Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dline Pt 2

This piece is less about what the Lions will do, as much I wish they would do -- basically a roster strength/weakness analysis for the Dline, and the picks I think they should make if they were going to go in this direction. I know the draft is approaching, but rather than another endless mock, I thought this might be a different type of way to look at things.

Be sure to check the comments on the ongoing dialogue on the previous posts, as I have posted responses down there in regards to those comments.

As usual, lets start with where the Lions are at:

91---Alama-Francis, Ikaika----DE----6-5---280---23----2---------Hawaii
70---DeGrate, Victor----------DE----6-3---294----23---1-------Oklahoma State
95---DeVries, Jared-----------DE---6-4---275----31---10----------Iowa
90---Harriott, Claude---------DE---6-3---271----26----1---------Pittsburgh
93---Smith, Corey------------DE---6-2---250----28----6-----North Carolina State
99---White, Dewayne---------DE---6-2---273----28----6---------Louisville
75---Cody, Shaun-------------DT---6-4---310----25----4----Southern California
NA--Darby, Chuck------------DT---6-0---297----32----8----South Carolina State
78---Redding, Cory-----------DT---6-4---295----27----6----------Texas

79---Moore, Langston--------DT----6-1---305----26---4--------South Carolina

No Lions link for Victor DeGrate on the depth chart, so I looked him up and linked to the old profile from Two Words: Camp Fodder. Devries is solid, but I see him possibly losing out to younger players this year, depending on if they keep 8 or 9 linemen since I think they are going to keep 5 safeties, and what positions they draft on the line in what quantity.

If there were no draft, and we were looking at the Lions today, then we can look at the past 2 years' depth charts, and find that the Lions kept 5 DE's and 4 DT's on the roster. Right now, the starters would be White moving back to his natural position on the LE, versus RE where he played last season and where IAF will take over starting. Smith and Devries would rotate in on the RE and Harriott and DeGrate would fight for the 5th spot. the 4 DT's would be wysiwyg (What You See Is What You Get)-- Darby and Redding start, Moore and Cody rotate in. 5 words for you: "Thank Goodness for the Draft" - they need some competition, and some upgrades.

The Detroit Deuce rotates players in and out of the D fairly regualrly to try keep them fresh. This means you really need at least 3 starting caliber DT's and DE's -- with the 3rd DE able to play either side. Since they are rotating anyways, I think they could make better use of the rotation for more than just resting players.

Here is where I am going with this: The Lions look to be keeping 9 Dlinemen right now. If you are going to have 9, why not get more use out of all of those spots, be able to throw off opposing offenses, and yet still stay in your base 4-3. How, you may ask? Just take a look at what the Giants did to the three "best" offensive lines in the playoffs last season (Dallas, NE, and GB). What they did is draft players like Justin Tuck, who was traditionally a DE, but was big enough to rush from the inside on passing downs. That allowed them to keep their speed rushing ends, Umeinyora(sp) and Strahan in, while still getting a rush up the middle. As we know from our Oline analysis, this can really devestate an Oline if a guy is lining up at DT, and suddenly him and the DE switch spots -- or 4 DT's are on the field -- but the two "tweeners" still can get penetration into the pocket?

The Detroit Deuce ("copyrighted" by Nobsnubber from Mlive, btw -- I like it and think we can really get it into common vernacular over time if the Lions do as well as I think they are going to in the next few years). Of the current Personnel, I can see the following players being suited to this subtly profound change in how the Dline rotates and position groups are done if it is looked at as an 8-9 man versatile unit, versus a 4 man DT and 5 man DE rotation:

  • Redding can stay at the UT or slide over to the RE.

  • Darby is primarily a run stuffing DT at the NT position; needed for stopping the run

  • White is a good technique/speed end, who really didn't get to show his full potential last year. He can be moved to either end, and still cause trouble for the opposing O.

  • IAF is your classic Tweener who has recieved the bulk of his learning under Marinelli and Barry -- he is big enough to handle either DT spot, but can slide to either end as well. He is best suited to LE and the UT position, where he can pressure into the pocket.

  • Smith is a good rotational DE who has his moments in pass rush, yet is stout against the outside run game.

  • Moore showed some real flashes last season when given a shot as S. Rogers took himself out of the game all the time.

(I know Cody is missing, but I have a gut feeling he loses out in camp this year. Despite all the opportunities he was given last season, to me he disappeared every tiem he was on the field. I can't recall a single play he made that stood out to me. My opinion, may not be fact.)

