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 spot...so 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.