandwagon, so be it. Myself, I'm enjoying this. It's been almost 20 years (maybe more) since I felt this good about the team, I may not outlive another drought, so I'm going to just enjoy this AS it happens, instead of dreading the next game.

Here's to the Detroit Lions and the home game against the Atlanta Falcons next week (6 days from now). May it prove to be as good as I suspect it will be.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

2017, Week 1, Arizona Cardinals @ Detroit Lions

Defending Their Home.

The 1-0 Detroit Lions beat the 0-1 Arizona Cardinals 35-23 in an error filled but eventful season opening game. While various players on the Lions offense were making errors and trying to get their collective acts together the defense helped keep the game close, despite special teams also contributing to the error factor. The Lions were behind for 3 quarters before their 4th quarter comeback (echoes of 2016 there) and in the end the Lions corrected more and improved enough to defeat the Cardinals.

Mathew Stafford was 29 of 41 (70.73%) for 292 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT. The Arizona defense is very fast, and quite effective, and the Lions offense was a bit disjointed at first but pulled themselves together little by little to finish strong for the win and some pretty impressive stats, along with the feeling (for most) that they will be competitive this year. The Lions produced 82 yards on the ground while limiting the Cardinals to 45. The Lions defense also held Carson Palmer to 269 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs allowing him to complete just 56.25% of his passes. Having home field advantage means winning your home games and that is what the Lions did, they defended their home.

Golden Tate injured his fingers and back during the game but continued to play right up until the final drive. Meanwhile, the Cardinals top player David Johnson went to the locker room after around 3 quarters of play for an injured wrist. There were a few other bumps and bruises but I didn't notice any major injuries to either side (unless those injuries turn out to be major). Both teams will have plenty of film to review and see where they need to improve, but it was great to watch them actual improve some things during the game. I even noted their 1st round draft pick Davis (team leading 9 tackles) ask a ref what he did wrong after being flagged late in the game, that's the kind of player you can coach, and his talent is easy for all to see. I'm really looking forward to the next game, which is against the New York Giants on Monday night football.

My prediction? If the Lions can keep the game close and not endure any major injuries they will make the Giants game exciting to watch, since I can't predict that stuff I'll just assume all goes well, and the Lions end up winning 27-24. Of course, the Giants intend to defend their home too so it won't be easy.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Detroit Lions Training Camp 2017, day 3 of open practice, August 2nd

On my 3rd and final day at the Lions training camp I decided to sit in the same location as day 2 hoping they would do more on that side of the field, the used to in order to not tear up any one part of any one field too much, and that did seem to be the case this time as well. Unfortunately, my notes and roster sheets ended up in a car south of Chicago while I drove back to west Michigan arriving very late at night. I had my notes photo'd and emailed to me to complete this blog entry. Now for my camp report...

The first thing I watched was some kick/punt return work. A new body was added to the group, that being #36 Washington. The players working as returners in the various drills were numbers 10; 13; 17; 36 and 39. At one point in the practice the kicker failed to connect with the ball and the players just stood around... then the coach got after ALL of them for not taking off after the holder who still had the ball (and hadn't moved either). That seemed to get them all into the spirit of things.

Another series of special teams practice had multiple things going at the same time. In one part of the field they worked on catching the ball at the same time as 2 blocked 2 in front of the returner. The ball being fired from a jugs (tire) machine over the heads of all sets of players and coaches.

The second group was 3 blocking 3 with just about anyone pretending to be the returner (one of who was Muhlbach). And then yet another group was 2 on 2 doing blocking and gunner practice. While all that was going on further yet behind the jugs machine the QBs were practicing throwing to coaches in various out and in patterns.

Next up were the WRs doing various drills, most of it involving the end zone. Later they were joined by the QBs for more end zone work. The sets were different in that #9 Stafford did a lot of work only with the first 4 or 5 WRs and #14 would work with the rest, with #8 getting almost no snaps. After a number of sets going either up and in, up and out, at the corner pylon or a 1 yard short of EZ and then step in inches from that pylon... only after most of the WRs did this did #8 get a snap or two.

After all that occurred the DBs joined in to defend the various throws in or near the end zone. The defense was doing better defending then the WRs were with actual catches, so once again I'm not entirely sure if the point of the drill was defense, offense, both or what exactly.

About this time the rain clouds started moving in, then lightning to the NE of the fields. I started heading for my car and got on the road just as the skies opened up. So my last day of camp experience was cut about an hour short.

I was there with 2 of my grand kids. My grandson Tom (age 4) apparently has a thing for cheerleaders, especially redheads. Whilst my granddaughter (age 8) taught the cheerleaders one of her own cheers, she was a bigger fan of Roary, the mascot.

The face painting was all free, courtesy of the Lions. So were the various interactive games there. Only the merchandise and food costs anything, as even admission was free.

When my notes arrive back in Michigan next week I may make some more points, and I have a lot more pics to share as well, but without the notebook it's hard to know which pics belong to which notes. My overall impressions of camp where that they were a lot more organized then previous ones (going back to 1998) and the layout of the fans experience was the best to date since the Saginaw days. The food trucks were great, I even escorted (un-officially) Mrs Slay and baby back to the taco truck on day 3. The player I was most interested in was Golladay, and I think he's going to be a great player after his rookie year trial-n-error experience. Who wins kick returner is going to be an interesting fight, as will most positions on the team. Some very good talent will eventually be cut from the Lions roster, I look for some of them to catch up with other teams come September.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Lions Camp 2017, Day 2 Public Access, August 1st

First set in front of me was QB and Centers only. Lots of snaps from under center and shotgun both. The QBs names are known. The 3 centers involved with the set were Swanson, Glasgow, and Leo Koloamatangi. The only centers remaining on the roster.

