Tag Archives: Super Bowl

Detroit Lions – This “Wait Til Next Year” Can Be Different

I have used this picture in many articles about the Detroit Lions.  If fits for so many reasons but mostly because of the stench that emanates after each failing season….one after the other since 1958.

The 2019 season, once again starting out with hope, has that stench of failure once again.  And yet, there are some reasons to once again, for hope…next year.

First, lets dispense a few things before we get to those reasons:

Force The Ford Family to Sell The Detroit Lions

This is the second most idiotic suggestion out there.  I’ll get to the first one in a minute as I feel this one is more important to discuss.

Let’s be clear:  The owners have little to do with putting the product on the field.  All the teams have salary cap concerns and since the cap has been put in place, it has put most teams, monetary wise, in the same boat.

The Ford Family is responsible for hiring those who run the team.  And while they have had a long run of lousy GM’s and Head Coaches over the years, the combination of GM Bob Quinn and Head Coach Matt Patrica has the chance to be outstanding.

We all knew going into this season there was going to be some growing pains.  Yes, yes, I know…we’ve been through all this more than we care to admit.

Since 1958, the Detroit Lions have had eight General Managers.  Russ Thomas held the position from 1967 to 1988 and until Matt Millen, was probably considered the worst GM the Lions had.

Matt Millen caused the Lions to go into a tailspin that I think the Lions are just starting to pull out of now.  His draft picks from 2001 to 2008 were horrible and failed more often than produced.  Yes he drafted Calvin Johnson, but he also drafted Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers (may he RIP), Roy Williams, Mike Williams & Ernie Sims.  Not exactly the sage know-it-all he portrayed in the broadcast booth.

So we now have Bob Quinn, who came from the New England Patriots organization.  He has drafted wisely, trying to get protection for Stafford early with picks such as Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow & Frank Ragnow.  He stole Kenny Golladay in the 3rd round in 2017 as well as drafting TJ Hockenson last year.

His fatal flaw, so far, seems to have been letting head coach Jim Caldwell go and hiring another Patriot alum, Matt Patricia.

Granted, Cadwell’s .563 winning percentage, 2nd best in Lions history, caused a lot of people to shake their heads when he was let go.  But in 2017, after going 9-7 and missing the playoffs, Quinn had enough.  The game against the Bengals, 5-9 at the time,  was most likely the final straw.  If they had won, they were in the playoffs.  Instead, an uninspired performance led to a 26-17 loss and no playoffs.  And despite a spirited win over the Packers the next week, Caldwell was fired the next day.   Which brings us to:

Fire Matt Patrica

This is the most idiotic thing that could occur.

My feeling that firing Matt Patrica at this juncture would be a mistake because he needs one more draft to put it together.

Since 1957, the Detroit Lions have had 17 head coaches with an average tenure of 3-1/2 years.  Packers have had 11 with an average tenure of almost 5 years and the Vikings, since 1961, have had 10 with an average tenure of about 6 years.  Bears have had 12 since 1958 with an average tenure of about 5 years.

Each team in our division has made multiple Super Bowl appearances, Green Bay with 5, Vikings with 4 and the Bears with 2.  The Lions, as we all know, don’t have any along with the Browns, Jaguars and Texans.

I can present a lot of statistics which can be manipulated in a myriad of ways to support arguments for and against firing Patrica.  None of it matters right now.

Patrica needs a little time to get his system in place.  We don’t have the defensive players he needs to be successful.  Yep, he is considered a “defensive guru” but let’s face it, you can be the most innovative and forward thinking defensive mind on the planet.  If you don’t have the players, you will not be successful.

How can this “Wait Til Next Year” be different?

The Detroit Lions offense is ranked 4th in the NFL in passing, 14th in points per game and 15th in total points.  Prior to the Bears game, the Lions were ranked in the top 5 in offense so putting points on the board hasn’t been the issue.  This will suffer though with the back injury to Matthew Stafford.  And as much as I want to admire his determination to play, since the season is most likely lost, it would be wise to shut him down for the rest of the year.  Give him the extra time to heal properly to come back strong next year.

And I do feel that Mathew Stafford is still the quarterback of this team.  Unless he decides to retire, any talk of trading or releasing him is just plain stupid.

Given that the Lions are very solid with receivers, we still need to bolster that running game.  But taking a running back in the first round would be a mistake…not when your defense has absolutely no pass rush.

We can’t really call Trey Flowers a bust.  The free agent from New England is the only viable pass rusher the Lions have.  And everyone in the NFL knows it and doubles and even triples on him, daring the other defensive linemen to take up the slack.

Lions are going to have to draft for freaky fast defensive ends.  Lions have (at the moment) nine picks for the 2020 draft and if held today, would have the 11th pick.  It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if the Lions traded a couple of those picks to move up into the top 5 and have a shot at Chase Young out of Ohio or Yetur Gross-Matos from Penn State.

