Thursday, December 28, 2006

Thinking ahead... '06

Well, I sit down here in sunny Florida on vacation, and the Lions should be the furthest thing from my mind, right? Well, except for the fact that in watching college bowl games I start thinking about who the next Lions great hope will be. Then I start thinking about how pitiful the team has been and then about how Millen will likely make th next draft choice again, and...

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

Throwing in the towel

Well, it took me a while to admit it, but I've finally officially thrown in the towel on the Lions this year. It took a absolutely draining loss against the Patriots for me to admit what truthfully I had already accepted 5-6 games ago - this team isn't getting any better. I almost admitted it in my last post, but I just never wanted to give in to the dark side. It took a team this perennially bad and a loss this emotionally draining to break the spirit of this eternal optimist. And I just have no emotions left to give to this franchise for a while.

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.