Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lions Congregation: Expectations

Welcome once again to the Lions Congregation!  I may be a day late, but certainly not a dollar short as we have 8 panelists weighing in on this weeks question in regards to how the Lions did (or did not) meet their pre-season expectations.  Have a question you would like to see answered?  Email the lionscongregation@yahoo.com  We also welcome new member Latif this week formerly a featured columnist at Sidelion Report who has now set up his own digs at House of Spears.


This Weeks Panel:

Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience

Zac of The Sidelion Report

Blades Boyd Contributor

Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog

Latif of House of Spears

Ty of The Lions in Winter

NetRat of NetRat Detroit Lions Page

Joshua DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions/DF79 Lions Site

Q: How did the Lions in reality stack up to your ifseason expectations of them prior to the 2010 season?

Al:  If you go by their W-L record, the Lions did meet my expectations. A 6-10 record and ending the road losing streak is what I predicted before the season. The Lions got to those six wins, and ended the streak...in the most unexpected way possible.

A four game improvement was pretty much the best case scenario for the 2010 season. Going into the final month, dragging along a five game losing streak, I was much closer to accepting the Lions' season would be the worst case scenario...two or three wins. But the Lions closed the season like a Wayne Fontes coached team. Picking up steam to end the year on the highest of notes, a four game winning streak against good competition.

So the season could be broken into three segments. The Lions met expectations in games 1-7 (going 3-4, as I'm giving them credit for getting jobbed out of a victory in the "process of the catch" BS), didn't meet expectations in games 8-12 (the ugliness of the five game losing streak) and exceeded expectations in games 13-16 (closing out 4-0, raising expectations for 2011).

Add it all together, and somehow, some way, the Lions met my expectations for the season. But it was a white knuckle, roller coaster ride.

Zac:   Last preseason I predicted a 6-10 record for the Lions this year so it would be easy to say that the Lions met expectations in 2010. That prediction was made under a set of circumstances that didn't pan out, most notably with lack of playing time from Matthew Stafford. Knowing what I know now I am inclined to say that the Lions exceeded what should have been expected of them. Credit goes to the coaching staff for staying steady in their preparation with Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton leading the offense and instilling an expectation to win in any situation. The players clearly believe in what the organization is doing and ended up taking a step forward despite trying circumstances.

Blades:  The Lions far and away exceeded all expectations for this season. I predicted them to go 4-12 and once Stafford went down, I expected them to go 2-14. If Shaun Hill could throw a spiral, there's a good chance we win another game or two as well. (Although he did a great job this season and is probably one of the top 3 back up QB's in the NFL, he has never thrown a spiral this season. The ball waves all over the place making it difficult to catch) Looking at the year, there's no reason this team shouldn't have been 8-8 because I consider the Bears game a win and the Jets game a win. (Suh missing the extra point) So, overall, the season has to be considered a success. At the beginning of the season I had each position ranked and now I have updated the rankings so the best way to answer this is to break it down. So here we go.


Pre Season Grade-B

Post Season Grade-A

I think it's safe to say the Lions have a top three backup in Hill and probably the best third string QB in Stanton. Both played really well at times this season and lead the Lions to wins against teams we normally have no chance again. Stafford is still a mystery to us all but based on what we've seen, we're set at QB if we can bring back Drew.


Pre Season Grade-C-

Post Season Grade-B

I didn't like the Best pick before the season and was highly critical of him because I couldn't justify spending a first round pick on a RB who is not an every down player in the NFL. Although I'll stick with that, because I still don't believe he's an every down player, he proved to be everything the Lions thought and maybe a little more. Although during the season he basically disappeared, I will chalk that up to his turf toe because he was great at the beginning of the year and decent to the end. I think Maurice Morris showed his value and his worth and is a viable backup. Although I've always loved Kevin Smith, I think his days as a Lion will come to an end at next years training camp because I promise you the Lions draft a RB this year in the mid rounds to try and upgrade that position a little.


Pre Season Grade-C

Post Season Grade- B+

This is based strictly on Pettigrew, CJ and Nate "the great" Burleson. I wasn't a huge fan of Burleson because of his injury status each year but this year he stayed healthy and was a great compliment to Calvin. We need to find a slot receiver because Bryant Johnson is simply brutal. And if Pettigrew hadn't dropped 18 balls this season, he would be considered a top tight end in this league but he still deserves credit for the 60+ catches he did make. The Lions will most defiantly draft another WR this year and hopefully that person can come in and play right away.