You can keep Flowers and the new DE will free him up quite a bit.  If teams continue to double up on Flowers, the rookie DE has rookie of the year chances.  You could also let Flowers go and perhaps pursue a  free agent stud…Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent after this year.  And who knows if the Seahawks will want to meet his demands.

My feelings wouldn’t be hurt if the Lions took defensive ends with their first two picks either.  Having a rotation at defensive end isn’t a bad thing.

As for running back, Kerryon Johnson could still be a viable option.  But getting a running back in the draft would be smart, provided it’s with the 3rd of 4th pick.  Cam Akers out of Florida State has proven to be a solid runner despite having an awful offensive line.  Could be a steal pick in the 3rd or 4th round.  If you want big and powerful, Najee Harris out of Alabama could be a great rotation with Johnson.  At 6-2 and 230lbs, Harris can batter defensive lines and isn’t too bad of a receiver out of the backfield.

Bottom line, we Lions fans, despite having to hear it all the fricking time, will have to wait until next year.  Bob Quinn and Patrica, along with the rest of the Lions brain trust, have to shore up the defense and the draft is the way to do that.

Here is to 2020…and hopefully it will be the season we’ve been wanting for over 6 decades.

Detroit Lions – The Next Steps

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

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

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

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

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

Pete Carmichael – OC, New Orleans Saints

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

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

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

Todd Haley – OC, Browns

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

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

Darrell Bevell – OC Seahawks & Vikings

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

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

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

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

Stafford’s Trade Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draft/Free Agency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Agent Possibility – Earl Thomas, Free Safety – Seahawks

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

2nd Round – TJ Edwards, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin

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

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

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

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

Round 3 – Demarcus Christmas – Defensive Tackle, Florida State

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

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

Free Agent Possibility – DeMarcus Lawrence – Edge Rusher, Dallas

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

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

Round 4 – Foster Moreau, TE – LSU

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

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

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

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

Free Agent Possibility – Jared Cook, TE – Oakland

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

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

Afterthoughts

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

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

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

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

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 – 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 – 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.

Detroit Lions – Getting Hosed By National Media

running-lion

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?

 

Detroit Lions – There Is Hope For A Super Bowl

Roaring Lion

History was made when the Chicago Cubs won the World Series last week, ending 108 year drought.  No longer can we call the Cubbies the loveable losers.  After an epic game 7, they have earned the title “World Champions.”  Congratulations Cub fans!

Witnessing this event, something that has now only happened once since I was born, gives me hope that another event may occur before my time ends on this earth:  The Detroit Lions are crowned as Super Bowl champions.

All  die-hard Lions fans (and I count myself proudly as one of them) know of all the epic failures we have had to endure…from Marty Mornhinweg taking the wind in 2002 against the Chicago Bears to the eight year travesty of Matt Millen running the Detroit Lions into the ground.

But let us not focus on the negative but instead, look toward the future and the hopes the Lions can get a Super Bowl victory that the City of Detroit so richly deserves.

With a bonafide GM in Bob Quinn, that I feel we can state is one of the best the Detroit Lions have ever had since the 1950’s, we can see events in motion that just might have the Lions pointing in that direction.

Now I know that this is Quinn’s first full year as GM.  I believe the reason he didn’t make any changes to the coaching staff is because he wanted to see what he had and to perhaps keep any additional turmoil that could have occurred.

I feel strongly that Jim Caldwell isn’t going to be the coach that takes the Lions to the Super Bowl.  I’m not sure that Matthew Stafford is going to be the quarterback either.  It’s his eighth year in the league and he has some good things for the Lions.  But if we are looking at a 3-5 year plan, will Stafford have enough to lead the Lions?

We have to give Bob Quinn the same leeway Chicago Cubs fans gave Theo Epstein and be patient.  Changes are going to happen within the coaching ranks of the Lions and if not this year, next year Caldwell will be gone.

I don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future especially when we are talking about the Lions.  What I can predict is that changes will come.  We aren’t going to like a lot of them but us Lions fans have to understand that what we’ve been doing for the past 58 years hasn’t been working.

Yes, you’ve read that correctly:  The Lions haven’t won a championship in 58 years, soon to be 59 as I don’t see them getting there this year either.

Lions are relatively young on the offensive side of the ball…decent running backs with Theo Riddick and Zack Zenner.  And the defense is serviceable.

I think Quinn needs to keep Stafford for at least two more years and draft a QB and RB in 2017

If Luke Falk out of Washington State decides to enter the draft this year, I’d like to see the Lions snap him up and let him soak up watching Stafford and what he does.  They could get him in the 3rd or 4th round.  But if he does play his senior year, he’ll go higher in the draft, a low first round or high second round.

