Welcome back to the Lions Congregation! This week, the panel examines the Lawrence Jackson trade and the first pre-season game versus the Steelers. Have a question or thought you’d like to see the congregation address? Email Lionscongregation@yahoo.com
1. What are your thoughts on the Lawrence Jackson trade?
Phil: Another Martin Mayhew special — the risk-to-reward ratio is greatly in the Lions’ favor. It’s scary that Lo-Jack’s college coach didn’t see a need to keep him around in Seattle, but the worst-case scenario is that Detroit loses a 2011 sixth-round pick. Best-case scenario is that Jackson becomes an integral part of the defensive end rotation. At any rate, while the Lions and Seahawks play different versions of the 4-3 defense. Seattle utilizes a position that’s somewhat of a hybrid between a left defensive end and an outside linebacker. Lo-Jack’s size (6-4, 270+ pounds) and lack of speed (4.82 40 back in 2008) are more suited for the LDE in Detroit’s defense. We’ll see how it pans out, though.
Zac: I view the Lawrence Jackson trade as another example of Martin Mayhew’s ability to put together low risk-high rewards deals. Jackson was a disappointment in Seattle based on the expectations that come with being selected in the first round of the draft. His numbers actually look somewhat similar to what Cliff Avril has done in his two years as a Lion. By only giving up a sixth-round pick the Lions get good value, even if the change of scenery doesn’t jump start Jackson’s to a level to match his draft position. The Lions would have to catch lightning in a bottle to get a player in the sixth-round to contribute what Jackson should be able to do in a reserve role.
Al: What’s not to like?
This is a low risk, high reward trade, a Martin Mayhew special…much like the deals for Rob Sims, Corey Williams and Chris Houston. In Lawrence, the Seahawks had themselves former 1st round draft pick who became a square peg in a round hole when ownership cleaned house, bringing in a new coach and GM. Mayhew swooped in like a vulture, and found himself a player who is, at the very at least, better than the backups currently on the Lions’ roster.
Defensive end is a position where many players tend to develop slowly. But remember, Jackson’s also under team control for for the next three seasons. Time is in the Lions’ favor.
So at the very worst, Jackson adds youth and depth to a rapidly improving defensive line. At best, Jackson has a break out year, and the Lions have what they’ve needed for decades, a pure, skilled pass rusher with speed at defensive end.
The Lions can’t lose either way.
All for the minimal cost of (reportedly) a 6th round draft pick in 2011.
Blades: On the surface, it’s hard not to like it. But my concern is why are we getting all the former Seahawks???? This is starting to remind me of when Marinelli brought in all the Tamps guys and we didn’t win a game. Anyway, that’s besides the point. Jackson is a solid player and he only adds depth to our Dline. It’s not hard to see what the coaching staff is trying to do here. They realize they have a BRUTAL secondary and that the only way they can help them out is by putting pressure on the QB. Don’t be surprised if you see another move or two on the Dline to help improve it.
DetFan1979: This trade is typical of MAyhew taking advantage of what he learned under Matt Millen. Yes, that’s right. What he learned from Millen. Now, before you check my sanity since being a die hard optimistic Lions fan already puts me in suspect territory, let me explain.
What Mayhew learned from observing Matt Millen is that GM’s who have coaches who are married to a system trade good players for low compensation because they just don’t fit the scheme anymore. In other words, he has been keeping his eyes open since he started for teams switching coaches and schemes, and particularly those who have a “system” that isn’t flexible enough to accomodate talented players, but rather discards them in favor of “their guys.” (You know, like the guys that helped Marinelli take the Lions to 0-16 after Millen shipped out all those talented players who “didn’t fit the philosophy”.)
Crazy enough, Millen isn’t the only one who makes crazy mistakes. Houston, a cover corner, was brought in from Atlanta where he didn’t fit the primarily zone scheme. C. Williams was brought in from Cleveland because he didn’t fit as a 3-4 DE, or a NT — he is a 4-3 DT and underachieved in their system. Rob Sims fell out of favor with what Pete Carroll wants from his OG’s in Seattle and was brought in for a song. (After seeing him play, I wonder what exactly they did want out of him in Seattle as he appears to be a great all-around OG in run play and pass pro). Now, he has done it again — to Seattle — with Lawrence Jackson.
Carroll is playing a 3-4/4-3 hybrid and Jackson — more of a pure 4-3 DE — didn’t fit into any of the roles they had for him. Just like my discussion of Jordan Dizon, Lawrence Jackson has been a disappointment in relation to where he was drafted, but is at worst a solid backup at end for the Lions. He is essentially a 6th round pick for the Lions — and at 4.5 sacks over 2 seasons is a steal for a 6th even if all he does is provide solid depth and rotational play. Anything beyond that is gravy.
2. What was the most exciting and the most discouraging for you in the first preseason game?
Phil: First, the bad: The defensive backups were quite horrible. I know Dixon is one of the quickest quarterbacks in the league, but they couldn’t contain the guy to save their lives. The tackling wasn’t good and there were some blown coverage assignments. Didn’t look good at all.
