Sunday, March 9, 2008

Fun Story and Middle Linebacker Thoughts

First, a fun story that got me thinking. My wife and daughters (ages 6-5-4) were shopping at Kohls last week. There was, as usual, a fairly big 50% of 80% off section, so my wife told them they could each pick out a fleece sweatshirt. So as they are looking around, my middle daughter goes "Daddy's Lions MOM! FOOTBALL LIONS!" (to them it is always "Daddy - there's your football Lions.") "Can we get them??"

So I am sitting in my office. As you know, my boss grew up near Chicago and is a HUGE Bears fan. My girls come running in going "Daddy -- Look! Look! We're Lions!" -- They were all wearing matching pink Lions fleece hooded pullovers. Beautiful. I thought my boss was going to cry - shaking his head going "why?why!?" (all in fun). I was thinking -- boy, could the Lions use my girls at MLB - they'd hit way harder than Lenon...

Then they pulled an even better surprise -- they found a Lions Fleece (non-hooded) for me. Awesome. I'll post a picture of us sometime.

It was great fun, and now they like to go out and say Daddy - can we all be Lions today? Then get all excited because we match (minus the Pink for them and Blue for me) Times like that make you remember what being a Lions fan is really all about.

Be sure to check the comments on this and older stories as there is some really great ideas and corrections there. I try to respond when I can as well.

I have had a few people ask about Buster Davis, and I have not been able to find anything concrete out about his progress either. This is the time of year when smoke, mirrors, and acrobatic monkeys are all flying about so it is hard to tell what teams are actually doing, who they want, and how players are really recovering from injuries, or progressing along.

If I had to take a guess (I don't but I will anyway) then I would say Buster is a possibility to back up Ernie on the weak side, or Lenon/Lewis on the SLB -- but I do not see him as a T2 MLB. The MLB is one of the few positions in the T@ where you really need a superstar. They are responsible for diagnosing run/pass -- deep/short. Screen? Change to the D play call at the line? Move coverage? Stop short, comeback, and crossing patterns over the short-mid middle whether it is a RB, TE, or WR running the route, all while looking to clean up runs sideline to sideline, and occasionally shooting the hole and sacking the QB, or hitting the RB in the backfield.

In other words, Buster may not be a bad LB, but he is no way doing all of that. The knocks on him are that he is not as quick as Ernie, and doesn't diagnose plays well. While he is a little undersized, other than rare players like Urlacher it is very difficult to find speed, instinctive ability to diagnose plays, and good size all in one player. Even saying that, Urlacher is not exactly the stoutest against the run. The DT's are supposed to do the heavy lifting of stopping runs up the middle, while the MLB just helps either the SLB, WLB, or DT's finish off the run, or slow them in the backfield. In other words, the T2 MLB spends more time in coverage than running into guys head on the the OLB do. That is part of the reason T2 teams tend to have at least 3-4 DT that they rotate to keep fresh with 2 being pass-rushers, and 2 run stoppers (as far as strengths -- they all can and will have to do both).

Lenon had problems instictually diagnosing the plays in the middle. He and Lewis both have the physical skills, but both lack that talent. Because of that, Lenon was always either getting to the runner, or getting to the receiver just that half second too late. Add in some severe lack of tackling (how can pro-football players not do the most basic of all skills still just kills me. Like Basketball Players and FreeThrows.) and you have the mess of passes completed over the middle. Also, being late to get to the runner meant guys like AP that NEED more than one guy to take them down got a couple extra yards every play at best, and got through the initial tackler at worst.

As for the Draft, Connor would be moving to the middle, although it is projected he could play there from what little I've read. I've seen Lofton and Mayo mentioned as possibly being available in the second. I really don't have any info on college players yet, and don't have time to watch any college ball, so I'm really in the dark on the College guys.

In my opinion there were not any FA MLB that knew the scheme so as to do better than a rookie, fit with the team, and were available for the right price. I know they tried for Vilma but I've already said some on that. I am also not convinced that he is going to be healthy enough to make the long term impact needed to justify his price. However, the big thing is that his attitude is NOT that of a Marinelli player. While Barry said they made a strong run at him, I think in the end they weren't willing to pay the price for a player that didn't want to rework his contract. I don't think Spikes would be an upgrade at this point over Ernie for sure, he isn't really suited to the T2 MLB, and is his price increase over Lewis/Lenon on the strong side really justified? I'm not so sure on that score. IF healthy...that big IF.

