Monday, September 19, 2005

Game Notes - @ Bears: Ouch...

Is there really any other way to describe it? Maybe Jeckyl and Hyde may be more appropriate. Our favorite team once again laid an egg, after looking so much better last week. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to figure out how we can beat the Packers and have our D look that good one week, and then look so bad against the Bears the next week. For pete's sake, that was the BEARS out there, not the Chiefs! Yet, our D made the Bears O - with a rookie QB no less - look like the second coming of the late 80's 49ers. And if that wasn't enough, our O once again looked like we'll be in for a very long season. Unfortunately (or maybe actually lucky), I'm writing this while sitting in between flights at a Chili's in Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, so I can't perform my usual dissection with the TiVo. Doesn't matter, I saw enough the first time around to tell this tale of woe. Oh well, here comes the cold hard brutal truth...

As I've said before, everything always comes back to the line play. If our guys do their job up front, everything else feeds off of it. In this game, they didn't even come close. Sure, it's easy to point the finger at Joey and his 5 INT's (more on that in a few seconds), but the real problem here is the O-Line. Joey was getting hammered all day long, getting hit on some of his three step drops again. He never got the chance to look comfortable in the pocket, mostly because the pocket didn't exist. That's not to excuse his throwing, but it's the foundation for all the problems.

I'll put it this way - When KJ gets 8 carries for 22 yards (or however bad the final totals looked), the line couldn't have been doing too good. What I saw in the brief time I had to review the game, it appeared to be DeMulling, Backus and Raiola getting beat consistently, with the emphasis on DeMulling. I'm not sure if it's a blocking technique, style, or scheme issue, but he was nowhere near this bad in Indy last year. Paul Smith doesn't make matters any better, as the guy couldn't pick up a blitzer to save his life. Couple this with the unexplainable lack of slants and crossing routes to counter their blitz - we screened, but they were pathetic - and this had to be nearly as bad as the Rams preseason debacle.

Now for Joey - ah Joey. I can understand getting the jitters because he's getting tagged so many times, but what he did with the ball was not OK. By my views, 2 of the 5 INT's appeared to have been due to him getting hit as he was throwing. The first INT was a fluke as I've never seen a ball land and bounce on so many shoulder pads for an D-lineman to pick it out of mid air. And then there was the throw to Roy. That one was all on Roy - not Joey. Roy runs the dang route, and the worst thing to happen is an incomplete. Joey was off on a lot of throws today, but he wasn't helped out by the drops either. This loss wasn't entirely his fault, but he clearly was one of the big reasons.

On the other side of the ball, I'm still scratching my head. How do we hold the Packers to 3 points, then give up 24 O points to the Bears? We hold Brett Favre down and make him look average at best, then give up that game to Kyle Orton? We hold Ahman Green to around 55 yards, then give up 125+ to Thomas Jones? I'm sorry, but this D is straight out of the twilight zone. Which one will show up each week? This looks to be another incredible source of frustration for us this year.

What was most frustrating was to see the Bears convert so many 3rd and long situations. It seemed like every time we had them in 3rd and 10, they would gain 15 - on a run, no less. Dirty Davis looked to be the invisible man in run coverage, as did James Hall, and Big Daddy had a bad game, after a great game last week. The Bears were able to run off their left side consistently, and usually had Kreutz able to make it to the second level and pick off Holmes. Thank god we have Kennedy this year, or else the Bears may have scored 3 more times running over Brock Marion.

When the Bears were throwing, again, they seemed to stay away from throwing at Dre. He did give up one or two catches to Muhammad, but all in all, he held his side of the field down pretty well. Bryant got hurt, but he was the target of the passing attack again this week. Although most of the Bears passes were quick hitters in the flats - hard to keep from being completed, but usually for not too many yards. I think Orton only finished with 150 yards passing, so it wasn't like we were giving up huge chunks of yardage there. But just like the running game, we seemed to give up 11 yards on 3rd and 10 nearly every time the Bears got there. Again, not good.

And here's where the really brutal part comes in - our special teams STUNK. Drummond had a few good returns - he had enough attempts after all - but we missed an extra point ($4700 for one week of Remy Hamilton for that?) and we gave up a TD return. This was a BAD game in most every area.

I'm not sure what to say beyond this. I have to get moving to catch my next flight, so I may have to add some stuff when I get the chance to think about this disaster some more. Or maybe I won't because this is already too painful to think about. Damn good thing we have the bye next week, so maybe we can find a new LG...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lions receivers point...

I saw this a few days ago - it's from the Mike O'Hara weblog in the Detroit News. I believe that even more up-to-date would be that Hakim was cut as well, and Swinton was signed off of waivers by the Cardinals. Not sure yet if any of the others have been re-signed elsewhere yet.

Lions Weblog - The Detroit News Online - 09/13/05: "Cuts -- the receivers: Scanning the waiver wire, these were some of the players cut, waived, released on Saturday: David Kircus and Scottie Vines of the Lions. Reggie Swinton, who was on the roster for the final game last year. Az Hakim made it in New Orleans, but didn't play in a single exhibition game because of a hamstring injury. Tai Streets is out of football. Kircus, Vines, Swinton and Roy Williams played receiver in the final game last year. Streets and Hakim were inactive. Only Roy Williams and Hakim are on rosters this year. You wonder why Harrington had trouble completing passes last year?"

