Friday, April 4, 2008

gOT Oline? Almost...

First of all, welcome to all new readers -- be sure to check out and comment on past stories on here. Secondly, I'd like to thank everyone who has been posting their mocks, and for the extra analysis. For those who haven't there is plenty of time before the draft. Remember, this is all in fun.

I would also like to give you all my Blog email, which once my wife has time she can show me how to put it on the site permanently somewhere. It is If you have suggestions on story ideas, sites that you like, information you think I'd find interesting, critiques of my blog or opinions you don't want to post on a comment (good or bad, agree or disagree), even submissions for a primary blog article (which I think would be fun - guest bloggers!) so you ladies (are there any reading this?) and gents don't just have to listen to my ramblings. I will try to incorporate as much as I can, and think it will add yet another great dimension to this space.

I really liked reading Ross Tucker's article on the other day on which O-Line positions were actually the hardest to play, and thus often the hardest to find quality players for. It really opened my eyes, I must admit. Before going on, the article is here:

It has also changed my priorities a bit on finding another player to compete at RT, I think. Scott has been fighting injuries the past two years, and Foster - who played fairly well minus the false starts, is still a weakness that can be attacked. Notice that Kampman, from the Packers, whom we play twice as a division rival, is listed in regards to teams that field an elite pass rusher on the strong side.

Please note as well that Martz almost NEVER gave the RT either a "chip" block from the RB, OR kept a TE in to block on the right -- which are 2 of the 3 factors mitigating what Tucker says is a close tie between Left and Right Tackle. The only factor left is that the QB can see the rusher coming at him, and throw a hot read (which Kitna didn't have the luxury of), Run (which Kitna isn't good at, and only buys a second or two for someone to get open -- who was usually still running full tilt down the field for a ball that had no chance of being where they would end up), throw it away, heave-ho and hope like heck it doesn't get picked off, or hold it - hope the guy down the field got open and the play developed in time and likely end up with a sack. I gotta hand it to Kitna -- he usually went for the last option, and it nearly got him killed last couple of seasons.

I think when you look at that story in relation to the Lions' play calling last year, and the assertion that the O-Line wasn't as bad as it seemed by Colletto seems to hold a little more water. Basically, Martz needed at Least two Left Tackles. (In case you hadn't noticed, one is difficult to come by in this league.) -- even then, due to the predictability of knowing no TE or RB will help the RT -- they send one additional guy in on the Right, or put the best DE over there, and you end up with a mess. The Lions didn't start losing until they had the gaping hole at RT. Even after Woody started playing at least average over there, they still got hammered because teams like the Giants, with a strong situational rotation on the front, and the Packers, with Kampman on the right, and the Chargers with Castillo on the right, were able to really hammer the pressure in on the Lions because then KNEW that the RT would not be getting any help -- unlike the LT. When the Lions finally did try to slide Raiola to the right, versus the left (which he really wasn't used to) it left Backus alone against premier DE's with the same predictable results as on the right...funny how this story really made a lot of things click for me in regards to the Lions last season. Think about it...all it really would have taken to stop the sacks would have been to keep the tight end the Lions weren't throwing to anyway in to help; or a RB to chip block a bit. Even with the 7 step drops, this slightly-extra protect would likely have given the Kitna and the O the extra bit of time it had earlier in the season to pull out those few extra plays for the win. I seriously think that if Martz had adjusted his blocking scheme just a bit instead of steadfastly saying "it's the tackles' jobs to block 'em" when they obviously couldn't -- the Lions win 2 more games last year and go to the playoffs.

Below is how I rate the Lions' Oline right now, based on the criteria for difficulty Tucker laid out, and the changes I perceive will be happening along the line:

LT: Backus is currently the only real LT on the roster. That is a scary thought. Don't get me wrong, I think that Backus started out as an above average LT, and has settled into average as he has aged. I can think of at least a half dozen teams off the top of my head that would love to have him starting on the Left side of the line for them, and a bunch more who would take him to put him elsewhere on the line as an upgrade over what they have. When you look at his contract compared to what Linemen seem to be getting now, what looked like highway robbery at the time is actually quite reasonable. That being said, I think that getting someone who can play LT an have some time to learn the position then take over in a year or two would be good. Someone who could beat him out now would be ideal, but not too likely where the Lions are drafting -- unless they get super lucky and Williams falls to them, which I don't think will happen. If Albert falls to them, I am almost thinking take him...almost.

