Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Minimum Requirements"

Okay, reading back over my post form yesterday it seems from my writing that 4 players and the 3-4 is set as a star studded D ready to contend for the title.

Okay, I guess in trying to look at who to "keep" in that alignment, I was too positive in my descriptions. My intent was to point out in that article (and one tomorrow) how using 4 of the 5 picks on defense in different ways would give the Lions at least the basics of a defense in either base formation.

In other words, the bare bones foundation to be built upon. To put it bluntly: they can't shit can everyone because there aren't enough people out there who are better to replace them with that are available - right now.

I see the plan outlined as one way they could lean, in regards to positions to fill just to make the defensive formation (in yesterday's and today's case, the 3-4) work.

Since this is a Blog, I'm assuming everyone has some kind of access to a computer. If you look at the side of the box for any computer program there is a little small print section that says "minimum requirements." Sure, technically speaking you can run the program if you have the minimum requirements. But in reality it works like crap if it really "works" at all. Then there is that "recommended requirements" where it actually works like it is supposed to - most of the time. I usually figure you need at least the recommended, and probably more than that if you really want a program to run smoothly. What I outlined yesterday for the 3-4, and will outline tomorrow for the 4-3, is the "minimum requirements".

With that in mind, lets look a little further forward at what it would take to go from "minimum requirements" to "recommended requirements".

LB: A line of Sims-Draft Pick-Dizon-Avril would be the bare bones, and not that great with no depth. In all honesty, Sims may work in a 3-4 -- but he would need to get back to rookie year versus the last two. His discipline has been way off, and he needs to stop over-pursuing on the run and get back to the fundamental tackling that made him stand out his rookie year. Even then, he is more the size of an ILB in the 3-4 but lacks the coverage skills. If he can't adjust, he would end up being a stop-gap.

I disagree with the comment that Avril didn't prove anything as a pass rusher. After reading that I sped through a couple of tapes again, and all he showed me is that he is one heck of a pass rusher coming off the edge. His speed and quick moves would serve him well in that capacity in the 3-4 as you need to have at least one pass-rushing OLB (think: Shawn Merriman of the Chargers). I'm not an expert, but my gut says used correctly in a 3-4 alignment he would be a pro-bowl OLB. That still leaves the unknown Dizon and "Draft Pick LB" in the middle. Realistically, at least 3 -4 more draft picks minimum would need to go into LB -- with one from rounds 1-3 -- for the next two or three years to get the LB corps up to "recommended".

Dline: As I said, a NT is a must in this draft to get to minimum. Redding is a prototypical 3-4 DE and should be very solid at one end. The rest are more tenuous and unknown. Fluellen doesn't seem to be quick enough for a 3-4 DE, nor is he big enough for the NT spot and I think he'd end up replaced sooner rather than later. Cohen has the right stuff from what I saw to be a backup NT, and possibly rotate in at DE in the 3-4 -- however, it would likely be making use of what you have until you can draft something better. IAF has yet to show what he can do, although just like Redding his size/skills seem to better fit a 3-4 DE where the Dline takes on the front blockers freeing up the OLB to rush in off the edges while the 2 ILB cover the short passing routes. Most likely, even if the Lions take a NT in 09, they would still need to spend a lower round pick next year (or FA, or UDFA) on a backup NT -- as well as draft at least one more DE. I didn't bring up White again, as he would work in the short term but is not at all a 3-4 DE or LB and would not fit into the new scheme. So just like with LB, you would need 3-4 more picks on the Dline over the next 3 years to get that established with solid starters and depth in the rotation.

Secondary: This situation still isn't as bad as the rest. While I grudgingly agree Fisher is currently the only Nickel-back on the roster, I think that they shouldn't keep him around after his contract is up in 09. Bodden is better in man coverage --- and while everyone is griping about his 8 mil roster bonus in 2009 -- remember this: he is at worst an above average cover corner and will have very low cap numbers and salary for the 10,11,12,13 seasons. When you look at total compensation over the course of the contract if they can get at least 10-12 out of him as a starter on one side then it is great value. Keith Smith is a marginal starter hovering around great backup status. That is why I listed drafting a CB as need both early and late, and think the Lions would at least need to keep taking late round fliers on cover corners for the foreseeable future to ensure having enough healthy CB's. If they go 3rd round CB in 09, then a 1st or 2nd round CB would be needed still in 10 or 11 at least in addition to the late round fliers.

