Thursday, December 28, 2006
Sheesh, it's time to have another margarita.
First off, when I'm thinking about the draft and free agency, a few things stand out in my mind. First off, what the heck do they do about KJ? That injury could be an absolute franchise killer - except that this franchise is already dead. It definitely changes my opinion about what needs to be done in the offseason. Well, without further adieu, here is my shameless plan for the Lions Off-Season. As for the names to fill in most of these positions, I haven't thought about that one yet. Just the general plan.
In free agency, the Lions have one glaring need - DE. If there is one position that the Lions need desperately bad, it's an every-down DE. They have needed one for about 7 years - about the last time Robert Porcher was playing at the top of his game. The impact of finding and signing a good every-down DE can't be underestimated. The Lions pass-rush - or lack of one - is more the reason our DB's get beat than anything else. If an opposing QB has 5+ seconds to throw, they will find someone open. It's that simple. And all too often, the opposing QB has that and more to throw. Conversely, when they put one of their supposed pass-rushers in, they are hideously weak against the run to the outside. When they pick right, and have the correct personnel in, they are decent defensively. But too often, they have DeVries in trying to pass rush, or Kalimba in when the other team runs. The desperately need an every down DE on at least one of the two sides.
That one upgrade will be huge for the entire defense. It will result in the CB's looking better as they won't have to cover for as long a time. The LB's will look better as they won't get smashed by TE's or pulling guards on end arounds and be free to make tackles. By far, IMHO, this is the one position the Lions most desperately need to upgrade. I'd try to find a great one as a free agent, and then draft another one.
The other position that needs a lot of help is LT. Yes, this means you, Jeff on-your-Backus. I was against franchising him to begin with, I was against signing him to the monster contract, and I have been openly critical of his play for a long time. He is paid as if he is a top-5 LT, when in fact, he plays like a bottom-5 LT. This is completely unacceptable. He's just not a very good LT, and he kills the Lions with his play. He is too slow to handle speed rushers, he's not strong enough to handle power rushers, and he's not a very good run blocker. That's the trifecta of things you don't want to have in a LT, and he has all three weaknesses. I have no idea how the Lions have managed to not see this on thier tape. IMHO, it's because Joey Harrington was throwing the ball away so quickly that Backus didn't give up more sacks the last several years. Maybe that blinded them as to how bad this guy really is. But he's awful.
Unfortunately, with KJ going down and no timetable for his return, we have no idea yet if he'll even play next year. That creates a HUGE hole at RB. None of the other guys on the roster should be a full-time NFL starting RB. If we get closer to the draft, and the prognosis for KJ doesnt' look great, I'll make this suggestion - draft Adrian Peterson. He is about as much of a sure thing as there is in this draft. I personally think the guy is the best RB to come out in the last 3 draft classes. Many people compare him to Eric Dickerson, but after seeing some video eye-candy, I'd compare him to Marcus Allen. Great speed, great instincts, gains most of his yards after contact but never seems to get hit really hard, very shifty, etc. He's the complete package. Based on his play before his injury this year, he looks like he can catch the ball as well. And of course the Lions have some pretty good history with RB's from the state of Oklahoma. But he can only be the Lions pick if KJ won't be back next year.
If KJ looks like he'll be back, them my recipe for the draft is the same as it's been for several years. First, try to trade back a few spots and pick up a few additional picks. If you can, great. It allows you to trade back up into late round 1 and get another player. IMHO, the pick has to be the best OT / DE available. I'd use every pick in the first 4 rounds next year on OL and DL. The Lions desperately need at least 2 OL players, and at least 1 DE. QB should not be an option, unless someone like Drew Stanton is sitting there in the third round. Under no circumstances should the Lions take a QB #1. No QB will be successful here until the O-Line is fixed. When it finally does get fixed, I believe that it won't take a #1 or even a #2 QB to be successful here. Heck, Martz has turned undrafted free agents (Warner) and 6th round draft picks (Bulger) into an NFL MVP and a Pro-Bowler.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
My downer for the Lions really started before the season began. I'll finally admit it, I liked Joey Harrington, and his departure really upset me. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not blinded by thinking that he is the greatest QB to walk to face of the planet. I simply respected him, his stand-up attitude, and I thought he was unfairly blamed for every ill the Lions had. The fact that he was an optimist like myself probably had a bit to do with it as well. When the Lions traded him to the Dolphins for next to nothing, and hung our hopes on Jon Kitna, I just had a bad feeling about it. Here we were, trading the one guy who tried with every ounce in his body to remain upbeat and change the attitude of this franchise, and instead we put our faith in a journeyman QB who has been kicked to the curb for the next young hotshot QB twice in his career already. To me, that didn't bode well for the direction this club was going to take.
Now, I'd say the games and results have proven my fears to be true. Joey hasn't been all-world in Miami, but he's now 4-4 as their starter. His new team has some of the same problems the Lions had while he was here - a porous O-line, receivers that drop balls, and now that Ronnie Brown is hurt, no running game. But he's still 4-4. And best for him, he got a victory and a Gatorade bath beating the Lions on Thanksgiving in Ford Field. He'll likely never live up to his draft position, but he's a solidly average NFL QB, and that's not all bad.
Meanwhile, Jon Kitna has put up great stats in Mike Martz O, but he's 2-10 and has found ways to flat-out LOSE the game several times for the Lions in the 4th quarter. He turned the ball over 3 times in the 4th to seal the last loss to the Patriots. The Lions actually LED the Patriots 21-13 with 13 minutes left in the 4th quarter and he managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once again. 8 of the teams losses so far this year are by a TD or less. In each and every one of those games, we had either the lead in the 4th quarter or a shot to take the lead in the 4th. And Kitna has found a way to implode in an alarming number of those games. Personally, give me the choice, and I'll take Joey mounting a comeback and falling just short over Kitna having a great stat line and blowing the lead any day. At least one way gives me hope. This constant blowing the lead is killing me.
Another great numbing feeling I've had is the unconvincing explainations we've heard for the treatment of our former #1 draft choice WR's. I'm at a loss for both Charles Rogers and Mike Williams and what happened here. I know that CRog hasn't caught on with a new team this year, and supposedly he has lost his speed. I know that BMW seems to not practice well. What gets me is why we the public never got a chance to see them even get a shot. I mean, even in pre-season, they were in the doghouse and sitting the bench. Then CRog got cut without so much as sniffing the field, and BMW has had his butt firmly planted on the bench. It just doesn't make sense to me. The only possible explanation is that Martz and Marinelli were using them to set an example for the rest of the team - my way or the highway. Unfortunately, if 'my way' gets the team to 2-10, maybe it's time to re-think that position.
We keep hearing that the locker room is so much better this year, and that the team is making improvements. Yet we see the same thing week in and week out. The same thing we've seen for several years. A D that seems to wilt at crunch time. An O that continually shoots itself in the foot. Excessive undisciplined football with lots of penalties. Failure to insert youngsters to gain experience when the season is already a loss. It seems that the common sense that other franchises have is totally lost on the Lions. Heck, Joe Gibbs could see the writing on the wall for this season, so he put Jason Campbell in to gain experience and see if he has what it takes to be an NFL QB. If he can do that, why can't the Lions? It just doesn't make sense.
So here we sit at 2-10. Two and freaking ten. For anyone who's forgotten, Joey's record as a starter last year was 4-7 and we dumped him in large part because he didn't win. What's that say for the direction the team is heading? I've seen absolutely no improvement with the team this year, contrary to what I keep hearing people try to tell me. Great season to get season tickets for the first - and probably last - time. This likely will be my last post during the season unless something truly interesting happens in the last 4 games. But the way the games have been going, just take any of my previous posts, change the players names to fit the opponent, and you'll have the same story. It always ends the same. And that is truly the tragedy that has killed my optimism for the Lions this year. I'll be back to dissect the team's offseason needs in January. Until then, try to focus on the Pistons and Red Wings to keep a positive outlook on sports.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Here is the truth about what I've seen the last two weeks - the Lions played about the same against both the 49ers and the Falcons. Now I know everyone will think I'm crazy for saying this, but I do have my reasons for believing this. In quick bullet point form, here's why:
- The Lions are still committing a lot of penalties
- The O still has periods where they don't seem to be on the same page
- The D still can't seem to stop anyone from running between the tackles or making 3rd down conversions
- Both games were won by the team that won the turnover battle
I won't dig into dissecting the O or D this week - it's the same story every game, and it's well enough explained by my bullet points. What I will get into is a few other issues I have a beef with. First, the officiating seems to be at a worse level than I have seen in a long time. I am as confused as ever about what criteria officials use when reviewing instant replay. Both Lions challenges should have overturned calls on the field - Kitna fumbled only after hitting the ground, and Hicks fumbled going to the ground which should have spotted the ball behind the first down marker. Instead, both calls on the field were upheld. I'm curious if the officials are relying on some obscure section of the rulebook that states "A call should not be overturned if it makes a member of your crew look bad". Instead, the lack of overturns made the entire crew look bad. And what does Roy Williams have to do to get a pass interference call? I re-watched the game on TiVo, and it confirmed my suspicions at the game - Roy should have drawn about 5 PI calls, but he only got one whistle on the 49ers. And to hear the announcers, they agree with my assessment. However, the most egregious of the no-calls on Roy's defenders, they seemed blind to the obvious no-call - I'm talking about the no-call on the pass in the endzone. While the announcers were praising the CB for his anticipation, they overlooked a simple fact easily seen on replay - he missed the ball and made contact with Roy's arms before the ball got there. This was easy to see and call, yet even the announcers missed it.
