Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Lionbacker Fantasy Football Blog

I'm considering an informal tie-in of my blog to the guys at Lionbacker. They have a blog here on Blogger as well, related to fantasy football. It's at Lionbacker Fantasy Football Blog and they have some decent stuff on there. If I were to tie in, I'd likely get a Lionbacker logo and a few of their additional links Since I'm anything but a html genius, it may take a while before anything happens. In any case, I'll probably be posting more often with my Lions thoughts. Especially now that I've found a few of these new tools - the Blog This button and the e-mail new posts methods. Should be fun...

Upon further review...

Looking at the TiVo again, I came away with the following items...

- We need to work the next two weeks on one subject - BLITZING. Both the Defense doing more of it and the Offense learning how to pick it up. We got killed last night because of our inability to do either. And here's the thing - I think they are directly related to one another. Since Juaron doesn't send people that much, the O gets very limited work in picking up the blitz. The O-Line looked completely out of sync, and KJ looked lost in picking up the LB's. I think this is likely more of a matter of repetition than a systemic weakness. But it begs the question - why haven't they gotten enough practice time against the blitz? I think it may have to do with Juaron not wanting to blitz too much. It's just my thinking, but it seems to make sense.

- The D really missed Baby and Hall. When you don't play with your two best D-Linemen, you definitely lose something up front. And we had NO pressure on Bulger last night. Plus, their guards were able to quickly get to our LB's on sweeps. Add those two back in, and it would likely create a much different look. Without them, I think it shows just how vulnerable we are at D-Line.

- I'm more convinced than ever that if you ring Joey's bell early in the game that it will throw him off for the rest of the game. The Rams got to him early and often, and Joey never felt comfortable back there after that. You really can't blame him for hurrying throws when he was taking that kind of a pounding. That's why it's imperative that the O-Line figures out how to handle the blitz. With all that being said, he didn't look too bad during the game. If CRog and Pollard make their catches, he goes 12-18 with a TD or two instead of 9-18.

- One of the reasons our receivers can't get separation is because of how aggressive the D was against us. They simply never had time to get down the field and get open. The D was attacking on all fronts and had the Lions managed to pick up that blitz, it's pretty likely that at least one of the receivers would have gotten open for a big gainer. Again, it all goes back to the Line.

- As I predicted, the Rams were in their full regular season mode for the game. Martz had some very creative play calls on O that took maximum advantage of his personnel. Their D was stunting and blitzing from multiple angles, overloading sides, delaying bltizes, and generally creating havoc. The Lions opened up the playbook some, but still ran mostly vanilla plays. Our blitzes never seemed to get near Bulger, and based on the Rams O-Line, I guess that shouldn't be a surprise.

It is still preseason. They do have time to work out the kinks before the regular season opens. Hopefully they can figure some of them out...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Game Notes - Preseason vs Rams: UGH-LY...

Looks like it's paper-bag time again in Motown. That had to be one of the worst performances I've seen in a long time. I must keep reminding myself "it's only preseason", but it's hard to believe that the team can flip a switch and be significantly better in 2 weeks against Green Bay. Where to begin...

Well, Where I always say the game starts and ends is with the O-Line. This game started and ended with our O-Line forgetting this this was a game, not a 'no-touch' practice. Dominic Raiola got owned in this game as he completely missed his assignment at least 3 times, got called for a holding on a screen pass, and just didn't get anything done. Backus whiffed a few times as well. Butler looked like the inexperienced guy he is, and DeMulling had another sub-par game. There was no decent pass blocking, no decent run blocking, and a lot of stupid penalties. Ouch.

The next problem is something that must be remedied - KJ couldn't pick up fat ass Claiborne on a blitz. Here we dumped that ball a few years back, and he's proven to be worthless with the ViQueens, and then he bowls over KJ. I just don't get it. KJ has to improve there, and soon.

Now we get to the pitch-n-catch game. This looked like last season in a microcosm. There were a few balls that were dropped, Joey threw behind a few receivers, and everything just looked off. It appears that one of my biggest fears about JH is a valid one - he gets gun-shy when he gets hit too often. He absolutely got pounded back there, getting hit on 3 step drops, sacked several times before he could even set his feet, having the pocket collapse on him. When he gets into his gun-shy mode is when he is throwing off his back foot, and starts underthrowing his receivers. And with the pressure the Rams put on him, it shouldn't be any wonder that he got gun-shy. And after all of that, the dropsies came back. Here I thought Pollard was supposed to have sure hands, and he let one hit him on the shoulder pads and bounce off. CRog lost concentration a few times as well.