Any thoughts on the MLB position from you the readers? I'd love to hear them! Also, not just names of guys the Lions should look at for MLB (regardless of round) but what their strengths/weaknesses are as far as the position description listed above. Should be fun! (Not required, but would be informative for all -- lots of little bits of knowledge can add up to a clearer picture)


poundtharock said...

What's up, I'm a lifetime Lions fan and a new reader on mlive.

Nice Blogs! I bet your girls would play better than Paris. LoL.
I believe what you say about the MLB in the t2 being a star. An impact player with great awareness and skills. Similar to RayRay, Urlacher, Merriman. The Lions should be selective in choosing a MLB in the draft, one that they can develop as opposed to signing via FAgency. A Rod Marinelli type of guy is who I think they'll draft in the first or second round.

CHIEFGER139 said...

i think mlb is the key to if we make the playoffs
i think millen is looking at dan conners seeing hes from penn st. also i here lofton from ok would be good and ive heard mayo from tenn. would love to know who those 31 players were that marennelli interviewed at the combine-you would think kowalaski would of been on top of that and at least let us know what positions there looking at-weve heard cb but they took care of that, weve heard hints of a o.tackle and a running back and thats it-
p.s. i hate having to try to read those letters and retype them to put my blog on this sight-this is my 3rd attempt

Anonymous said...

i have some concerns at lb but we also some guys we can as of now plug in there Blue could by sslb he to me is a roster guy i.e. play safty,special teams, and sslb as a sslb he got the cover skills tackling and speed supports the run 3 positions 1 roster spot and this is b4 the draft read davis's bio leading tackler at fsu not to bad for a guy 5'9"now im not saying we set at these position i'm just saying we have a lot of flexiblity there


Anonymous said...

All I know is that I want the Lions to get the Cromarte kid, Mayo, and the rb Johnson from E. Carolina. Fill in the rest of the drat with best available talent and I would be happy. I also think that Stanton has a shot at being a GOOD NFL qb. So give him his chance.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to address Offensive Line... We can't imagine trying to compete with giving up as many sacks as we have in the past few seasons. With that in mind I think we need to sit at #15 and see if anyone falls to us here... OT Long, Clady DE Gholston, Long or DT Ellis... If any of these guys fall we take them... If not we need to trade down and get more picks... OT is a deep class but outside the top two the talent drops off and we can still get to the end of the 1st and get a great OT and then get maybe another 2nd and address MLB with Mayo and CB Lee or Thomas in the 2nd... then in the 3rd with two selections we can get a RB that has fallen maybe a Mike Hart type guy and with the other 3rd rounder take Crable to help fill the need on weakside or strongside backer... I wouldn't mind seeing another QB taken here someone like Andre Woodsen... that'd be my best guess for best available at that point... thanks I like your blog
Aaron Lambert

jreffy said...

First off, great blog!! It's rare to find a fellow Lions fan who isn't completely depressed and constantly looking to rip their team. Nor do you praise every move and make excuses for their shortcomings as well.

Now addressing the topic...

I believe that the Lions should and will (hopefully) do the following...

1) Attempt to trade out of the #15 spot. There might not be any top-5 talent out there people want to trade up for (see M. Vick, P. Manning), but I see a lot of teams wanting to move up into the middle of the draft depending on who is there (Mendenhall). Obviously, the Lions need help in a few positions, and with the draft being deep in talent at their positions of need (see point #2), this would be the best move, but obviously depends on outside factors.

2) I sincerely believe that for this to be a great draft, the Lions need to address two of the following positions in the first two rounds; MLB, OL, DE. With the exception of DE, there is plenty of talent that will be available througout the first couple rounds of this draft.

Granted I'm not the biggest draft or NCAA guru, but the only way I see us taking a DE in the first two rounds is if Ghoulston drops to #15 (good luck with that one). It's been mentioned by many people and proven in years past that RB is the easiest position to fill through the draft, so they won't even think of drafting one until the second day.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I've been gone for the weekend (hockey tourney). If you read my mlive post today, people will accuse us of being the same person (I didn't log in here, first).

We've both said the same thing for several weeks, and it's really funny.

For guys just viewing this site; yeah it's pretty cool. detroitfan1979 does a good job. MLIVE is starting to get more negative posters; but it is nothing like the or web sites. Those sites have tons of negative morons who have no idea to develop talent. They are the same idiots who blast Tony Dungy and the Patriots for "sucking" because they didn't win the Super Bowl this past year.

