Friday, August 29, 2008

4th Game/Pre Cut Thoughts

First off, I wouldn't want to be a coach in Detroit today or tomorrow. Why you ask? Because they get the honor of deciding which talented players to cut, and which to keep.

So many of their guys on the bubble have shown so much, that even those who are practice squad eligible will be hard to get through waivers (read: near impossible) and those not eligible will likely be snatched up by other teams.

We've looked a lot at guys on the bubble, and guys who are locks to make the team. I know just as much as you, and in fact, the Lions coaches do about who they are gong to cut. I can bet you when they woke up this morning, at least a half dozen or more of those 22 cuts they need to make were "undecided".

This is, for Lions fans, a frustrating and new experience. I know that in years past I would see cut-down day coming, and there were no real surprises among who made it -- and who didn't. There was so little talent throughout the bottom 2/3 of the roster that they were literally interchangeable with guys off the street. (Yes, I know 2/3 of 53 is 35 and would include at least 4 starters. Maybe 2/3 was generous.)

Now, I find things different. In Marinelli's first two years the roster holes were bigger than the Potholes in Lansing's fine streets. In year one, it was competition to start at quite a few positions, although many were taken unchallenged. Then last year, it was a fight for starters, and some backups started to battle. This ifseason, however, the Lions leaped to the point they had established starters at over half of the roster, and guys fighting tooth and nail in battles not only within position groups, but between position groups as players tried to make their case that they should keep extra guys at one group due to talent, over another.

Best examples: Dline and WR

While the RB's outside of Smith were really doing their best to see who could screw themselves out of a roster spot first Middleton, Ellis and Standeford were busy trying to convince the coaches with their play that the Lions needed to keep a 5th wideout, and hey, why not 6? Personally, I wish they could keep Middleton and Standeford, but as it stands right now I'd go for Middleton. When finally given a strong opportunity, he looked pretty good returning kicks in the 4th game. It was frustrating to see the Bills keep kicking out of bounds. Give the returners a chance to fight for a spot! I like Standeford as a WR -- and I think he could play at least as well as McDonald. But he doesn't bring it on ST like a 3rd/4th wideout needs to, so may end up cut. (Although his best bet at sticking on a roster may be to stay in shape, hope a Lions WR gets injured, and try to get them to forget about ponying up for Roy and McD. It will be one, the other, or neither. I don't see both staying. After Martz screws over Nolan in SanFran he'll be spending big for McD.) Moore is going to the practice squad.

On the Dline, who hasn't made a case to be kept? At DT Darby, Fluellen, Redding, Moore, Cohen, and Cody all look able to contribute as starters or in rotation (I included Cody in that group -- he looked OK, but not great - I thought him an Cohen looked about the same, and Cohen has more upside.) Cohen likely won't clear Waivers -- a lot of teams are thin at DT right now, and at least one would be willing to sign him to the active roster on potential shown in the preseason. Moore would also be snatched up by a team looking for some depth at DT.

At DE, C. Smith, White, IAF, Avril, and DeVries are all looking solid -- and with IAF starting to show up as a beast when they replace him with Avril on passing downs and he slides inside to replace Darby....muddies the waters even more.

With how important the Dline is, and the number of run teams, how about 11 Dlinemen? (also suggested by Dave Birkett)Darby is getting up there, and if Cohen continues to progress, there is no need to pay Cody to stick around next ifseason. So they keep 11, and only go with 6 LB and 8 DB's. Robinson will stick on the practice squad another year -- Kelly is aging, and he knows they will likely keep 5 CB's next season when the Dline gets slimmed a bit. With how they rotate, I'm just fine with having 10 guys and 8 rotating each game day on the Dline. Robinson knows Det is his best option to start at some point, ala Kieth Smith. Gut says Robinson to practice squad, and bides his time. Not bad for a Mr. Irrelevant at this juncture.

BTW - I wouldn't be surprised if they stuck Blue on IR with his hamstring injury, and cut injury settlement ties with Calhoun. Getting dinged up again has pretty much ended his stint with the Lions. Unfortunate as he had some great potential, but that is why it is the dreaded word. Blue will be able to come back next year, with smith a year older and compete once again. A hamstring injury can take a long time to get over, and is not at all good when goal-line D and hitting on ST are your specialty. With Bullocks looking as healthy as ever, Blue is in line to be cut anyway.

At LB, I disagree with Killer. He has more insider info than I do, but cutting Davis due to not having a "backup SLB" is silly -- Lenon is the backup SLB to Lewis in reality. Dizon would move to starter, and Davis would back him up should Lewis get injured. Cannon, Gardner and Joe were primarily fighting to be Sims' backup as I noticed they were all given chances at WLB to earn the backup job. Sure, you technically have 3 MLB - BUT - one of them is the backup SLB. As a bonus, when Dizon takes over starting it the middle, you still have Davis and Lenon to back up what is one of the most important positions on the defense.

So while it is sad that the Lions will have to bid Adieu to so much great talent, and great fan favorites, it is a happy kind of sad. Because the Lions finally are building a team based on a sound solid foundation. A core of players that will be there for years to come.

More on the cuts tomorrow, including how we did on our "Marinelli's Men" guesses, as well as our "30 Lock" - 30 players guaranteed to make the roster barring injury that we did some months back after the draft, and completed before camp. Will there be any surprises??

Guess we'll know tomorrow. Until 4pm (since the Lions always announce at the last minute) what are your thoughts??

People you want to see stay/go and how/why?


DetroitSims said...

