Saturday, May 31, 2008

CBA Part 1: Details

I have been reading about the "uncapped year" in 2010 and the "end" of the draft in 2011 as the owners opted out of the CBA last week. Um. Devil's in the details, as always. And despite the number of details, it always seems that writers and fans alike consistently get things wrong. Pat Kirwan, (one on 2010 FA implications, and another that expands the 3rd point from that piece), Vic Carucci , Peter King, (here as well) took a good look at the facts, and basic implications, of the opt-out. Michael Lombardi on had a great article on how teams can hedge their bets for the possibility, and Clayton on ESPN did a half-job on an article as to who is and isn't well poised for the possibility.

The first real ramification is for the 2010 season (and Ifseason, as March is the start/finish of the league year). So we first need to get through the 2008 season, the 2009 Draft and Ifseason, the 2009 season. So, there is a lot of opportunity for teams to change before the possibility of an uncapped season arrives. Bring on the panic patrol! - of national sportswriters that is.

I'm going to look at each of these points throughout the week in regards to the CBA and the Lions:

  1. (tonight) What exactly are the details, what do I think will happen, and what would the impact be if it did?

  2. What have the Lions done, and what will they try to do, to prepare for both a capped and uncapped 2010?

  3. Are they in as much trouble as Clayton says?

  4. Final Thoughts

Okay, I've seen lots of good, bad indifferent info on this topic -- and I'm sure we'll see a lot more. Not as Lions-centric tonight as it will be after this, so my apologies; Exposition is a necessary evil.

Here is a timeline, as I can see it, for the next few seasons, assuming nothing gets done.

  • 2008 Season: no changes in CBA, Lions go to playoffs as wildcard and get booted in rd 1.

  • 2009 Ifseason: Cap Increases to approx $123 million. No changes

  • 2009 Season: Lions go to playoffs as division champs, and lose in 2nd round. Are thus a top 8 team.

  • 2010 Ifseaon: Lots of changes: Rookies are FA after 6 completed years, not 4 as current; Teams have 1 Franchise, 2 Transition tags - and can use all 3, not just one; Top 4 Teams will be severely restricted in FA, only able to sign FA equal to those they lose; Top 5-8 Teams will be limited to one large FA move (est over 3.8 mill approx deal), but unlimited deals under that amount; No Salary Cap;

  • 2010 Season: Rules are the same -- Lions go to conference championships

  • 2011 Ifseason: Same rules as 2010; In addition, college draft is eliminated

  • 2011 Season: big Strike and Lockout at the same time as neither on realizes the other one isn't going to let them play if they want, players all start drinking heavily, get DUI's and thrown in jail in ever greater numbers as they move onto hard-core drugs and everyone decides to care about Baseball, Basketball, and Hockey again instead as the NFL is not watched even as it returns to work with some new deal in place that, thanks to lots of Patriots lobbying, allows that spygate be stricken from the records and that they get to choose any guy drafted in 2008 pick 31 or later, and add him to their roster immediately, not questions asked and take star OT Gosder Cherilus from the Detroit Lions and are allowed since he was a reach anyways.

So, did the last pert get absurd enough for you? They got it done last time, and will do so again -- If I were a betting man I'd say about March of 2010, even if they have to "postpone" the start of the league year again to finalize details.

There are a couple of points about the current CBA that do need fixing. One is that the teams have to give 60% of REVENUE to players, not profit as is often stated, but Revenue. This means ALL money that comes in from all sources before ANY expenses are deducted. What this has done is hurt larger teams, maimed moderate teams (such as the Lions), and would utterly destroy teams like Buffalo if left in place. In business, many of you may be thinking, payroll is the highest expense. 60% isn't too awful bad.

But lets look again. That is not payroll for EVERYONE that is just the 53 guys who make the roster and 8 practice squad blokes. Not: the trainers, coaches, towel guys, janitors, security, concessions employees, cost of materials for concessions, uniforms, travel, equipment, lodging and food for players and support personnel during the season and ifseason, scouting, management, facilities (like the stadium, practice fields, offices), phone bills, electricity....I think you get my point. While it is true that an NFL franchise can be quite lucrative, when the revenue sharing check is 87 million, and the cap is 115 are starting to get some small teams in trouble. 40% of total dollars is what is left for profits and all those dratted other expenses. Throw in saving cash for those big Signing Bonuses players love to get -- even though the cap spreads them out over 5 or 6 years, the money still has to be paid up-front. so that again makes much more than 60% of revenues going to just the players. Looking at most other businesses, that is a disproportionately high number.

I'm not, before you get started, defending owners, excess earnings, etc. -- just saying that the current CBA was causing some serious cash-flow issues for the small franchises -- which threatens the parity that the NFL has.

The other problem is the "rookie pool" -- meant to be a rookie salary cap, it really just encourages deals that hit the cap a lot harder in subsequent years after the first -- which as the Lions know, can cause real havoc with the cap if you have top-10 picks that don't work out.

The current cap system also has a minimum spending floor -- so teams HAVE to spend just a touch over 100 million of their cap space.

All in all, I'll go opposite of what I hear many fans saying --- I think that the players have the most incentive to get the deal done before the 2010 ifseason, and that they will give enough concessions and trade-offs to the owners to get it done. The owners, in some ways, would welcome the uncapped year and the new rules -- especially the greater ability to keep players through their prime playing years.

What are the players benefits: No cap theoretically means that they will have bigger contracts, as teams try to "buy championships"; Not too much else, really, that I can see, is a significant benefit

What are the detriments to players: 6 years for FA instead of 4, three ways to be forced to stay after those years are done, inability to go as a FA to contenders as they will be limited in their FA moves.

What are plus points for owners: No minimum spending, keep drafted players longer, more ways to keep top players in their prime for less money

What are negatives: Serious restrictions on FA for perennial contenders will place even more emphasis on good drafting -- not less. No cap means it would be easier for big market teams to get and retain good players that small market teams can't afford to keep or franchise.

To me, all of this points to both sides having some pretty significant incentive to come to a deal, as I said, by March 2010. In the meantime, there are some things that teams can do to get ready just in case, and some teams are positioned well -- while others could be in trouble if 2010 happens. Anything beyond that would be mere wild speculation (and even looking to 2010 is a pretty big stretch, but I'll do it anyways because it is fun.)

Sorry if I made a lot of eyes glaze over, but this is a big issue for all teams over the next couple of years, including the Lions.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Otah - Uh-Oh

Following in the steps of the plethora of Lions beat writers doing pieces on anyone and everyone who is not actually on the roster of the Detroit Lions, I saw this piece on Jeff Otah and just had to put it on here.

Funny points? That the ankle injury that was supposedly healed before the draft will likely keep him out of practice at least until training camp.

That giving up what amounts to a ransom to Philly to pick an injured RT 2 spots AFTER the Lions took termed as a bold move by the national media.

All I can say is that I'm sure glad the Lions stayed away from "bold moves" like that went the timid route picking a guy who has already earned reps with the first team from Marinelli, who doesn't even hand the valet anything without the guy proving himself, and was considered the best pure RT in the draft.

My take? Their bold move was desperation because they knew once Cherilus was gone, there was going to be a run on OT's they weren't expecting until the end of the round, not the middle. Knee jerk reaction was to give up a luxury-yachtload of picks to Philly to be sure they at least got someone with a 1st or 2nd round grade...which wasn't going to happen at the end of the round where I went back and found they were rumored to be looking at trading in to (late 20's)

What is even more amusing to me is that, had the picks been reversed (Lions take Otah, Carolina moves up for Cherilus, which I think they would have done) then the Lions would be taking a massive national beatdown about how Millen always drafts hurt players, Otah was a reach and they should have taken a guy like Cherilus since their need was right tackle. Meanwhile, similar to how NE was treated for the Mayo pick (that pundits were saying would be a reach for Detroit at 15) the Lions are still being hammered for "reaching" for a dominant player who fits their scheme over an injured one who doesn't.

Tomorrow I'll rip apart Clayton's completely ill-thought presentation of who is and isn't ready for a possible uncapped season in 2010 as I continue my impromptu series on inept national sports writers who have any obscure link I can justify to the Lions in some way. Pretty much the same relation their facts and logic have to the conclusions they are making -- most likely about 4 times as much, now that I look at it. Or maybe 4.354 since it will make it sound like I did research by throwing out a random meaningless number versus actually researching something.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Jones? Am I missing something?

I'm trying to figure out exactly what gives here. It seems that the local media is more obsessed in covering ex-Lions players than they are the current ones. Funny that just a couple of months after Tom Kowalski, and others, applauded the move to cut Kevin Jones -- they are now bemoaning the fact that they cut him, and practically worshiping him -- despite a video in which he (barely) manages to outrun a former Olinemen and a running back who if Out-Of-Football!

Also, if you look at Nicky's comments in the Freep, he implies he was there and that if we were there, we'd have been impressed too! Umm...he wasn't there. He watched the same video. I'll let you judge for yourself, but watching that video and knowing what I do about Football led me to believe the Lions made the right choice -- not a bad one.

Lets take a moment, and push aside all negativity, all positivity, and all emotion and take a good last look at this situation -- what the facts and odds were, and what the Lions stood to gain and lose from both keeping him or cutting him not just this season, but in 2009 and beyond as well.

