Sunday, April 13, 2008

Detroit Lions Linebackers - They have >1?

hollyweed88 - I wasn't going to post tonight, but I checked my email before bed, and next thing I know, sleep be damned, here I am - researching away. And I end up with at least 2 posts. Takes so little to get my mind going some days, I'm telling ya! Look for analysis tomorrow of our most recent poll for who the Lions should draft. Please Email me with your ideas for our next poll. I will put it up this week.

PS - Nobsnubber -- I will still look forward to your comments, no matter if it's only once a week. I know I agree with where your priorities are! Keep your opinions coming and catch up when you have the time. We'll all still be here. And a welcome aboard to LionfaninPA. And to those reading from overseas (and Alaska), and all over, I applaud your dedication to our team!

It's nearing the draft, but not quite there, so much will change come draft day and before. Players slide, some get picked "early" -- about all you know from reading stories and mock drafts right now is that no one knows anything about how the draft will go. With so many teams holding multiple early picks, there will likely be lots of trade action, especially outside of the the "Top Ten Newest Multimillionaires" range. Starting at about 13-15 is where the trades will really get going (possibly) -- which puts Detroit in a good position to move down if the guy they want isn't there. I have thus been understandably surprised by how anguished fans have been about the Lions not picking in a good much so they want to move back into the top ten! The Detroit Lions finally played their way out of that range -- if Millen trades back up there I will seriously jump up and down and scream "You have to be [expletive my kids will get me in trouble for because you can't say those words daddy] kidding!" so loudly the neighbors will call the police, and I'll spend the 2nd day of the draft in Jail.

So, rather than ranting and raving like WCF-Sr on game day, I decided to pep everyone up by looking at the strongest position on the team right now. It has so much competition, the Lions will be cutting 3 or more solid players from the final roster. But since I've already written 2 or 3 stories on the Safety position, I decided to look at the linebacker corps instead...

I know, and here you thought it would be a happy story today. What can I say? It's 1:00 am [2:23 by the time I'm doing my final proofread on this sentence] , I accidentally drank a double dose of caffeinated beverage (tea, actually) that I thought was Decaf at about 8:00 pm -- sooo....I am going to be up for a while. Who knows, this position group analysis may even have a happy ending -- you'll just have to read it and find out!

First off, Killer had a story on who he thinks the Lions are considering with #1 if Harvey and all the best OT's are gone - but assumes they have a choice between Rivers and Mayo. Who knows who will be there in the draft - but I think Rivers will be long gone by pick 15. So lets look instead and see who the Lions have under contract at LB, where Rookies picked may fit in, and how many are needed:

No. Player Pos. Ht. Wt. Age Exp. College/University
99 Cannon, Anthony LB 6-0 228 23 3 Tulane
55 Davis, Buster LB 5-9 239 24 1 Florida State
58 Fincher, Alfred LB 6-1 238 24 4 Connecticut
54 Gardner, Gilbert LB 6-1 228 25 5 Purdue
53 Lenon, Paris LB 6-2 235 30 7 Richmond
59 Lewis, Alex LB 6-0 230 26 5 Wisconsin
50 Sims, Ernie LB 6-0 225 23 3 Florida State

Looking at the past depth charts of Marinelli's teams in 2006 and 2007, he has kept 7 LB on the roster in both seasons. They currently only have 7 under contract. Of those, 4 were on the active roster last year, with Davis a mid-season pickup who was primarily on the practice squad until late in the year. The two new FA signings haven't exactly lit the league on fire.

The Lions need to get at least 3-4 more LB in for competition before camp. "razor thin" and "they have LB's on the roster?" are both descriptions I would give at first glance at this list. However, a closer examination reveals they are in better shape than initially advertised.

No, I have not been drinking. Caffeine got me into this mess, and only time will get me to sleep. Besides, most people think I'm already drunk, crazy, or joking when I tell them I spend about 10 -15 hours a week writing about the Lions because I like to. Even my Mother recently stated that "I know he's a good writer, but the Detroit Lions? Football!? How??" (none of my family -- I mean NONE watch sports, so my love of Football in general and the Lions specifically is a great big family mystery. You know, one of those "He must have gotten in from your side" kind of things. Seriously though, they tried reading it, but didn't understand a thing I was writing, gave up, and just tease me now and then in good fun. I'm a Lions fan - we're all used to that anyhow.)