Finally we get to the running game. Perhaps the only game facet that didn't look too bad was KJ. Unfortunately, when he gets blown up behind the line of scrimmage, it's kinda hard for him to get any positive yardage. Of course he positives were severly brought down by the bad blitz pickup. Ugh.

On the D side, I am going to make this my calling card - WE NEED COREY SIMON!!! Millen - go get the guy and sign him NOW. And while you're at it, would you care to find a few more CB's as well? And perhaps a backup safety as I never want to see Bracey Walker on a football field again. Once again, he got toasted for a quick six for Isaac Bruce after he missed a zone coverage switch. We saw him miss that play enough times last year, did we really need to see it again? Speaking of D-Backs, where the heck were they? The Rams receivers were consistently open all game. Bulger had not only plenty of time to throw, but he had receivers without defenders within 10 yards of them on several occasions. I turned off the game around the start of the 4th quarter, and the Rams still had not punted. That should say it all.

Were there any positives? Off hand, I'd say no. Well, maybe the D did look like they forced a few turnovers, only to have a few called back by stupid penalties. The penalties were hideous. We may have the only team I know of that can get 1st and goal on the 5, and somehow run two plays and end up with 1st and goal on the 25. And Hanson looked good kicking those field goals. Ugh.

Is it too late for me to change my season prediction?

My position on Joey Harrington

There are two articles that accurately present my position on Joey Harrington - that we jsut don't know what to think about him. Here they are, and the relevant sections of each.
Jeffri Chadiha - - Pressure's on Harrington
There's too much talent around him. There are too many reasons for him to succeed. In short, there are no more excuses to explain his struggles. I admit to being one of Harrington's defenders, because, like a lot of young quarterbacks, he deserves time to grow up. I've wanted to know what he could do with a supporting cast of playmakers around him. Now, in year four of his tenure with the Lions, we're about to find out. The critics who bash Harrington the most tend to overlook the problems Detroit has had with its passing game since his arrival. He didn't have any receivers as a rookie, unless you want to mistakenly classify Az-Zahir Hakim and Bill Schroeder as reliable targets. Injuries have limited Rogers, the second pick in the '03 draft, to only six games over his first two seasons (which is another reason to have Mike Williams in the fold). And Roy Williams limped through most of his rookie season after exciting fans with his potential. Regardless of Harrington's deficiencies, this isn't the way to find out what kind of quarterback the Lions have.

Jerry Green - Detroit News - Quarterback controversy is nothing new for Lions
But Joey Harrington, in my view, has been a bust mostly because Charles Rogers has been injured early in the past two seasons. Joey has been a bust because the acrobatic Roy Williams dropped an occasional pass in a critical situation. He has been a bust because Az-Zahir Hakim has butterfingers. He has been a bust because he has lacked reliable tight ends.

He has been a bust because after his most stirring moments as a pro -- the 80-yard drive against the clock against Minnesota -- the Lions failed to manage a proper snap on the extra-point attempt.

I think both of those columns sum it all up perfectly.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Joey Harrington's Scientific Evaluation

So there is this ESPN Insider columnist - KC Joyner - that I've never heard of spouting off that he's done this 'scientific analysis' of Joey Harrington and David Carr. He calls himself the Football Scientist even. In his ratings, he rates Carr as nearly god-like and Joey as an NFL bottom feeder. Yet when I read the descriptions, he is incredibly inconsistent in his definitions, and he spouts some numbers that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Being a scientist and engineer myself, I'm a bit mystified by the things this guy has written...

He rates Joey and David's play with some criteria he calls 'bad decisions', which is completely subjective. That's fine, but it's far from scientific. Personally, if I'm going to use statistics to back up a point, I like to make sure they are actually statistics, not something that's as interpretive as your personal review of a QB's decision making. Where I'm really surprised is how he claims that Carr made only 10 bad decisions all of last season. Heck, there were at least 6 plays Carr would like to have had back in the single game against the Lions. He threw 1 int, was sacked 5 times, and missed open receivers at least 4 more times. In my book, most of those count as Bad Decisions. An INT is always a bad decision in my book. Coverage sacks are always bad decisions as well.