First of all, unless someone else signs Jones to a 3.281 million dollar contract (guaranteed base salary plus bonus) this season and he plays as a number one back from game one through 16 -- then it was a good move on the Lions' part. That was their cost to keep him, and even if he gave them that I think they reasoned they could (and I'm betting will) get that kind of prodcution without Jones and with an eye toward continued success beyond 2008. I'll lay out my argument here, and see if you agree.

The first situation is Jone's injuries. No matter how he always seems to make light of them, or pretend he can come back 100% in half the time it takes the average player -- he has been hampered by injuries both minor and major since he entered the league. Even his rookie season, by far his best year, he missed time due to injury. The knee injury last season was an indirect result of his foot injury, no matter what Jones' or the Lions' spin doctors say.

I have, as we all do when we get older, various aches from old injuries (football, car wreck, being a stupid young daredevil for a while). When my leg hurts, I tend to put more weight on my other leg -- which means I also but more pressure on my hip in the small of my back, which makes my back hurt. Because my lower back hurts, I sit and walk differently to try to make it feel better, which places more pressure on my legs and makes my knee hurt...then as I sit differently my shoulder on the opposite side hurts. Now, I'm not anywhere close to incapacitated by any means -- they are just annoying aches. But you can see the pattern -- now project that onto a major foot injury... Jones admittedly had so much pain he couldn't walk til Wednesday, and didn't practice at all. Now, how many offenses can function when their number one back only plays or practices on game day in extreme pain.

He ran differently by favoring the foot, and trying to change his style to minimize the impact of his foot not being 100%. It's not all Jones' fault, as the Lions have a history of rushing players back from knee injuries (for example, Brian Calhoun who re-injured the same knee, and Charlie Batch who couldn't plant to throw but was under center - and injured his knee coming back form a broken leg.)

If you look around the NFL the trend is there -- players who attempt to come back too early from injury get re-injured, or suffer an indirect injury. If he doesn't come back early, he still is not 100% for camp, not 100% fr the season. Keep in mind, he has NEVER played a full season in his first 4 years in the league.

Next we get to the business decisions. Kevin Jones is only 25, about to be 26. But he is entering his 5th year in the league. He has had two major and a half dozen minor to moderate injuries. He was also in the last year of his contract, and counting 3.281 million against the cap. (as per his 2008 base salary and Signing bonus allocation per NetRat's cap spreadsheet). How much juice did he have left? It was not only a matter of salary, but a matter of future salary and roster space.

First, roster space. Is there the opportunity to fill the roster spot vacated by him with a player who would contribute at least as much, possibly in more ways, for at least the same cap number or less? I think we can agree that answer is yes. Is there any doubt that Kevin Smith will in all probability be able to play more than 13 games per season and get more than 600 yards as the #1 back? Granted the Lions didn't have Kevin Smith when they cut Jones, but they knew who was available in the draft -- and that was about a dozen backs who would be safe bets to replace the production Jones had shown over the last 3 seasons -- and at least a dozen more who would have been gambles, but relatively safe ones. The Lions needed more back-ups to have more positive contributions on special teams. But if you have KJ and a drafted back (Smith) as your #1 and #2 have 2 of 4 active RB each week who are only playing offense.

Michael Turner, Tomlinson's backup, also played on the special teams coverage and return units. With the 53 man roster, and further limited number of game-day players, every position is important and everyone beyond your immediate starters needs to be able to contribute on special teams, or in multiple ways.

The next point is about not just the current cap savings of 2.54 million, but what about his 2009 pay? Killer got it right the first time around, and now he's back pedaling. The Lions never said Jones was washed up. They didn't say he couldn't be a productive back in the NFL. They didn't even say he couldn't fully recover and be a great back in 2009. What they did say is that he wouldn't be likely to win a starting job back until the 2nd half of the season, if at all.

These are the scenarios I picture the Lions considering at that time:

1. Jones makes it into camp, is able to participate some, and then is ready to start the season full tilt by say, game 3. then he makes it through the whole season and gets over 1,000 yards. Now what? Do you pay him a megabucks contract? That hasn't worked so well for the last few teams that have done so (think S. Alexander, Thomas Jones with NYJ, Dominic Rhodes, Edgerrin James). Marinelli has been more like the Colts or Patriots in player signing strategy lately than the Cardinals or Redskins (which is a good thing). So even if he does come back, odds on are the Lions were still going to have to draft a replacement for him, just to be sure (unless you think Tatum Bell is long-term insurance vs. one year "just in case") -- do you pay Jones big money, or let the new guy get in there and compete?

2. More likely, Jones come in and contributes the second half of the season. If Smith, for instance, had locked up the starting role, then what of Jones? He'd at that point be a very expensive third down back, unlikely to be resigned for the reasons above.

3. Jones doesn't recover to his rookie form, performs average and is not resigned at the end of the season, as some other team will out-bid them hoping another year will get him back to his Rookie form.

In all the scenarios the Lions were essentially in a situation where Jones was in a 1 year contract, and they could pay him -- or his replacement and a couple of badly needed solid free-agents.

Considering the upside and the downside for the Lions, it really made sense both in terms of potential contribution to the roster, current salary cap, and spending in the future.

Also, for those who point to signing Tatum Bell to "replace" Jones, they signed him to compete and be sure they had at least one healthy back going into the draft to give them options.

As we have seen and been talking about, the RB position is strong with great competition from talented players who are all pushing each other to try for a roster spot. How would Jones have fir into that competition? Cap wise, it is the same argument we are using for Bell possibly being cut. I checked, and cutting him would save 1.1 million to the cap. KJ -- had they brought him to camp -- would have been a 2.48 million savings. Based on likelihood to contribute, I find it hard to believe that with all the factors in play, KJ would have ended up on the final 53 barring a miracle. I think the Lions saw that too, and let him go early to help give them the latitude to sign needed veterans like B. Kelly, D. Smith, and C. Darby.

Whether or not Jones succeeds elsewhere in the League is not really relevant. For the Lions, based on the current situation, the costs of keeping Jones did not outweigh the benefits both for this season, and beyond -- even in the best case scenarios. It happens all the time around the league -- Drew Brees anyone? -- Jamall Lewis? -- Cory Dillon? -- Ahman Green? (to the Pack, not Houston) -- and plenty more. What really needs to be looked at is: what are the costs and relevant benefits - opportunity cost in economic terms. And for Jones, the opportunity cost of keeping him was higher than the benefits to be gained by releasing him. I'm sure they wouldn't hesitate to bring him back at the veteran minimum to compete in camp -- which I can guarantee is what New England and Tennessee were offering. Right now his agent is doing what agents do -- trying to get someone else to bid on his client, to get KJ something above Vet minimum. Not so sure that he'll get anyone to bite.

Honestly, and you can refer to this later, I don't care if he does go to Tennessee and plays us later in the season. Just as motivated as he will be to come back, the current backs will be motivated to show they are better than Jones, and the D will be motivated to kick his butt since he has now already implied that he'd run all over them given the chance. Not a real complimentary statement about the Lions D (true though it was last season) -- and one it seems guys would take offense at, should it come to that. Personally, I think a team like Arizona or Houston, in need of an additional back, will take a shot on him hoping he does come on by the second half of the season and will be able to contribute. But only, as Bob Barker liked to say, if the Price is Right...

That is my final take, and final word on Jones.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"Play for the Man..."

I ran across this well done interview by Philip Zaroo on Mlive's Highlight Reel. It is an interview with Lions great Lomas Brown. Many Lions fans do not realize that he was also part of the 2002 Tampa Bay Team that won the SB. What many also do not realize is that when Gruden came, Marinelli was given title of Assistant Head Coach, as well as DBacks coach. He also had a heck of an influence on that whole team, as Brown, an Olineman obviously respects Marinelli.

Of all the points he made, many of which were excellent and show he still follows the Lions, a couple stood out to me:

When he talked about Marinelli can't go out and catch, and block, and tackle -- it's time for the players to start acting like men and play for the man. enough is enough. Really hits it home that even the greatest of motivators and teachers need receptive pupils. You can be the greatest teacher and motivator alive, but it the student is unwilling to take anything upon themselves then there is nothing you can do. Kalimba Edwards comes to mind. He had the physical tools but just couldn't -- or didn't do what he needed to -- to put it together on the field.

I also liked when he said that Marinelli, at this point, really needs just one thing: Time. Lets hope that the men on this team step up and play this season to allow Marinelli that time he needs to mold the Lions from a lump of wet soggy mud into a real brick of a playoff team.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

30 "Lock" - Who Did We Decide?

I've tallied the lists, and there are some interesting things to be learned. First, the results by number of votes. Each player could, if picked by all who submitted lists, get a total of 12 votes.

Here is the "Total Lock" list garnering 12 votes apiece:

  1. QB - Kitna
  2. QB - Stanton
  3. WR - Williams
  4. WR - CJ
  5. WR - Furrey
  6. OT - Backus
  7. OG - Mulitalo
  8. C - Raiola
  9. OT - Cherilus
  10. DT - Redding
  11. DT - Darby
  12. DE - IAF
  13. LB - Sims
  14. CB - Kelly
  15. CB - Bodden
  16. PK - Hanson

In other words, over half of the list was unanimous. Needless to say, any players from the above 16 not on the final roster would definitely shock this fan community!

