Category Archives: NFC North

Detroit Lions – After A Promising Start, Back To What They Are

I thought the Lions, after hiccupping against the Jets and 49r’s, had righted the ship with impressive wins against the Patriots and Green Bay.  In between those wins, they played well in the loss against the Cowboys, a game they should have won.

After watching the first quarter of the Lions against the Bears, I realize the ship had a massive hole and the duct tape they used didn’t hold.

Inspiration came as well as I was watching.  Using Eric Clapton’s song “Lay Down Sally,” I re-wrote the chorus to sum up my feelings regarding my hometown team:

Lay down Lions, and be the cure for what ails teams

Don’t you think you want a shot at a Super Bowl?

Lay down Lions, no need to be done so soon

We’ve just been waiting 60 years for a Super Bowl Show

Ok, so this proves that I’m no Eric Clapton.  But don’t think us Lions fans feel that every season, at some point, the Lions just lay down.  And I’m sure that in every season, when the Lions absolutely had to have a win, they just laid down and let the other team do just about anything they wanted.

Examples?  You want examples?

Ok, let’s start with the Lions most promising season where they came within one came of going to the Super Bowl, 1991.

The Lions had a great season, going 12-4.  They followed the formula of winning all 8 games at home and going .500 on the road.  Against the NFL North teams, they had an impressive 5-1 record including a win against the Packers at Lambeau Field which snapped a 25 game losing streak.

The 12-4 record earned them home field advantage in the NFL Divisional Playoff game where they crushed the Dallas Cowboys 38-6, putting them just one game away from the Super Bowl.

That should have fired up the team, pumped them up to a frantic level going to Washington, D.C. to face the Redskins, right?

Nope, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up and Washington trounced them 41-10.

Let’s fast forward to 2011, Jim Schwartz’s third year.  Lions started out 5-0 with impressive wins over the Kansas City Chiefs (48-3) and an OT thriller on the road against the Vikings (26-23).

Lions were at 6-2 thru the first 8 games, poised to take the NFC North.  Instead, the “Lay Down Lions” showed up in the 2nd half of the season, going 4-4, blowing important games at Chicago (13-37) and losing twice to Green Bay in week 12 at home (15-27) and at Lambeau the last game of the season (41-45).  Win either one of those games, they would have been 11-5 and in the playoffs.

That last game against the Pack?  They were back on track, riding a 3 game winning streak and could not close it out.

This week 7 game against the Bears?  Lions came in at 3-5 only 2 games behind the 5-3 Bears.  They needed to win this game to close the gap in a division where no team was running away.  You’d think they’d be pretty fired up, right?  Not.

I turned the game off midway thru the 2nd quarter where the Bears were leading 26-7.  The “Lay Down Lions” had reared their collective ugly head.

I could go on and on, but no need to relive the countless heartbreak the Detroit Lions have done to Lions fans and the City of Detroit.

I look to teams that have are having great years.  Los Angles Rams, New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and of course, the New England Patriots.  Two of those teams have young quarterbacks (Rams – Goff, Chiefs – Mahomes), the other two doing it with veteran quarterbacks (Saints – Brees, 17th season/Patriots – Brady, 18th season.)

The most common denominator in the success of these teams is they protect the QB.  Brees has been sacked only 9 times this year, Mahomes 12 times, Brady has been sacked 13 times, and Goff 17 times.

Stafford?  He was pretty well protected prior to the Vikings game getting sacked only 13 times.  But then he got nailed 10 times against the Vikes for a total of 23 times.  And by the time I turned off the game against the Bears, he had already gone down 3 times!

Now, no one can totally blame the offensive line for all of the sacks…Stafford admitted he needed to help out his team by getting rid of the ball quicker or if there is nothing there, throw it away.

However, for the last decade, the Lions offensive line has been far from stellar.  Since Stafford came into the league in 2009, he’s been sacked a total of 318 times (including the six in the Bears game) for an average of just under 3 times a game and each time he’s sacked, he gives up 6 yards on average.

Talk to any coach, he’ll want those 18 yards or the extra 2 first downs and a 3rd down with only 2 yards to go.

I believe the Lions have the talent at the skill positions on the offensive side of the ball.  Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones, Jr. are above average receivers.  Yes,  the trade of Golden Tate to Philadelphia did hurt the Lions offensively.  But they were more than likely have lost him to free agency anyway and Theo Riddick can fill that role very well.   They got a 3rd round pick from the Eagles who have pretty much rented Tate for the season unless they sign him to a contract.

They have also found a diamond in the rough in Kerryon Johnson.  The Lions went out and signed free agent LeGarrette Blount and he was slated as the starter.  But Johnson proved to be the best running back on the roster and has been very productive.  He has two 100 yard games and should run for 1,000 yards this year.

Right now, the Lions have 9 draft picks for 2019.  I think GM Bob Quinn is going to deal for at least 2 more but let’s go with the 9 that they have right now.

There are not really any good offensive line statistics.  But the Lions O-Line, according to Pro Football Focus, is ranked 18th.  Center Graham Glasgow, who had a rating of 71.1 last year, was thought that he was going to be premiere center or at least one as good as Dominic Raiola.  But his ranking has dropped 8 points and he really hasn’t done much to help the running game.

Now I don’t recommend taking a center in the first round.  Lions need to much help at linebacker and defensive line.  They have picked up Damon Harrison to help stuff the run but I think they need an outside pass rusher since it appear they really can’t count on Ziggy Ansah.

If they can trade up after the season, I would love to have them get Joey Bosa out of Ohio State.    He did not play this season as he went out with a core injury to his abdominal tear.  But his upside is too good to pass up.  And if Ansah stays with the Lions, with him Bosa coming from either side along with Harrison would make that line pretty formidable.

I am hoping that center Tyler Biadasz out of Wisconsin is available.  At 6’3″ and 316 lbs., he will open holes along with Frank Ragnow and TJ Lang…I would suspect both Kerryon Johnson and Matthew Stafford would feel good about that.

As for the play calling, as much of a breath of fresh air Jim Bob Cooter was when he took over from Joe Lombardi, he has fallen into predictable play calling as all Lions OC’s seem to do.

Perhaps Bob Quinn can convince Matt Lafluer to leave the Tennessee Titans.  Lafluer understands how to build a modern-era offense and he’s done some great things with Marcus Mariota.  He did wonders with Matt Ryan in 2016 making him a MVP as well has helping Sean McVay rejuvenate the 2017 Rams and working with Jarred Goff so well.

Or maybe the Lions reach into the college level and grab Texas Tech head coach Lincoln Riley.  He is one of the more innovative offensively-minded coaches in college football.  He had Texas Tech average 45 points a game…get him the O-Line outline above with the offensive weapons the Lions currently have, and you can see them averaging 24-28 points a game…wouldn’t that be a treat?

Ah well, once again, the Lions faithful will have to suffer with the “Lay Down Lions” and wait until next year.

Detroit Lions – Wins At Home Must Be A Priority

So far for the 2018 season, the Detroit Lions have been, historically, what they have always been:  A team on the cusp of greatness filled with doubt and unwarranted cockiness that leaves them no better than a .500 team.