RT: Scott and Foster are competing here, which is kind of scary. I love the way Scott played, and his injury was a broken thumb - but combined with his leg sprain he was coming back from, they didn't want to take any chances so put him on IR. Personally, I think it is a move they regretted no matter what they say as he was playing well at the time. He and Foster competing will likely create some improvement on that spot, but I am still leery -- the Lions have not had 2 OT start the entire season in further back than I was willing to research tonight. They need Depth -- Scott has shown promise, and if he can stay healthy into camp, I would like to see him compete with Backus for the LT spot. Not so sure it will happen. A rookie is needed, however, somewhere at the tackle position. 3 OT is not enough -- they need 4.

RG: This is actually a position of strength. Peterman beat out Woody to play the position, and I think he did great job there last season. They currently have Frank Davis (coming off IR) as the backup RT, although I think Ramierez may be there right now too. As long as Peterman stays healthy, they will be fine at the RG position. Has anyone heard if he signed his tender yet as an RFA? If he's not coming back, that would change everything, and create another glaring need on the Oline.

LG: Again, the Lions are very well off here. Mulitalo has done a superb job here, and I expect him as well to do even better in 08. Ramierez seems to be the most natural fit on the left, and with the relative age of him and Mulitalo, I think it is just a matter of time before Ramierez wins the starting job -- until then, I feel both starter and backup are in good shape.

C: Back-up center is my biggest concern. Tucker's piece was very revealing about the Center position -- they are usually helping one of the Guards, getting plays called to the line, adjusting to which side pressure is coming from. The ability to "throw people back" (which Raiola really can't do), pull (which he does okay at), and block in space (which he does superbly) are all considered gravy. Since coaches and teams value the intellect and ability to adjust properly to the play the most, it gave me a great picture as the why Raiola is considered a top Center around the league. I know a lot of you may feel like blasting me for this, since I know there are a lot of Raiola haters out there-- but seriously; who is better? maybe 4 or 5 out of 32??? Again, what I don't feel good about is the ability of the back-up G and tackles currently on the roster to play center -- they can't. So I think Davis may lose out to someone who can back-up both the center and both G positions, and possibly even a T position in a pinch. A guy like that would really be worth a mid-round flier. any suggestions?

So in essence, after breaking it down, the Lions really do need a tackle who can start -- but whether he is best suited to RT or LT is not as important as I thought it was. I think they can get an exceptional RT in round 2, with possibilities at LT, they will really solidify the line and depth at T with Scott and Foster as backups. Foster is on a one year deal, let him go after 08 and draft either a RT or LT in 09 -- whichever they didn't get from the 08 draftee.

I also think that the Colletto statement that the O-line wasn't as bad as Martz made it look must be taken more seriously when you take a look back at the season in regards to how this article, written and researched by a lineman, breaks down the positions and responsibilities.


Anonymous said...

I read the same article earlier today and I agree that it added a lot of insight; especially after his first article on the subject which I largely disagreed with.

I understand what Colletto means saying that the O-line will be better this year with this new scheme but I think a lot of people, both on Mlive and on this blog are severely overconfident with his message. While the line was horrific when Martz came in, they were still really bad before he was here too (I can never remember a time when Oline was a strong suit for the team, even with Barry). In other words, Martz isn't the issue here, lack of talent is. He didn't create a problem, he only exacerbated a problem that already existed.

What's really happening is that Colletto is going to buy himself at least a year or two by changing schemes (how no one has brought this up yet I have no idea considering we're currently going through the same thing with the defensive staff). I guarantee you that by midyear AT THE LATEST we'll start seeing a lot more articles saying, "well, we have the talent but since we're converting to a new scheme (zone blocking) it takes everyone a couple years to adapt." From there it'll probably go something like this, "high expectations...blah blah blah...intricate system...blah blah blah...developing the talent we have...more unnecessary rambling..." you get the point.