Next up we have the "99% Pure" group -- those tallying 11 of 12 votes:

  1. DE - White
  2. LB - Dizon
  3. LB - Lenon
  4. S - Alexander
  5. P - Harris

So we made it through a total of 21 of our 30 "Locks" with just those getting all, or only missing one vote. Now we move to "Missed a Couple, but that's OK" (9 or 10 votes)

  1. QB - Orlovsky
  2. RB - K. Smith
  3. DT - Fluellen
  4. S - Bullocks
  5. S - D. Smith
  6. LS - Mulbach
  7. TE - Gaines
  8. OG - Peterman

Yes, I know that brings us to a grand total of....29 The next highest vote getter, in the coveted 30th spot is:

Cliff Avril with 7 votes.

The "Got votes, but not of Confidence" group is still likely to make the 53, but as this list has shown, it could be adios:

  1. CB - Fisher (6 votes)
  2. FB - Felton (4 votes)
  3. TE - D. Campbell (4 votes)
  4. OT - J. Scott (4 votes)
  5. FB - Bradley (3 votes)
  6. DT - L. Moore (2 votes)
  7. CB - K. Smith (2 votes)
  8. OT - Foster (1 vote)
  9. WR - McDonald (1 vote)
  10. OG - Ramierez (1 vote)
  11. LB - A. Lewis (1 vote)
  12. DE - Devries (1 vote)
So all in all, after looking at 87 players, we have determined 30 (realistically 29 strong) that we believe are "locks" to be on the final 53. We also identified 12 that are close to locks, but maybe not so safe as it may seem...

By position group, I found some interesting trends:

QB -- It is apparent the 3 QB's on the roster are fighting for pecking order, not roster spots. And don't be fooled -- both Orlovsky and Stanton are going to get a lot of work, and a lot of looks in the ifseason workouts and camp -- as well as the preseason. Whoever shows they have "it" will be #2 behind Kitna, and the other guy will be looking at a harder road to retain a roster spot next ifseason. Kitna's only got a couple seasons left at best, and both Orlovsky and Stanton know if neither of them shows enough progress this ifseason, there will be a new guy to contend with in camp next year -- either a veteran or another draft pick; neither of them really want that, so I see them working their tails off to improve, and then improve some more to keep one-upping each other. This can only lead to each of them being pushed as far as talent will take them. Competition at its' best

WR -- One surprising thing was McDonald not getting more than one vote. I'll admit, I left him off my final list - only because I felt there were more secure options. What this really tells us, I think, is 2 things: Furrey may not be as safe as we think, and there is going to be a heck of a battle for those 4th and 5th WR spots.

RB -- one RB. ONE. That says it all about the Lions' backfield situation. It is not lacking talent, but there are different skills sets, situations, and even will be effected by the outcome of other position battles such as WR, and KR/PR, and what special teamers make it from other position groupings. RB will be one of the major positions to watch this ifseason. I agree that, if he keeps on working, K. Smith is "safe" -- but every one the RB will really be humping it not only for depth battles, but to prove they belong on the roster.

O-Line -- May sound crazy, but did anyone else notice that the starting line (2T, 2G, and C) were 5 of the locks? There will be competition on the line, but my guess is that Backus-Mulitalo-Raiola-Peterman-Cherilus is the starting O-Line against Atlanta week 1, barring an exceptional camp by Ramierez, Scott, or Foster. Of those, Ramierez may be able to push Mulitalo or Peterman -- either due to age or skill accordingly.

D-Line -- Again, I am amazed that, essentially, we locked in the 4 Dline starters (IAF-Redding-Darby-White), as well as 2 rotational players (Avril and Fluellen). That would mean there is only one DE and one DT spot open for competition in camp. That should lead to some fierce fighting among the other 9 or so guys currently on the roster at Dline.

CB -- From weakness to strength. Bodden-Kelly-Fisher at Nickel -- again, starters for week 1. That again only leaves 1 or possibly 2 spots open for K.Smith, Wilson, and whoever else is left to fight over. Another weak area that has starters with enough talent to lock up their spots -- yet are not lacking for qualified backups vying for position. Could still be stronger, but it appears the cards are dealt here already too.

S -- Wow. Pearson definitely didn't win any fans this ifseason. Throw in our apparent confidence in Bullocks-Alexander-Smith to get it done, then you have one heck of a battle for the one other S spot on the roster. Pearson, Body, Campbell...lot of guys vying for one backup spot, and ST play will again be a huge factor -- especially with 2 young starters, and a savvy veteran leading the way. Got a gut feeling that Pearson is still the 4th S, and may push for a more prominent roel if either Alexander or Bullocks falters.

LB -- I think our locks of 3 LB comes down to the fact most of us are convinced that even if Dizon wins the starting MLB position in camp or preseason, that Lenon will stick either as the starting SLB or at worst back-up MLB. However, the fact we only chose 3 LB out of a probable 7 on the final roster again attests to the talent the Lions have brought in to strengthen the LB corps -- just to name a few, vying for back-up weakside and starting SS, and backup MLB or the 7th spot are: Fincher, Gardner, Campbell, Lewis, Cannon, Davis...and there are more. some of those guys aren't going to make it.

Kicking Unit -- Confidence still runs high in out kicking trio of PK Hanson, P Harris, and LS Mulbach. If there is one unit comprised of players respected at their relative positions around the league, this is it. Any one of these players would be an immediate upgrade over their current situation for about 3/4 of the teams in the league. None of them would be unemployed long -- and the Lions have smartly gotten them all wrapped up long term. Stability on on this unit is key, and is present. No competition needed -- although I am afraid that Hanson is very close to edging into not-so-safe-as-a-lock-anymore territory. It is only a matter of time and a few more game winners before, in a season or two, the Lions are facing that task of picking a kicker that has to be done once every 15 -20 years. Of all the teams, the Lions have had the best luck in their history in the NFL hands down when it comes to consistency at this position.

From this point, as we approach the cut-downs, our "30 Lock" is safe from guesses as to who will be released. Should one of them shockingly get cut, then...umm...well, they weren't such a lock after all and I'll have to call Guido my bookie back and try to talk my way out of it. Ummm....better call him now -- just in case. After all, this is the Ifseason -- and no one knows what ifs will happen.

editors note: I was kidding about the bookie. Not a gambler at all, actually. Went to the Casino for my 18th Birthday with my Grandparents. They wanted to be sure we all learned early that if you can't afford to piss away what you brought with you, don't go in the casino door. Gave me $20 to gamble with. Won over $50 on the third pull of the quarter machine. Pocketed it and said I was ready to go. Know when to run away. But, since we'd only been there under 5 minutes, I got $5 in nickles and played those for about 45 minutes. Then I left with $20 bucks birthday money, $45 gambling money, and the secure knowledge I was not a gambler, but more of a calculated risk taker. Not that I'm timid by any means, but I needed much better odds than the slots, that's for sure. After all, an opportunity once lost is lost forever. Only by moving on to the next opportunity and learning from the past and not dwelling on it can you be successful. Those who focus only on opportunities they missed, will fail to realize that new ones are showing up all the time -- if we but reach out...

Monday, May 26, 2008

FFB Is Here!

Welcome back all! Due in equal parts to schedule, holiday, and illness I must apologize for the lack of new posts this past week. I was also putting in some time to get the initial work done for the FFB leagues. I am happy to say that all is ready a touch ahead of schedule!

I sent out an email today to all who expressed interest in both the Free and Pay/Dynasty League. The dynasty League is already set up. The free league registration is not able to start until later in the summer, so I will keep you all updated.

Lion54 - would you shoot me an email so I can add you onto the list?

There are two new blog-sites, one for each league.

The Free-League will be updated at:

The Dynasty League Blog will be:

As of right now, the free league is annual (new draft each year) and the pay league is dynasty (where you keep a few players each year, and then draft replacements)

Other than the links to the fantasy sites on the sidebar, you will not normally see fantasy news on this site. Back to real football next blog.

Also, a quick shout-out to all of our veterans out there on this Memorial Day. Our thoughts are with you, your families, and the freedoms you have protected throughout the history of our great nation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The If-Season

I know there is a lot of mini-camp news going on out there right now -- I'm sure you loyal Lions fans have been reading up, as have I. There seems to be a lot of excitement out there right now (along with the usual pessimism)

There are some great camp battles starting to take shape already -- OT, OG, MLB, SLB, CB, RB, DT, DE, S, FB, a matter of fact, there is more talent and competition at almost every position right now than I can remember in the last 10 years. Even solid starters are being pushed to new and greater levels of performance by talented players eager to take their place.

Lets be honest, how long has it really been since half the position groups weren't already full of back-up caliber players who had locked up starting positions over street FA?

How long has it been since we could say the Lions had a solid draft that could be a foundation of Detroit Lions Playoff teams for years to come?

I'll being doing more stories, as I'm sure you've guessed, on these battles as time marches unerringly toward the season. But for tonight, I'm going to hone in on the center of it all. The focus. The Epicenter. The Alpha and the Omega. The primary star of the solar system. The discussions from the second the season ends (one could argue even during the season), revolve around one crucial, all-powerful word:


IF the Lions have a good draft, they could contend...IF Dwayne White and Redding are healthy, with the off season additions the line could dominate...IF Calhoun steps up big time, he could possibly bump Bell from the final roster...IF the Line improves dramatically, the Lions could be a huge rushing team...IF the run takes off, CJ and Roy will have huge years....IF the Line dominates, the DB's will have a field day with INT's...IF IF IF

It's not the Offseason -- Its the Ifseason. And henceforth, it shall be referred to as such on this blog.

So while there is a lot of news starting to float about, what it all means directly flows from your IFs...