Let’s talk about the ability (or in this case, the inability) of the Lions winning at home.  There is a lot of doubt that if the Lions ever got to the playoffs and played at home, that they would actually win.  As we all know, the last time the Lions won a playoff game was in 1991, ironically, a home win over the Dallas Cowboys.  After that, Lions played 9 playoff games on the road and lost all of them.

I’ve chosen two other teams to use for comparison, both of which stress the importance of protecting the home turf.  And I’m pretty sure no one is surprised in the teams:  Green Bay Packers and the New England Patriots.

I am going to use 3 spans of time, the longest being 28 years and the shortest being 5 years.  I’ve chosen from 1990 to 2017 for the longest amount of time…and no, there is no other reason other than I wanted to start in the 1990’s.

28 years – 1990 to 2017

From 1990 to 2017, the Lions posted a 117-107 record at home, a winning percentage of 0.522.  Being a .500 team at home isn’t going to get a team into the playoffs all that often.  And the 8 years they made the playoffs in that time proves that.

The Green Bay Packers posted a 161-62 home record, a winning percentage of .722.  They averaged, over the 28 years, 6-2 at home.  No wonder they have 19 playoff appearances in 28 years.

New England?  Almost as good as the Pack over that time span, putting up a 155-69 home record with a winning percentage of .692.

The crux of this is that because the Lions are just above .500 for the home games and because they are at .299 on the road, they have averaged a record of 7-9 over 28 years.  While the Packers and Patriots who win at least 5 and 6 games a year at home respectively, their records are guaranteed to be 10-6 and 11-5 overall.

10 years – 2008 to 2017

The Lions, if anything, are at least consistent.  However, over the past 10 seasons, the Lions posted a 38-42 home record.  Most of that can be attributed to the winless 2008 season as well as the 2-14 season that followed.  But again, Lions averaged a 4-4 home record and a 3-5 road record to be a 7-9 team.

Packers made the playoffs in 8 out of the 10 years because of a 59-20 home record.  They were barley above .500 on the road but that’s what you expect.  In this 10 year sample, the Packers average an 11-5 overall record…yep, that will get you into the playoffs just about every year.

As for the Patriots, it didn’t really matter if they were home or away.  Posting a 68-12 home record to go along with a 59-21 away record, they made the playoffs 10 out of 10 times due to an average record of 13-3.  But to lose only 1-2 games a year at home in 10 years shows what a premium that Bill Belichick emphasis on protecting the home turf.

5 years – 2013 to 2017

The last 5 years have been better for the Lions.  In that time period, they have averaged and overall record of 9-7, getting to the playoffs twice.  In 2014, the Lions did a great job in winning at home, posting a 7-1 record and going 4-4 on the road to accomplish an 11-5 record.  Unfortunately, the Packers went 12-4 to take the division and the Lions played in the Wildcard game at Dallas, losing 24-20.  In 2016, the Lions went 6-2 at home  but only 3-5 on the road but still snuck into the playoffs, again losing this time to the Seattle Seahawks 26-6.  But they protected the home turf well and got there which is all we can hope for, right?

The Packers have won at nearly a .700 clip over the past 5 seasons, making the playoffs 4 times.  They have been basically a .500 team on the road but doing well posting a 27-12 record.

The Patriots?  Win/Loss Record average at home:  7-1.  Win/Loss Record average away:  6-2.  It’s hard not to make the playoffs when your team goes 13-3 every year.

Both Green Bay and New England put a premium on winning at home.  And their respective successes proves that winning at home gives them a much better chance to make the playoffs on a consistent basis than going 4-4 at home every year.

Now we can sit here and bring up all of the bad drafts the Lions have had and the fact that neither Green Bay or New England ever had a bad GM as Matt Millen.  But much of the bad decisions made were as a result of the ownership hiring second rate GM’s, Head Coaches and Scouting personnel.  Both the Green Bay and New England had their seasons of crappiness.  There was a stretch from 1972 to 1992 the Pack made the playoffs only twice.  And New England had a stretch from 1971 to 1995 that was almost Lionesque with few double digit win seasons and sporadic playoff appearances.

The Packers righted the ship by hiring Mike Holmgren in 1992.  And in his 6 years, he got the Packers in the playoffs 5 times, putting them in the Super Bowl twice and winning one of them.  He and Ron Wolf made a great team.

As for the Patriots, they did make two Super Bowl appearances prior to the Belichick.  The first was in 1985 and were blown out by Mike Ditka’s Chicago Bears 46-10. Bill Parcels got the Pats to Super Bowl 31 and lost to Holmgren’s Packers 35-21 in 1996.  But in 2000, Tom Kraft brought in Bill Belichick and gave him near complete control of all football operations.  Scott Pelosi was the GM up until 2009 but all final decisions were left to Belichick.

The Lions hire Bob Quinn away from the in 2016, one of the first moves made by Martha Ford since her husband Bill Ford, Sr. passed away in 2014.  In turn, despite Jim Caldwell’s limited success in his 4 years, Quinn hired Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia to his first head coaching job in the NFL.  Let’s hope that this combination brings up the talent and skill level across the organization to one that Lions fans have been so desperately wanting since the 1960’s.

Oh, and those wanting Matthew Stafford’s head on a platter?  Let’s cut the nonsense on that right now.

Stafford’s first 9 years in the league compares very favorably with Arron Rodgers first 9 as well as Tom Brady’s first 9.  And just for kicks, since he has been compared to him a lot, I included Brett Farve’s first 9 years

Passing Yards – Average per year

Rodgers – 4,055

Stafford – 3,861

Farve – 3,856

Brady – 3,426

Completion % – Average per year

Rodgers – 65.34

Brady – 63.33

Stafford – 61.4

Farve – 60.91

Touchdowns – Average per year

Rodgers – 31.22

Farve – 28.33

Brady – 25.00

Stafford – 24.00

Interceptions – Average per year

Rodgers – 7.89

Brady – 10.56

Stafford – 13.00

Farve – 16.33

Stafford is right there with all three of these “elite” quarterbacks.  What the other 3 had was consistency at head coach and the GM spots, drafting wisely and making smart free agent signings that gave Rodgers, Brady and Farve the tools they needed to win.  Yes, I know that Stafford had the great Calvin Johnson to throw to but little else.  For most of his career, Stafford didn’t have a running game that was worth a damn, leaky defenses that would give up big plays toward the end of games and just bad play designs that were predictable.

Put Stafford on the Green Bay or New England teams and I think we’d be talking about Stafford in a much different light.  Conversely, put Rodgers or Brady on those Lions teams and we’d be talking about them differently as well.

So I would take Stafford as my starting QB.  But in order to have him be as successful as Rodgers and Brady, let’s give him the same tools as they have had.  Quinn and Patricia are heading that way…I think Patricia needs another year and another draft (another road-grading guard to complement Ragnow)  And while I hate to see Golden Tate go, he was under-utilized and the Lions got a 3rd round pick in 2019 for him in the trade with the Eagles.

Hard choices have to be made…Quinn made his first one in trading Tate.

 

Detroit Lions – Same Old, Same Old?

I had so wanted to write something positive about the Detroit Lions.  But other than just a few moments in the game, they looked more like a team playing for the number one pick in the NFL’s 2019 draft.

