Time once again for the Lions Congregation at the Church of Schwartz. Throughout the season, I will post my answers to the questions posed to the Lions Congregation of Bloggers on Thursday evenings. Then, Friday you can read what the rest of the Congregation has to say.
This week’s questions and Answers:
1. Which offseason addition will have the biggest impact on the team in 2009?
This is a very tough question for me. I felt like Martin Mayhew made a lot of great additions, from starters to depth, that will really help the Lions to improve. (Please note: I am assuming FA additions, not draft picks.) After a bit thought, I am going to say Daniel Loper. I can easily see him winning the battle to start at LG. Other than about half a solid season from an aging Edwin Mulitalo, LG has been a gaping hole on the Lions for about a decade. Jeff Backus has seldom had even average play at the revolving door nexdt to him that was LG. Loper is young, and was good enough to step into any position on the Titans O-Line with no drop-off in play from the starters. With Peterman and Cherilus growing into their roles on the right, Loper has a chance to bring solid G play to the left. This strengthening of the OG position will also leave less unfavorable matchups to Raiola alone on nose tackles — which is by far not his strong suit. It will also leave Backus more free to concentrate on the edge rush, versus cheating inside to try to handle the OG and OT duties at once.
2. Aside from the big offseason signings (Foote, Bryant J, Grady Jackson, Buchanon, Loper) what under the radar signing will have the biggest impact?
Wow. That is most of the signings in that list right there, and excluding trades… Terelle Smith. As we have already seen from the camp, this coaching staff will, I think, be more creative in using the full skill set players possess, rather than pounding square pegs into round holes. Jerome Felton was a great example of that last season. He was a beast in goal line situations in college, and has great potential as a pure power back, in addition to being a strong blocker. And he got two carries. It was revealed today that the Lions were lining up short yardage and power run packages with Terrelle Smith lead blocking for Jerome Felton in a 2 FB set. That is a load and a half for opposing defenses to take out — and something I was truly stunned not to see given the Lions’ short yardage troubles in 2008. (Only subbing Moran Norris for Terrelle Smith)
Using this type of set to pick up key first downs will be a huge contribution by T. Smith. Also, he is an excellent pure blocking back which will help in both pass protection, and to open running lanes for Kevin Smith.
3. What is the one position where we can least afford an injury?
Lets just roll through this quick unit by unit:
- QB: Stafford or Culpepper is fine at this point, and with Stanton progressing, that wouldn’t kill.
- RB: I’d hate to lose Kevin Smith — however, Aaron Brown is showing flashes, and Maurice Morris has proven to be a solid backup over time.
- OL: The starters are still up in the air, but pretty much anyone other than Raiola goes down and with the team likely keeping Jansen at least at backup, I don’t think over the short term there would be that much drop off.
- Dline: I’m much less worried about this unit than I was. If Grady, or Darby (if they keep him) goes down, Cohen, Flu, IAF, Hill… White and Avril on one side, Devries on the other. Peterson has played DE and likely will on many third and long yardage downs. I’m hoping one or more of those guys are already starters — and if the others are on the roster there will already be decent depth there.
- Secondary: Again, while the depth isn’t fantastic, outside of Delmas it is pretty similar. No one really stands out — and no one would be really missed. Henry can play S or CB. While it wouldn’t be the best of situations, injuries are never the best.
- Linebackers: This is one unit that I will say could absorb an injury the easiest. While all 3 starters are top notch this year, the backups are also solid. Levy has been looking good, and Dizon seems intent on shedding his 2nd round bust label too quickly applied. Spencer and Follett(assuming they keep 7 LB) round it out enough that in injury wouldn’t be too bad.
- TE: Heller, Gronk and Pettigrew are likely to be your TE. An injury to one would hurt due to its’ importance in the scheme. However, Gronk is really having a good camp and Brown or Felton could line up as a TE thanks to good blocking.
- WR: Finally — a position where a key injury really buggers the team. Dennis Northcutt is a slot WR. Bryant Johnson has yet to live up to the “solid #2″ label, much less go to guy. CJ is CJ. And…umm…a few other guys who seem to be dropping a lot of passes. A key WR injury (CJ) could hamstring the offensive playbook.
Tags: Aaron Brown, Anthony Henry, Calvin Johnson, Dan Gronkwoski,Daniel Loper, Daunte Culpepper, Deondre Levy, Detroit Lions Training Camp 2009, Dominic Raiola, Drew Stanton, Gosder Cherilus, Jeff Backus,Jordan Dizon, Kevin Smith, Louis Delmas, Matthew Stafford, Maurice Morris,Stephen Peterman, Will Heller