Pre Season Grade C-

Post Season Grade B-

Rob Sims proved he is everything the Lions thought and was a nice pickup for the Lions. He did exactly what we all expected, open some holes in the running game and not kill us in the passing game. Backus proved he isn't as bad as everyone thinks and had probably the best year of his career. Although I'm a HUGE Raiola fan because of his leadership, about game 6 I got sick and tired of watching him get pushed back every play. Don't be surprised to see to the Lions go out and pick up a centre to complete with Raiola in the offseason.


Pre Season Grade B+

Post Season Grade A+

Where we would this team be without the D-Line??? Everyone on the D-Line was lights out all season. The most underrated guy on that line though has to be Sammie Hill. This guy is the best run stopper the Lions have and he gets literally no recognition because of Suh and Williams. Hill is in on almost every play when he's out there and this guy is a starter on 25 other teams in the NFL. 


Pre Season Grade D

Post Season Grade D+

Levy is good and that's about it. Sure the other guys did a serviceable job but realistically, with the exception of Carpenter and MAYBE Landon Johnson, none of these guys should be on an NFL roster. The D-Line made everyone better and made everyone look better then they really are. I loved the Carpenter pick up when the Lions made it and I think he'll be back as a real good backup and possible starter. Keep in mind, this guy was a first round pick and he was real good for Dallas his rookie year. The problem came when Dallas went to a 3-4 and Carpenter is most defiantly a 4-3 LB. Expect the Lions to draft one, maybe even two LB's in this years draft.


Pre Season Grade F

Post Season Grade D-

Again, with the exception of Delmas, Houston and maybe Spivey and Alphonso Smith,  none of these players should be in the NFL next season. Sure Vasher had one good game and if he can get some confidence back he could make the team as a nickel corner. CC Brown is by far the worst player on the entire Lions roster and I don't understand how he made this team. He cannot tackle or cover!!!! I watched quite a few Giants games in 2009 and all I remember seeing is him getting burned which is why I don't understand why the Lions picked him up. He is awful and will probably never play again in the NFL. (can you sense the dislike I have for this moron) The Lions had themselves in a perfect position to get either Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara who are two of the best CB prospects to come around in a long time but in typical Lions fashion,(not that I'm complaining) they go out and win four straight and give themselves virtually no chance at either because they should be top ten picks. Linebacker and DB will see major overhauls this season and if the Lions can get a starter at safety, outside LB and CB in the offseason, look for a playoff push in 2011. If they can't or don't get a starter at each of those, look for an 8-8 or 7-9 season.

Special Teams

Pre Season Grade C

Post Season Grade B+

Logan was an absolute steal and Dave Rayner may be our new kicker next year. Enough said.

Steve:  When the Lions were 2-10, I was in a deep, I-can't-believe-this-is-the-"Same Ol' Lions"-again, kind of funk.   It was easy to acknowlege the hard luck losses and blown officiating calls, but I was certain that the Lions were on an irreversible path towards a 2-14 record and was concerned that Jim Schwartz's job would soon be in jeopardy.  I guess I kind of missed on that one.

Entering the season, with the expectations of a healthy Matthew Stafford, I considered the Lions a 4-12 level of team.  If things went well, I thought (optimistically) that they could possibly sneak away with six wins.


I had often lamented their misfortune, as a 2-14 team in 2009, of drawing such a difficult schedule, entering the 2010 season.


Other than an awful performance in Buffalo, an early season road loss in Minnesota, another road loss in Dallas, and an embarrassing second half meltdown against the 14-2 Patriots on Thanksgiving Day, the Lions were competitive and could have potentially won each of their games.


Now is not the time to dwell upon the game one victory that was robbed from Calvin Johnson's clutches, nor the combined coaching staff/Drew Stanton brainlock which lead to a horrifyingly excruciating loss to the Jets.


Four wins in a row to end the season, two if which were against legitimate playoff contenders, with each victory being perilously close, is enough to say that the Lions have clearly exceeded my expectations for 2010.

Latif:  I predicted 7-9 before the season started, and that's exactly what the Lions would've been if the zebras hadn't gotten in the their way. I thought the secondary was going to be improved, but they did go beyond my expectation. Of course, like most people, I didn't expect anything close to what we got out of the defensive line. On the offensive side, I thought the Lions were going to be better running the ball, but that clearly didn't happen. At the same time, I didn't expect the offensive line to be nearly as good as it was this past season.

