Monday, April 21, 2008

KR-PR Musings

I posted this in response to a comment asking what I thought of Chris Johnson, and it ended up being a book on my opinion on the types and benefits/deficits of what I see as two types of returners. I think the first is more fun to watch, but think they both have ups and downs. I personally would prefer type 1, but know that Marinelli prefers type 2. So after giving this another read (if you've read it on comments, sorry for the repeat) and let me know what you think. I've had it taken to me on a couple of posts, but keep it coming all! Also as a side note, I've started to intersperse shorter posts in between the larger analysis pieces where I'm not really doing anything other than highlighting a story or quick thought I've seen out there that might be of interest, possibly without really giving my opinion on it at that point, although I likely will in the comments section. Thanks again for reading!

"First of all, thanks for the compliment - everyone's readership and input on the comments is very appreciated. I'm not enamored of Johnson for two reasons: 1. I don't want them to take a back in the 1st and 2. I think there is a better chance Mayo will fall to 45 in the 2nd than it is Johnson will still be there.

Atlanta in particular has Turner, but need a speed back/receiver out of the backfield and a KR -- I expect them [Atlanta] to pick someone like Johnson who would fit multiple needs for them with one of their early seconds if possible. Good News is if they do, they also need LB and OT -- so at least one of Detroit's need areas heading into the second round will be hit by one less selection.

If a healthy Calhoun returns, I'm not really thinking that a return guy is high on the list of priorities. While Hester is a freak of nature return guy right now, lets not forget Eddie Drummond -- he was the best returner in the league for two seasons, and gave Detroit the same kind of spark Hester does for the Bears. However, the life of a return specialist is about 3-4 years max. All it takes is one or two injuries, and that balzing speed is no longer so blazing. Supreme confidence that you are taking it to the house, and a wanton abandon and reckless running style are also a must for an "electric" retun man. Drummond had it -- and then lost it after the injuries; he was nothing more than tentative and average his last season in Detroit. Also realize that Hester and Drummond also have another thing in common: Neither makes/made any significant contribution at their "listed" position. The "best" kick returners do great things with the ball in space. However, that is something that rarely happens on offense -- it's a lot harder to catch the ball as a WR than it is as on a PR/KOR -- and as a RB a reverse or a flip screen is about as close as you get; still, the contributions of these types of players in other areas never seem to materialize on a consistent basis. they still score a lot of touchdowns on ST, which is a pretty nice momentum shifter and can't be overlooked.

There are essentially two types of KR: Electric and ConsistentThe electric guys (like Drummond) are a threat to go to the house, but also result in a lot of touch-backs, usually don't contribute to the O or D, and are a specialist. Nice to have, but they do take up a roster spot, and again limit the roster. They also tend to be so focused on the "big play" that their total return yards per each are not that much higher than a consistent return guy -- that is because they are so focused on the big play, that they often will not go for the guaranteed 15 yard gain, for the gamble on a 30 -40 yard gain that ends up being 5 yards. The Consistent guys (ala Calhoun, or even Cason last season) pick up above average yardage, and occasionally break a big one. But they contribute to the roster in other ways, and while they are not going to be "feared" -- they are going to put the offense in good field position almost every time, and sometimes great, and will very seldom end up with a bad return. I haven't looked up the stats, but it would be an interesting study to see if my initial isntincts on these two types are correct, or if I am making a faulty assumption.

While I think that they need more from the return game than they got last year, I think UDFA WR's with great speed and return possibilities should be brought into camp -- the top 4 WR are extremely solid, and the 5th WR would be the most logical choice, outside of a RB already on the roster, to return kicks. Lets not forget Devale Ellis, who is an excellent returner and more than adequate 5th WR is still on the roster as they hid him on IR last year. If he comes back from injury 100%, I think this discussion could be a moot point. I think the fact they didn't re-sign Walters, who was a cheap, quality 5th wideout suggests this may be the case. A CB with return skills would also be a consideration. As for a RB -- the Lions really need a bruising, punishing "bulldozer" runner -- not the type of back who normally makes a good return man.

So I guess the short answer is: Either a CB with return skills in the mid rounds, or a 6th or 7th rnd or UDFA WR. I'm leaning to the UDFA WR. More of a chip on the shoulder should make them "run angry" -- which alway helps. Let them compete with Ellis, Calhoun, and Cason -- and see who adds the title of "returner" to their list of positional flexiblity to help them make the final cut. PS - Marinelli has already explicitly voiced a preference for the consistent type of returner who contributes in other areas -- which is another reason Drummond was let go.
April 20, 2008 11:06 PM "


CHIEFGER139 said...

calhouns a total bust-figure hes getting his last chance to make the team in presason-cason is the punt returner-did get better but a latter round cb may be better like your saying-our back should be a big guy
1st rd mendenhal or stewert
later rounds-forte or smith
johnson is too small and i think rice is too-they would just be another bell or jones-we need a replacement for duckett,bell can be the change of pace back

JJLions20 said...

Well DetFan1979, I think we have a topic we disagree on. I don't think they “need” or are looking for a big bruising runner. My reasoning is the implementation of the zone blocking scheme. It doesn't matter if it's an 180 lb scat back or a 240 lb big back. The most important thing is the vision.

I will admit I'm a fan of Chris Johnson. I think he shows the vision and the home run threat. But I think there is too much value in running back that could be there in the third round and Johnson may be long gone. If the Lions were to trade down in the first and get an additional 2nd (or a third that they could package with a 5th and get back in to the 2nd) then I'd look at Johnson.

I will admit it first I've been a UofM fan since 1969, and I usually stay away from the home town picks. I've stayed away from the Crable picks in the mock draft. But I will say, Mike Hart may be what the Lions are looking for. The reasons is he has been running behind a zone blocking scheme for most of his college career. He has good character and leadership. I think that will score high with Rod. If they moved up into the 2nd round last year to get Stanton because of his football character, I think they could take Hart in the 3rd round for the same reason. He has always had to work to make him a better football player (doesn’t that sound like a Marenelli quality). He had to prove himself in high school where some thought he was too small. He had to in college where many thought he was too small. He's not a kid with blazing speed, but he keeps the legs moving and usually finds a crease for positive yards. In a way he reminds you of Warrick Dunn (maybe not as fast), and we know what Rod watched all those years in Tampa. If you have listened to Marenelli and Colletto, they have not indicated they are looking for the next Adrian Peterson type of running back. They just want to pound the ball enough to wear you down. Mike Hart will give you that. The lineman wear you down not the back. The back's job is to gain positive yardage. 2nd and 8 is a lot better than 2nd and 12. It may not seem like much, but when it is followed by a 7 yard out, your now looking at 3rd and 1 vrs 3rd and 5.

Look for the good vision back, one that can cut back.

One question because I don't follow Wisconsin much. Do they run a zone blocking scheme up there? Is it possible Calhoun will do well in a zone blocking scheme.

As for the KR, I posted it weeks ago, that Ellis was the forgotten man, and because the Lions cut Walters, it looked like Ellis would get that WR spot and KR spot. Middleton and Calhoun will also get their chances to win the spot in pre-season.

Anonymous said...


Wisconsin (under Barry Alvarez) was more of a trapping run game. For the most part it would be considered a "zone" blocking offense because the pulling guard "kicks out" whoever is in the hole. But they are usually targeting one guy (DE).

The new head coach at Wisconsin has modified the "O" some, but has stayed with much of what Barry had there.