I AM BACK!!!!!

In the past, I tried to do too much with this site with way too little time. Yet, I have been feeling a need to write about the Lions lately. So I have decided to change the Detroit Lions Observer to a few basic things. Writing articles when I feel a need to, keeping track of their wins and losses, and I am still deciding if I will go through and update Ndamukong Suh's Sack List.
Ndamukong Suh's Sack List
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.

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2/28/10

Who Should Be the Lions First Round Pick in 2010?

In recent days, there has been a lot of reason to believe the St.Louis Rams will be drafting quarterback Sam Bradford with their #1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. If this should happen, the Lions will find themselves having to choose between the defensive tackles, Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. It almost seems split on who wants Suh and who wants McCoy. Yes, there is a lot of talk that Detroit would like to trade down to accumulate more picks. It is unlikely this will actually happen however, so we are back to picking at #2.

No they will not draft Eric Berry at #2 and they are definitely not taking Joe Haden that early. As great as both of those players are, they would not improve the team near as much as one of the defensive tackles would. However good they may be, they cannot consistently cover players for 6 to 7 seconds every play. A defensive line that puts a lot of pressure on a quarterback will disrupt an offense far more than any other position. So the question becomes which DT do they take?

It seems as the days pass by, there are more and more believers that McCoy is the better choice. It is said that Gerald McCoy has a little more quickness and better technique while Suh uses more power to dominate the offensive linemen. Many believe that the quicker, better technique will translate to better success in the NFL. It is believed that Suh might not be able to over power linemen in the NFL like he did in college.

Last night I was suffering through a cold and was lying awake, staring into the darkness. While not blowing my nose, I was thinking about the Lions draft and it hit me. I have not seen where anyone has reversed the theories on these two players!

If it is held against Ndamukong Suh that he might not be able to over power linemen in the NFL, why doesn't anyone question if McCoy's quickness and technique will dominate NFL linemen? Which of these two players would have a better chance of getting better in the NFL? Many say McCoy because he is younger, but I see it differently. You can teach a player like Suh better technique, but you cannot teach McCoy more power. As powerful as Suh is, imagine how great he may become if he polished his technique in the pass rush!

Then there is the small fact that they will only be rushing the passer on maybe 50 to 60% of the plays. On the others, they will have to stop the run. The Lions are horrid when stopping the run. Suh is the better run stuffer.

However much technique McCoy may have, he has used it against the same quality players that Suh has overpowered. Nobody knows which of these players will help them more in the next level. Either could be a bust. Maybe both. I would rather have the more powerful guy who can be taught better technique and can stuff the run better.

If the Lions do not trade down and have the choice between Suh and McCoy, the choice has to be Suh.

2/24/10

McCoy Over Suh?

All eyes are on the St.Louis Rams and who they will pick with the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. Most expect the Rams to take Ndomakung Suh and the Lions to end up with Gerald McCoy. However, there is the faction who believe that the Rams will take Sam Bradford and the Lions will get Suh. If the Rams are to take Suh, how would you feel if the Lions still took McCoy and passed by Suh?

There are a lot of fans who believe McCoy is the better DT, despite Suh's far superior numbers. Citing that Suh uses more of a strength dominance while McCoy has more quickness and technique, they believe McCoy is better for the Lions defense. Even some experts have claimed as much.

Another fact that might push the Detroit Lions to rank McCoy over Suh would be Suh's three knee surgeries. Though he has stayed healthy for two straight years now, with the Lions propensity to players getting injured, they might feel safer taking the more durable McCoy.

2/22/10

Could Lions Take a Running Back in the First Round?

I have posted in many forums that I think the Lions should take a DT, DE and an OG in the first three rounds. There are a few who think the Lions should take a Safety and even a few who think they should draft RB - CJ Spiller in the first round. I have argued against this until recently I have found myself leaning the other way. Please don't get me wrong. I still think they should take one of the top DT's in the first round, but I do admit, I see some logic in Spiller.

The only way I would draft CJ Spiller in the first round however, is if they could trade down by swapping 1st round picks and gain a 2nd round pick. Now allow me to explain why this interests me.