We have a lot of difference in IFs here at DetFan1979 in regards to players, performance projections of units, coaching, analysis, roster. But they are generally positive IFs. After all, if you're going to if, why if bad? Who says to themselves all the time "If I screw up today, and if things go bad, I'll get fired. If that happens, I'll lose my house, and my wife will run off the the good looking rich bachelor next door, if I'm such a failure..." That doesn't intend to lock out criticism, as the inverse of a positive IF can be interesting to look at -- especially if another positive if could occur because of a negative if. If only I didn't say if so much, this may be easier to read.

Yet, visit many team sites (not just the Freep) during any given ifseason and you will see nothing but negative Ifs about their local team. The ifseason is a time of hope -- it is a time of dreams -- a time of IFs. And IF our team gets their IFs in order, it is going to be a great season....


Mini-camp News and Notes

First off, here is a nice photo gallery of Lions players at the mandatory mini-camp. Killer also had a nice article on Rookies once again having to earn their starting position.

Feel free to post your thoughts on the photos/story. I'm gathering some thoughts/analysis on the news/stories here and will be writing more on them as far as analysis goes after the min-camp is completed. That way, I'm looking over a whole picture versus a snippet or two.

Great quote from Marinelli regarding Bell (, from Lions notes and quotes page):

Running back Tatum Bell looks a bit heavy, but it's only May. "He might be up there a little bit more, yeah," Marinelli said. "But like I told these guys -- told them all -- just make sure we're aware of where we're at. Right now, it's still the offseason. But I want to make sure we're working toward the perfect weight to enter camp. I'm aware of every guy. They're made aware of where I want them."

Sounds like, to me, we are right on in our evaluations of the heated RB competition this season -- I'm sure that Bell knows in no uncertain terms where he needs to be -- along with any other player that showed up out of shape. If Marinelli will dump 1st round draft picks and pro-bowl DT's, then what will he do to you? The example has been made enough in Det that even though some people are too stupid to catch on, the majority of players know that with Marinelli it's put up or ship out.

Also, sounds like Bell might not be the only one who wasn't where Marinelli wanted...wonder who the other players are?? However, as always, he is placing the burden of success on them...they know what they are expected to do -- it is their job as men in Marinelli's employ to get it done, or exceed it; no one else can do if for them.

Got a good chuckle today - reading about Atlanta signing Matt Ryan to a HUGE contract...mainly because my gut says that he will be the second coming of Joey Harrington -- both for the league, and the Falcons. My second thought? Another stupid move by Blank, overpaying someone he didn't need to, after unnecessarily giving away his bargaining tools. They might as well have stuck with Joey and saved the money for other need areas. Amazing that in stage one of rebuilding, it looks like Atlanta might have made a Millenesqe pick, and topped it off with a larger-than-a-millen-contract contract. Ant Atlanta didn't even have the good Oline draft Millen did for the guy to stand behind...

Dave Birkett had some nice additional snippets about the mini-camp as well.

Keep up the great thoughts on the RB position battles; don't forget the Lions still have more than 80 players, and they're going to need to cut someone before camp. Who will it be?? (post on the bubble cuts link at the side)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Position Battles: RB/FB/TE

The Lions were weak in this area last season -- their only real TE threat -- Campbell -- was injured early. He isn't expected back until training camp. McHugh showed flashes, but wasn't spectacular. Combined with the fact they didn't utilize the run game, and had mostly injured RB on the roster, with varied success when they were used -- to say this position group needed to be tweaked would be like saying Social Security needs a couple of minor changes.

However, just as in other areas of weakness, the Lions went out and aggressively filled the void in the off season. Right now, they are at the point where they will be cutting good players out of the backfield after some intense competition. I included RB/FB/TE in one grouping because of the overlaps on the roster due to how the positions are used in the Lions' offense.

Last season, the Lions carried 2 TE (one whom was FB/TE), 2 FB (one of whom was also a hybrid FB/TE), and 4 RB, although usually 1 was inactive on game day. I am also including Moore, the WR/RB/PR/KR in this melee. (This positional flexibility thing is a bugger when trying to predict camp battles and see who is competing for what where on the roster. It also blurs how many of each position they are going to keep, forces competition pushing players to new levels, and frees up roster spots for specialists.)

Essentially, as of right now they have the following players listed on the roster at RB:

28 Bell, Tatum RB 5-11 213 27 5 Oklahoma State
29 Calhoun, Brian RB 5-10 208 23 3 Wisconsin
36 Cason, Aveion RB 5-10 204 28 8 Illinois State
39B Ervin, Allen RB 5-10 224 23 R Lambuth
44 Pinner, Artose RB 5-10 232 30 6 Kentucky
34 Smith, Kevin RB 6-1 217 21 R Central Florida
40 Bradley, Jon FB 6-0 301 27 5 Arkansas State
45 Felton, Jerome FB 6-0 246 21 R Furman

Bell: reports indicate he showed up at camp a bit overweight an out of shape -- not good for a player on a one year contract, with no SB, who spend a lot of last season inactive, and should be motivated to fight for a wide-open RB competition with a new scheme he knows well from Denver being integrated into the offense. Something tells me that unless he shapes up, he could miss his last opportunity to start in the NFL.

Calhoun: He injured his knee his Rookie season, then re-injured it after they rushed him back too early last season. Reports I'm reading now indicate he is full healthy, and has regained the speed and still has the vision that he displayed in college. Throw in the fact that, unlike Bell he seems motivated and that he played in a similar zone scheme in college, and he is my dark-horse candidate to be on the final roster. I'm not counting him out yet!

Cason: Sign. Cut. Resign. Cut. Injury to starter. Resign. Cason has been cut and resigned I swear more than any other player in Lions history. Unless he wins the battle at PR/KR -- which I think is unlikely with all the returners the Lions are bringing to camp to take shots at taking it away from him -- I see another cut in his future.

Ervin: Had a hard time finding info on this guy -- Click his name for the best article I could find. It's pre-draft, but sounds like the Lions may not have been the only team interested in bringing him in as an UDFA. While I'm not certain he's going to camp, I'm hedging bets that he will to compete for that returner spot. I'm also guessing that is why he signed with Detroit/why Detroit signed him -- because of the wide open competition for the returner spots and Marinelli wanting as much competition there as possible. I don't see him getting it as of right now, because the Lions are crowded at RB, and there may be other equally talented returners who can contribute either as a backup at more than one position, or have more impact on the field outside of returns. I could be wrong though, as his return skills are supposed to be quite impressive. He could be a practice-squad candidate if he can clear waivers.

Pinner: I liked Pinner when he was here, and wanted them to keep him over Bryson. While Pinner did well his one season in Minnesota, he was actually with Atlanta part of last season and out of football, essentially. He lost out in Minnesota when they drafted AP, and already had Taylor. Once again, he was the odd man out. He always seemed able to move the pile, but I don't really see him as a WR out of the backfield -- I can't recall how well he blocked specifically, but think it was about average. He may manage to find a spot on the roster as the 3rd RB because of his outstanding ST play. He's not a returner, which could hurt him, but he is good on both the return and coverage units and is known as a fast, hard hitter on ST. He is a good enough RB for the combination of that and his ST skills to get him a roster spot.

Smith: See draft analysis for more info. What more can I say other than I REALLY wanted the Lions to pick him specifically as their RB in the draft -- and I'm not usually into rooting for a single player in the draft. My gut says he's going to be a great player, and will win the #1 RB job by the end of the preseason, if not sooner. recently indicated that Kevin Smith is #2 on their list (behind Henne in Miami) in their ranking of draft choices who will have the biggest impact on their team this season. Forget special teams Kevin -- you'll have more important things to do.

Bradley: Converted from DT last season to FB. He played RB in High School, and was actually a highly sought after recruit at that position. However, he ended up switching to DT in college to help out the team, and stuck there into his NFL career. He seems to have a knack for knowing where/how the Dline is going to approach a play, and is good at keeping them from shedding his blocks, as his time as a DT gives him an instinct and knowledge as to what moves they will use when. This really helped the Lions run game up the middle, and he was in on many downs where Duckett got his most yardage last season. He acts more as an extra O-lineman in protection schemes, punishing lead blocker, and the occasional pass reception or run -- he is the traditional FB.

Felton: A short yardage specialist in college, his ability to gain tough yards when it matters is simply uncanny. over 80% of his runs were for 1st downs or TDs -- and he scored 63! TD's in college. Despite that fact that it was a short yardage or goal line situation -- and they knew he would be running the ball -- he still had that kind of success. He is not really fast, is an above average blocker. But he hwas what matters for a short yardage battering back: He knows how to get yards when the going gets crowded and the power and vision trump speed and finesse. TJDuckett only younger and better at what he does.

If you figure that the Lions will keep one FB/TE Hybrid from last year, that would leave 5 RB spots (1 FB, 4 RB). While this will change as camp progresses, I see:

#1 RB: Smith -- #2 RB: Calhoun (goin out on a limb here) -- #3RB: Felton as the short yardage specialist. #4RB: Bell, Pinner, or Ervin -- ST play will be the deciding factor. FB: Bradley

Moore, if Ervin doesn't win the return job, would be the 5th RB, 5th WR, PR/KR -- not too bad for one roster spot.

