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Detroit Lions in Review - Jim Schwartz

The first in a series reviewing the Detroit Lions

Before the season started, most of the fans were hyped up about Jim Schwartz taking over the Lions. He was young, he seemed intelligent, he was a defensive coordinator for a good team and he was not Marinelli.

In April of 2009, Schwartz had his first draft for the Lions. The Lions had the worst offensive line the previous three seasons, giving up over 50 sacks each of those years. They also had one of the worst defenses in NFL history the year before. His first two picks, both of which were in the first round? A quarterback and a Tight End. Both of those players showed marginal talent growth before ending up on the IR needing surgery.

It was a questionable move to draft a quarterback 1st overall when you didn't have the personnel to protect him. It was even more questionable to start him in game one when you had a very serviceable veteran who actually out played the rookie in the preseason. I know Culpepper did not look good when he started later on, but that is because he was not taking 1st team snaps all year and did not have any chemistry. He would never have been a star for the Lions but with the Lions offensive line, neither would Stafford in his rookie year.

The first two picks are still a huge question mark, but in the later picks there were some very good talent. In the 2nd round they took safety Louis Delmas who has looked like a star in the making. As a rookie, he ended the season making all of the secondary defensive calls while accumulating 94 tackles. The next pick, in the third round was linebacker DeAndre Levy who had 85 tackles and like his rookie teammate, ended the season making all of the defensive play calls. That is two very successful draft picks who were not first rounders.

6th round pick - Aaron Brown showed a lot of speed and signs of being a decent running back, however, Schwartz refused to ever give him more than a few carries in a game. Brown ended the season with the best yards per carry out of the running backs with 4.9 yards per attempt. Kevin Smith showed the fans that he did not have break away speed and he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. When he went down and the season was a lost cause, there was no reason Schwartz shouldn't have looked to see what Brown could do with a heavier workload. He had nothing to lose but everything to gain in giving him a real look. Yet he chose to go with Maurice Morris, the nothing but average veteran instead.

In Schwartz press conference after the season was over, he made some very worrying statements. A reporter asked him what players does he not have to worry about replacing next year. Other than the obvious like Calvin Johnson and Stafford and such, he said he was good at left tackle with Jeff Backus, good at center and liked Sammie Hill. To make things much worse, he said that Backus should have received pro-bowl consideration. Seriously?

I will admit that Jeff Backus actually did have his best year yet. He really cut down on his penalties as the season went on. He actually may have even been the Lions best run blocker as Schwartz pointed out. But pro-bowl? I seriously do not see that. That was a statement that really loses a lot of credibility for Schwartz.

He was good with center? Schwartz is actually happy with Dominic Raiola at center? First off, Raiola is under-sized and never gets a push up the middle in short yardage situations. In fact, when it comes to 4th and 1 plays, it seems to me he is often pushed backwards. Secondly, if you can go back and watch a game from this year, you will see that Raiola telegraphs the snap on shotgun plays. He did well enough in normal snaps but in the shotgun, he always bobs his head right before the snap. Not just a little. Every snap in the shotgun his head practically whiplashes a half a second before he snapped the ball. This allows the defensive linemen to get a good jump on the snap. If the Lions are good with Backus at left tackle, that is one thing, but they absolutely need a bigger, stronger center who does not telegraph his snaps.

Schwartz is happy with Sammie Hill? A total of 26 tackles and no sacks and he is happy with that? At best, I will label him a possible starter in the future but right now he has not shown me enough to say I am happy with him at defensive tackle. The Lions defensive linemen were absolutely manhandled this year. That is especially because they had no true big and powerful tackle to force the pocket backwards. Without a good defensive tackle to draw a double coverage, the defensive ends could not break loose very often. With the line not putting any pressure on the opposing quarterbacks, the secondary was forced to cover far too long on each play.

Jim Schwartz only did so so in the draft and whether or not it is deemed successful or not will depend on if Stafford and Pettigrew ever become stars or not. He failed to give players like Aaron Brown a chance to run the ball more, even though when he did get his chance he looked good. He is making ridiculous statements like Jeff Backus belonging in the pro bowl and he feels he is set with the undersized Raiola at center. He ended the season with only two wins with a roster that was much improved on paper over last years roster.

GRADE = C- ... If it wasn't for the success of Delmas and Levy he would get a failing grade.

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