Detroit Lions: Who Are These Guys?

Who Are These Detroit Lions

Watching the Detroit Lions destroy the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, two recurring movie quotes kept popping up in my head.

The first, as you can tell by the picture of Paul Newman and Robert Redford, is from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.    When being chased by a posse of the best lawmen money can buy, Butch turns to Sundance and asks, “Who are these guys?”

The second one, after the game was over, is from a Richard Dreyfuess movie Let It Ride.  After winning a ton of money at the track, Dreyfuess shouts, “Did I win?  Did I win?  Son of a bitch, God likes me! He really, really likes me!  What a day!  What a fabulous day!”

So here we are, the Lions playing some very good football on both sides of the line.  Now 4-7,  after starting out 1-7 looking like an imitation of a Matt Millen team.

But changes, ones that have been a long time coming, were made.  Joe Lombardi, who directed the offense last year to a 11-5 record, was jettisoned after losing to the Minnesota Vikings  28-19 at home.  Lombardi, despite having the success in 2014 as well as being the QB coach to Drew Brees the previous 5 years in New Orleans, was never a good fit.

Stafford often appeared uncomfortable with the offense.  He is not the type of QB that is going to be successful dumping off to backs and tight-ends…and Lombardi seemed to forget that he had one of the best wide receivers on the planet in Calvin Johnson.

Enter Jim Bob Cooter…really, that’s his name, you can’t make this stuff up.  Granted he started off badly with the uninspired loss to Kansas City in London but the Lions were still basically running the Lombardi offense.

Then came the firings of Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew and since then, the Lions offense has gotten better each week…and have 3 wins in a row to show for it:

First was the biggest win the Lions have had in recent years, the 18-16 victory over the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau ; the first since 1991.  Granted there was the gut-wrenching final seconds where every Lions fan was sure Mason Crosby was going to make that 50-yard field goal.  But he muffed it and the Lions won for the first time in Green Bay in 24 years.

Next up was the rising Oakland Raiders.  The Lions, despite playing at home, were underdogs in this game.  But the Lions D had something to say about that.  They held David Carr to just 169 yards passing and no TD’s.  They stymied the rushing attack, holding them to a collective 54 yards but did give up 1 TD.  Hey, this is the NFL and it’s hard to keep teams out of the end zone in this league.

Then came yesterday’s masterpiece, the 45-14 dismantling of the Eagles.  The offensive line gave Matthew Stafford time all day.  And Stafford showed just how good of a quarterback he can be when he is given time.  A sterling 337 yards passing with 5 TD’s and zero interceptions and a career best QB rating of 137.5.

Let’s talk about Mr. Stafford for a minute here:  For all you folks that want to heap the troubles the Lions had on his shoulders, you were wrong to do so.  Stafford showed that given the time, he has the capability to put up Tom Brady stats…and I say right now that if Stafford had the protection that he had yesterday for his whole career, the Lions would have been in the Super Bowl already.

The Lions need to get more depth on the offensive line and need to do so in the upcoming draft.  They have the talent at the position spots with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Lance Moore, Ameer Abdullah and Joique Bell.  Shore up that line because everyone knows that the offensive line needs quality players on the first, second and third string.

That line yesterday, in addition to allowing Stafford to throw for 337 and five TD’s also gave some hope to the dormant rushing attack.  Granted, we didn’t have an individual rush for 100 yards, but collectively they went for 108 yards on 30 attempts and scored 1 rushing TD.  Getting nearly 3.6 yards per attempt as a team is pretty darn good.

And how about Theo Riddick?  The Lions have something special in this guy and better keep utilizing him.  Five receptions for 62 yards and a score.  He has become the third-down receiving threat coming out of the backfield.  When the Lions played like they did yesterday, there isn’t a team that can cover all of their receivers.  And if Eric Ebron can ever pull his head out of his ass and catch the ball, adding a good receiving tight-end into the mix, tell me how doubling up on Megatron is gonna stop this team.

The Lions still have a mathematical chance of making the playoffs.  They are now 4-7, right there with nine other teams such as the Tampa Bay Bucs, New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears.