Make no mistake, this team is getting better.

They are sitting backl and targeting a few key players at their target "need" positions. It's nice to see that if this ship flounders, Marinelli is the one that is calling the shots. Millen is just getting what his "guy" wants. That's the bad thing about Matt. He's done whatever his head coach asked for; and before it included signing bad deals for players they wanted. He's actually getting better, and he's good at drafting and moving around the draft board to get a target player (Jones, Williams, and Lehman). At the time; all the EXPERTS loved his draft. Most usually do.

LINEBACKER: I can really see the Lions going and getting Rivers (OLB from USC) and then getting Mayo or Lofton (MLB) in the second. The knock on Dan Connor (MLB from PennState) is that he is too light at MLB; and only played OLB until this year. The MLB spot is the "natural spot" for Mayo and Lofton; and they are NOT first round guys. This selection process would make sense.

CB--- I was BIG on DRC before the Combine. He will NOT be around when the Lions pick at 15. And with the Kelly signing, it becomes less of a need.

DE--- Just the use of a second round pick puts pressure on Ikaika Alama-Francis to fit in the rotation at DE (if not start). I see the "5-0" and White starting with DeVries and Edwards (right now) backing. I don't know if Kalimba has a signing bonus date. He may be a cap cut before camp; but if something is done (re-structure contract) he may stick around. Because White and Corey Smith are the mentors in this group, they may both stick around, and you may see NO EARLY DRAFT PICK at this position.

DT-Something is still happening here. Redding will start. Darby will mentor Cody. DeVries spells in the middle, but I think there is a mid-level pick used here in the draft.

I also think they will comb the waiver wire for a 350 pound "Booger" stop-gap/run-stuff after the draft. McFarland or others will be available. Just the sheer size of some of these guys stop middle screens, draws, and dives. Darby is smallish (6'0" 305) as is Redding (converted DE) and Cody. They need the "hole-plugger/goal-line stuffer" that Shaun Rogers voids.

OT-- I think the signing of Foster creates less of a sense of urgency to pick OT in round one. It sends slight messages that Jon Scott is starting here, and they are going to use Foster and a late-round pick to back them up (obviously Backus starts).

The good thing about that move (if it is how they go), is that a late rounder has a year to absorb. A first round pick is the starter, with Jon Scott backing HIM up. That's a lot of pressure and very rarely (I know, Joe Thomas) does it work outside a Top 20 pick (which Thomas was a #2). With Scott's long arms, if he can develope; can push him to go to the LEFT SIDE later. Which is very good because Backus is a technician. Backus has very good hands. Backus has problems with power. Jonathan Scott's frame would allow him to be better on the left side.

RB -- I am not afraid of the Lions using a BIG pick to swipe a back. If it is the right guy. If they can snag East Carolina's Johnson in the third, that would be a steal. That kid is the draft's version of Michael Turner. I wouldn't be opposed to the Lions to get a "tweener"; a big thump guy. You know, the "Human Bowling Ball". A 235-245 pound pounder The speed guys are rare.

FB-- There will be a pick here (or a few after the draft signed to come into camp. In addition to our 300 pounder (Jon Bradley); don't forget about the kid from Texas (Thump Belton) that was put on I.R. He's a good fullback; has good hands and can make the team with good special teams play.

K-- Kenny Bird will be back in camp. He got injured last year in Training Camp. No one picked him up because the Lions were able to keep him on I.R. This kid can kick. He's been around for a few camps; and Jason is getting older. If he is back in camp; he may make the coaches think hard about Jason's depth on kick-offs as being a trade off to sign another kicker.

With that said; I am a loyalist and LOVE the vets. I still miss SLAG. I love players that show loyalty and stay with a team their whole career. It may be time. Let's see how Jason looks in camp before I post any more here or mlive. He's earned it.


Anonymous said...

The O-line is definitely a need, but I'd like to see the Lions focus on Dline/LB myself. I actually really like the sim here: Drafttek

There are two reasons I'm not too concerned about O-Line.

1)No more Mike Martz 17 step drops which means the ball will actually come out quicker.
2)The running game was actually quite good when the Leos gave it a chance.

That said, they still need to get at least 2 linemen in this year's draft.

As for pass rush, a mediocre pass rush is better than Shaun Rogers had when he was gassed, and not nearly as good when he was fired up. Overall, I don't think the pass rush got worse despite losing Rogers. It's potentially worse, but not necessarily so.