Continue with me now as we dig deeper into the LB situation in Detroit: In 2006, 4 of the 7 were on the final depth chart. In 06, Simms and Cannon were rookies together. Simms started WLB, Lewis at SLB, and Lenon MLB (1st season there after 4 in the league at SLB). Cannon was the 7th LB, technically listed as 3rd behind Lewis and Bailey on the SLB.

We all know Simms is not an issue. Cannon has been backing him up at WLB since last season, one of the only 7th round picks to stick with the Lions. He is an excellent ST player, and a solid back-up and rotational LB with Simms when needed. I see him and Simms as virtual Locks to make the final roster, which means the Lions are set at WLB depth.

At SLB, Alex Lewis was injured in 06, and it lingered into the off season. He lost his starting job to Boss Bailey in 07, although "starter" was a bit of a mislabel as both were rotated pretty heavily once Lewis was healthy. Lewis is also an excellent special teams gunner who was missed much of last season when he was still recovering. He showed flashes of his starting form from 06 toward the end of the season. Barring a phenomenal camp from either a rookie draft pick, Gardner, or Fincher I see him as the SLB to start the season (unless see below), backed up by one of the three just mentioned. If he plays more like he did in 05 and especially 06, that will be a great thing, and he may even last the season as the starter if he can stay healthy. So with Lewis a lock in my mind to win a camp battle as backup SLB/ST at least, that leaves me filling 3/7 LB spots already. Not too bad.

MLB Paris Lenon is now in his 7th season, and his 3rd as a T2 MLB -- this off season/camp is when the coaching staff will really be able to tell if he "gets it" -- especially on coverage underneath, or if he will never be anything better than an average MLB. Either way, unless Fincher, Davis (who was listed and practiced mainly at MLB last season), or a rookie pick have an out-of-this-world-no-way-is-he-a-rookie-camp, Lenon will at least start the year at MLB, with the loser (most likely a high-round rookie) rotating in at MLB and SLB for game experience as they learn -- and possibly taking over mid-season, although I think that next season is more likely.

If Lenon does lose in camp, then I see him battling Lewis at SLB, and still maintaining his position as the top backup MLB. If that happens, I can see whoever comes in second to Lewis in camp being held on as the 3rd SLB, with one being able to play middle (Lenon) unlike last season, where Lehman and Davis were behind Lenon in the middle.

Assuming that the Lions pick an early MLB prospect who could play SLB, and another OLB say in round 4 or so, then here is how I see it shaking out:

Lenon, Lewis, Simms, and Cannon will lock up 4 of the 7 Roster spots. That leaves:

Rookie MLB, Rookie OLB, Davis, Gardner, and Fincher competing for three spots (with an UDFA as a possibility as well). While I know a lot of guys have the man-love for Davis, I haven't seen enough of him to really make a call on his talent level -- other than the fact that he didn't stand out either in his Playing time, or on ST. Neither of those facts bodes well for him. Gardner was the 3rd OLB behind two solid starters, and I can see him making the final cut, along with the Rookie MLB. The 7th spot will be a knock-down drag out between Davis, the Rookie OLB, and Fincher. (although he may still surprise and knock Gardner into the melee for the final spot). My guess? Rod hits well on his Rookie OLB in the later rounds, just like Cannon and with Baldwin last year -- this year, however, he won't make the mistake of trying to sneak his guy past waivers and onto the practice squad. My starting LB depth chart for 08...

WLB -- Simms, Cannon
MLB -- Lenon, Rookie MLB,
SLB -- Lewis, Gardner, Rookie OLB

The Rookies, especially at MLB, will get a chance to learn, and we will see tweaking and movement next season, but it will be to upgrade, or guys improving and passing those ahead of them on the depth chart. A good MLB and 4th+ OLB similar to Cannon (solid contributor, good ST player), and the Lions will have solidified yet another area of the defense. At the rate they are going, they could enter the 2009 FA and draft just looking to upgrade positions where it's most beneficial instead of filling glaring holes. Just the way it should be.

Go Lions!


Anonymous said...

All right! Just going to bed so I can get up for church. What do I check one last time and see? Yep, a new article. Thanks.
I am not sure if I can say this well, but here goes.
I wish you would compare 2 things since Millen took over.
Each season, there are a few teams that make a significant improvement from the previous year.
Normally that means some players that were added, made the team much better. Who were they and what positions did they play? Cleveland, for example, can point out their improvement because of the left tackle. That made the QB so much better, too.
Second part, in all the drafts since Millen came, in hindsight, which QBs should they have drafted if they could have known the future?

Anonymous said...

