Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lions Congregation: Felton and Smith

First off, my apologies.  This piece was supposed to appear on Monday, but did not publish correctly.  This week, the Lions Congregation takes a look at the situation in the backfield behind best with a couple of restricted free agents Kevin Smith and Jerome Felton.  Have a question or topic?  Email

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

NetRat of NetRat Detroit Lions Page

Question from Joseph B: With Felton demanding more of a role and the limited availability of Kevin Smith the prior seasons, what is the thinking of the front office going into the off season with these two players?

Al: I'm thinking they may have even less playing time than they did this past season. There's a reason both Smith and Felton made noises about wanting to leave Detroit (though Smith quickly backpedaled away from his original statement, and...well, no one really cares about Felton). They may have seen the writing on the wall.

Felton is a natural fullback, a position the Lions don't have much use for due to their preponderance of two tight end sets...for good reason. Who would you rather see on the field? Journeyman Jerome Felton or a combination of the extremely productive Brandon Pettigrew and play-making Tony Scheffler? I know who I want to see on the field...and it isn't the fullback. 

The Lions may try to find a big back capable of running between the tackles in the coming months, as, to be blunt, Felton has proven to not be that guy. He doesn't move the pile, and committed some costly fumbles in the attempt. What potential Felton once had has become nothing more than unfulfilled promise. I'd rather see Maurice Morris or a healthy Smith in a short yardage situation.

As for Smith, he still fancies himself as a feature back, though his production, injury history and lack of speed says otherwise. But he's under contract for another season, so it doesn't matter what Smith thinks he can do. It's what the Lions think Smith can do, and they must believe he's a backup...why else would they have drafted Jahvid Best in the 1st round last year?

If the Lions can improve their backfield depth, they will. But I doubt they'll spend a high draft pick or much money to do it. Which means we could very likely see Smith and Felton, whom are still under contract, return in the same roles they had this past season. Smith as the backup to Best, and Felton as the fifth running back, and only fullback, on the depth chart.

But if the Lions felt the need to move on from both backs, and let them walk, I doubt it would break any hearts...including that of the players themselves.

Zac:  It is often impossible to know what the front office is thinking so I will tell you what they should be thinking. They should be willing to bring Kevin Smith and Jerome Felton back next year but only on the organizations terms. Lets be honest, Smith and Felton are both easily replaceable and the Lions arent in such a desperate position that they need to bow down to either guy.

Jahvid Best will be the number one running back going forward and Smith hasnt shown a whole lot to distinguish himself from Maurice Morris. Jerome Felton failed to prove that he is a viable option to the teams short yardage woes. He does bring some versatility to the table but there is no use keeping him around if he isnt going to be content in his limited role. Simply put, he doesnt deserve an expanded role.

Im fine with both guys remaining as Lions into next year as long as they understand and accept their place in the depth chart. If they arent willing to accept that then the Lions have reason to keep them around.

Blades:  Felton is an interesting case because it seems he's a bit over valued. Now the question becomes is he over valued because of his potential or is because he's really that good. There's little doubt he's a good short yardage running back but he hasn't shown much else. He reminds me a lot of Kuhn from Green Bay. He'll never outrun anyone but can get the yards when needed. It's interesting but I think you will see the Lions use a lot more single TE sets with a full back in the game. Felton saw limited action because often the Lions would use a double TE look in the running game. If you watch the game when Morris rushed for over 100 yards, you'll see the Lions used less double tight end sets which lead to the success.

As for Kevin Smith, I've always been a huge fan but there's just something about running back who play for the Lions that wear number 34. It's a bad omen!!' James Stewart, Kevin Jones and now Kevin Smith are or were all top talents at the RB position but injuries quickly ruined their careers. Kevin Smith would be a great #2 because he can run, catch and block but by the sounds of things, he still wants to be a starter and don't be surprised if he seeks a trade in the offseason. Hopefully he gets healthy and can still reach his full potential!

Steve:  In my opinion, neither player should figure too heavily into the Lions future plans, when push comes to shove.


