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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11/30/10

Stanton May Start Against Bears

In the first week of the season, the Bears faced Matthew Stafford to start the game. After Stafford separated his shoulder, they had to face Shaun Hill. Now as the Bears prepare to face the Lions in their second match up, it looks like they get to see yet another quarterback for the Lions in Drew Stanton.

Word has it that Shaun Hill broke his index finger on his throwing hand during the Thanksgiving game. It is believed that he injured it in the first half, which would explain why Hill looked so bad in the second half of the game. In the first half, Hill was 15 of 22 (68%) and 1 touchdown. In the 2nd half, Hill was 12 of 24 (50%) and 2 interceptions.

Many of the Lions fans may not like this news, but I am not so sure it is such a bad thing. I would like to give the fans a different angle to look at Drew Stanton that they might not have seen. As good as most believe Stafford can be, it is very surprising when one tries to compare the two.

When Matthew Stafford was signed, he automatically began working with the first string unit. Once he was named the starter, he got all of the first string snaps to help him build chemistry and timing with his receivers. For a quarterback to develop in the NFL, it is paramount that he gets a lot of work with first stringers and sees some good playing time. This is something Stanton has never had. Stanton has always been the backup or third string quarterback. Most of his practicing has been with back-up receivers, against back-up defenses. So obviously, Stafford has had much better preparation time than Stanton has had.

Then you consider their NFL real game experience. Stanton has only played about three games worth of action that has come spread out between three seasons. No chance to get used to the game speed or into any kind of rhythm. Stafford on the other hand, played in three straight games to begin his career. So he worked with the starting units, got all the starting snaps and played in three consecutive games to start his career. Once again, it is obvious that Matthew Stafford has been given a much better chance to succeed.

Now here is the shocking facts. Their statistics comparing Stanton's 104 career pass attempts and Stafford's first three games that totaled 103 attempts.

Stanton . . . . . 55 of 104, 611 yards, 2 TDs and 7 ITs
Stafford. . . . . 55 of 103, 598 yards, 2 TDs and 5 ITs

After getting so much more practice with the first team unit and having all of his experience together, one would expect Stafford's stats to be a lot better than Stanton's, but instead they are nearly identical. Yet in the eyes of most fans, Stanton is horrible and Stafford is great.

I have heard fans say that they have seen what Stanton can do and they do not believe he can ever be an NFL caliber starter. After only 104 pass attempts, scattered through three seasons, they believe they have seen enough to know he stinks, but after the same amount of time (under much better circumstances) with Stafford, the fans believe he could be a great QB and needed time to develop. Yet there statistics were nearly identical.

After Matthew Stafford played in ten games in 2009, he was 201 of 377 (53%), 2267 yards, 13 TDs and 20 ITs. Looking at those stats and seeing how inaccurate he was on short routes, I was not a believer he was going to be a great quarterback in the NFL. But most fans believed he could be and needed time to develop. In the little time he was on the field this year, I saw where he was truly developing and began to believe he could become a great quarterback. But why should Stafford get 377 pass attempts and still we believe he needs time to develop, but Stanton doesn't deserve time to develop after only 104 attempts?

In no way do I sit here and tell you that Stanton can be as good as Stafford. I do not see these two in the same league of talent. But I will point out that Stanton has had far less to work with to develop and has put up very comparable numbers and that tells me he still has room to grow.

The 2010 season is lost. It is over! Te Detroit Lions do not have a chance to make the play-offs now and have a better chance of getting the first pick overall again than they do of winning three more games even. There is no better opportunity to allow inexperienced players to develop. This should now be Stanton's chance to start for the rest of the season. Let him have a chance to develop finally and see what you really do have. The Lions gain nothing in rushing Stafford or Hill back from their injuries. They have a lot to gain in allowing players like Stanton a chance to develop. Who knows? If Stafford never can stay healthy again in the future, we may just find that Stanton has what it takes to become a decent NFL quarterback. If he does nothing good the rest of the year, then the Lions finally know for sure and can let him go with confidence. But what if he does start to develop? What if Stanton actually learns how to read a defense once he becomes a little more comfortable in the pocket?

At this time, the Lions have nothing to lose in playing Stanton, but they have a lot to gain.

11/29/10

Lions Coaches Just Don't Learn From Mistakes

Week in and week out it is the same thing we see from the Detroit Lions. They do the same thing and almost the same game plan every Sunday. The coaches do not seem capable of changing up from week to week much less at half times.

The Detroit Lions have one of the best defensive lines, if not the best defensive line, in the NFL. The problem is, these guys play hard every snap. They do not take plays off and they play hard from snap to whistle. This is a great thing for the first half and sometimes even the third quarter, but late in the game, these guys are tired. Not the usual football tired, but absolutely gassed. This can be fixed if the coaches would simply use some intelligence. For one, part of the blame falls on Scott Linehan for not being able to keep the defense off the field most of the game, but that is a subject I will hit in a moment. Gunther Cunningham could help them out a lot by using the blitz, but he simply refuses to do so.

With only a few minutes into the third quarter, the Lions had blitzed only five times on pass plays. After that, for almost the entire third quarter and the fourth as well, the Lions blitzed on a pass play only once. One time! When the Linemen are at their most exhausted state and cannot get to the quarterback, rather than blitz and help his guys out, Gunther decides to allow Tom Brady, one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, to have all day to throw. So rather than blitzing, and forcing Brady to get rid of the ball inside of two or three seconds, the defensive line (that is already exhausted) has to fight for three to six seconds each play.

It is a simple thing to realize in the NFL. If given time, even decent receivers will get open against the best defensive backs. If given time, even average quarterbacks will find open receivers and hit their targets. So why would you choose to give Tom Brady extra time rather than blitz and hurry him up?