Saw 76 & 58 without helmets across the way. That's TJ Lang and Paul Worrilow.

Even further off in the distance they were having Kick and Punt Return practice... well, mostly catching the Kick or Punt actually. The significant part of that is who was trying out for the catching. They were #10 Jared Abbrederis, #13 TJ Jones, #16 Jace Billingsley (who had one drop), #17 Keshawn Martin, and #39w Jamal Agnew (the only defensive player trying out). In this limited set the best returners appeared to me to be Keshawn and Jamal, with Jared a close 3rd.

Further North I saw #21 with his helmet on working on his own and trying various spin moves (Ameer Abdullah).

The entire WR corp moved over in front of the stands I was at and practiced various routes that each broke at 3 yards out. First set was out 3 and 90 degrees straight over. Only drop was Abbrederis, but I couldn't tell if it was on him or the coach throwing the ball out. Next set was break 3 yards out then go off at a 45 degree angle... catching the ball over the shoulder. All did well at that one. I thought I was on to something when I noted who went left out of break and who went right, but the very next set they all switched sides, so nothing there. One non-performance note: there are only two Lions wide receivers with a number in the 80's, all the others are from 10 to 19. Most of those with an 80ish number are tight ends. The two in the 80s are #83 WR Dontez Ford and #84 Michael Rector.

During all the sets Golden Tate would throw the ball he just caught to a fan and have him throw it back to him before getting it to the coaches helper to put it back into use for the set. Must be he hasn't been restricted from fan interfacing as of yet.

Next WR set involved the WR catching the pass in what would be over the middle about 5 yards or so deep then trying to split a double tackle (coach on right and left with pads on arms). All WRs did okay on this but Billingsley did have a drop while spinning to make the contact.

Then I looked across the way and saw AA running with the rest of the RBs doing some kind of slot receiver drill. So no longer practicing on his own. I made note that Tion Green flashed (was noticed) in a couple of drills including this one.

The next WR drill was back to running the players in the same order as yesterday, no changes.

Now the QBs who were drilling with only the centers come over and join the WRs for a few sets. First up was two QBs throwing to two WRs at the same time, one WR going right, one going left. Harder then heck to keep track of who did what with this kind of drill. One set was at roughly 25 yards out, one set was at 15 yards or so, then one was at like 45 yards. All the QBs who took the time to set and throw made the passes look easy as can be. At first, #8 wasn't setting his feet and was having trouble but he finally came around. Trouble not in as way off, but still off and not looking fluid.

After those sets the QBs and the WRs go over to in front of the VIP area and join the DBs who were doing drills of some kind way over there. This is kind of normal, having one corp of players practice together then eventually joining up with another corp and growing the size and number of players involved in each drill. By now it's 4:25pm and 87 degrees. I did note that only Stafford worked with the WR and DB combined sets while #14 worked further away throwing to (or handing off to) RBs and they worked with the OL and DL corps. #8 watched with special teams guys.

I think this was actually a DB drill as I saw the ball hit the ground multiple times, but being 120 yards away or so that's just a guess. I did see #24 (Nevin Lawson) knock down #15 Golden Tate fairly hard with they made contact during the play (not intentionally). There was a lot of hard pressing going on by the DBs all drill long.

Another drill appeared to me to be all about the QB making play call changes at the LOS then executing the final play before a timer went off.

The groups split up again and it looked like the back 7 worked against barrels that were in formation with helmets placed on top of the barrels. I've no idea what the drill was all about.

During the 11 on 11 drills I noted that Cole Wick made a nice catch and move to get YACs. He was the only dude big enough for me to notice with the unaided eye from the distance involved. It wasn't just the distance, but the other 68 guys not involved in the set were standing along the sideline which placed them about 70 yards from me all but blocking the view of the practice for a good 10 minutes.

The 7 on 7 drills after that were completely impossible to see from my location.

After that ended there was still about 10 minutes left but they all went into doing stretches and things instead of sets. After that, there was some one on one work from a few, a number of other players went to the sidelines to sign autographs, the rest either continued stretching or went inside.

I caught a pic of the camera booth under one of the 3 hoods they now have with their new HD camera poles:

Since there is no tackling allowed, and the QBs and RBs can't be hit, it's pretty much impossible to tell how the talent looks on defense. For that I can't wait for the Jets pre-season game. The offense might all come together, but since the D can't press it's hard to know how the OL will hold up. Once again, preseason games. So even though they aren't doing anything more then the basics in these public practices at least in just the first couple of days the roster does seem to know what they are supposed to be doing... unlike a couple years ago when it looked completely chaotic.

I have yet to write my final camp blog for day 3, and I need to come up with a means to get the pictures inserted, I will be doing so over the next 72 hours or so.

Training Camp 2017, Day 1 Public Access, July 31st

Okay, a summary and some details of my day at the first open practice.

First, the entire experience has been changed, and almost all of it is better, imo. Instead of the port-a-jons just being at the entrance to the practice field they were spread out all over the public access areas. So too were the bleachers. And upon entry, the cheerleaders. Also retail shops, food trucks, and there was more games too at more then one location. There was a lot less seating on the east side and a lot more seating on the west side of the practice areas. Enough to hold all who want to show up, no one was or will be turned away (unless they try to bring in stuff they aren't supposed to). They had real shuttle buses to the parking areas, not just mostly missing golf cart driving ladies. They even changed the practice jersey's. Every since watching Barry Sanders practice in Saginaw the practice jersey's had a number only on them. This year, first time, the name was also on the back above the number. So much easier not having to look in my printouts to see who is doing what (usually after the day is over).

