I AM BACK!!!!!

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

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2/19/11

Lions Review 2010 - Wide Receivers

The Detroit Lions receivers are a good group that can become great under the right circumstances. Calvin Johnson had a good season and it was still well below what he is capable of. Burleson is better than his numbers showed us as well. They need two other ingredients to reach their potential. A third member who can contribute and a quarterback who is willing to air it out.

Calvin Johnson:
Roy Williams gave him the nickname of "Megatron" and it was for a good reason. Calvin is arguably the most perfect prototypical receiver in the NFL. At 6'5" and 236 pounds, he has the size to make him a mismatch over almost any defensive back in the league. Calvin has the speed to blow past them, the leaping ability to go over top of them and the hands to fight them for it and come down with it. There is truly not one receiver in the NFL that I would trade him for straight up. There are several others who have better numbers year in and year out, but don't make the mistake of looking at numbers only. Switch them up and Johnson would excel in their situations and they would falter in his.

Taking the risk that I will sound like a broken recording, it was nearly impossibly for Johnson to excel when the quarterback will not throw the ball more than seven yards unless the receiver had nobody even close to him. It is absolutely a crime that he is grabbing less than 80 catches a season. Yes he was targeted a lot, but when most of the attempts are short yardage where linemen can knock down the passes and linebackers can get in the way as well, there will be less completions. Johnson needs to be given the chance to separate from his coverage.

Nate Burleson:
I liked the signing last year and I like it now. Burleson has shown that he has the ability to step it up when the defenses pay too much attention to Calvin Johnson. He is a solid veteran with very good hands and he runs great routes. He has enough speed to make him an inside threat but he is lacking true deep speed.

Nate Burleson did not have one of his best seasons stats wise, but he was always fighting defenses that played in tight, giving him less room to make plays.

Yet it is not the field where Burleson is his most valuable. He is a leader in the locker-room. He showed Calvin Johnson how to have fun again, and that can go a long ways towards keeping Calvin when his contract is up. That can go a long ways towards Calvin being at his best.

When you have a player who helps his team off the field as much as he does on the field, he is a player you try to keep.

(TE) Brandon Pettigrew:
The only thing keeping Pettigrew from being one of the top three tight ends in the NFL is his focus. He has size and speed, and believe it or not, he has great hands. He has the athletic ability to make some of the best catches I have ever seen from a tight end. His problem is focusing on the ball when it hits him in the chest.

When the ball is on target and he has room to run, Pettigrew stops concentrating on the catch, and instead looks to make a play. Most all of his drops came from passes that would be considered by most high school kids as easy to catch. Make the pass difficult and his concentration level jumps and he makes catches that a tight end should not be making.

Little fact: Pettigrew, a tight end, had only 6 fewer catches than Calvin Johnson.

(TE) Tony Scheffler:
Scheffler is a good tight end, but not great. His 55 grabs is nothing for a tight end to be ashamed of. Especially when he is sharing the field with another good tight end. So not only does he lose receptions to the great receivers, but he becomes the second fiddle in the tight end options as well.

If the Lions lost Scheffler, they would not take a very huge hit, but if they have him healthy, he is still a good player to have on the field.

Other Receivers:
Bryant Johnson and Derrick Williams have been nothing more than disappointments. Neither seems able to catch the ball and neither is shifty enough to gain separation and stretch the field. Neither draws enough attention to take pressure off of Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson.

Stefan Logan is a very good player, but he is more of a small shifty, speedy running back than a burner at wide receiver. As a WR, he is too small and can be shoved off of his route to easily. As a RB, he can get lost behind the giant linemen and find room to break away for some yards.

Brian Clark and Alric Arnett? If either left the team would anyone notice?

2011 Outlook:
As many times as the Lions have taken receivers in past drafts, the fans are snake bitten. But don't allow your fears to get in the way of success. If the Lions can get a true speedster who can actually catch the ball in the third round or later? They should do it. They don't want a receiver who would come in as competition to Calvin Johnson as the top dog, but they need a player who can stretch the defense on the other side of the field to pull some attention away from Calvin and the short route receivers. He doesn't have to be a big guy. He has to be fast, quick and have decent hands. The ability to run a few routes would help as well.

If the Lions can find that other speedy wide-out, it would do more than just open up the other receivers. It would force the safeties to take a step back. That in turn can force the linebackers to play a little back to cover the middle of the field. All of that would only open more room for the running backs to do their jobs.