That may be a bit harsh after only just one game but it really isn’t one game.  It’s more like 416 games (number of games since the Lions last made the playoffs).

Since that time, the Lions have had 10 head coaches, including Matt Patricia, former defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.  It’s kind of hard to find consistency when not one coach since Wayne Fontes (who was the last coach to have the Lions in the playoffs) stays any longer than 3 years.

The Green Bay Packers have had 16 head coaches…since 1919…and just four since 1991 and have made the playoffs 20 times since 1991, winning 2 Super Bowls.

The New England Patriots, whom the Lions are trying to emulate, have also had just four head coaches since 1991, made the playoffs 19 times and won 5 Super Bowls in 9 appearances.

What were some of the goals the Lions wanted to obtain in 2018?

  1.  Improve the running game – Last time the Lions had a 100 yard rushing game was on Thanksgiving Day against the Green Bay Packers.  Reggie Bush ran for 117 yards that day.  Coincidentally, Bush was the last to rush for over a 1,000 yards in that same year and the Lions haven’t had 100 yard rushing game nor a 1,000 yard season since.  To bolster the running attack of Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick, the Lions signed LeGarrette Blount, a 6-0, 247 lbs. running back making him one of the biggest backs the Lions have had in recent years.  In his eight year career, Blount has topped 1,000 yards twice.  I’ve given up on the Lions having 1,000 yard rusher, I just want to see the Lions average over 4 yards per carry!
  2. Keep Matthew Stafford upright – Well Monday night’s game didn’t have them going in the right direction on that goal.  Stats for Monday’s game show that Stafford didn’t get sacked but he was hit several times.  Twice he was shaken up and even taken out for a series having getting sandwiched between two Jets defenders.
  3. Keep turnovers to a minimum – Again, not going on the right direction.  Stafford threw 4 interceptions, one being run back for a Jets TD and Kenny Golladay had a fumble that he recovered.  Rookie QB Sam Darnold, despite having his first NFL pass intercepted and returned for a TD, looked far more poised than the Lions 10 -year veteran QB Stafford.
  4. Protect the Home Field – Not sure this is actually one of the stated goals but over recent years, the Lions haven’t done a very good job playing at home.  Since moving to Ford Field in 2002, the Lions have a 59-69 record at home, winning just a little over 46% of their home games.  In that same time frame, the Patriots went 107-20 winning nearly 85% of those games.  The Packers?  89-38-1 at home winning just about 70% of their games since 2002.  If the Lions could win at least 6 home games a year and go .500 on the road, that gives them a consistent 10-6 record which at least gives them a shot at the playoffs.

I don’t say that this one game is going to be an indicator at what is going to be indicative of the season.  It’s just one game and all teams have stinkers throughout the season.  Maybe it’s a good thing the Lions got it out of the way early!

The Lions are not out of it.  But the NFC North is a super-competitive division with all four teams having top-tier quarterbacks…and yes, I am including Chicago Bears QB Mitch Tribusky with Stafford, Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins.  Out of the four, Tribusky is more a game manager than the rest but he more than held his own in the 24-23 loss against the Packers at Lambeau.

I just hope the Lions get their stuff together and start playing quality football.

Detroit Lions – Breaking Our Hearts Again

Normally, I wait a day or so before I write about a disappointing loss.  But this time, the Lions had it in their grasp and literally let it slip away.

And it’s not a single player or coach that is too blame for all of this.  It is a culmination of players and coaches that are to blame.

Let’s begin with linebacker Tahir Whitehead.  Lions have the Bengals in third and long and just about everyone knew the Bengals were going to throw a screen pass, particularly Whitehead who had it read perfectly.

Instead of wrapping the player up, he chose to go for the big hit and Giovani Bernard bounced off and ran for 12 yards and picked up a critical third down.

Next up, offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.  He didn’t call a bad game.  In fact, I thought it was one of his more balanced attacks where the offense gained 87 yards rushing and 207 yards receiving.  However, the Bengals took away Golden Tate, the Lions most dangerous receiver and Cooter did absolutely nothing to free Tate up.

How do you not find away to get the ball to the most effective player, who leads the league with the most yards after catch?

And finally, Lions head coach Jim Caldwell.  He blew the challenge call when the Lions had a third and 28 and Matthew Stafford connected with Tate for a 48 yard catch.  However, the ball was loose and referees called an incomplete pass.  With less than 3 minutes to go and you are fighting for your playoff life, why not challenge the call?  It was close enough to be have the call reversed.  Use everything you have available to you.

Caldwell failed the Lions and the fans the most by not challenging that call.

The Lions are not that far away from being a playoff team.  And I’ve been a fan for a very long time and I am not running away from them now.

Caldwell did bring some sense of stability when he was hired in 2014.  He has gotten them into the payoffs twice in that time but never got past the first round.

It’s time he goes.

In fact, it’s probably time for GM Bob Quinn to blow up the coaching staff.  I’d like to see Teryl Austin move in to the top spot and the Lions keep Cooter as Offensive Coordinator since he and Matthew Stafford have such a great connection.

But if you are going to blow up the coaching staff, you might just clean house.  And this would be a golden opportunity to have Bob Quinn get an elite and imaginative staff to bring a fire the Lions haven’t had since the days of Wayne Fontes.

How about dipping into the New England Patriots staff and get Josh McDaniels?  He has a year of head coaching experience and has been a productive offensive coordinator in two stints with the Patriots as well one year with the St. Louis Rams.

Want somebody fresh?  Go after David Shaw, Stanford’s head coach.  He has put up some impressive records offensively and would bring some imagination to the Lions offense.

I suppose this is a gut reaction to yet another heart-breaking season.  But I also witnessed that the Lions DIDN’T WANT THIS GAME!  And that falls squarely on the shoulders of the head coach, Jim Caldwell.

Yes, the stoic manner he has, the calm, reserved manner and the emotionless persona has pretty much sucked the passion from the Lions game.  Football is an emotional game and the head coach has to find that fine balance of when to use it and when not to.  Unfortunately, Caldwell chooses never to tap into emotion when it’s needed.

Outside of blowing up the coaching staff, the Lions aren’t that far away from having a really, really good team.  Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback and they have good receivers in Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Eric Ebron (though he needs to work on hanging on to passes) and the promising rookie Kenny Golladay.

A few weeks ago, I was promoting the fact the Lions need a big running back in order to grind out games.  But with the emergence of Tion Green over the past few games, I don’t think we need to.  We can lose Ameer Abdullah and have Theo Riddick take over as the primary back and beef up the defensive line.

Ziggy Ansah needs some help…and while I applaud the Lions for picking up Dwight Freeney for the playoff push, he isn’t a permanent solution.  Haloti Ngata is on his last legs and Ansah needs a partner in crime to get pressure on QB’s.

Detroit Lions – Looking Forward to 2018

Yes, I know the Lions are currently in second place in the NFC North.  Yes, I know the Lions are still in the hunt for a wild card spot in the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

But based on their performance over the last three games, even if they make the playoffs, they won’t last the first round.  And should we as Lions fans find that acceptable?  I suppose for a fan base that hasn’t seen a championship since 1957, it would be.