Which leads me to a second beef - can the announcers do a LITTLE homework before they spout off incoherent nonsense? Heard yesterday were these gems. "The Lions have not scored on their opening possession all season" - The previous week against Atlanta, they scored a Field Goal on the opening drive.
And in this situation - Lions down 19-13, 4th and 13 from the 49er 19, they state "The Lions should kick the field goal here and rely on their D for a hold with their timeouts and the two minute warning" EXCUSE ME, but how does that differ from going for it, not making it, and THEN relying on the D for a hold? the only difference is you have a chance for a FG to tie if the D holds. If the D doesn't (and it didn't), it's a moot point. At least this way, they took a chance to win the game.
There were numerous other screw-ups I don't even care to listen to again. But it's typical of the minor-league announcing crews they send to Lions games. I mean if they are going to call the game, they could at least do a little homework before the game. Sheesh.
Finally, I'm going to repeat my concerns with Rod. I'm not going to jump all over his case, but these same points are what has me concerned about this squad.
- They have not gotten any better in reducing the number of penalties per game from last year - if anything they are worse.
- They still are not making any effort to develop the some of the talent that they inherited, instead trying to plug in free agents.
- They are still turning the ball over at a far worse rate than in years past, only this year it's far more fumbles and fewer interceptions.
- And finally, the final score is what matters and last year through 9 games, the Lions were 4-5, this year 2-7.
Again, with all of that, this team is perilously close to being both 8-1 and 1-8. Only the Atlanta and Chicago games have not been in question in the 4th quarter. That still puts the Lions in with the vast majority of teams in the NFL's parity of the middle grounds. The biggest difference between the Lions and a team like the Saints this year is the Lions haven't figured out how to close out games. Until that happens, they'll continue to have a below average record. And we fans will continue to lament the lack of wins.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
First off, I must apologize to everyone about the lack of posts recently. When given a choice between investing my emotions on the Tigers in the playoffs and the Lions and their misery, I'll go with the Tigers. It sure feels good to have a winning team that we can all be proud of. The Tigers had a heck of a run, and made me mostly indifferent to whatever was happening with the Lions.
Now that my Tigers related euphoria has faded into the past, I find myself coming back into paying attention to the Lions. Yes, I have watched the last two games, and seen the same things that most everyone else has seen. It's far too late to go breaking down game tape, so I'll just talk today about my general impressions about this club.
I see this season so far as a "glass is half empty / half full" season. The club is very close to being 6-1, and also even closer to being 0-7 right now. As John Madden says (and you likely will never hear me quote him ever again), "a team is what their record is, regardless of how many close games they've had". I find this to be somewhat true, but also I think there is more to it than that. For example, I think both
I tend to usually be a glass half-full kind of guy. I like to think that things aren't as bad as they look and that they are getting better. I don't know if I can do that with the Lions right now though. I came into this season with certain expectations of what we would see different, and I haven't seen them yet. To be clear, I'm not talking about the record – I'm talking about the way the team plays. Yes, the O has looked a lot better this year, and I'm glad about that. But I still haven't seen the discipline and the penalties being less. I still haven't seen the O-Line and D-Line significantly improve. I still haven't seen the Lions stop shooting themselves in the foot at the most inopportune times. In short, the only thing I see different from past teams is that the O actually is scoring points. And that keeps me from thinking glass half-full.
I do like that the O is scoring points. For the first time in years, we're not wondering if they will be able to put 20 points on the board. And to be honest, I give 100% of the credit for that to Martz. It's about as obvious as can be that the WR's are a LOT more wide open this year. That makes the QB's job a lot easier. There still aren't many holes for KJ to run through, although that has been better in recent weeks. We'll see if getting Tucker and Verba back this week really makes a difference on the O-line. I'm taking a wait and see approach on that one as I'm not sure what the impact will be. Hopefully it's a big one.
Perhaps the biggest question mark on O is why Kitna can't seem to play well in the 4th quarter. He's done well in the first three quarters of games, but his play in the fourth quarter has directly lost at least 3 games. I don’t even know what to think, but since this season is basically toast already, I do think it’s time to see what McCown or DanO can do in the game.
On D, the injuries to Alex Lewis and Teddy Lehman have hurt us in perhaps our weakest area – LB. Ernie Sims looks to be a pretty good player, but he’s still young. Boss looks OK out there, but he’s still adjusting.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Let me be clear about this - It's not going to happen.
Here's a particularly good exchange from one thread that I think signifies what I'm talking about.
Me: "The fact of the matter here is that the Lions are 0-5. They haven't been this bad since 2001. You can try to put lipstick on this pig, but I still ain't kissing it..."-----
neveragainlikebarry: "Oh yes you are kissing it;actually you've got your tongue all the way down it's throat! You have season tickets don't you? you have at least one jersey,right? You by their hotdogs.pop and beer correct? Basicly if you go to the games you keep Millen in there, hence no change whatsoever."-----
My response: When I first read this one, I was going to post reply with something snarky, but then I came to realize there is probably too much truth in it. Quick summary:-----
You have season tickets don't you? Yes, just got them this year. In a lot of ways this is the worst year to have gotten them as I missed out on getting a shot at SB tickets.
You by their hotdogs.pop and beer correct? Beer, yes but only to keep my buzz from tailgating going. Hotdogs and pop no as I'm already full from aforementioned tailgating.
Basicly if you go to the games you keep Millen in there, hence no change whatsoever. I don't think this is accurate. The profitability of the team and the stadium more positively reflects on Tom Lewand than Millen. The play on the field reflects Millen, and it's never been this bad. I don't know that my not going to games would have any material impact on Millen's employment, since there is still a season ticket waiting list.
Some interesting ideas in this thread about abandoning my season tickets. But I'll put it this way - Unless there is some benefit to me to get rid of them, it ain't happening. I paid a lot of cash for the tickets. I'm not the kind of guy to spend a lot of money and get nothing for them (please no snarky comments about the Lions haven't given me anything yet - that's why I'm angry).
So if I were to give up the tickets and send them to management and let all the TV stations know, I'd accomplish what exactly? I'd get 15 seconds of fame on the local news, then I'll have realized I have said take the $600 face value for the remainder of my tix and keep it. Not a fair trade in my book. I'd rather keep the seats and be able to @#%$ about the play from a seat in the stadium than have to rely completely on my TiVo for my frustration.
So there you have it. I'm not giving up my seats. I have a sneaking suspicion that some of the people who make these suggestions are still on the waiting list and are trying to free up more seats (note the dripping sarcasm). I don't think giving up my seats would accomplish anything besides keeping me out of the stadium. Besides, it took me too dang long to get these seats, so I sure as heck am not going to give up the tickets now...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
OK, having calmed down from my reactionary phase following the game, I decided to take a look back and try to figure out what happened that drove home another loss for the Lions. Unfortunately, I don't think that I have any really great insight beyond what anyone else has said recently. This was actually a very simple game to analyze.
The Lions lost this game on 2 plays within a minute of each other in the 4th quarter. It really is that simple. The Lions led 17-3, and
Two plays, 56 seconds apart, a game swings 13 points from being 24-10 to being 17-16.
I wish I had something more in depth to point to, but that really was the ballgame.
This game was in the bag.
And then those two plays completely changed the entire outcome of the game. The D looked decent enough – they only gave up 12 points. The O for all it's injuries scored 17 points. Sure, it wasn't pretty as the O really wasn't moving the ball much beyond the points scored off the turnovers. But at least they had turnovers to score off of this week. The D was giving up yards to Chester Taylor in the run game as well, but he really didn't hurt them too much. The team stats looked skewed due to the Lions inability to run, but it really wasn't an issue. They were still moving the ball enough to win.
