As many of you may now be aware, it is being widely reported that Ernie Sims has been traded to Philadelphia in a 3-way trade with Denver. “Shocked” doesn’t even come close to describing my inital reaction on this. After taking a few minutes to quadruple check that I wasn’t being “Rick-Roll’d” I settled in to process the transaction. The first image that popped into my head was that of a child’s connect-the-dots activity. There are a bunch on little dots (usually numbered) in a seemingly random pattern. When you connect the dots it reveals a clear picture.
(It does occur to me at this point that Lions Congregation member Ty at the Lions in Winter called Sims to Eagles back in January or so. I checked and found the link here to his piece detailing thoughts on the Lions LB. It seemed like a decent fit, but compensation that Philly was able to give up that Detroit wanted seemed to me to be the problem at the time. Problem solved, apparently.)
Since the dots aren’t numbered, nor even obvious, I did some musings and here is what I’ve come up with:
1. Think back to Larry Foote going back to the Steelers, and even further to last ifseason. Cunningham was pretty impressed by Jordan Dizon as an OLB. Levy was the future in the middle. When Foote left, one thing unsolicited that he said was about Dizon’s talent.
2. Sims just didn’t seem comfortable still in the defense, and was injured to end the year. His angles weren’t the best either still. Since there isn’t as much WLB/SLB differentiation (similar to the Safeties) in the Schwartz defense, they need a stout sure tackler who has above average coverage skills to handle TE’s off the seam. PFT has some good thoughts as well.
3. Foote and Sims lost playing time to Levy, but they also lost some time to Dizon as the season wore on. He can cover well for a LB and tackle in the run game. He’s still not the ideal size, but bigger than Sims. Not saying I’m thrilled or all pumped on this idea, but I’d have to think that is what the situation is right now.
4. Casey Fitzsimmons retired due to injuries/concussions. He was a better pass-catcher than blocker, but was valuable in the two TE set. Linehan likes to run a LOT of two TE sets, using the TE in place of a slot WR and sending two guys on deeper routes.
5. Pettigrew needs time to heal, and even if he is on pace the Lions only had two reliable TE’s (Heller, Pettigrew) on the roster.
6. Scheffler does NOT get along with Josh McDaniels, a fact that is well documented and confirmed by Bryan Douglass, the Fanball Broncos correspondent (and my Editor). He is not really much of a blocker, which McDaniels wants for his offense. But he is one heck of a pass-cather. McDaniels has now gotten rid of 3/4 of the 2008 red-hot Denver offense featuring Rookie Eddie Royal, Scheffler, Brandon Marshal and Jay Cutler. Royal is the only one who remains a Bronco (much to the chagrin of many Broncos fans).
7. How good, you ask? Just check out his stat list on NFL.com and remember that he was in McDaniels’ doghouse on the “new” Bronco’s offense with Kyle Orton under center in 2009. Can you say “Slot WR who can CATCH the ball?”
8. Can’t reiterate enough how much Linehan likes the two TE set. Pettigrew and Scheffler will eventually see a lot of time together on the field — especially since Scheffleris only 27 heading into just his fifth year in the league. Neither will be Tony Gonzalez production wise, but neither will have to be.
9. Scheffler went to WMU (think Delmas and DF79’s brother as notable WMU alums) and grew up in Chelsea. Unlike Foote, who wasn’t ready to face his NFL reality of being a 2-down ILB in the 3-4, Scheffler knows what he is and isn’t: He is a good-to-great pass catching TE. He isn’t much of a blocker. McDaniels didn’t want to play to the strengths of the players he had/has – he wants players to fit his “system” (sound familiar?).
10. Martin Mayhew is one heck of a trader. Can we now at least agree we have an NFL caliber GM running the Lions? A 3 way trade?? Getting a proven vet and a 7th rounder for Sims, who they weren’t likely
11. I guess this is the last of the dots before I go into some more analysis, but would you want to defend Pettigrew and Sheffler down the seams with Burleson andCJ going deep down the sidelines while Kevin Smith(or a new feature back) runs against 7-man fronts for the first time in his career even if CJ is single covered? Give up short passes and let the Lions dink-n-dunk it down the field and pray Burleson and CJ don’t beat the coverage?
12. One last point: Outside of starting/2nd RB and O-Line depth, the needs list is pretty much all defense for the Lions. CB, DT, LB, DE, S.
In chatting briefly with Bryan (with the draft coming up, everyone is understandably busy) the general reaction in Denver is pretty negative. While the Broncos at least got a bevy of valuable picks for Cutler and Marshal, they essentially gave away Scheffler for a song. The deal has great potential upside andlittle risk for bothPhiladelphia (where Sims may find himself starting at WLB) and Detroit. It hurts the Bears in their effort to offload Greg Olson (who also doesn’t fit their “system” as a pass catching TE, mediocre blocker. Remember keeping an extra FB or two instead of any real TE’s to go with Fitz when Martz was here?) which is a nice bonus impact on a division foe. The Bears have been trying to get a 2nd for Olson, and that just plain isn’t going to happen. They will be lucky to get a 3rd or 4th at this point.
Overall, this choice says a lot about what Detroit’s TE’s and WR’s are and are not. Heller is a great blocker. He is not a great pass catcher. He is an OK pass catcher. Pettigrew is a great blocker. He is a great pass catcher. He is not a TE who stretches the field for long gains. Detroit does not have a real solid slot WR option. Scheffler is a TE who can stretch the field. He is not a good blocker.
See where these dots, once connected, creat a pretty good offensive picture? The oldest of their trio of TE’s is Heller. He is also the easiest to replace as the primarily blocking TE. Pettigrew can do both. Schefflercan be shifted aroundthe offense both as a TE and in the slot. This makes the offense that much better, and negates much of the need to draft a 3rd TE that the Lions were looking at doing in this draft.
As for the LB spot — I wasn’t too thrilled with it before, and I’m less so now. IF Dizon, or Johnson, or a draft pick plays up to potential or better than expected, the WLB position is fine. But Julian Peterson only has a year or two left. This leaves Levy in his second year at the MLB spot as the most solid long-term prospect in the LB corps. Ouch. We’ll have to see what Mayhew has up his sleeve to fix this, but it still demonstrates how his building this team is focused more on doing it right than “winning now”. At this point, it is the future over the past. Doing something new instead of doing the same thing and hoping for different results.
And a 3-team trade? Seriously? I mean, how often does THAT happen? This is still the NFL not the NBA or MLB, right? Go Martin! We’re loving how your plan is coming together.