Thursday, August 14, 2008

[Guest Blog] 2 Good = Tough Call

[I have been sick the last few days, so in my continued absence, please enjoy this guest blog by JJLions20]

With all the articles, especially about how the Lions roster will be made up, I came to the conclusion that this problem was caused by the fact that it looks like the Lions had a good draft, which is what we all wanted. Therefore, the title:

Watch What You Ask For You Just Might Get It … The Lions Are Living With The Problem Of A Good Draft

Most of us know that it takes 2-3 years to evaluate a draft, but in the first year of a good draft it can cause a problem with the roster. As DetFan1979 documented last spring, the only way to evaluate the draft at this point of time is based upon what the analysis said at the time of the draft. That’s not very much help in deciding who to put on the 53 man roster.

The problem is that typically any pick other than a 1st round pick is not expected to be a starter in the first week of the season. So a good draft with a number of players who demonstrate in camp and preseason that they have what it takes to be a good player in 2-3 years, will eat away at spots on your 53 man roster that can contribute early in the season. The Giants had this problem last year. They kept a lot of rookies, and struggled through the first part of the season.

The Lions have 7 players that they may need to keep on the roster, or lose them as they likely won’t clear waivers and be put on the practice squad. Cherilus, Dizon, Smith, Avril, Fluellen, Felton & Cohen. They’re actually lucky they don’t have an 8th with Campbell to deal with. Moore looks to be destined for the practice squad.

They need to give these guys a full season and a second preseason to truly evaluate these guys.It is very possible that in week-1 Smith may be the only starter, maybe Cherilus, maybe Dizon, but maybe none of the three. So, with a 53 man roster, and 22 being starters, a kicker, a punter, a long snapper and a #3 QB. That leaves 27 reserves, with rookies taking up 7 of those spots. That only leaves 20 spots for veterans with NFL experience. What compounds all of this is you need to have a #2 QB, and D-Line may be the most important position group on a team, and in particular in a cover-2 defense. So if the Lions keep the three rookie D-Lineman and go with 10 D-Lineman, that leaves them with 12 positions excluding QB and D-line that can be filled with NFL experienced players.

Marinelli knows he is still in the process of overhauling this roster. He knows that in the long run the best thing is for the Lions is to acquire as much young talent as possible. The problem is how do you retain young talent that may not be ready quite yet, and still win games in 2008. The starters are not the problem. The problem is with the reserves and special teams. There becomes a real numbers game with the roster, and anybody competing for one of those 12 spots has to contribute on special teams. It may mean cutting a veteran who would be a better contributor in the depth chart, but does not contribute on special teams.

That’s why the Lions have a numbers game at just about every position group.We all wanted the good draft, but now we have to live with the problem it creates. If we keep 7 rookies, we’re going to have to cut somebody that would be able to help us if a starter goes down. Of course, getting contributions out of these 7 rookies at some point in 2008 would help. But we can’t count on that. Just ask yourself how many contributions did the Lions get from rookies in 2007?

CJ and Alexander (forced into action due to Bullocks injury), not much else. How many contributions did the Lions get from rookies in 2006? Other than Ernie, not much. Marinelli knows he realistically can’t count on too much from the rookies. He can hope that they step up and develop quickly, but it is unusual. If there are injuries early in the season, some of these guys may be forced to play. Hopefully the results are the same as with Alexander.

[Great insight! I think we may be surprised what some of those rookies, like Alexander, will be able to do if called upon. The "easier" first half schedule, coupled with a harder second half, will also be more conducive to the rooks getting a chance to develop. Time for DF79 to go back to bed!]


Baloo92 said...

NIce all around blog. Only 2 things I would really differ on.

1. I think Felton will be a starter as well by the 1st week. Granted Fb is probably the least heralded position on offense, he is making a strong case with his performance and versitility to get the nod over the incumbants.

2. Although missing last season, I think Bullocks made a great impact as a rookie in 2006.

Thanks for the chance to comment.

JJLions20 said...

Your right on Bullocks, he got a lot of playing time and starts in 2006. But the point is other than himself and Sims, that was about it for the draft. CJ and Alexander in 2007.

Your also right that we hear a lot of good things about Felton, but until I see the running game click with him leading the play, I will reserve judgment on how much he plays. But he is one of those wild cards.

Isphet said...

Good guest blog.

Of all the problems to have, having drafted players pushing the veteran backups already is a good one, don't you think? You HAVE to keep these rooks on the regular squad; they have too high of a potential, and they aren't SO far behind the veteran backups that they will be ineffective versus those first 4 opponents.

I hope Felton leading Smith becomes a staple of our offense for the next 10 years. I love those 2 draft picks.