Except for those two plays.
On the first, Curry made a slight shove on the guy's back. He should know better than to do that. I heard the announcers say his block definitely impacted the run, but in my looking at the replay, I doubt it. The defender wasn't in position to contain Drummond from getting to the outside as he did. But it was a stupid penalty, and it cost the Lions 90 yards of field position and a score.
The second play has been diagrammed by everyone to death. No one even blocked Pat Williams. It was a complete communication breakdown on where everyone had to go. Kitna never saw it coming and was hit from behind far too quickly for any QB to dream of on a playaction pass.
And that was the ballgame. Sure, you could make an argument that the Lions should have scored more points. Or that Kitna couldn't lead them down the field during the 4th quarter. Or that Az Hakim's butterfingers came back to haunt us again. But the truth of the matter is that the game went from being a win to a loss in those 56 seconds near the beginning of the 4th quarter. Had Curry not made that block, the score is 24-10, and the Lions aren't sitting at the 10 yard line for the next play to happen. The second D TD by the Vikes was inconsequential in the grand scheme of things other than it prevented the Lions from scoring a go-ahead TD or FG. But again, without those two earlier plays, the Lions wouldn't have been pressing on 4th and 10.
The Vikings proved all day long (and all season long for that matter) that their version of the Wet Toast O is just as inefficient at putting points on the board as the Lions was for the last 5 years. It should be painfully obvious to everyone now that the Wet Toast O is an O for a great mobile QB to excel in, but anyone else is dead meat in it. The Vikings weren't going to score 14+ points on O at that point in the game. They had only scored 10 in just over 3 quarters, plus the Lions D showed after that that they could hold them to a FG over 2 more series for the Kikes.
It really is simple. Eliminate those two glaring mistakes, and we're sitting here with a win on the books.
Sunday, October 08, 2006
There's only one way to describe what I'm feeling toward the Lions right now. I'm mad. So mad I had to restrain myself from kicking my dog, that's how mad. Once again, this team of bumbling fools finds a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Tell me honestly - Does anyone really feel better about the team this year than they did any of the last four years with Joey at QB? If so, please send some of whatever you're smoking my way as you are ridiculously high. The team is 0-5. They were NEVER this bad with Joey under center. Yet all I hear is how people have so much better of a feeling about this team.
Get a clue - this is about as bad as it gets.
So the O is a more exciting as they throw the ball downfield. Big deal, they still lose. The D finally looks decent for a game, so the O blows chunks.
2 defensive TD's given up in the 4th quarter? Are you kidding me?
Where is the anger? Where are the calls for Kitna's head? Where are the calls for firing Marinelli? The start this year has me more upset than any other year of Millen's reign. The play is inexcusable. We've seen the same stupid penalties, the same bumbled plays, the same dropped passes. Well, OK that's just because Az Hakim is now a Lion again - didn't we learn that lesson already about his hands?
And please, I don't want to hear any excuses about Roy and Woody getting hurt. We've lost key players every year for the last 6 seasons. Injuries seem to be more a fact of life with this franchise than any other I can think of. The problem is that no one ever steps up when someone else goes down.
I'm mad. First game I've seen in three weeks due to business travel and I had to witness that debacle. It's a dang good thing I have Tigers tickets for next Sunday so I won't have to go to the game. Here I was thinking that based on what I've heard that the O had come around, and the D now had to step up.
Nope. Same Old Lions.
Maybe I'll write something more about the game tomorrow after I've calmed down. What a freaking joke...
Saturday, September 23, 2006
- HUGE number of penalties - and they were very one sided.
- Several calls of either fumbles or completions / incompletions were very suspect.
- Bears fans in the stands are clueless jerks.
After hearing that this was the same officiating crew that did the Cowboys and Ravens games for us last year, I'm not surprised. That crew was disciplined for both of those games last year, and it sounds like there may be more coming after this game.
Then I went back and watched the game. A few things struck me about what I saw.
The Lions did commit a lot of penalties. But there were several glaring omissions by the officiating crew on the Bears. Here were the lowlights of the calls.
- On 3 separate plays (including one of the TD bombs) a Lions D-Lineman was tackled after beating the Bears O-Line. James Hall was the victim on two of the no-calls, Kalimba on the third. Each should have been an easy holding call, but there were inexcusably missed.
- Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, but I though tackling someone's head was illegal. On 5 separate plays, I saw Bears defenders tackling a Lions players Head. Granted, facemasks weren't grabbed, but heads were still turned around or snapped in unnatural directions. For some reason, I thought that type of tackling was outlawed as Being too significant of an injury risk. Apparently either I am wrong, or the officials don't know about the rule.
- The Berrian TD and the Kitna fumble should have been reviewed and overturned. I am very convinced after seeing the replays that Kitna's arm was moving forward, and definitely convinced that the ball Berrian caught bounced off the ground before he had control.
Those aren't on the officials per se, but on Rod for not throwing the red hanky.
Beyond that I was left with one more surprising revelation. If the Lions hadn't kept shooting themselves in the foot by fumbling and committing their own stupid penalties, the game was a lot closer than it appeared.
OK, now stop laughing and wipe up the beverage you just shot out of your nose off your monitor.
Unlike in previous games, the Lions were moving the ball with relative ease against the Bears D.
Their primary problem was stopping themselves with penalties, or turnovers. The Lions first two drives lasted all of 5 plays combined and ended up with turnovers that gave the Bears awesome field position. The third drive, they came out with three quick first downs, then had consecutive plays of a sack, false start and holding to turn a 1st and 10 at the 46 into a 2nd and 31 at the 25. The next drive, a KJ 12 yard swing pass was negated by a holding call on Mike Furrey. By the time they stopped committing penalties, they were already down 24-0. After that point, they simply allowed sacks to stop their drives.
The D wasn't as bad as it looked either, and Grossman wasn't as good as he appeared. As I previously mentioned, Berrian trapped his TD catch. His first TD pass capped of an impressive, time consuming 2 play, 3 yard drive that took 38 seconds off the clock. The third TD to Desmond Clark was one of the plays that featured James Hall getting tackled. And the 4th TD came on the same drive as the Boss Bailey interception TD that was called back. As a side note, yes, the penalty was a good call, but it was pretty ticky-tack - that call could be made on nearly every play.
So my conclusion is that it was a deceiving game as to how evenly matched the two teams are because of the officiating. I hate sounding like sour grapes and placing so much blame on the officiating, but it is what it is. Many of the Lions penalties were correct calls. But there were a LOT of missed calls out there. And when you miss so many calls, it definitely skews the outcome of the game.
A side note - I won't be watching the game this weekend, and I won't get a chance to see the TiVo until next weekend. More business travel back to Arizona, and I fly out on Sunday morning. Needless to say, I'm not thrilled about the time my flight was booked. It's just great to have season tickets and not get a chance to actually go to the games...
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
My first regular season game as a season ticket holder was an interesting affair. We sit in the east end zone, and when the teams are in our end of the field, the game is pretty impressive. Of course when they are at the other end, it's a LONG way away. But watching from that angle got all my football senses going.
I play a little game where I try to predict what the play is and which way it's going, kinda like QB1, but a live version without automatic scoring. When I can see the field from sideline to sideline (kinda like a video game), I found I could predict with a high degree of accuracy just before the snap where Seattle's O was going with a play. Maybe it's 5 years of seeing the Lions version of the wet toast offense that taught me what to look for, but somehow, I was calling out the play before the snap a lot. Seattle's O is pretty predictable, just like most west coast O's are, in that they try to run players to spots where the D isn't, and take advantage of the position of the defender. But to predict it, the view from where I sit is very helpful. I doubt I could predict as well from the sideline - too hard to see the spacing I was seeing. But it sure was weird to call their plays as much as I was doing.
On the other hand, the Martz O was nearly impossible to read. He shifts players and puts guys in motion so much that it really doesn't give an observer (or a Defense) a good chance to see the spacing and alignments. Nice and tricky in that it allows the O to get in a formation that the D can't adjust to quickly enough pre-snap, and frequently allowed receivers to be running free. My guessing the Lions O plays was only successful based on down and distance - 3rd and 8 was easy to guess. Other than that, it was like flipping a coin. Definitely not the predictable BS we've been accustomed to.