Felton, more of a hybrid fullback, than a true blocking, power fullback, has exhibited some playmaking ability, but has never taken ahold of the short-yardage and goal line back role that has been seemingly there for his taking. 


In regards to Felton, I am of the opinion that the Lions could do worse, but if an opportunity for an upgrade presents itself, the Lions need to take a look at it. 


If the Lions are going to become a true, power running between the tackles, play action, vertical passing brand of team (which would seem to suit Matthew Stafford), a hard-nosed fullback would go along ways towards helping to improve their offense.

As far as Smith is concerned, there are some things to like about his hands and his edgy brand of play.  That being said, his lack of true breakaway burst and a growing propensity towards injury makes him very expendable in my eyes.


I do not believe that Jahvid Best will ever become a pure, north-south, between the tackles runner.  I believe that the Lions could benefit from a split back situation that pairs the shifty, gamebreaking Best with a tough, between the tackles runner, who still possesses the afterburner's to break big plays.


With the Lions picking at #13, even with considering much they need help on defense, I believe that they should take a long hard look at Mark Ingram, Jr. from Alabama.  If Ingram, Jr. grades out worthy of being selected near pick #13, and all of their top defensive options are gone, the Lions could possess a down right explosive offense, with Ingram's addition.


If nothing else, the addition of a veteran like Ronnie Brown might be an option, too.

Latif:  I can see Jerome Felton coming back as a Lion. He is a restricted fee agent, but there aren't any teams dying to sign him away from the Lions. Early in the season, the Lions tried to use him as a power back, but that really isn't what he is cut out to be.  He is a decent option as a receiver every now and then and does a good enough of a job blocking. In my opinion, he is an average fullback in the NFL, but definitely doesn't need to be replaced. Personally, I would like to see him gone. Like I said, he is just average as a fullback and the Lions seemed to run better with Heller as the fullback. Heller obviously isn't a long term option, but there are some good ones out there. The first name that comes to mind is LeRon McClain. He is unhappy with his role in Baltimore, and he could definitely fill both roles of a power back and fullback very well. I'm not quite sure if McClain would come to Detroit, and would still take a fullback role, but he definitely is worth looking into.

As far as Kevin Smith goes, I think his time in Detroit and maybe even career in the NFL is over. Its been back to back seasons that he has ended up the IR, and has averaged less than four yards a carry. Plus, he already came into the NFL with a ton of millage. He will have to be replaced by someone, and I think Michael Bush is the best option in free agency (assuming he is a free agents). The next best option would be to draft a back in the mid rounds (3rd to 5th) because there are plenty of good backs in those rounds, but of course that requires the Lions front office to scout properly, which they have done in the past two years.

NetRat:  I believe Felton will see some competition in camp and may or may not make the final roster... in addition, he may be trade bait should anything come up.  Meanwhile, I re-tweeted this tweet earlier today.  @Omar Kelly RT by @theNetRat Ran into Lions RB Kevin Smith during my morning workout. He's a restricted free agent and told me to tell the Dolphins: "Come get me."  So Kevin Smith (RFA most likely) doesn't sound as if he likes the snow (that's a joke by the way).


This is why I commented on Kowalski's recent article that I wouldn't be so quick to rule out a RB in round 1 of the draft should one rate significantly higher then any defensive guy who might still be there at 13.

Thank you again for joining the Lions Congregation!  See you for another ifseason edition next Monday!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lions Congregation: Stafford = Playoff Push?

Time once again for the Lions Congregation!  Where Lions bloggers from around the web gather to ponder your emails.  This week, we glance at the playoffs and wonder could that be the Lions some day?  Maybe in the 2011 season? Assuming, of course, there is a 2011 season

The Panel:

Al of the Wayne Fontes Experience

Zac of The Sidelion Report

Blades Boyd, Contributor

Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog

NetRat of The Net Rat Detroit Lions Site

DetFan1979 of Roar of the Lions

Question from Blane H. : Does a Healthy Matthew Stafford make the Lions instant playoff contenders in 2011? Assuming there is no lock out of course.


