Tag Archives: Ameer Abdullah

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 – 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

running-lion

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.

Beer Thinker’s Mock Draft for Detroit Lions

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I know there are at least four people that are highly anticipating my thoughts on the Detroit Lions and who they should take in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.

In the past, most Lions fans would be looking at the draft as their version of the Super Bowl.  And while I choose not to dwell on past drafts, we all know the Detroit Lions have mostly been in the dark since 1980.

Yes, we have had some bright moments:  Billy Sims, Lomas Brown, Bennie Blades, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Robert Porcher, Johnnie Morton, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford & Ndamukong Suh to name a few.

And while these players have been successful and productive for the Lions, the flameouts they have are just downright spectacular:  Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams & Ernie Sims.

Now we have a new regime in place, the first one since William Clay Ford passed away.  I’ve had my criticism of Mr. Ford in the past but he was Detroit loyalty and he did more for the city than people can imagine.

Martha Ford, William’s widow, has taken over and pretty much with her will has moved the Detroit Lions organization in a different and hopefully, a better direction.  She and her daughters have been less loyal to the Lions management team than Mr. Ford has, holding them accountable for the team’s results and by them failing, removing them from their positions.

The ownership team knew they didn’t have a lot of insider knowledge of how to build a successful football team.  The enlisted the expertise of Ernie Accorsi, a successful NFL GM with the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants, to conduct a national search to hire a GM for the Detroit Lions.  The results was Bob Quinn, director of player personnel for  New England Patriots.

Se here we stand, with new ownership and new management.  Will they begin with a smart draft or will they hope to make a big splash to appease fans?  My guess is the Lions renaissance begins this year and by 2018, we’re looking at a Super Bowl bound team.

For the upcoming draft, here is my mock draft.  I’ve done all 10 picks with three options at each.  I tend to look at what is needed rather than best available.

First Round, Pick 16:

  1. Taylor Decker, OT, 6’7″ 315 lbs. – Ohio State
  2. Jack Conklin, OT, 6’5″ 308 lbs.. – Michigan State
  3. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, 6’3″ 307 lbs. – Alabama

Lions need to beef up that offensive line, particularly at left tackle.  They missed out on getting free agents Russell Okung and Ryan Harris.  While I like Reilly Reif a lot, I think he is overmatched at left tackle and would do better at his natural spot over at right tackle.  Decker and Conklin are 1 & 1A here and if the Lions take either one, I’m satisfied.  Help is also needed on the D-line and Robinson would take a lot pressure off Ziggy Ansah to get to the quarterback.

Second Round, Pick 46: 

  1. Adolphus Washington, DE/DT, 6’4″, 290 lbs. – Ohio State
  2. Derrick Henry, RB, 6’2″, 247 lbs. – Alabama
  3. William Jackson, CB, 6’0″, 189 lbs. – Houston

Big pick here and any one of these three players could have an immediate impact.  Washington is a versatile player and is a good run stopper as well as getting to the QB.  Henry would be a grinder at running back and a surprise catching passes.  Would be a great fit with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.  Secondary can always use help and Jackson would push others in the secondary to up their game.

Third Round, Pick 95

  1. Anthony Zettle, DE/DT, 6’4″, 258 lbs. – Penn State
  2. Jeremy Cash, S, 6’0″, 212 lbs. – Duke
  3. Conner Cook, QB, 6’4″ 218 lbs. – Michigan State

Zettle would need to beef up a bit to go to the interior.  If the Lions take him, perhaps they have him as a defensive end…or when the ball is snapped, have him snake behind DT pushing the line forward.  Cash could bring a Kam Chancellor attitude to the Lions secondary which could use a player of that caliber.  As for Cook, if he’s there, Lions might be smart to grab him.  Stafford is only 28 years old but Orlovsky isn’t a capable back-up if Stafford goes down for an extended period of time.  Bring Cook in, let him watch and learn how to play to give him some time to develop to the NFL game.  He might even push Stafford for the starting job in a couple of years.

Fourth Round, Pick 111

  1. Jack Allen, C, 6’2″, 296 lbs. – Michigan State
  2. Denver Kirkland, G, 6’4″, 335 lbs. – Arkansas
  3. Graham Glasgow, C, 6’6″, 306 lbs. – Michigan

Totally an offensive line pick here.  And I believe that going for a center is tantamount.  Travis Swanson is good but his talent lies more toward being a guard.  Jack Allen has that quickness and smarts to be a starting center in the NFL.  If Swanson stays, he’ll need some help…and what would be more comforting than a 335 lb. guard to the left of you to help open holes and give your left tackle some breathing room?  Kirkland could be the pick here.  Glasgow was the best O-Line player on an under-achieving Michigan team.

