With training camp rapidly approaching (and me back from vacation) the Lions Congregation is returning to a weekly format from now through the end of the season. With camp rapidly approaching, the numbers of emails ha also picked up — please keep sending your great questions to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Up this week, the panel considers first round picks and early roster spots. The Panel:
Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience
Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog
NetRat of The Netrat Detroit Lions Site
Zac of The Sidelion Report
Phil of Mlive.com
Blades Boyd formerly of The Church of Schwartz
Joshua aka DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions
1. From Juan G.: Gerald McCoy has already basically said he will sign after Bradford does. Bradford may not be in camp on time. How does this bode for getting Suh and Best in camp in time?
Al: If we were still living in the days of Ford lackey Russ Thomas stonewalling draft picks, when holdouts were as common as losing seasons, I’d be worried. Actually, I’m still mentally scarred from those years. I’m always fighting off the voice of a young Big Al in the back of my head saying,
“DUDE! THERE”S GONNA BE HOLDOUTS!”
But I’m not concerned. Yes, training camp is only a week away. But it’s in crunch time, that final week before camp, when the vast majority of 1st round deals are signed.
Remember, it’s not as if the Lions are the only team with 1st round picks unsigned. The ENTIRE NFL had yet to agree to terms with a 1st round pick till the Cowboys finally inked Dez Bryant, the 24th selection of the draft, . With one signing done, you can expect others to sign deals like so many dominoes falling.
The Lions know they need Suh and Best in camp. Suh and Best know they need to be in camp. When both parties know what needs to be done, and there’s a deadline looming, that’s when deals come together. An agreement might not be reached until the afternoon of the first workout, but a deal will get done.
Steve: Suh has openly stated that he will sign before camp and I believe that even IF he doesn’t sign prior to camp, I fully expect that he and the Lions will come to a rapid agreement in the early stages of the pre-season.
NetRat: Lewand doesn’t usually care or wait for what the other draft picksdo. However, Suh’s agent may not be the same way. Still, there are finite limits to the contract that come into play… there is a rookie pool this year (even though there is no cap for the team) and there are still rules on about increases or decreases year over year salary and roster bonuses not exceeding 30%… so the critical parts of the contract will come to what the total length of the contract will be (5 or 6 years) and what it will take to reach an incentive. The total dollars for the contract can’t exceed a certain amount or it won’t fit under both the rookie pool and the 30% rule. That said, since it was admitted a month or two ago by an agent that they have held out for a mere couple thousand dollars it could be tough sledding for Lewand. The press could actually help the situation, if they hound Suh enough (Suh hates drama) then he could and probably would TELL his agent to take the deal and get into camp (rather then hold out). Suh has said he doesn’t want to hold out… but “doesn’t want” and “will not” are two different things. I have high hopes he’ll be there within a couple of days of the start of camp.
Zac: The Lions actually seem to be ahead of the rest of the league in terms of signing rookies. It shouldn’t be a surprise that both unsigned picks are first rounders, such is the nature of the beast. I’m not worried about Jahvid Best getting to camp on time. He’s not one of those guys that slid to the end of the first round yet holds delusions of top-ten money. Ndamukong Suh’s situation is a little different as the number two overall pick and first defensive tackle off the board. The Rams ability to sign may or may not alter Suh’s negotiations. Suh has stated that he would like to report on time but don’t expect him to leave dollars on the table to make that happen. He may miss a couple days of practice but a lengthy holdout doesn’t seem likely. The Cowboys became the first team to sign their first-round draft pick . Not surprising considering the Cowboys are one of the first teams to report to camp. Contract negotiations are volatile situations and the pressure isn’t really on until the first practice approaches. A lot will change in the next week and picture should look a whole lot better.
Phil: can say he’ll sign after Bradford does because they’re
represented by the same agents. I’m sure those agents weren’t happy he
pointed it out to the media, but it’s nothing earth-shattering. In fact,
the same agency also represents Redskins offensive tackle Trent
Williams, who went fourth overall. So let’s just say they’ll have a say
in how the signings go.
As late as it is, and as much as people want the Lions to sign their top
two picks, you really can’t make artificial deadlines in negotiations.
That’s just not how it works. They need to get down to the wire, and
then they’ll hammer something out. That’s not to say they won’t miss any
time. But I wouldn’t expect it to be a significant amount. All that
said, if Suh does miss a significant amount of time — a week of camp,
for example — it’s likely to affect his play for the first half of the
Blades: I don’t think Best will be a factor at all. Very rarely do you see players drafted in the late first round hold out so there’s little doubt, in my opinion, he’ll be in camp on time. Suh, however, is a totally different story. The reason I’m concerned about Suh is at his first press conference as a Lion he said something along the lines of, “I feel I’m the best player in this draft class and Coach Schwartz says he feels like I’m the best player in the draft class so I assume I’ll be paid as the best player…” Now I’m not sure if that was the direct quote but I know it was VERY similar to that. Suh has stated he wants to be in camp on time but due to the history of his agents, that is very unlikely. I honestly believe that whoever signs first, between McCoy and Suh, the other player will sign a contract almost identical.
