Detroit Lions – The Next Steps

OK, so the 2018 Lions were a disappointment under new head coach Matt Patrica.  I get it that many people thought it was a mistake to let Jim Caldwell go despite the fact he had gotten the Lions into the playoffs twice in four years.

Caldwell may have had the chops to get the Lions to the playoffs, he never won enough games in the regular season to get at least one game played at home.

The Lions are 1-1 in playoff games at home.  They beat the Cowboys 38-6 in 1991 and lost to the Green Bay Packers 28-24 in 1993.  So seeing how  the Lions are 0-11 on the road in playoff games since 1958, they have a 50% shot to win at home which is better than 0% on the road.

What needs to be done?  Well for one thing, us Lions fans need to stop being satisfied with merely a playoff appearance and start thinking…no, demanding the Lions perform better in the regular season to get home field games and make deeper runs and maybe, just maybe, get to a Super Bowl.

Jim Bob Cooter is gone so first up on the list is deciding on an offensive coordinator:

Pete Carmichael – OC, New Orleans Saints

Carmichael has been interviewed for several head coaching positions including the Packers and Bengals.  I’m not sure the Lions would be able to pry Carmichael from the Saints in a lateral move…and he’s been a huge part of Drew Brees career since his days in San Diego.

Since Carmichael took over as the Saints OC in 2009, the offense has been rated number one 4 times.  If the Lions can pry him away from the Saints and he gets the Lions near the competency of the Saints, it would only benefit him to get a head coaching gig.

His play calling has been both imaginative and creative.  He will exploit a defense’s weakness and go the his offenses strength.  Most importantly, he has the capability to make the necessary adjustments during the game to keep competitive.

Todd Haley – OC, Browns

Haley may not be a popular choice for Lions fans.  He does have experience has an OC (Cardinals, Steelers and Browns) and head coach (Kansas City) so he could be a valuable add for Matt Patrica.

He can be intense but I think that’s just what this offense (particularly Matthew Stafford) needs.  It may backfire on him but if it works, Patrica can worry about the defense and leave the play calling to Haley

Darrell Bevell – OC Seahawks & Vikings

Bevell is responsible for the Seahawks drafting Russell Wilson.  That alone should give him some kudos for discovering talent.  And being a former college QB, he understands the role and would be a good sounding board for Matthew Stafford.

However, there are may Seahawk fans that will never forgive him for “The Call” that cost them a second straight Super Bowl in 2014.  Many football pundits have called it the worst play call in NFL history.

This makes Bevell somewhat of a gamble since he has done very well overall as an offensive coordinator…however, he does seem to err during critical times, something Lions fans have had to endure many times.

I really wish Lions fans would stop calling for Matthew Stafford to be traded.  Yes, I am just as frustrated as any fan with some of his bonehead plays.  But there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration:

Stafford’s Trade Value

Realistically, only one team in the NFL would be worth it for the Lions to make a trade with and that would be the Denver Broncos.  GM John Elway and linebacker Von Miller are at odds and Miller could be an impact player for the Lions on defense much like Khalil Mack did for the Chicago Bears.

The difference in that scenario is that the Bears already has Mitch Trubisky in place when making the trade with the Raiders for the Bears 1st round pick.  Matt Cassell would be next in line as the starting QB and I’m not sure with the Lions at number 8 in the draft would get any better of QB.

Drew Lock out of Missouri is perhaps the most balanced QB of the draft.  He’s 6-4 and 225 lbs, has a big arm and make a lot of throws at awkward angles (sound familiar?).   Impressive when throwing on the run, equally capable standing in the pocket and go through his progressions.  But he tends to lock on to his first-read and his ball placement is spotty.

Problem is that being at number 8 in the draft, I doubt the Lions will get a QB worth a darn.  Cardinals, Raiders, Bucs and Giants are all ahead of the Lions and all need a QB.

The Lions will be better off with Stafford as QB and if they still want a play maker on defense, KJ Wright of the Seattle Seahawks will be hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Better yet, go after safety extraordinaire, Earl Thomas…having him roam the secondary along with Darius Slay and Glover Quinn would improve the number 12 ranked secondary (by Pro Football Focus) easily into the top 10 or even the top five in the NFL.

Draft/Free Agency

The Lions have needs to improve in 5 areas:  Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Edge Rusher & Tight End.

As of right now, Lions have 8 picks in the 2019 Draft.  Compensatory picks will be figured out in the spring.

With the Lions getting the 8th pick in the  2019 Draft, Nick Bosa is not an option.  He’ll be snapped up with the first pick by the Arizona Cardinals.  He will be a game changer that opposing teams will need to plan for.

As for LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, this will be another pipe dream as San Francisco will draft him with the # 2 pick.  The Rams and the Seahawks are in for a few surprises next year.

1st Round – Byron Murphy, Cornerback – University of Washington

I know there is a huge call out there to get a difference maker on the defensive line.  But drafting Murphy out of UW is the smart move simply because Darius Slay needs help.  It would have been great to nab LSU’s Greedy Williams but the win at Lambeau put the Lions out of the running.