In the first half of the game, the Lions put a lot of pressure on Brady and he had a lot of trouble moving the ball. It was not until our defensive line grew too tired to put that pressure on him that he became lights out. In fact, Brady completed his last ten attempts in a row and had three touchdowns in that time. So ask yourself what is better. To give a great quarterback extra time to throw and use more coverage to defend the pass, or to blitz and force him to get rid of the ball early?

The real problem here is that Gunther does this nearly every game. It is becoming too familiar of a sight to watch the Lions defensive line grow too tired to get to the quarterback and rather than help them out, Gunther plays the pass rather than blitzing and allows opposing quarterbacks extra time to find open receivers. By the way... In case he has not noticed, the Lions cornerbacks are decent, but not great. They are not players you want covering for five seconds on a play.

As for Linehan, he has been redundant for far too long. Every game I complain about him opening the playbook and scoring then becoming conservative and allowing opponents to stay in the game. In the first quarter against the Patriots, Hill had three pass attempts that went for over ten yards. One of them was for more than 20 yards. In the second quarter, he had only one attempt for more than ten yards and none for twenty plus. That one attempt for more than ten yards came with only 9 seconds left in the half. In the third quarter, Hill had three attempts for 10+ yards. One of those was on a 3rd and 8, so he was forced to throw ten yards. But in the fourth when playing from behind, they threw five passes for 10+ yards.

The Lions simply have too much talent on offense to not sustain more drives and keep the defense off the field. They have too much talent to allow opposing teams to stay close every game. They have the talent to be an explosive offensive unit, but Linehan uses them like a powerhouse team that runs the ball first and dinks and dunks on short yardage plays.

A couple other notes.....

Ndamukong Suh's sack on Tom Brady in the first quarter came on a blitz that helped free him up.

Only twice in the six total blitzes did Brady connect for a completion. One was the touchdown in the fourth quarter, but that was a delayed blitz and he was throwing the ball before the blitzer was within four yards of him.

Not once did Shaun Hill attempt a pass for more than 25 yards down field. (I believe this allows a defense to feel comfortable that they will not be beat deep.)

11/27/10

Lions On Four Game Losing Streak

Nobody truly expected the Detroit Lions to beat the New England Patriots. There was not a lot of expectations of them even keeping it close. Yet after three quarters of play, the game was tied up at 24-24 before the Lions once again imploded. The Patriots scored three unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter and beat the Lions 45 - 24.

I will not use this article to rip into any one faction of the Lions because I have yet to go back and watch the game over. However, I will make a point that only a few are making today. The Lions showed they truly can play with the best in the league when they are playing right. The problem is that the Lions need everyone playing right for them to have a good game. On truly good teams, if one or two players have a bad day, the others around them can make up for it. The Lions don't have this advantage. On defense, one player, Alfonso Smith, had his first bad game and the Lions did not have anyone to save him. So Tom Brady and company simply picked on him.

In the fourth quarter, when Shaun Hill began really missing bad, well... is there ever anyone to save a quarterback when he is off?

The Lions have a team that can play well against any team in the NFL, for about two or three quarters. There is always one quarter however when they fall apart and that is a big reason for their 2-9 record.

11/24/10

Lions vs Patriots Pregame Week-12

The Detroit Lions will host the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving this year. Every season there is talk of the Lions losing their annual holiday game and this year is no different. With the Lions lack of success in recent years, it is understandable. After all, why would the NFL want to display the likes of the Detroit Lions on national TV on Thanksgiving? The best the NFL can do to raise their ratings however is to put a good team against the Lions that people outside of Michigan would want to watch. This year it is Tom Brady and the Patriots.

There are fans who believe the Lions will put up a good game only to fall short yet again. There are fans who think the Patriots will dismember the Lions and scatter the bones. There are even those who believe the Lions will win this game, though to be honest, those are far and few between.

Seriously, does anyone believe that Linehan will suddenly start having Hill throwing the ball 15 yards down field rather than only seven? That Calvin Johnson will be utilized as more than a short route decoy? That they will finally come up with the idea of using a fullback as a lead blocker to open up some running room?

Does anyone believe that if the defensive line cannot get to Brady that Cunningham will start blitzing more than twice a quarter? That he will disguise his rare blitz rather than showing the offense who is coming so they can be picked up and blocked? Does anyone truly believe that even if the Lions have a lead, that Gunther will not go into the "Prevent the Win" defense?

I don't believe any of that. I don't believe you believe it either. You know why? Because when a team does the same thing over and over and over and over again, there is no reason not to believe they will just do the same thing yet again.

The Lions will throw down field for one and maybe two drives early on. They will score a touchdown and maybe even get the lead. Cunningham will then revert back to his conservative ways because after all, there is no sense in continuing to do what works and spread the lead is there?

After the first half, the Lions defensive line will be getting tired from being on the field so much. They will not be pressuring Tom Brady very much and Gunther will leave them to continue just rushing the quarterback without any help. If the Lions are up, he will use the prevent defense and if the Lions are behind, he will continue to allow Brady all day to find wide open receivers because, after all, we don't want to get burnt by him if we blitz right? Much better to let one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL to have extra time to pick and choose where to throw the ball.

As always the Lions will not be able to run the ball, but Linehan will not use the fullback for anything more than running the ball three times and pass blocking. As the run game fails to produce, yet again, he will continue to force the run. As always it will be painfully obvious to everyone else that Dominic Raiola just does not have the power to get a push on short yardage plays, but Linehan will not see that and continue to run the ball up the gut on 3rd down and 1 yard to go. Only to punt the ball on 4th down and 3 yards to go.

And as always, the Lions will keep it close. They will play up to one notch below their competitions level. They will have a chance to win in the fourth quarter but once again they will fall just short.

As with most other games, the refs will call a couple penalties that will leave everybody's jaws dropped to the floor as they watch and re-watch the slow motion replay and for some reason not be able to see any infraction. But it was there in the refs eyes somehow.

In the end, the Lions will lose yet another close game and the fans will say that the Lions are just as bad as ever, or that the refs stole another one, or maybe that the coach blew it again. They will scream that it was the penalties that lost the game, or that it was the lack of running game that lost it. One thing is for sure however. The Lions will lose and likely all of the above reasons will have good arguments.