The Lions remaining five games are all winnable, provided they can keep playing the way they are:

12/3 – Green Bay:  After a fast 6-0 start, the Packers have come back into the NFC Central pack.  With last night’s loss to the Bears, they now are in second place in the division.  Lions have to protect the home turf here and with the way they are playing, should do so on Thursday night football.

12/13 – @ Rams:  This is going to be a tough game for the Lions…and it will be a low scoring one.  The Rams defense is one of the toughest in the league and if the O-line can give Stafford some time against that front four, Stafford should be able to have success.  Theo Riddick will be an important tool in this game.

12/21 – @ Saints:  Saints can score points but they just can’t stop anyone.  Drew Brees is still one dangerous quarterback but he doesn’t have the top flight weapons that he used to have.  Still, they are in New Orleans and dem Saints fans are some of the most supportive in the NFL.  High scoring shoot-out, Calvin and Golden Tate could both have huge games…and Abdullah could run wild against the Saints run defense.  Could be a great Monday Night Football game.

Side note:  My wife, an avid Saints fan, is convinced that the trade of Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks have hurt both teams.  Saints may have improved their protection of Drew Brees but lost a valuable offensive weapon in Graham.  Seattle still hasn’t figured out quite how to use Graham thus both teams have taken a hard road this year.

12/27 – San Francisco 49rs:  This team is a mess…and the Lions cannot take this team lightly, something they have done in the past.  If the Lions do actually beat Packers, Rams and Saints the three previous games, then this becomes a must win game, more so than any other game.  I would call this the definition of a “trap game” and the Lions need to stomp the 49ers into oblivion.

1/3/16 – @ Da Bears:  How sweet it could be if the Lions and the Bears both needed to win this game to get into the playoffs…and the Lions would shut the Bears fans up and eek out a close win.

If the Lions do indeed win out, that would give them a 9-7 record and quite possibly the 13th seed in the wild-card.  Granted, we can forget a home playoff game but I would say that most Lions fans would call the 2015 season one of the best they’ve had.  To start out 1-7 and finish 9-7?  That is some serious football.

Who are these guys?  These are the Detroit Lions!

Go Lions!

The Beer Thinker’s Early Thoughts on Lions 2016 NFL Draft

Beer Thinker Logo

It is my humble opinion that the Detroit Lions can get back into contention with the skill position players they currently have.

I know there has been a lot of talk in getting rid of QB Matthew Stafford but I think that would be a mistake. No quarterback would be successful under the conditions that Stafford has had to play since he was first drafted in 2009.

He has been sacked 183 times in 86 games he has played for an average of 2.12 per game. Over the last 3 years, he has been sacked 90 times. And all of the hits he’s had to endure because the O-Line just can’t give him the protection he needs to allow plays to develop. On the occasions that they do protect him, he is just as good as any quarterback in the NFL.

And the Lions have not been able to protect Stafford or open enough holes for the running game to work as it should for the last 5-6 years.

I do believe the Lions need to address two areas, both the offensive and defensive sides. And I also believe the offensive line is the more urgent of the two.

Stafford needs better protection…while I like Reilly Reiff, I think he’d be better off on the right side and we can part ways with LaAdrian Waddle. Lions have 3 choices here:

Laremy Tunsil – Ole Miss

Tunsil is 6-5, 305lbs of quickness and agility, just what Stafford needs to protect the blind side. He will need to add more power to play in the NFL but he already knows how to use his leverage. He’s played most of his college career on the left side and Reiff did very well at right tackle.

Spencer Drango – Baylor

At 6-6 and 310, Drango is a strong run-blocker and has improved each year as a pass blocker. Prior to being injured in 2103 with ruptured disc in his back, Drango was a dominate pass-protector. While the medical history is a concern, Drango has a lot of upside with his combination of strength and athleticism.

Tyler Johnstone – Oregon

While he missed all of 2014, Johnstone played well in 2015. He is 6-6 but light at 295…I’d like to see him put on 25-30 pounds to play at left tackle. He is quick and nimble but he needs more power to play in the NFL…he protected Marcus Mariota well but he just needs to bulk up.