DetFan1979: Lewand (and his staff) have always been excellent in getting deals done to get the picks into camp on time – or only missing at most a couple of days. Thanks in part to the chronic ineptitude of the Lions, the organization has had a lot of experience signing early draft draft picks. Best I don’t forsee being a problem at all – especially with Dex Bryant singing on to a standard slotted contract near where Best was picked.
When it comes to Suh, what Bradford and McCoy et al do or do not agree to will not be the basis for the deal. They will be working down from Matthew Stafford’s deal last year, and trying to come to a number that is less than that but as high as possible for Suh without him earning the same as Stafford. Lions will want it a bit lower, Suh’s agents a bit higher. In the end, I feel the Lions and Suh’s agents are already in the same ball park, and that they will get a deal done by the 3rd of August at the latest (that is prior to the 5th day of camp). Suh may even be in camp on time as his agents realize all too well I am sure how much it means to fans – and thus Suh’s marketability early – how important it is symbolically for him to be on the field when the first practice of camp opens.
2. From Brian S.: It’s obviously still way too early, but give us your best guess for the opening day lineups on offense and defense…
Yes, I agree it is way too early. We don’t know ifor will be fully healthy by the end of camp, who will take ‘ place at linebacker, or who will play next to at safety. But other than that…well, now that I think about it…maybe we can make an educated guess.
RB: Jahvid Best (Kevin Smith gets plenty of carries…if healthy)
FB: ( playing as an H back gets most of the playing time)
WR: , Nate Burleson
TE: Tony Scheffler (Brandon Pettigrew will be brought back slowly)
G: Rob Sims, Stephen Peterman
C: Dominic Raiola
DE: Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jason Hunter (I doubt it makes a difference who starts, as there will be a rotation in place)
DT: Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams (Same as DE, the tackles will rotate)
MLB: DeAndre Levy
OLB: Julian Peterson, Landon Johnson (Johnson won a coin flip over , though the actual starter may not be on the roster yet)
CB: Chris Houston, Amari Spievey (Spievey makes a big impression in camp, and gets the starting nod)
S: Louis Delmas, Ko Simpson (Simpson is the most likely candidate to start out of a cast of thousands)
K: Jason Hanson
P: Nick Harris
PR/KR: Tim Toone (Got to have at least one off the wall pick…or is it?)
LS: Don Mulbach
It’s surprising a two win team knows who most of the starters will be before training camp even starts. But save for safety and outside linebacker, barring injury, the lineup is pretty much set in…sand. It’s too early for stone…
K Jason Hanson
P Nick Harris
LDE Jason Hunter
LDT Ndamukong Suh
DT Corey Williams
DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
SLB Julian Peterson
MLB DeAndre Levy
WLB Zach Follett/Keith Bulluck
[Bulluck signed a 1 yr. $2.5 mil contract with NYG after this answer was submitted ~ DF79]
LCB Chris Houston
CB Jonathan Wade
SS Ko Simpson
FS Louis Delmas
NetRat: As for the starting lineup and the complete depth chart… I have an ongoing chart I keep on my site for that, revised often. In fact, after my trip early to mid-August to the Lions training camp I will be putting my finishing touches on my estimated lineup to see how I do compared to what actually happens after the final cut-down day. My best record to date is 5 wrong (on the entire roster). My worst was last year, with 10 wrong (5 of the players weren’t even on the team when I locked it in). The link to my estimated depth chart can found at http://www.theNetRat.com
Zac: QB – Matthew Stafford, RB – Jahvid Best, WR – Calvin Johnson, WR – Nate Burleson, TE – Tony Scheffler, TE – Brandon Pettigrew, LT – Jeff Backus, LG – Rob Sims, C – Dominic Raiola, RG – Stephen Peterman, RT –Gosder Cherilus
Injury situations will have a lot to do with what the starting lineup looks like in week 1. Brandon Pettigrew is reportedly progressing nicely and should slide into a starting spot with the Lions featuring more two TE sets. WhileKevin Smith is also healing to everyone’s delight, he may have to settle for being number two in a one-two punch from the backfield. Jahvid Best has the king of game breaking speed that the Lions offense has sorely lacked.Gosder Cherilus will face a challenge from Jon Jansen but he will win the job as long as he shows some improvement between the ears.
DE – Cliff Avril, DT – Ndamukong Suh, DT – Corey Williams, DE – Kyle Vanden Bosch, LB – Julian Peterson, LB – DeAndre Levy, LB – Zack Follett, CB – Chris Houston, CB – Jonathan Wade, S – Louis Delmas, S – C.C. Brown
The second corner and safety spots are the biggest toss-ups. The addition of Dre Bly will add to the level of competition and overall talent pool but I’m not convinced he will win a starting spot on this team. Zack Follett gets a spot for now with a chance to solidify it when the team hits the field. Cliff Avril also has something to prove but don’t be surprised if he gets every opportunity to win a starting job.