Ty:    In terms of wins and losses, I had them at 7-9--so technically, they fell short.  However, those expectations were set presuming they'd have a healthy Matthew Stafford, and Jahvid Best would be an above-average NFL starter all season long.  I thought the offensive line would be much improved in the run game but still struggle against the pass, and the defensive line would be excellent, but the pass defense would be only mildly improved because of the just-as-bad-as-last-year secondary.

Of course, Stafford and Best outstripped my expectations in the short times they were 100%, and the defensive line was even better than advertised.  The O-line was still awful at opening holes, but they were one of the best pass protection units in the league.  The Lions secondary played gamely all year long--mysteriously improving throughout the season, even as almost all the starters were laid low by injury.  In the end, the Lions were a little better than average on offense, and a little below average on defense, and that's better than I expected--MUCH better, considering what I'd have expected if you told me Hill and Stanton would each start multiple games.

The most impressive thing, though, was the heart this team played with.  With the exception of the Buffalo game, the Lions played every single game as if it was for a playoff berth--and they surprised the hell out of some very, very, very good teams.  They took the step forward we've been waiting for them to take: out of the basement of the NFL, out of the basement of the division, and into consistent competitiveness.  The foundation is laid for them to go to the playoffs in 2011 (assuming there is a 2011).

NetRat:  I had expected the Lions to have a record of 7-9 in 2010.  I had also expected Stafford to play.  So I would have to say they exceeded my expectations by getting 6 wins playing backup quarterbacks for most of the year.

DetFan1979:   I felt the Lions – IF healthy could go as high as 8-8 this year.  That was a big IF since we had no idea what the depth, or even the starters were capable of.  Considering the numerous injuries all over the field – QB, or course -- but also in already weak areas like the secondary and LB .  Did the Lions find any starters in those reams of players?  I don’t know.  But they did find a lot of good, solid depth that outperformed what I would have expected/predicted had you given me the IR/Injury List then the Lions at a final record of 6-10 (7-9 minus Chicago travesty) I would give them a solid exceeded expectations. 

Q: Who was one player who met your expectations, one who didn't deliver, and one who exceeded your expectations?

Al:  Met expectations: Shaun Hill was picked up this past off season to give the Lions a legitimate NFL caliber backup quarterback. He was just that, and more, for the Lions. After seeing Hill capably step in for Matthew Stafford, and play through some painful injuries himself, I now know why Niners fans were unhappy to see Hill leave. Hill is exactly the sort of quarterback the Lions have been lacking on their depth chart since the days of Dave Kreig; someone who you have no qualms taking over under center when needed. Honorable mention: Nate Burleson, Deandre Levy, Calvin Johnson, the Lions' offensive line.

Didn't meet expectations: I hate to go there, and I'm still expecting big things in the future, but it has to be Matthew Stafford. The Lions aren't going to make the leap to playoff contender without Stafford under center. In his second season, I was expecting Stafford to make the leap, to become a top 15 NFL quarterback...and he badly injures his shoulder in the first game of the season. So much for expectations. Part of being a franchise quarterback is staying on the field. At this point, after two injury filled seasons, Stafford will be exceeding expectations if he can play a full season in 2011. Honorable mention: Jahvid Best, Julian Peterson, Johnathan Wade, the Lions' defensive back seven.

Exceeded expectations: I thought Ndamukong Suh would be a good NFL player as a rookie, but I kept my expectations in check. It's rare for a rookie to dominate at the defensive tackle position, and I didn't think Suh would more than be a solid contributor. I was wrong. Suh did more than have an excellent rookie season. He made an impact on on the NFL nation at large, from receiving consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, all but locking up the Defensive Rookie of the Year award halfway through the season, being voted to start the Pro Bowl and becoming the face of the Lions.  If that isn't exceeding expectations...then there is no defining the term. Honorable mention: Stefan Logan, Drew Stanton, Dave Rayner, the Lions' defensive line.

Zac:  A lot is expected from Calvin Johnson every year and he delivered in a big way this year to live up to his billing. CJ certainly wasn't an underachiever this year but he didn't have the ridiculous kind of year that he would need to exceed expectations.