Second, the practice area is still 3 football fields. Two side by side, one edge-wise at the north end of the first two. I sat on the west side facing out over all 3 fields towards the inside practice building and offices of the Allen Park facility (see pics).

Now, as you can see, it is no easy task watching things on the far fields. The actual practice has the players all over both ends of all three fields. It's completely and utterly impossible to watch all of things happening. The best you can do is watch what's in front and occasionally check out some of the stuff further out.

At the end of practice a few players and others went to the fences on the west, south, and east sides of the fields to sign autographs. My granddaughter got signatures from LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin & C Leo Koloamatangi, then after heading out got one more, from the head coach himself.

The whole thing was about 35 minutes of checking out the exhibits, shops, food and games... then about 1 hour and 50 minutes of actual practice, then about 40 minutes of autographs. Now some notes I took....

The first part of practices usually involve position groups doing some fundamental practice of one kind or another, before things pick up into 7 on 7s and 9 on 9s and so on. So positiuon groups practice notes...

An example of how hard it is to know what they are working on (aside from the distances involved and the multiple things going on)... one of the first things in front of me was a number of wide receivers trying to get out of being double teamed... or was it a bunch of DBs practicing how to double team a single wide receiver? Or was it both at the same time? I watched the whole thing, I can not tell you which it is.

At first I noted Quin and Slay without helmets inbetween two groups basically throwing high balls up for some kind of self practice (interceptions/hands stuff). The whole while they were doing it, about 6 or 7 minutes, Slay was basically jogging in place, Quin was not moving as much.

Most of the guys who are supposedly hurt were either not dressed or dressed but without helmets. Not yet sure if there was a rhyme or reason to it.

Next practice I caught was with all 3 QBs doing a 3 step drop, a lateral move to either direction, then making a 30 yard(ish) throw. I'll just say this part right now instead of repeating it a hundred times... #14 Ruduck appeared to me to be less productive then #8 Kaaya, and #9 Stafford was better then either by miles and miles. But I already know that most won't care how well he or they practice, only how well they play. So I really didn't watch the QBs so much as the rest of the team in this practice.

Next up in front of me were various WR practices, with lots of fundamentals and route tree practices. The ball was thrown by a coach, no QBs near me for any of it, and there was a lot of it. Each WR went through the practice no matter what it was, then a different practice with them would start, 1 snap per WR for each set. I noted that Billingsley appeared to be one of the shortest WRs of the corp. That Golladay one of the tallest, and when running, one of the smoothest. He has long legs and strides really fast. Reminds me of a certain recently retired Lion WR (as far as height and speed goes, no other comparison intended). I say that because as I was noting these things down they ran a set with the WRs high stepping through a rope like ladder layed out on the ground, then after about 12 steps they had to cut left sharply. The only WR to not make that catch was Golladay. I'll probably mention a couple of other drops by others later, but for the most part, there really wasn't that many drops during the entire practice.

During these WR sets every once in awhile Tate III would motion for a fan to throw their personal football out to him on the field, the fan would, then Tate would throw it back, then he'd get back in line for the next set. He was the only player to really interact with fans during practices. Not sure if he'll be called out on it, but that's the kind of stuff he's done every year since the first year he played in Detroit. He's just a really cool player not afraid of the fans and likes to interact with them.

Eventually I realized, that unlike past years when there was no rhyme or reason to the order in which players would run a set, that every practice set had the guys go out in the exact same order. First WR would be Tate, Second would be Jones Jr, Third would be TJ Jones, Fourth would be Billingsley, and Fifth would be Golladay. Every set. All 8 or 10 or 12 of them, however many there were. I didn't write down the rest of the order because by the 5th dude I realized it wasn't a depth chart kind of thing, nor a seniority kind of thing, nor a salary kind of thing, in fact, I have no idea what criteria they used to set the order... I just know they followed that order every set.

Oh, I had made a note at this point that the 2 camera platforms that had been used for the past 19 years of practices were not present, instead were 3 camera poles... with a base station. I got a look inside one of the stations, there was like two 25" tv monitor inside for the camera man to use and a means of directing the cameras on the poles to cover whichever field or part of the field they needed to cover. Looked like hi-def and definitely hi-tech stuff. Other then the portable goal post system, and the one net to catch field goal tries, the camera poles were the tallest objects on the south, east and west sides. The north side has a lot of light poles to light that field for late practices. In this pic is some of the south side objects including one of the camera poles.

For a while I had seen #2 (Redfern) out running 60 or more yards with no helmet (and he's pretty fast too). Later though, I saw him with a helmet on holding for Prater.

I had made a note about there being a come back route set for the WRs, probably because it always upset me the Lions rarely ever use the come back route but they did practice that set with all the WRs this first day out.

I also noted that there was a missed catch in one set but it wasn't a drop, #8 threw it too high. This caused the whole set to be stopped, some coaching was done, then the set continued. First time, only time, I saw that. This was (obviously) after the coaches stopped throwing the balls and the QBs joined in to do the throwing.

