Friday, November 12, 2010

Lions Congregation: Felton and Fears

Welcome back to the Lions Congregation, where every week the panel of Lions Bloggers from around the web looks at topics and questions posed by our readers.  Want your question or topic to be discussed?  Email

This week, the panel once again looks at Jerome Felton and the short yardage run game as well as measuring their varying states of panic or non-panic as the case may be.

The Panel:

NetRat of The NetRat Detroit Lions Site
Zac of The Sidelion Report
Blades Boyd, DetFan1979 Contributor
Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog
Joshua Pung DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions

The Questions:

From Santa Cruz Lions Nut:  Am I missing something, or is Jerome Felton the hardest running back on the roster? From what I see, the guy has done well with the carries he gets, and seems to be tough to bring down on first contact.  Yet I can't remember any short yardage/goal line carries.  Between the tippy toe-ing of Best as of late and the average-osity of Smith, what am I not getting?

NetRat: It's not the RB that needs fixing for the short yardage game, it's the center of the OLine.  And that isn't going to happen.  Raiola is great at reading the defenses and getting the OLine in the right play.  He's also got a mean streak that coaches love.  His one negative is power run blocking.  He simply can not do it.  Since he gets stuffed the run play has zero chance, every time.  It shouldn't even be tried until such time as Raiola is no longer the center.

Zac: I agree that Jerome Felton should get more consideration, especially in short yardage situations. That being said, I don't think doing so gives the Lions a sure bet in those scenarios. Let's not project too much on Felton just because other guys aren't getting it done in a certain situation.

The problem that the Lions may encounter is finding a way to give Felton those opportunities without making it so painfully obvious to the opposition that he will be carrying the ball. I don't care how hard of a runner Felton is, he can't beat 11 defenders. I view the Lions' short yardage woes as more a function of their poor run blocking than the name and number of the back carrying the ball. Kevin Smith looks to be running harder the more his knee heals and Jahvid Best brings a versatility that allows the Lions to convert short yardage situations in a number of ways.

Blades:  I actually have to say Kevin smith is the hardest runner. But I guess this all depends on what your definition of "hard runner" is. To me, it's a gut who hits the hole the hardest and watching Kevin smith run when he gets the ball is really something. He's learned that he's not a fast guy in the NFL and unlike what he did earlier in his career, he hits the hole hard and if there's room to run, great, if not, well he still gets 3-5 yards cause he hits the hole so hard.

Steve: From the time of Jerome Felton's 2008 draft selection, the Lions have initmated that they would like to use his ability as a ballcarrier to their advantage.  They have used Felton upon occasion as an additional ballcarrier, to the tune of one or two carries per game.

The 2010 Lions have mostly featured Jahvid Best in their short yardage and goal line scenarios.  I believe that the Lions think that by using Best, and making opposing defense's honor him as both a running and pass-catching threat, they gain an upper hand strategically.

The mere presence of Best, as a player whose gamebreaking ability could potentially lead to a score during any play, limits the touches that all of the other running backs are currently receiving.   Even though Best has been pretty quiet since Week 2, while suffering from a turf toe injury, he still represents the Lions best rushing option.

In regards to Felton, I don't think he has shown enough in his limited opportunities to elevate his status from an occasional contributor to a more defined and integral part of the Lions offense.

DetFan1979:  I know that Felton is a fan favorite since he was drafted -- I'm one of many who has wanted to see more.  He can really drag guys along and bowl them over when he gets a head of steam going.  However, when he comes in on short yardage its an obvious run.  Leaving Best and/or Smith in the mix on 3rd and shorts makes for more options the defense has to prepare against. 

Felton is also not a pile mover -- few backs really are.  The Lions line is excelling at pass blocking, and despite Stafford's fluky injuries has allowed very few sacks.  They are not, however, a power run o-line -- especially up the middle where Dom is a few inches and some pounds away from the perfect center.  He does everything well except take on the nose tackle one on one and shove him back.  Honestly, how many centers really can?  Fewer than Lions fans think.  No players are perfect and just like the rest of us have strengths and weaknesses -- one of those weaknesses for Raiola is that he won't be knocking the opposing D-line 5 feet back on impact.  He does other things, however, very well. 

The Lions short yardage game won't improve until they figure out where and how they can run the ball in a small space taking advantage of the strengths of their linemen.