One thing that was also readily apparent was that Martz O allowed our receivers to run free a LOT more than we've seen in years. Basically, if Kitna had wanted to, he could have zeroed in on Roy and thrown over half the balls to him and Roy would have still been wide open. Part of that was that Seattle was also still significantly more committed to stopping KJ than to stopping the pass. There were a lot of 8 or 9 men in the box situations - and I still want to see Kitna allowed to audible out of those.
The one thing that I had been curious about in preseason related to the D was answered emphatically - Shaun Rogers is a HUGE difference maker. Not in just his ability to create havoc, but that he changes the O blocking schemes. Seattle had to have two guys account for Baby on nearly every play. That freed up the other D-linemen for one-on-one matchups and kept the LB's free to make plays. That single difference is amazing in how it changes the effectiveness of our D. Our fast LB's were able to run sideline to sideline and make plays - which they couldn't do in preseason. Shaun is that big of a difference maker - and the improvement of the D can easily be placed solely on his presence.
It will be interesting to see how the game this week plays out with Da Bearz. I'm still not ready to bet on the Lions in any way because there is still too much we don't know about the team. But if I had to make one bet this week, it's take the under. Even if the number is 20. The only way either team is scoring a TD is if the D's score it. At least that's my prediction, and I'm sticking to it.
Also, I likely won't see the game in real time again this week. I'll still be out in Arizona traveling, so I'll have to catch my TiVo recording of it when I get home Monday afternoon. So don't expect next weeks' entry early either. You've been warned...
Saturday, September 02, 2006
This deserves a post of it's own...
FunkTron made this comment about my recent postings:
Quote: I think you are going overboard with the "LIE" commentary.
He's probably right that I am going a little overboard. For me, it's a lot of pent up frustration - I wanted to see what those two (BMW and CRog) could really do on the field, in a game. I think we've all wanted to see that.
We all saw them play in college and have drooled over the possibilities of what they could do in a Lions uniform. Then, we haven't gotten to see them do much of anything. We've had to rely on the opinion of coaches in practice. Yes, the coaches are experts, and I'm not. But that doesn't make me want to see the coaches at least try to use them in a manner similar to how they had so much success in college.
I've been waiting...
And after all the waiting for all their varied offenses - CRog and BMW have been far from angels that have earned their shot - we finally heard that they were going to be given a chance in a preseason game. That got me excited. I wanted to see if they would actually use them in a manner consistent with their abilities and how that would play out in a game. I probably was expecting too much there, but I at least wanted to see them involved in the action.
And then we saw them barely used, and completely ignored in the game.
I didn't want to see if Glenn Martinez can catch the ball. I didn't want to see Sean McHugh and his T-Rex arms not be able to catch another pass. I didn't want to see Shaun Bodiford run around and run the wrong route. I wanted a chance to see the two thoroughbreds actually get some meaningful chances to catch the ball - something we haven't seen in even a single preseason game.
What adds to the frustration is that this was the last preseason game - the one with practically no entertainment value at all as the stars won't play at all, and the first teams will only play one series. The rest of the game is basically watching guys you hope to never have to see play during the regular season because if you do, your season is already lost.
So all that excitement was thrown on top of that stinker of a game, and gave me reason to actually get excited to see a game that normally I would have had about as much interest in as picking my belly button lint. And look what happened.
If the coaching staff had given us ANY indication that we would only see CRog for one series, and BMW would not have a single pass thrown his way, then maybe I'd be less hostile. But they didn't. I spent $124 on two tickets I really had no interest in (the biggest problem with season tickets - you have to pay for pre-season tickets whether you want them or not) and felt like they had purposely told the fans the 'significant playing time' line simply to get us to come to this game and spend more money at Ford Field instead of simply staying home and watching it on TV.
Now, I'll never get the chance to see if Charles Rogers can become a successful NFL WR as a Detroit Lion. It was obvious that he was going to get cut after the game, everyone knew it. In a best case scenario, he goes to Miami where he can be coached by Nick Saban again, or to Philadelphia, so he can become the #1 target for Donovan McNabb. I have a hunch that he'll find success elsewhere, and it will be this season. Of course I'm not always even close with my hunches, so he could continue to flame out and be out of the league for good.
In any case, there are 8 more days til the start of the season. And I'm not sure it's going to be a great start...
Thursday, August 31, 2006
First off, I feel cheated and lied to. We heard that CRog and BMW were going to be given "significant playing time" prior to the game. Here is the quick synopsis of their PT.
CRog - one series, open the 2nd half, 9 plays, 1 pass thrown to him, 3 yard hitch.
BMW - remaining series in the 2nd half, 21 plays, 0 passes thrown to him.
How in the heck can the staff call that "significant"? That was BS. In the stands by me, we were paying close attention to when either of them walked on the field. There were at least 2 more passes that should have gone toward CRog, but DanO wasn't looking his way. And BMW... sheesh. There were at least 6 plays that should have gone to him. What the HELL are they doing throwing 3 passes to Sean McHugh and 0 to BMW? When they throw a fade route to the end zone, WHY is it going to Glenn Martinez and not BMW? This made absolutely no sense whatsoever. And it's not like either guy wasn't open - they were. They were simply ignored.
If you say you are going to give them PT to evaluate them, at least run a few plays for them. 1 play in 30 to two former top-10 picks in the second half is ridiculous. If I'm Millen, and I was told the guys I drafted were going to get a shot, and then this happened, I might be firing someone tonight. Just ridiculous.
Now that I have that off my chest, I can get back to the game. This was my first game I was able to attend from my new season ticket seats. Let's just say that the people around me have already figured out that they are going to have a new experience watching the game. The reason is that I'm a talker during the game. Not yelling at the coaches, but basically providing running color commentary during the game. I had an old guy next to me turn off his radio to listen to my commentary about what we were seeing, and three separate people commented and thanked me for keeping them entertained while we sat through that clunker of a game.
The first series of the game worried me. That was our starting D against their starting O out there, and the Bills marched down the field on us. Not good. We all were commenting "this is going to be a long season" after the opening drive. And then to follow that drive, we went 3-and-out. Highlight of the drive was rookie Jonathan Scott giving up a sack on his very first play at LT. Ouch. At this point, the people in the stands were expecting to be in for a very long night. It was silent in there. Then we held Buffalo to a 3-and-out of their own. Still no emotion, save the few cheers for the A-Train. Our second possession started before the first quarter ended, and we managed a first down to give us a grand total of +2 yards of O in the first quarter. Nice...
But that drive kept going, mostly due to Eddie Drummond. It looks like McCown really likes throwing to Eddie. And we barely made 3 first downs during that drive - by probably less than the length of a football on each of them. And then it gets stuck in the endzone to tie the score. Nice drive, a lot of longer passes, the kind of drive I hope to see a lot during the season. And it was starting to get a little exciting in there.
Of course then Buffalo hits on a 24 yard pass on their first play after the TD to cool things off. But then they get stuffed on the next three plays and we have the ball back. After an uninspired short drive to follow the TD, Buffalo gets the ball back and promptly goes up top to Josh Reed for a 35 yard gain. Nice, just what we needed to completely silence the crowd again. But the D started to hold again, finally stopping them at the 2 yard line to force a FG as time ran out in the half. We end the half down 10-7, and the crowd is more than ready to go find the bathrooms.
The second half was barely watchable due to the scrubs that were playing. But it started out looking like we were going to be in for a show. The Lions got the kickoff, and CRog took the field. There was an immediate buzz in the crowd as we were all anticipating this. On the second play, DanO throws a quick hitch to Chuck, and we're all expecting several more balls to go his way. This was finally going to be his chance to show what he can do. But then they stopped. He was open a few other plays in the 9 play drive, but nothing even came close to him. Instead, DanO is throwing dump-offs to Bryson and Calhoun, and his longer passes to Glenn Martinez and Shaun Ellis. This is not what we wanted to see, at all. And then the drive stalled, due mostly to a sack, and we didn't see CRog again. The next series, BMW came in, and we were fully expecting to see him running alongside CRog. Nope, not gonna happen. Instead, we get to see the Arlen Harris show and attempted passes to Sean McHugh - who by no fault of his own is quite possibly the worst TE in the history of football. I thought for sure he was a goner when Mooch got the axe, but somehow he survives. Maybe he's got something on Millen, but I digress...
In between those series, Buffalo had another short series, not really much happening for them. We get the Arlen Harris show series, then Buffalo gets the ball back near midfield. They make a few first downs, and kick a field goal. Not really exciting stuff there. We get the ball back, and proceed to see the Brian Calhoun show. Calhoun looks decent running the ball, and we all get excited when we see him bust one up the middle for a big gainer. But in the end, too many runs up the middle, and ANOTHER pass to McHugh that he can't get to. The official NFL sheet says it was overthrown, but shoulder height is a high throw for someone with T-Rex arms. But again, I digress...