But imagine the Lions having two lock down caliber corners on both sides of the field.  Scouts love Murphy who at 5’11 and 182 lbs, plays much bigger than his size, is a willing tackler and wants to be involved in the run game.  Excellent change of direction and has excellent closing speed.

Free Agent Possibility – Earl Thomas, Free Safety – Seahawks

This is a pipe dream.  But you never know what may happen in the off-season.  Thomas’s days are done with the Seahawks and it isn’t set in stone that the Dallas Cowboys will pick him up.  Thomas should come back just as strong from his broken leg injury.  He played just four games in 2018 but had three interceptions in that span.  In his 8 year career, he has 28 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.  Lions need his turnover ability to take pressure of Darius Slay and whomever is on the right side of the field.  Just his presence would make the Detroit secondary close to elite.

2nd Round – TJ Edwards, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin

I know, I know, where is the edge rusher?  But with Edwards, you get a smart linebacker who does all the little things right.  He isn’t the flashiest but he is very comfortable at his position and is willing to take on an offensive lineman to free up a blitzer.  He is a selfless linebacker who has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the other little things to help his team.  Solid pick for the Lions in Round 2.

Free Agent Possibility – KJ Wright, Outside Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

No, I’m not trying to make the Lions the Seahawks of the NFC North.  It’s just that Seattle has a lot of good defensive players who will be available in the free agent market.

Wright is 29 years old and has played in Seattle for the past eight years, most along side middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.  Much like Edwards, Wright has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the little things right.  He is a very sure tackler, pretty decent in coverage and can occasionally sack the QB when called upon.  Same type of player but with 8 years experience.

Round 3 – Demarcus Christmas – Defensive Tackle, Florida State

The Lions were rated 23rd in the NFL against the run.  And if it weren’t for James “Snacks” Harrison, they most likely would have been rated even lower.

Pairing the 6’4″, 308 lb Christmas with Harrison would indeed be a present for Detroit Lions fans.  Christmas offers outstanding play strength and physicality.  He is very difficult to move out of his gap, is aggressive with his hands to initiate first contact to control linemen.  To be a more complete DT, he’ll need to refine his pass rushing skills but with him and Harrison clogging up the middle, teams will have a hard time running against the Lions.

Free Agent Possibility – DeMarcus Lawrence – Edge Rusher, Dallas

If indeed the Cowboys can’t afford Lawrence, he would be a huge pick-up for the Lions.  He would be a difference maker in the same vein as Von Miller or Khalil Mack.  The Lions have a lot of room in their salary cap and could make a strong push for Lawrence.

Lawrence is only 26 years old and has accumulated 34 sacks in his 5 year career for an average of 6.8 per year.  However, that increases to 12.5 per year over the last two years.  He would be a still if the Lions could get him signed for a three year, $60M contract.

Round 4 – Foster Moreau, TE – LSU

It’s too bad that Luke Willson didn’t pan out as I had hoped.  He had some great years while with the Seahawks but didn’t have much of a chance with the Lions.  Still, they may want to keep Willson but still draft Morreau.

Morreau would most likely become a fan favorite because of his blue collar work ethic.  He plays through the end of the whistle and is rarely caught behind the play.  He makes the extra effort to pick up an extra block and his physical tenacity can make up is technical deficiencies as a blocker.

He’s not going to stretch the field with his speed, would be more of a safety valve or be used in tight end screen plays.  He cradles the ball well in traffic and uses his body well to shield the ball away from defenders.

At 6’6″ and 256 lbs, he’ll provide extra protection in the passing game, can be a factor in the Red Zone for Stafford as he will present his numbers for him to put the ball on.

Free Agent Possibility – Jared Cook, TE – Oakland

If the Lions want to get more offensive production out of the TE spot, perhaps a temporary fix would be Cook.  He’s bounced around the league in his 10 years and in 2018 had his best year catching 68 passes for 896 yards and 6 TD’s.

He’s a capable pass and run blocker at 6’5″ and 254 lbs.  He is most often compared to Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker…if the Lions can get the same kind of production that he’s had in his two years at Oakland, it just might be worth signing Cook to a 1 or 2 year contract around $8 M per year.

Afterthoughts

The rest of the draft is much more of a crap shoot…They could get a decent slot receiver in the 5th round, perhaps Alex Wesley out of Northern Colorado or Kavontae Turpin from TCU.  Lions could bring back Golden Tate as he is a free agent now.  Also on the market is Cole Beasley from Dallas and Rashad Greener from Jacksonville.

I don’t think it would be a good idea to try and get Antonio Brown from the Steelers.  While there is no denying his talent, his latest antics could make him poison in the locker room.  However, a change of scenery just might be the ticket for Brown and he would make the Lions very difficult to defend being paired with Kenny Golladay and TJ Jones.

A lot depends on what type of OC the Lions get…and I would imagine the choice needs to be made prior the draft and any decisions on free agency.

Once again, Lions fans look to 2019 as a hopeful season.  My hope is they get their act together, win 12 games and get home field advantage for 1 or 2 games…because with that occurrence, anything can happen.