Turning to the interior of the O-Line, I think the Lions can keep Manny Ramirez at center for at least one more year. But to take some of the pressure off him, Lions need a couple of road-graders to open holes for Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah

My 3 choices to help out here are:

Vadal Alexander – LSU

This is a big man…6-6 and 320 lbs., he has played right tackle for LSU but has looked slow-footed in pass protection. I doubt that he would be able to adjust as a tackle at the speed of the NFL so he would be better suited for right guard. He can be a powerful run-blocker with his quickness and athleticism but he will need to watch his weight…If he can stay between 320 and 325, he will be a very productive right guard.

Joshua Garnett – Stanford

6-5” and 325 lbs., putting Garnett next to Tunsil or Drango would give the Lions a very big O-Line. Garnett is well-balanced in both pass-protection and run-blocking and his technique would fit well in the NFL. He has the strength to be a difference maker in the run game.

Denver Kirkland – Arkansas

Kirkland has been a very tough run-blocker for the Razorbacks…while he has been playing at left-tackle, he would be more at home at left guard in the NFL as he has problems with speed rushers. 6-5” and 340 lbs., he is a prospect that hasn’t gotten much attention but could easily rise in the draft.

So imagine this offensive line starting the 2016 season:

Laremy Tunsil – LT (6-5, 305 lbs.)

Denver Kirkland – LG (6-5, 340 lbs.)

Manny Ramirez – Center 6-3”, 325 lbs.)

Joshua Garnett – RG (6-5, 325 lbs.)

Reilly Reiff – RT (6-6, 308 lbs.)

Big interior to open the middle for the run game and to stop pressure coming straight at Stafford and well as the ability to pull for those sweeps and screens to move the chains and eat the clock.

Fast, athletic tackles to take care of Stafford’s blind spot and right side that will give the WR’s time to run their routes so that we can get more explosive plays when we need them.

As for the defensive side, Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones are capable pass rushers from the outside. Where the Lions get pushed around are on the inside. Tyrunn Walker hasn’t impressed me and Haloti Ngata, while capable, isn’t the answer for replacing Nadmukong Suh. Cut ties with Walker but keep Ngata for another year to help develop one or two of these guys:

Robert Nkemdicher – Ole Miss

I don’t believe the Lions will have a shot at this guy but it he sure would look good in the Honolulu blue and silver with Ngata mentoring him. He is 6-4 and 296 lbs. with tremendous speed and the agility of a linebacker. He would be a disruptive presence at the point of attack.

A’Shawn Robinson – Alabama

For a person who is 6-4 and 320 lbs., Robinson is very quick and incredibly strong for a man his size. Many believe his is the best defensive lineman that Bama has produced since Marcel Dareus.

Hassan Ridgeway – Texas

6-3 and 314 lbs., Ridgeway can be overwhelming for the interior of an offensive line with his size and strength. He has put together some great games for the Longhorns where he has beaten offensive tackles and guards to make plays in the backfield. He can be a stout run defender and collapse the pocket in the pass rush. He has the ability to beat double-teams and is a well-balanced defender.

Adolphus Washington – Ohio State

Growing up in Michigan, it’s natural to hate any player from Ohio State, right? It’s probably the only time I root for Michigan when they play every year. But this is the NFL and one must turn the page once a talent is available. Washington is 6-4 and 295 and was part of an excellent Ohio State defensive line. He can be disruptive and has JJ Watt ability to bat down passes while rushing up the middle.

Here’s what I’d like to see for the starting D-Line:

LDE – Jason Jones (6’5”, 275 lbs.)

LDT – Hassan Ridgeway (6’3”, 314 lbs.)

RDT – Adolphus Washington (6’3”, 320 lbs.)

RDE – Ziggy Ansah (6’5”, 278 lbs.)

With Ngata to spell on the inside along with Corey Wooten and Phillip Hunt, the Lions could have a great 1st and 2nd line to rotate this line to keep them fresh and the intensity level high.

