Welcome back to the Lions Congregation! A weekly gathering of Lions Bloggers from around the web to discuss your questions. This week, the panel looks again at the cornerback situation, as well as where that blowout against the Rams appeared from…
This Week’s Panel:
1. Najacks00 asks: if smith and houston continue to develop as they have this year. do the lions pass on taking a cb in the draft and focus on linebacker and the oline? it seems to me they have two young, talented players in (Alphonso) smith and (Chris) houston.
Phil: I know it’s a popular topic for Lions fans, but I really, REALLY hate talking draft when the season isn’t even halfway over. It makes the season excruciatingly painful, and can often be pointless. After all, there are a million things that can affect the Lions’ eventual draft picks, including things within the organization, things with other NFL teams, things at the college level and things with the prospects themselves.
I do agree this is an interesting point, though, regarding Smith and Houston. The Lions have seen some solid play from the two, albeit over a brief period of time. The only thing I can say, ONLY under the assumption that the two CBs don’t get dramatically better or worse for the remainder of the season, is thatDetroit ’s need for corners is decidedly less dramatic. If there is a stud left tackle or linebacker when the Lions pick in the first round, for example, I could easily see them going in that direction. But don’t forget the one intelligent thing Matt Millen said as the team’s general manager: You can never have enough cornerbacks. We’ve seen the Lions go through corners like Lady Gaga goes through makeup, be it due to injury or due to awful performance. So while I think the two young corners’ play will affect Detroit’s direction on draft day next year, I don’t think they’d kick Patrick Patterson out of bed if he was there when they were on the clock
Steve: Much like the Lions inexplicably imprudent decision to trade LB Ernie Sims for TE Tony Scheffler prior to the 2010 season, the Lions will likewise not have the luxury of passing on a talented young cornerback, should one be the best player available at their draft slot in the 2011 draft.
The Lions front office made the off-season decision that Sims was a bad fit for their current defensive scheme and that he was merely a surplus player, because they believed that they had enough depth in that personnel group. Even if Sims was not a star player, he was tenacious and had a nominal understanding of the Lions defense.
As it turned out, Jordan Dizon sustained a season-ending injury, DeAndre Levy has been severely hobbled by injury, and their replacement stop-gaps,Landon Johnson and Spencer Havner, have both been asked to play far too often, while struggling with injuries themselves.
In the end, the Lions can never have enough talent at a premium position like cornerback. As excited as we all are as Lions fans about the emergence ofAlphonso Smith and Chris Houston, the Lions should always be able to utilize more talent in that position group, regardless of the circumstances.
NetRat: Denver had traded away a 1st round pick in 2010 to acquire Alphonso Smith in the 2nd round in 2009, they felt that high on him. I don’t know if it was the scheme or personality clashes or what exactly but Denver gave up on VERY fast. The Lions got him for a song (in comparison) and if Gunther can coach him up to starting material that is fantastic and could easily solve a part of the CB situation for many years. Chris Houston also appears to be a victim of the scheme/coaching in Atlanta, at least at this early point in time. Both players, if they continue to develop, could significantly cut down on the timeline required to install a competent secondary. There is an old axiom though, you can never have too many [good] cornerbacks. If there is one ranked high in the 2011 draft when it’s your turn you take him.
On a side note: The odds of the Lions taking anyone for the OLine in the first 3 rounds is very near Zero. The Lions do not see the OLine the way most fans do.
Zac: If Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith can finish out the year looking like legitimate starters it will certainly increase the Lions flexibility in the 2011 draft. You are right that the offensive line and linebacker positions could trump the cornerback spot under that scenario but I don’t think it takes it completely out of the equation, it will come down to the where they Lions end up drafting and what their draft board looks like. The question immediately made me think of the Jets situation a year ago. With Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie already on the roster the Jets used their first round pick on another corner, Kyle Wilson. The Jets are in a position to add depth in a way the Lions aren’t yet, but the point remains the same.
DetFan1979: I’m going to skip the part about the drafty impact at this point because it is way too early to be thinking draft. There is a lot of football to be played yet this season, and who knows what is going to happen. I expect the Lions to continue drafting BATFAN. You can never have too much talent — and Mayhew has shown a knack for finding it.
However, the question of the cornerback position may just be answered for the most part. Guess having a former DB as a general manager is helping (unlike having a former LB who couldn’t find talent if it tackled him). Right now it looks like Martin Mayhew made a good trade for Chris Houston. We’ll see how he holds up now that teams won’t be able to just throw at Wade all the time. As for Smith Martin Mayhew looks to have taken Josh McDaniels and company to the cleaners, lunch, and then mugged them on the way home. A promising but unspectacular 2009 7th rounder for a 2009 2nd rounder who has 3 INTs including a Pick-6 in only 4 games, starting one and missing all of training camp with the Lions since he was in Denver.
When you take into account the potential of Jack Williams coming off pup (an excellent nickel corner from what I’ve read) and Aaron Berry coming off IR next year then the biggest (only) glaring defensive need could be a safety and a couple of linebackers. How amazing is that?
For now, I’ll enjoy the rest of this season a lot more knowing that at least a couple of players in the secondary are taking advantage of all that pressure being put on by the Dline.