Phil: Assuming the formation they’ll use most often:
Quarterback – Matthew Stafford
Running back – Jahvid Best
Wide receiver – Calvin Johnson
Slot receiver – Nate Burleson
Tight end/receiver – Tony Scheffler
Tight end – Brandon Pettigrew
Left tackle – Jeff Backus
Left guard – Rob Sims
Center – Dominic Raiola
Right guard – Stephen Peterman
Right tackle – Gosder Cherilus (unless he has a really awful camp, in
which case I’d say Jon Jansen)
Cornerback – Chris Houston
Cornerback – Jonathan Wade
Safety – Louis Delmas
Safety – Jarrad Page [He is NOT currently on the Lions Roster. Projected Trade. ~ DF79]
Sam – Julian Peterson
Mike – DeAndre Levy
Will – Zack Follett (I don’t know if he’ll hold on, but I’m predicting
he does enough in camp to earn a shot)
Left end – Cliff Avril
Right end – Kyle Vanden Bosch
3-Tackle – Ndamukong Suh
1-Tackle – Corey Williams
Other than the second safety and the weakside linebacker, I didn’t have
to put much thought into this. WOW! When was the last time you could say
that about a Lions roster before training camp even started??? (And yes,
I realize I may be off, but the offense is pretty much a lock, and there
are only about four positions on defense that I could see being off. I
must be in a time warp…)
Blades: Wow Brian, you’re really putting the pressure on here eh??? I like it. Alright, here we go…
DE-Vanden Bosch, Avril
LB-Levy, Peterson, Follett
DB-Houston, Wade, Delmas, Simpson
I’ll explain a couple of my choices here:
KEVIN SMITH-If he’s healthy, which it looks like he might be, I think he’ll get the start on simply because I don’t think Best is an every down back in this league and very rarely do you see rookie RB’s get the start on Opening Day. This isn’t to say Best won’t be the starter by mid season, I just don’t think he’ll start Opening Day.
2 TE SET- This will be the Lions base formation this year and you will probably see it about 50% of the time during games. In my opinion, it is the best way to attack a defense because although it’s used mostly in as a run formation, with Tony and Brandon at TE you have instant mismatches which the Lions can expose. If teams double CJ, that will leave a LB on either TE which is a HUGE advantage for the Lions. If teams bring in a DB to cover the TE’s, the Lions can pound the ball. That’s why I think this will be our starters on Opening Day.
CLIFF AVRIL-This is going to be one the most heated battles during training camp without a doubt. There are three guys gunning for that spot and each of them have a good chance to win it. Jason Hunter was our best pass rusher last year and he flashed some greatness. If he can become more consistent he has a good shot. Jared Devries, who had the inside track on the job last year, will be back to compete for it again. He’s more of a wild card after a year off and I think will be a solid backup. Avril will be given one more shot by the Lions and that’s why I think he’ll win the battle. He’s still young and needs to show improvement otherwise look for Hunter to take the job by week 4 or 5.
KO SIMPSON- No clue why, I just think he’s the best of a bad group competing for the spot. Sure he’s great on run support but teams won’t be running against the Lions. Trust me, you’ll be seeing teams throw probably 70% of the time against us which is unheard of.
DetFan1979: Hmm…it is a bit early, but that has never stopped me before!
QB: Matthew Stafford
RB: Jahvid Best (Kevin Smith will be eased back in as he is a natural 3rd down/breather back to pair with Best)
TE2:Will Heller (Brandon Pettigrew will be eased back in as well, and full time starting by week 3 or 4. There will still be a heavy rotation at TE to keep them fresh, or depending on game situations)
WR1: Calvin Johnson
WR2: Nate Burleson
LT: Jeff Backus
LG: Rob Simms
C: Dominic Raiola
RG: Stephen Peterman
RT: Gosder Cherilus
LDE: Jared DeVries
RDE: Kyle Vanden Bosch
DT: Ndamukong Suh
DT: Corey Williams
DT3: Sammie Hill (This will be such a heavy rotation, that all three will see significant snaps. Schwartz has always heavily rotated the Dline, even when he had Haynesworth in Tennessee. I don’t forsee this changing now that the Lions have at least 3 capable DT’s)
SLB: Julian Peterson
MLB: DeAndre Levy
WLB: Zack Follett
CB1: Chris Houston
CB2: Jonathan Wade
S1: Louis Delmas
S2: NC as in No Clue. Who ever “wins” this spot will be on a short leash, and likely in heavy rotation until the Lions can upgrade the second safety spot – possibly via the draft – next ifseason.
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