Detroit - 23
New England - 30

11/23/10

A Few Things The Lions Just Dont Get

If you know me, you know I have not been a fan of Scott Linehan this year. These days I am even finding problems with the whole Detroit Lions coaching staff.

There are things I see and shout at the television set... "How can you not see it?" Hanging out in the CBS.com Lions message board, I find there are plenty of other fans who see the same thing. So if I can see it and so many other fans can see it, how can it be that the Lions coaches do not see it?

Down field passes:
Quite frankly, if you do not have a down field threat, you do nothing but help the defense stop you. If the defense is not afraid of being burnt deep, they will allow their safeties to cheat up towards the line. This will do two things. Take away running room for the running backs and help them cover the receivers.

Note that I do not say you have to have a good down field passing game, but only the threat. If you take shots deep, whether you complete them or not, it will force safeties to take a step back because they don't want to be beat. When you have receivers the likes of Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, the safeties have no choice but to worry about it.

Against the Cowboys, the Lions had one of their better down field passing days. For the game, Shaun Hill had seven pass attempts for more than 15 yards down field. The problem however, is after the first two that were very early in the game, they did not have another deep attempt until 5:18 left in the third quarter. So they only threw the ball down field twice in almost three full quarters. To make it worse, one of those first two came when it was 3rd and 10. A definite passing down.

If you continue to only pass short, and you bring the defense in tight, how are your running backs supposed to find room to run?

The Running Game:
It seems the Lions are bent on forcing the running game. It is almost like watching a stupid kid try over and over to force a square peg into a round hole. After over half of a season of not getting a running game going, you would think the Lions would try doing something different to get it going. To get their running backs more room to run. The genius decision that head coach Jim Schwartz comes up with? Let's try using a running back by committee.

Seriously? Your best running backs are not able to get the job done and you think by adding your lesser players into the mix, this will make it better? Really Schwartz?

Do they think of throwing down field a lot more to force the linebackers and safeties off the line a little would help? Do they consider trying to use Felton, a Full Back as a lead blocker? Nah, we will just use players that are not as good and see if that does the job.

Can someone tell me if Felton is a fullback or just a big running back? I just watched the Lions vs Cowboys torture a second time. I did not see Felton as a lead blocker. I saw him run the ball and I saw him catch a pass. I saw him as a decoy, but I did not see him used how a fullback is supposed to be used. To clear out running lanes. They will pull Sims the Left Guard to lead block up the right side, but they wont allow a fullback to lead block? They will use an extra tight end, who will be blocking someone on the outside who would never be a real factor rather than use a fullback to clear a linebacker out of the running lane.

Short Yardage:
I have been saying for years that Dominic Raiola is not powerful enough to play center. He is usually decent in pass protection (Not including the Dallas game), but when it comes to short yardage, he gets manhandled. Year after year the Lions will try to run up the middle and get stopped. Yet they just don't seem to get that the point of contact in the center of the line gets pushed back rather than forward.

I thought Schwartz was starting to understand this early in the season when he brought in Ndamukong Suh as a lead blocker for two short yardage plays in a row. They were stopped both times. Yet he still has done nothing about it. They haven't gotten a beefier center for short yardage and they continue to try to run up the middle. The Cowboys have a better short yardage line than the Lions do, but even they realized they cant keep doing it against the Lions defensive line, so they ran a play action bootleg rather than run up the middle. And we all watched Kitna, the second oldest player in the NFL, run 29 yards for a touchdown because of it. It seems that not only do the Lions seem unable to come up with that but they are unable to realize that other teams can.

The lions have arguably the most dynamic receiver in the NFL in Calvin Johnson. They have a speedy running back in Jahvid Best. With Best ailing right now, they still have Aaron Brown who has a lot of speed. Yet they will try to run up the gut rather than use the tools that fit the job. Like forcing a square peg into a round hole.

Defense:
The Lions have arguably the best defensive line in football. But Gunther Cunningham seems to fail to believe that they can be slowed. With only three sacks in the last three games, it is obvious to everyone that the defensive line is not getting to the quarterback right now. What does Gunther do to fix it? Yeah, its the old square peg thing again. He continues to rush four linemen only. In watching the Dallas game over again, I only saw the Lions blitz five times. Of those blitzes only once was it disguised. They show blitz quite often, but very rarely do they actually send anyone.

It is tiring to watch the Lions have the same problems game after game and do so little to change them. The fans see these problems and I see them. The Lions coaches however keep trying to force the same square pegs into round holes over and over.

11/22/10

Lions Lose Again in Dallas

The final score was 35-19, but the game was a lot closer than that. Again the Lions looked to be out playing their competition to not only allow them to come back, but to pull out a victory as well and so the Detroit Lions have extended their NFL record road losing streak to 26.

Early on it looked like Linehan was finally opening up the offense as he ran an end around for 15 yards then ran a fake end around on the very next play that he passed for a 2 yard loss to Jahvid Best. As well as the slight trickery, Hill attempted two deep passes early on as well. But as the game continued, the Lions did not attempt another pass over 15 yards until late in the third quarter.

The Lions went into half time with a 10 - 7 lead and it looked as if Detroit was taking charge of the game. That feeling continued in the 3rd quarter as the Cowboys took a holding penalty inside of their own end-zone, giving the Lions a safety and two more points. Then the walls came tumbling down once again.

With 10:24 left in the 3rd quarter, Maurice Morris took a hand-off up the middle and the Lions offensive line actually opened up a hole for him. Unfortunately, Pettigrew was man handled by linebacker Anthony Spencer, who ran in behind the line and dragged Morris down for only a two yard gain.

The very next play, Orlando Scandrick broke through on the blitz and batted Hills pass down, forcing the Lions to punt. Then the real damage began.

