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Ndamukong Suh's Sack List
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.

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The Lions Offensive Line: An On-Going Debate

I know a lot of people hate the Lions offensive line. They saw the horrible running game and blamed the line. They saw Stafford get hurt and blamed the offensive line. It has almost become a sort of fad here in Detroit to hate the offensive line. But I also believe that people have begun to hate the line for no other reason than to simply hate the unit. I used to hate the line myself. Very likely, I was complaining about the line well before most of you have.

When Barry Sanders ran for 2000 yards, many fans thought the Lions line was good. I hated it. They argued that the line must be pretty good for Barry to get 2000 yards. I argued that Barry was the reason he got 2000 yards. The line was the reason he had so many one yard losses and did not get 3000 yards.

When Scott Mitchell was ran out of town, I argued on his behalf. I tried to explain to people that Mitchell was not the problem, but it was the ridiculously bad offensive line that was the problem. In a play-off game against the Eagles (yes that was a long time ago), Mitchell got up out of his stance, took two steps over to his right, pointed at a linebacker who was showing blitz and yelled a message to his linemen. He seriously could not have helped them more in that situation. When the ball was snapped, that linebacker came blitzing through. The only player to even make any contact with that linebacker was Scott Mitchell while he was driven into the turf. But fans expected him to look great with that kind of protection.

When Harrington was hated so much and pointed out by Dre Bly in the locker-room, I stood up for him. I was sick of watching Joey pick himself up off the turf because he had less than two seconds to get rid of the ball. His wide receivers were lazy, did not practice, ran bad routes and never hustled. His offensive line made defenses look like they were made of water the way they poured through them. He did not even have a talented running back to help him. While everyone hated Harrington, I hated the offensive line.

Finally with Stafford getting hurt two years ago, more people started to see how bad the line was. They began to blame Backus. I was one of those. I hated Backus and Raiola as much as anyone. One day I read something in a post on a forum, about how the left guard position was like a revolving door and was the reason Backus looked so bad. A light bulb clicked on and suddenly something made sense. It would explain why both Backus and Raiola looked so bad and yet seemed to impress coach after coach enough to keep their starting jobs. Last off-season I began to argue that maybe that really was the case. The Lions had signed Rob Sims, the Left Guard and I argued that with Sims there, Backus could look a lot better.... and he did!

Still I hear people saying the Lions offensive line is horrible. I have had a couple comments left stating that very thing. I have heard guys at work say it. I have heard callers on the radio saying it. I just don't believe that people who say this are looking at the whole picture.

Backus missed a block against Peppers, one of the best sack artists in the NFL. So many fans want to say that Backus sucks because of that play and Stafford getting hurt was his fault. They don't want to admit that there is not a lineman in the history of the NFL who will never get beat by the best defensive ends. Let me make this statement very clear. "THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SHUTDOWN LEFT TACKLE!"

Every quarterback in the NFL is expected to take some hits. The linemen are not going to ever keep him unscathed. They are not expected to keep him from ever getting hit. Their job is to limit those hits to as few as possible. So when Stafford got hurt on the first time he was hit in 2010, I am not going to say the offensive line sucks. When he comes back and gets hurt in only one more game, but he was not hit a lot, I don't blame the line! Most of the QBs in the NFL take a lot of hits in the season and don't get hurt.

In 633 pass attempts, the Lions quarterbacks were sacked a total of 27 times. That is a rate of one sack every 23.44 passes. Only the Colts, Giants, Saints, and Falcons had a better rating. All four of them had much better running games to help keep the QB safe. With virtually no running game in 2010, defenses were able to pin back their ears and come after the Lions quarterbacks with a vengeance. Yet they still had the 5th best protection in the NFL. The Lions offensive line did their job of limiting the amount of times the quarterback is hit, better than 27 other teams in the NFL. When you get hit that few times, if you get hurt, that is either dumb bad luck, or you are injury prone. It is not the fault of the offensive line.

Now consider this. On the right side of the line, both Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman were playing hurt much of the year. Peterman had his worst season in 2010 because he was playing on am injured foot. Because of that injury, he was not moving as well and ended up holding too much.

