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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6/25/10

Lions Sign 4th Round Pick Jason Fox

Offensive Tackle, Jason Fox, was drafted by the Lions in the fourth round as a project. Today that project can truly start as he was signed to a 3 year contract. Fox was the first of the Lions draft picks to sign this season.

Keep in mind that Fox was drafted as a project player who the Lions believe can learn to play both left and right tackle on the offensive line. Contrary to the high hopes of many Lions fans, he was not drafted to replace Jeff Backus at left tackle. At least not until Backus retires.

At 6'7" and 303 pounds, Fox is a monster of a man. He has the size and the athleticism to develop into a good tackle. He is however, likely a year or two away from being an every day starter. He will spell Backus at times and even play some at right tackle behind Cherilus and Jansen. Jeff Backus will have this year to play with a decent guard in Rob Sims next to him to prove the horrible play at guard has held him back in past years. In another year or two though, Backus will likely be ready to retire and hopefully Fox will be ready to take over the starting duties by then. If Fox is ready sooner, he will play sooner, but I would not expect that to happen.

One thing I do like however is his size. Behind a lineman with his size, it will be harder for defensive players to keep an eye on the Lions running backs. A running back with Jahvid Best's speed can take advantage of that. Then again, it can also make it harder for Stafford to see past him to find open receivers.

6/22/10

Meet the Lions Defensive Line

It has been a few years since the Lions have had a defensive line that could put any real pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Finally, there is a coach in Detroit who understands just how important the defensive line is. After watching opposing QB's lounge around until receivers finally got open all year, Schwartz and company decided it was time to address the problem. And address it they did!

As soon as free agency started, Coach Schwartz was waiting in the driveway of Kyle Vanden Bosch. His aggressiveness paid dividends and they quickly added the defensive end to the Lions roster. They were in no way done with their overhauling plans. Through trades the Detroit Lions added Corey Williams at defensive tackle and then drafted the superstar college defensive tackle phenom, Ndamukong Suh. Let us meet the Lions new wrecking crew.

Kyle Vanden Bosch - There is a small question mark attached to this signing as Kyle's last two seasons in Tennessee were nothing to be proud of. But when one digs further, one realizes just how good this guy can be.

From 2005 to 2007 (3 seasons) Vanden Bosch was a star worthy defensive end as he raked in 200 tackles and 31 sacks. Then his numbers fell off the table, but there are clear reasons for it. In 2008, Kyle had 14 tackles and 3 sacks in his first 4 games. Due to injury, he started only 3 of the Titans next 6 games and had a combined 1 assisted tackle and zero sacks. Since he was injured, that is understandable. In the first game in his return, in week 12, Kyle had 6 tackles and a half a sack. Though he followed that with a sack in the next game, his production fell off again and only had 3 tackles in the next 2 games. Kyle did not play in the last three weeks of the season. Though his stats log says he started and played in 10 games in 2008, it is obvious that some of those games he played injured. In the 6 games he was healthy, Vanden Bosch had 22 tackles and 4.5 sacks. That would average out to approximately 58 tackles and 12 sacks. So it is obvious that he still had the talent, but injuries slowed him down. But what about 2009 you ask?

In 2009, Vanden Bosch only had 44 tackles and 3 sacks even though he was healthy. What does not show in his stats however, is that he lost something very vital to every top defensive end. A very good defensive tackle. In 2009, Vanden Bosch's teammate Albert Haynesworth moved from Tennessee to Washington to play for the Redskins. Without Haynesworth drawing double teams, the offensive lines were able to put up a better scheme to stop Vanden Bosch and company, thus the drop in his production.

So the question is not so much, Does Kyle Vanden Bosch still have it in him to play great, but simply, do the Detroit Lions have strong enough defensive tackles to give Kyle the space to get into the backfield? In comes Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh.

Corey Williams - Corey started his career playing 4 seasons for the Green Bay Packers in a 4-3 defense. In both, 2006 and 2007, he had 7 sacks each year with 35 and 36 tackles respectively. Those are some pretty darn good numbers for a defensive tackle in the NFL. Then Corey Williams had the misfortune of being traded to the Cleveland Browns who played a 3-4 defensive scheme. As a nose tackle, he was no longer meant to drive into the backfield and disrupt the offense like he did in Green Bay, but he had to play more of a run stopper. In his first season with the Browns, his sacks feel away to only a half a sack in the season, but his tackles leaped up to 50 in the season. Williams' 2009 season fell off even more as he racked up 4 sacks with only 35 tackles.

In 2010, Corey Williams will play for the Detroit Lions and be excited to be back in a 4-3 defensive scheme. He should be able to return to form being in the 4-3 scheme once again and to make things easier for him, he will have Ndamukong Suh next to him.

Ndamukong Suh - What more can be said about this guy that has not already been said? He was the best college player on almost every experts chart if not EVERY experts! Suh absolutely dominated in college as he raked in 158 tackles and 19 sacks in his last two seasons. Just to add some extra icing on the cake, he also had 3 interceptions in that time. Two of which he returned for touchdowns.