I for one am not going down that path.  60 years since the Lions were last crowned as the best in the NFL is far too long.

Since Lions GM Bob Quinn has taken over, the Lions have made progress.  The 2016 draft shored up the offensive line with OT Taylor Decker and C Graham Glasgow as well as improving the defense with DT A’Shawn Robinson, S Miles Killebrew and LB Antione Williams.

Quinn made some small improvements in 2017 in getting some WR help drafting Kenny Golladay but the focus was mainly on defense again.

So where do the Lions go in 2018?  There is no question the Lions made Matthew Stafford the highest paid QB in the NFL was the right move.  But it’s an all too familiar trap the Lions seem to fall into by relying on one player with massive talent and hope the rest of the offense can do adequately enough to put points on the board.  We’ve seen this with Billy Sims, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Calvin Johnson and now Matthew Stafford.

The Thanksgiving Day loss against the Minnesota Vikings exposed a huge deficiency, perhaps the worst kept secret in the NFL: The Detroit Lions don’t have a running game.

I’ve never been a fan of Ameer Abdullah.  He tends to jitterbug too much instead of making one cut, find the hole and go.  And at 5-9 and 203 lbs., he isn’t big or strong enough to be used for short yardage situations.  He is, at best, a change of pace running back and should be used in that fashion if the Lions deem to keep him on the roster.

Personally, I’d cut ties with Abdullah because of the presence of Theo Riddick.  Release Abdullah and look for a big running back that does take the one cut and then heads North.

I doubt the Lions (unless Quinn does some horse-trading) will have a shot at Penn State’s Saquon Barkley or LSU’s Derrius Grace.   Both of them are big-play threats that would take a ton of pressure off Matthew Stafford.  Play fakes would go to the next level and imagine Stafford working with a 2nd and 3 most of the time instead of 2nd and 8!

And the passing game, as good as it is now, would be even more explosive!  A play fake on 2nd and 3 and then Stafford hits Jones, Tate, Golladay or Ebron on a seam route that leave the middle open because the linebackers have moved up, anticipating the run.  If Stafford see’s the linebackers stay back, he hands it off and most likely, the running back picks up the first down.

I think Oregon’s Royce Freeman would be an excellent fit for the Lions.  According to Pro-Football Focus, he is listed as #2 in the nation in breakaway percentage among 2018 eligible running backs.  At 5-11 and 231 lbs., he has the size to bust through holes and with a 4.5 40 time, is fast enough when he hits the hole to get deep into the secondary.

I also think he’ll be able to move the pile in short-yardage situations.  He’ll need to get better on protecting the ball and needs to shore up his blocking techniques but those are coachable.

By getting Freeman (or a equivalent of Freeman), you get a running back that will wear down a defense, allow for better play calling and most importantly, you have a rested defense that can tee-off on opposing QB’s.

In fact, if getting a big running back is the only player they take on the offensive line, I would applaud the Lions going after more D-line players and in the later rounds, get some depth for the Offensive Line, specifically the guard position.

I want the Lions to be an elite team and be one that will be elite for years to come.  Stafford is still a relatively young QB at 29 but in the NFL, anything can happen.  The Lions need to give Stafford the final piece of the puzzle:  a 1,000 yard rusher (one he hasn’t had in 5 years) and a rusher who can give him consistent 85-100 yards a game.  The fact that the Lions haven’t had a running back to gain 100 yards in a game in over 4 years is just as dubious as the 0-16 season in 2008.

Lions need to build on this season and should have a goal to get to and win the Super Bowl in 2019.

 

Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft – Big Running RB and D-Line Help

Here we are at yet another NFL Draft….and here we are at yet another discussion as to what the Lions need.

NFLDRaftScouts.com indicates the top 5 needs for the 2017 draft:

  • Wide Receiver – Marvin Jones and Golden Tate combined for 136 catches last year.  But the rest of the receivers, sans Anquan Boldin, only had a grand total of six.  Boldin may come back next year to give the Lions a reliable 3rd down receiver but at 36 years old, just how much will he have left in the tank?
  • Linebacker – Lions are searching for a replacement since DeAndre Levy went the free agent route.  They have signed Paul Worrilow who is solid but they could be seeking a big playmaker to step in.
  • Defensive End – Once a strength of the Lions defense, the talent has degraded over the last few years.  In 2016, the defense was tied for 30th in the league with just 26 sacks.  Part of that deficiency is related to Ziggy Anshan’s high ankle sprain.  Lions need to find a reliable number 2 pass rusher
  • Cornerback – Lions appear to be in pretty good shape in the secondary with Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden all returning.  But things can change drastically over the course of a season.  And like relief pitching in baseball, you just can’t have too deep of a bullpen.
  • Tight End – Eric Ebron has improved over the last 3 years but I get the feeling that Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, just doesn’t quite trust Ebron in clutch situations.  We’ve all seen Ebron make some fantastic catches but he seems to lose concentration on the routine ones…and his blocking hasn’t really improved all that much.

I still find it fascinating that running back isn’t listed as a need for the Lions.  Yes, yes, I know that we have Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.  But neither of those guys are going to wear down a defense.  Abdullah is 5-9 and 203 lbs. and is great in the open field.  Riddick, also at 5-9 and listed at 201 lbs. is a fantastic receiver coming out of the backfield in critical passing situations.  But I firmly believe the Lions need a big back to pound on the defense, wear em down so that in the 4th quarter, the 3-5 yard gains in the 1st quarter turn into 6-10 yard gains.

Fox Sports has the Lions with big needs at cornerback, linebacker and defensive ends.

Pride of Detroit, one of my favorite Detroit Lions sites, state that Lions needs on offense are minimal and really only need to target a 3rd wide receiver.  And also indicates that a short-yardage running back would be nice.  Most urgent needs would be on defense with just about anywhere needs help.

I agree the defense is in need of some re-tooling.  But having that big running back that can grind out yardage and take time off the clock will make the defense better.  Too many games over the last few years, I’ve seen the Lions defense at the end of the game with their hands on their knees, gasping for breath.  A rested defense is an effective defense.  These guys are the thoroughbreds of the NFL, trying to get through 300 lbs. to 330 lbs. offensive linemen to get to shifty quarterback and elusive running backs.  That takes a ton of energy so keeping your defense off the field as much as possible is a key ingredient for success.

With that in mind, I offer, to the 15 fans of Beer Thinker Sports, my 2017 Detroit Lions mock draft:

The Lions have eight draft picks this year, getting an additional 6th round pick from the New England Patriots in the Kyle Van Noy trade.

First Round, Pick 21:  D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas.  6-0, 233 lbs.

Great athleticism for a running back this size.  Smooth lateral movement and has the ability to go from one gap to the next without gearing down.  Great conversion rate on short down situations and is rarely tackled for a loss in attempts to bounce outside.  Foreman was a very productive runner for Texas in 2016 where he averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns.  Not much of a receiver but is the load runner the Lions lack who can run over the opposition.

Second Round, Pick 53:  Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt.  6-3, 234 lbs.

