Thanks again for joining the Lions Congregation! The panel submitted their answers Friday, but I was on the road for work. Please keep in mind the first pre-season game was NOT played when the panel submitted their responses. Catch the Congregation this Friday as well for thoughts on the Steelers game, as well as continuing story lines with the Lions…
This week’s panel:
Question: I keep reading about the big running lanes for Best. I thought the Lions O-line was pretty bad. Is it suddenly good or is the new defensive line not as good as it has been hyped up to be? I’m confused, and hopefully you guys can help! Thanks, Bill D.
Zac: The Lions certainly haven’t had one of the league’s best offensive lines the past few years but they haven’t been as bad as some might have you believe. Jeff Backus in particular was poorly suited to perform in a Mike Martz offense and has played much better since Scott Linehan took over. In fact, Backus was selected by my fellow NFC North bloggers on the fansided network as the division’s best left tackle. The return of Stephen Peterman and the addition of Rob Sims will have a tremendous impact on the performance of the line. Backus and Dominic Raiola suffered because they tried to do their own job and make up for deficiencies of the guard between them, no longer necessary with Mr. Sims at left guard. In short, the offensive line could be ok.
I’m not worried about the defensive line at all; the mix of proven veterans and promising youth should make for a dynamic unit. I can’t speak to the size of the running lanes but I think it is worth noting that what might be a big hole for Jahvid Best might be a small hole for a player without Best’s speed. His ability to hit the hole and turn it up-field with speed can might trick the eye. He should be fun to watch.
Al: I wouldn’t be worried about the defensive line. To quote Allen Iverson, “But we’re talking about practice, man. What are we talking about? Practice?”
I tend to take all news coming out of Lions’ training camp with a nice sized lump of salt. Even journeyman payers can look like they’re ready for the Hall of Fame in practice. There’s several players currently getting reps who won’t even be on the team in three weeks. Now if we’re getting the same reports about the defensive line a month from now…we’ll all be panicking. But let’s wait for some game action before we get too worried about the defensive line or anoint Jahvid Best an All-Pro to be.
The defensive line will be the last of your Lions’ worries. The offensive line, on the other hand…well…they should be respectable. Really!
I’m expecting the offensive line to be better this year, and they weren’t all God awful in 2009. Why?
The revolving door at left guard has finally closed. Guard Rob Sims is a big time addition at the position. He’s best player the much maligned Jeff Backus has had playing next to him his entire career.
As for the much maligned Backus, I’ve been as hard on him as anyone. Is he overpaid? Oh, Hell yes. Is he a Pro Bowler? Not happening. Is he capable to playing the position if in the right situation? Yes. Actually, Backus had a solid season in 2009, and could be even better with Sims next to him. (I can’t believe I just wrote that…)
The left side of the line should be solid, and it’s not at all surprising if there are holes for Best to squirt through. And with Best’s speed, it’s not like he needs Buick Roadmaster-sized holes. Give him a gap, and he should find it.
The big question on the offensive line is Gosder Cherilus, who is being pushed by the old and crafty (or ancient and washed-up) former Wolverine, Jon Jansen. If there is a spot to be truly concerned about on the line, it’s the position where one of the last of Matt Millen’s draft picks resides.
So don’t get overly worked up over any news about the offense or defense coming out of training camp…save for injuries, of course.
Blades: Interesting question. Let’s start with is the O-Line “suddenly good”. The answer is yes. If you look at the first four or five games last year, the Lions ran the ball pretty well and there were a couple times Smith had HUGE holes to run through. The problem was that he didn’t have that extra burst and the LB or DB’s would make the play. When Peterman went down, that killed the Lions but with him being healthy this year and with the addition of Sims, the Lions have the potential to run the ball really well. Going back to what I was saying before, the difference between Smith and Best is Best has that extra burst and once the hole is there, he’s so fast the LB or DB’s won’t have time to react to the play and I think that’s a huge reason why we’re hearing about these running lanes.
Now about the D-Line. I think they are going to be a real good D-line and what concerns me more then anything is the LB position when I hear this. The defensive lines job, if they can’t make the tackle, is to eat up as many blockers as possible so the LB’s should have an easy tackle. We’ve heard alot in this training camp about Gunther being very unhappy with the play of the defense and how they are making mental errors. If this is what he’s talking about, it’s going to be a MAJOR problem come the regular season.
DetFan1979: The offensive line was patchwork for…umm…a decade or so. The Lions finally have legit starters at both OG spots with a healthy Peterman and Rob Sims. Combined with Best’s superior speed/shiftiness, don’t be surprised to see a strong running game this year. Best needs smaller holes than Smith did, AND the O-line should be making bigger ones.
As for the Dline, I keep hearing how it’s bad that Suh can be eliminated with a double team. Except, that if he has to be double teamed to be kept in check, then that leaves Avril, Williams, and KVB one on one. They WILL make opposing offenses pay with pressure form just the front four. Book it.
I am looking forward to seeing how the epic battles between the Lions Dline and Oline in practice translate to gameday when they go up against other opposition. My theory is, they will each win some/lose some in practice — but that tough practice will allow them to win a lot more than they lose come game day.
What worries me most is the LB which is thin with just Dizon as a real backup to Levy at MLB. Any injuries here to the starters (such as Levy still being out) would be a big blow to this defense. [I wrote this response before knowing Dizon would be lost for the year to a knee injury ~ DF79]
Come back next week to see your questions answered! Got one? Email us at Lionscongregation@yahoo.com