At safety, I liked what I saw out of a healthy Alexander and Bullocks when the coaches actually put them on the field together. That being said, if they go to a 3-4 they still need a 4th safety who is more of a SS safety rather than FS. Alexander and Bullocks are similar style players, and a complement is needed. I don't think going S in 09 is good until you see how Bullocks and Alexander work out in the 3-4, and if they can stay healthy. A rd 1-3 S in 10 would definitely have to be a consideration.

Summary: What this all means is that even if the Lions hit it great on their early picks, and one or two of the late round picks and go almost all defense -- they have about 3 solid heavy defense drafts in front of them before they will really have the upgrades they need to be a playoff defense.

No Lions fan wants to hear this, but this roster is so devoid of starting level talent that it will take at least 3 drafts to get a team with a high caliber defense, and a decent offense. Period. 2 might get you started if they hit on a high percentage of picks, but even the best GM's get 2-3 starters per draft from all rounds combined, on average. And the Lions really need upgrades to at least 8 of their starting defensive spots. When you do the math, you can see it will be a long road to respectability even under the best of management.

I am cautiously optimistic at this point, but still will hold out on anything other than "If" type analysis (just like last year) til the season. The Lions did a big Whiff on my IF last ifseason. Lets hope they do better in 2009!!

Your thoughts??? (keep em coming!)


RIP said...

Thank you DetFan for your support after I removed my post. Video games should not be used as a reference to human factors, real life factors, for what goes on each week. Examples are the bumps and bruises that effects play or the improbably deep passes.
That being said, I agree our d-line are more suited for the DE in the 34. Avrilas our rush OLB, and our best in D. White left out as a lineman. But really, is a rush OLB (Avril) a linebacker or lineman. I agree that he could be an all Pro at that position. I have never liked 3 man rush, even on the prevent of a pass.
What I do like about a 34 is it is easier to draft linemen for it. A 43 rush DE for both the run and pass is almost as hard to find as a starting QB. What is also hard to find is those big fast linebackers with the IQ.
What I do not like about a 34 is the team needs a very good secondary, and fast free safetys.
If a team has decent success running the football, the defense needs to put an eighth person in the box, which leaves one-on-one coverage with one deep. Alexander may have the speed to do this. Mays from USC is not coming out, so you may have to add a very fast free safety to the group of needs, and move bullocks to strong safety.
In summary, you have the personnel, any defense can be good.
Our greatest need is to find talented large interior linemen for either defense, a starting corner, and some MLBs.
To turn around this mess is going to take 2 to 4 years to be a playoff contender. And that as stated needs to be with good "If Seasons".
Go Lions and let the Roar be heard in '09.

RIP said...

With what we are saying, it may be easier to move to a 34 this year.
Draft the MLB from USC and BJ Raji in the first round. Mickens in the second and draft accordingly on defense to convert over. With a couple free agents, we may have our top 15 defense in '09.
A top 15 defense and offense can go along ways.
Thinking Lions 365.

Isphet said...

The Lions' front 7 on D looks absolutely horrible, doesn't it?

Sims is the best LB and he seems to have only devolved since his rookie year; probably due to horrible coaching.

The D line has some players but no bulk. They need to get bigger in a hurry.

I think the Lions almost HAVE to get 2 front 7 D-men within their first 3 picks; one Lineman and one LB.

Why oh why did they not keep Buster Davis? Ugh.

Anonymous said...

If you are correct, and it takes 3 or 4 years to build the D until it is playoff quality, how much additional time for the offense to be built up also?
Very scary. I am 60 and have been waiting since 1957. The first year I followed the Lions was 1957. I listened to the blacked out championship game on the living room floor with my dad.
I kept the front page of the "Detroit Times" which had great pics of the game. I still have it.


RIP said...