As for the TE/FB position, right now I'm projecting the Lions will keep 2 tight ends, and one hyrbid. The going is much easier in my mind here. Gaines and a healthy Campbell will win the two starting TE slots. That leaves Ftizsimmons and McHugh to battle it out for the FB/TE spot. I considered that the Lions wouldn't keep a third TE-type player on the roster, but with Campbell's reent injury history, it is prudent to do. Both Fitz and McHugh showed good flashes of talent last year, and both contribute to ST play. It should he a heated battle that is interesting to watch.

Pinner may make the roster as the TE/FB hybrid, but I wouldn't bank on it as I'm not so sure his pass-catching and blocking skills are up to the task.

What do you fellow fans think? Detroit Lions Depth Chart

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Only Constant is Change

I found this article today by Kirwan on, talking about positions that are morphing in today's NFL. I was shocked to see that one of positions he talked about was Strong safety, and used Dallas' Roy Williams as an example -- for the exact point I was making yesterday about Safties needing more coverage skills due to the changes in how defenses need to keep up with the variances in the passing game.

What I find Ironic is just days before he posted a story about how the power running game could make a comeback. My thought is, after looking over his first piece, on the power running game, I jumped to the idea that it might work because certain defensive positions had changed. He did it the other way around -- I just missed the first article.

I'd like to take a look at his list, and give a few of my thoughts:

Middle Linebacker: Can any us of read this article and not feel pretty good about the Lions' 2nd round pick Dizon? He can tackle, he can run sideline to sideline, and is smart and good in coverage as well. While points out the the job is Lennon's to lose, I think all indications are the Dizon will beat him out. Marinelli will be harping on the job being Lenon's to lose, Dizon's to win (and Davis, to a lesser extent, to attempt to make the roster) as it will stoke the competition between them, with each trying to beat out the other. No matter the outcome this season, there will be much improved play from the MLB spot. Lenon, to me, is at a disadvantage due to the past-vs-present that is highlighted. Lenon is a traditional, between the tackles MLB who is okay in coverage. He still is only an average MLB as he can hit, but his tackling could use work. Something tells me he gets real motivated to work on that, and his coverage skills this off season. Dizon is more in the mold of the jack-of-all-trades that a modern MLB needs to be. Props to Marinelli and Barry for recognizing that in the draft and going for Dizon over Connor. Don't get me wrong -- Connor is big and can hit like a loaded-down mac truck; but after going back and reading some more up on him after he slid, I noted that the scouting reports almost all listed his liability in coverage as a weakness -- then summarily dismissed it because hey, they guy hits like a ton of bricks. I think that the lack of coverage skills coupled with changes at the position is what led to his slide.

Strong Safety: I covered this one more than a bit yesterday. In the DD (Detroit Deuce -- also, comic book character DareDevil, who is legally disabled {blind} but still kicks butt despite the obvious disadvantage {just like the Lions}, and the bust size of the she-male stripper Millen has pictures of Ford doing naughty things with)[if you guys couldn't tell that last part was a flippant joke, then you really ought to get a sense of humor please. Millen keeps his job because he makes Ford money -- which is what he is paid, ultimately, to do.]
there is no differentiation between Strong and Free Safety because, in reality, the two sides are interchangeable. The safeties in the DD basically divide the field in zone coverage. You will notice that unlike in Tampa, Barry will routinely switch which sides the safeties are playing based on how the offense is lining up, attempting to pit his best cover guy (Alexander last year) against the best WR, while leaving the more liable in coverage (Kennedy) against the likely destination of the TE split out wide, or the #2 WR. It was Kennedy's lack of coverage skills, BTW, that hurt the secondary as much as the situation at CB last year -- they would try to get WR in a match up against Kennedy -- one they would usually win. Barry minimized this by moving Kennedy around, or pulling him in some obvious passing situations, but Bashir was not much better. Alexander has also played CB, and the evolution of the position has actually justified the Lions taking him in the 2nd round last year. He will start again, and with Bullocks back, and the additions of Smith and Pearson (if he is innocent in his legal troubles) will lead that to be a position of strength this season regardless. Not having to protect or pull one of his Safeties will open up Barry's defensive playbook a bit more, and also lead to a better pass defense.

Tight End/Fullback: In light of his own article on the power run game, and the thoughts I expressed on the matter, I disagree with him that this position is disappearing -- more, I think that your traditional blocking TE has merged with the FB position and short-yardage HB, while the slot-WR position has merged with the other half of the TE duties. Kellen Winslow Jr. and Tony Gonzales -- when you take a close look at them -- are big slot WR with above average blocking skills. The Lions, I still predict, are going to run more power O to shove down the throat of Chicago and GB -- while depending more on the passing game and play-action against Minnesota. The 4 wins that the Lions can get by steamrollering the smaller, pass-rushing oriented D of Chicago and GB is worth the addition of a power run game in and of itself. (I'll look at the flip side of what the Lions D may be doing to stop the Minnesota Power O in another piece.) But, with practice in both usages, and other teams knowing the Power O is there if they don't defend against it, Detroit will be able to effectively pass or throw as the game situation dictates --- because teams will know they can do both -- and do both well. IF they get the power run game going.

Detroit already has what Minnesota wants, and Minnesota has what Detroit wants -- honestly, if you combined the players from both teams, you would end up with a team that had a stronger all around roster than the Patriots, or any other NFL team, by far. Detroit already has the QB and WR to pass the ball, and Minnesota has the Oline and RB to run the ball -- however, I think Detroit has done far more to improve their running game up to where Minnesota's is, than Minnesota has done to catch up to the Lions in the passing game. I think Minnesota, which is shaping up as the Media Pre-Season darling to make a deep playoff run -- possibly to the Super Bowl if you believe Fox's Czarnecki (which I don't 80%+ of the time, and neither should you.) -- will be out of the playoffs again. Why? Because until they prove they can pass it and win, teams will stack up on the run and make them one dimensional. Unfortunately for the teams who beat the Lions in the second half last season, they won't be able to get away with skipping defense of the run and teeing off against the pass -- the Lions will eat them up and spit them out like unarmed peasants in Roman times.

Overall, the Lions seem to be embracing both the changes these 5 positions have undergone, and yet have latched onto those players and philosophies that other teams have been abandoning, and are attempting to use these changes to their advantage. Will it work? Only time will tell.

Shutdown the CB - FG=Turnover?

There are still a couple more points from Lombardi's SI column on "busting three common misconceptions". I already looked at the first -- that you must establish the run early.

The second point is the myth of the "shutdown" corner. On this point, I actually totally agree with what he's saying. Thanks to the tightened down rules on defensive pass interference the League "clarified" a couple years back, DB's no longer have the advantage over WR/Pass catchers. This has led to many DB's being exposed for weaknesses is coverage abilities that they were masking with their physical, bump-run-bump-run-mug style of covering WR's. Guys like Dallas' Roy Williams were exposed so badly that he is now hardly ever on the field in passing situations. (much to his chagrin) Nate Clements learned that being an $80 million dollar CB with no pass rush in front of you is a great way to magically make yourself toast. Dre Bly has not been a consistent performer since the rules change, and Champ Bailey is aging and discovering the same thing Celements did. Sorry Champ fans, but based on the Lions-Broncos game last year, and other Denver games I caught last couple years, Champ is riding on reputation at this point. Don't Believe me? The "feared" off season secondary of the Broncos was not so feared -- and the only D that gave up huge points to the "Deep-Drop-Deep-Pass" offense the Lions utilized last season.

His point that is somewhat rushed past is that the rules changes make a strong, consistent pass rush more important. It also makes forcing the other team into mistakes on offense even more so. Chicago's problem last year was two-fold: While it is true they had injured starters on their D, what hurt more was their anemic offense. Unlike their Superbowl Season, where the offense started hot with Grossman tossing long TD's to Berrian -- they had such an anemic offense last season on the whole that most teams did not fear them putting up points. While it is true they could and did produce some hot runs on O (like in the first Lions match up) -- on the whole, they could not consistently do anything, and got worse as the season went along. Since teams did not fear the Bear's offense, the opposition offense did not feel pressured at all --- they didn't need to score every possession -- just a couple TD's would do it.

Take that in contrast to the Patroits -- who were soring on nearly every drive. Even if the literal pressure wasn't there, the mental pressure to "make things happen" was -- which led teams facing the Patriots to make more mistakes, which gave the Patriots offense more shots on the field, which in turn reinforced the idea in the offenses mind that every possession was a must score -- instead of getting into any kind of field position battle. They became almost Martzian in going for the end zone all the time.

The most extreme example of pressure from lack of offense was the 2006 Raiders, who led the league in passing defense -- because teams starting running out the clock from the first snap. Things like that happen when your offense scores 7 offensive touchdowns all season. This made their secondary look spectacular, and pundits were raving about how their corners were top in the league, and their D coordinator was a genius...and ignored they lost more games than the Lions did (only winning 2) -- teams came out one dimensional running against them and the Raiders still couldn't stop the run.

So while I agree that pressure on the opposing offense is needed to help shied the secondary, I disagree that you don't need competent DB's to take advantage of pressure. Minnesota got good pressure and sack numbers from Udeze last season - but their secondary couldn't take advantage and come up with the takeaways. I also disagree that he implies all a team needs is one great DE and it makes the pass rush happen. While it sure helps, and is needed, it is the strength of the 4 rushers (front 4 in a 4-3, front 3 plus DE/OLB in 3-4 scheme) that really makes or breaks the team. If an offense can focus on stopping one guy, and the other 3 can't step in to create the have little pressure. The Eagles D, for instance, relies on pressure and pass-rush coming from different spots each time.