Buffalo's next series is the shortest of the night, the second play being an interception. We still have no idea who Craig Nall was throwing that ball to as there was no one within 20 yards of it except Lions defenders. But we'll take a little charity, it's nice to receive every now and then. We start with 1st down at the Buffalo 18. Should be an easy 6. The first play we run a fade route to BM...err.. NO, IT'S GLENN MARTINEZ, and he can't even stay in bounds before the ball gets there. Then we run a pass up the middle to BM...err... NO, IT'S SEAN MCHUGH who promptly lets the ball go through his tragically short T-Rex arms. And then DanO gets sacked so we kick a FG. Needless to say, we are pretty ticked in the stands. Here we have a thoroughbred on the field who was born to make those kind of plays, and we completely ignore him for a couple of undrafted free agents who shouldn't even be on our practice squad. Nice. I'm ticked at this point.
So what does Buffalo do to make me nearly get up and leave? They come back and on their third play from scrimmage, they connect on a 70 yarder. Nice deep pass against completely blown coverage. I missed seeing who it was that let Andre Davis just walk on by them, but that was horrid coverage. Half the crowd got up and left after that play, for good reason. I was fuming mad at that point. Time for another beer.
Then the Lions do the improbable - they go on a long drive. This one highlighted by Calhoun, Harris and Martinez. No CRog, he hasn't seen the field since his one series. No BMW, he hasn't sniffed the ball, even though he's been on the field ever since CRog left it. And the drive stalls at the Buffalo 18, for another FG to make it 20-13. OK, so there's 3:06 left, we'll do an onside kick to try to get the ball back. Of course if they do score, they have to go for 2, because we DON'T WANT OT in the final pre-season game. Nope, no way. So what do we do? We kick it deep. Everyone left in the stands is standing there with their mouths open wide; words can not express how dumbfounded we all are. OK, so we're gonna try to hold them, use our TO's and the 2 minute warning, and get the ball back, right? Except that strategy doesn't work when the Bills gain 19 yards on their first play.
At this point, we get up and walk out.
I forgot to set the TiVo to record, so I won't have to relive that nightmare of a game again. In a strange way, I'm really thankful for that.
It was good seeing McCown throw the ball that well. 11 of 14 for 97 yards and a TD? Not too shabby. And with DanO's performance, I'm guessing McCown just took the 2nd string job. I was wondering if his performance in previous games was more related to the players around him than himself, and I think we have our answer. He looked better with the 2nd stringers than DanO previously did, and better with the third stringers in previous games than DanO did tonight.
Calhoun looked good too. He has a darting and shiftiness that vaguely has some similarities to old #20. He's no where in Barry's league, but there are some similarities in his running style.
Another player who stood out was Claude Harriott. Sorry if I don't mention much about the D, but there really wasn't much that was noticeable. Harriott was. He has been a disruptive force with Swancutt when he's been in there, and he definitely belongs on the team. He just seemed to always be near the QB and the ball. Very disruptive, and I liked seeing that.
That's all for tonight. Maybe I'll write some more tomorrow when I see what the jokers in the press have had to say. Should be interesting. Can't wait to hear Rod's explanation for why BMW and CRog were ignored...
Saturday, August 26, 2006
OK, after last night I needed a little time to digest the carnage I saw on the field. I sat down and watched it again this morning, with a little less alcohol, and I think I have a bit better idea about what was going on out there. It still wasn't pretty, but it wasn't quite as bad as I thought it was last night.
- First the plays we were talking about. On the Moss TD bomb, Jon McGraw got to Brooks on the blitz, and was hauled down from behind. The play should have been called back for holding - never happened. It was that obvious on the replay. But since it wasn't, we got to face the absurd reality that we were trying to cover Randy Moss with Fernando Bryant. We've only played against him for like 8 years and seen him do this to us how many times? Ah yes, we have new coaches who aren't familiar with Randy torching the Lions. At least they hopefully learned this lesson in the preseason.
- The second Moss TD was a head scratcher as well. Somehow Levar Woods was matched up man-to-man with Randy Moss. Whoever called that scheme and thought Woods could guard Moss should be fired. Today.
On to the player breakdowns...
- Kitna looked awful. DanO also didn't look good. It was a bad night for our QB's, and that's never a way to win a game. If Kitna keeps running the way he has been, he won't make it to the 5th game. He got his clock rung a few times last night on his runs. Not a good thing for your starter to be doing. DanO skipped a few of his passes to his receivers they were so short. We didn't even see McCown, but he couldn't have done any worse than those two did.
- KJ looked good last night. Real good. End of his rookie season good. I love this Heisman Trophy pose... I actually was surprised when I saw the replay about how well he was running. Had a few of his teammates done their jobs, he could have had a 100 yard game last night. He was hitting the holes well, accelerating through them, and making contact when needed. He also caught the ball well out of the backfield. He was definitely the shining star on O.
- But once again, the O-line wasn't. I slowed down several plays, and saw more of the same from previous games - O-linemen not making the right reads, missing the correct blocks, not holding the blocks long enough. The only one I didn't see make a glaring mistake was Raiola. Verba seems to pull well, but he doesn't always make contact with the guy he's supposed to. Backus got beat by a speed rusher around the end again - what else is new?. And then the right side of the line... ick. We need Woody and Tucker back because Stokes showed why Butler is beating him out, and that isn't good. And DeMulling showed he was the same blocker as last year. Even Pollard got into the mix, getting blown up by a LB in the hole when he was supposed to lay down a lead block for KJ on one play. Beightol had better work his magic with these guys, and quickly.
- At WR, someone needs to remind Kitna who his best WR is. Roy was mostly invisible, and that's never good for our team. Instead, most of Kitna's throws went to Furrey and Bradford. I'm not really impressed with either of them. They're OK players, but nothing special. And when you don't have a single completion to anyone named Williams, it's not going to be pretty. To be honest, I don't even know if BMW got in the game. If this is what we're going to be seeing during the regular season, it's going to be really ugly.
- On the other side of the ball, we really miss Baby. Get well Shaun, because we need you in there to draw a double team. It really messes up the other teams blocking patterns because they have to account for him. Without him in there, they can pretty much run it any way they want. Shaun Cody looked good, but there was an obvious hole in the line next to him. Our ends were invisible all night as well. IMHO, we have to get Swancutt in there with the first team and see if he can get it done with them. He was a bright spot again, and he deserves a shot.
- At LB, I didn't see too much of Ernie Sims. He just didn't' seem to be around the ball like he was in previous weeks. On the other hand, the Raiders ran at Paris Lenon as much as they could, and it was obvious they intended to. On at least 3 of their draws, Lenon was in the hole, and simply couldn't react to stop Lamont Jordan and Justin Fargas before they gained 6+ yards. He wasn't stepping up into the hole and initiating contact, he was waiting for it to come to him, and it went right on by him. At least we did see Boss Bailey play, and he looked OK in the middle. And Alex Lewis looked good as well. Maybe next week we'll see a starting lineup of Sims, Bailey and Lewis instead of Sims, Woods and Lenon. That would be a huge improvement.
- At DB, it wasn't pretty. Once again, Bryant got burned deep. He has shown absolutely nothing since he came to Detroit. Oakland mostly avoided throwing toward Dre, because of how easy it was to throw elsewhere. And our safeties were mostly missing in action. But truth be told, this wasn't the biggest problem area on D, the line and LB's were.
Ugh, it wasn't a pretty game. Dunno how we're supposed to have any good feeling going into the regular season after seeing that kind of a display. Maybe I should try to get my money back for my season tickets...
Monday, August 21, 2006
Brace yourselves for my next obvious statement.
Preseason means nothing.
Take a deep breath in. Exhale. Repeat. Now repeat after me "Hi, I'm (state your name). I know that the results of any preseason game mean next to nothing about what will happen in the regular season." It's like a Lions 12-step course in dealing with reality. And we're going through it with some regularity already this year.
What I saw in the game has been already described in detail by a lot of other posters, and based on the late date of my writing, I'd be rehashing the same points over and over again. So I'll keep this one kinda short and simple.
On O, I'm concerned about the run game, but not because of KJ. It's the O-Line again. It's the same problem as last week, last year, last 5 years, every year since 1991. The line needs to improve in these areas:
- Get push on the D-Line at the line of scrimmage
- Make the correct line calls and ignore out of position defenders
- FB's and pulling OL need to hit the correct 2nd level defenders.