Is a play-making machine.  Always plays downhill and is looking for blood.  He is fast to breakdown plays and respond to them.  Creates tackles for losses by shooting gaps at appropriate angles.  Football magnet with outstanding tackle production to go along with his ability to create and force turnovers.  He does well in pass coverage and has the talent to be a three-down starter in the NFL.

Third Round, Pick 85:  Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado.  6-3, 198 lbs.

I like big cornerbacks especially ones with speed.  With a 4.45 40 time, Witherspoon fits the bill.  He has an exceptional combination of size and speed, has fluid hips and fast feet.  Gets to top speed quickly with long, easy strides to chase down receivers.  Has plus athleticism for quick recovery when beaten off early release.  Witherspoon had a staggering 22 passes broken up in 2016.  There is some concern about his coach-ability and football character but teams like him off the field as well as his intelligence.

Fourth Round, Pick 128:  Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State.    5-11, 189 lbs.

Want a near -perfect 3rd wide receiver?  Gabe Marks will fill the bill in that regard.  Has the ability to create movement in defenders with his routes to leverage himself into open throwing windows.  Stafford will have no issues finding him in 3-receiver sets.  Shows good body-control when ball in in the air and works aggressively back to the throw and scrambles with his quarterback to open up.   He will have to prove that his success in college wasn’t because of WSU’s pass-happy offense and that he does have the skills to compete in the NFL.

Fifth Round, Pick 165:  Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn.  6-2, 261 lbs.

Yeah, I know.  A lot of draftnicks are going to say this is way to low to take a defensive end.  However, as I stated previously, if a big, grind it out running back is taken, then chances are, the Lions can find that diamond in the rough for a second pass rusher.  And while Lawson has had some injuries that have dropped him in many mock drafts, I think the Lions could take the chance with him in the 5th round.  He is well-built with good muscular definition with a strong upper-body.  Able to strike and release to shed tight ends quickly and fights through blocks to string outside runs to the sideline.  If Lawson can prove he can get and stay healthy, Lions would steal a good to great pass rusher taking him here.

Sixth Round, Pick 205:  Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo.  6-4, 270 lbs.

Eric Ebron isn’t going anywhere soon and the Lions need a good blocking TE.  Roberts will fill the bill in that regard.  However, a lot of teams will also need to pay attention to his receiving skills.  When he catches the ball, it matters.  Over 80% of his career catches went for first downs.  In 2016, over 35% of his catches were for touchdowns.  He is a huge target with gigantic hands and is quick to get open and find the ball on stop routes.  Very capable run-blocker as he sinks his hips to neutralize defensive ends.  Has experience block from in-line and wing spot.  Could be a great option in the red-zone where the Lions have had issues over the past few years.

Sixth Round, Pick 215 (From New England):  Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri.  6-4, 330 lbs.

A stretch pick for sure as there are some issues to his weight.  Walter Football has him listed at 360 lbs. and NFL.com lists him at 300 lbs.  I just averaged it out to 330 lbs. for the sake of argument.  He is an mountain of a man and is extra-wide to cause problems on single blocks.  He has a tendency to lock up on the player in front of him rather than search for the ball.  Good at clogging up the middle but has limited pass-rush skills.

Seventh Round, Pick 250 (From New England):  Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova.  6-8″ 325 lbs.

If Seaton is available here, the Lions should grab him.  He has big-time size and could be a sleeper prospect that could end up being a steal.  He has surprising lateral quickness and agility for such a tall player.  He is patient on the move and takes good angles on defenders on play-side zones.  Displays decent anchor on bull-rush passers.

While these are just my opinions, I just want to let Lions GM Bob Quinn know that I am available next weekend if he wants a consultant.  And I’d come cheap too….just a luxury box at Ford Field for the next 3 years.

Go Lions!

 

Detroit Lions – Need Defensive Playmakers and Big Running Back

Lions have been fairly active in the free-agent market.  They have especially beefed up the right side of the offensive line signing right tackle Rick Wagner from the Baltimore Ravens and stole T.J. Lang, a Detroit homeboy, from the Green Bay Packers.  Wagner and Lang more than make up for the loss of Riley Reif (Vikings) and Larry Warford (Saints.)

The Lions offensive line should be more productive with a starting O-line of Decker at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Swanson at center, Lang at RG and Wagner at right tackle along with free agent TE Darren Fells who is a good blocking TE.  It’s a solid offensive line that will protect QB Matthew Stafford better and open up decent running lanes.

There is a point of contention that the Lions need to have defensive playmakers.  I couldn’t agree more but I don’t think they need to use their first round pick, not when the lack of a running game is so apparent.  I had written an article, back on February 18, that in the draft, the Lions should get a running back with their first pick.  With the recent free agent signings of Lang and Wagner, I believe it’s the correct move even more.

Now I know there are big supporters of Ameer Abdullah and I don’t deny that he can be a dynamic playmaker if he can stay healthy.  Granted he is coming into his third year and he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder since he will feel that he’s got something to prove.  Abdullah believes that he can be an every down back that the Lions have been so desperately seeking.  But the NFC North is one of the most physical divisions in the NFL.  And at 5-9 and 209 lbs., I’m not convinced that he will be able to take the wear and tear of playing in such a tough division.

So to those fans who feel the need to go with a defensive playmaker in the first round, hear me out.  If the Lions cannot find better balance on the offensive side of the ball, no matter how good of a defensive player, the Lions will struggle to get above .500 in 2017.

The best defense the Lions can play is a well-rested one.  That means the Lions will need to control the clock and that means having an effective ground attack.  I would love to see the Lions with an average time of possession to be anywhere from 31 to 33 minutes a game, which would be a one to three minute improvement.  Keeping the ball and extra one to three minutes a game means more scoring opportunities for the Lions and less for opponents.  I’d much rather see opposing defenses gasping for breath as the Lions churn out first down after first down and getting more into the end zone instead of field goals.

In my expert opinion (OK, I admit, I am a legend in my own mind), I would trade Abdullah for draft picks…perhaps picking up a 3rd round pick in 2017 and maybe another 3rd round pick in 2018.

Then I would target D’Onta Foreman, the 6’1″, 250 lbs. beast out of Texas.  He was one of the most productive runners in the 2016 collegiate season, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, gaining over 2,000 yards and running for 15 touchdowns.  And once he gets past the line, he will look for contact and run over defenders.

By drafting Foreman, you make Jim Bob Cooter’s offense just that much more dangerous.  Matt Stafford will become even more efficient as a passer since the defense will have to creep up to protect against the run.  That frees up Golden Tate and Marvin Jones for some 1-1 opportunities and give TE Eric Ebron receiving opportunities underneath for six to ten yard gains.

Let’s not forget that the Lions have one of the best 3rd down backs in the league in Theo Riddick as well as a change of pace runner in Zack Zenner to spell Foreman.

Control time of possession just allows so many scoring chances and keeps opposing quarterbacks on the bench which where they are the least effective.  I am so tired of Aaron Rodgers pretty much having his way with the Lions either at Ford Field or at Lambeau.  Keep him on the bench and he can’t hurt you.

So take Foreman with the first pick and then address the rest of the needs in later rounds.