Basically, they're going to try to B.S. us into thinking they have people that have the skills to pull this scheme off (which I don't think they do by any means) and while I'm sure they already know that...there's no way in hell they'll be up front about it and tell us.

*rant mode off*

I do agree after reading the article that we have a definate need at RT. Even though I think Foster will be more at home with zone blocking, (the same scheme he played in at Denver) I would feel much more comfortable with a young tackle learning the ropes to eventually replace Backus and in the meantime shore up the right side of the line. Sure, Scott may be able to step up this year, but honestly, I don't have a whole lot of hope in him and it's difficult to evaluate his talent when he's always injured and never on the field in the first place.

Fortunately, I feel that our interior lineman (G's and C) are actually playing at a pretty high level. Sure, our center isn't as athletic as some, but going off of the article, the C doesn't really need to be too much of a physical specimen...most of what they do occurs prior to the snap anyways. Having said that I do agree with you DetFan that a solid backup at center is a definate need considering our history with the O-line and injuries. Raiola isn't getting any younger either.

To sum it all up, we'll be better without Martz, but don't for a second think that our O-line is going to show some drastic improvement this year. We probably won't be the worst in sacks, but I'm willing to bet we'll still be in the bottom 5 teams. Also, don't be surprised when Coletto starts using the same "changing schemes" excuses that Marinelli has used since he's been here. Not to say that there isn't some truthfullness to what they're saying, just that if you continue to rely on the excuse of changing schemes than you really aren't holding anyone accountable.

This O-line isn't going to truly improve until we put in some serious resources (i.e: draft picks that are higher than the 4th round!) to improve it. This doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be a 1st rounder (although I would like it to be), just that we need to start drafting O-line more often in rounds 1-3, hopefully Colletto's previous experience as an O-line coach will help in that regard.


JJLions20 said...

I agreed with a lot you said, but you lost me when you said Davis may loose out. I'd also like to talk about the Colletto factor.

First, Davis was a Find when they picked him up as an UDFA. He did not have much playing experience, if I remember right he did not play in HighSchool, and was a walk-on at college and worked his way up. He got playing time as a rookie, but mostly because of injuries that year. I honestly think the Lions hid this kid on IR last year. They knew he didn’t have the experience to survive the Martz playbook, so they took the opportunity when he got hurt to hide him for the season. His greatest strengths are his physical strength, and willingness to work. Don't be surprised if he is pushing Peterman for a starting spot.

As far as the Colletto factor. Being an O-Line coach, he will have the O-Line on the attack not being defensive as Martz did. Most teams are right handed and therefore run to the right. Generally LT’s have to be better at pass protection and RT’s have to be better at driving people off the line. Im Martz’ system you need to tackles with pass protection skills (because of the 80% pass ration), and therefore the run usually suffers unless you have a back that canmake the first few people miss (Marshall Faulk). By Martz abandoning the run in so many games, and going 80% pass, it allowed the DE’s over the RT to pin their ears back and put on a pass rush. Most DE's lining up over the RT have to respect the run. If you know the RT is not going to attack you, it makes the rush much easier. Combine this with the fact that the opposing DE did not have to worry about a RB chipping them, or a TE cracking back on them, They could be much more aggressive.

I would not be surprised if Foster surprises people in 2008. His problems were mental. It was not only the false starts, but he blew his assignment on numberous occasions. My perception of Foster is he is not the sharpest tool in the shed. So Martz offense probably did not suit him much, and as the season went on he became more confused and lost as Martz expanded the offense. Lets remember, other than a couple false starts Foster was a force, but he declined as the season progressed. I correlate this to the expanded and ever changing playbook. Then from what we heard they did not call plays in the game that they practiced through the week. Also don't think that just because Denver uses a zone blocking scheme that it was not a sophisticated offense. I think Colletto want to make it real simple. Line up and go on the first sound. Fire out and hit somebody. That is the best way of keeping the opposing DE in a defensive mode. I'm not saying that the Lions won't shift or put a receiver in motion to give the QB a pre snap read. But the O-Lineman are not going to be sitting on their heals for 25 second, as the play clock ticks to zero, and the D-Lineman can anticipate the snap because they know it has to occur in the next couple of seconds. Colletto's strategy will be to hit you quick. Hit you first. Hit you before you hit me. This fit's in with the Marinelli vision of being physical. I also think this is something Foster is capable of.