On the punt, Lions special teams ace, Wendling looked to make another impressive play (which he had made a few in the game), and jumped into the end-zone and batted the ball back to the three yard line where it should have been downed. What should have happened and what does happen are two different things when it comes to the Lions. Bryan McCann ran past the Lions and snatched up the ball, taking to the outside and 97 yards for a touchdown.

On the Cowboys next drive, they drove down field and scored another touchdown, giving them a 21-12 lead over the Lions.

With 4:10 left in the 3rd quarter, the Lions made a game of it as Hill completed a 14 yard TD pass to Calvin Johnson. Closing the score to a 21-19 Cowboys lead.

The threat did not last long however, as the Cowboys controlled the ball for 7:48 of the clock and drove 71 yards on 16 plays to score a touchdown. Then with 3:19 left in the game, on a 4th and 1 play, Kitna ran a play action bootleg and found himself wide open as he ran 29 yards for another touchdown, giving the Cowboys a 35-19 win.

11/14/10

Lions Lose to 0-8 Bills

Once again the Lions played down to just a notch below the level of their competition. The Detroit Lions who have the talent to almost beat the Packers, Giants and Jets, have now lost to the only winless team in the NFL. Simply put, the coaches just are not getting it done!

When you play a team that is 0-8, and lose to them 14 to 12, there are some serious issues. When you have the talent of Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, and Jahvid Best, and cannot score more than a single touchdown against one of the worst defenses in the NFL? There are some very serious issues. When your team hits double digit penalties in over half of the games they play, there are extremely serious issues. These issues are the incompetent coaches!

Last week Jim Schwartz showed his lack of judgment when he attempted a pass with a third string QB who hasn't thrown a pass all game, when the game was on the line. Now the Lions go to Buffalo and they come out flat. They have six penalties inside the first 6 minutes of the game. They fall short in every aspect of the game against the worst team in the NFL. Schwartz simply did not have them ready!

Detroit Lions offensive coordinator was at his worst today. On first downs, he ran the ball 10 of the first 12 times. Late in the2nd quarter, he changed up and passed 4 straight times on first downs. In the game, including playing catchup (to an 0-8 team), Linehan called 18 pass plays on first down. Nine of those were in the 4th quarter. Until the 4th quarter, when the Lions were in crunch time, there was not one pass for more than 10 yards down field.

Linehan looked at the stat board on the Bills, saw they were 32nd against the run on defense, and decided to force the run down their throats. He ran the ball over and over on 1st and 2nd downs and did not do much with it. Whenever the ball was handed off, whether it was to Best or Smith, the Bills defense was all over them, closing down any lanes to run. The only time Best seemed to get any decent yardage was when he was able to outrun the defense to the outside.

The Lions have the worst run offense in the NFL and the reason for that is their lack of willing to throw the ball more than 7 yards down field. The play calling continuously draws the defense in tight, taking any room for the running backs away. The announcer mentioned for the second week in a row how defensive coordinators have told them they key on stopping Best and Calvin Johnson. This is also obvious by the double teams that Johnson receives and the fact that Best is often getting tackled before he gets to the line of scrimmage. Linebackers are set to stop Best and when they see him take the hand-off, they are there to meet him. The only way to stop this is to start throwing the ball down field, forcing the linebackers to back off and help with the pass. But rather than do this, Linehan continued to just try to force the issue and feed the ball to the running backs and never throw the ball more than seven yards down field.

Cunningham is becoming as ridiculous as Linehan in his planning. I heard on the radio this morning, from Gunther's own lips, that he will get to the quarterback and the Bills coach knows it. He will get to him with his line and if they cannot do it, he will blitz forty times if necessary, but he will pressure the quarterback. The Lions got one sack and they rarely blitzed.

The simple fact is, the Lions secondary is not bad, but they are in no way capable of covering for four to five seconds every play. The Lions defense is depending on getting pressure on the quarterback and forcing him to throw the ball early. Yet Cunningham seems reluctant to blitz when his line cannot get that pressure. He talks a big game about blitzing a lot, but come game time, he too often becomes conservative.

This week is telling for Jim Schwartz. There are no excuses of the players not getting the job done, or being undisciplined. There is not the excuse of just being beaten by the better team or bad calls by the refs. If one or two players keep getting penalties, it can be laid on the players. When the entire team commits penalties, it is the coaches. When a whole team falls apart, it is the coaches. When the ball is never thrown more than 7 yards until the last few minutes of a half, it is the coach. When there is no blitzing if the defensive line cannot pressure the quarterback, it is the coach.

I will say that Linehan needs to go. He has had nine games to show he can do it and he simply refuses to let his game plan out of a shell until they are behind and playing catchup. But whatever Schwartz decides, someone has to go this week. Either the inept offensive coordinator, or some of the players. Examples must be made of to get their attentions. He simply cannot continue to allow this kind of awful play by his players, or his coordinators without some kind of disciplinary measures taken.

If Schwartz is man enough to stomp this down and do what needs to be done, then he may yet become a good coach. If he simply continues to allow this to happen and keeps the same people in place, then he is not the coach you want.

Jim Schwartz, it is time to man up and do the hard part of the job.

11/13/10

Lions vs Bills Pregame Week-10

The Lions go to Buffalo this weekend to face the Bills in what has now become a very important game to them. The Lions were beginning to not sell out their home games before they beat the Redskins and after blowing a lead to the Jets and seeing their franchise quarterback go down yet again, the morale of a lot of fans is at a low. If the Lions should lose to the 0-8 Bills now, they just may not sell another home game out this season without a winning streak. Simply put however, and at the risk of sounding over confident, the Detroit Lions should, in no way lose this game.

When Scott Linehan, the Lions offensive coordinator, calls even a semi-aggressive game plan, the Lions offense can stand face to face with any in the NFL. Even with Shaun Hill at the helm. The Bills defense however is not so good. They are 25th in the NFL in sacks with only 12 sacks on the year, and they are dead last in interceptions. The Bills have only one interception this season. So the Lions offensive line which is tied for 7th in allowing only 14 sacks, should have no problem protecting quarterback Shaun Hill.