2. Jsmitty3715 asks: I know the Lions dominated the Rams who were 2-2, but are the Lions that much better than St. Louis or more talented? Lucky? This blowout seemed to come out of nowhere.
Phil: Here’s what it boils down to: the Lions are an honest-to-goodness NFL team. We don’t know how good they are, but we do know how bad they aren’t. They’re no longer the absolute bottom-feeder of the league, and a legitimate contender for worst team of all time. So what does that have to do with your question? It boils down to four words: On any given Sunday. That’s pretty much always been the case in the NFL, but the Lions had been rotting to the core for so long, it reached a point where only Detroit stood no chance of winning each week.
In Week 5, we saw what can happen when an NFL team with a modicum of talent fires on all cylinders and meets a team that is starting a rookie quarterback and is having an off day. It’s ugly. And we’ve been so used to the Lions being on the wrong side of the ugly ledger that we’re taken aback when we see them doing the destroying. Sam Bradford is obviously a talented quarterback. But on this particular Sunday, the Lions got up quickly – just likehead coach Jim Schwartz wanted to do – and put the rookie in the unfamiliar place of having to mount a comeback in the NFL. He also lost his top receiver when Mark Clayton was injured in the first quarter.
To answer the question, I’d say this: The Lions have had a tougher schedule so far this year. They just put a whoopin on the Rams. And I know this is a definitively better St. Louis squad than the one that nipped Detroit for its only win last season. So yeah, I do think Detroit is better, and probably more talented, than St. Louis .
Steve: The Lions aren’t 38 points better than the Rams, that much is clear. In an increasingly wacky, topsy turvy, NFL season, the Lions clearly caught the Rams at the right time.
The Lions are better than their 1-4 record and could easily have a 4-1 record, judging by their three close losses. The Lions have a potent offense and an improving defense.
Conversely, the Rams play in a weak division and possess a defense who had been a little lucky, entering the Lions game. The Rams defense had allowed the 4th fewest total points, despite having a defense which was in the bottom third of yards allowed. Sam Bradford hasn’t often looked like a rookie in his performance this season, which was clearly not the case on Sunday.
Ultimately, Sunday’s game from the opening onside kick, plain got away from the Rams. If the two teams played three games, one at each home site and a third at a neutral site, I would be far from surprised if the Rams eventually won two out of three.
That being said, the Lions won convincingly for a reason. I think that the Lions have more playmakers on both sides of the ball than what the Rams currently possess. On Sunday, the stars lined up, and coincidentally, nearly all of the Lions playmakers produced results, which lead to the 44-6 blowout we all witnessed.
NetRat: The Rams were the lucky ones. Their schedule gave them some easy games allowing them to get to 2-2. The Lions on the other hand had the bad luck to lose one game (Bears) via an officiating mistake (and I will proclaim that as so for the rest of my life) and then also lost their starting QB for going on 5 weeks along with a tougher schedule. Hill has improved each week but he is not a franchise QB. Stafford isn’t [a franchise QB] yet either, but he is supposed to be well on his way to one… instead he’s learning a whole lot less each week sitting on the sidelines. The Lions managed to reduce the number of their own errors on defense, offense and special teams during the Rams game and thus were able to overcome the officiating and the opponent to secure a win. They will have games all year where one or two aspects of the team shine… will we see another game where all 3 do at the same time? Hard to say. If we do see it again, they will win that game as well, handily. The Lions roster does have superstars on it, more then one, more then a handful actually. It’s all a matter of them playing as a team.
Zac: Despite the score on Sunday the Lions and Rams are probably in similar places as teams. The Lions used an aggressive approach and capitalized on the opportunities presented to them rather than simply blowing the Rams away on talent alone. They weren’t lucky, they were prepared and executed their game plan to near perfection. Prior to the game some wanted to say that the three close losses in their 0-4 start represented progress while other said that talk of progress was premature since they had not won. The outcome of the Rams game gives credence to former rather than the latter. The blowout might seem to have come out of nowhere but looking back, there were some signs of its potential.
DetFan1979: For those who were watching, the Lions are as Don Banks put it “the best 1-4 team in football” according to the players he has talked to. St. Louis had a favorable home schedule to start the season. Detroit had a brutal division road schedule. I think that Lions have actually done a better job than St. Louis of stocking talent, and it showed. They also played tough and disciplined where the Rams imploded once they fell behind — a familiar place for the Lions but one the young St. Louis team had not been in yet. We all know how easy it is for a team to go from getting beat to totally routed in our long experience losing as Lions fans.
I also think the Lions have been playing tough every game thus far without letting up. The biggest difference in the game against St. Louis is that all three units — Offense, Defense, Special Teams — shined and played their best games. They also limited untimely mistakes, and for once Shaun Hill didn’t throw a couple of red-zone turnovers. Remember, he had at least two of those in each of the prior three games. That more than anything helped keep momentum on the Lions’ side — and points on the board.
Are the Lions really 38 points better than the Rams? Last Sunday, yes. Any given Sunday? That’s why they play the games. For the Lions’ upcoming opponents they all got notice that the close losses by the Lions were no fluke — it was the Lions playing up to the competition, not the other way around. Any given Sunday has meaning for Lions fans again for the first time in a long time.
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