Yes Hollyweed.
I am about to turn 48 and have been a big sports fan since the mid 70s. First it was the Tiger's 72 playoff team. Then Michigan and the Lions. The Pistons and Red Wings followed. Been a die hard for all those teams through hard times and good.
Saw the Mich basketball natl championship off the coast of Florida only because my Comanding Officer was a huge college sports fan. He also met the paster to the Green Bay Packers team during the Lombardi years.
It is time for our team to turn it around. I will go with anything that will turn it around. And I believe the quickest way to do it is building our front 7 to at least 1 1/2 deep. This includes a talented secondary thats at least 1 1/2 deep. Build the front 7 to see what we have for back 4.

CHIEFGER139 said...

I do like mayhews attitude-sounds like hes going to go with young guys and build for the future-think its ok if we take our lumps for a few years if we have hungry young guys out there who will only get better year after year-id stay away from free agents all together-no one over 30 thats for sure-this year maybe it does look hopeless but maybe come this time next year we have identified specific holes instead of our entire defense needs replaced and other than a few guys our offense too!!
amazing-lose one guy like shaun rogers and it exposed a really bad defense we had behind him. but truthfully even with him we were a bad defense-but at least one good enough to win 7 games and get turnovers-now we have nothing.

jreffy said...

I don't know if I accept that the defense is 3 or 4 drafts away from being competitive.

You have to remember, that by just adding a few players that would require offenses to account and gameplan for them, the rest of the players on D suddenly become a bit more free to make plays.

The makeup of an elite defense is pretty much the same as it is with any team sport. You need the following.

1-3 "Super Studs": These are the guys that carry your defense. When the opposing offense is gameplanning for the week, these are the names they list. They want to pick them up with double-teams whenever possible, run the ball away from their position, and do what they can to avoid them. They are also the guys that come through in the clutch. Need a big sack to close out the game, how about a turnover? These are the players that get it for you.
Examples: Ed Reed, Osi Umenroya, Troy Polamalu, Patrick Willis, etc.

2-5 "quality players": These are guys who are always suggested as "the next ______" but yet never really seem to achieve it. They aren't bad players by any means and would start on most other NFL teams. When needed to make a play or open field tackle, these guys come through for you. Usually when an offense focuses on the super-studs, it's these guys who come through with huge games. Examples: Mike Brown, Charles Woodson, Terrell Suggs

The rest = "above average": These guys don't stand out in a crowd, most non-fans don't know their names, but these guys quietly go about their work. They are solid defenders, not necessarily being able to cover the offense's studs, but make for a great supporting cast with good tackles and solid defense, especially when the super studs and quality defenders are getting most of the attention.

This is just my opinion, but right now if you follow my rough outline above, the Lions maybe have a few "quality players", and not much else. I'd call Redding and Sims (potentially Bodden, if he comes back into form) and maybe Avril if he picks up 09 where he left off in '08 the Lions "quality" players. Guys like Bullocks and Alexander are great "above average" players if they can keep healthy and do a bit of improving.

However, what the Lions lack are those "super studs". They need guys who are going to be world beaters. Guys who can make a play even though the offense knows he's the one guy they've got to contain.

Here's hoping our next coach, player personell guy, and Mayhew, have an eye for talent.

Isphet said...

rumors from multiple sources that the Lions have hired Jim Schwartz as the HC.

RIP said...

Good news for I think his interview to the media showed he is ready for the next step, which is a HC. Jeff Fisher also used the right words, and had his approval, for me to believe Scwartz is the right hire.

jreffy said...

Que awesome Spaceballs-referencing signs...

Joe Willy said...

Nice work. This is why I think Schwartz will initially keep the 4-3 and look at drafting towards a 3-4, running a hybrid in between. The Ravens is a hybrid 3-4/4-3 and that team is consistently a great defense which always keeps the opposing offense guessing.

The Ravens also run a jumbo package on offense with 2 tackles on the left side something the Lions could do if they draft a top LT and slide the rookie or Backus inside- a nice thing about it is that teams expect you to run in that formation but you can play action pass out of it and use it as for extra left side protection which would make throwing bombs to Calvin easier.

The only thing I'd add to your analysis is that it may be easier to find talented undrafted guys who could play a 3-4 as Pittsburgh did with Harrison. Those tweener guys aren't wanted by most teams running a 4-3 and we may be able to find a lot of steals to stack the roster without using draft picks.