Monday, September 12, 2005

Game Notes - vs Packers: Most important stat - W

One down, a win, and 15 more to go. That game wasn't too pretty, but it did show us how this Lions season might turn out. Here is my quick summary of what I saw.

- The O-Line once again had a rough day. Last year it took them until nearly the mid-point of the season to gel. I hope it's much sooner this year.

- Joey again was somewhat inconsistent as well as being victimized by drops. The Lions team site claimed 3 drops, but I counted 5 by Roy myself, and the Pollard drop in the endzone. I can understand that some of the plays - Pollard's for example - were probably labeled as good D plays by the Pack hitting the receiver. I still view those as passes that should have been caught.

In addition to that, Joey was off on a few throws - about 5 by my count. Out of 32 pass attempts (including 4 no-plays), that's not a bad number.

One thing I'm confused about is what game people were watching who complained about a lack of passes to our WR's. Out of the 32 pass plays I mentioned, 16 went to our WR's. That's 6 completions (don't forget KJ2 caught 2) and 10 incompletions. Roy had a lot of action his way - 10 throws to him, and only 2 catches. If people want to complain about our WR's not catching more passes, I can agree. But they definitely had opportunities.

- KJ looked like GB was daring the Lions to beat them through the air. There weren't too many 8-men-in D lineups, but they played a close bump-n-run on the WR's and stacked the middle to stop KJ. Again, it will take the WR's making a name for themselves and some different playcalling to really open things up for KJ. Plus Smith was a waste of a positional player while he was in there. They'd be far better off to use Bryson as a FB as at least he is a receiving threat.

- As every newspaper article written has indicated, the D looked good. It wouldn't have looked quite as good had GB not shot themselves in the foot so many times. Javon Walker had a 55 yard completion wiped out by offensive pass interference. Had he not had a brain fart, he likely still would have caught the ball based on where Favre's throw was - high and outside - where Bryant couldn't defend it. That could have set up a score, and the botched field goal was another woulda-shoulda-coulda had points. That being said, Favre looked average and Ahman Green had all of 58 yards rushing. A lot of the credit for their performances has to go to our D.

Where we go from here is uncertain. I know if I was Joey, I'd be making a pitch for CRog and Roy to switch spots for the next game to see how they respond. Mooch had hinted that he would rotate the receivers around the positions, so this just might happen. Roy was very disappointing IMHO. He dropped several passes last year, and was let off easy because he a) was a rookie, b) was playing injured, and c) made some spectacular catches. Yesterday, he dropped several easy ones, ones that could have kept drives alive. I'm not saying dump him, but we have three guys who all could be #1 receivers. Roy's status as #1 WR for this team should not be set in stone - more like sand.

The Hanson situation worries me. The Lions have almost never had to worry about the kicking game in my memory. In the last 25 years, we've had Eddie Murray and Jason Hanson as kickers. Now, if Hanson can't go, it suddenly becomes a worry. I'm keeping my fingers it's just a soreness issue, and that Harris can handle kicking for one game, giving Hanson until October 2 against Tampa before he has to kick again.

Next week, it's Chicago. I'm not sure what to make of that game just yet. I'll think more as we get closer to gametime...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The great unknown...

One of the questions that has been making the rounds is 'Why do the Joey-Lovers have all this love for Joey?' The arguement is that he has shown nothing in his nearly 3 years of starting that give any indication that he'll be even mediocre. I tend to disagree with that assessment, but I'm not ready to annoint him the Lions savior either. Here is my opinion on Joey...

It's not love for Joey, it's common sense that as much as we want to, we can't separate the QB from his team. It's a classic chicken and egg scenario - were his stats mediocre because he is a mediocre QB, or because he had mediocre talent to work with? Based on imperical evidence, I lean toward the later - that the talent had a lot to do with it. I just don't know if it was all of it, most of it, or slightly more than 50% of it.

Think of it this way - If his receivers the past three years were that good, why can't any of them that have left the team get and hold an NFL WR job? Where is Scotty Anderson playing? Az Hakim? Bill Schroeder?

How can you judge the QB when his two best receivers have played a combined 9 games between them at full strength? CRog played 5 full games at 100% his rookie year, Roy played 4 full games at 100% his rookie year.

How can you judge a QB when his starting receivers change every game? When you run a timing passing game like the WCO, you often throw the ball before a receiver makes his break. If you don't know from week to week which receiver you'll be throwing to, and therefore when that receiver will make their break, and where they'll run the route to, it sure does make a QB look like they're throwing a bad ball, simply because they can't anticipate their WR's route because they haven't worked enough with that receiver.

How can you judge a QB when he has only just begun to get a running game? When KJ finally broke 100 in week 10 last year, it was the first 100 yard rushing game by a Lions RB in Joey's 2.5 years starting.

How can you judge a QB when their O-Line is a sieve? This pre-season has been a microcosm of the past few years - Joey running for his life on a 3 step drop. Only in the past he would throw the dreaded 'checkdown' or throw it away instead of taking a sack - something I always thought was a ridiculous criticism.

Now don't get me wrong - I'm not saying Joey is a great QB, or that he even will be a good QB. I'm saying that we still have no idea how good he can or will be. And we really won't have a good idea until after a few games into this season. If he isn't running for his life and has an OK running game (a step down from what KJ did last year), and he stinks up the joint, then I think we have the evidence we need. If we see a marked improvement from previous seasons, I think we'll also have an answer. But it's foolish to think that we know the answer yet.