It's been an ongoing theme in Lions O-Line play for a long time. There is some communication we can chalk up to new players like Verba, but the same mistakes are being made that have been made for multiple years. Hopefully Beightol can correct this, but at some point you have to place the blame on the players in the system.
On D, we just got pushed around by the Browns O-Line. You want a textbook example of what I want to see our O-Line do, watch Cleveland's O-Line against us. Big holes were opened. Pulling guards hitting the correct second level defenders. Backs not getting touched until they were 4 yards downfield. That was good O-Line play, and outside of Shaun Rogers not playing, most of the guys on our D-Line will get significant PT this year. Granted, we still were without our starting LB's (what else is new?), but this was a bad job at stopping the run.
That's all I care to write about. It's too late after the game to bring anything more meaningful to the discussion. I'll be more prompt after the next game. That I promise.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Of course you can guess that it won't be pretty. I kinda spelled it out in my one post over at The Den Saturday morning before we left for the relatives. "I guess that kinda killed the feel-good attitude we had from the first game, eh?"
More tomorrow night...
Saturday, August 12, 2006
- That was definitely NOT the 'Greatest Show on Turf' offense. It didn't look bad, but they 'pounded the rock' a lot more than any Martz team I've seen in the last few years. Heck, they pounded more than any Lions team we've seen since Boss Ross was around. 25 runs in 46 plays. Definitely not what I expected to see from Martz.
- On the other hand, the choice of passes was a HUGE difference to last year. Far more passes (percentage-wise, not pure number) were thrown downfield than we've seen around here in a LONG time. And it looks like we've got the horses to run those routes.
- One thing I'm a bit concerned about after last night is not allowing the QB to audible out of a bad setup. On two different plays, Denver stacked 9 in the box against KJ, and the Lions called sweeps - a recipe for disaster. Unless there is a halfback option pass that is part of the play call, those two plays should never have been run. In addition, the two throws to Pollard were both destined to only get 1-2 yards based on where the D lined up against him. Maybe those were more on the QB for a bad read (both were quick throws with a defender in close), but they should be audibled out of.
- Kitna looked solid. I'm not sold on his arm strength as it looked like one or two of his passes were slow in getting to the target, but he was on the money. Dan-O looked good except for the duck he threw up. In re-watching the game, I'm not sure that INT was on him - it looked like he threw a corner route and Bodiford ran a post. IMHO, it's pretty obvious why he's #2 on the depth chart over McCown. McCown didn't look bad, but he was playing with the third string. I'd guess Martz switches it up next week, plays McCown with the second string and DanO with the third just to get a better feel for where each of them are.
- KJ is going to get a lot of work this year. As long as we can keep him from having to do a Barry Sanders impression (dodging 2-3 guys in the backfield), he should have a huge year. Based on the defense played against the Lions last night, teams definitely fear KJ more than the passing attack right now. The Broncos typically put either 8 or 9 in the box when KJ was in the game. Once he was done and Harris came in, they brought more than 7 on only one play - the quick TD toss to Harris. It was a remarkable difference to see when I watched the tape, and it speaks volumes about what other teams think the strength of the Lions O is right now.
- The O-line didn't impress me too much. Of course Woody and Tucker weren't playing, but it was the other side of the line - Backus and Verba - that didn't impress. Too much penetration was allowed from that side of the line. In re-watching the game, it appears that it may be more of a 'gelling' issue than anything. There were a few missed assignments that looked very much like they didn't know where each other was supposed to be just yet. Hopefully we'll see improvement in this area in the next few games. One good thing was that our QB's didn't get hit anywhere near as much as I had been fearing they would. I hope we see that continue next week.
- It was hard to get a read on any of the receivers. Too many guys out there and not enough balls thrown to any of them individually to really get a great feel for any of them. There were a few nice plays though - Roy, Bradford and BMW all made decent grabs. On the other hand, Drummond and Bodiford didn't impress me much as both caught only 1 of 3 balls thrown their way, when all were catchable. Martinez looked lost on the one pass he caught, and he was easily out muscled at the goal line on a play that BMW or Chuck could have made. There is a reason those two guys were 1st round picks, and Martinez, Bodiford and Drummond were undrafted. The last three may play with more desire right now, but they are physically limited and can't make some of the plays that the other guys can. That's why I expect that both BMW and CRog will make the team - for all their other assorted issues, they still are supremely talented. Hopefully the motivation will kick in and they'll get it soon.
- On the D side, even though the Lions were running without 6 of the front 7 projected starters, they did OK. The stats look skewed for both TOP and # of plays. Originally, I thought it was the result of the Lions working a short field most of the time. In re-watching the game, I was a bit more surprised at what I saw. Denver moved down the field pretty easily on most of their possessions. Had they not fumbled twice in the first half, they looked like they could have scored 14 more points as the D was giving up lots of yardage. Thankfully Denver couldn't hold onto the ball. Again, the Lions played without 6 of their front 7 starters, so I can cut them some slack.
- On the D-line, the two guys who stood out the most were Swancutt and Harriott. They were driving and creating havoc in the backfield. But we didn't see anything even remotely similar to what we should see in the regular season since Shaun Rogers, Shaun Cody and Cory Redding all sat this one out.
- At LB, Levar Woods still impresses the heck out of me. The guy looked like our best LB in the final 3 games last year, and he was all over the field today. But his play was overshadowed by Ernie Sims. Ernie should be playing on the first string next week, period. He looked that good, flying around, hitting people, and even doing it on special teams. When Boss gets back in the lineup, hopefully next week, this unit should improve considerably.
- At DB, I was impressed with the play of McCann and Bullocks. These two guys look like keepers. McCann did a good job in getting in front of the ball and defending a few passes. Bullocks laid the lumber a few times, and looks like a natural back there already. I think he may be starting over Holt by the end of the pre-season. On the other hand, Dre' looked like he knew it was a preseason game and wasn't flying around the way we have become accustomed to seeing him play. A guess is that it may have been due to Rod Smith and Javon Walker sitting out and him not feeling challenged. And once again, Fernando Bryant was invisible, but what else is new?
In all, we saw enough in this game to give us a better feel for what we will see once the games count - not in terms of the players, but in terms of the basic strategies. The deep pass is back, and once teams have to respect that, it should open things up for KJ more. The D is harder to read without so many starters, but it looked Ok even while being outmanned. Not a bad start to the preseason, but nothing to get too overly excited about.
Monday, July 31, 2006
That really brings me to the main point of this post. Since I'll be spending time in Vegas, I intend on hitting a few Sports Books to check out the odds on the Lions for the upcoming season. I figure I can lay down a few smallish size bets (impossible to bet large when you have 3 kids) if the odds seem interesting enough. I'll definitely be looking at the over-under for wins, and the Super Bowl odds. My gut is telling me that any odds for the Super Bowl are worth spending only a $20 on as it's still a pie-in-the-sky type of dream. But the over-under has me intrigued...
If anything, it will force me to commit to what I think the Lions record will be next year. If the O-U is at 6, I'm definitely betting the Over. But what if the line is 8? Do I feel confident enough yet to bet the over? What if it's 9? Am I pessimistic enough to bet the under? The problem is that I'll be making these bets prior to seeing any pre-season action. Not that pre-season action has typically ever told us how the Lions will play in the regular season, but I'll really have no clue about all the question marks we have with the club. I'll be betting blind. Plus, I have no idea how much I'll be betting. I'm thinking to keep my total bets to under $100, so that would leave $80 for O-U and other bets after my Super Bowl bet.
With all that said, I'd love to hear people's opinions as to which way to go with bets. I'm going to open up comments without moderation so that I don't have to approve each and every one before it is posted (and I'll still delete all the BS 'pimp viagara pills' posts to keep it clean). I'm very curious about what people really think, and if they'd put their own money down on this team. Let me hear it! I'll get into Vegas on August 6, so there is time before I get there...
Sunday, July 30, 2006
This promises to be a very interesting season. Depending on if you're a glass half-full or half-empty type of person, you think the Lions were either miles away from the playoffs last year, or that they were improperly screwed out of being at least 8-8. And that can go a long way toward what you expect in this coming season. Personally, I've always been a glass half-full type of guy.
In any case, it's time to get excited. I now have season tickets, although it already looks like there may be 1 preseason and 1-2 regular season games I'll have to miss due to other commitments (Florida at Christmas kills one...). But this should be fun.