Recently I read a post where some fans feel that the RB position can be addressed in the later rounds of a draft. So, naturally, I had to dig into this line of thought. . .

RBs Drafted in 1st round =
Chris Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Steve Jackson, Thomas Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, DeAngelo Williams, Joseph Addai, Cedric Benson, Knowshon Moreno, Ricky Williams, Jonathan Stewart, LaDanian Tomlinson, Beanie Wells, Lawrence Maroney, Ronnie Brown, Carnell Williams, Darren McFadden, and Donald Brown.

RBs Drafted in 2nd round =
Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, and Matt Forte

RBs Drafted in 3rd round =
Jamaal Charles, Frank Gore, Steve Slaton, and Justin Fargas

RBs Drafted AFTER the 3rd round =
Michael Turner, Brandon Jacobs, Pierre Thomas, Ryan Grant, Tim Hightower, Jerome Harrison, Justin Forsett, Fred Jackson, Marion Barber, Ahmad Bradshaw, Mike Bell, Michael Bush, and Correl Buckhalter

Notice that almost ALL of the elite RBs were drafted in the first 3 rounds and most of those were in the 1st round. After the 3rd round there are only a handful who are proven good runningbacks.

Can you get a good RB later in the draft? Yes. Are the odds very good? Not at all. If the Lions are going to address the RB position, they should do it in FA. If not then, then they are far better off taking one in the first few rounds.

So let's say the Lions choose to go that route. There are other teams who draft in the middle of the first round who might love a chance to get Suh or McCoy or even Bradford or Claussen. There are no teams in the first round however that have a glaring hole at running back, so Spiller would likely still be available in the middle of the first round. With the extra pick in the 2nd round, it is highly likely the Lions could still get their hands on a very good DT. Remember, this draft will be heavy with good Defensive Tackles. So rather than getting a DT, DE, and a OG in the first three rounds, if the Lions were to trade down and take Spiller, they very well could end up with a DT, DE, OG, and a very good RB.

In more simpler terms, I would be very interested in dropping from a great DT to a good DT if I can add a very good RB to boot.

I am still not sold this is the way to go, but I have to admit, if you really look at it, a move like this might make a lot of sense.

2/16/10

Should the Lions Trade Down? I'm Not SO Sure.

Constantly I am hearing or reading how the Lions should trade down to accumulate more picks in the 2010 NFL Draft.

If this was any normal year, I would say it would be a mistake. I know many think the Lions have too many glaring needs to fill and need bodies to fill them. More importantly however is that the Lions need real talent to fill those holes. On any normal draft, you cannot count on more than 2 or 3 players working out. More often than not, of those three, only one might become a truly good player. Far more often than not, players who are drafted turn out to be nothing more than average players in the NFL. Considering these points, usually it would be more important for the Lions to get the sure thing rather than more possibles. However, this is not the normal year.

With the CBA and no cap year coming next season, far more underclassmen are coming out of college. The field for the 2010 draft is much deeper than in years past and the 2011 draft will be much thinner because much of the best talent left early. With this in mind, it would be much better to trade the lesser talented 2011 picks to move up or gain more picks in the 2010 draft.
Holding the #2 overall pick in the draft, the Lions are in prime position to make such a trade. If the Rams, who pick first, were to draft one of the two top quarterbacks coming out, the other quarterback's value would skyrocket and make the Lions #2 pick that much more valuable to a team who wants a quarterback. There are also plenty of rumors that the Buccaneers would want to move up even though they draft right after the Lions. It is a pretty sure thing they want a defensive tackle. So if the Rams draft one of the two top defensive tackles, the Bucs might be willing to trade to move up to get the other.

There is still a question however, if the Lions should trade down. Even in this talent filed year. So many fans seem to believe that the Lions would be just as well off drafting a top safety or cornerback as they would drafting a top defensive tackle. This is a foolish thought process and one that sets the team up for failure. The Lions NEED a good defensive tackle more than any other position on the team right now. They need someone who can create some havoc at the line of scrimmage.