Suh has technique and he has quickness, but he did most of his damage with strength as he overpowered the opposing offensive linemen. Before the draft, many tried to use that against him, saying that he would not be able to overpower NFL linemen like that and would need better technique and quickness. I say hogwash! If you have the strength to one arm 350 pound players out of your way in college, you will have the strength to do so in the NFL. It might take Suh a little time to adjust to the speed of the game and the quicker payers of the NFL, but once he does adjust, he will be a dominant defensive tackle.

Sammie Lee Hill - A rookie in 2009, Hill did not put up impressive numbers and did not register a single sack. Likely, he will not get too many sacks in his career. Hill is not the go get him kind of defensive tackle, but more of the big get in his way run stopping type. He will not put up the flashy stats we all love to see, but he will become invaluable in the short yardage goal line stands.

Jason Hunter - On a very pitiful Lions defense, and on a defensive line that rarely hurried the quarterback, Hunter had a very respectable 5 sacks in 2009. He is not exceptionally quick or powerful, but this could be the year he shines. With opposing offensive lines having to place so much focus on the Likes of Suh, Williams, and Vanden Bosch, Hunter should find plenty of opportunities.

The Detroit Lions will have a much improved pass rush in this years wrecking crew. On obvious pass downs, they will have Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams punching it up the middle. On short yardage downs, I would expect to see Sammie Lee Hill come in and side up with which ever of the two is the freshest. In any other down, the three of them will spell each other, to help keep the defensive line fresh for late in the games.

With the strength the Lions will pose up the middle, the defensive ends, Hunter and Vanden Bosch, should have plenty of fun pressuring the opposing quarterbacks.

With so much promise for a great defensive line, it is often hard to keep ones anxiety in check, but keep it in check we must. It will take Suh a little time to adjust to the speed of the NFL. It will take the entire defensive line a little while to adjust to each other. Williams, Vanden Bosch, and Suh will need time to truly get comfortable in the Lions scheme and play calling. Even so, the fans should have plenty of excitement to keep them cheering while the Lions are on defense this season.

6/16/10

Lions Talent Not a Problem

I still see a lot of comments where fans believe the Lions still do not have near enough talent to be good. The most common position mentioned is cornerback. But talent is not the Detroit Lions weakness. Youth is!

Quarterback - Matthew Stafford has a butt load of talent, nobody really denies that, but he needs two things to become a truly solid QB in the NFL. Accuracy with the short routes and experience.

Running Back - The Detroit Lions have really improved this position with the addition of Jahvid Best in this years draft. Best has the talent to be a superstar in the NFL. He will be one of the fastest running backs in the NFL and he has a natural ability to see the field and make players miss. Like Stafford, Best needs two things to be great. Experience and staying healthy.

Receiver - Everyone and their illegitimate brother knows that Calvin (Megatron) Johnson has the talent to be one of the top three receivers in the NFL. Nate Burleson has enough talent to be the perfect compliment to Johnson. All these two need to be a top receiving duo is for the O-line, Stafford, and Best to do their jobs.

Tight End - In Brandon Pettigrews last few games before his injury, he was one of the best Tight Ends in the game. He was just coming into his own when he went down. There is no doubt that he has the talent, but now we have to wonder if he can be healthy. If not, the Lions addressed that ahead of time when they traded for Tony Scheffler, who is also a very talented pass catching Tight End.

Offensive Line - This is the biggest question mark on the Lions whole offense if not the entire team. Many of the fans hate Backus and Raiola being a part of the unit. I used to be one of them. I have come to realize however that they are not nearly as bad as the typical fans believe. If they were truly so bad, why would GM after GM and coach after coach not only keep them as starters, but even praise them? Why would the left guard position be the spot where they are now starting the 15th player in that position in the last 10 years? I realized that the play of the left guard has been so bad that it has crippled the play of both Backus and Raiola who play on each side of the left guard. Now the Lions have Rob Sims there, who is supposed to be a very strong run blocking left guard. If he plays as well as expected of him, it will lift the play of Backus and Raiola and solidify the entire blindside of the offensive line. The Lions can still use some more talent on the line but it is not going to be as bad as it has been in the past.

OFFENSE OVERALL - The Lions offense is gleaming with star quality. Its greatest foe at this time is inexperience.

Defensive Line - This is the unit that has the fans riled up for the upcoming season. Last year Sammie Lee Hill was coming on strong at the end of the season. His rookie year. The additions of Corey Williams at defensive tackle and Kyle Vanden Bosch at defensive end should help this unit tremendously. This alone would have given the Lions a decidedly much improved defensive line, but that was not good enough for Schwartz and Cunningham. Better was not enough. They want one of the best defensive lines in the NFL. So with their 2nd overall pick in this years draft, they took Ndamukong Suh. This guy has enough pure talent to be the best DT in the NFL one day. Teaming him with Hill in the middle with Williams to relieve them? Talent is not this units problem any longer. Once again experience is.