Without a doubt, the most exciting part was to see an opposing quarterback not be able to sit back and pick apart the secondary. The starting defensive ends — Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch — were very solid, consistently pressuring Byron Leftwich. To be fair, it was helpful that Pittsburgh decided to double-team Ndamukong Suh in the middle. That prevented Suh from making any big plays, but it left some for his teammates, and they took advantage. It’s exactly the kind of defensive line play the Lions will need in order to take some pressure off the secondary.
Obviously, though, this is all from one preseason game. Don’t rush to judgment. Let’s look for trends throughout training camp and preseason games — that will give us the insight we’re looking for.
Zac: The play of the first team defensive line excited me the most on defense (a popular answer, I’m sure). It was nice to see the guys that need to be depended upon come out with a really good collective effort. I know that same level can’t be expected over the course of a 60 minute game but there were some really encouraging flashes of brilliance, especially from Kyle Vanden Bosch. The offensive play that excited me the most was when Jahvid Best used his speed to turn the corner in a way that Lions fans are only used to seeing from opposing running backs. The defensive back play left me discouraged but I knew they would be bad. I was most discouraged by Derrick Williams’ decision to fair catch a punt at his own three yard line. It was a bonehead play, the kind of thing that makes you think “same old Lions”. I was probably more disappointed at the time than I am now because it was the first punt and put the offenses first possession deep in their own territory but the mistake is an inexcusable mental error.
Al: What was most exciting for me was seeing the Lions’ long dormant pass rush continually pound Byron Leftwich into the Heinz Field turf. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the Lions genuinely pressure the quarterback without the help of a blitz, I’d swear I was wearing a Member’s Only jacket and parachute pants at the time. (Hey! We all make mistakes…)
I realize it was only one quarter of one exhibition game. But it sure looks like Mayhew and Schwartz may have done a surprisingly good job of rebuilding what was the worst defensive line in the NFL…and the NCAA… and the MHSAA…and…you get the point.
What was the most discouraging was the glaring lack of depth on display once the 1st team offense and defense went to the bench. The Lions couldn’t do a thing on offense, didn’t make a difference who was under center, Shaun Hill or Drew Stanton. The defense was even worse, unable to even slow down, let alone stop, the Steelers’ 3rd string quarterback, Dennis Dixon. He literally ran wild in the 2nd half, as Dixon’s yards per pass attempt of 18.3 and QB rating of 158.3 explicitly show.
It’s obvious the Lions’ two-deep is more like one-shallow. It’s not as if I didn’t expect to see a startling lack of depth…but to see that shocking lack of depth in action (or more accurately, the lack of action) on the field with the Lions’ backups was still very disappointing.
We knew it was going to take time, and lots of it, to repair the damage done to the Lions franchise by Matt Millen. The lack of depth can’t be fixed in a season or two. It’s going to take years.
Unfortunately, we’re only in year two of the post Millen era.
Blades: Most exciting thing I saw was Best. Now if you frequent the Congregation you know I didn’t like the pick and I have some serious doubts about whether he can be an every down back in the NFL. Well, in his first game, he really surprised and impressed me. He didn’t run scared, he hit the hole hard and he used his speed nicely. Sure he had that one drop which lead to the INT but that’ll happen. I was pleasantly surprised and hope this continues.
What I didn’t like is exactly what people have been talking about, our lack of depth. Lets face it guys, the Lions are two or three injuries away from another potential winless season. I’m DEAD serious. If Calvin goes down (which he often does), if Delmas goes down and ANY starting LB goes down we are in serious trouble. I’ve said since day one the Lions will finish 4-12 and with a couple injuries, they’ll be lucking to go 2-14.
*Obviously the DL has great depth which is why I’m not worried about them*
DetFan1979: While the production of the preseason games is always marginal at best, for once the Lions’ first team offense and defense were not worse than the broadcast. The Dline brought consistent pressure the entire time they were in. Double teaming Suh just led to everyone else taking advantage — KVB, Avril, and Williams. Despite the double team, Suh still spent some time in the backfield disrupting running plays.
The first team offense took a few plays to get it going, but jelled very well and showed great potential. Best surprised me with how far he has come not in his running (which we figured would be good) but in his blocking and pass pro. The Lions split him out as a hybrid TE/Slot guy while keeping Felton back to block a few times — something I hope we see during the season as there are a lot of tricky plays to be run from that formation.
The bad, of course, was ugly in typical Lions fashion. Almost everyone who isn’t starting gave me reason to wonder why they were on the roster. The Lions have as much depth as the kids’ splash pad at the park. Zip. Zero. Nada. Only defensive tackle depth looked good by any means. It highlights how devoid of talent much of this roster is. Even scarier? Most of these horrendus backups are better than the guys who were starting two years ago.
It’ll take time, but Mayhew and Schwartz are certainly showing on the field the progress they are making — and if it continues, it gives solid hope that the Lions are being built into a perennial contender the right way. About time.