As for the running game, we could take Alvin Kamara from Tennessee.  He is a lot like Jamal Charles in that he is a fast slasher and can run with power.

So we could sew up the future with these two guys and then Quinn can draft smartly to beef up both the O-Line and D-Line as well as shoring up the secondary over the next two years.

Lions are in a good position to make a big push to make the playoffs next year, go even deeper 2018 and perhaps in 2019, get to the big dance.

Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?

Go Lions!

Seattle Seahawks – Stubborn and Predictable

why

The Seattle Seahawks, picked by many this year to return to the Super Bowl, are in danger of falling short of those expectations.

One issue that can be stated very clearly is that the defense is still one of the best in the NFL and if not for them, this Seahawk team wouldn’t be much to talk about.

There are three areas on offense that I believe are the issues that are preventing the Seahawks to be great instead of just barley good.

  • Offensive Line

By now, everyone must realize just how special of a running back that Marshawn Lynch really was.  His running style hid many deficiencies the offensive line had in the past.  Because of his retirement, it shows just how bad of a decision it is that John Schneider and  Pete Carroll have made to not properly invest in the one area that is critical for all plays to succeed:  The offensive line.

The starting offensive line accounts for a mere 7% of the Seahawks salary cap.  At $10.2 million, it is the lowest in the league.  My question is that why would you go on the cheap in the one spot where any offensive play has any chance of succeeding?

The Seahawks have not, in the past three to five years, made the offensive line a priority.  It is confusing as to why Pete Carroll, whose philosophy is to run the ball, eat up the clock and play great defense.  It worked just fine when Marshawn Lynch was the running back as he gave you the luxury of having an inadequate line with his running style.

Also, because of Lynch, the passing game was successful because defenses would stack the line but would freeze on play-action passing plays which led to some big plays downfield.

Tom Cable, the offensive line coach of the Hawks, stated back I August that he feels this is one of his favorite lines he’s coached.  That they have some good players that have a chance to develop and be good NFL linemen.

That’s just great…meantime, after 7 games, the offense is averaging an anemic 81.4 yards per game, 28th in the NFL, and have had only 2 rushes longer than 20 yards.

They are better in the passing game, ranked 14th in the NFL at 258.4 yards per game but that’s only because they can’t run the ball.

And they cannot get the ball into the end zone where they are 29th in the NFL at 18.7 points per game.

  • Jimmy Graham

We gave up a very good center in Max Unger to get Jimmy Graham and yet the Seahawks have not found a way to use him.  In his 5 years with the New Orleans Saints, Graham averaged 77.2 receptions per year, 950.4 yards per year, 12.2 yards per catch and 10.2 touchdowns per season while playing an average of 15.6 games each year.

In comparison to his 1-1/2 years in Seattle, he has averaged 39 catches per year, 532 yards per year, 13.7 yards per catch and a measly 1.5 touchdowns per year.  It is inconceivable to me that the Seahawks, who brought Graham in to be more of a red zone threat, don’t throw to him more often.

A friend of mine wants some reporter to ask Pete Carroll in one of the press conferences he uses is why can’t you use Jimmy Graham correctly?  If Pete can’t answer the question, then we should trade Graham to get either multiple picks to use on the offensive line or for a good left tackle.

Which brings into light Russell Wilson.  While Wilson has made some great plays, he doesn’t appear to have the ability to throw receivers open and does not have the confidence in his arm to throw into traffic.  Drew Brees utilized Graham’s 6-7, 265 lbs. body perfectly, throwing to areas that only Graham could get to using his basketball skills.

Case in point, during the last game against the Saints and the last drive of the game, Graham was thrown a pass from Wilson that was at his waist.  Graham made the catch but had to slow down to adjust for it and was tackled when he could have made it into the end zone.  Brees would have thrown that pass above Graham’s head and in stride to allow Graham to walk into the end zone.

My suggestion on how to get Graham more involved?  That leads to the third area:

  • The Play Calling of Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell

When Marshawn Lynch was here, Bevell’s job was much easier as was Tom Cable’s.

But Lynch is gone and now the limitations of Bevell’s play calling is evident.  His refusal (or is it Pete Carroll’s refusal?) to take shots downfield and rely on an anemic running game is becoming laughable.

My suggestion to Bevell and to Pete Carroll is to move Jimmy Graham out to wide receiver and with Luke Willson injured, start either Nick Vannett or Brandon Williams at TE.  This will give the Seahawks a big bodied receiver on the outside who can run a 4.5 forty up against smaller cornerbacks and safeties.

It also helps improve the offensive line with a better blocking tight end, more chances for Doug Baldwin in the slot and you can either place Jerome Kearse, another big receiver or Tyler Lockett as a burner down the field.

