Friday, July 11, 2008

D-Line Analysis: Bubble Balance

After thinking about your responses to the Rogers piece, it really got me thinking about the Dline this ifseason, and how it has changed. So, after taking about 2 hours to slog through my favorites and actually organize them a bit, I looked over a host of articles from the last few months in regards to the Dline.

This is an older article from regarding the veterans on the Dline. Another article later on also dealt with Avril joining the line, and here is an interview with Chuck Darby from earlier this ifseason. Another piece on the defense in general also was of interest.

(BTW -- as you can tell from the joke post about the Mayan Apocalypse, reading the articles I hyperlink to can be helpful in understanding these posts at times. Plus, it allows you to form your own opinions so you can point out what a moron I am on occasion.)

After rereading those, I took a look at the current depth chart, and feel that my earlier assessment of the Dline -- from before the draft -- was pretty close.

They drafted a fun-stuffing DT to learn from and rotate in with Darby in Fluellen. They drafted a LB/DE edge rusher in Avril in 3 as well. I'm not including Cohen, because his best shot is to make the practice squad. If he does make the practice squad, it will be to see if he can develop to replace the spot Fleuellen will vacate when Darby goes. If not, they will draft another DT to learn/rotate in behind Fluellen. Not a big loss as Cohen was a 6th or 7th rounder, which seldom stick anywhere in the league, as is/was worth a shot at that price with his potential.

Looking back over the current depth chart, here is how the Dline stands now:

97 Alama-Francis, Ikaika DE 6-5 280 23 2 Hawaii
92 Avril, Cliff DE 6-3 252 22 R Purdue
70 DeGrate, Victor DE 6-3 294 23 1 Oklahoma State
95 DeVries, Jared DE 6-4 275 31 10 Iowa
94 Hardie, Rudolph DE 6-2 269 22 R Howard
90 Harriott, Claude DE 6-3 271 26 1 Pittsburgh
93 Smith, Corey DE 6-2 250 28 6 North Carolina State
99 White, Dewayne DE 6-2 273 28 6 Louisville
75 Cody, Shaun DT 6-4 310 25 4 Southern California
98 Cohen, Landon DT 6-3 274 22 R Ohio
91 Darby, Chuck DT 6-0 297 32 8 South Carolina State
96 Fluellen, Andre DT 6-2 296 23 R Florida State
79 Moore, Langston DT 6-1 305 26 4 South Carolina
78 Redding, Cory DT 6-4 295 27 6 Texas

Looking at this grouping, I'll make my first look at roster cuts/who makes it for this unit.

To begin with, I think that they will still keep 9 Dlinemen this year, although I expect one of them to be on the inactive list most weeks. The key question is whether they are going to keep 5 DT and 4 DE, or the opposite.

I think that camp decides how this plays out. Lets look at the locks. According to our 30 lock,
IAF-Redding-Darby-White are the starters, left to right. We also locked in Avril at DE and Fluellen at DT. It seems pretty clear that Fluellen is the guy to learn from, and eventually replace Darby. That is 6 spots filled.

If they do keep 9, that only leaves 3 spaces for the other 8 guys currently on the roster. That is where your competition will be toughest. There will be at least 4 DT's, so lets look at that battle first.

My gut says they keep Moore at DT. There are only 6 total DT's on the roster, and unless things have changed drastically, I don't see Cody being ahead of him on the depth chart, not matter how pumped he is for this season. (there was story on him on, but I couldn't find it going back. That right there is another sign...)

The 4th DE spot -- and possibly 5th is another heavily contested spot. For the record, it is nice to see the Lions have spots on the team now where the starters are talented enough, and there is enough depth, that there is true competition for the back-up spots. With Avril taking up a DE spot, but still an unproven rookie rusher (3rd round) -- a position that has a history of struggling -- I see the Lions keeping 5 DE's. The only way I don't see this happening is if they either don't keep 9 Dlinemen due to keeping additional safeties/CB/LB for ST play, or if Cody has such an awesome camp that they decide to keep him and slide him around as a DT/DE...

I don't foresee the second scenario happening, but the first is possible.

First off, who will be most likely to snag that coveted 4th DE spot? DeVries is listed as a starter right now, but I see IAF taking it over before the end of camp. That leaves DeVries, who is a 10 year vet, competing with Smith primarily for the 4th spot. If both of them do really well, that is the scenario I see them keeping 5 DE's. If one of them struggles, then unless one of the other DE's on the roster really steps up, I see them going with 8 linemen, and having Cohen on the practice squad as their backup Dlineman.

The potential of the Line, as Nubsnobber pointed out, is there -- as is that of the defense as a whole. But right now it is the dreaded P word still -- potential. IF IAF steps up, Redding elevates his game, White returns to pre-injury form and stays healthy, and Darby & Fluellen are able to do a better job in their gaps stopping the run up the middle than Rogers did -- this line could stop the run cold, and force pressure on the QB to throw quickly into the much-improved secondary...

A very hopeful picture, IF...which is what the Ifseason is all about!!


Anonymous said...

The big thing about the defensive line isn't "Potential" but about "Commitment".

I hate double-posting. If you go back and read my last post on the Shaun Rogers article, you can see what I mean by commitment.

The Marinelli guys don't just like to work hard. They don't need to hear the crowd know their name. This is the type of team that would want to be introduced as a unit, not by individual names. They buy into theories, and will sacrifice personal gain for team goals.