As for the talk of cutting ties with Matthew Stafford, that would be a mistake. Given the proper protection, he can produce as he did on 2011 and 2012 in yardage but also cut down on his INT’s since he would be able to scan the field and make better decisions on his throws.

I also know there is talk in letting Calvin Johnson go. While I am a huge fan, I can see the logic here. He is a large hit to the salary cap and is 30 years old. Though we aren’t seeing it just yet, his body is beginning to break down. He doesn’t have the speed that he once had and I have seen him shut down in games by elite cornerbacks. Lions should trade him to a team that he can get to a Super Bowl with (preferably somewhere in the AFC…perhaps the Patriots?) but give the Lions more draft picks to get a suitable replacement. Maybe one of these players:

Corey Davis – Western Michigan

Davis is long, fast and athletic, all the things you want in a 6-3, 205 WR who can run a 4.52 40. He has good hands and route-running and is sneaky fast.

Josh Doctson – TCU

Has the ability at 6-4 and 195 to make acrobatic catches. He has good hands and exceptional leaping ability to go along with his 4.56 speed.

I would like the Lions 2016 draft to take this direction or something similar. They need to get the offensive line shored up to keep Stafford upright and open some holes for Bell and Abdullah.

The top priorities for the Lions are to protect the QB to allow him to get into a passing rhythm and to open holes to give the running game a chance to actually be effective.

They need to be a better balanced team offensively.

I know that what I proposed in this article may not be the answer.  However, every Lions fans has to admit that what the organization has done for the last 5 decades hasn’t worked.  So for crying out loud, why do they keep doing it over and over and expecting different results?  That’s the base definition of insanity!

Detroit Lions Slay The Dragon In Lambeau

Lions Packers Score

The last time the Lions were on the winning side of an NFL game they played in Wisconsin, George Bush was president…George Bush Sr. that is.

There has to be a party going on back in Detroit right now…and, at least for one week, the Detroit Lions, as a team, can feel good about themselves.

It has been a very long time since I’ve seen the Lions dig deep to win a game…and of course, they didn’t make it easy what with Matt Prater missing 2 extra points as well as the sure handed Calvin Johnson muffing an onside kick.

I don’t care.  The Lions won in Green Bay too snap a 24 game losing streak that was bordering on the sublime.  Scratch that, it was already sublime.

Defense really stepped up in this game to help out the offense…and the offense played better than Green Bay for once…not by much but enough.

Weird calls, missed calls and a lot of no-calls.  But the officiating was crappy for both sides…and it didn’t come down to a blown call…it was decided by the players as it should always be.

There was one point in the game, somewhere in the 3rd quarter where I thought the Lions were going to hand it over the Packers.  On first down, the Lions gained eight yards.  On second down, they handed it off to Joique Bell for no gain so that left a 3rd and two.

So many options and the one I would have picked would be to fake the hand-off inside and let Matthew Stafford run to the outside.  But no, the hand-off went to the up-back and he was stuffed and the result forced the Lions to punt.

But the defense bailed out the offense, as they did all day.

I live in Seattle which plays on Sunday Night Football.  I am sure that all of my neighbors were ready to call the cops considering all the yelling and swearing that was going on.

And as I paced nervously in my front room, knowing that Mason Crosby was going to crush us yet again, I had to watch.

And then I saw the wounded-duck that came off Crosby’s foot and fall far short of the uprights.

The.  Detroit.  Lions.  Frickin. Won. The. Damn. Game.

Congrats Guys…cherish this win and get ready for Oakland at home.  And play with this intensity for the rest of the year…play with this passion, play with this grit.  Because at the end of the day, if you play your hearts out, I can respect that.

Don’t give up.

Go Lions!

What The Future Holds For The Detroit Lions

Right now, as of this very moment, many Lions fans, despite them being 1-7, are pretty happy.

Martha Ford

Martha Ford, at a spry 90 years of age, is starting to clean house.

Gone is the non-effective President Tom Lewand.  I’m not sure what his accomplishments were while he was with the Lions other than helping getting Ford Field built and getting the Super Bowl played there in 2006.