IMO I think Cody is still going to be a no show when gametime rolls around. He has been a ghost since he was drafted. Keep Cohen on the the team. I liked seeing his high motor and disruption he can make.

I have to agree with you on the fact for once this is a hard decision but a good one for the coaches this year. I know its only the pre-season but, these guys look like they have a fire lit up underneath them. They are playing like they have something to prove!!! I am excitied! Its about time we are seeing the progression of Marenelli's team. We have the right coach with his players and we are going show some REAL Lions pride this season!

JJLions20 said...

The problem with the Cody situation, is that he is a nose tackle. He is 310 lbs. You need some bulk at that position, and he is the biggest Nose tackle the Lions have. Moore goes 305, but everybody else is south of 300 lbs. Cohen goes 274. He is an under tackle and can't be considered as a replacement for Cody. Therefore I see both Cody and Moore both making the team rotating at the nose with Darby. Darby will be limited to 20 snaps a game. There fore you need both Cody and Moore.

You can't compare Cody's performance against starting O-Lineman to Cohen's performance against 2nd and 3rd stringers. The Lions will most likely cut Cohen and hope he passes through waivers. The only way I see him making the squad is if they cut Corey Smith and still keep 10 D-Lineman. Also, if they figure Avril will contribute very little this year, they could put him on injured reserves (back injury) and hide him for the year, and keep Cohen. I don't think that will happen, because they need to develop him for next season.

At LB, I think they cut Davis and hope he lands on the practice squad. This may have been why they did not work him out at SLB. If they had done that it would have made him more valuable to other teams. Since he is limited with position flexibility he is purely a Cover-2 MLB. A team would have to dedicate a roster spot for an undersized Cover-2 MLB. I think he will slide to the practice squad. Lets remember, he knows at some time Dizon becomes the MLB, and a LB will eventually get hurt and he has a spot on the roster. He may loose a little cash this year by staying with the Lions, But he would be better off long term, as the Lions would not be drafting another MLB and he could anchor the back-up spot for years to come.

At Running back, it's very clear with the Calhoun injury. If there was any doubt before, it's clear now Bell gets the #2 back spot. We don't see all the practices, so we don't really know how Bell is performing. He could be working harder in practice than he shows in the games. He may have known he didn't have to prove anything in the preseason games. He may have always knew he would split time with Smith. He probably knows he doesn't want to get beat up in preseason of your contract year. Teams are not going to look at ones preseason performance when he is looking for a job next year.

The question is how bad is Cason's ankle. They need somebody to return kicks come week one. If the Lions feel the ankle is ok, or will be by Sept. 7th, then Cason makes the team.

WR is the tough one. It comes down to Standeford, Middleton, or neither. They can cut Elis and he will be around if injuries occur. I think this is one time Rod needs to think about next year. McDonald most likely will head to SF to rejoin Martz and get more money. That means Furrey will be the full time slot receiver. Standeford would be the perfect fit for the back-up wide-out. Or the lions could deal Roy, throw more money at McDonald to keep him and have Standeford and Furrey battle it out for the wide-out. Think of the problem the Lions have if they loose both McDonald and Williams after the season. Keeping Standeford and seeing if he develops may determine what they want to do with Roy. I see Standeford being kept because they will need him to know this offense come next season. This goes against what Marinelli has said he was going to do. But it won't be the first time a coach deviates from what he said.

The spot I see the Lions going thin is with the DB's. Kelly, Bodden, Smith, Fisher, Smith, Bullocks, Alexander, & Pearson make the team. Robinson goes to the practice squad and will be available to be promoted if needed in the season. Edwards, Hicks, & Blue will be cut. I think they will be available if injuries occur. I don't see any team committing a roster spot to any of those 3.

JJLions20 said...

One additional thought. There is another way Buster Davis makes this team. If he beats out Cannon. Gardner can back-up at both WLB & SLB. When Lennon moves to SLB and Dizon to MLB, the Gardner is the back-up WLB, Lewis the Back-up SLB and Davis the back-up MLB.

What I don't know is who is more valuable on special teams Davis or Cannon. Also I'm not sure if Cannon has practice squad eligibility.

JJLions20 said...

Well I'm really having a problem with cutting to 6 LB's. So the numbers will also work out to keep both Cannon and Davis, if they only keep 8 DB.

So this is what I've come up with and I'll stick to it and see what happens in a few hours.

25 Offense:

QB: (3) Kitna, Orlovsky, Stanton
RB: (3) Smith, Bell, Cason
FB: (1) Felton
WR: (5) CJ, Roy, McD, Furrey, Standeford (Moore to PS should clear waivers)
TE: (4) Campbell, Gaines, Fitzsimmons, Owens (Owens would have to be an emergency FB)
O-Line: (9)
G: (4) Mulitalo, Peterman, Ramirez, Davis
OT: (3) Backus, Foster, Cherilus
C: (2) Raiola, McCullum

25 Defense:

LB: (7)
MLB: (3) Lennon, Dizon, Davis
WLB: (1) Sims, Cannon
SLB: (2) Lewis, Gardner

Dline: (10)
DE: (5) White, IAF, DeVries, Avril, Smith (Hardie to PS should clear waivers)
DT: (5) Redding, Darby, Cody, Moore, Fluellen (Cohen to PS if he clears waivers)

CB: (4) Keith Smith, Bodden, Kelly, Fisher (Robinson to PS, should clear waivers)

S: (4) Bullocks, Alexander, Smith, Pearson (Alexander can play CB in a pinch)

ST(3): Hanson, Harris, Muhlbach