Later #8 throw another ball a bit high, but #11 Marvin Jones Jr made a great one handed grab. Shortly after that, not sure who threw it, but Golladay made a great two handed grab on a high ball. Most players wouldn't have been able to reach high enough to get two hands on the ball that play. And later yet Billingsley had a drop, the ball appeared to me to be on target.

That was pretty much it for drops or missed catches but I didn't see all the plays for all the practices obviously. I noted there was a slot route practice for WRs, RBs, and TEs but it was way across the field, so like 130 yards away or so.

All three QBs and various players did a drill of lining up and throwing for several plays then doing a spike to stop the clock. QB #14 either messed it up or the OL did and that series was interrupted.

My notes say that #2 had his helmet on and kicked a 33 yard field goal that not only cleared the goal posts but nearly cleared the net beyond it. Heck of a leg. Later, Prater made a 60 yarder after doing mostly 40 yarders all practice.

Next I noted to myself that #14 needs a lot of work. Not sure what he did to make me write that down.

As the temp hit 88 degrees towards 5pm I realized why these first 3 days were all set to start at 3:30pm... to get the team out in the hottest part of the day. There's no 2-a-days any more, no stamina practices or grueling all day stuff. So coach is using the sun.

Next was the 9 on 9 and 7 on 7 stuff. All of that was done on the east side, in front of the VIP tent, so hard for us non-season-ticket-holders to see clearly. I did notice something new there though. There was a portable stand with about 4 steps up to the landing that was located about 20 yards behind the QBs... on it was a camera man with a portable camera filming the entire set or sets of plays. Never saw a portable stand out on the field before for more film... and I assume it will be used to see who needs what fundamental stuff after watching 9 on 9s. Oh, and the 9 on 9 had refs, with whistles, and down markers on the sidelines. The whole thing.

#87, Fells, is a big boy, easy to see even at 90 yards away.

#38, Tion Green, also flashed a couple of times, caught my untrained eye more then once.

The last practice I caught appeared to be a 1 or 2 minute drill that was to end in a field goal. While they did take the portable field goalposts down there to do this series, the net was not there, the ball would nearly hit the port-a-jons on the SE corner of the spectator area.

All in all, an interesting day, lots of new stuff never seen at a Lions practice before.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

2017 Draft, Day 3, Rounds 4 through 7

In round 4, at overall pick 124, the Detroit Lions select OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, from Tennessee. Jalen is just over 6 feet tall, weighing in at 230 pounds and can run the 40 in 4.68 seconds. His RAS score is 4.03 (below average). The low score is likely due to injury, he was unable to complete over half the tasks needed for a complete RAS score.

Ian Wharton has him ranked 131st, Kyle Crabbs has him ranked 74th, Optimum Scouting at 215th, and Joe Marino at 76th. I had him ranked 162nd. The ranking is all over the place due to both injury, and depending on which games were reviewed. At times he plays like a 1st rounder and at other times a little out of control. He'll be working his way into the weakside linebacker position taking over Deandre Levy's position. This also helps determine where the Lions 1st round pick will play. Originally JD (Jarrad Davis) was projected to play either Middle or Weakside Linebacker. Now we can say somewhat confidently that JD will be tried out at Mike (MLB, aka Middle Linebacker).

As for Jalen his injury was a torn labrum in April of 2016 and biceps subluxation in September of 2016 and then he re-aggravated the labrum injury that ended his season. It also prevented him from doing all the drills needed for a complete RAS score. The Lions training room will get him ready for pre-season. For a 4th round pick the Lions have a pretty decent prospect to work with.

Three picks later in round 4, at overall pick 127, the Detroit Lions select TE Michael Roberts from Toledo. Mike is a little over 6 foot 4 inches tall, weighs in at 270 pounds, runs the 40 in 4.86 (a little slow for a TE), but get this, he has 11 1/2" hands. That's Ginormous!!!

My draft guides have him ranked at 163, 203, 75 and 172. I have him ranked at 223 on my board, mostly due to his RAS score of only 3.82 and his lack of overall speed. Mike isn't a complete TE, he can run routes and get open, but his advantages are his height and his huge hands, making catching the ball a simple matter of being fairly close to the ball. He's a good blocker and a big redzone threat. His blocking improved throughout his senior year so hopefully that continues on in the NFL. He'll be a perfect complement to Eric Ebron, who is more of a route runner and slot WR type. I'm going to look forward to seeing how many TDs Michael Roberts will be getting each year. I think this will be a great scoring weapon for the Lions.

In round 5, at overall pick 165, the Detroit Lions select CB Jamal Agnew of SanDiego. Jamal is about 5 foot 9 and a half inches tall, weighing in at 186 pounds (small for a CB). His RAS score wasn't originally calculated as most didn't have them on their draft board. My draft board ended up having 1027 names on it, and Jamal was 578th on it. Since the draft @MathBomb created his RAS card and it stand at 7.53 which is pretty good. If Jamal was taller and weighed about 15 pounds more he'd be elite. As it is, Jamal is very fast, running a 40 in 4.34 seconds. He's not in any of my draft guides as most guides have fewer then 300 players in them. He'll try out for the punt return job with the Lions and a backup slot cornerback position. The best info on him I found was here