Lions need to get a middle linebacker.  Tahir Whitehead gave up too many passes over the middle.  Good player against the run and on occasion can get after the quarterback, but Lions need a linebacker that can stay with opposing tight ends.  The middle is probably the weakest area on the field for the Lions in regard to pass defense.

Round 2 pick:  Jarrad Davis, Florida  6-1, 238 lbs., Linebacker

In his senior year, Davis recorded 60 tackles, two sacks and broke up four passes.  He has above grade instincts and is a play-maker on the field to go along with his leadership skills.  He does need to improve getting off blocks but he has skills and is a dangerous blitzer.  He is very physical when hitting backs, quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen.  Will bring a certain amount of nastiness to the defense.

Round 3 pick:  Jordan Willis, Kansas State  6-3, 255 lbs., Defensive End

Jordan Willis has good speed for his size with a 4.53 40 time.  At the combine, he looked smooth and athletic in the field drills.  As for his season, he caused a lot of disruption and negative plays.  With 16.5 sacks, 52 tackles (17.5 of them for loss) and three forced fumbles, he would be a great bookend for Ziggy Ansah.

Round 4 pick:  Davon Godchauex, LSU  6-3, 310 lbs.  Defensive Tackle

Godchauex has a good first step off the ball with speed to shoot the gap.  He has the ability to fire up the field and get to the quarterback as well as being effective in stunts to loop around and causing disruption.  He is at his best charging up field and dropping running backs for loss and sacking the QB.  He needs to work on holding his own against downhill runners but his upside is to good to pass up.

There are a few more areas the Lions need help…and despite signing  free agent TE Darren Fells, he isn’t the pass catching TE the Lions could use.  I would love to see the Lions nab Seattle Seahawk TE Luke Willson who is on the cusp of breaking out.  He could very well challenge Ebron for playing time.  He’s a smart receiver with good route instincts and not a bad blocker to boot.

Ah heck, if I was a good GM, some team would hire me, right?

Go Lions!

 

 

Detroit Lions – Draft A Running Back!

There…that picture right there is what I want other teams to see when they think about the Detroit Lions running game.

Most NFL draft experts are seeing the Lions leaning toward focusing on defense for the 2017 draft.  I seriously think that would be a mistake.  The Lions need to cultivate a highly-effective running game and soon.

Yes, yes, I know that mantra “Defense wins championships.”  So I did a bit of research.  Granted, my research isn’t on the level of some (ok, most) sites but I think it tells a story.

Over the past 10 years, winning Super Bowl teams have ranked, on average, about 15th in the league in rushing the ball with a 114.8 yards per game.  Losing teams were ranked 14th at 120.8 yards per game.  Over that same 10 year span, the Lions average rank was 27th with a 90.8 yards per game average.

As for defense, I used total yards allowed for ranking.  On winning Super Bowl teams, they ranked on average 11th in the league, giving up 317.8 yards a game, while the losing side ranked 12th while giving up 323 yards per game.  The Lions?  A dismal rank of 21 with a 356.7 yards per game average.  However, over the last five years, they rank right with Super Bowl teams at 13 while giving up 338.6 yards per game.

Not so with the running game over the past five years.  The Lions ranked at an average of 26 with a 93.4 yards per game.

While I agree that there are some defensive needs, I think getting a 3-down back to go with a healthy Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah  and Zack Zenner would do a couple of things.

First, it would allow the Lions to improve on time of possession.  Keeping opposing QB’s on the bench is a huge deal, especially when it comes to Aaron Rodgers.

Second, it would allow the Lions defense to stay fresh.  They could pin their ears back and get after opposing QB’s for the entire game instead of being out on the field all the time gasping for breath.

Third, it would make Matthew Stafford a much more effective quarterback.  Since the Lions running doesn’t scare opposing teams all that much, play fakes aren’t near as effective.  Imagine the Lions are in a tight game late in the third quarter with a 7 point lead.  But instead of a rushing total of less than 40 yards by that time, they have a back that’s at 75 yards or more.  Stafford can either give the ball in a draw situation which freezes D-lineman and allows the offensive line to block effectively and the play gains 7-10 yards, moves the chains and the clock keeps moving.

Or, Stafford pulls the ball back, the runner dives into the line which forces the secondary to come up…Stafford drops two more steps, turns and throws a 30-yard strike down the sideline to Golden Tate who takes it in for a score.

A big running back with speed and good hands can do all that for a team.  Just ask the Dallas Cowboys how they feel about Ezekiel Elliott these days.

I know Darius Slay needs help in the secondary but I also believe that can be had in the later rounds.  I love Sidney Jones’s potential but to be honest, it’s not the most critical need.

Lions need to get a running back and I think they should do that in the first round.   Then they can focus on other needs with the other 6 picks.  Keep in mind that selecting any of these could mean using Abdullah or Riddick as trade material for future picks.

Options at 21:

  • Alvin Kamara – Tennessee.  5-10, 215 lbs.  4.55 40 time.
  • Christian McCaffery – Stanford.  6-1, 200 lbs.  4.49 40 time
  • Dalvin Cook – Florida State.  6-0, 203 lbs.  4.52 40 time
  • D’Onta Foreman – Texas.  6-1, 249 lbs.  4.55 40 time.

Kamara is a Jamal Charles style runner.  He is a fast-slasher type of runner with some power.  He has great hands and can be used as a slot receiver.  If the Lions are confident with Kamara, they can trade Theo Riddick for multiple draft picks to use later to shore up the defense.  I love Riddick but I think Kamara can be an every down back and be just as effective on third down as Riddick.

McCaffery has acceleration and explosiveness that separates him from other runners.  Think Reggie Bush with some power.  He may not run over tacklers but he does make yardage after contact.  He is a home run threat on every down, has a great first step and doesn’t need much of a hole to get into the second level of defense.  A patient runner, he can wait for the hole to develop as well and he is a capable receiver.  He is the fastest of the four backs I have targeted.  McCaffery could make Abdullah expendable while keeping Riddick as the 3rd down back and Zenner as a capable back-up.

Cook is reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch.  Good speed, athleticism and versatility.  He is put together well with a thick lower body that allows him to keep his balance and pick up additional yards after contact.  He is fast to the hole and has serious acceleration when he gets into the secondary.  There is some off-field issues that the Lions may want to be cautious about.  Last thing we need is another Titus Young issue.  But Cook has some serious upside to him with speed to run away from most defensive backs and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

Foreman, the biggest back isn’t much of a receiver but is a load who can and will run over the opposition.  With an average of 6.3 yards a carry and rushing for 2,028 yards, he was one of the most productive runners in the nation.  Might also resolve some of the red zone issues the Lions have.  With 15 touchdowns last season, Foreman knows how to get into the end zone.

My gut tells me they should draft Foreman.  Lions have their slash and speed runners in both Riddick and Abdullah.  Foreman would be the grinder the Lions need to have time of possession stat improve.

The other back I would love to see in Honolulu blue would be McCaffery.  He just looks like he would leave it all out on the field and would take so much pressure of Stafford.

Then the Lions would have six other picks to concentrate on defense.  There would be some great options for the Lions with their second pick for cornerback.