And here's another cool thing - I just created a Frappr group for Lions fans. Log in, join the group. How the map below works to display the group on this page I really don't know, but it does. Feel free to log in and have fun.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
After 4 long years, it has finally happened. My buddy Mike and I got on the waiting list 4 years ago, and our number finally came up. We are now the proud season ticket holders in Section 117, row 37, seats 1-4 in Ford Field for the Detroit Lions. Yes, they're in the end zone, and nearly the top row in the lower deck. But after this long, beggars can't be choosers, right?
What is interesting to us is that the past three years, we moved down the list about 400 spaces each year. Last year, we sat at #892 in line when we got the letter, so we figured that we were likely 2-3 more years away from getting tix. This likely means a higher turnover rate for season ticket holders than in the past, so it's rather interesting. I'm not sure how far behind us the line went, but it would be very interesting if the Lions were close to not selling the joint out again.
In any case, I'll be tailgating and attending all the games this year, as well as TiVo'ing them, so I should be able to provide an even better perspective in my game notes. I'm pretty happy, so if you really want to show your geekishness, stop by section 117 on game day and say hi.
Oh, and now that I'm no longer just an observer, but a paying Lions supporter, I'll be deamnding results. I now have the right since I'll be helping pay those bozo's salaries...
Saturday, May 06, 2006
At LT, we have slapped the franchise tag on Jeff Backus with the intention of his being our LT for this season and possibly beyond. While I understand the reasoning behind the move, it doesn't mean that Backus is a top-5 LT, and doesn't mean that the Lions are set there. In fact, I'm more worried about this position than any other on the roster. Due to the new scheme, we have to look at how Backus has played the last two years, and then compare his production to Mike Martz's old team's LT - Orlando Pace. And that's what has me so worried.
The reasons for my concern are more than just Jeff Backus. The O that is being installed is very different from the one that the Lions have run the last few seasons. It places a great emphasis on the QB holding on to the ball with the ability to make a big play. By the nature of it, the O also subjects the QB's playing in it to taking a lot of hits. In the last few seasons, the Rams have had at least 4 different QB's get knocked out of games. And that's with Orlando Pace at LT.
It would be foolish to even suggest that Backus is at a level near to that of Pace. Pace is a perennial pro-bowler and easily one of the 3 best LT's in the NFL. Yet the Rams OL gave up 41 sacks last year - 10 more than the Lions did. As I just mentioned, the Rams O emphasizes holding the ball and throwing long passes. The Lions O the last few years was a dump-off and throw-away machine which as we all know artificially skews the sack total down. When we put Backus in the same position as Pace, knowing how many times Backus got beat in the quick dump-off O last year, I sense impending doom.
I know that there really weren't any good options out there for a starting LT that the Lions could have acquired. But that doesn't mean that the position isn't an issue. I only hope that Martz is creative enough and Beightol is a good enough line coach to keep our QB's alive. But with how many of Martz's QB's that seem to go down, we may be looking at Dan-O starting by turkey day.
DE is my next big problem area. IMHO, we have 4 DE's that if we were somehow able to graft them together, we'd have two complete every-down DE's. Here's the problem - James Hall and Kalimba Edwards are both pass-rushing smallish DE's. Jared DeVries and Cory Redding are both run-stuffing power DE's. None of them is an every-down DE, and because of that, opposing O's look at the personnel we have on the field, and attack the weak spot. If we have DeVries and Redding in, teams will throw. If Hall and Edwards are in, they run. If we mix it up - say Hall and Redding - they run their plays to the side of the field where they have the advantage. It's good strategy, and it's all the more effective because of how limited our DE's are. The team needs at least one every-down DE in the worst way, and IMHO the new D will suffer until that weakness is solved.
LG is the final problem area. We have brought in a bunch of journeymen, apparently with the hope that one of them pans out as a starting LG. We also drafted a rookie in the 7th round that a lot of people seem to be high on. I can't get too excited about Matua because he was drafted after a developmental CB project. It still leaves that side of the line with a huge question mark. If that question mark is answered by switching Woody to that side, it just opens a hole on that side of the line. Neither situation is ideal.
Hopefully, the Lions can show up in pre-season and show us that the guys we've brought in can actually do the job and quench my fears. A lot of people point to the Rams when Martz came on as O-Coord going from 4-12 to 12-4 and the Super Bowl in a single season. But Martz also had a young Pro-Bowl LT on that squad, the Lions don't. I'll keep my fingers crossed, but right now, I'm not expecting the world...
Monday, May 01, 2006
With each pick the Lions made on Saturday, I think they missed out on even better deals that could have been had. It started right away with not trading the #9 pick. When Leinart was sitting there at 9, everyone on the planet knew Arizona would take him at 10, and that there were a few teams behind Arizona that would have been salivating to get him. I mentioned this in my pre-draft post as well. This was an ideal trade situation for the Lions - at the worst, they could have forced Arizona to trade up one spot to get Leinart. Instead they took Sims, who I'm still a bit leary of, and who I think they could have gotten down around 15 - Denver's pre-draft spot. They missed out on the chance to pick up an additional pick, and the trades that happened a few picks later - Denver moving up to 11 to get Cutler - only proved that there were trade possibilities to be had.
Let me be clear here, In no way am I saying that the pick of Sims was a bust. He could turn out to be Derrick Brooks II for the Lions. I'm just saying that I doubt what some other people are saying that he would have gone #10 to the Cards had the Lions traded the pick. No way. The Cards have too many other more pressing needs, and had Leinart not been there, Winston Justice could have heard his name called 29 spots earlier than it was. And no way should the Lions have taken Leinart there. The last thing they needed is another rookie QB to sit on the bench and develop while ignoring other needs on the squad. The team needed other positions a lot more than they needed a QB, even one with the kind of pedigree Leinart has.
Of course if Lions history continues the way it has, Leinart will make his first NFL start agains the Lions and make them look foolish, while Sims will be injured. Leinart would then go on to lead the Cards to a Super Bowl before the Lions get to one, and become a Hall of Fame QB. Of course if the tables were turned and the Lions picked him, he'd be yet another first round bust, while Sims would become the reincarnation of Lawrence Taylor. It just seems to work that way...
The pick in the second of Bullocks also smacked of another missed opportunity, involving the same player I mentioned earlier - Winston Justice. Once again, this is not bashing Bullocks, just that a player the Lions had talked about taking at 9 was still there at the end of round 1, and into the early second round. In previous drafts, we've seen Millen make a move up to get the player he wants. Somehow, I find it very odd that they didn't make the move to get Justice. And for Philly to make a move to jump in the pick in front of Detroit to take him just smacks of how badly that pick was fumbled. You'll never hear anyone from the Lions say differently, but had Justice lasted one more spot, or the Lions picked 10 spots earlier, they would have taken him in a nano-second.
As we've been hearing, the pick in the third of Calhoun may have been due to some other happenings. I've long been surprised that the Lions have kept a kick return specialist on the roster who can't play WR effectively, and who gets hurt every year. And if Pinner is moping, then maybe it's time to broom him as well. That pick now sounds like it make a lot more sense, although my initial reaction of why they didn't take Max Jean-Giles there is still sticking. I would have loved to have seen the Lions trade up to the end of the third to get him as they still need a guard.
Of the remainder of the picks, I only have any interest in Jon Scott in the 5th round. At various times pre-draft I heard him going as high as late first round, so getting him in the 5th is decent value. If he pans out, it could be a steal of a pick. But I promise not to get too excited about a guy who slid to the 5th round as being a potential replacement for a 3rd year guy who supposedly slid to the 6th round. It could very easily be history repeating itself there. The pick of Matua in the 7th should not be confused as being the 'Guard they need'. If he was that great of a guard, they would have taken him before the developmental CB - McCann - they took in the 6th. Cannon in the 7th only hopes to make the squad for special teams play, and maybe get on the practice squad.
In all, I'm not unhappy with the players they picked up. They did fill two needs with Sims and Bullocks. In my humble opinion, they still have a glaring needs at LT, LG and DE. Based on that, I'm not expecting too great of strides this year because of these deficiencies. But we now know who the new guys are. Hopefully the new regime won't let them become accustomed to the old Lions ways.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
The Lions get to pick 9th as of right now. I say it this way because for some reason I think this year - more than any other - that they will get to trade down. The board just looks ripe for that to happen. The fact that Arizona picks 10th, and that Cleveland at 12, Baltimore at 13, and possibly Denver at 15, Minnesota at 18 and Dallas at 19 are all in the market for a QB sets it up. In all likelihood, there will be 2 of the top 3 QB's off the board when the Lions pick, and with Arizona in the market for a QB at 10, any of the teams below them I mentioned might be willing to move up. If all 3 QB's are gone, it likely leaves a few other highly coveted players still available that again teams might be willing to trade up for. In all, it puts the Lions in a great spot to make a move.