Fifth Round, Pick 151 (first of two picks in the fifth)

  1. Taveze Calhoun, DB, 6’1″, 181 lbs. – Mississippi State
  2. Laquan McGown, OL/TE, 6’7″, 410 lbs. – Baylor
  3. Luther Maddy, DT, 6’0″ 287 lbs. – Virginia Tech

Calhoun might play in the nickel package but I see him more of special teams player.  He’s fast so good on punt returns but also would be good as a gunner, getting good hits on opposing team’s returner and causing turnovers.  McGown is an interesting pick because I think you go could do some interesting things with him.  Imagine a short-yardage situation and him being part of the “Jumbo Package” with him shedding a block and then going out in the flat.  Or switch him to the defensive line and have teams try to run up the middle on him.  Maddy would give you some much needed depth which seems to be a requirement on NFL teams these days.

Fifth Round, Pick 169

  1. Kenny Lawler, WR, 6’3″, 185 lbs. – California
  2. Hassan Ridgeway, DT, 6’3″, 303 lbs. – Texas
  3. Victor Ochi, DE, 6’2″, 245 lbs. Stony Brook

Lawler isn’t fast but he has a knack for getting open and makes the clutch catches.  Giving Stafford another safety valve other than Theo Riddick makes the team that more dangerous.  Ridgeway and Ochi are sleepers in this draft and will surprise teams.

Sixth Round, Pick 191 (first of three picks in the sixth)

  1.  Dominque Alexander, LB, 6’2″, 232 lbs. – Bowling Green
  2. Glenn Gronkowski, FB/TE, 6″2″, 238 lbs. – Kansas State
  3. Cassanova McKinzy, ILB, 6’1″, 248 lbs. – Auburn

Alexander is big and fast enough to cover opposing tight ends in the flat and running backs coming out on screen passes.  Needs work on tackling correctly.  If Rob Gronkowski’s little brother has half the talent his big brother does, this could be a steal.  If he does play TE, will need to beef up a bit.  McKinzy could transition to middle linebacker but would need some time to develop.

Sixth Round, Pick 202

  1. Matt Johnson, QB, 6’0″, 219 lbs. – Bowling Green
  2. Joe Schubert, OLB, 6’1″, 247 lbs. – Wisconsin
  3. D.J. Reader, NT, 6’3″, 340 lbs. – Clemson

Johnson would need to work on a better delivery when passing.  Surprised that at 6’0″ he would opt for a side-arm motion which just makes him smaller.  Good instincts and resilient, correct that delivery and you might have something.  Schubert has a motor that doesn’t quit and is a sure tackler.  Needs better technique on pass coverage.  Reader would be a great addition to the D-Line as a tackle to close off the middle for the ground game and get a push on the QB in the passing game.  I imagine he would knock down a few passes.

Sixth Round, Pick 210

  1. Nelson Spruce, WR, 6’1″, 206 lbs. – Colorado
  2. Drew Kaser, P, 6’2″, 212 lbs. – Texas A&M
  3. Jeff Driskel, QB, 6’3″ 230 lbs. – Louisiana Tech

Some interesting options here.  Spruce will be the same guy, every game, every snap.  Fearless as a punt returner, willing to go over the middle and fight for the ball.  Lacks speed but is sure handed and will strike with purpose while blocking for the run game.  I generally don’t like to draft punters or kickers but this time I make an exception with Kaser.  Has a big leg and good directional kicking that can change field position from just about anywhere on the grid iron.  Could change momentum of games with one kick.  Driskel is a Drew Stanton type QB but with better set-up in the pocket.  Gets the ball out quick but has issues in throwing receivers open.  Accurate and confident in the short passing game, tends to overthrow on long passes and gets happy feet if protection breaks down.

Seventh Round, Pick 236

  1. Devon Johnson, RB/FB, 6’0″, 238 lbs. – Marshall
  2. David Morgan, TE, 6’4″, 262 lbs. – USTA
  3. Ross Martin, K, 5’10” 183 lbs. – Duke

Johnson earned the nickname “Rockhead” and no one wanted to get in his way.  Receiving skills could land him some time as an H-Back.  Will drop his pads and drive through tacklers, would be excellent in short-yardage and goal line situations.  Lions need an answer at TE.  Pettigrew is sporadic and Ebron hasn’t fulfilled expectations.  Morgan has very sure hands and will secure the catch despite hits coming.  Former high school basketball player with leaping ability and good body control.  Needs work on his stride and tends to give his route movement away early.  More upside at this draft spot then down.  Another exception to drafting kickers, Martin is a true technician as a kicker.  Last two years was outstanding with accuracy with 90.5% and 86.7% respectively.  Was 4-4 from 50 plus yards and can also punt if needed.  Doesn’t have the NFL leg for kickoffs but was one of the most consistent kickers over the last two years.

So there you have it Lions fans…is the Beer Thinker nuts or on track?

Go Lions!