Some people have this impression that by having a QB take sacks instead of throwing the ball away or dumping it off is a good thing, because he opens the possibility of hitting a big play. This is probably the dumbest criticism I have ever heard about Joey.

A sack is NEVER better than a dump off or a throw away.

On a sack, you lose yardage, you lose a down, and you exposed your QB to injury. Any one of those things is not good, all three are combined to kill drives and cause teams to lose games. Want proof? Simply look to the first preseason game - Joey is sacked on consecutive plays, we go from 2nd and 15 at the 20 - an easily makable field goal - to 4th and forever from the 36 yard line. Hanson would have had to try a 54 yard field goal from that spot. AND our starting QB got hit twice, risking injury twice. Regardless of your feelings about Joey, you don't want your QB to get hit. You want him to have a clean jersey at the end of the game.

Do you want your QB to stand in the pocket and take as much time as he needs to complete a pass? Absolutely. Do you want him to hold on, waiting for a receiver to come open and get crushed because he can't find anyone open? Not in a million years.

With all of that, I can't buy this guy's premise that Carr made only 10 bad decisions all of last season. Heck, Carr threw 14 INT's...

Next, and I've been preaching this one for a while, it's nearly impossible in any offense to play WR Roulette and expect positive results. When your starting receivers change on a weekly basis, the adjustments a QB has to make are tremendous. The Lions lined up the same top 3 WR's in consecutive weeks only 2 times last year. In every other single week, at least one of the top 3 WR's changed. 5 times, 2 of the 3 starting WR's were different from one week to the next. It's foolish to not take this into account when judging a QB, yet this genius poo-pooh's it as insignificant.

Do Roy Williams, Tai Streets, David Kircus and Reggie Swinton all run routes at the same speed, preciseness and position on the field? Absolutely not - yet that progression of receivers lined up at the Flanker position happened in games 9-12 last season. To think that a QB having to make those kind of adjustments to where he throws the ball on all those timing routes won't be affected by his receivers is foolish.

To look at it from another viewpoint - I saw something last year on ESPN on Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. Apparently, they have a routine where after ever practice, and in pre-game warmups, they play pitch and catch for all 18 different routes that Harrison will run. This is in addition to their regular practice. They have been doing this ever since Harrison came into the league. Of course Manning and Harrison have the best chemistry of any QB-WR combo in the league - and it's in large part because they continually practice and repeat this little game. Manning doesn't even have to think about where Harrison will be on a route, he instinctively knows. He can concentrate on his other receivers and use Harrison as his 3rd option because he knows exactly where he'll be if the first two options aren't there, and it requires very little time to assess whether Marvin is open. He can throw to Marvin on a double hitch move before he even makes his cut because he knows exactly where Marvin will be.

Now contrast that to Joey lining up with a new flanker every week. The difference is astounding.

Was Joey great last year? Nope. Was he even good? Not really. Can you separate his stats from the players he had to work with? Not a chance.

One final thought - That writer commented that Carr had some below-average WR talent with Jabar Gaffney, Corey Bradford and Derek Armstrong. He failed to mention that Carr did have Andre Johnson all year - his #1 target. Joey had his #1 go down on the 3rd play of the season and his #2 was playing on one ankle after game 4. He only wishes his remaining targets were as talented as Bradford, Gaffney and Anderson...

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hey, I'm learning...

As I play around more and more with this blog, I'm learning how to do more and more stuff. Like adding pictures. And finally getting hyperlinks up and running. Who knows, maybe I'll even figure out how to get my posts published sooner...

Saturday, August 13, 2005


One preseason game down, 3 to go. We may have learned a bit about the Lions Friday, but it's still early and based on one preseason game, it's hard to say what we saw will be what we see the entire season. But we did see some things that looked improved from last year, and some things that looked very similar. Here is my impression of what I saw Friday.