Stephen Peterman was a big disappointment to me. He seemed like part of the solution rather than part of the problem in 2009 and the line really suffered after got hurt late in that season. Rather than building upon that positive he took a step back this and received a lot of heat for it. Peterman's foot injury probably played a bigger roles in his struggles than we knew but his season was a disappointment nonetheless.

The Lions had a roster full of players that could receive credit for exceeding expectations but Ndamukong Suh is the one my mind goes to first. Singling out Suh is high praise considering he came in as the number two overall draft pick but defensive tackle is a position that has required young players to adjust to the NFL over the course of a couple seasons rather than making an immediate splash. Not so with Mr. Suh, just the second defensive tackle to have a ten sack season in his rookie season.

Blades:  Rob Sims met every expectation I had for him. He was a real unsung hero for that O-Line. CC Brown didn't met expectations. I knew he was brutal but I honestly didn't know how bad he actually was. I fully expected him to be awful but not this awful. I honestly think he missed for tackles then he made and I'm not exaggerating at all. A lot of players exceeded my expectations so I'll just list them because there's too many to chose from. Christ Houston, Alphonso Smith, Jeff Backus, the entire D-Line and Nate Burleson just to name a few.

Steve:  The Lions are beginning to build a legitimately competitive roster that will only heighten expectations as time wears on.  The player who most met my expectations for performance in 2010 was Calvin Johnson.


Johnson has been someone that I have been occasionally critical of for disappearing in games, throughout his career.   I believed that he possessed superlative talent, but wondered if his cool, soft spoken demeanor kept him from accomplishing all that he was capable of.


At one point, I mentioned to several people that I believed that Calvin Johnson may be the single most overrated in the entire NFL.  I was wrong.


In 2010, Calvin Johnson made nearly all of the Lions big plays and routinely enforced his will upon Lions opponents, even as they devoted more and more energy towards limiting his production.


It is arguable that his pronouncement that he would only remain in Detroit after his contract expired if the Lions had become a winner, was a major motivating force behind the Lions turnaround.  Johnson's message was an organizational clarion call.


The one player who didn't deliver, due to forces largely beyond his control, was Matthew Stafford.  Stafford only played in three games, due to shoulder injuries, completing one from start to finish.  As a franchise QB, this season was disastrous for his development and is the one major chink in the armor of the Lions rebuilding program.  No one player is more crucial to the Lions future success than Stafford.


One player who exceeded my expectations was Cliff Avril.  In years past, I referred to Avril as "Kalimba (Edwards) Part Deux", largely because of his mesmerizing atheletic gifts but relatively low level of production.


This season, the Lions defensive line was likely the biggest difference-making personnel group in the entire NFL.   The Lions had been historically awful prior to this season.  The arrival of Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch made it so a player like Avril could flourish...and boy, did he!

Latif:  I think the only player that really met my expectations was Calvin Johnson. I don't think I have to say anymore about that. The biggest disappointment to me was Kyle Vanden Bosch. He did bring a veteran presence, and he did play well when on the field, but the injuries were a major concern when the Lions signed him and his absence did hurt the Lions in the second half of the season. Other than that, I really thought he needed to play more in control, and could've produced more sacks. As far a player that exceeded my expectations: its a tough call. I expected next to nothing out of both Lawrence Jackson and Alphonso Smith. To me, Smith is the bigger surprise as he was second in the NFL in interceptions before he got injured, and I don't think anyone saw that coming.

Ty:  I'd have to name Nate Burleson as the guy who was exactly what I thought he'd be: a dynamic player who could get open, get first downs, and get yards after the catch in the space created by Megatron.

One who didn't deliver?  I'll exclude Stafford and Best, because duh.  I was hoping for more out of Levy and Delmas this year, but they missed huge chunks of camp and preseason due to injury--and I think Delmas never really healed.  Peterman was hurt a lot, too.  I guess I expected Rob Sims to solve the interior run problems--and despite clearly being a huge improvement in pass protection, he didn't.  Still a good pickup, and I'll be intrigued to see what happens next year with Peterman, but again: no daylight up the middle was not what I expected.

So many exceeded my expectations, or met the very high end of my expectations.  KVB, Avril, Suh, Houston, Pettigrew . . . but Corey Williams blew me away.  Yeah, okay--the stupid penalties are stupid, and have to be curtailed next season.  But he was dominant in both phases of the game, and deserved a Pro Bowl berth almost as much as Suh did.  He was instrumental to the success of the defensive line, and defense as a whole.  I've gone on record as saying his will likely be my next jersey.

