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 SI.com about busting three myths of football. The second was by Kirwan on NFL.com 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 further...like 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.