QB - Joey looked good. Not great, but good. The 9 for 9 passing was great to see. There was once or twice I thought he left his first read a bit early, but it's hard to argue with the numbers. I'll take that kind of production any day of the week.
Garcia - well I hope that he just has to work some bugs out. He looked like a panicked rookie out there with happy feet. He threw off his back foot several times, he hurried a few throws, and he left the pocket very quickly - too quickly for my taste. I'm going to sound like a broken record by the time I'm done writing this, but it was only the first preseason game - let's see some more before we make a final judgement.
Orlovsky looked like... well, the rookie that he is. He's big, pretty mobile, has a strong arm, and his head was definitely swimming. He's a rook in his first preseason game so what did we expect?

From this point forward, I'll simply abbreviate It's The First PreSeason Game as ITFPSG. Saves a lot of typing the same thing over and over...

RB - KJ looked good. Maybe not quite last 8 games of last season good, but hey, ITFPSG. And 3 carries is never enough to really judge a back on anyway.
The Toose looked OK to me. He does some good things, but you can easily see why the Lions took KJ instead of leaving their ground attack to him. He'll be an OK backup. I don't think he's starter quality no matter how good he thinks he is.
I don't know if Bryson had more than 4 snaps in the game. I only remember one carry.
Howard Jackson is small. Maybe he can return kicks, if not, it's time for him to say "Hello, Arena League".
Sledge broke his leg and will be out 6-8 weeks. Plan on 8. Not good, but maybe it opens up the 3 WR sets. We'll have to see...

WR - Roy was in mid-season form. Great tip-toe sideline catch. 'nuff said.
Chuck looked good. He took a good hit with no effect. Caught a nice sideline grab. We'll be solid with him and Roy.
KJ2 caught everything near him.
BMW looked like a rookie - a few great plays, a few rookie mistakes. Give him some time, he'll be fine. He definitely looks like a TE after he catches the ball though - great strength.
Vines had the dropsies yesterday. With the way everyone else was catching the ball, that made it stand out even more. But again, ITFPSG, so give him another chance.
Kircus may have had 2 balls thrown in his vicinity, but neither was well thrown.
Hamilton looked OK, but he dropped one as well.
Savoy looked pretty good. The competition between those 4 for the final roster spot will be very interesting, and will almost surely come down to the final preseason game.

TE - Pollard caught 1 pass that I can recall. Didn't see too much of him out there.
Fitzsimmons looked good - just like every other time we've seen him. A few good catches.
Randall should make the squad. He looked good

OL - Here is where the disappointments start coming in.
Backus and DeMulling should take 100% of the blame for our first drive stalling. 1st and 10 - DeMulling whiffed and KJ gets dropped for -5. 2nd and 15, Backus does his best 'ole!' move and Harrington get sacked quickly. 3rd and 26, Backus does another 'ole!', his guy pulls Joey's shoulder around, then DeMulling's guy finishes Joey off. BAD job by those two.
Butler - looked decent playing against tough competition. I think the Kid may just work, but ITFPSG.
Raiola and Woody - Nothing wrong there. Plus we didn't see Woody's butt crack at all which makes this a very good game.

Sorry, but I'm getting bored with the detailed descriptions. Here is the quick version for the D - It stunk on one drive - the 98 yard drive by the Jets 1st team O - but did OK the rest of the game. That one drive though is enough to make anyone nervous as the D looked very similar to last year where they just couldn't get off the field on 3rd down. I hope for a much better performance in the next game. Of course the next game is against Cleveland, so that may not be saying much. As for the positionsl breakdowns...

DL - Did those guys play? I didn't see anyone on the DLine make any type of play the entire game. Very unimpressed. Even Baby didn't show up for this one. The two Rooks - Cody and Swancutt - looked like they had some effort, but neither got to the QB.

LB - Wow, these guys looked rusty. Boss was fast, but too fast for his own good. Shake off that rust Boss and don't overrun plays. Teddy looked OK, but mostly because he was flying around, not necessarily at anyone in particular. No one else stood out.

DB - Well... Bryant didn't impress me. McQ did. Wilson looked a lot better than I thought he would. That undrafted free arent kid from Penn State whose dad was Millen's roomie (the fact that I remember that story from the broadcast is really frightening) looked good. T Holt led the team in tackles. I don't think the Jets even tried to throw at Dre.

In general, this was a boring game after the first two series. We didn't stop the Jets on a 98 yard drive, and two of our drives stalled inside the 20. Now it's wait til the next game...