As president of the Lions, he was supposedly responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Detroit Lions organization.  I think we can all assume he was a big fail in the aspect of putting together a consistent, winning football team.

One of his major responsibility was to negotiate player contracts and manage the salary cap.  I’ve looked in several areas regarding Mr. Lewand’s background and while he holds degrees earned from the University of Michigan in law, Business Administration (Masters) and Political Science and Economics (undergraduate), I see very little relating to football.  I doubt if he’s ever played the game.

Some will say that a football background isn’t necessary in dealing with player contracts and salary cap.  I say that you need to know the business your in to manage it properly.

Also gone is GM Martin Mayhew.  He was hired by the villain Matt Millen.  When that useless piece of trash was fired, William Clay Ford, Sr. went with his recommendation to hire Mayhew as his replacement.

Really?  You take the word of a man who drove a proud organization into the ground and to the first 0-16 season in NFL history?

Mayhew didn’t do too bad his first few years.  He basically fleeced the Dallas Cowboys with his first trade, that of Roy Williams for 4 draft picks (1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th) in 2009.

Out of that, with what you could call a successful pick, would be Brandon Pettigrew who is still with the team.  Derrick Williams, in his 4 years as WR with the Lions had a total of 9 catches for 82 yards and is out of football.  Running back Aaron Brown, in his 4 years as a Lion, rushed for 189 yards and is also out of football.

There are other trades of note but of the 28 trades he made, I would say he missed more than he hit on.

But at least Mayhew knew football.  He played the game for 8 years in the secondary and had 21 career interceptions.  Funny that a guy with that kind of success just could never get the right players for the Lions secondary.

So just where does this team go from here?  There has been a lot of speculation that head coach Jim Caldwell will be gone after the season…and I have to agree with that.  He has been a mostly ineffective and directionless leader this year.  I don’t think his strength is being a head coach, I believe it lies as an offensive coordinator or QB coach.

But Lions fans have been down this road before.  What I am hoping is that Martha and her daughters (Bill Ford Jr. has publicly stated that he is stepping away from the Lions) see the wisdom of hiring someone like Mike Holmgren or Ron Wolf to find the right General Manager for this team.

The new GM needs to have a solid football background.  Someone who knows what a successful team looks like and be allowed to build it.  So it would be no surprise the Lions would look at successful teams to find one.

Nick Caserio

I would look at one of the most successful franchises of the past decade, the New England Patriots.  Nick Caserio, currently the director of player personnel for the Patriots, was a key member for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Elliot Wolf

Want some youth and perhaps a new way of thinking but still want an NFL football pedigree?  If the Lions can wrestle away Elliot Wolf from the Green Bay Packers, they would have it.  He is the son of Ron Wolf and was promoted to player personnel in January.  At 33 years of age, he would breath some new life into this franchise.  But I’m not sure he would be willing to leave the Packers.  Too strong a tie to the team.

Trent Kirchner

Maybe the best bet would be Trent Kirchner, co-director of player personnel with the Seattle Seahawks.  He has an extensive history as a scout with the Carolina Panthers and was a large part of a staff with the Seahawks that went to back-to-back Super Bowls.  With him, you bring part of Seattle’s shrewdness in drafting as well as making deals for key players.

I won’t get into new head coaches nor will I speculate on Matthew Stafford.  A GM will more than likely want to hire his own head coach which is why I think Caldwell is out after this year.

As for Stafford, I still think he has way too much talent to give up on him.  But it wouldn’t be a bad idea to draft a QB and allow for some transition.  Besides, Stafford is only 27 years old…and too be honest, I think he can still be successful with a good offensive line in front of him as well as some better play calling.

The Lions need to stop repeating history.  I can only hope that Martha Ford breaks the trend that was set by her husband.  If these firings of Lewand and Mayhew are any indication, I would say that she is.  But we have heard from the Lions front office before that “the fans deserve a winner” mantra.

But not in her voice….until now.

 

Detroit Lions – The Cure for What Ails Any NFL Team

Tell Doctor Lion what your problem is.
Tell Doctor Lion what your problem is.