Hey man; like your blog (I've bookmarked it) and I'll probably keep coming back. You got some good insight and I can tell you're a die hard fan.

Only thing though: Why the hell do you keep misspelling Ernie SIMS last name?

Anonymous said...

I was overjoyed to see that article on taking Mayo. I loved the older mocks that had us taking him in the 2nd but I think that is completely unrealistic at this point. There really is no chance of him making it through the first after his workouts. His wonderlic score was a solid 26, important in such a demanding slot as MLB. (Rivers scored a Vince Young-like 16) While I would love the opportunity to grab an extra pick by trading down a few spots, if it doesn't work out I will be happy with selecting him in the first. We need him.
On the OLB front I have a name most of us Michiganders should be familar with, Jonal Saint-Dic. He should be there in the fourth and could be a monster rush OLB. He was unstoppable in his senior season (his first full season since his JUCO transfer) and his suspension for academic violations was a major reason the Spartan's lost their bowl. Well, there are no history classes to skip in the NFL and football was never a prolem for him so he could easily switch between Situational end work and OLB. The guy had 10 sacks last year and an unheard of eight forced fumbles. He has an uncanny nose for the ball. He may have trouble defending the short pass but runners should be no problem. I don't see how he isn't worth a fourth round flyer.

DetFan1979 said...

Anonymous - ROFL - a combination of two things: being a non-college student writing at 2am, and my Spell check is forever changing names when I'm not careful. It constantly made Lenon Lennon, Sims Simms, and Buster Busted last night. Good catch - I'd try to correct it when I have time, but it would make these two comments a lot less hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the research, I was just thinking of this exact topic after reading chief's comment about late rounders. Before I start I have to admit that I'd be happy with Mayo @15,contrary to one of my old posts.
But the thing thats has me excited is the position we are drafting in. I think we are assured of a good value pick in an area of need with 15. I believe Williams, Harvey, or Rivers will fall to us. Especially with B. Alberts moving up draft boards,I have to admit I wouldn't be disappointed with him either. I don't think Mendenhall is going to last, Which may have something to do with how "obvious" it is that we need him.
Let me breakdown my thought process for a minute. Harvey is probably the best talent that could fall to us at an area on need. Williams/Alberts less value, more likely to be there but still a big need. Rivers, I'm not huge on, but the idea of him,Lofton, and Sims backing the D gives me a warm-fuzzy feeling. even if I have to wait a year for everyone to "get it". IF Mendenhall is still available, one simple question to all, Why? if you compare him to 2nd rounder possibilities like F. Jones, J Stewart, J. Charles. and Third rounders like R Rice, M. Forte, C Johnson. Why? What is so sure thing about him that these later choices wouldn't make as much sense. I'd rather them take a "flier" on Schmitt in the 4th or Caulcrick later to be the thunder with the speedy backs we already have.
Now to my point in this matter. 4th rounders or later, are often a product of their draft class(meaning they maybe the 8th best at their position) so they fall to the later rounds. In this years draft RB's could be those steals we talk about for other teams, thats why I ask, 2-3 hours into the draft before any trends have been established, why eliminate our need from the deepest talent pool this draft has?


CHIEFGER139 said...

before i was on the mendenhall bandwagon
was the key to our defense-then lenon can go on the outside and then were awsome-have always been told we can get our lb in the 2nd-but if we cant and they get mayo-im fine with that-just get forte later and we will be awsome-truthfully though-they looked at lofton too-hes a keeper too-but need the lb with one of the 1st 2 picks

JJLions20 said...

Here is how I see the depth chart shaking out. I agree teh MLB will come in either the first or 2nd round. If Harvey is there I think he is there man with the #1 pick. If he is not there I would not be surprised if they get one of the OT's if they are still there. First , I'll re-state I think the situation about playing a rookie at MLB is a smokescreen and the Lions will start a rookie by game-4. I will say Marenelli likes to have the rookies earn their positions. He did it with Sims (not naming him a starter through most of the pre-season. I don't believe CJ started until the after the first game. But if the Lions Draft a MLB high, he will be getting significant playing time starting with game-1, even if he does not start.

Although Lewis played a lot at SLB last season, he does not have the size for that position. I see him as the #2 on the depth chart behind Lennon at SLB. He may start the season at #1 as Lennon will start the season at MLB, but as the Rookie plays more, Lennon goes to SLB, and Lewis to a back-up role. But I also believe Lewis will also be the #1 on the depth chart at WLB. Backing up Sims. I look for the Lions to pick up a tweener on the second day. A kid too small for DE but not a lot of experience at LB. Somebody they can develop at SLB or at least be a speed rusher in special situations.