If you will notice, that is 6 guys. Now yesterday, I advocated taking a run stuffing DT, a DE/DT or DE/LB "tweener", and/or a pure speed rusher in the draft - possibly all three. Now you can see why. Lets break it down further:

*Draft another run-stuffing DT -- what most people fail to realize is that two run-stuffing DT's on the field at the same time puts pressure on the QB and the opposing offense. For a perfect example, see the Williams' in the middle of Minnesota's Dline. Teams just can't run with any luck up the middle on Minn when they are both in the game. That means the Ends and LB's can focus on the edge rushes, short passes, and screens. If a team is trying to slide to the edges to avoid the hulking mass of flesh in the middle, then they become limited in what they can do -- which allows the defense to focus on just those areas versus the entire field. What also happens is that with the focus on the sidelines, the DT's in the middle are better able to preesure into and collapse the pocket. Coupled with the fact that Darby only has 2-3 productive years left, and you can see the need to get a young run stuffer in now so there is not only no drop off, but actually an upgrade when Darby is gone/moves to more of a backup role.

*Draft either a DT/DE or DE/LB Tweener -- since IAF is already a DT/DE Tweener, I would say go for the DE/LB type -- for example, a Shawn Merriman style player -- an example this year is Crable. Two purposes here -- you solidify the OLB position, and allow for more effective bltizes from the LB/DE postion -- even in the 4-3 formation. They can come from the SLB position, or fake a blitz to get the opposing O to pull it down -- faking a blitz is much more effective when the other teams know you can actually do it. Philly's whole defense is built around that concept. You can also have a more effective rusher when dropping a DE into coverage and bringing the LB into the line. As an added bonus, the 9th Dline player is also the 7th LB -- freeing up a roster spot.

*Draft a rush specialist -- Michael Strahan is a master sack artist -- but he's not the strongest against the run, which is why NYG usually gave him LB help against the run on his side. But what he did/does - he did/does well -- get to the QB. Left or Right, In or Out -- he can bring it to the blocker, and bring it to the QB. Even when not sacking the QB he is hurrying him, hitting him as he throws, and shoving his hands into the passing lines as he descends. A complete package at end -- such as White who is above average to good at all aspects of the DE position - is difficult. However, when you have one mission only: Hit-Q-B you better be very good at it. I don't think you need to have a first round talent to do it -- and since primarily used situationally (passing downs, obvious passing downs) -- the time on field can be hard to justify - but the effect on the rest of the defense is not. Even taking up extra blockers and getting nowhere can free up the other end and the DT's to get pressure. Nailing the RB behind the line is just icing on the cake. I'm not sure if IAF is this kind of guy, or more of the tweener pressure/run-stopper guy. So draft a situational rusher.

Picture this: First down, RunStuffer and Darby are in the middle, and IAF nails the RB for a loss as he takes a misdirection move to the outside. 2nd down pass middle hurried by the Dline penetration of SpeedRusher/Redding/IAF/White, and knocked away or intercepted by the Detroit Deuce opportunistic secondary. Now facing 3rd and long, they are in an obvious passing situation again. In comes SpeedRusher/White/Redding/IAF and LB-DE bltizes as the MLB covers the middle and the NB and the Lions' corners and safeties blanket the 4 wide set. Again unable to handle the pressure of the extra rush specialists, the Qb is hurried and/or sacked.

That is just a couple of options. Picture how off-balance the Lions could make a team if they needed/wanted to. Sure, most of the time they would rotate the position groups normally -- but the versatility and unpredictability of the Dline would indeed make it the force that drives the franchise. Both the RunStuffer DT and the LB/DE tweener could be had in rounds 3-4. the SpeedRusher is the hardest to peg, and the biggest trick when choosing high. That is why Harvey is a risky pick at 15 -- will he be SpeedRusher, or will the Lions once again Need-Rusher?

Trading back and taking the MLB later in 1, getting a DT or OT in 2, and getting the RB and DT or OT (if value - whichever you didn't get) in 3 and the Tweener and DT in 4 and 5 (if OT taken earlier) is so important. The key is that with the type of players they would be/are? looking for, there is an absurdly high number of different ways they can fill those needs in this draft where their picks are located, it gives us insight as to how hard it is for teams to prepare for the draft.

But they need those 3 Dline positions (1 LB crossover), and an ILB to not only strengthen the defense, but take it to a whole new level.