In round 6 the Lions had two picks, at overall pick 205 the Detroit Lions select DT Jeremiah Ledbetter of Arkansas. He played DT and DE in college, but at 280 pounds he's a bit too light for DT and a bit too heavy for DE in the NFL. Still, at DT, his RAS score is an impressive 9.05, and once he gains about 10 pounds of NFL weight (meaning muscle mass) he should develop into a very promising Defensive Tackle for the Lions (I don't project him to DE at all). Jeremiah is a bit over 6 foot 3 inches tall and ran the 40 in 4.84 which is good for a DT (not so much for a DE). Only one of my draft guides had him included, ranked at 247 (I have him at 220). Optimum Scouting says "he redshirted his first year and went on to play two seasons including twenty-four and one half tackles for loss as a sophomore, before transferring to Arkansas. Ledbetter was ranked fifteenth in the JUCO top one hundred as a four-star recruit. At Arkansas, Ledbetter became a starter instantly racking up fifty-five tackles with two sacks. As a senior, he started every game en route to forty-nine tackles, seven and a half tackles for loss, and five and a half sacks to lead the team. He earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine game." A year in the NFL Training room and on an NFL diet will hopefully see him bulk up and learn some DT moves, he'll rotate in more and more as his abilities improve. The on-the-job training will take at least a season or more to complete, but as a project, he's a pretty good one.

The second 6th round pick, at overall pick 215, the Detroit Lions selected QB Brad Kaaya of Miami Florida. Brad is just under 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighs in at a meager 214 pounds. In addition to being a bit skinny, his ball velocity was scored at 53mph. There is a chance with some muscle mass and NFL training room time along with some mechanics improvement he might get that up to the minimum 55mph that I look for in all quarterbacks, but he's got a long road ahead of him. Brad won't be unseating Matthew Stafford, ever, but he does have a chance to win the backup QB job over Rudock, depending on how fast he picks up the play book and how well he takes to the coaching he's about to receive. I had Brad Kaaya ranked 133rd and my draft guides have him at 143, 147, 113, and 136. Some of the best said of him is "Accurate passer on short passes that will translate well to West Coast systems. 3-step drops he consistently showed good timing and some anticipation to get the ball out to his receivers. Takes care of the ball well, boasting a high TD-INT ratio. He’s not the type to cost you games." Some of the worst is "Very limited passer, as he lacks the velocity and timing on intermediate passes. Hesitant to attack tight passing windows on a regular basis. Footwork when setting to throw is all over the place. He must be mechanically sound with his physical profile, but too often he’s randomly set away from his target. Struggles to read defenses and pull the trigger. Needs to see it too often. Horrible when pressured. Simply cannot be a viable starter as-is." So yeah, he's a project QB vying for a backup QB role. Quinn will continue to select QBs every or every other year, but I hope some of his future choices can at least hit 55mph or more, so far his choices to date do not.

The 7th rounder, at overall pick 250, the Detroit Lions selected DE Patrick (Pat) O'Connor from Eastern Michigan. Pat is 6 foot and about 4 and a half inches tall weighing in at 277 pounds and ran a 4.84 40 at his pro day. His RAS score is a respectable 6.73. I had Pat ranked at 392, and of my 4 draft guides only Optimum Scouting had him included, ranked at 262. I've not been able to find a draft pofile on Pat anywhere, but due to being drafted he'll be given opportunities to make the final 53 during training camp. If I were Pat I would listen to my coaches, do everything the training staff says to do, and work my butt off, which I think is exactly what he'll do. Whether it'll be enough is anyone's guess, but even if he ends up getting cut he could easily see the practice squad soon after. With the Lions need at LDE he just may make the cut and start getting relief reps, as long as he can improve his burst and moves to free himself up and still be under control to work the run game. All we know for sure is that Quinn didn't want to risk Pat O'connor going to another team as an undrafted player so he pulled the trigger in the 7th round on him.

It should be noted, that all the draft picks selected were on the Contact List those in my forum create each year (a special thank you to Captain for her help) except for JD, the first round pick. The Lions managed to hide their true interest in JD making me believe he was VERY high on their short list for round 1. He may not have been my choice, but I don't have as much information on him as the Lions do, well, same goes for all the players selected though.

The Lions had room on their roster for a number of undrafted players as well. Less the 9 draft picks and the 69 signed players they had room for 12 by my count. Unfortunately you can never be sure if the names associated with a team are accurate until some time later, but here are the potential list of candidates associated with the Lions (as compiled by Tedd from my forum):

Storm Norton, OT, Toledo
Maurice Swain, DT, Auburn
Noel Thomas, WR, UConn
Alex Barrett, DE, San Diego State
Leo Koloamatangi, OL, Hawaii
Michael Rector, WR, Stanford
Des Lawrence, DB, North Carolina
Jeremiah Valoaga, DE, UNLV
Robert Tonyan Jr, WR, Indiana State
Brandon Barnes, TE, Alabama State
Tion Green, RB, Cincinnati
Josh Thornton, CB, Southern Utah
Dontez Ford, WR, Pitt
Nick James, DT, Mississippi State

Those in bold were on the Lions contact list I mentioned earlier. That's 14 names, so it's likely some are invitees to a mini-camp and not actually on the roster just yet. Since most are not on the contact list I believe that they were selected purely based on scouts info, if true, it's nice to see Quinn using pure scouting data to give some players a chance to make the team.

The following is the summary of the draft in case you lost track as I'm prone to do:

1 Jarrad Davis ILB Florida
2 Jalen (Teez) Tabor CB Florida
3 Kenneth (Kenny) Golladay WR Northern Illinois
4 Jalen Reeves-Maybin OLB Tennessee
4 Michael Roberts TE Toledo
5 Jamal Agnew CB San Diego
6 Jeremiah Ledbetter DT Arkansas
6 Brad Kaaya QB Miami (Fla.)
7 Patrick (Pat) O'Connor DE Eastern Michigan

More on the 2017 draft and the 2017 roster will be forthcoming. Thank you.