If they do actually make the pick at 9, there are a few certainties. They will not take a WR this year. I guarantee it. Of course Millen could prove me completely wrong and do exactly that, but that won't happen now... will it? Of the other possible players available around that spot, there are a few I don't like, and a few I like. I don't like the idea of the Lions taking a QB - any of them. Besides having 4 on the roster (5 if you still count Joey), none of these guys really excites me. None are ready to step in and start, and each has some serious flaws in their game. Young is still too raw, Leinart doesn't have a strong arm, and Cutler has never won anything. Don't give me the 'Cutler was the only weapon Vandy had' stuff either - can you say Jim Druckenmiller? He was the last QB that comes to mind from a big-time conference that never won anything and was picked in the first round. Ouch. Also, dont' forget that Mike McMahon never won anything and was supposedly the 'only weapon Rutgers had'. Not a ringing endorsement for not winning games in college, is it?
I'm also not in love with the latest 'sexy' picks, Broderick Bunkley and Ernie Sims, both from Florida State. It has something to do with 'how can a school have that many top players and not win every game?' Something about them just makes me want to take a pass on them. I'd also pass on Vernon Davis. I'll put it this way - how many times had anyone heard his name while he was actually playing? If you can claim you heard it more than once, I'll call you either a college football FREAK or a liar. I hate raising players up simply because of workout numbers, which fits Davis to a tee. Based on Rod's continual references to looking 'at the tape', I'd guess he's looking at a few of these guys and saying 'great workouts, where's the game film?' I'd also pass on Jimmy Williams - there's just something that I don't like about him. Not sure what it is, but I just have a bad feeling about him.
OK, so with that out of the way, there are players that of course the Lions would salivate if they fell into their lap. Of course nearly every mock in the civilized world has Reggie Bush going #1, but if he were there at 9, he'd be a Lion. There's only a 0.000001% chance that happens though. Of the other guys expected to be gone when the Lions pick, I'd take them in this order: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Mario Williams, A.J. Hawk. Some sites think it's 50-50 that Hawk is there when the Lions pick, I think it's 99% likely he is gone.
And that leaves... Michael Huff. He would be a great fit here in Detroit, and like everyone else, I think he'll be the Lions pick. A playmaking safety who I've heard compared to Ronnie Lott is always a good thing. He's versatile enough to play corner or safety, and he'd be an instant starter. Not a bad pick to make at that spot in the draft.
The problem comes in if he's gone when the Lions pick. There are a number of situations where that could happen, but most of them present other opportunities. Most boards have Bush, Ferguson, Williams, Davis, Hawk, and Leinart all off the board. If any of these guys falls and is there when the Lions pick, the phone will be ringing off the hook. Of course I'd only let Leinart or Davis get traded for, the other's I'd keep.
The other two players most often mentioned as being gone when the Lions pick are Vince Young and Haloti Ngata. Ngata is most likely to fall out of that list and be replaced, but a lot of people have him being replaced by Bunkley or Sims - not Huff. If Huff is taken and not one of those three, it's about the worst possible situation IMHO for the Lions. While I wouldn't mind Winston Justice or Ngata at 9, either of them could be available at 15. And it only leaves Cutler as a player someone else would be willing to trade up to get. It cuts the market for trades. It's still possible with all the QB hungry teams below them, but just not as many trade possibilities.
If Young is still there, the market for trades is wide open. As I mentioned earlier there are a lot of teams that would likely be willing to leapfrog Arizona to get a QB, and if Vince is still on the board, the offers will only get greater. I'd hate to lose Huff in trading down, but the ability to pick up another pick is always a good one. If Huff is gone and Young is there, it's an easy decision to trade down.
The other possibility is that Young and Cutler are also both OFF the board when the Lions pick. Of course if that happens, and Huff is also gone, then someone else has slipped. As I mentioned earlier, if that player is Ferguson, Williams or Hawk, I'd take them and never look back. It won't be Bush. If it's Davis or Leinart, There are still trade opportunities as a lot of teams covet them. All in all, the Lions are in a really good spot to get either a player that they really want, or make a trade back for more picks.
If they do trade back, everything will depend on how far back, and who is still around. A few players I like later in the first round are Winston Justice, Haloti Ngata, Chad Greenway, Bobby Carpenter, and Tamba Hali. I can't predict anything as I have no way to know where the Lions would drop to. Of course Millen has a habit of trading up from the second to get into the late first or early second as well, and any of those guys, should they be available in the late first round, along with Marcus McNeil would warrant a trade up. If they stay where they're scheduled to pick in the second, I'd like to see Abdul Hodge or Max Jean-Giles as the pick. Both of them would fill a need and would be solid players. In the third, there should be a few good OT's left, and possibly a safety like Darnell Bing of USC if they didn't get Huff. Beyond the third, who knows - I'd be happy getting a special-teamer from the later rounds.
So, there you have it, my Lions draft strategy. Of course come Monday, we'll all be discussing how the Lions took Santonio Holmes and how he fits in, but this is still pre-draft, so here's to hoping Millen doesn't take another WR...
Sunday, April 23, 2006
It's the time of year to clean out the garage, open the windows, and get the house back into shape for the summer. Likewise, I need to clean up some misconceptions around here that may confuse people. I usually try to explain every blog entry in enough detail that they stand alone. But as I've been told (correctly, I might add), there are some prevailing themes that anyone who hasn't read this blog before would get an incorrect idea about my opinion. Therefore, it's spring cleaning time here at the Body Shop.
About me: First of all, I'm a fan of the Lions, nothing more. Although I wish I had inside access to the team, season tickets, and was on their payroll, unfortunately, I'm not. I'm a fan who watches every game religously. I have TiVo, and record the games as well. I use my TiVo to go back and re-watch the game and see what I may have missed the first time around, quite often looking at line play, and defensive protections - the things you really aren't focused on when watching live. It really helps shape my opinion to see what else is going on in the game besides just watching the QB and skill position players. Football is a team game, and the actions of any 1 of the 11 players on each squad can make a huge difference in the outcome of a play, drive, or game. So I go back to see what the other 15 players on the field that I wasn't focused on were doing.
Unfortunately, I rarely get to go to the games, but not for a lack of desire. I usually make it to about 2 games a year when I can somehow manage to get tickets. Finally about 3 years ago, the Boss (my wife, of course) told me to go ahead and get season tickets, so a good friend and I got in line. We were about 1000 people back in line for season tickets last year, and hopefully we'll move up enough to get them. I'm not holding my breath this year though.
As far as subject matters around here, I've had a few people ask me why I hate Tom "The Killer" Kowalski, Booth Newspapers Lions beat reporter, so much. Truth is, I don't hate Killer, I actually like reading his stuff. He does have some inside contacts with the Lions and gets some good info that I could only dream of getting. He writes a very informative column that is one of the best in the area. Where I do have an issue with him is when he begins to interject his opinion and rumors he hears as fact. He has a habit of doing this, and then only occasionally owning up to when he's wrong. If he's writing a column and it's labeled "Tom's Opinion", that's fine. But he interjects rumors he hears and his opinions into Lions game stories as if they were fact, and that just irks me, especially when I disagree with him.
For example, early last year, he claimed that 95% of the Lions offensive problems were Joey Harrington, and stated this as fact. He repeated this in his column, and on the Radio with Drew & Mike and also with Stoney & Wojo. My simple TiVo analysis of the games told me that the issue had much more to do than just Joey - Joey was not without blame, but there were failures in every aspect of the O that couldn't be blamed on Joey. Then Joey got pulled, and Garcia came in and made the same dumpoffs, same checkdowns, and got hit the same way Joey had. Garcia, a 3-time Pro Bowler in the exact same system with the same coach, looked every bit as bad and in many ways worse than Joey did running the O. It served to prove my point that Joey wasn't the only issue, and prove Killer wrong. But he never came back and admitted he was completely wrong with his "95% Joey" problem statement. This is what is frustrating aobut Killer.
Some people have also asked about me calling Roy Williams iRoy, and why I hate him. Again, I don't hate him, I just don't worship the ground he walks on. IMHO, he's an above average, bordering on great talent who makes the spectacular catch but drops the easy ones. He won't be a great player until he starts making the easy catches. That goes for a lot of other players as well, but Roy stands out because I hear so many people gushing about him.
That about does it for now. I'll make sure I answer any other questions that anyone else has.