When the Lions fans see Stafford get hurt, many automatically blame the line. They want to believe in a world where your quarterback never gets touched. Its unrealistic. When they saw how bad the running games was they tend to believe it is either the RBs fault or the offensive line's fault. They do not however, want to believe that there could be more to it. The average fan does not see the fact that for a running game to be good, it depends on so much more. It needs the QB to pass down field to keep the safeties honest. It needs the play calling to be imaginative. It needs the Offensive line to be healthy and good. It needs the running backs to be decent. The Lions Offensive line was NOT healthy. Their quarterback would NOT throw more than seven yards in the air. The running backs were NOT healthy. Quite frankly, the play calling was NOT very good for most of the season. It was not that the offensive line was terrible that the running game was so bad. It was bad because it had NONE of those factions going well for it.

If you know football, you have to know that a QB just has to be able to take some hits. If he gets hurt two or three times and is only hit a few times, then it is not the fault of the protection. If he gets hurt every third time he is hit, it is simply ridiculous to blame the line. If the running backs are hurt, their is no down field passing game, and the play calling is horrendous, then you cannot blame the line for the running game being bad. Not with any common sense at least!

As to whoever left the comment that 3 QBs getting destroyed is the line's fault..... When Hill was hurt, it was because of an illegal play when a defensive player hit him low at the knees. If your feet are grounded and someone hits you below the knees, your leg very well might go "snap!" He was not hit a lot that game. He was hit wrong! Stanton got hurt but it was minor. He took a pain killing injection and finished the game. As I have already pointed out, Stafford got hurt twice on only a small handful of hits. One of those he was chased and he fell forward. Not even hit!

With all that being said, I am not in any way saying the line does not need some improvement. There is a question as to whether Cherilus will be healthy after micro-fracture knee surgery. Raiola is definitely undersized and more importantly, under-powered. Backus is getting older and a replacement needs to be considered. But even with these problems, the Detroit Lions offensive line is far, far from being a bad line.


Detroit Lions 2011 Draft: Rounds 1 - 3

The Detroit Lions have their first three picks in and one can only wonder. Did Mayhew and Schwartz actually do the draft this year or did they bring back Millen for one last hurah?

Round 1:
Before the draft, if you asked any Lions fan what positions the Lions needed to draft the least, they would have said Quarterback, Defensive Tackle, and Tight end. Obvious choices. Myself? I would have put them in the order of Defensive Tackle, Tight End and then Quarterback. So what do the Lions draft with their first round, 13th overall pick? Nick Fairley, a Defensive Tackle!

I understand that most fans like this pick. I know of one poll that the last I heard, had 88% of the fans liking the pick. I just do not understand why.

The Lions have Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Sammie Lee Hill at Defensive Tackle. The Lions as a team in 2010, had 44 sacks. Only 4 less than the NFL leaders, the Pittsburgh Steelers. 39 of those sacks came from the defensive line. Only 5 sacks came from linebackers and defensive backs. When it comes to getting after the quarterback, the Lions defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL. It was the last place they needed to add a player. So drafting a DT in the first round essentially means the Lions spent their 13th overall pick, in a draft when they needed to address so many holes, with depth!

How good is Fairley? Many believe he is going to be awesome. Some comments try to put him on the level with Suh. Let us get one thing straight. There is absolutely no way he is on the level with Suh. When Suh came out, he was not touted as the best DT in the draft. He was touted as the best DT to come out of college in over a decade and possibly ever! Before the Lions drafted Fairley, I rarely heard his name mentioned. To take it farther, Suh played great football for three continuous seasons in college. Fairley has had one big season.

Let us pretend for a moment he will be great though. How much better will he be than Corey Williams? Whether you like Williams or not, the truth is, he played at a pretty high level. Though he only had a couple sacks, Williams had a hand in breaking up a lot of plays. He was the hammer that often sprung Suh free. IF Williams was not good enough, the Lions would not have been able to pull Suh off the line and use him as a blitzing linebacker. Even if Fairly is great.... Even if he is better than Corey Williams, he still only improves the starting unit so much. It is not like he replaces a DT who was not very good. He does not improve the Lions D-line by leaps and bounds. He adds a lot of talent in the depth department. Essentially, he will be their so that the Lions will have four DTs to rotate in and out to keep them fresh.