Friday, April 28, 2017

2017 Draft, Round 2, Pick 53 and Round 3, Pick 85

At overall pick 53, the 21st pick of round 2 of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select CB Jalen (Teez) Tabor from Florida.

At just over 6' tall and 199 pounds, Teez Tabor ran a 40 yard dash in 4.62 seconds. Which is horribly slow for a CB in the NFL. Apparently he ran it with ham string issues, so apparently it doesn't count. Teez also has small hands, measuring in at 8 5/8". To compare, I am 6' tall and weigh in at 200 pounds and my hand size is 10 1/4". I might make the 40 in 5 seconds if a very large bear is chasing me and I have a slight head start. Otherwise, Teez wins, easily.

Problem is, Teez won't be defending me in the NFL. The good news is, his film shows he can defend. Some guys practice well and play poorly, others practice (or test) poorly and play well. Playing well is definitely more important. It just makes one nervous if the player can't do both (play and practice/test well).

Teez has a horrible (due in part to the hamstring) RAS score of 2.59, normally I would yell and scream and complain about this draft pick. Nothing looks great about it other then his, hopefully deserved, self confidence, which is sky high. I'll check out some of my draft guides and post a few tidbits here:

Joe Marino's NDT Scouting Draft Guide says: Summary: Teez Tabor is a reliable cover corner with the ability to mirror down the field. His footwork is smooth, fluid, and patient. His hips are fluid and he remains balanced when he transitions. His best traits are his ball skills, as he displays an advanced skill set in terms of locating the football, driving on it, and disrupting passes at the catch point, often resulting in turnovers. Tabor can break on the ball forward, from the trail, and in zone coverage when reading the quarterback's eyes and attacking the catch radius. Tabor needs to improve his tackling technique and be more assertive pursuing the football, but otherwise is an excellent player that's proven to be difficult to throw against.

Optimum Scouting Guide has him ranked 23rd overall. His profile of Tabor is rather glowing, the main issue is concern about staying with a WR on deep routes. A safety over the top will prevent this from being a major issue, but in a division with Rodgers in Green Bay, you have to be a little concerned at the prospect. Still, he's quick, effective, fluid, all the words you want to hear about a CB in the NFL. I'm paraphrasing here, a lot. But that's what I get from reading the guide.

Tabor is a bit of an off field enigma who has supposedly matured a little recently, but he is still a player who entered the draft early and is likely going to be schooled in the NFL, how he handles that will be telling. How he accepts coaching will determine if he can succeed in the NFL. He is a boom or bust type in my opinion, and there's nothing wrong with that, expecially if he booms.

My biggest issue with the Lions selecting my 51st ranked player at 53 is that my 24th ranked player, CB Chidobe Awuzie, was still available (and eventually selected by the Dallas Cowboys with pick 60). It's assumed that Quinn's ranking is better then mine, but it still makes me nervous, at least a little.

At overall pick 85, the 21st pick in the 3rd round in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Lions had their short list emptied just prior to their pick (my assumption, not inside info). They traded down with the Patriots, obtaining a 4th round pick and moving down 11 picks to the final regular pick in the 3rd round for the Patriots, aka, pick 32 in round 3 (just before the comp picks start). The Lions then selected WR Kenneth (Kenny) Golladay from Northern Illinois. Kenny is 6' 4" tall, weighs in at 218 pounds, and runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds. His RAS score is 8.22 (elite) and his measureables remind me of Calvin Johnson. In fact, I once read that a WR who is that size and that fast has a 30% chance of being highly successful in the NFL, and there is no other combination of any measurables that gets a higher percentage. Other combinations are lower odds. Now Kenny is not NFL ready out of the box, his small school status means he needs a year (maybe less) of coaching and practice and film to bring him along, but as long as he puts in the work there is no reason at all he can't excel in the NFL. He fits the suit.

Due to being small school, Kenny wasn't in the draft guides, therefor I won't be pasting any synapses from those sources. In fact, I hope to find and post more on this pick later. Despite that, it is entirely possible in the years to come that this pick might end up my most favorite pick of the NFL 2017 Draft.

Look for the Lions to address DE, TE and some other positions tomorrow in day 3 of the draft. I'm looking forward to it myself, obviously.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Draft, Round 1, Lions at pick 21 select.....

Round 1 of the 2017 Draft.

The Detroits Lions remained at pick 21 despite upwards of 4 teams trying to trade up to their spot and selected LB Jarrad Davis.

Jarrad Davis did not make our "contact list" we compile every year mainly because he wasn't singled out (that we know of) during his pro day or at any other time. and yet over the past week or so his stock rose up to where Quinn seemed to think it should have been to start with. In my top 100 board this year I had him ranked at 32, or as a first round pick, I just didn't put enough into thinking he would be a good option for the Lions at pick 21. Others did, the day of the draft, which was a little bit late for me to jump on board, unfortunately. So I was a bit surprised by the pick. I wasn't the only one I would guess, unless they read this this morning

So, now that I know the pick I get to play catch up. So let's see, Gil Brandt, a former front office guy, had Jarrad Davis ranked 20th overall on his top 150 board. This was April 17th. (scroll down to number 20)

Joe Marino's NDT Scouting report I purchased around April 10th has Jarrad Davis ranked 22 overall.

Kyle Crabb's NDT Scouting report I purchased around April 2nd has Jarrad Davis ranked 56th overall.