From the General Mailbag Topic: Lots of fans are in various stages of panic after last week's game.  Where do you fall in the spectrum?

NetRat: Panic after losing to the Jets in overtime?  Nah.  It says something the Lions made it to overtime.  I was ready (as were most fans) for the Lions to beat a seemingly unbeatable team, but that didn't quite happen (see my blog on it at ).  It does bode well for the future, oh and by the way, from here on out the Lions have one of the weakest schedule of opponents in the NFL North.  Shame about the injuries, we're going to miss Stafford once again, but Hill should do okay once he gets back into the swing of it again.  Hopefully before the Buffalo game gets out of hand.

Zac: I'm not sure where it falls on the panic spectrum, but I would describe my feels as supreme disappointment. The disappointment started with the blown game, then the realization that this season might be a complete waste from here on out, and then ultimately ended with reflecting on how things go wrong for this organization even when they are seemingly beginning to do it the right way. The injuries, Matthew Stafford's in particular, aren't a result of mismanagement. The Lions just aren't getting any breaks and I find that disappointing.

Blades:  No. We lost in OT to a super bowl contender. The Schwartz will learn from his mistakes. Besides, I like Shaun hill better then stafford right now anyways. The panic button should be the fact Stafford needs new shoulders and to be on the field instead of sitting in rehab collecting the big fat checks the Lions are writing him. 

Steve: I am disappointed by Matthew Stafford's injury and nebulous future status.  I am also concerned that the Lions 24-game road losing streak will continue, after this weekend's game at Buffalo,

However, I am not panicked, because the Lions have clearly been "here" before and as a 2-6 team, their season wasn't exactly successful, to begin with, even if there were several tangible causes for optimism.

Ultimately, should they eventually lose to a winless and undermanned Bills team this Sunday, panic may then ensue, because it will likely be an ominous sign of things to come as the season marches on.

DetFan1979:  Major Over-reaction aisle 9.  Seriously, I have heard a lot of fans moaning about the lost season now that the Lions didn't beat the Jets.  Sorry folks, but unless the rest of the NFC North all went on one heck of a losing streak and the Lions won out were playoffs in the picture.  They weren't realistically in the picture from day one. 

The lost season of experience for Stafford?  That I'll buy.  It sucks -- he's out again -- do what you have to do to keep him on the field.  However, this team isn't just about Stafford.  Shaun Hill led them to that blowout win versus a pretty decent St. Louis team.  The Lions have shown dramatic improvement since last season, and certainly don't look 2 seasons removed from going winless. 

What was the Jets game?  A team with lesser talent taking a legitimate Superbowl possible team and smacking it around into overtime. The Jets and Rex Ryan came in trying to indimidate and scare the Lions -- we're the big bad Jets and you are going to give us your milk money.  Instead, the Lions manned up, punched them in the face and said "make me you pompous jerk."  What followed was a heck of a brawl where the Jets ended up being luckier than the Lions, not better.  Period. 

Want to know how you can tell the Jets got shocked into respect?  Bart Scott was whining about dirty play by the Lions to justify his own horrid game.  There wasn't the usual "we whupped you" trash talk in the New York Media that typically follows a Jets win (from Ryan, players, and writers).  The Jets are a bully team who felt relieved to get out of Ford Field alive. 

We were hoping beyond hope the Lions would take the next step from contending to defeating top tier teams -- they didn't, but they still held their own.  This game was circled as a very likely loss earlier in the year, and instead came down to the wire. 

Panic?  Shaun Hill steps in again as starter and the offense can produce with him at QB.  Not only that, but the defense has actually been improving for the most part.  Wade actually got his bus ticket out of town, replaced by the surprise Alphonso Smith and the solid Chris Houston.  The Defensive line is feared at this point as one of the best in the league.  The Lions will still contend, and depending on how healthy Hill really is should still have a better than even money shot at beating both the Bills and Cowboys on the road.  They have a favorable home schedule, and if the Jets game is any indication should be able to give the Patriots all they want and more on Thanksgiving.  A win is unlikely, but hey -- stranger things have happened. 

This season was all about development and building to add depth and fill the last roster holes next ifseason.  Playoffs? They were more a dream than a goal, and the real goal of building a competitive team for the long term still holds and is still going on.  So there is no reason at all to panic.  Mayhew is still at the helm, and the talent will keep on coming.  Panic is not an option.

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