The Lions improved their secondary in the off season by picking up guys who better fit the zone scheme they run, but also who are able to cover one-on-one, at least for a short time, so that Barry is more free to bring pressure using different players, or blitzing a LB, Safety, etc.

In regards to FG = turnover, I've always considered them to be so, but hadn't really put that much thought into why. So from now on, I will be taking missed FG into account when looking at turnover ratio for games. His assertion is misrepresented if he's trying to bust the myth that turnover ratio is the key to football. Again, he is missing out on clarifying the real point. First, despite the negative number in total, the Giants only had 1 or 2 turnovers throughout the postseason heading into the Superbowl -- and they won the turnover battle there, and the game. Second, he is right that it is not the turnovers but what you do with them. In the first 8 games the Lions not only led the league in takeaways, but they led the league in points from those takeaways -- both in total number, and percentage of takeaways converted to points.

Great analysis in the comments on the last thread -- Consistency of systems and coaching is key -- and even if the Lions don't make the playoffs, I see Marinelli around still in 09 to continue building on what he's started. While the many of the new additions will likely produce at about the level of the players replaced, on the whole -- they are just getting started, versus already having peaked --- so instead of being a plateau, this is merely the beginning.

Nubsnobber -- loved your quote: "...the first rule to advancement isn't mastery of your job. It's figuring out how to do your boss's job."

If the rookies and young players follow that, there should be some heated battles in camp this year -- which will only serve to make the team that much better.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Yin-Yang Power Run?

I'll start with one last draft tidbit, then move back into the pre-camp, post-draft analysis. As I was reading through gathering info for upcoming pieces on position battles to watch in camp, I came across a nugget that really captures how the national media treat the Lions in a negative light. It was from Mike O'Hara of the DetNews of all people:

"11. Sometimes -- make that most of the time -- there is no logic to draft analysis. The Lions were roasted by some people last year for not drafting offensive tackle Joe Thomas, under the theory that you win up front. This year, they drafted offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus -- and they should have taken a running back. "

That about says it all.

You'll noticed I've added some additional links to the sidebar as per your posts -- keep em coming and I will add more as we go. You can also feel free to email me new sites as well.

If you see stories that catch your eye, you can post them in a comment, or email them to me -- I will post them, probably with some analysis, and be sure that the finder is credited for the source.

Moving on, the last few days, as writers work to fill space and justify year-round employment on the various national outlets, I came across two stories that contradicted each other -- in a way. The first was by Lombardi on about busting three myths of football. The second was by Kirwan on talking about possible new trends on Offense.

This was interesting -- Lombardi pointed out that teams who run the ball early and often, then abandon the run to catch up in the second half often face an uphill battle. At the same time, he said this was the case mainly if the opposition team were using a pass-first offense, racking up points, and then running off the clock in the second half.

Kirwan's take is that with defenses focused on stopping pass-first teams, that a power offense might be able to break the "quick" D down by wearing it out and beating it up early, to be able to abuse it going into the second half.

Similar takes on two sides of the same issue -- offense and defense. Lombardi listed two teams among those who ran first, and lost second. They were: Minnesota and Oakland.

Oakland had no passing game -- zilch, zero, nada. They were the anti-lions last season. All they did was run because no one they had was getting the ball near their WR, and when they did, the WR often dropped the ball. That is when the QB was not fumbling behind a porous offensive line. Oakland also was unable to defend against the pass well at all last season -- a big reason why the Lions beat them in game 1. Oakland was/is dysfunctional on so many levels, that to sue it to prove/disprove any NFL theory beyond "this is your franchise on stupid -- any questions?" is crazier than picking 4 WR in the top ten 4 out of 5 years.

Remember he said rushing attempts in the 1st half, not teams that successfully ran. Keep that in mind -- it will be important later on. (Don't get me wrong here -- I like Lomardi's pieces on SI -- they are usually well thought out, and well written. Just taking it a step I wish some of the guys who get paid to do this stuff would do.)

Minnesota ran the ball, and ran it well. Very well. AP, Chester Taylor -- didn't matter which guy they had back there (don't believe me? Look it up.) the O-Line made AP rookie of the year, not just AP. But yet, Minnesota still lost. Question: Why? Is Lombardi right, that the Vikings just plain fell behind early, and then made mistakes? Not so much. What happened is two-fold. On defense, teams stacked up 8, or a few times even 9 guys in the box or near the line -- and dared T. Jackson to win the game with his arm...and neither he, nor his WR, were up to the task. That is how Detroit took the OT game away -- they stopped the run, and Jackson couldn't make the throws, and when he did -- his WR didn't catch them - where Kitna made the throws, and his WR took them home. With JT O'followedMartzcausehe'llletmestartand-getnolanfiredsoIcankeepstartingplayingsomewhereintheleaguewhenyougetrpomoted-toHCafterscrewingnolanoverhahahabetyouwishmarinelliwouldhavefallenforthatand-notshitcannedbothofushuhican'tbeleivehowdamnlonghislastfreakingnamejustgotcanyou?
leading the team...not so much, which is what really put the game into OT -- it should have been over long before then. The second way Minnesota got beat last year was on Defense -- they had trouble rushing the passer -- and even though the Williams boys in the middle is like dropping a brick wall in the center of the field....the Vikes got hammered with outside runs that wore down their big guys on D, and coupled with the extra time it bought the WR to get open against a mediocre secondary...well, you get the picture. Minnesota had a big D meant to stop the run, and hopefully collapse in around the pocket with sheer bulk. Had Martz actually gone with some max-protect in that game (along with others) it would have been a big Lions lead, IMO, by the half. (again, we're talking about the fist game here)

So essentially, Minnesota was made to stop the power O, and most teams were passing all over them.

The teams he listed as "pass first" have something in common that he missed. Do you see it? They are: Seattle, GB, Dallas, Indy, NE.


Two words: Play Action

They can run, and teams know it. GB started having success last season after proving Grant could run all over them -- and it opened up their play action passing. They may have been pass first, but they were passing out of running formations! Then, they mix in runs at about a third of their plays in the first half to keep the defense honest -- in the second half, they often have a lead, and swap ratios to about 2/3 run -- which makes the screen, deep-strike, and play action even more effective. While they are still more pass-oriented, you can't tell because the run is mixed into what is overall a balanced attack. Since they run dozens of plays from the same formation, it is harder to tell what they are going to do when. That is what makes it effective.

That being said, I agree with Lombardi that "run first" isn't always the best option -- but being able to run -- and proving it -- is a must. A must the Lions didn't do last season, but will this season. When the Lions were winning first half of the year last year, up through Denver, defenses were playing honest (most of the time) and respecting that the Lions could run -- when they wanted to. As soon as teams realized the Lions weren't going to run...that is when they just plain stopped defending it. And Martz canned canned as much for not taking advantage of what the defenses were giving him as much as anything else that was wrong with the Lions offense last year. (The "new" offense will be another story, for another time)

I also agree with Kirwan, that we will see more teams using a Power-O to batter down the weaker D, and tire out the Jared Allens of the NFL . The Lions are on top of this trend, with enough bulk in their heavy-O now to really impose their will (theoretically) on opposing D's that are made to stop the pass. This will, in turn, open up the passing game from running formations. CJ and Roy will be open for deep strikes as they focus on the run. Gaines/Campbell and Furrey/Mcdonald will be open in the slot positions when they try to focus too much on Roy and CJ. When they load up on speed for the pass...the Lions can break out the power O again...

I agree, in part, with what both articles are saying about Running Offense, and Passing Offense. And it looks like the Lions are moving in a direction to take advantage of both sides of the situation.

BTW -- they added guys like Campbell, Fluellen, and harder-hitting safeties to be able to stop the opposing teams power O -- they put IAF, Redding, Fluellen and Darby in a play...and there's no running against that...and it would still generate a pass rush.

Yup -- this is turning out to be an interesting off season as I look at it....can't wait for the games to start!!

I'll hit the other aspects of the article tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Who Do You Read?

I know that as Lions Junkies, many of you have your favorite sites. I'm looking to expand my links section for Lions news/updates/etc. So if you have a link you'd like to see - post it here and I will get it added to the sidebar so everyone can A. Read it as well and B. We'll have a one-stop-Lions Source going for us Lionaholics. I'll add in mine as well, but am curious what you fellows are also reading to see what new stuff there is to add.

If you want, give why you do or don't like the site, and whether you usually agree/disagree with it.

As always, thank you for all of your comments and insights -- you are what makes this Blog happen!

A Bubble guy: Matt Butler

Matt Butler is one of the guys on the cusp -- may or may not make it to training camp; who knows how far after that. But here is a basic story on him.

My take: It's the fact he can play C that may help him, if he works hard enough, a spot along with Ramirez as a backup G -- especially since right now they are in search of a guy to back-up Raiola -- and don't want to carry 4G, 4OT, and 2 C. One guy who doubles up there is another spot open on the roster.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bubble Cuts: Who doesn't Make it to Camp?

There are currently 87 players on the Lions Depth Chart...but only 80 can be there when camp starts. (question - does anyone know when the cut-date to ahve 80 players is? Can't seem to find it other than "before camp")

7 guys are going to go -- soon. who do you think it is going to be? And any reasons beyond "I don't like his name?"

(ie - position group is set, veterans need breaks elsehwere, etc.)

Fire away!