12 more days and it will finally be time to start analyzing "What Is" instead of "What If."

agree, disagree, have your own ideas on how you would mold the Detroit Deuce in your image? Take the time to post it below!


Anonymous said...

You're getting very in depth with your analysis detfan. It's going to be tough to add anything to the discussion without being repetitive lol.

I really think the key to our draft in regards to the D-line will be a legitimate run-stuffing DT. So far I've come up with 4 major reasons for this, although I'm sure there are many more.

1) Getting rid of S. Rogers left a gaping whole in our run defense especially. Say what you want about Rogers' work ethic, but he will be sorely missed this season up the middle.

2) Darby is really nothing more than a stop-gap solution and we'll want him to teach the next in line before it's too late.

3) We're part of a division that favors the run heavily. The Vikings have what could be one of the most dominant runners ever. The bears may not have a legitimate threat with Benson, but their offense depends on establishing the run. Also, while the Packers aren't quite as run-oriented, they still have some terrific young talent in Ryan Grant.

4) It really frees up what the rest of our D-line can do. This could really help Redding move around between DT and DE which would help to keep the offense guessing. Of course, this is assuming that Redding becomes a legitimate threat again this season.

I somewhat agree with your statement that we need a strong pass rusher at DE, but I'm not so sure that we'll be able to find the right guy in later rounds. I remain hopeful but I can't help being a little skeptical. Getting to the QB seems to be especially difficult for young DE's so it may be too much to ask of a late round DE to become anything more than a minimal improvement- even if they are only used situationally.

Personally I think we'd be better off investing a high pick in a pass rusher if we're planning on going that route, otherwise it may be better to just wait until next year to risk a high pick on another DE.


CHIEFGER139 said...

according to the kowalski interview on m-live he said there not even interested in a dt-even if one of the top ones dropped to the 15th pick-he said there main guy was harvy-then if hes not there they might take stewert or mayo and that there 4 positions there targeting are de,ot,rb and mlb-and there willing to reach down in the draft if there guys are there-this surprised me but i thought they only had 3 dt-now i see moore is a restricted free agent-was that mean??
truthfully i would still pick up another big boy to rotate in-ive been preaching guion from fl. state in the 4th

Anonymous said...

Been a big Lions fan all the back to when Horace King and Bussey where in the same back field.

Love your web blogs for a month now, and I do read it on a daily basis.

I voted for the DE from Florida if he is available. To find an all around stud after the first round would be of more luck than what is normally available.

What the Lions really need is a second runner stopper who could also collapse the pocket on passing downs.

Redding can be game planned against by first running at him to wear him down. Cody is not strong enough.

The best way to improve our defense this year is to stop the run between the tackles. And perhaps the safeest and best chance to do that would to choose Balmer, if he is still available. I believe this is who Jacksonville really wants, and may trade up if they knew somebody ahead of them were also interested.

JJLions20 said...

If your looking at 2008, I think there is only one player that is going to give immediate help to the Lions D-Line, and that is Harvey. If Harvey does not fall to the Lions, and the Lions do not trade out of the pick, I have this feeling that it is going to be one of those years the Lions get criticized for reaching and not taking who Kiper and McShay have available on the draft board. I just have this feeling it will be a pick that Marenelli will prioritize football character over talent, and be viewed as a reach. I’d like to see the Lions trade down get the guy lower and get another 2nd round pick.

Here is the deal for 2008. Usually 2nd rounder’s and below do not contribute much in their rookie year, maybe the 2nd half of the year. 2nd or 3rd round RB's, DT's, and ILB have a decent chance of being contributors in their rookie season, but usually in the second half of the season. So if the Lions are going to be successful, and get off to a fast start, Alma-Francis needs to step up and give us a lot more. Cody needs to make a big jump this year. Darby has to stay healthy and maybe we get some help from one of the rookies (either Harvey in the 1st or a DT in the 2nd or 3rd.

There is only one 1st round pick, so if it is not an OT with the first pick, then Scott or Foster have to come thru early in the season. If it's not a RB at #15, then Bell will have to carry the load, until a 2nd or 3rd round pick starts to contribute the 2nd half of the year.