So Last year with Davis' inexperience, and Foster' aptitude issues, neither had a chance. This year both have a chance to contribute. If one of the premier OT's fall in their laps, the Lions could take them, but I would not be surprised if they pass or traded down in the first, and didn’t OT until the 2nd day.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for being alittle off point. But wanted to post this question to a more thoughtful audience. What is the deal with Mayock's Mock on NFL(he's supposed to be the professional right?) he has us taking Mayo @ 15. Are you kidding me, the majority of us have him available in the second or alteast its closer than us taking him @ 15. Does he know something we don't or does it just show how silly this "Mocking" is. Long story short should we be mad if that pick happens because I think, right now, I'd be disgusted.

CHIEFGER139 said...

i would be ok with mayo at 15 if thats what they really want-our biggest hole is at linebacker and if they feel hes a must have guy much rather have them take him then a defensive end,offensive tackle or runningback we dont really want-seen were the worst team in cap space too so wouldnt be surprised if we see some big name like redding be let go??
will post again about this article

CHIEFGER139 said...

as far as our offensiveline-
we unfortunately are living with a MARTZ hangover-we dont truely know how good or bad our offensiveline is-
we dont know how good or bad bell is-
we dont know how good orwaloski or stanton are as backups because martz would not play oralski or put stanton on the roster-
we do know our offensiveline was decent with woody in there

i think foster may be the diamond in the ruff-you guys say it was mental-false starts etc-
you guys will laugh-but i say get the guys ears checked-get him a hearing aide-work with the guy-he has the size and the ability hes a number one draft pick-a gamble on him is well worth it-the man is a beast-give him tripple attention he will pay off
as far as offensivelines go-they work best when theyve been together for a long time-ours has-
i didnt feel they were our weakness last year and dont now-
id still get there tackle be it 1st rd or third-i wouldnt wait-

at worst we at least need some depth on our line otherwise injuries will wipe us out-like ive said mant times on m-live if any of the top 25 tackles are available in the 6th or 7th round pickum up-
we need those guys and with all the college guys out there they must be somewhat good espically this year the drafts deep at both runningback in lineman

JJLions20 said...

I usually post before reading everybody else’s comments. That way I'm posting to DetFan1979's Blog. But I now want to address your point about not having a strong O-Line even when we had Barry. This was kind of my point in my original post. The Lions had have been putting in a pass oriented O-Line for many years. Bobby Ross was trying to change that but got burned out. Most of Barry’s years here were with Fontes, and Fontes bought into the run and shoot. It was not an aggressive O-line that was going to hit you and move you off the line of scrimmage. It was an attempt to spread out the defense and find holes. Millen bought into the WCO, which once again was not a knock you off the line of scrimmage offense. This is why the O-Line has not been a priority around here.

I agree with the Chief today. I don't believe Foster is an all round tackle. Even with his size and strength nobody ever tried to make him a left tackle, and there are a number of reasons for it. Put him in a traditional RT role, let him hit people, get him to the second level on the LB's and he will be very good. But I disagree that the problem is with his ears, because a lot of time the tackles can’t hear anyway. It’s not his ears, it’s what is between his ears. Keep it simple for him and he can handle it.

I tried to watch film on the Lions successful running plays last year (the limited number of times the Lions ran the ball) and here's the common denominators. The lions very seldom play action passed. They didn't even have Kitna stick his hand out towards the RB when he dropped back. Look at the film and you will see the same, then watch the colts film (since I live near Indy, I get them all). Where as Peyton Manning does it by habit on most of his drop backs. Secondly, on a lot of the successful runs for the Lions last year it involved the TE blocking down on the DE (or the TE was in motion and kicked out on the TE) and Foster got on the LB (which was a mismatch in favor of the Lions). So I believe if you get Foster firing off the line, he can be successful.