WLB: Sims/Lewis/Cannon
MLB: Rookie-1/Lennon
SLB: Lennon/Lewis/Rookie-2

That leaves Davis, Fincher and Gardner battling for one spot. Who ever plays the best MLB gets the job, and special teams play will be a consideration. I believe it’s Gardner at this point. Davis is still eligible for the practice squad. Of course all it takes is one injury in preseason and Davis of Fincher makes the team.

mydydo said...

Why does everyone think we need a DE so bad? I think with 5-0 and White starting and Smith and Devries as backups we're looking pretty good. Harvey would be a wasted pick at 15 I think. LB or OT should be the only positions we consider at that pick.

Anonymous said...

Here it goes.

You guys will be surprised. You have de-flowered Fincher and Gardner faster than a senior vs. freshman at an after-prom party.

1. Special teams studs.
2. (Gilbert Gardner) started with Indy before going to the Titans. He was used wrong in the defense and will be a lot better in this defense (Detroit Duece)as it is very similar (obviously) to the Indy "D" (Colt Combo).

This whole rhetoric about "No rookie MLB's starting" may be rhetoric, but it may NOT be. Maybe they draft one backer, an OLB.

If they see other things as priorities, and want a Vet, maybe they:

1. Comb the waiver wires when other teams cut teh vets before camp (traditionally June 1st) before the roster bonuses.

or 2. Sign a big named free agent next year as cap space will be available (and they think Lenon is "good enough".


DetFan1979 said...

Welcome back Nobsnubber! I had Gardner making the roster, and if they only take 1 LB then I see Fincher making it too. I went with a rookie pick at OLB having a great camp and making the roster, also considering that he may get into the cut because Marinelli couldn't get his late-round LB onto the practice squad last year, so may opt to keep youth. HOWEVER -- Funny that I said "4th+ OLB similar to Cannon (solid contributor, good ST player), and the Lions will have solidified yet another area of the defense." when Fincher fits that description of need and IS ALREADY ON THE ROSTER! Yikes. I need to proof this stuff better. Maybe if I had a paying job doing this and an editor I could include even more inane crap like that in my posts. Wow.

I was too quick maybe in dismissing Fincher. I also did incorrectly have Gardner placed at OLB in my final analysis -- so much depends, as I said, on who they pick and what kind of camp they have.

A big point I was try to get at (but didn't do well) is that too many mocks have the Lions taking two LB high, and sometimes as many as 4 total -- I can't see them taking more than 2 -- 1 OLB (late) and one ILB (early). Looking back on it again, as you stated, strong possibility of only the ILB. I totally disagree with those who keep saying the Lions would jump on Rivers in 1 and Lofton or another ILB in 2 ---- They are as likely to do that as one of my daughters is to be drafted #1 overall in the NFL draft some day.

After taking all the comments into account, I seriously think LB is not in as bad a shape as we think, and if they get a MLB early and that is all they draft, the Unit will actually be solid, with lots of upside from motivated young players.

Anonymous said...

One issue I've been having with the LB discussions on MLive is everyone calling out Lenon.

I understand that he hasn't played very well at MLB, but it's also not his natural position on the field...and beyond that, T2 linebacker is may be the toughest defensive position in all of football. So given that, I think Lenon is much better than we're giving him credit for. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do in a year or two when we have a solid young MLB and he can return to his natural position at SLB.

Beyond that, I think we're pretty set when it comes to backup LB's. I don't think any of them are particularly outstanding starters...but they are all terrific special teamers which is becoming more and more important in this league (especially when you're going up against Hester 2 times a year).

The last thing I wanted to mention is, what's happened to Lofton? It seems like most everyone has more or less dismissed him as an afterthought over the past week or two. I'm not saying I don't like Mayo, but honestly, I think Lofton is more athletic and will fit the T2 better. So my main question for you guys is, who would you take between the two, Lofton or Mayo and why?


DetFan1979 said...

I am not sure -- I've got them about equal in my book -- they have different stregths and flaws. Overall, I guess I would say Lofton as he seems more durable than Mayo to me -- and with how many snaps the MLB is on the field in the T2 and how important they are, that is imperative.

I don't think Lenon is as bad as he is being made out to be either, but he is an average MLB, good SLB -- which is why I had him starting at SLB after he loses/rookie takes the MLB job.

Hollyweed -- good questions -- I'll mark them down and probably hit them if not before the draft, then during that after draft draft analysis time.