I have realized the new role for the Detroit Lions…they are the cure all for any NFL team that needs a confidence boost.

Got a problem with your passing game?  Only averaged 15% scoring touchdowns in the Red Zone?  Haven’t had a 100 yard rushing game in 3 years?  Defense hasn’t been getting sacks or turnovers?

Come to Ford Field or Dr. Lion can come to you.  We guarantee to cure what is ailing your football team.

As I sit here watching the game between Detroit and Kansas City, I see the Lions are making the 2-5 Chiefs look like they should be 5-2.  Huge chunks of yardage given up to Alex Smith who is going to end up with about 75-80 yards of rushing BECAUSE NO DEFENSIVE PLAYER KEPT THEIR EYES ON HIM!

You know, I could understand if the Lions had just one area of their game that was an issue.  But it’s all phases of the game on offense and defense.

The offensive line cannot keep allowing Matthew Stafford to continue keep getting beat up.  As I write this, FOX put up a graphic on Matthew Stafford’s dropbacks.   32 times Stafford went back to pass and he was sacked seven times and hit 11 times.  Kind of ticks you off when you see Tom Brady drop back and barley gets his hair ruffled for the entire game!

So let’s get to another area that seems to be a bane to the Lions:  The non-existent running game.  I don’t think it’s all totally a lack of talent.  Joique Bell or Ameer Abdullah are capable running backs.  I have to go back to the offensive line.  They don’t have the ability on a regular basis to open holes.  Bell had a great run for 32 yards on the opening drive.  Since then, Bell has only gained an additional 25 yards on 6 carries.

The defense?  The defensive line is getting pushed around and bullied by the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line.  In fact, just about every team the Lions have played thus far has made them look like fools.

Can’t stop the run and can’t stop the pass.  Not a good defense at all.  Granted, part of that is because they are out on the field way too long.  The Lions offense can’t expect the defense to bail them out all the time.  The offense has got to do their part by having long, sustained drives.

Prior to this game the Lions are ranked 27th in overall defense, allowing 392 yards per game and giving about 28 points a game.  And because the Lions don’t have the offensive acumen to get into shootouts with other teams, they are damn lucky to have one win this season.

Looking at the current teams that have had success over the last few years, one has to wonder what they are doing that the Detroit Lions aren’t.

How did the Seattle Seahawks get to two Super Bowls in a row with so few high round draft picks?  How do the Green Bay Packers seem to always have such good receivers?

And the most poignant team example are the New England Patriots who seem to always find players that no one else wants and makes them Pro Bowlers.

Seems to me the Lions are like the kid in elementary school that is smart as a whip but never gets good grades.  You know the one where during the parent/teacher conference, the teachers says “You know, Jimmy could be a great student if only he would apply himself.”

Sad that the Detroit Lions have gone  58 years without a championship…and looks like it will be 59 after this year.

Sad that ownership can’t see that they way conduct football business hasn’t been working for the past three decades.

Sad that this team that I love, from the city I was born in, can’t give the fans what they deserve for being so loyal despite stinking up the place more often than not.

This team can’t continue to be the cure for what ails other teams…they need to start being a problem for them.

I will continue to root for the Lions but I will also continue to speak out as to what their problems are.

It isn’t really the coaching though we can all admit that it has been unimaginative on both sides of the ball this season.

No, the real failure starts at the very top…much like it always has been when William Clay Ford was alive and now it’s his wife, Martha Ford.

It trickles down to Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew who seem to want to continue to play it safe so they can protect their jobs.  Those two have the ability to keep blaming coaches and players for the failure of the team.

My gut tells me that within the next 4-5 years, the Lions are going to be up for sale.  They will stay in Detroit since right now, the infrastructure they have is too good to move hem out.  A state of the art stadium, great practice facility and despite having teams that generally suck, a fantastic fan base.

With that sale, their would have to be a total clearing of upper management.  The new owner would have to be pretty ruthless and want to have success based on performance rather than loyalty.

I’d just to like to this take place sooner rather than later.

Go Lions!