Chatting Tonight

I'll be in chat on the alwyas there, almost never-used Mlive chat room til about 11 or 11:30 pm EST tonight -- getting and tossing about ideas. I'll try ot post some in advance when I'll be in there from now on, so as to see if we can get some real-time chances to toss points back and forth.

See you there!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Half-Empty? And Other Thoughts...

I saw this on Detroit Lions homepage today, and immediately thought it was a great way to bring fans into the home seats who cannot afford a full season ticket package. Essentially, they are offering two half-season ticket packages (for different "halves", of course) and a preseason game. This allows fans to see multiple games, without having to buy a full season ticket package. I think we all know how quick most of the Lions home games sell out -- getting tickets to one game with a decent seat, much less than more than one, is really tough when the phone lines open. Especially after the off season price increase, I think this is a great gesture by the Lions. the team is headed in the right direction, and this will help keep fans in the seats, and the stadium sold-out to help build on the home field advantage the Lions started to develop last season (finally!). Half empty or half full? Depends on your point of view...

Meanwhile, the OTA's are heating up in anticipation of the mandatory mini-camp in just 8 days. As I said before, the Lions coaches and players seem intent on competing and training hard so that they come out strong, and are able to maintain that strength throughout the season. I'll start highlighting battles position group by position group soon.

I am also trying to look at the 80 for camp and will try to research each of the guys, and try to get a little info out there on each one if I can.

I'll compile the 30 "Locks" after the first mandatory mini-camp; Then I will start gathering your "other 45" lists in preparation of the first mandatory roster cut.

Aug. 28 - Roster cutdown to 75 players.
Sept. 1 - Roster cutdown to 53 players.

The 30 "locks" are, of course, quite similar -- but I do see some variation.

The Lions can also only carry 80 players into camp, versus 88, which will make for a much tighter race just to get into training camp. So far, competition looks to be shaping up so that it is not a detriment to the team, but rather, is creating just enough pressure to motivate the players to be their best.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


When I was kid, my mom would toss a bunch of leftovers together and tell us we were having "slumgolli", and 98% of the time it would taste awesome and be impossible to duplicate -- so we had to enjoy it while it lasted. I think that when a team is on a playoff or superbowl run, ala the Giants last season, as fans you need to enjoy it knowing it may well never happen again.

In the NFL there are 4 different groups of teams. Over time, as GM's, Coaches, and Luck changes, the teams will slowly migrate from group to group. Sometimes, the overall migration seems swift -- but in actuality is either fleeting luck, or has really been building for some time, but was subtle enough not to be noticed until it finally broke through. This can happen to teams both on teh way up -- and the way down:

  1. Teams that are pereniall playoff contenders -- year after, they are in the postseason, but may or may not rack up many wins, but at least they are there. Typicall 10+ win teams.

  2. Following that, are a group of teams that make the playoffs every other year or so -- they'll make it two in a row, then miss one, etc. These are 9-10 win teams.

  3. Then there is that group of teams that will only rarely sneak into the playoffs as a wildcard in a good season, and often get booted in the first round, but are solid 7-9 win teams.

  4. Last is the group of teams that never even get within shouting distance of the playoffs and are playing for pride by the end of October. 7 wins is rare, and they continually pick in the top half of round one after years of 2-5 wins, with a possbiel 6 or 7 win season thrown in when lucky.

In the 90's, despite the negative reputation the Lions get, they hovered between the top two groups. They only won one game (after a first round bye) and lost in the Divisional Championship round. Sadly, during the Ross years they migrated down into hovering between the 2nd and third group. Then after Millen took over, the years of dissipation caught up with them and they dropped like a rock into the bottom category - with Millen making mistake after mistake, along with his coaches, that kept them there.

Right now, it appears to me that Marinelli once again has them into the 3rd group, and this year will tell whether 7-9 was a fluke, or whether they will solidly be in group 3, and building toward group 2. they may show that 7-9 was a peak, and that they have a lot of work to do still. I think they will be 7-9 again at worst, and possbily do better (based on the now, which could change a lot before the season.) That would put them in group 3 moving up towards 2 if they can keep building on the foundation that is being built before our eyes.

As for me and this building project of the Lions, with all of the promise I am seeing and potential to move into the top tier of the NFL, I'm going to treat it like a great big pot of slumgolli: Enjoy it while it lasts - and hope that Marinelli is writing down the recipe as he goes.

Current News/Updates

BMW appears "motivated" (that would be a new one) to succeed in his last chance with the Titans. Funny enough, Jeff fisher has the same problems with him that Rod Marinelli did: Late to meetings, out of shape, overweight, and has trouble catching passes. But he has such great potential...

Amazingly, the other half of Millen's Double First Round Flame-out (burn-out?) Burger was in the news again as well. He's trying to make it in the CFL. Something tells me he thinks some money may be needed if the arbitrator rules against him. If he ever makes a ruling, that is. I just can't fathom what is taking so *!$(@# long. Its been a year and a half since both sides provided final evidence. Best case scenario -- he rules for the Lions and they are actually able to recover some of the money. Even if it is only $1 or $2 million, it would hit next year's cap as a credit, and every bit helps.

Lions picked up another tight end -- it appears Campbell is still recovering from his injury at this time; I sure hope he gets healthy, put with the Pearson situation muddying the waters, I can't blame them for stockpiling players to compete at TE -- a position they obviously intend to use more this season. (possibly even taking advantage of the GAPING HOLES over the middle of the field created when teams double covered CJ and Roy last season...)

Marinelli is hoping for another good off season. He is also hoping that it doesn't wear off half-way through the season like a great Mocha-caramel Cappuccino wears off about halfway through the workday and you crash. Something tells me his off seasons are like training for a marathon. they crapped out halfway through last year, but they will keep going further and further into the season at full speed until they can actually go deep into the playoffs. The big question for Marinelli will be if he can get them "conditioned" enough to continue showing progress before it is too late? I'm confident that he will.

Boise State researchers have designed a machine that will allow the NFL to research what causes turf toe, and other injuries related to playing on turf, and see if it is really "safer", "more dangerous", or "about the same, but in different ways" than grass. Sounds interesting, but who knows how long/if ever we in the public will see the results of those studies.

Sounds like the scouting department should hire Gerald Alexander's Mom -- I'm sure she could help them out, and would certainly be passionate about getting good help for son. She'd also get to show up at campus' in one sweet ride!

And Mercedes must be the car of choice for Detroit Lions players to buy mom, as that is what Ernie Sims is getting his mom for Mother's Day as well. The Lions should hire her too -- as a strength and speed conditioning coach. I'm sure that having to beat Ernie's mom in a footrace to start for the Detroit Deuce would motivate the D players into adding some speed. What do you think? I can picture it now as Dizon ribs Lenon: "Yo Paris -- you got a girly name, and you can't even beat Ernie's momma in the 40. Ha Ha Ha! -- Looks like I'll be starting at MLB this week leadfoot!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Non-BBQ-QB: Can We Stand It? [updated]

Funniest line I have read in a long time (which the Freep didn't put into print in their "transcript" of the same press session.):

QB Jon Kitna: "When (center) Dominic Raiola is in the game, I'll be in the game. That's how I know when I'm up,'' Kitna said. "When I see No. 51 go in, that's when I go. Nobody gets to touch his butt but me - and his wife.''

Laughed out loud the first time I read that. And the second. Still chuckle. And not just at the line -- for the first time in 20 years the Lions have an honest to goodness starting quarterback. No big questions heading into camp. Orlovsky is the backup, in competition with the (essentially) rookie Stanton, one of whom the Lions would like to develop to replace Kitna as the starter in 2 years (when his contract is up, and they want to be able to re-sign him as a backup). This means both Stanton and Orlovsky will have a chance to develop in camp as the Lions try to keep Kitna healthy, and both seem to be relishing that opportunity (click names for articles about both -- they are freep articles, so ignore the inherent negativity please.)

All hating on Kitna and his flaws aside (of which I hear too much), the recent articles on him being "the man" in Detroit and not worried about competition got me thinking: Is this a good thing?

There are situations in which competition brings out the best in athletes and others. However, sometimes competition can be a distraction from the task at hand. In some instances there is actually more production when there is less immediate competition. Does Peyton Manning need competition, or is his inner drive more powerful than any competition ever could be? How about Tom Brady?

Now, I'm not saying that Jon Kitna is by any means Peyton Manning -- but they both bring similar things to the position that are essential for any winning football team: Leadership and Stability at the most important position on the offense.

Looking around the League, I decided to look at all (projected) 31 other starting QB's in comparison to Kitna, and look at where he ranks. I didn't do this based on stats, because those vary widely from system to system -- the QB is asked to do different things by different teams, but leadership and the execution of those demands is what makes a QB successful for any given team. When I looking at them, I took into account not just how they performed for their team, but is this someone who would be better than Kitna to lead the Detroit Lions right now. So this isn't who is the best QB in the league, but where does Kitna stack up in the imaginary pantheaon of "possible QB's" for Detroit.