Again, the Lions D-line had 39 sacks last year. How many more will they get?

On the board at the time they drafted Fairley, was still Prince Amukamara and Jimmy Smith. Two cornerbacks that many experts believed had the talent to press the receivers (something the Lions need desperately), and possibly be shutdown corners. Anyone who would rather have a DT who adds great depth over a top corner who would immediately make the Lions defensive backs a lot better, simply does not know football. Yes I am meaning this fir the Lions brass too!

I will say it again. Last year the Lions defensive line was one of the best (if not THE best) at going after the quarterback. Of the other 7 starters on the field in defense, the Lions only had 2 players who belong starting. Louis Delmas and DeAndre Levy. That leaves 3 defensive backs and two outside linebackers who the Lions need to improve if they ever want to be a play-off contender. Five players of the eleven starters who would be nothing more than back-ups on other teams. The Lions could have addressed one of them and instead chose to add a DT that would add great depth.

Yet I keep hearing the statement that a team needs depth if they want to win games. I will tell you something much more important to have than depth if you want to be a winning team. Good starters! And only 6 good starters on the field at any time for a defense just doesn't cut it. Especially when 4 of them are in one unit.

Round 2:
The second round started with a vengeance to insult the Lions brass. The first two picks off the board? Cornerbacks! The one position the Lions need to address the most. The Lions finally got to pick with the 44th pick of the NFL draft. Did they get a cornerback? No. How about a linebacker? Nope. Ah, then they must have taken an offensive lineman right? Not quite!

The Lions select, Boise State Receiver, Titus Young.

Now as bad as this sounds, I actually like this pick more than the first round pick. Not that I love it by any means, but at least I feel like they did address a need. The Lions need a receiver who can stretch the defense opposite Calvin Johnson. He does not have to be a great receiver. He just has to be good enough that if they ignore him, he will get past the secondary and pull in some long passes. This will force defenses to keep their safeties back and in turn, it will open a little more running room and give Calvin more one on ones.

Titus Young is not a great pick, but at least I can see where his presence can create problems for defenses and make the rest of the offense better. So for this pick I can live with it.

Round 2b:
The Lions made their usual trade to move up again. This is one thing I absolutely love about Mayhew. He is not looking to trade down and acquire more picks like many think. He looks to move up and get higher quality players who can become starters. So Mayhew made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and gave them their 3rd and 4th round picks as well as swapped places in the 5th and 7th round. In other words, they essentially gave up the rest of their draft to move back into the second round.

With the 57th pick in the 2011 draft, the Lions take.... a cornerback? A linebacker? An offensive lineman? No! They draft Illinois RB, Mikel LeShoure.

Some fans believe the Lions needed a big hard running RB to run between tackles. To get the extra yard on short yardage downs. It seems the Lions brass has agreed. The fact that the Lions center, Dominic Raiola is under sized had nothing to do with it. That the line of scrimmage was often pushed back a couple yards wasn't at fault. We used Suh as a fullback on short yardage and he ran into a wall two yards short of the line of scrimmage, but a big RB will make the difference? I don't see it. The fact that the play calling was horrendous most of the time and that the QB, Shaun Hill rarely threw the ball more than 7 yards in the air, had nothing to do with the bad running game. We can play in a way that bring the defense in tight, taking away running room and filling run lanes quicker, but we will place the blame on the running backs.

It was not a RB we needed to get so bad. We needed a center who can push the line of scrimmage rather than be pushed backwards! The Lions need a fullback who can lead block to clear open some running lanes! What the Lions did not need was a hard running RB, because they already had one in Felton! He is listed as a fullback, but he was never used as one. He is only used as a hard hitting RB.

The Final Verdict:
So the Lions went into the draft needing Cornerbacks, outside Linebackers and possibly a safety the most on defense. They needed a Center, a right tackle, a receiver, and maybe a fullback on offense. After three picks (spending their first 4 picks for them), the Lions filled a total of 1 hole. Wide receiver!

As it stands, the Lions will enter the 2011 season (if there is one), with the same cornerbacks who could not cover a receiver, and the same linebackers, who could not cover or tackle. The Lions will enter the new season with virtually an unimproved starting line-up.

And I just cannot help but wonder. What hand did Millen play in this?