Some might point to the Bills pass defense and how they rank 6th in yards allowed as a reason for the Lions to worry. This however, is a case of stats that are deceiving. The reason the Bills pass defense looks so good in yards allowed, is because of how bad they are against the run. The Bills rank last in rushing yards aloud with an astounding 178.2 yards per game against them. Quite frankly, when an offense can run at will, it will seldom bother to pass the ball, accounting for the low amount of passing yards against the Bills and the high ranking.

The Bills are 22nd in the NFL in allowing 19 sacks on the year. The Lions defense is 5th with a total of 24 sacks. So you can expect the Lions defense to get multiple sacks this week. Especially after the defensive line was mostly man handled by the Jets last week. There is nothing worse for a poor offensive line than facing a great defensive line when they are looking to prove themselves after a bad week.

My keys to this game all fall within the coaching this week. The Lions offense is talented enough to destroy the Bills defense. The Detroit defense is good enough to stop the Bills offense. The only thing that could really be a problem is the tendency of the Lions coordinators to become conservative.

Several times now the Lions have taken leads on their opponents, but only once, against the Rams, has Linehan been aggressive enough to keep putting points on the board and spread that lead. Even in the Rams game, it wasn't until the second half before that happened. Instead of putting opponents away, Linehan has continuously become conservative and allowed the Lions opponents to stay close.

Cunningham has not been much better on defense. Sure the Lions defense looks aggressive with the sacks and interceptions, but that is due more to the great defensive line than Gunther's play calling. Last week when the Lions defensive line could not generate a lot of pressure on Sanchez, Gunther did not help them out much by sending the blitz very often. For the most part, he left them to it and as the game continued on, they became absolutely exhausted. Even in overtime he refused to send the blitz to help them out and Sanchez had far too much time to find his receivers.

Another thing I have not liked in Cunningham this season is his tendency to switch to a prevent defense when they get a lead. The Lions have had too many games slip away because the opponents drove down field and scored in the last minutes when the Lions used the prevent. The Lions strength on defense is rushing the quarterback. Not covering the receivers for long periods of time. When the Lions switch to the prevent defense, they play to their weakness rather than their strength.

I am expecting to see what I have seen every week this season. Until the ugly duckling turns into the beautiful swan, it is still just an ugly duckling. The Lions need to show me they can play aggressive an entire game before I will believe the coaches will do it. The Lions will take the lead sometime in the first half but not pull away. The Bills will keep it close and make for a needlessly exciting end, but fall just short.

Lions 27 - Bills 24

11/11/10

Lions Should Sign Russell as Project Player

The latest injury to Detroit Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford, is on most of the fans minds a lot these days. What are the Lions going to do if he cannot stay healthy?

The consensus seems to be that the Lions should draft a quarterback in the mid rounds of next year's draft. A quarterback who is not polished, but has the tools to become a decent quarterback in the future. A quarterback the Lions can groom for the future if the future is one without Matthew Stafford.

My personal feelings are that the Lions do not need to waste a draft pick on a project player if one is already waiting to be picked up. Though most NFL fans would laugh the idea off, I believe that ex-Oakland Raider, JaMarcus Russell, would be that player.

Look at the facts. Russell has one of the strongest arms in the NFL, if not the strongest arm.He is a large man with a strong running ability, so he would be mobile in the pocket as well as difficult to bring down for a sack. His biggest flaws are accuracy and not reading a defense well. But are those not the same attributes you would get in a quarterback you draft after the 5th round next year? If the Lions want a project quarterback to groom for the future if Stafford cannot stay healthy, then Russell definitely fits the bill, so long as it is understood that he would not be looking to play this year and likely not next year, even if Stafford gets hurt.

Accuracy can be taught to a point. I used to be one of those who did not believe that, but then Stafford showed me different. Last year, Stafford was very inaccurate. Because of that, I had strong doubts that he could ever be a star quarterback in the NFL. But he stayed in Detroit in the off season and worked on his accuracy. It showed! In the preseason this year, he was very accurate. After he came back from the injury he was rusty but when he shook off that rust, he began to look very accurate again. Matthew Stafford's improved accuracy proved to me that it can indeed be taught.

Reading a defense can definitely be taught. The more reps and practice a player gets in, the more comfortable he will be. The more comfortable a quarterback is, the easier it is for him to read what is happening around him. With effort, work and time, Russell could indeed learn to read a defense.

So rather than waste a draft pick on a guy that you will need to work with to groom into a decent quarterback, why not just pick up a player who if you groom him right, has the tools to be a very good quarterback?

Either way, it is nothing more than a gamble. There is no certainty that either Russell or a rookie you draft late would ever turn into anything. But Russell must have something worth working on if he was drafted so highly. Would you rather take a chance on a player who was drafted 1st over all three years ago, or a QB who nobody believes is worth more than a 5th round chance this year? By taking a flier on Russell, the Lions not only fill that need to find a QB who would be a good project, but they also keep the draft pick available for another position they need to fill.

11/10/10

Suh's Sack List

With the 2nd pick overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions drafted Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh, who instantly became a fan favorite on the defensive line if not the entire team. Below is an alphabetical list of every quarterback Suh has faced in the NFL, when he faced them and if he sacked him.