That is why Shaun Rogers won't work in this defense. Obviously, we needed more changes than just Shaun, and that is why he was one of the last changes.

Getting into the numbers of the 53 man roster are about as mind-numbing as trying to figure the square root of pi.

Alama and deVries can go inside. Redding can go back out. Positional flexibility is big. It all boils down to "Who survives?" "Who is injured?" "Who is left?"

Will they keep nine or ten? It depends on how many healthy DB's they have. And...who has kicked ass in their off-season training and who thinks this year's roster spot is a "gimme". There are so many twists and turns left in front of us, and we only get to see a piece, or sliver of the pie.

Three weeks until the dawning of a new season. The eternal fountain of football joy is nearly upon us. The time when we see the draft picks and all the IfSeason wonders start to materialize before our very eyes.

Marinelli and Millen are decent at finding replacement "ninjas" during the camp days if injuries start adding up, so things look good so far.

Two weeks to go. First Pre-Season game is Thursday, August 7th. First game is Sunday, September 7th


Anonymous said...

When I read that you will be getting back in gear, it brought a contented smile to my face.
Then I was lucky to run across nobsnubber's explaining to me your vacation. I forgot how great his comments were also. I greatly enjoyed how smart he worked through his reasons for his ideas.
I have neglected reading the comments after the first day of posts. That's going to change.


DetFan1979 said...

thanks Hollyweed!

Nubs - read your last comment After I wrote the piece. Great thoughts, and something I forgot to add in there. Danger in editing your own work is that as a writer, you know what background thoughts you have, but making sure that you have put them all down legibly is antoher matter.

I have no illusions as to how accurate my "predictions" of the roster will be. LOL - it is about like the square root of Pi. *shudders*

Figure it gives us food for thought heading into camp what battles to watch for, and to see players there must be more to than we know about (cohen? the UDFA Rook?) while others we think will make it get cut.

I also agree that Marinelli and Millen have been good about having a ninja or two retainer, just in case. Big glaring WTF was Saipaia last year. I could have done the job he did on the O-Line -- there had to have been better OT on the street than that.

Fun times!!

As the Wize Chief Says:

Go Lions great in 2008 playoffs and beyond!


ClusterFox said...

Great Posts and Comments!
Just wanted to add a couple of words that I think are very much a part of the current changes we're going through on the D-Line. Consistency and Predictability. If Either of these words are applied to Rogers He would get a negative evaluation. Easy one first, No one in there right mind could say Rogers is consistant in his intensity or technigue. Predictability to me can be viewed in two ways, can the offense predict where you'll be, what your focus is, and wether or not it can be exploited(as DF mentioned, leaving your gap responsibility), and Can your teamates predict, based on pre-snap reads and the desired defensive call,where your going to be in order to dictate flow. When you view the changes made in this light you realise that we've improved our consistancy and both types of predictability, which is what this type of Defense is founded on.

This same line of thinking got me thru the Barry Sanders departure. Because as great as he was, It was hard to build an offense around a guy who had unquestionable ability yet still had more negative carries than any RB I've ever seen.

Remember Talent doesn't win Superbowls, Teams do. We lost some talent, to help solidify our Team.

CHIEFGER139 said...

i didnt realize we had so many guys
I was trying to figure who would make the team and couldnt do it ,only could cross 2 off your list after reading about each one,even that cohen you mention looks like he has potential. Now i can see why many say cody wont even make the team. Still think he has a good chance if he does it in preseason but cant wait to see these guys in action.

Todd said...

My brother likes to make fun of me for loving the lions...used to the heat no big deal. Anyways he was saying today that the Lions did to Barry Sanders what may happened to Favre right now. Barry wanted release so he can play for any other team and we didn't want that to happen so we kept him active on our roster so he was essentially stuck and just stayed retired. Anyone that can lend any credence to that or clarification?

Anonymous said...


Read Barry's book. He wanted to retire. No comments about other teams. Was upset at Lions management and their lack of effort to assist in bringing in pieces, but he wanted to retire.

Second, Barry missed camp. He trained on his own. But when he was there he did everything 100%.

During pre-game warm-ups the guys run 40's (backwards, side-to-side, high knees, etc). Every player but Barry would run 35 yards and then coast. Barry would run THE FULL 40; then coast. EVERY TIME. PRACTICE TOO. Saw him at Saginaw Valley 3-4 times, and he practiced hard every day, every play.

To me, it is very easy to play with a teammate like that. You keep blocking and stay with your guy until the whistle blows because you never knew when Barry was going to cut, change direction, change holes, or what not. It is easy to play with a guy like that, because when you get in a huddle, and look a man eye-to-eye, no words need to be spoken. I wouldn't care if I'd gotten beaten on the previous play, if I got back in teh huddle and my teammates looked me in teh eye and gave me solid eye contact, not a word needed to be spoken. I knew it would be done. I knew everyone would play their role. Nothing needed to be spoken.

I would've loved to play with Barry. He was one of those guys. He was a 100%'er. You'd never have to ask.


JJLions20 said...

I agree with DetFan1979's post, except I think Devries makes the team. He may have been our most consistent lineman last year. I just don't see Marinelli risking having IAF, Avril, and Smith all keeping a spot. IAF and Avril have potential but have not proven anything in the NFL. Smith has proven to be a specialist but can't be an every down player.

Devries also gives you position flexibility, as he can play inside. Smith and Avril do not. I suspect Devries makes the team and could be inactive when they try to give IAF and Avril playing time. If there are injuries or lack of production Devries will be activated.