Reply to a Comment - 26AP11

Once in a while, a reader will comment and show some intelligence in the way he writes and what he has to say. If I see where he is not thinking right (in my own opinion of course), I will reply with why I disagree with him. (or her).

Tom wrote:
There's one reason and one reason alone why Backus looked good last year. The deep ball on that team was completely out of the question once Stafford went down(not once, but twice). It's really not hard to protect the QB when he's holding the ball for a second or 2 then throwing the ball 5 yards down the field. That was the offense last year.

We need a left tackle who can actually hold a block for a few seconds and allow Stafford and Johnson the time to set up the deep ball. No excuse for an offense to average less than 10 yards a completion.

And sorry, any argument claiming that an offensive line on a team that averaged less than 4 yards per carry by their running backs was good is null and void to me. Center is a huge need, and if they can take one of the top left tackles in the draft without reaching then they need to do that as well.

My Reply:
The first sack Stafford took was on a play that took time to develop and he held onto it too long. He showed no pocket awareness on that play and that has been stated in many articles by other writers as well.

You are right. There is absolutely no excuse for a team to average less than ten yards a pass. But the Lions did not have that shortage due to bad offensive line play. They were that bad because Shaun Hill was afraid to make a mistake and would not throw the ball deep. The Lions offense had a lot of plays that took time to develop but Shaun Hill refused to throw it more than seven yards. If Calvin had anyone near him down field, Hill would check down. The only plays Hill threw more than seven yards in the air were the scripted plays in the first two drives and when they were behind in the 4th quarter and he had no choice. When screen plays were not called, Hill held the ball for far too long because he was afraid to throw deep and get picked. I complained about this all last year. I paid specific attention to it.

Look at how many penalties Peterman and Raiola had for holding and illegal blocks. If the ball is thrown in less than two seconds, players will not have enough time to get so many holding calls. More often than not, holding penalties happen when a play goes on too long. Most of the missed blocks and sacks came from the right side of the line. Backus plays on the left side.

Before last year, I told people that if the Lions would fix the revolving door they had at left guard and give Backus a viable teammate, he would be much better. The Lions finally added Sims. With Sims at left guard, Backus looked very good except when he was beat by one of the best DE's in the NFL. In the first game. If that play never happened, people would have no ammunition against him now and they wouldn't care. He was beat on one play and Stafford got hurt. So fans want to blame him for everything. Let me tell you something.... There is NO lineman in the history of the NFL who wont get beat by the great sack artists once in a while.

The reason the running game was so bad was more of a combination of things than just offensive line play. There were several times I saw the line open up holes and they were filled before the RBs could get through. In these cases, if the the Lions would have used a blocking fullback, he would have been able to open that path for a good gain.

Hill's refusal to throw the ball down field was extremely detrimental to stopping the run. Defenses knew he would not throw the ball deep. They did not fear being beat deep because of that. So the defenses usually played in tight to cover the short routes better. With a defense in so tight, there is a lot less running room. Their safety and linebackers fill running lanes quicker.

Look at this simple fact. The only quarterback who was willing to throw down field was Stanton. He was very inaccurate but it didn't matter. He was willing! He also was willing to tuck the ball and run with it if they left him a lane. Not only when he was flushed out. These two things forced the safeties to play a step back to make sure he didn't beat them deep and the linebackers had to worry about him keeping the ball so they could not attack the RB. During the games that Stanton was the starting QB, the Lions RBs had their best games.

I don't mean to be rude here, but people need to stop using Backus as the scapegoat for Stafford's inability to take a hit. The Lions QBs took less hits per pass play than all but maybe two teams. The first hit Stafford took, separated his shoulder. The first one! I know people say it was a vicious hit, but honestly? I never thought it was. I have seen Harrington, Garcia, Batch and all the others take far worse without getting hurt. He came back and lasted what? One game? Got hurt again. Not even hit hard that time. He fell on it.

I am not meaning this to be taking shots at Stafford. As his body develops, his muscles will gain density and not stretch so much when put under pressure. Then he will stop dislocating his shoulder. Supposedly the surgery he had will do the same thing. He should now be a healthier and sturdier quarterback, but the injuries last year were not the line's fault. They were not anyone's fault.