Games (32) - Total QB's faced (23) - Total QB's Sacked (14) - Total Sacks (15.5) 
2010. QB's faced (14) - Total QB's Sacked (09). - Total Sacks (10)
2011. QB's faced (13) - Total QB's Sacked (04). - Total Sacks (04)
2012. QB's faced (02) - Total QB's Sacked (02). - Total Sacks (2.5)

Bradford, Sam (St.L.) - 2 Game (1 Sack)
Oct 10, 2010 - Missed
Sep 09, 2012 - 1 Sack

Brady, Tom (N.E.) - 1 Game (1 Sack)
Nov 25, 2010 - 1 Sack


Cassel, Matt (K.C.) - 1 Game (1 Sack)
Sep 18, 2011 - 1 Sack

Cutler, Jay (Chi.) - 2 Games (1 Sack)
Sep 12, 2010 - 1 Sack
Dec 05, 2010 - 0 Sacks
Oct 10, 2011 - 0 Sacks
Nov 13, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Favre, Brett (Min.) - 1 Game (0 Sacks) **RETIRED**
Sep 26, 2010 - 0 Sacks

Fitzpatrick, Ryan (Buf.) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Nov 14, 2010 - 0 Sacks

Flynn, Matt (G.B.) - 1 Game (1 Sacks)
Jan 01, 2012 - 1 Sack

Freeman, Josh (T.B.) - 2 Game (0 Sacks)
Dec 19, 2010 - 0 Sacks
Sep 11, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Henne, Chad (Mia.) - 1 Game (1 Sack)
Dec 26, 2010 - 1 Sack

Kitna, Jon (Dal.) - 1 Game (.5 Sacks)
Nov 21, 2010 - 0.5 Sacks

Manning, Eli (NYG) - 1 Game (1.5 Sacks)
Oct 17, 2010 - 1.5 Sacks

McNabb, Donovan (Was/Min) - 2 Game (3 Sacks)
Oct 31, 2010 - 2 Sacks
Sep 25, 2011 - 1 Sack

Newton, Cam (Car) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Nov 20, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Palmer, Carson (Oak) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Dec 18, 2011 - 0 Sack

Rivers, Philip (S.D.) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Dec 24, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Rodgers, Aaron (G.B.) - 2 Games (1 Sack)
Oct 03, 2010 - 1 Sack
Dec 12, 2010 - 0 Sacks
Nov 24, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Romo, Tony (Dal) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Nov 07, 2010 - 0 Sacks
Oct 02, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Ryan, Matt (Atl) - 1 Game (1 Sacks)
Oct 23rd, 2011 - 1 Sack

Sanchez, Mark (NYJ) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Nov 07, 2010 - 0 Sacks

Smith, Alex (SF) - 2 Game (1.5 Sacks)
Oct 16, 2011 - 0 Sacks
Sep 16, 2012 - 1.5 Sacks

Tebow, Tim (Den) - 1 Game (0 Sacks)
Oct 30, 2011 - 0 Sacks

Vick, Michael (Phi) - 1 Game (1 Sacks)
Sep 19th, 2010 - 1 Sack

Webb, Joe (Min) - 1 Game (1 Sack)
Jan 02, 2011 - 1 Sack

Shaun Hill to Start Against Bills

Detroit Lions coach, Jim Schwartz, has named Shaun Hill as the starting quarterback for this Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Shaun Hill has been recovering from a broken left arm that he suffered against the New York Giants, when he was hit low and fell forward, hitting his left arm to the turf. No penalty was called on the Giants and no fines were given over that play, even though the Lions have been penalized and fined for lesser crimes.

As of today, in the media portion of the workouts, Hill still is not taking any snaps from center. He is working on shotgun and pistol formations. Which makes me wonder if he is truly ready to return, or if he is being rushed back rather than turn to Stanton as the starter. The injury should not be a problem when it comes to throwing passes as it was to Hill's non-throwing arm, but when taking snaps from center, the ball will hit against his left palm, giving a jolt to the injured arm. But if he still is not taking snaps under center, how ready can Hill be for taking a hit by a defenseman or being knocked to the turf again? It is natural instinct to do one of two things when falling. Players will either hold out their hands to brace against the fall or turn to land on a shoulder. Which they turn to will usually depend on the way they are falling. If Hill is knocked forward to his left side, he may brace his fall with his left hand. If his arm is not ready yet, he could easily re-injure the arm.

One would want to believe that Schwartz would not rush him back before he is ready, but most broken bones take a good 5 or 6 weeks to heal completely. This Sunday will be only four weeks. Also, if Hill really is ready, then why isn't he taking snaps under the center yet?

If he is ready, then there is no doubt that Hill should be the starter, but if he is not ready yet, then it would be a mistake to bring him back too soon. There is still a half of a season to face yet and I would rather use Stanton for one game than to get Hill hurt and have to count on Stanton for several weeks after that. Of course, this is all dependent on how badly Stafford is injured, but that is another story all together.

11/8/10

Lions 2010; Be Patient and Weather the Storm

2010 is a season of heart breaking losses for the Detroit Lions fans. It started with the season opener against the Bears when by all practical purposes it appeared the Lions had won the game in the last seconds and the NFL turned it into a loss over their own misinterpretation of a rule. It has continued through three other losses where the Lions came so close to beating their rivals and just came too short. Hearts were broken again Sunday when the Lions blew a 10 point lead in the last 4 minutes of the game on bad decisions by the coaches and stupid penalties by players.

The Jets game left a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of fans. Some want new coaches, others want to draft a new quarterback who can stay healthy. Some want Julian Peterson off the team for his ridiculous hitting a player out of bounds and putting the Jets in position to tie the game. But it is not time to be irrational. It is time to be patient and see the truth of the situation.

The Record:
The Lions are now 2-6 when they could easily be 6-2. Yet the fact remains, if anyone expected more than 5 or 6 wins this season to begin with, they were living in a dream world. They have too many young players with too little experience. That lack of experience will cause mistakes in close games. They have a coach who is still very young and inexperienced. The Lions only won 2 games just one season ago and to expect a big winning season just one off-season later was expecting too much. Most realistic expectations were around 5 wins for the season and the Lions could still come up with that.

The Talent:
The Lions proved one thing on Sunday if they haven't already proved it to you in the other 7 games this season. They are a very much improved team. They are not a team that any opponent can face lightly. They have the ability to move the ball against what some believe is the best defense in the NFL and they have the ability to stop good offenses. They can pressure opposing quarterbacks like an elite team and they can make big plays as well. The missing ingredient for them becoming an elite team may simply just be experience.