  • Tre’Davious White – LSU.  5-11, 191 lbs.  4.53 40 Time
  • Jalen Tabor – Florida.  6-0, 191 lbs.  4.49 40 Time
  • Gareon Conley – Ohio State.  6-0, 195 lbs.  4.45 40 Time
  • Cordrea Tankersley – Clemson.  6-1, 195 lbs.  4.43 40 Time

White played well in 2016.  He made 35 tackles and broke up 14 passes to go along with two interceptions.  He’s a good corner to run with receivers and prevent separation.  He does have issues with big receivers.  He can return punts so he can pack a lot of bang for the buck.

Tabor has good ball skills and has the instincts to make big plays.  He also gambles and can struggle with receivers that have deep speed.    However, he is very good at running the receiver’s route and prevent separation in the short to intermediate part of the field, an area where the Lions have struggled.  He uses his quickness and athleticism to stay with wideouts in and out of their break which puts him in good position to drive on the ball and he breaks on the ball hard.  Tabor has good hands and times his contact with receivers to lead to incompletions rather than penalties.

Conley recorded 26 tackles, broke up 8 passes and intercepted opposing quarterbacks 4 times in 2016.  He is a solid defender who could go in the first round but if he is available with the Lions at 56, they might be wise to take him while they can.  He has a good skill set and pairing him with Darius Slay would improve the Lions secondary nicely.

Tankersley was part of a tough cornerback duo for Clemson in 2015 when he was paired with Mackenzie Alexander.  He showed impressive skills with five interceptions and nine broken passes.  He was thrown at more than Alexander but he was up to the task.  He followed up with four interceptions and broke up 10 passes in 2016.  He has the size and skill to be a starter in the NFL and could be a steal if he is still available when the Lions pick in the 2nd round.

Lions need to improve the running game to make Stafford a much more effective and a deep passing threat.  They also need to improve in the run game to not be one-dimensional.  Once the Lions got pinned and had to pass, with no threat in the run game, opposing defenses went after Stafford hard.  A good to great running game protects the Lions biggest asset and allows him to perform to a much higher level.

So Detroit Lions, DRAFT A DAMN RUNNING BACK!

Detroit Lions – Look Forward to 2017 and Beyond

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Well damn.

The Detroit Lions came to Seattle to play in the NFC Wild Card game with some lofty expectations…only to discover that the Seattle Seahawks were indeed a very large obstacle they could not get around.

Some of it was of their own doing. The four dropped passes (three of which would have led to first downs). Four very stupid 15-yard penalty calls (two by 13 year veteran Anquan Bouldin and one by Haloti Ngata, an 11-year vet. Those two players should know better.) And of course, the most evident, they were made one-dimensional when the Seahawk defense took away the Lions anemic running and forced Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders.

Not that Matthew Stafford didn’t relish the challenge. I mean, after all, he did lead the Lions this year to an NFL record of 8 fourth quarter comebacks in 2016. And don’t give me that tripe that they accomplished that feat against mediocre teams. Ticks me off to no end when Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Tom Brady accomplish something similar to this and they are hailed the greatest. But when Matthew Stafford does it, it’s for some other reason.

I’m not going to re-hash the season nor am I going to re-hash the wild card game. You all saw it. Suffice to say, I was rather uncomfortable when I showed up to a friend’s house to watch the game in my Golden Tate III jersey…and even more so after the game had ended. Thankfully I have fantastic friends so the needling wasn’t too awful.

I will say this: I am going to give the Lions organization a pass for 2016. Not that it is of any great importance that I do so since I really, really doubt that what I write here for Beer Thinker Sports is read by anyone in the Detroit Lions organization. None the less, I’ll give them the pass.

My reasons are that since this is the first full season for GM Bob Quinn. And while some of the moves and acquisitions he made prior to the start of the season got the Lions a chance to be in the playoffs, there is more work to be done. And I’m sure Mr. Quinn will be the first to admit it.

What I am going to offer is just my opinion on what’s needed for the future of the Detroit Lions.

  1. The road to the NFC North Division runs through Green Bay. Not a big surprise. Since 2011, the Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North title five out of the last six years. Not sure how they can accomplish that other than to say it rests all on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. And for the last three years, when it looked as though each time the Pack had no chance of even getting to the playoffs, they find a way to dig deep and pull yet another miracle season. So the first step for the Lions to be successful is to build a team that can stop Aaron Rodgers. Best way to beat him is to keep him off the field. That means the Lions need to get themselves a running game that can tire out an opportunistic Green Bay defense and keep their best player on the bench. That means improving the Lions offensive line and getting a dominating running back to take pressure off Mathew Stafford. It also means the Lions need an upgrade to the defense, particularly in the secondary as well as the defensive line. Darius Slay is a good cornerback but Rodgers pin point accuracy can defeat just about any one on one coverage. In order to force Rodgers into mistakes, pressure has to be put on him, force him into making mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Catch-22 as Rodgers has an insane ability to escape and keep plays alive until someone gets open. But if the Lions can get another speed rusher to complement Ziggy Ansah and replace an aging Haloti Ngata, they just might be able to at least stay with the Packers.
  2. The Lions need to get a big running back to help Matthew Stafford. No surprise here. For the last 10 years, the Lions have averaged an anemic 92.8 yards a game and only once did a player top 1,000 yards for the season, Reggie Bush in 2013 for 1,006 yards. I don’t know about you but I am pretty fed-up hearing the words the Lions need an “effective running game.” It’s a bunch of bull. The Lions need a rusher that will carry the ball 25-30 yards per game and get you 110 to 125 yards per game. That leads to better time management and keeps the opposing offense off the field. It may be boring but it does lead to wins despite the fact the NFL has become a pass-happy league. And that requires a big running back, one that can make up for any deficiencies in the offense line yet capitalize when blocking is done correctly. Not a big play back, Lions have that in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. But a big back that will wear down a defense and allow Abdullah and Riddick to hit big gains when they do come in for a change of pace. And since a big back will force the linebackers to come up, that opens up the passing game and all of a sudden, the Lions dominate on time of possession.  It will also give the Lions a bigger threat in the red zone. Don’t know about you…I like Matt Prater and all but I’d like to see games where he just kicks extra points instead of field goals.

There are 4 running backs in the 2017 draft that I think would be a great fit in the Lions running game. In most cases, any one of these running backs will make Ameer Abdullah expendable.

  • Leonard Fournette, LSU. At 6-1 and 230 lbs. and a 40 time of 4.5, Fournette might not be available to the Lions as he is projected as a top-10 pick. But I list him in case GM Quinn can do some magic to move up in the draft to get him. He has been compared to Adrian Peterson. In his 2016 season, he gained 1,953 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He is a powerful downhill runner that can run through tackles and can break off big gainers.
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas. 6-1, 249 lbs. Ran for 2,028 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry for Texas in 2016. He isn’t much of a receiver but that’s not what the Lions need since Theo Riddick fills that spot nicely. Foreman is a load who can run over the opposition and bring a bit of attitude and toughness the Lions so desperately need.
  • Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. 5-11, 237 lbs. Perine reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in that he will just not be tackled. Again, toughness and attitude the Lions need and Perine would definitely get Green Bay’s attention. His position in the draft has dropped due to being banged up this season but Perine rushed for 735 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in limited action. He is a decent receiver as well with 10 receptions for 106 yards. Love to see this guy in screen pass situations on first or second downs.
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh. 6-2, 250 lbs. Is listed as a possible 4-6 round pick due to a serious knee injury in 2015 and then being diagnosed with cancer. He was proclaimed cancer free in 2016 as well as coming back from a torn ACL. He responded with 1,092 yards with a 5.1 yard per carry and scored 16 TD’s. He also caught well out of the backfield with 21 passes for 302 yards and four scores. He is worth taking a chance on since he has the potential to become a 3 down back and be a major threat in the red zone with his running and receiving abilities.