I completely agree with the need at Center. In fact, I believe that a powerhouse Center is easily the most important position on the offensive line to get. I keep having images in my head of Ndamukong Suh playing fullback on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 in a game. Both times he hit a solid wall a yard short of the line of scrimmage. Until the Lions can get some push up the middle on short yardage plays, they will have too many drives stall out on them.


2011 NFL Draft - Year Of the Bust?

We are only a few days away from the 2011 NFL Draft, and there are all sorts of beliefs on what teams should do. I would like to take this opportunity to toss out my own advice. Beware of the bust! More than any year in recent memory, beware.

Let us go back in time, say about thirteen months ago. Remember the talk about how there might be a possible lockout in the coming year? How there was an influx of college players coming out early because they didn't want to get stuck with the rookie salary caps. The 2010 draft was considered one of the deepest in a long time.

Now I ask, if so many of the better players left college last year, what does that mean for this years draft class? Wouldn't that mean that there are not as many top players as in years before? That the top talent may not be as good as it was in years past? Sure you have some players who are absolutely great. Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and others may fall into that category. But the overall depth and talent level of the 2011 draft is not as strong as in years past.

Then I have to take it a step further and ask, how good are the top players this year? We look at the stats and say, "My God, how can you say they are not great?", and like I said, they may be great. But I also have to consider the fact that because the college ranks were not quite as talented as years past, these great players had great stats playing against lesser opponents. They simply did not play against the level of opponents they would have if the best players didn't leave early last year. Again, these players likely are great talents. I am just saying, they may not be quite as good as their numbers make us believe.

NFL Owners, GMs and coaches, take this advice. Beware of any player whose stats took a leap in the last year over previous years. Those are the players that could truly have racked up big stats because they played against lesser talent than years past. If you like a top player, don't be afraid to move up for him this year. Go after the surest things you can, because the later you go in the draft, the less chance of finding a gem. Far more less likely than any year in the past.


Detroit Lions Upcoming 2011 Draft

Only four days until the 2011 NFL Draft and for the first time in a while, NOBODY knows what the Detroit Lions are planning to do. In 2010, most of us had a good idea they would draft NDamukong Suh and thank God, they did. The year before that, it was widely expected they would draft Matthew Stafford with their first pick. This year? Your guess is as good as mine and mines as good as any NFL expert out there.

Ask most fans and they will tell you they hope the Lions can draft CB Prince Amukamara. He has the talent to be a shut down corner who is big enough to bump and run and the Lions desperately need to improve their cornerback position. However, as much as it would be the perfect pick, it likely will not happen. It would surprise me if he got past the 49ers and then there are a couple other teams that could use him after that.

If the Lions want a shut down corner, they have what essentially comes down to two choices. 1) They can package a couple picks with their 1st round pick and try to move up to 6th to get Amukamara before San Fransisco does. 2) The more likely scenario, is the Lions can take a chance and draft troubled cornerback, Jimmy Smith.

The media has had a field day with Smith lately. He has had run ins with the law for drinking under age and failed either one or four drug tests (depending on which report you read). Definitely does not sound like a player you want to take a chance on in the first round. But some things are not always black and white. Whatever Smith's problems were, they happened early on. He has said he was young and stupid and needed to grow up. The fact that he has not had any red flags in the last two years only lends his statements credit.

Personally, I don't care what he has done in the past. Whether it was drinking, pot, meth, robbery or grand theft auto, as long as it stays in the past, I am fine. It is not what a man has done in the past that matters, but who he is now that counts. Jimmy Smith has the size, speed and talent to be a shut down corner in the NFL. He would make an immediate impact on the Lions. He is ranked a top-10 pick if not for the problems in his past. So if he has cleaned up his act, the Lions should absolutely draft him with the 13th pick in the 2011 NFL draft.

Consider this. If the Lions pass up on him.... The Lions are an up and coming team. They ended the 2010 season with a four game winning streak. If they continue to show they can win, the Lions may be years before they get a pick in the first half of the first round again. With that in mind, ask yourself one thing. How long will it be before the Lions get another chance at a shut down corner again? This could be their last chance for years to come and they need to get him while they can. The Lions absolutely should either trade up and get the Prince, or sit tight and take Jimmy Smith.

