Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Back in the Saddle

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 Minnesota and St. Louis – both 4-3 – are absolute frauds that are no where near as good as their records would indicate. Likewise, I think that Pittsburg and Washington – both 2-5 – are nowhere near as bad as their records indicate. This is the problem with NFL parity – there is so little difference between the vast majority of teams in skill or talent that most games are a crapshoot. And our Lions fall right into this great middle area.

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. Paris Lenon? Ouch. Going with a Packers castoff at LB can’t be good. But as bad as that unit has been, at least they weren’t getting hammered every play because of the play of Shaun Rogers. Now with him sitting for 3 more games for taking a banned weight-loss substance (brilliant one there), it’s going to be VERY rough on our LB’s for the next few weeks. The secondary actually hasn’t been as bad as some people think - it’s hard to defend a WR for 10 seconds because there is no pass rush. And that brings us to another weak spot – DE. Nothing against the guys we have there, but none of them are complete all-around NFL DE’s. We need at least one guy who can generate consistent pressure on the QB from the end. IMHO, this is our #1 need in the draft next year. And since right now we’ll be picking so early, we should get the cream of the crop.

After all of that, you can see why I’m having such a hard time maintaining a positive outlook. There are so many holes, so many problems. There are still lots of penalties. Still dropped passes. And yet through all of that, the team has been in a position to win in the 4th quarter of every game except at Chicago. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me other than to think in terms of the NFL parity.

So I’ll keep watching, hoping to see something that gives me a hint that maybe the team is finally getting ready to round the corner. I’m not sure I’ll see it, but I’ll let you know if I do.


Jef... said...

Hey.. at least you have the Red Wings ! :0P

Dan said...

Welcome back, Miltie!