In 2009, the Lions defensive line put very little to no pressure at all on opposing quarterbacks. Far, far too often those QBs had five, six or seven seconds to find an open receiver. The fact is, the best cornerback in the NFL cannot keep even a decent to good receiver covered for that long consistently. When a quarterback has that long to get rid of the ball and is that comfortable in the pocket, he will find an open receiver. The worst quarterback in the NFL would look good if he has decent receivers and six seconds to throw the ball on every play.

If the Lions had the best defensive backs in the NFL next year, their passing defense will still be below par if they cannot find a way to place pressure on the quarterbacks. That is why it is so important for the Lions to get a top defensive back this off season. When a defense pressures a quarterback, they force him to get rid of the ball early. This ruins the timing between QBs and WRs. This keeps the receivers from finishing their routes correctly. This causes the quarterback to worry about where the pressure is coming from, making it harder for him to focus on his receivers.

There are reasons such sayings as "A team is built from the inside out" or "The game is won in the trenches" are such common quotes in the NFL. Because they are true!

The only way the Detroit Lions should trade away their 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft, is if they can be sure to get a top player as well as still fill that defensive tackle position with a player who can get into the backfield. In this case, they would be better suited to stay where they are and draft McCoy or Suh. The defensive tackle is far more important for the Lions defense than any other position right now. It would be foolish to pass up one two players who are considered the best to come out in that position in many years.

2/11/10

Detroit Lions in Review - Secondary

The cornerbacks of the Detroit Lions get somewhat of a raw deal from the fans. Countless times I have heard fans calling in saying how bad they are. The commentators on sports talk radio often have said the same. I have a different opinion and all I ask is that you keep an open mind as you read it.

If the two best cornerbacks in the NFL came over to the Lions, do you really think they would shut down the opponents passing game? I don't. I don't because I don't care how great a cornerback is, if he has to cover a receiver for five, six or even seven seconds, that receiver will get open often. You can cover a good receiver for a few seconds and sometimes five or six seconds, but only once in a while. There is not a cornerback in the NFL who can cover even a decent receiver for five plus seconds almost every play. The Lions defensive line was so horrific that it was seldom the quarterback had any pressure on him. It was far too often the Lions cornerbacks were covering receiver for far too long.

Many times I have heard people complain that the Lions cornerbacks were beat for long passes. This is a fact. They were beat for some long ones. You know what? Every teams cornerbacks were beat for some long passes. Yes the Lions were beat more often. In fact, the Lions gave up more 40+ yard receptions than any team but Miami. We were tied with Miami with 17 receptions over 40 yards. Again, consider how much a bad defensive line can effect that stat. Not only did the Lions not pressure the quarterback, they also could hardly stop the run. This made the cornerbacks and safeties worry far too much about run support and more liable to break in on the play action passes.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not saying the Lions couldn't use a shut down corner. They can use some improvement there, but I don't think it is as bad as many believe. If the Lions should by some miracle get Ndomakong Suh in April's draft, their secondary will be automatically improved. If the Lions can put together a good defensive line, the opposing quarterbacks will not have near as much time to get rid of the ball. They will not sit so comfortably in the pocket. The Linebackers will be able to fill the holes to stop the run better. Cornerbacks and safeties, especially the safeties will not need to worry quite as much about the run and might not bite on the play action as much.

In 2009 the Lions secondary looked like the worst in the NFL. With a good defensive line, that secondary might find itself in the middle of the pack. Still can use some improvement but not near as bad as it may seem.

The quick development of Louis Delmas was special to watch. By seasons end, as a rookie, he was making all of the secondary defensive play calls. Delmas was 2nd on the team with 94 tackles and had 2 interceptions as well. With a year of experience under his belt now and with a better defensive line, he will only get better.
Grade = ( A )

Phillip Buchanon is a decent veteran and will benefit by an improved line as well.
Grade = ( B- )

Kevin Hobbs is one player the fans complained about being beat too often. I think that will improve with better play at the line and I liked Hobbs aggressiveness when tackling. Like Delmas, he attacks the ball carrier with no hesitation.
Grade = ( C )