3.  Lions need to upgrade the secondary. Granted, NFL rules will favor the receiver in most cases. However, there are 2 places that teams really can’t shortchange themselves: The offensive line and the secondary. Both are exposed if the talent isn’t there. I feel the Lions offensive line is good enough going into 2017 but the secondary has been exposed. The Lions need another good cover corner to compliment Slay and a safety in the league of an Earl Thomas to help cover the middle.

  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. 6-1, 209 lbs. I doubt the Lions will have a shot at this guy but I felt the need to list him just in case GM Quinn can maneuver to get him. He is projected as a top-5 pick so it is a longshot. Ramsey is comparable to Richard Sherman. However, it is felt that he would do better at safety than corner. Teams have high regard for Ramsey and they love him off the field which pretty much means you aren’t going to see his name for any off the field antics. With his great character and impressive skill set, a lot of teams want him on their roster.
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State. 6-0, 199 lbs. He has Number 1 corner potential in the NFL with his size, agility and speed. He does need coaching to stop grabbing receivers but that’s just a matter of technique. Possible he’ll be available late first round or early second.
  • Su’a Cravens USC. 6-1, 226 lbs. Cravens was moved to linebacker in 2016 but most experts feel that Cravens potential in the NFL reside in playing safety. I’d like to see him gain at least 10-15 lbs. to play in the NFL. He is physical, strong and quick and has shown to be a capable tackler. A good defensive coordinator would be wise to use him in a variety of ways. Could be that game changer on defense.

4.  Protect the den. It is one of the most important aspects of the game. Great teams know how to win at home. Winning 6-8 games at home and go .500 on the road gives you 10-6 to a 12-4 season and pretty much gives the Lions a playoff slot. Lion’s fans are more than willing to do their part and if the Lions get that big running back and beef up the secondary, Lions will be able to challenge the Green Bay Packers better for the division title.

There are other aspects that I’m sure need to be addressed. I, for one, am not sure that current head coach Jim Caldwell is the one to lead the team to the Super Bowl. But he is close with owner Martha Firestone Ford who really likes him. Caldwell has Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator and is a good one. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page and in his first full season, got as much as he could out of Stafford. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a good one as well. But he has been mentioned for several head coaching jobs and with 6 openings this year, he may be gone. Whoever comes up next needs to improve the coverage and mitigate the big plays the Lions seem to give up.

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

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The Detroit Lions are in first place in the NFC North and are currently the third seed in the playoffs.

How come the national sports media seems to brush these facts aside?

No, it’s still about the Cowboys, the Packers, the Seahawks and the Saints.  Not that I have anything against these teams (with the exception of the Cowboys and Packers) but regardless the record of these teams, they still get more nationally televised games than just about any other team in the NFC.

Go to NFL.com and do you see anything about the Lions?  Nope, it’s got headlines about the Cowboys avenging the lone loss against the New York Giants.  It’s got an article about the Kansas City Chiefs taking control in the AFC West.  I peruse NFL.com a lot but rarely do I see anything about my beloved Detroit Lions.

Take the Cowboys.  They are having a great season this year.  But regardless of what type of season they have, Cowboys get a lot of national press.

Take last year for instance when they ended up with a record of 4-12.  How many articles were written by national media about the Cowboys and how can they get back to winning?  How many times did we see on ESPN or Fox on what’s wrong with the Cowboys or is Tony Romo done?  Countless times on both.

Pretty good coverage for a team that went barley over .500 for the past decade (not including this season).

And how about the Packers?  Seems to me that the national media is reasoning the only way the Lions are in first place is because the Packers are having a bad season.  Now I will grant you the Pack has been very good over the past 10 years.  A .650 winning percentage over that time period proves that as well as a Super Bowl win in 2011.

But this year has been a difficult one.  The Packers have aged quickly and lost a lot of players to free agency.  And Aaron Rodgers doesn’t have a decent O-line to protect him and he hasn’t had a lot of time to throw.  When he does, his receivers are not in synch with him.  Still, they are a dangerous team and one to watch.

But this down season by the Packers isn’t the sole reason the Lions are in first place in the NFC North.

Let’s talk about the fact the Lions have played, especially in the 4th quarter.  Up until the New Orleans Saints game, the Lions have trailed entering the 4th quarter in every game.  And in seven of the eight wins the Lions have, they came back and won with Matthew Stafford tying the Manning brothers record (Peyton in 2009 and Eli in 2011) of seven comeback wins in a season.

That’s something that many great quarterbacks have not done.  Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dan Marino, John Elway, Dan Fouts…none of these guys have had as many comebacks in a season as Stafford and the Manning brothers.  And with 4 games left in the season, Stafford has the chance to own the record outright.

Look, I’m saying these teams don’t deserve the recognition they are getting (except the Cowboys…we’ve been deluged with Cowboy drama for over 25 years now…shut up about the Cowboys…nobody outside of Texas gives a darn).  But how about some recognition of how well the Detroit Lions are doing?

Yes, I know that from 2006 to 2015, the Lions have a 57-103 record including the wonderful 0-16 record of 2008.  National media has no problems pointing out all that is wrong with the Lions.

But this is 2016, the Lions are 8-4 with a 2 game lead in the NFC North with four games to go.  The Lions are currently 3rd in the playoff picture, a mere 1/2 game behind the Seattle Seahawks and if by some miracle, could sneak into second place and get a bye in the first round and host a playoff game in Detroit.

At some point, the Lions luck has to turn…but I don’t see this year as being lucky.  I see this team working hard, playing good defense and Stafford putting his team in position to win.  I know, as well as everyone does, we bemoan that we don’t have a running game.  We only have 947 yards rushing on the year.  But we do rank 15th in passing and since the NFL is turning into a pass-happy offense, I’d say we are in good shape.

Still, imagine if we had Barry Sanders with this personnel.  To be honest, I don’t think the record would be any better since we’d still give the ball to Barry too much.  However, the Lions could draft a good running back in the 2017 draft.  Perhaps Christian McCaffery out of Stanford or Alvin Kamara from Tennessee?

GM Bob Quinn knows what’s needed for the Lions and a running game could put the Lions in a very sweet spot for the next 5 years or so.  I know we haven’t really had a decent running back since Barry but that had a lot to do with the front office evaluations instead of talent.

I suppose we need to earn the respect of the national media by making a strong showing in the playoffs.  I’d like to shut them all up with a Super Bowl win but the Lions aren’t there yet.  But they are a helluva lot closer than they have been in years…

All I’m sayin to the national media, how about some love for the Lions?