This would also help the running game as linebackers would need to drop back into more coverage and not allow defenses to stack the line to stop the run.  And both Williams and Vannett can be used on TE screens just to make it that much more difficult for defenses to know what the Hawks are going to do.

I think that Bevell can be the right play caller for the Hawks.  But he needs to convince Carroll, if they are going to continue down this path of spending the least amount of money on the offensive line, then they need to give that line all the help they can.

The Seahawks need to do something.  Relying on the defense to keep them in and hope the offense to pull some miracle each game is no way to run a football team.

Seattle Seahawks – Against Atlanta, They Got Lucky & They Know It

luck-seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24 yesterday…and they were darn lucky to walk away with that win.

Tried as they did to give it away, it was the will of Richard Sherman who appeared very angry at one point in the second half.  And there was good reason for him to be so ticked off after the Legion of Boom allowed Julio Jones to break free for a 36-yard touchdown.

It was a lack of communication.  Those happen a lot in the NFL and in this case, safety Kelcie McCray, subbing for injured Kam Chancellor, blew the assignment and allowed Jones to break free for the score.

This proves how much of a leader that Richard Sherman is.  He expects a lot of himself and expects a lot of his teammates.  I don’t blame him one bit for getting as upset as he did.  The Legion of Boom is way better than they played yesterday.

But not all of the fault can be placed on the defense.  The offense has issues they need to correct.

First and foremost, Russell Wilson needs to go back to doing what he does best…when the situation calls for it.  I agree, from a health standpoint, that being more of a pocket-passer will mitigate injury issues.  But there were at least five instances where his running abilities would have put pressure on the Atlanta defense to stop him.

One instance that stands out was in the 4th quarter.  Seahawks were on the Atlanta 10 yard line with a 3rd and goal.  Wilson stepped up in the pocket when he felt pressure behind him no one was in front of him.  He had a clear path to the end zone.  Instead, a stopped and attempted a pass to Jerome Kearse that was incomplete.

To put more salt on the wound, the normally reliable Steven Hauschka missed a 29 -yard field goal that went left.

I get the fact they want to protect Wilson but he is a weapon that needs to be utilized.

Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell needs to start becoming more imaginative with his play calling.  He doesn’t have the luxury of calling Marshawn Lynch plays anymore and needs to trust Wilson and the Seahawk receiving corps and take more shots downfield.  The 15-20 yard throws work when you have Beast Mode but he’s gone now.  And Christine Michael, while doing an admirable job, is no Marshawn Lynch.

Defenses have figured out Bevell’s offense and see that Wilson is reluctant to run.  So they stack the box because they have no fear of Wilson going deep and they throw more bodies at the running game.

The use of Jimmy Graham is ludicrous.  Yes, he had six catches for 89 yards.  But during crunch time, they went away from Graham.  For crying out loud, the man is 6-7, has an 82″ wingspan and can run the 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds.

The Seahawks need to look at all the tape when Graham was with the New Orleans Saints and see how Drew Brees used Graham…up high, triple-covered and as an outside receiver.  C’mon man, line up a 6-7, 265 lbs. receiver against a 5-11, 193 lbs. cornerback (the average height and weight of an NFL cornerback.)  I’ll take that match-up all day!

Am I being too critical?  Darn right I am.  The Seahawks had no business winning this game.  And the last pass attempt by Matt Ryan, the officials gave the game to the Seahawks because that was pass interference.  I’ve seen a lot less contact and the flag was thrown.

The next three games are going to be critical for the Hawks.  The travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals.  Carson Palmer has been cleared to play and will tune-up against the New York Jets tonight.  Cardinals with Palmer have played the Seahawks very tough.

Next-up is the resurgent New Orleans Saints.  Drew Brees lit up the Carolina Panthers for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns and built a 31-17 lead in the third quarter.  They won the game 41-38 despite allowing the Panthers to score 21 points in the 4th quarter.

After that comes the surprising Buffalo Bills.  This isn’t going to be the team the Seahawks played in 2012 when they lit them up in Buffalo for 50 points.  This version of the Bills have a very strong running game with LeSean McCoy who lit up the San Francisco 49rs with 140 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.  This team also shut out the New England Patriots.  Yes, I know, they didn’t have Tom Brady but the Pats are still a formidable team without him and weren’t able to score against the Bills defense.

Speaking of New England, that is the Seahawks opponent after the Bills.  And they have Brady back who in the last two games has thrown for 782 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So the road back to the Super Bowl is going to be a tough one.  And if they played like they did against the Atlanta Falcons, they aren’t going to make it.

Teams will score.  It’s what the NFL wants to keep fans interested.  But the Seahawks need to become more imaginative on offense and corral the other teams big-name players and limit the amount of scoring.

Let’s hope the Falcon game serves as a wake-up call and gets these Hawks back on the right track.