Ko Simson I am not a big fan of. Several times I saw him come in to tackle a running back on a screen pass. Several times he stopped and waited for the running back to make his move first rather than attacking.
Grade = ( D )

Anthony Henry will make a good veteran for depth but I don't see him as an every day starter anymore. But if the Lions do not get a safety in free agency or the draft who is better, I would rather see Henry play safety than Ko Simson. Yes I know Henry is a cornerback but at 6'1" he is big enough to make the switch and it would suit him better as he has lost a step with age.
Grade = ( C )

Overall Grade = ( C+ )

2/8/10

Detroit Lions in Review - Linebacker

Linebacker is the one position the Lions are looking good in on defense. In 2009 they started the season with Larry Foote manning the middle while Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims handled the outside positions. At mid season however, Ernie Sims was injured and DeAndre Levy stepped in to replace him, doing an adequate job. When Sims returned it looked like Levy would step back, but then Larry Foote was injured and Levy then manned the middle.

Larry Foote's injury was a blessing in disguise. Foote had only signed a one year deal and though he led the Lions in tackles with 99 while only playing in 14 games, it was questionable if he would be playing in Detroit in 2010. I like Foote a lot and the fact he missed the last few games and still led the team in tackles says he is worth bringing back.
Grade = ( B+ )

DeAndre Levy is the one reason why we may not need to worry about having Foote back in 2010. The rookie started coming on at mid season and only got better with each week. In the last two weeks, Levy (a rookie remember) was making all of the defensive calls for the Lions defense. It speaks volumes that Levy also ended the season third in tackles with 85.
Grade = ( B+ )

Julian Peterson ended the season with 76 tackles but added 5 forced fumbles while he was at it. Peterson was not the flashy player in the stats as he once was but he was solid and consistent.
Grade = ( B )

Ernie Sims has so much talent but has yet to get it all figured out upstairs. Perhaps that could be due to the fact he never had a good veteran to help him along. The Lions drafted him for his speed and yet in four seasons he only has a total of 2.5 sacks. Yet he does show some knack for being around the ball as he had 100+ tackles in each of his first three seasons.
Grade = ( C )

Overall this group of linebackers is better than you might think. After all, it is near impossible for any linebacker group to look like a pro-bowl unit when playing behind arguably the worst defensive line in the NFL. There were just too many and too large of holes for running backs for this group to fill. They had to press so hard to help stop the run that it made it that much more difficult to drop back into pass coverage on pass plays. I think this could be one of the better units in the NFL if they had a decent team around them.
Overall Grade = ( B )

2/5/10

Detroit Lions in Review - Defensive Line

The Detroit Lions greatest point of concern in the off-season should be at the defensive line. It was far too seldom they were able to place any pressure on the opposing quarterbacks. It was far too often they were man handled in both rushing and passing plays. If Jim Schwartz slapped a bunch of pink tutus on the lot of them, they should not be any more embarrassed than what she should have been already.

The fact is, the trenches are truly where the game is won and lost. If you go back to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady's worst games of their careers, you will find that they threw interceptions and incompletions because they were hit a lot. Other than Barry Sanders, who always had to find his own way through the defenses, there has probably never been a running back who can play well if the offensive line does not block well. In other words, if a defensive line does its job, the opposing offense will suffer. Close up holes and the running backs cant run anywhere. Pressure the quarterbacks and the cornerbacks don't need to cover nearly as long. The Lions do not live b this analogy. There are often too many holes in the line of scrimmage for the Linebackers to fill. Cornerbacks and safeties are far too often having to cover for five, six or seven seconds. Way too often the opposing quarterbacks only throw the ball because they find a receiver who finally found an opening rather than because he needed to get rid of the ball.