For the first time in a long time, I feel like the Lions may have finally turned the corner towards respectability. They actually appear to be toughened up individually and less likely to whiff an open-field tackle or just look silly out there.

Making the playoffs with so many rookies playing such crucial roles, but I really expect these guys to go 6-10 at the very least this year. I just don't see this team rolling over and quitting anymore. They just don't have the experience to compete on a consistent basis this year, but this is a crucial year in the development of that talent for the years to come.

I'm going to say 8-8 this year and we're right on the bubble of a playoff appearance. I think we have a pretty favorable schedule.

millersco said...

Yes its a nice problem to have. Haven't we always complained in the past that the rookies we draft aren't contributing. I think I would much rather keep Fluellen with his potential than hang onto Cody, and I would rather keep Buster, Leon Joe and Dizon than either Cannon or Lewis if it came down to it. Who's faster, who has better football instincts, who tackles better. Who makes plays. Who stays on the field all year. If after 3 years you don't see "it", not sure its going to happen. Time to move on.

Anonymous said...

This is a revision of something I posted on MLive under the 8/9 Hanson article. Apparently, nobody read it, because "it" is still happening...even here, where facts are usually sound and opinions are usually realistic and well-informed.

"Where did he come from"?
"I would rather keep Leon Joe than _____"
"Leon Joe will make the practice squad at least"

I keep seeing stuff like this, but nobody seems to have bothered to look up his NFL history - possibly assuming Joe is a rookie free agent.

Even you, DetFan, added this comment to rgriffis' recent guest blog entry:
"I'm for giving Leon Joe a few more shots as well -- he showed passion, and playmaking ability. Written off as a camp body, he is making a play for a roster spot -- or at worst, a spot on the practice squad (assuming no one picks him up Ala Johnny Baldwin)"

Since I am reasonably certain you are aware of the regulations for Practice Squad Eligibility, I'm guessing you fall into the "rookie free agent assumption" category. For any that don't know, here's what I got from which confirmed my understanding:

"A team may establish a practice squad of no more than eight* players who do not have an accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular season games during their only accrued season. A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than two seasons."

Leon Joe is not practice squad eligible and has been in the league since he was drafted by the Bears in 2004 (4th rnd). He has not done much besides bounce around from team to team and record meager tackle numbers (and NO glamour stats) since.

You always see preseason players that do not ultimately make teams registering tackles due primarily to minutes-played. Joe started one game in his prior 4 years (2005 Bears). Beyond that, here is his production (year_team_games_starts_solo_assist_total):


According to Wikipedia, Joe has also played for the Jags and...the shocker...Bucs.

He's been good enough to make a roster each year and even find his way onto the field, so I may be underestimating his potential. However, he has not been a "tackling machine" at any point in his career and his inability to "stick" with a team suggests that he is a stop-gap player at best and not the answer for an upgrade at LB. I hope that the Lions will feel good-enough about the rest of their backers to make Joe an easy cut-down casualty.

I like what he has shown so far, but it was in only a single Lions preseason game thus far. I just hope for the Lions' sake that he's not good enough to displace others and make our roster. If he makes the grade, that would just highlight for me how weak we must be in that unit.


DetFan1979 said...

Thanks Sprbwlb4idie - as I mentioned in my preseason game 1 commentary, I ahd meant to look him up, but then never got around to it. I did make an error when I placed the comment about him being put on the practice squad. Thanks for catching it! As you know, I prefer for mistakes to be corrected, rather than perpetrated.

I likely didn't catch your comment, as I don't make it all the way through all the comments on the mlive stories anymore -- too much you-know-what to wade through.

I will say that one player who is technically practice squad eligible that will never clear waivers this year (he didn't clear last year for Ariz) is Buster Davis.

As for Leon Joe, some players make strides in their careers, and fit into certain defenses/team scenarios better. Sometimes, it's just the chance to get a shot. Really, I just want the Lions to be srue they are taking a good look at the players before cutdown. I fully expect them to keep 6 LB this season:

Sims, Lenon, Dizon, Lewis, Davis & Cannon. Part of the reason I don't see them keeping a 7th is that I just plain haven't seen any LB that would convince me keeping an extra LB would be better than depth at another position -- a 5th S, extra Dlineman, for instance. If he can show he should beat out other backups with his special teams play, then keep Leon Joe. But only as the 7th guy. He's really competing against Greg Blue, and the Dlinemen like Cory Smith, as well as the guys comepting for the 6th/7th LB spot. Gut says he doesn't make the final cut.

I am not privy to practice or camp, so this is all conjecture (just to be sure no one thinks I'm an insider or anything. Gotta throw that out there now and then.)

