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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2/27/12

Should Detroit Lions Pay Up for Cliff Avril?

DE, Cliff Avril wants to be paid like and elite player at his position. The Lions would like to resign him, but should they pay him what he wants?

First let us face some simple facts. If the Lions do not sign Avril, it is very unlikely the player who takes his place will give us 11 sacks. As a pass rusher he is very good and it is not all because of the attention Ndamukong Suh and the other defensive linemen draw. For that reason, the Lions are a better team with Cliff Avril manning the defensive end position than any of the others or even a rookie.

Yet you cannot completely discount the fact that Suh does draw double teams either. This does make Avril's job easier and though another player in his position would likely not get 11 sacks, if they are even decent, they should still get 7 or 8 sacks. If the Lions let Avril move on and replaced him with a player who gets 7 sacks and uses the money saved to add another player who improves another unit, that very well may be the better route.

So it is not simply a question about whether the Lions should sign him for what he wants or let him go. The question is more about, at what point is the money they would save and added to bringing another player in, more valuable than the 4 sacks more that Avril would bring to the table?

The Lions should definitely sign Cliff Avril.... if the price is right. If they cannot get him at a fair value and instead can add the money saved to what they would already offer a top-10 cornerback... well, then I say let Avril walk. The Lions would be better off with Avril than Lawrence Jackson if they cant improve the defensive back positions. Then again, they would be better off with Jackson and a top CB than Avril and what we already have in the defensive backfield.

I like Cliff Avril. I like the Detroit Lions more. The right thing for the Lions to do is to do what actually makes them a better team.

The simple fact is they will not always be able to keep everyone. The better they become, the more players they will be forced to watch walk away because those players want to make more money. Mayhew's job is not to try and keep everyone, but to make the best of every situation. To look over what players they potentially might lose and players they potentially may get and decide which players they can most afford to let walk. The Lions can afford to let Avril walk if he will not settle for less than elite status. They have a lot of depth on the D-line and Avril walking would not be a huge blow. The money can be used to improve other positions. So right now, Avril is the one free agent the Lions have the most freedom to play hardball with. And that is what they should do.

2/18/12

2011 Was a Deceiving Season for the Detroit Lions Offense

The Detroit Lions went 10-6 in their first winning season in forever. They made the play-offs and lost to the New Orleans Saints, who was a front runner to win the Superbowl at the time. Matthew Stafford played a full season and threw for over 5,000 yards. Most fans are happy with how the season went. It seems most fans see a defense that needs to be addressed and are happy with the offense. Most fans are being deceived.

In the ten wins of 2011, how many teams with winning records did the Lions beat? ... None! Not once did they beat a team that was better than average. The average record of the teams they beat? 6-10.

Well maybe the Lions played well and just barely lost to the better teams, right? Not so fast. In the Lions six losses, they were outscored 188 to 121. That averages out to be 31 to 20 per game. And that is including the 41 to 45 debacle in Green Bay to end the season. Take that game away and they were outscored 143 to 80 in the other five games. That averages to be 28 to 16 per game. In fact, the 41 points they scored in Green Bay was the only loss in which they scored more than 19 points. Their lowest opponents score was 23.

Now just stop and think about what this is saying. Look at the entire picture here for the Lions offense. Matthew Stafford had possibly the 5th best season for a quarterback in NFL history. He had the 5th all-time yards, 5th in completions, 3rd in attempts, and 7th all-time in touchdowns. Calvin Johnson's season was the 7th best in yards for a receiver in NFL history and his 16 TD's was 14th best. Brandon Pettigrew had the third most receptions for Tight Ends in 2011. How do you have those kind of players and have such a bad offense every time you play a decent team?

I went through the season looking for how many good solid drives the offense put together for a touchdown. This only includes drives starting in their own territory and the TD did not come on a big play. These are solid, consistent, play by the offense type of drives. There were only 6 games where the Lions had more than 2 good drives. Three times they had less than 2 good drives. A good offense should be able to put together at least two good drives a game.

In a 16 game schedule there are 64 quarters of play. The Lions had 29 quarters (45%) with no touchdowns. They had 13 quarters (20%) where they scored more than 1 TD. A total of 28 TDs. Think on that for a moment.... 56% of the Offense's touchdowns came inside of only 20% of the quarters they played! To put it in perspective, the Lions big time offense did most of their scoring inside of only 13 quarters while that same offense had no touchdowns in 29 quarters. To put it even clearer, they had this inconsistent and bad output on a season they played 10 games against opponents with 8-8 or worse records.