Linebacker - DeAndre Levy was a rookie last season and ended the year calling all of the defensive plays for the Lions. The two outside linebackers will be veteran Julian Peterson and possibly Zack Follett who was also a rookie last year and only has a few games he played in. All three of these guys could do a lot of damage. Especially Peterson this year if the D-line plays up to snuff.

Cornerback - Chris Houston will start. He has speed and toughness and was traded away from Atlanta mainly because he is a Man-to-man coverage guy and they are a Zone coverage team. The Lions will be mostly a man-to-man. Eric King is playing great so far in OTA's and many are expecting him to start across from Houston. One thing I have heard about this years cornerback crew is that they are more talented than last years. Personally I don't think Buchanon and Henry were bad at coverage. They were just asked to cover WRs for far too long on each play. If this crew is better and the D-line pressures the QB for once? This unit will look pretty good.

Safety - Delmas is like Levy but better. He ended his rookie season making all of the secondary calls for the Lions defense. He ended the season with a very good rookie year and many believe he was good enough to get more consideration for Rookie of the Year. Right now there are a smattering of players who will fill in the other safety spot. It is one place the Lions could use an upgrade in talent.

DEFENSE OVERALL - The defense is filled with talent now. More so than the Lions have had in decades. They can use a lift in one safety position and can use a shut down corner. If Follett does not work out they need to address outside linebacker soon. But the Lions have more pure talent on their defense than two thirds of the NFL. Again, their enemy for now is inexperience.

The Detroit Lions have eight starters of the 22 starting positions who have 16 games or fewer experience. That is 36% of their starters. If the young players can play to expectations they can be good enough to have a winning season this year and possibly make the play-offs. In pure talent, they can make the play-offs. Unfortunately, asking all of the young players to play to their potential is asking too much. Even last years rookies should still make their share of mistakes if far less than this years stock will. The talent on this team screams for an 8 to 10 win season. The inexperience pulls that back to five games.

Right now, at this time and with these players as starters, I predict the Lions to win five games in 2010 season. If they win as many as seven games I will not be totally surprised, but it would be better than I will expect. Once their core of talented young players gain another year or two of experience however, this team can be a contender.

6/3/10

Detroit Shows Class in Armando Galarraga's Bad Fortune

Detroit Tiger's pitcher, Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game on Wednesday night. Only twenty pitchers have thrown a perfect game before him in the history of Major League Baseball. Unfortunately, Galarraga will not go down in history as the twenty first. After twenty-six straight outs, Jason Donald hit a simple ground ball that Cabrera fielded cleanly and threw the ball to first base. The ball beat Donald to the base by almost a full step with Galarraga's foot clearly on the base. What was an obvious out and the first perfect game ever thrown for Detroit never happened as the first base umpire, Jim Joyce called Donald safe. The call was so bad, that once Joyce saw the replay on the big screen, he actually walked up to Galarraga and apologized as he admitted the mistake.

Armando Galarraga show how classy he was instantly when the call was made. He did not get in Joyce's face. He did not throw his hat down and get in his face. He smiled. He know how bad the call was and smiled at the absurdness of it.

Joyce showed himself to be a class act as an umpire when he admitted his mistake and apologized to Galarraga. He showed what he was made of again when he chose to umpire the next days game rather than pull out of the action. I am sure he was expecting the fans to let him have it. He probably wouldn't have been surprised if the fans threw cups and stuff at him. He showed how sorry he was when he shed tears at home plate today when Armando Galarraga brought the line-up card to the plate for Jim Leyland.

The Detroit fans showed a lot of class in the way they acted when Joyce took his position behind the plate in today's game. Other than a smattering of boos mixed in among the many more cheers of confidence, the fans did not let him have it as would have been expected in this situation. Likely, if this had happened in any other stadium, the fans would have rode him out of the stadium. In some places the fans would have been throwing things at him.

If Joyce would have made the right call, it would have been a special moment in Detroit Baseball history. It would have been an even more special moment in the life of Armando Galarraga. But with the bad call, in its own way, this has become a moment as special as any I can remember in Detroit Sports. If the bad call was never made, it would have been great that a Tiger pitcher had a perfect game. That would have always been remembered. With the bad call however, and the way Galarraga and the fans handled themselves, I am even more proud to be a Detroit Tiger fan. I have even more respect for Galarraga as a person for how he has been so forgiving. As it all happened, there is a sense of pride that has swelled inside of me that makes me proud of the Tigers, proud of Galarraga and proud of the other fans.

We will always know that Galarraga threw that perfect game. We will always remember the perfect game that wasn't. But today we can be proud to be fans of the Detroit Tigers and Armando Galarraga for reasons far more solid than a statistic or a special feat. We can be proud of how classy the team and the player has handled such a blow. We can be proud of how forgiving the team, the player and the fans can be. Yes, we can even be proud to have had an umpire who was man enough to admit the mistake and apologize. Today, I am proud to be a fan.