I will be "live" blogging each quarter of this preseason game again tomorrow (as it is broadcast in Lansing, which may or may not be live) with just my initial thoughts as they come to me.

Thanks again for the correction -- and the great information!

Anonymous said...


I'm looking forward to another one of your typo-riddled :), yet timely and excellent preseason observational blogs. You catch way more details and personnel changes than I do.

Having never played football, I tend to focus too much on the skill positions and have no expertise with evaluating the nuts-and-bolts of play in the all-important trenches.

BTW - to correct myself, "in his prior 4 years" should have been "in his prior 5 years". Screwed that up twice now.


I didn't bother to comment on your O-Line breakdown, but that was an excellent read even though I did not fully understand all the terminology. If you find the time again, I would love to see another. You must have played before, but do you coach too?


CHIEFGER139 said...

i see starter rookies before years end being cherlious, either will beat ot foster eventually or move up due to injury-i think they wont make the same mistake and let backus play hurt-that killed us ,would of been better giving him a couple weeks to heal up then make us suffer so long with him hurt. smith will beat out bell if he hasnt already-all the rest are really pathetic so he definately will start. felton will because he catches so well and truthfully he could even be the change of pace for smith-plus the guys a mental genius-they have to keep him see him helpin the team for years to come and even later helping them on the coaching staff.

dizon will hopefully start at mlb by midseason if not a wasted 2nd roubder in my opinion. also think fluellen and avril see quality time with at least a 1/2 dozen plays every game.-over all a terrific draft. plus see us going even a 11-5-havent seen anything yet to make me think otherwise
by the way i think our schedule is every bit as tough as last year especially the last 8 games-just think were that good now!!

CHIEFGER139 said...

as far as joe goes
im a number one fan of his- and i hope he lights the bengals up big time too on his journey to make the team and eventually start-cant have enough average joe's on the team-him and dizon lit it up together-plus i want blue to make it too-i would change my roster right now and put both those guys on cause i think they will. at least they should have all those bubble guys shakin in there boots!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words. I've played a little. And from junior high to high school, there isn't any position(s) I haven't played at one point or another. By Varisty, I was a right tackle and a middle linebacker.

I graduated from Millington High School in the Thumb (by Birch Run), and am a by-product of a football factory. This spring saw my old high school coach get a well earned indoctrination into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame as Tim earned his 200th win last year as a high school coach.

I've never really coached, but helped coaches set up programs as I've never had time with work. As my boys grow older though, I may coach a little Pop Warner--you just never know.

In watching football, skill players are asy to watch, as that is what the media is ALWAYS infatuated with. Those are always the stat guys. They always spike the ball at the end of the play. I like the BIG UGLIES. The nasty guys. The "trolls under the bridge". That's the clockwork of football. That's the engineering marvel of the team game. All eleven pieces being synchronice.

Then outside of that, I like watching game tempo. When you set the tempo of the game, you are dominating your opponent and telling him he's not in control. That's why I like the hurry-up every once in a while. Or the "pound-the-ball-down-their-throats", 12 minute third quarter drive. Those are the backbreaking moments when calling a football game becomes domination. That's when you can look a man in the eye, and he has to bow his head. As a gladiator and a competitor, you've made your way. Once the Lions can do that (and they did last year), they need to start doing that with consistency.

The Lions last year did "close out" a few teams, but they didn't thump Denver. Denver was a result of "quicksand". Everyone wants to say that the Lions killed Denver. Not true. Denver repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.

Young teams struggle due to lack of leadership.
"QUICKSAND"- (paraphrased from 'The Replacements') Quicksand is when you make a bad play, and then another, and another, and the more you struggle, the more you try to fight. But the more yu fight, the more it sucks you down, like quicksand." Once the Lions started rolling, Denver kept fighting, and kept shooting themselves in the foot. The more the Lions gained, the more Denver struggled.

The problem with a game like that, is that it set the Lions up. It's almost like they found quicksand in the desert. They were overconfident, and cocky, thinking the media wasn't giving them their due.

They went to Arizona the next week in search of their "Quan". They were shown the money in a Carlos Dansby smack down.

Like the young Broncos, the Lions struggled the rest of the year. They got too high (Denver), then too low. Panic set in. The weight of "Bobby Lane's Curse", years of losing, or ironically--"QUICKSAND".

The preaching of consistency is what is most needed this year, and the running game will bring that.


Anonymous said...

I will collectively gasp, and hold my breath until morning to see the results of the Tarvarus Jackson injury in the Ravens game.

It'd be interesting to see what happens (who gets signed) if the Tarvarus injury is significant.

Pittsburgh signed Byron Sandwhich last week after Charlie Batch went down. Does that mean the vikings re-sign Dante Culpepper??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????