The Coaches:
Some are upset with Jim Schwartz right now for blowing that game, and make no mistakes, the blame falls squarely on his shoulders. It was his responsibility to protect the lead and he allowed a pass play with a 3rd string quarterback who has not thrown a pass yet in the game, when he should have run the clock down. But we need to remember that under Jim Schwartz, the Lions have made leaps and bounds of improvement and they simply cannot continue to improve without the wins accompanying it. This is only Schwartz second year as a head coach and he will make some mistakes and learn from those mistakes. As he grows with the job, the team will grow with him.

Scott Linehan is the most confusing of the coaches. He has shown he has the ability to open things up and move the ball against good defenses. Yet he tends to keep falling into very conservative play calling for long spurts of every game. If he cannot learn to be more imaginative and stay a little more aggressive, he may need to go. But knowing he has the ability to be a very good coordinator, you tend to want to see it just come out of him.

Gunther Cunningham and his crew have shown they are top notch. They have not made a lot of mistakes as coaches and the Lions defense has continued to get better as the season has gone on. I am not a fan of the prevent defense that lost the game yesterday, but the fact remains that every coach uses it so to want another coordinator over that would be senseless.

Where the Lions go from here:
It is time to face the facts. Any time Stafford falls over there is a chance he will be injured. He is a good and very talented quarterback. He has the abilities to be a great quarterback. But he has had three major injuries in less than a full season of play and his latest injury has now been re-aggravated. Knowing that, the Lions need to hope he can come back and stay healthy, but in case he cannot, they need to find a young quarterback with good tools they can groom for the future.

Other than quarterback, the Lions need to address both outside linebackers and the offensive line in the near future. I am not as down on Backus as others but he is still getting older and needs a replacement to be groomed. Raiola is simply not a big enough center. He is smart and has some athleticism, but he does not have the power to get any real push in short yardage or any running plays. Far too often when the Lions try to run the ball on 3rd and 1, the line is pushed backwards rather than forward. Sims is definitely looking good at left guard and Gosder Cherilus has finally begun to make strides and look like a decent offensive lineman. But a replacement for Raiola and Peterson is immediately important if they want a real running game.

Conclusion:
The Lions are much more improved than even I thought they were at the beginning of the season. They are only a few players and experience from being an elite team. I can see that time coming as soon as the 2011 season. But we need to be patient through the close loss this season.

11/7/10

Lions Lose to Jets 23 to 20

After what was an exciting game by the Detroit Lions, it was the coaches who blew the game in the end.

With only 4:26 left to go in the game, the Lions were up on the New York Jets, 20 to 10. Being two scores up, the Lions only had to stop the Jets from getting as many points as they had gotten the previous three and a half quarters. Common sense would say to just keep doing what you have been doing right? The Lions coaches do not abide by common sense logic. They abide by Lions logic. They went into the prevent defense and allowed the Jets to drive down field and score a touchdown.

With 2:37 left in the game, the Lions only had to waste as much time as possible to gain a win. After two runs by Best, it was 3rd and 6 and still two minutes left. The Jets were out of timeouts and all the Lions had to do was run another play, let the clock run down then punt and the win was almost a sure thing. Common sense right? Not according to Lions logic. The Lions elected to pass the ball and it fell incomplete, stopping the clock. The ensuing punt gave the ball to the Jets with 1:40 still on the clock. Now if that isn't bad enough, consider this fact. Stafford was hurt again and the Lions had Stanton under center attempting his first pass of the game. All they had to do was run the ball and waste time, but they decide to let their third string quarterback attempt a pass against a very good defense.

So with 1:40 left in the game, the Lions have to stop the Jets from getting a field goal. The prevent defense just gave up a drive for a touchdown the previous drive. Common sense says don't use it right? Not by Lion logic it doesn't. The Lions went into prevent again and gave up a game tying field goal.

During that last drive, the Jets used the no huddle offense and it was obvious the Lions D-line was exhausted. Through out the entire game the D-line did not penetrate the Jets offensive line a lot and now they were absolutely gassed. So when the Jets got the ball first in overtime, common sense says to throw some blitzing in there to hurry Sanchez because our tired defensive line is not going to get to him. Not by Lions logic. The Lions rushed four men and gave Sanchez all the time in the world. They drove down field, helped by a 15 yard personal foul penalty by Julius Peterson, kicked a field goal and beat the Lions 23 to 20.

With the win in hand, the Lions coaches began to make decisions that defied logic to lose the game. But then, they don't use common sense logic. They use Lions logic.

As for Matthew Stafford, he was injured after falling on his right shoulder again. He was showing problems with it throughout the game and late in the 4th quarter, he was tripped and fell on it again and immediately ran off the field. There is no word yet on how severe the injury is.

11/6/10

Lions Defense Exciting Again

I remember the old days with the Lions defense. My old days anyways. When they had Mike Cofer at outside linebacker. He was a missile going after the quarterback. Soon after came the best linebacker to ever put on a Lions uniform, #54, Chris Spielman.

Spielman used to excite me to watch him. They thought he would be too slow and undersized to play middle linebacker, but he had a nose for the ball and a toughness that could look any player eye to eye. Later in his career, he had a hole in his forehead that never seemed to heal up. Mid way threw ever game it seemed he had a spot of blood on his forehead with a trickle running down. Then he tore a peck muscle and could not use one arm very well. He still lead the Lions in tackles with the use of only one good arm. In my mind, when he left to Buffalo, he took the excitement in Lions defense with him.

It has been a long time since the defense has excited me, but it does now. The Detroit Defensive line is arguably, and in my mind "absolutely", the scariest in the NFL. On every play you lean forward, hoping to see another sack, or a tackle for a loss. Corey Williams is back in his element as a 4-3 defensive tackle and he has been outstanding to the point that he has forced offensive lines to double team him rather than the rookie Ndamukong Suh. .... And we all know about Suh! In 7 games he has 27 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 2 passes defended, an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. Which by the way is on track to be the best rookie season ever for a defensive tackle in the NFL.