Optimum Scouting's report I purchased April 1st has Jarrad Davis ranked 74th overall.

Finally, there was a top 200 board I printed out early March that had Jarrad Davis 90th overall (name not printed).

So, the further back you go the lower the rank... mainly due to everyone overlooking him but revising their boards and finally getting him into round 1 by draft day. It's hard to believe these late risers are really all that some times, but as often as not it's more a case of the writers learning more later and correcting their own board rather then a player actually rising.

You can click on the links above to read those reports, but the only other report that was close to having Davis as a first round pick was Joe Marino's, and that's a pay site, so I'll just post a few tidbits that he wrote here. He scored a 90.04 which is a first round value pick. If I say "sideline to sideline" and "motor always runs hot" that should get you your pros, and "there are times his aggressive demeanor gets the best of him" should get you your cons. With some development Davis could easily become an impact player with the upside to become an enforcer and a field general... more paraphrasing of his words.

Had I read this profile before the draft I would've easily seen how Jarrad would likely be the Lions pick. It explains why none of the trade offers were accepted, and why word got around who the Lions wanted just days (or more like hours) before the draft. I wonder if perhaps Davis wasn't one of the top names on the Lions short list of 1st round picks they wanted. The Lions hid their interest well right up until just before the draft, but it's always hard to totally hide a smart, talented, driven, team leading player from everyone. That he lasted until pick 21 is a minor miracle, but then so was OT Decker last year. Quinn once again impresses.

Some other info I just saw.... Injuries: 2014-Missed last 3 games with torn meniscus. 2015-Suffered a concussion in the bowl game. 2016-Missed 3 games with a sprained ankle. Off-Field: Clean Accolades: 2015-2nd Team All-SEC. 2016-2nd Team All-SEC, Senior Bowl Invite. Other then at times being a little over zealous in chasing down a tackle, his only issue is keeping healthy, hopefully something the Lions can improve upon (both things actually).

In the end the Lions found a great 1st round pick that eluded my attention until the day of the draft. With some coaching and some training room work he could easily become (if he is not already) the best Linebacker on the Lions team. And with luck, will continue to be for the next 5 years or more. My grade? A. Both for hiding the interest and finding the player.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Free Agency as of March 15th 2017

I had this in one of the threads in my forum, but got too many questions on twitter so wanted to post it here so I could link to it... then I decided to edit it a bit so it would make sense as a stand alone entry.

Lions started Free Agency with $31.4 mill in cap space (all numbers used are subject to change or may be rounded slightly up or down).

Tendered OT Lucas -$1.797 million in cap (this cap used is not reflected in NFLPA numbers as of yet, it hasn't been signed by Lucas).

Signed DT Kyri Thornton -$1.5 mill in cap
Signed OT Rick Wagner -$5.9 mill in cap space
Signed DT Akeem Spence -$2.25 mill
Signed DE Cornelius Washington -$2.3375 mill
Signed CB DJ Haydan -$3.75 mill
Signed WR Keyshawn Martin -.775 mill (not sure all of this is in 2017 yet, depends on bonus structure if any)
Signed G TJ Lang -$5.916667 mill (but $46,875 of it is NLTBE and would come off carryover into 2018 if he plays all 16 games)
Signed LB Paul Worrilow -$3 mill (and another NLTBE bonus of $1 mill... others have these NLTBE bonuses too, possibly team goal oriented).
Signed TE Fells -$1.5 mill (a guess, not sure on bonus details).

10 contracts fall off (top 51 rules apply) +$4.6 mill in cap added (rounded down, so its more then this)

Leaves Lions about $7.32 mill in salary cap space as of today. On June 1st Levy's cap is freed up, adding about $5.99 million.

They'll need about $2 mill to sign their draft picks (with top 51 rules, depending on trades of picks).

So they have about $5 mill to play with now... and will need or at least want Levy's near 6 mill for the season.

< All that said, they could cut or trade a player or two to free up space... and/or they could do one or more extensions. For example, Stafford has a salary of about $17 million in 2017... if he were to get a 4 year extension they could reduce the 2017 salary down increasing his signing bonus by that much, and spread that one year's salary over 5 cap years. It's not great cap management but truth is, he's going to get that money anyway, and it's only one year, and it's the last year of his contract - it's not like there are multiple cap pushes mounted on top of each other to create a horrible future cap situation.

Other players with potential roster spots that might see action of a sort is Ngata and Whitehead amongst others.

I'm not advocating the Lions do any of the above, just suggesting that they are not locked into their current cap situation, they have options.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 Wildcard Playoff Game - Detroit Lions @ Seattle Seahawks

Off season.

The Detroit Lions lost their one and only playoff game of the 2016 season 6-26 to the Seahawks in Seattle Saturday night. The game was every bit as bad as the score indicates. Now that the Lions off season has officially begun, we can start discussing free agency, the draft, and a number of other football related things. But first, the numbers from this lopsided game.

Matthew Stafford was 18 of 32 (56.25%) for 205 yards 0 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. The Lions also managed an impressive [sarcasm] 49 yards rushing, 15 of which were from Stafford himself. The Lions created no turnovers of any kind but did manage to make both field goals attempted. Meanwhile Roberts returned 4 kickoffs for an average of 19 yards, had he not returned any the average would have been 25 [obviously]. Why he brings the ball out of the endzone I'll never know. One more equal stat, both QBs were sacked 3 times each. Overall, the Lions were out coached, out played, and out officiated (7 penalties for 68 yards vs 6 for 40); failing in every aspect of the game.