In the large picture, these are not horrible numbers, but they are far from being the numbers of a good offense. The Detroit Lions offense that sports the likes of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Brandon Pettigrew, surrounded by other good receivers, should be more consistent than this. That offense should not disappear when they face a decent team. They had far too many games where the offense was non-existent for half of the game. 8 games where they only scored 1 TD or less in the entire first half! Why?

The first answer off most fans lips will be there was no running game. And they would be right. But why was there no running game? That is a two part answer.

1) Running Back issues - The Lions RBs were nothing special, and definitely nothing to fear. Maurice Morris looks to have finally hit his end. Smith had one good game against the worst run defense in the NFL, other than that he is mediocre at best. Jahvid Best cannot stay healthy. The truth is, the Lions have average running backs and nothing more. But even with average running backs, they should still have an average running game wouldn't you say? The Lions running game was Horrible with a Capital "H"! That leads to the second part.

2) Scheme - Far too often the RBs were asked to carry the ball on delayed hand-offs as they used the Draw Play out of the shotgun. There will never be a good running game that thrives from the shotgun scheme. But not only did they have to run from the shotgun half the time, but when they were under conventional sets, the running backs never had a lead blocker.

Single back running games are meant for running backs like Barry Sanders or Chris Johnson. They are meant for players that are so quick and shifty and have such good vision the defense cannot pin them down. You put in average to decent running backs in a single back style, and they will not make a good living.

Yet the Lions Offensive Coordinator, Scott Linehan insists on running a shotgun set and even when he comes out of the shotgun, he stays in the single back set. When he wants more blocking, he uses two tight ends. Now that might work to some degree, IF the running plays were called to the outside more often. But to have a two TE set and run inside most of the time where those TE's have no effect? Ridiculous! Then to run inside so often, not only with a single back set and average running backs, but to do it behind an underpowered Center? Pure foolishness.

The Lions offense this season was a big inconsistent problem when you really get down and look past the total points and passing yards. That problem was not due to a lack of talent so much as a coordinator who refused to adapt to what talent he had. He had great passing talent and stuck with that. He had mediocre running talent and was not willing to adapt his scheme to help it.

2/15/12

Matthew Stafford's Phenomenal 2011 Season

Recently ex-running back and now NFL analyst, Marshall Faulk, said he was not impressed with Matthew Stafford's 5,038 yard passing season. He says that throwing 5000 yards is the norm for the NFL now and if you have Calvin Johnson you better throw for 5000 yards. Which goes to prove a point I have made to others in the past. Just because you have a job in a particular field, it doesn't mean you really know what you are doing in that field. Faulk was a great running back in the NFL. As an analyst, he is only slightly more impressive than Matt Millen as a GM.

In the history of the NFL, only 4 players have thrown for 5,000 or more yards in a single season. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Dan Marino were the other three. Only Brees has done it twice. As great as both the Manning brothers are, neither has thrown for 5,000 yards in a season. As great as Aaron Rodgers has been, he has not done it. Stafford did it in his first full season. How is that not impressive?

In 2011, after having off-season shoulder surgery, and at only 23 years old, Matthew Stafford had one of the best seasons ever for an NFL quarterback. His 5,038 yards is the 5th most in NFL history. Stafford's 421 completions ranks 5th most and his 663 attempts is 3rd highest. Stafford had 41 touchdowns in 2011 as well which happens to be the 7th most all time. I don't care who you are throwing to, those are extremely impressive numbers.

On a further note, Matt's 520 yard game against the Packers on New Years day 2012, was the 5th most yards in a single game ever and is the highest among all active quarterbacks.

Yes I will give in that Calvin Johnson just may be the best wide receiver to ever play the game, but he was not the sole reason for Stafford's great season. Calvin had 96 catches. That only ranks out as the 86th highest in history. That means Stafford threw 325 completions to receivers not named Calvin. Take Johnson out of the picture all together and Stafford still threw for 3,357 yards (which would rank him at 17th in the NFL last year), and 25 touchdowns (10th). Deducting Johnson all together and Stafford was still better than average, and that is a very flawed number because he still would have thrown those passes to someone to raise his numbers above those mediocre rankings.

There is no doubt that Calvin Johnson's presence makes Stafford a lot better. Just as Randy Moss made Brady better in his 50 TD season. Just as Welker and Gronkowski does now. Or as Jerry Rice made Joe Montana and Steve Young better. On the other hand, that fact can be turned around. One could easily say that Matthew Stafford's presence makes Calvin Johnson better. After all, this is Johnson's 5th season and by far his best. He had 350 yards, 4 touchdowns and 18 receptions above his career highs in those categories.

Marshall Faulk was a good running back, but comments like that only serve to discredit him as an analyst. Any way you try to cut it, Matthew Stafford, in his first full season as a Detroit Lion, had one of the best seasons ever for a quarterback in the NFL.