Then you have the wrecking ball, Kyle Vanden Bosch, who once he gets going, seems impossible to stop and keeps doing damage until the play is over. Not only is he a good defensive end, but he just doesn't stop pounding. He never slows or takes a play off. Then on the other side you have Cliff Avril who has stepped it up this year to be a very good defensive end in his own right.

This wrecking crew has been terrorizing opposing quarterbacks this year and as they become better known, other quarterbacks will be worrying about them even when they do not make a play.

With the improved defensive line play, the cornerbacks have been able to step up and start making plays. Alfonso Smith looks like a legitimate top cornerback right now and is tied for third in the NFL with 4 interceptions.

The defense has been so improved this year that second year safety, Louis Delmas has not looked outstanding because he has not had near the opportunity to make plays this year.

It has been the most exciting season to watch defense on the Lions in over a dozen years, and I look forward to every game now. Not just for the offensive plays but now I enjoy watching both sides of the ball.

11/5/10

Lions vs Jets Pregame Week-9

Detroit Lions (2-5) vs Washington Redskins (5-2)

Everyone seems to be saying it. How good the Jets are. What a great defense they have. The Lions can't beat the Jets. ..... Excuse me? The Lions can't beat the Jets? Why not?

First let's compare the defenses.
The Jets have 15 sacks and the Lions have... what's that? 23?
The Jets have 5 interceptions and the Lions have.... (ahem) 8 picks?
The Jets have forced 7 fumbles and the Lions only... 9?

But of course the critics (or Jets fans) will point out the yardage given up and the points given up, and over the entire season the Lions have given up a lot more yards and points than the Jets have. But I am a believer that often teams need time to put things together. Especially teams with a large change over in personnel. The Lions are one of those teams. This year, the Lions have three new starters on the defensive line, a new starter on outside linebacker, two new cornerbacks and a new safety. On top of that, the middle linebacker, DeAndre Levy, was hurt most of the season, Follett is now gone for the season, and due to another injury, a rookie is now manning one of the safety spots. So it would only make sense that a team like the Lions would need a few games to start putting things together.

In the Last 3 games......
The Jets have allowed an average of 214.3 passing yards compared to the Lions 215.3 yards.
The Jets have allowed an average of 107.3 passing yards compared to the Lions 125.0 yards.
The Jets have allowed an average of 16.3 points compared to the Lions 19.6 yards. Basically a field goal difference.

So in the last three games, the Jets defense still comes out on top, but not by near the margin many seem to believe. Yet, in those three games, the Jets have played the Vikings, Broncos, and the Packers, who have a combined 9-14 record. The Lions have played the Packers, the Rams, and the Giants, who have a combined 13-10 record.

So with all things considered, the Lions and Jets defense has been very close to equal in their last three games.

Then we look at the offenses.....
The Lions are ranked 6th in the NFL with an average of 26.1 points per game.
The Jets are ranked 7th in the NFL with an average of 22.7 points per game.
The Lions rank 7th in passing with an average of 250.6 yards per game.
The Jets rank 27th in passing with an average of 184.4 yards per game.
The Lions rank 30th in rushing with an average of 82.3 yards per game.
The Jets rank 3rd in rushing with an average of 153.4 yards per game.
... and that's where it gets interesting.

It is obvious at this point that the Lions are a passing offense and the Jets are a rushing offense. The whole question may come down to which defense stops the others strength the best.

Quite frankly, it gets tiring listening to people talk about Revis Island. I have no doubt that Revis is a great cornerback. I have no doubt he has shut down a lot of receivers. The fact is however, I would not rank Revis as good as Deion Sanders in his prime and I do not believe even Dieon could shut down Calvin Johnson. Talent and size wise, Calvin Johnson just may be the best receiver to ever play the game. The only thing holding him down is how the Lions have used him and in recent weeks it looks like they have begun to figure that out. By no means do I expect Calvin Johnson to dominate Revis the entire game, but I have a hard time believing any corner in the history of the NFL can shut down a healthy Calvin Johnson for an entire game.

If the Lions can put a stop on the Jets running game, there is no reason they should not be able to win this game. But I will leave you with another simple fact....

Since their first week loss, the Jets have only lost one game. That was to the Packers, the only team they have played that is ranked in the top-10 in sacks. The Packers only have 1 sack more than the Lions do.

Lions 20
Jets 17

11/1/10

Just How Good is Suh

The Lions first round pick in the 2010 draft was a Defensive Tackle. There were many Lions fans who wanted the Left Tackle, Russell Okung. There were some who wanted DT, Gerald McCoy over Suh. Yet for the most part, the majority of the fans had their hearts set on Ndamukong Suh and got their wish when the Detroit Lions drafted him 2nd overall. He is living up to all expectations.

In 1999, Javon Kearse came into the league and broke the all-time record for sacks by a rookie with 14.5 sacks. Kearse was a defensive end. By far and large it is expected that defensive tackles are to draw the double teams, opening up the defensive ends to get the sacks. Since 1991 (I cannot find Sack stats for prior to 1991), their have been 20 rookie players to get 10 or more sacks. Only four of them were defensive tackles, the best being 10.5 sacks.

Ndamukong Suh is currently on pace for 14.5 sacks, which would tie the all time record with Javon Kearse.

Admittedly, it is unlikely that Ndamukong Suh will keep up this pace the entire year. Sooner or later, offenses are going to keep double teaming him. He is bound to go on a streak of games where he does not get a sack. But the fact remains that the Lions arguably have the best defensive line in the NFL and Ndamukong Suh plays a very large part in that.

Right now, Suh has 27 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery and 1 touchdown. If he stopped playing today, he would still have had a decent year for a defensive tackle. Yet he is not even half way through his rookie season.