Arizona -- Leinart or Warner? Warner might be able to run the offense the Lions have well from his St. Louis days, but he has many of the same flaws as Kitna -- and isn't the same kind of dynamic, inspirational field general that Kitna is. This young Lions team needs someone who is supportively vocal right now. Leinart ahsn't really done a lot since entering the league, and tends to be mroe whiny california party boy than leader. He hasn't even been able to hold off the aging veteran in Warner compeltely, even before his injury last season. At best, Warner is a tie, advantage incumbent.
Atlanta -- They drafted Ryan, but really their opening day starters are Chris Redman or Joey Harrington (and Ryan reminds me of the latter). Overall, in the case of the Lions I'd say no to both over Kitna.
Baltimore -- Who will the starter be? Boller, Smith or Flacco? Again, Flacco is a rook on par with Stanton so that leaves 2nd year man Smith or Boller. For comparison, I'll go with Boller winning their job early, but looking over his shoulder like he always has in Baltimore. boller ahsn't really distinguished himself as the kind of gritty leader Kitna is, and while he has a rocket arm his decision making is on par with Kitna at best, but often worse. He threw more red zone picks than Kitna -- and he was playing in a conservative run based offense. (I know I said no stats -- I lied. Did you really think I'd make it through a whole section utlizing no research? Come on...) I'm going with Kitna here for now.
Buffalo -- JP Losman or Trent Edwards? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Seriously, I don't know why they picked Edwards to replace Losman. Neither are really strong leaders consistently, neither has credibility since both are continually competing for the starting job - even midseason. Team politics aside, both lack deep accuracy on a consistent basis -- even when they have time, which is something Kitna has -- when given time. His arm isn't the "strongest", but its strong enough. Throw in veteran savvy, and so far your ass is still a 2 person piece 'o meat Raiola.
Carolina -- Jake Delhomme, pre-injury, would be a good fit for Detroit. Gritty, strong leader who can make the all the throws to his super-WR Smith. However, his elbow injury was no small thing and one has to wonder how it will affect a QB his age, who depended on accuracy to compensate for averge arm strength? I'd rather not risk it in the now.
Chicago -- Kyle or Rex? They don't know, and I don't care. Grossman has shown he is still immature, and does not set a good example of consistent preparation. Ortman didn't help lose any games in Chicago's SB season -- but he really didn't help win any either. The same can't be said for Kitna with his 4th quarter and OT heroics in Minnesota, and consistentcy of always preparing and palying his hardest. Blow on back to Chicago boys.
Cincinnati -- Carson Palmer. Sorry Jon - he beat you once, and I'm afraid on my list he does so again. Carson learned well from his mentor, and with better talent, and being younger would take the the old man.
Cleveland -- Derek Anderson? Brady Quinn? Quinn is as unknown as Stanton at this time. Anderson had one good season. Is he Scott Mitchell reinacarnated? Or maybe was it the combination spectacular line play and emerging WR and TE that he had to throw to last year that did it? He is a promising prospect, but I woudl have to put him as a prospect. He shares Kitna's penchant for miscues when put under too much pressure, and while he played well still didn't have the force of leadership to command the team, not just the huddle. Still, he is younger and more mobile. I'd have to go with even-steven on this one.
Dallas -- Tony Romo -- the Line or the Man? Well, his improvisational skills beat Kitna all to heck when the pocket breaks down (unless he is playing the New York Giants after a nice Vacation, in which case he forgets what the word "improvise" versus "sack-fumble" means.) All joking aside, he is a talented young QB that would be able to thrive behind an improved Lions line. Wow. 2 beat, and one push in the last 3. Not good Kitna. You gotta step up your game for the competition here!
Denver -- Jay Cutler may be a great QB some day. He may be the next Elway for his team some day. That day just hasn't come yet. As of the now, Kitna would be more like Elway than Cutler in Denver, or vice versa. Although Cutler is almost as used to getting sacked as Kitna is.
Detroit -- Umm...yeah, we know he's go this one. Move on, shall we?
Green Bay -- Aaron Rodgers looked pretty good, but he so far has tended to be injury prone, getting hurt in two of his three limited outings for Green Bay. Could that be why GB blew a 2nd and a 5th on QB's? I'll take Kitna's leadership and experience right now, although Rodgers does seem to have some good potential.
Houston -- I know Matt Schaub is the annointed one and cost more for Houston to get than one of Eliot Spitzers ladies of the night. Still, he too has major durability issues. I had him on my Fantasy team last year thinking him and Andre Johnson would have break-out years. Yes, bitterness is playing a part here. If you have a problem with it too bad. Him and his bad ankle/shoulder/back/head can head back behind Kitna on my depth chart.
Indianapolis -- Peyton Manning. Nuff Said. Even when his top 3 targets and 2 linemen were hurt last season, he still pulled out wins. A true talent and student of the game. Any team would be lucky to have him under center.
Jacksonville -- Gerrard? Once again, he was solidly unspectacular for Jacksonville, but I see him in more of the Ortman mold right now -- he won't lose games, but you can't count too much on him throwing the ball to win them. Kitna has more of the gunslinger in him. Kitna is also less mobile, but he'll play run-up-the score games with the long ball and win them more often than not. NFL record 4th quarter points anyone?
Kansas City -- Can you think of an NFL starting caliber QB on this team? Neither can I.
Miami -- See Above. Henne is a rookie, and Kitna = Win Now, develop talent.
Minnesota -- Another Ortman model-Qb. Seems to be a lot of those. If Jackson were as good a QB as Kitna, then the Lions would have been swept by Minnesota last year easily. Stop the run, stop the Vikings.
New England -- Brady, Tom. Model, Male. Counted an average of 6 full seconds in the pocket in Patriots games I saw last season before "pressure" was even an afterthought (with the exception of week 17 and the SB) That being said, I'd take Brady and his pouty-pissed off when he gets hit self on the Lions any day.
New Orleans -- Drew Brees made this a tough call. He's had equal parts good years and spectacular years. On the whole though, he lost nothing to his shoulder surgery a couple seasons back, and given any semblance of a run game will throw all over any D. He's also a classy player, hard worker, and team leader. Yup. I will admit I wanted the Lions to break the bank for him when they signed Kitna and McCown that year. Oh well. I'd still take him though.
New York (Giants) -- Eli Manning still has a lot of maturing to do, and while his leadership skills are emerging, he needs to continue to build his confidence in himeself -- he shoudl acutally look at Kitna, Peyton Manning, and Brady as examples of how supreme self confidence by the QB can spill onto the rest of the offense, giving it an air of invicibility. That being said, he matches Kitna in bone-headed interceptions, but wins for escapability and improvisational skills. Eli wins.
New York (Jets) -- While I'm not sure if Kellon Celmens likes his women over 18 (unlike Roger Clemens), I do know I wouldn't take marshmallow arm since my double surgery Pennington or I can't even beat out Feather Deep Pass that makes the punter jealous of my hangtime guy over Kitna.
Oakland -- Who knows?? He sat out almost into the season, couldn't get on the field until the end of the year, and seemed out of shape when he did. Not the type of leadership I'm looking for, even taking into account him being a rookie.
Philadelphia -- McNabb -- would love to have him...healthy. Which he has not been for an entire season in the last 4 years, including 2 ending on IR. Kolb is an unknown, ala Stanton.
Pittsburgh -- Ben Rothliesburger is a SB winning QB...or rather, his defense and running game won a SB for him, along with his star WR despite one of the worst games of his career to date. he manages games based on the run, but unliek others, I don't buy the deep-passing attack expert some are making him out to be. He does well off of play action, but take away the running game, get some coverage near his guys, he is more prone to interceotions than Kitna -- his arm is strongr, but not as accurate. While he's a bigger guy than Kitna, he's about as mobile. He's also not really the "leader" of the team, something Detroit needs to have form the QB position. I may get hammered for this one, but I'll pass.
San Diego -- Philip Rivers -- sorry Rivers - lovers. He beat out Drew Brees because they took him in the first round. LT makes the QB on that team, and Rivers hasn't shown me he's any kind of leader, or even half as good a player as Brees on a consistent basis. Rivers is up a creek without a RB...we know Kitna can build a sail out of his underwear and send up a request to make the wind blow and at least keep him from going over the waterfall. Rivers flows along over the edge.
San Francisco -- If JT O'Sullivan is in the race for a starting spot, then we know all we need to there...
Seattle -- Matt Hasselback is a gritty veteran who has taken his passing abilities up a notch the last couple of years. Despite some flaws, I'd take him.
St. Louis -- Marc Bulger hs been fighting multiple injuries the last couple of years, and hasn't shown he can be effective without Steven Jackson or a Marshal Faulk racking up yards in the run game.
Tampa Bay -- Too damn many to choose from. Led by Garcia. Not evne going there. Good bye.
Tennesse -- Vince Young = Jon Kitna +200% mobility -100% passing ability-experience = Kitna Wins. Young wins endorsements, Kitna wins games. At least for now.
Washington -- Jason Campbell -- coming off a major knee surgery. Of more conern is that the short-field and horrendous secondary play against the Lions was his onyl really great game last year. And he hadn't done anything more than mediocre before that. Brunell more lost the job than Campbell won it. He should do well in Zorn's WC dink-n-dunk, but Kitna is a better option for the play action, long ball O the Lions utilize.

In summary, I think Kitna gie the Lions a good, solid veteran and stability amid the changes at other positions. There are only 8-9 NFL QB's right now I would take that equal or exceed what Kitna brings to the Lions. He is on the outer edge of the top 30% of QB's overall talent level wise right now.

My thinking on this? It has been so long since the Lions had any kind of quality stability at the QB position, taht many of us have forgotten it is QB not BBQ. Lets quit roasting the guy, and realize that the Lions are in better shape than at least 2/3 of the league at the most important position in the game, and that their veteran QB has a history of teaching the young guys the team is trying to develop.

[spell check is not working right now, so please excuse the typographical errors]

Go Lions!!