My point is this. We might find an MLB and RB in the 2nd or 3rd rounds who can contribute the 2nd half of the season. Plus a first rounder who could be plugged in right away. So between the following guys: Alma-Francis, Cody, Bell, Scott/Foster, Lennon, all but one of them are going to be counted on to start come game #1. The draft is supposed to help you 2-3 years down the line. That's why if the Lions are to improve in 2008 it's going to need to come from CJ, Alma-Francis, Alexander, Bullocks, Cody, Calhoun, Scott, and Stanton. These are the 8 players (1/3 of the starters), who are most likely to make the biggest impact to the lions, if they all made the big jump in performance level (given it will be year 2-3).

I do hope the Lions trade down to the lower part of the first and pick up another 2nd rounder. There are just too many holes to fill, and with the extra pick I think they can get MLB, RB, & DT who could contribute with the first rounder and two 2nds. Then they could get an OT, and CB in the 3rd round, and maybe a surprise on the 2nd day, to develop through the season and have ready to contribute in 2009.

Just think if these 7 players became top level performers at their position.

And if they don't it will be another long year.

DetFan1979 said...

You are right on with the current players needing to step up again in 2008.

Chief -- just means he hasn't signed his tender and been placed on the official roster yet, but no one else can sign him as he doesn't have enough full years to be a restricted FA.

I think Balmer would be a good add if they trade down, but would like to see Williams fall to them at 15.

I think that they can ge the tweener LB/DE in round 4, and I think they can get great-good DT's anywhere in 2 and 3, with some that are more project available later -- but with Darby still around, that would be fine s along as they can rotate in and play this season to keep Darby fresh and working at top speed.

The SpeedRusher is always the problem -- that is why they cost so much on the market, evne for good not great ones. It is also hard to do, which is why there are so many picked, and yet so many still bust. It is a risk that a team just has to take eventually -- if the Lions do so with Harvey this year, so be it -- I just want it clear that I don't see him as a "sure thing" -- as I said, if they go that route, whether he works out or not will determine the fate of the DL for the next few years -- they would be taking a heck of a gamble, and if they do -- the can't afford to miss.

dreamweaver said...

I still don't like the idea of tradeing down for extra picks this year, with our small cap space, it will be hard to sign extra players this year. I say stay where we're at and pick the best player that fill a need at that time. trading down only makes sense if trade for a lower pick, and a low price player from the other team.

JJLions20 said...

To follow up on my thought that the Lions could get ripped by the media for taking a player that is not at the top of the Kiper or McShay draft-board, and it being a non-sexy draft.... Well, I was listening to ESPN2 this morning and Buster made the comment that the media favors offensive players in the draft because they look better statistically. So I thought about what would be the most non-sexy draft that could be very effective for the Lions, and one I would be happy with, even if the Lions get ripped by the media.

#1 - Mayo - LB
#2 - Laws - DT
#3a- Cousins - OT
#3b- Branch - CB
#4 - Dizon - LB
#5 - Ikegwuonu - CB

Not very sexy and a little controversial. They get Mayo with the first pick, but just can't pass up Dizon in the 4th. The lions decide to play Mayo at OLB to start the season, and will decide in 2009 if it is Mayo or Dizon as the MLB. Ikegwuono is sliding down the board because the knee injury may put him on IR for 2008. But if he comes back to full speed in 2009, you got a top 50 player in the 5th round.

DetFan1979 said...

Swap out branch for Smith - RB in round 3 and your non-sexy draft turns into awesome could-be-sexy-with-the-lights-dimmed draft.

I have been looking at #5 - Ikegwuonu - CB with the inury as well -- will Kelly up there in years, and they could hide him on IR, see who among smith/wilson develops, and then have him in the mix next season and again negate the need to spend a high pick on a CB, while strengthening the unit.

If Laws is there in 2, I think you have your guy to rotate with Darby year one, and replace him as teh starter year two. Darby will be retired in 3, or a situational depth player.

Anonymous said...

Certainly the players mentioned that need to step up can't be singled out as the only ones who need to do so.

What about Megatron?

What about Redding?

What about Backus?

What about Bell?

What about Roy?

Sims needs to continue developing as well.

For all we know it may be the backup QB that will have to step up the most?

The entire team needs to step up if we are going to achieve the next level, that being the playoffs.

Without commenting on the fictional fantasy drafts and all the hypotheticals contained therein, will wait until post draft before participating again in these blogs as the testimony of all the teams is intended to keep opposing teams guessing whom they will draft and until that's settled, there's no point in commenting, in my opinion.

Am not saying the predraft posts aren't interesting reads, however.

Go Lions