2/13/11

Lions Review 2010 - Running Backs

The 2010 season made it hard to give an honest review of the Detroit Lions running backs. For most of the season the Lions running game was non-existent, and yet, there were some extraneous circumstances to say the least. The best I can do is give the good and bad of each player.

Jahvid Best:
The Detroit Lions traded with the Vikings to move back into the first round and take Best with their second 1st round pick of the 2010 draft. He showed some flashes of what he can be but suffering two turf toe injuries held him down. When healthy, Best has extreme speed as well as great shiftiness with decent vision to help him escape tackles.

Many fans believe Best is better off being used like a Reggie Bush type of player. Those analogies come from the fact he was injured and not being the prototypical size for a running back. I for one, am not one of those believers. If you look back through the best running backs in history, many of them are the 195 to 205 pound speedy and shifty kind of players.

If Best can stay healthy, he can be an every down starter, but he will be dependent on the Lions willingness to throw the ball down field. He needs the defense to be on their heels to give him that little extra running room. But then, every running back needs that.

Kevin Smith:
He looked like he might be a decent running back in his rookie season but has not shown that since. A lot of fans like him. They believe he is a great compliment to Jahvid Best. I don't see it. Smith has mediocre speed, and mid level running power. He has very good vision and is a good blocking back, but those two things without speed or power are nothing to get excited about. In no way is he a threat to a defense. He simply cannot break away for a long touchdown and he will not break many tackles either. Pile his inability to stay healthy on top of that and he becomes the least valuable running back on the team.

Smith is an average running back who is injury prone. Not something the Lions should be spending a roster spot on.

Maurice Morris:
Morris reminds me of Thomas Jones but just not as good. He is the kind of running back who always seems to play well when given a chance to carry the load, but nobody ever wants to let him continue to carry the load. When Smith went down in 2009, Morris came in and played well. When Best and Smith were injured in 2010? Morris came in and had some of the best running games of the season for the Lions. Yet most fans see Best and Smith as the top running backs again for 2011.

Maurice Morris runs north and south and runs with above average power. He is not extremely shifty, but he has the ability to hit the hole on the run and burst through it. He would make an outstanding backup running back to give Best a break when he needs it. Unfortunately the Thomas Jones in him will relegate him to third string while a player with lesser talent and injury prone is placed above him.

Aaron Brown:
When he gets the chance, he often makes decent yardage, but he lacks vision and patience. Brown runs hard and goes all out to get yardage, but he does not change directions to hit open field or make players miss. He is a bee line runner who lets his speed get as many yards as possible before he runs into a defensive player.

Jerome Felton:
Listed as a full back, Felton is more of a large running back, and though the fans seem to like him, he is really wasting a spot on the roster. The Lions need a fullback who can lead block and blow the linebackers or safeties out of the holes to free Best for longer gains. Something Felton is not very strong at. It is rare the Lions will use him to lead block and instead, he is often used to run the ball. Yet he does not run with any true power. I have never heard any player comment on how he hates to run into Felton.

Felton is a big running back who runs with more power than anyone else on the Lions roster, but not with a lot of power in comparison to other fullbacks in the league. The Lions would be better of acquiring a fullback who hits like a train.

Stefan Logan:
In Logan, the Lions may just have a very special player, but they don't seem to realize just how special. They see him as a great return man who can come in and give an odd play here and there. In the CFL, Logan had over 7 yards per carry and his ability has shone through in his limited chances with the Lions. In 2010 he only had 15 carries but gained 93 yards for 6.3 yards per carry. This coming in a season when the Lions running backs had very little room.

Logan has great speed, is extremely quick and shifty and is the rare case where his lack of size is actually a good thing. He is only 5' 6" tall and 190 lbs. That small size allows him to get lost behind the big guys battling in the trenches and the linebackers and safeties have a hard time following him. If the Lions would use him more, he may just show what he can do.

2011 Outlook:
Likely the RB situation will be the same as 2010, with Best and Smith leading the troops and Morris and Felton backing them up. Brown may make the roster another year but likely it would be his last.

If I had it my way however, I would see Best as the starter and Morris as the backup and Brown and Felton holding down the reserves. I would try to get anything I can for Smith and I would work Logan much more into the picture than he was last year. I would even like to see some two RB sets with Best and Logan together. I would be rid of Smith and maybe even Brown and look to sign a true fullback.

The running game will really depend on the passing game however. If the Lions will throw down field and force the defense to back off a little, the RBs will find more room. If Stafford gets hurt again however, and Hill becomes the starter? The Lions will once again find themselves without a running game because Hill tends to never throw the ball more than 7 yards deep.