NetRat:  I would say Burleson met my expectations.  Backus exceeded my expectations (along with Suh and Williams on the other side).  Delmas, Levy and Stafford were a bit short.

DetFan1979:  Nate Burleson met my expectations for this year, and by proxy allowing CJ to as well.  Burleson came in and took the pressure off in the passing game as another player on the roster (finally!) at the WR position.  Unfortunately, no other WR on the roster remembered they need to run AND catch – not just run down the field.    Ndamukong Suh as well – I had a feeling be would be a dominant player out the gate, and he was.

Beyond the obvious in Matthew Stafford and Jahvid best,  I have to say Deandre Levy was my biggest disappointment.  I know he was playing through several injuries once he finally got on the field, but I was hoping to see all season the flashes that we saw the last two games.  He still has potential to be a great middle linebacker – potential doesn’t mean will, so now we have to wait another ifseason to see.

There are just too many players who exceeded expectations.  The entire Dline.  The pass blocking of the Oline.  The defensive secondary.  I have to say, I’ll settle on Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith.  Smith was leading the league in INT’s when he got injured, and while Houston didn’t do a lot in the INT department, he covered his guy and was a solid stabilizing force in the secondary.  For once we can look at the CB position and know the names of at least a few guys who will be playing in the fall.  I had no expectations that either of them would do anything (the same, apparently, as their former teams considering what Mayhew gave up for them).  While proving to be solid additions to the team, they definitely exceeded what I expected out of them.

Thank you again for visiting with the Lions Congregation!  Have a question or topic you would like to see answered?  Email lionscongregation@yahoo.com


NorthLeft12 said...

Good stuff guys. The one disagreement that I have is the observation that the D Line played worse when KVB went down. I think they played better. L. Jackson played lights out this season and in his limited snaps was only behind Cliff Avril in impact among the DEs.
I also strongly agree with the kudos for Sammie Lee. He has got to get more snaps in 2011. I know it is tough to sit Suh or Corey, but Hill deserves more playing time. The Lions have got a great D Line rotation.

DetFan1979 said...

I agree with you - the depth on the defensive line really came through. With Williams-Suh-Hill you have an exceptional 3 man rotation that few if any teams in the league can match.

RIP said...

I forgot which blog I made this statement, thinking it was Ty's, that our season will go with who got injured for we had little depth. I thought we could go 8-8 if the injury bug didn't hurt us too much.

So after the final training camp cuts, we bring in Logan, Jackson, and Smith. Not sure when we got Palmer from the waiver wire from Buffalo.

With Levy, Delmas, and Peterman starting the season, and staying limited all season, then loosing Stafford made the season better than I expected. And this does not include my harse criticism on the officials and reginal Fox crews.

The thing that was the greatest disappointment for me was the third WR. I expected more than what we got from B. Johnson and D. Williams. With the injuries to our QBs, Burleson, and C. Johnson, we needed more production from that third person (we even tried Logan to be that third guy). It really handy capped what Linehan was trying to do.

Suh by far exceeded my expectations. I didnt think he would be able to maintain his size over the course of the season, and to be as dominating as he was. I would also say the the whole coaching staff got more results from the roster then most of us would have realisticaly expect. Some critisized Linehan's play calling in the first couple games, and especially the Chicago game. First he was getting a feel for Chicago's new defensive coordinator. Then he had to deal with the injuries to Stafford, Best, and Burleson. This while B. Johnson and Pettigrew were killing drives by dropping passes. What was a coach suppose to do.

One person we missed was McBride. Last year we picked him up after he downsized to try and be an OLB. This year he had to try to rebulk up to play DE. Here is a second rounder who was picked up off waivers who contributed to our DL play, and most noteably after Avril went down with his hip injury.

RIP said...

With a new CBA going on, I do not expect much if any improvement for our back seven next year.

First you have the loses and potential loses of Peterson, L. Johnson, Follett, C.C. Brown, Houston, and Vasher.

Then we have the unknown of free agency and when that will start. It could be at the start of training camp.

Then there is the draft. Without free agency, more teams maybe more inclined to draft needs, like CBs. They will not if they can get a guy like the one from Oakland until this is settled.

With so many young guys coming off IR, there may not be time for continued developement with no OTAs this year.

So in summary, I think that the teams that benefit the most from a lock out are veteran teams. The ones that are hurt are teams still trying to improve, and especially teams with new coaching staffs.