It will be easier in the future to get a top linebacker in the later part of the first round than it will be to get a shut down corner.


Lions Review 2010 - Defensive Backs

Cornerbacks and Safeties are possibly the one position on the Detroit Lions that is worse off than linebackers. Like the linebacker, it is of utmost importance to address this position before the new season. If there is one.

CB-Alphonso Smith:
He is only going into his third season, but as of now he is a question mark. Smith started off the 2010 season like gangbusters and quickly became a fan favorite. He was among the leaders in the NFL for interceptions for the first half of the season. He had the nerve to take chances and go after the big play and it paid off. Then he played against Tom Brady and was burnt several times. He had his worst game as a pro and never seemed to recover during the remainder of the year. If he can return to form and play like he did the first half, he is a viable starter.

CB-Chris Houston:
Once the new CBA is in effect, it is expected that Houston will become an unrestricted free-agent. The Lions have every intention on bringing him back. He also had off season shoulder surgery but should be healthy before the new season. Houston is likely a 50-50 chance of being on the Lions at this time, but it doesn't make a real big difference. He is not a true starter and would only add depth…. If Cornerback is addressed. If not, then he will start.

S-Louis Delmas:
Right now he is the only true up and coming star worthy player on the Lions defensive backfield. As a rookie he opened eyes and raise eyebrows. Last year the fans seemed to believe he wasn't playing as well. I disagree. I saw him make his usual flying missile tackles in the backfield. He played solid. He simply didn't have the picks he had the year before. He is good and still young enough to get better.

S-Amari Spievey:
A rookie in 2010, Spievey was drafted as a cornerback and changed into a safety. At times he looked to be picking it up but most of the time he didn't look so good. Too often he took bad angles, found himself out of position and most distressing of them all, he was not tackling very well. Known for his tackling, Spievey started trying to hit and not tackle. It is a disease that runs in the Lions secondary. Players tend to lower shoulders and hit a ball carrier and not wrap them up. Too often it leads to the ball carrier simply bouncing away and continuing to run. If Spievey is going to continue to be a starting safety, he will have to learn to wrap up and finish the tackles.

2011 Outlook:
If the Lions can add one true starting cornerback, it would help their defense immensely and immediately. There is a lot of talk about the Lions drafting a defensive end in the first round, but a cornerback would make a much bigger impact.


Lions Review 2010 - Linebackers

Linebacker is arguably the weakest position on the Detroit Lions. They are depended upon to support both the Linemen in the run game and the defensive backs in the passing game. Without a good linebacker crew, either the defensive line or the defensive backs are left on an island with no room to make any mistakes. With that much pressure on them, they cannot gamble as often as they would like. As things stand right now, The Detroit Lions would enter the new season (if there is one) with DeAndre Levy in the middle and Bobby Carpenter and Ashlee Palmer on the outside.

DeAndre Levy:
Often the talk is about him moving to the outside. Some draft experts believe the Lions will take a certain linebacker in the 2nd or 3rd round and do just that. Don’t believe it. The Lions officials have already said that they would much rather go into the new season with Levy in the middle. He is a good and very intelligent player in the middle and the play of the Linebackers picked up immensely when he returned from injury last year. If the Lions draft a linebacker, it will be one that fits the outside.

Ashlee Palmer & Bobby Carpenter:
Neither one is considered to be a great up and coming linebacker. Neither is a detriment to the team in any way. Both are very good as back up players and could become decent starters, but the Lions need a very good starter. Not just a decent one.

Zack Follett:
A fan favorite and has the ability to become a pretty good outside linebacker. But he has a lot of learning to do and that might not happen with his neck injury. He says he is coming back, but there is a common belief that his career may be over. Only time will tell.

The Rest:
The rest on the roster at this time are likely career backups. The fact that they are only back-ups on a weak Lions linebacker crew tells you their value.

2011 Outlook:
The Detroit Lions must address the outside linebacker positions. They do not use a weak side and strong side linebacker in their defensive scheme. The Lions use two outside linebackers and do not switch sides according to the offense they face. Both outside linebackers need to be good at covering the pass as well as stopping the run. If they cannot add a good linebacker in the first three rounds of the draft, they will be desperate to find a good one in free-agency.