Stafford has been struggling since his finger injury a month ago, never more so then in this game. However, the defense hasn't got much of an excuse for their play, allowing Wilson 23 of 30 (76.667%) for 224 yards 2 touchdowns and of course, no interceptions. Worse yet, they allowed Rawls, who has been averaging just over 1 yard per carry, to rush for 161 yards and a TD on 27 carries. There was another 16 yards gained by 3 other players as well, with a negative 3 yards for Wilson the only bright spot to be found.

Fans will be loud, insisting on Caldwell be fired, but the Lions had already announced last week that Caldwell would return for 2017. So unless they pull a Matt Millen and fire him anyway in a couple of weeks like they did Marty back in 2003 for Mooch, I think it's safe to say he will in fact be here for next season. Now whether all the coordinators make it back remains to be seen. I myself would like to see DC Austin replaced, the Lions defense managed to compile the worst stat for completion percentage allowed in NFL History. What coaching moves are to be made we will find out about in the coming weeks, just don't expect the head coaching position to be one of them.

The Lions experienced a large number of injuries in 2016, apparently replacing all their training room equipment and some of the personnel didn't help in that regard. I had typed a number of sarcastic remarks here but erased them all, you're welcome.

So now Seattle moves on to week 2 of the playoffs, I think they'll head to Atlanta, had the Lions won they'd have played in Dallas next week... instead the winner of the Packers / Giants game will fly into Dallas, that should be interesting. Obviously I am trying to avoid discussing the Lions off season... in fact I think I will continue to avoid it, for another week or so. There is a lot of work to do before I can start discussing the off season and I have to finish that before blogging about it. So let's all calm down, take a deep breath, hopefully watch the Packers lose tomorrow (am I right?). There's plenty of time to discuss the off season in the coming weeks and months, easier too when everyone has finished railing against the team after this debacle of a playoff game.

Next up, assuming there is no coaching changes to discuss, it'll be time to take a look at Lions' free agents. Salary cap space available will take time to compute, as around 5 of the acquired free agents signed and kept have NLTBE (Not Likely To Be Earned) bonuses in their contracts, meaning we won't know the final tally on bonuses earned for a while yet, and that doesn't count the NLTBE bonuses of the free agents the Lions had re-signed last year. So the salary cap figure for a few months will be all estimates, regardless of the source. Those big into the draft will be trying to figure out who will be available when the Lions pick, at around pick number 21 (through up to 24 but not beyond that, what with the loss tonight). Yep, a lot of off season to discuss, just no more of it tonight.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Game 16 2016 - Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers @ Home on Sunday Night Football


The 9-7 Detroit Lions lose to the Division Winning 10-6 Green Bay Packers 24-31 in the final game of the season on Sunday Night Football. Since the Redskins lost earlier in the day both teams make the playoffs. The Packers will host the New York Giants next weekend and on Saturday night the Lions will play the Seahawks in Seattle as a wildcard team, 6th seed. Should the Lions win, they will head to Dallas the following weekend for the right to advance to the conference championship game. The Lions losing streak must now be over or the Lions off season will begin.

Matthew Stafford was 26 of 41 (63.4%) for 347 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Zach Zenner and Golden Tate managed only 76 yards rushing. The offense did enough earlier in the year to get the team into the playoffs, but the Lions have lost the last 3 games straight, all played while Stafford has a brace on the middle finger of his throwing hand due to the dislocation there.

Meanwhile the Lions defense allowed Aaron Rodgers to go 27 of 39 (69.23%) for 300 yards and 4 touchdowns with no turnovers. There was also 153 rushing yards allowed. The defense has definitely not been holding up it's end of the game, but it was good to see Slay back in the backfield, if only the rest of the players were able to show up as well. Still, the Lions were in the game for a very long time until they were unable to keep the pressure up on Rodgers, at which point he was unstoppable.

There was the usual questionable officiating and the odd coaching decision here and there, but overall this season was going well due to Stafford being able to pull off great drives in the 4th quarter to come back to win close games. The other parts of the team just aren't stepping it up to cover for him while his finger (hopefully) heals up. The lack of a run game, the lack of giving their QB time (such as Rodgers tends to get), the lack of perfect execution across the board, makes every game a lot trickier to win. Still, the Lions are only 3 wins away from the superbowl, so doing more, just a little bit more, from here on out, is what needs to be found. Can the coaches find it? Can the players? Heck, can the training staff? We (the fans) will start to find out in only 6 days.

There are a ton of points I could make about the game, such as the time the Packers snapped the ball quickly to get a 12-men-on-the-field flag thrown on the Lions when they thought they were about to get a stop, but it'll all come back to the Lions simply need to play near perfect games in order to win. This game was not one of them. The next one hopefully will be closer (to perfect), for the Seahawks are not playing great either. There is a chance for the Lions to win this next game, perhaps even a better chance then the Packers will have against the Giants. I for one am looking forward to it. If the Lions should win, I'll even be looking forward to the Dallas game, as I think the Lions can compete in the dome in Dallas, barring further injury. But I am getting ahead of myself, the Lions need to spend the next 5 days preparing to beat the Seahawks in Seattle then fly out there and win that game. They and we can not afford to doubt a win, nor can we or they look ahead to Dallas, it's playing one play at a time correctly, it's preparing one day at a time well, that will make these playoffs worth playing in.

We've waited 2 years for the Lions to get back into the playoffs, they are now there, enjoy it. I am.