With Martz... he wants to be a head coach, and he saw nobody was willing to offer him a HC job right now. I'll predict it here first. There will be turmoil in SF this year. Nolan is already skating on thin ICE and will be fired before (or shortly after) the season is over. Martz will be named Head Coach, and he will already have his offense in place when he takes over the team as HC.

Anonymous.... As far as Mayock's draft of Mayo at #15, I would be willing to bet this is simply a reaction to the Lions bringing Mayo in for a workout. Also there were some in the press that hyped up the idea of playing Mayo as a strong side LB for a season and moving him to the middle. I don't believe it, and is what I believe is a smoke screen by the Lions. If you draft a guy as your MLB, you put him there and start training him immediately to be a MLB. Urlacker said it took him 2-3 years to learn the position in the Cover-2, so why would you want to waste a year. I've seen very few mock drafts that has Mayo going before the 2nd round. A couple that has him in the late first round. I would be surprised if the Lions took him at #15.

Anonymous said...

A few things I see:

STREETWORM...this is a VERY good offensive line, and will even be better.

TE'S...Martz criminal malfeasence of abandoning the run game was beyond comprehension.

Even moreso, was the Dan Campbell injury. After Campbell got hurt, the Lions had no one to plug into the blocking tight end role. FitzSimmons would stand there every once in a while, but defenses KNEW he was a receiver. Same with McHugh, who was usually slotted as an H-Back.

The Dan Campbell injury was the GREATEST injury to this team last year. They didn't solve that problem (or try to) until they re-signed Owens.

Millen went after the three biggest weaknesses this off-season and filled them as quick as he could (CB, S, and TE) with some solid people. They also tried to solve the MLB with a Vet/Jet.

I don't think Frank Davis is in as much trouble as most think. YES they hid him! And they HID Stanton on IR, too. Peterman had already started playing well the previous year, and Woody was in a contract year (both motivating factors), so why not. It was a very good move.

Everyone forgets that Mulitalo (is smart enough to make the line calls) can slide over to center (like in Baltimore) and run the OLINE unit. And he's Coletto's boy. Absent of Mulitalo, I'm VERY scared.

You may see Mike Furrey snapping in practice if that happens.

Also, the return game. If Brain Calhoun survives camp, he may win that job by default.

If he's on the roster (that would be three) Cason would be gone.

McDonald may still be a draft day trade to the 49ers. Walters isn't re-signed. You may see a Millen receiver picked on draft day. I wouls expect it to be a late pick, though (6 or 7).


CHIEFGER139 said...

only one vote for runningback at pick 15??
i thought you all were smarter than that-well if hes gone it wont matter anyhow-id pick a offensivelineman if hes there-should be if chicago gets mendenhal-if not id gamble and get the guy they want at linebacker-one of top 3 should be there forsure-no way would i get harvy or a defensive end till later in the draft-would even go defensive tackle 1st-may have to relese redding due to cap space and a big 300 lb kid to rotate in to give darby/cody a rest would be huge 1979 is right on that call

JJLions20 said...

Nubsnobber, Lets not forget Devale Ellis is a kid they hid on PUP the first half of the season and can return kicks. The Lions said they would not re-sign Troy Walters, so I figure the 5th receiver position could be up for grabs between Middleton, Ellis, & Bellamy. I think Ellis could emerge as the KR and get the 5th or 6th WR spot. It all depends on how many TEs/FBs the lions keep.

I agree Calhoun will also have a shot to contribute on special teams.

Anonymous said...


I forgot about Bellamy and Middleton. Both of those guys had a terriic fall. I SOOOOO could not believe no one else picked them up. And Middleton can return a little, too.


DetFan1979 said...

I got Davis mixed up with that back-up camp fodder guy they signed in my head when I was writing at Midnight. I'm actually a big Davis supporter, and think with the following the Lions Oline wouel look good (this is a serious take on if they keep 9 Olinemen)

T: Backus, Foster, Scott, and Draft Pick battle it out; best two start, and the Lions have 2 quality backups
G/C: Mulitalo and Peterman will start, although I think Davis and Ramierez will be pushing them ala Peterman/Woody in '07.

Agree Mulitalo could play C if Raiola is hurt; Peterman and/or Davis may be able to as well. I think the other guys they've got right now are camp fodder.