Defensive End - Jason Hunter had 5 sacks and Cliff Avril had 5.5 in 2009. Not really good numbers but not shabby either. If the Lions can get a true pass rusher at Defensive End, it would be a big boost but considering the Lions do not have a defensive tackle who takes up a double team, Hunter and Avril did fairly well.
Grade = ( C+ )

Defensive Tackle - There is talk that Sammie Lee Hill will be a good defensive tackle. Personally I will reserve my judgment on that until I actually see it. He had a couple of games in the 2009 season where he had five tackles, but other than those two games he never had more than two tackles in a game. Hill did not have a sack and since I seriously cannot remember the Lions defensive line putting any pressure on a quarterback, I cannot say I felt Hill did that either. Maybe Schwartz is right and he will be good. I don't know! But until I see it, I will not grade him with a good grade. I can only look at these facts. The opposing quarterbacks had virtually all day to read the defense, find an open receiver and throw the ball. Running backs far too often ran through the line like it was non existent. The Detroit Lions absolutely need a defensive tackle who will draw a double team or create some chaos in the middle. Right now they do not have that or anything close to it.
Grade = ( F )

Overall Grade = ( D )

2/1/10

Detroit Lions in Review - Offensive Line

The Lions have had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL through two decades now. There are those who believe the line was good when Barry Sanders was running the ball because they see how many yards Sanders gained each year. Those are fans that did not watch him run and if they did they did not watch what happened.

As well as being considered one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game of football, Sanders also had another reputation while he was playing. The one to three yard loss. Barry Sanders very well could hold a record for the most times being tackled behind the line of scrimmage. I wholeheartedly believe he holds the record for the most distance running if you include the scrambles from one sideline to the other while evading defensive players. The reason he was tackled behind the line of scrimmage so often was because the Lions offensive line could not even slow defensive lines down on many plays. Sanders often was hit as he was taking the hand-off. If there was ever one man who truly depended on his own feet rather than the offensive line opening holes, it was Barry Sanders.

From 2006 to 2008, the Lions offensive line was arguably the worst in NFL history as the gave up over 50 sacks in each season. In 2006 they allowed 63 sacks. In 2009, the Lions finally kept their quarterback from being sacked over 50 times. They allowed 43! Their pass blocking has been horrendous and there simply is no other way to put it.

Last year however, the offensive line showed improvement not only in the slight drop in sacks but in the running game as well. There were several plays where they actually opened up holes for the running backs. Unfortunately the Lions starting running backs did not have the speed to take real advantage of the openings.

Jeff Backus - I will admit that I have been as much of a Backus hater as any fan out there. I have a slight change to my opinion now. Throughout his career, Jeff Backus has been responsible for far too many sacks and penalties, and therefore he deserved the bashing he took. With that said however, 2009 was different. His penalties were not so many, he did not give up as many sacks and he looked halfway decent in the run blocking. What is the most important thing to remember when grading his 2009 season is that most of his penalties and sacks came early in the year. Throughout the second half of the season Backus was actually a pretty good left tackle. I am a believer that Backus has finally reached his potential and that is a slightly above average left tackle. If the Lions can get a good left guard to accommodate him he may be even better.
Grade = ( B- )

Dominic Raiola - I have always been against Raiola as the starting center as much as I have hated Backus starting at left guard. The difference is that I have not changed my opinion on Raiola. The guy is intelligent. Yes! He is athletic. Definitely. If Raiola had another twenty pounds of muscle, he might just be a great center in the NFL. He doesn't have that extra 20 pounds however, and he certainly doesn't have the extra 20 pounds in muscle! One of the most important things a team needs to do to win games is sustain drives. To sustain drives, you need to win the battle at the line of scrimmage in the short yardage game. It is a very rare thing to see Raiola win that battle. Far more often, he is pushed backwards and that is the recipe to disaster. I have often wondered how he would do as a tackle with his mobility to stay with quicker defensive ends but as a center he is not big enough or strong enough.
Grade = ( C+ )

The only other two offensive linemen worth grading is Jon Jansen and Gosder Cherilus. Jansen is getting old and will not be a starter and Cherilus is too inconsistent. Maybe if Gosder could ever get his head screwed on right he could turn into a good lineman, but for now he is barely worth being a starter on a bad line. The rest of the line can be completely wiped out and replaced without worry about losing any ground.

Overall Grade = ( D+ )

The offensive line is one area that desperately needs to be addressed either through free agency or the draft.