Al:  If we're talking about the NFC West...definitely. But in a division with the Packers and Bears, who happen to be playing for the NFC Championship next Sunday?

Not yet.  Not as the Lions currently stand, anyway...unless Matthew Stafford can play linebacker or cornerback.

Even if the Lions don't do more than add a little depth on offense, they will have more than enough talent starting on that side of the ball to compete for a wild card. But the offense isn't the issue. This defensive back seven, especially at outside linebacker and cornerback, is the issue.

I love the thought of Stafford being the Lions' quarterback for a full season. Regardless of the Jets making the AFC title game, does anyone believe Mark Sanchez is the reason why? I'll still take a healthy Stafford over Sanchez. I really believe the talent differential if obvious.

So yes, Stafford legitimatizes the Lions, and they'll be considered a dark horse candidate to make the post season. But the only way the Lions can move from playoff dark horse to worthy contender is to solidify a defense currently in flux

Once the Lions know who will be starting at both outside linebacker spots and at least one cornerback position, then, and only then, can the talk turn serious about going to the playoffs with Matthew Stafford.

Zac:  Thanks for the question Blane. Everyone seems to have their own definition of what it means to be a playoff contender. To me, the teams that are playoff contenders at least show up in the "also in the hunt" column when the networks put up their graphical representation of the playoff picture. Does a healthy Matthew Stafford put the Lions in that position next year? I think he does.

As was the general consensus of the previous Lions congregation, this year's team met expectations with their 6-10 record. The big kicker is that they did that without the benefit of the man they drafted to be their all-world franchise quarterback. To put it bluntly, if getting Matthew Stafford back on the field doesn't provide another boost forward then the Lions have big issues.

I was encouraged by what I saw from Stafford in the limited amount he was able to play. Remember, the Lions won the only game he finished and were leading in the two he left. It doesn't sound like anyone in the locker room is questioning Matthew Stafford as a quarterback and a leader so there is no reason to expect that he won't have them "in the hunt".

Blades:  To answer the question just as in the answer is maybe. If the lions can upgrade cb and lb on the offseason then the lions are playoff contenders with a healthy Stafford. But then there is everything else. Everything else being I do not believe stafford can stay healthy and I honestly think at this time next year we will be talking about who will be our next starting qb. I think his shoulder is done and I think it's a mistake he doesn't have surgery. Now I know what you're thinking, "I'm

Sorry Blades, but I'll take a dr's opinion over yours any day." And most of the time I would agree. Only this time, I can speak from experience. I've had the exact same injury as stafford when I played D2 ball and I was told that it would heal itself. Since then, I've dislocated my shoulder 26 times (literally) till I was told I needed surgery. This will be a continuing injury for Stafford and until he gets surgery, the lions will be nothing more then pretenders instead of contenders.

Steve:  Regarding the NFL labor situation, you can almost guarantee that there will be an abbreviated off-season (No OTA's?) of some sort, but both parties (players and owners) know that they are much better off with football games occurring unimpeded, than not. 

At any rate, Matthew Stafford is a crucial piece towards any potential playoff contention that the Lions might be able to enjoy.  In Stafford's 9 1/2 (or so?) quarters of football this season, he looked confident and his arm was dynamic.The future health (beyond next season) of the Lions franchise is even more inextricably linked with the health and development of Stafford.  Regardless of their upcoming '11 success or failure, the Lions need Stafford to emerge as a reliable, yet threatening, commodity.The problem is, the Lions now have their opponent's complete attention and they will not be able to surprise anybody.  They possess considerable talent and improving depth, and their opponent's will prepare accordingly. 

What Stafford may represent, if the appropriate off-season additions and upgrades are made, is the final elusive piece which makes them viable as Super Bowl contenders.  Oh, what a difference a four-game winning streak makes...Now back to reality.

NetRat:  No.  It does make it more likely though.  The NFL is still a team sport and a few more pieces need to be found to make the team a little more solid.  Stafford would certainly contribute to the success of the team, but he alone is not enough to propel the team into the playoffs.

DetFan1979:  A healthy Stafford would make the Lions much more competitive, and certainly put them “in the hunt” for a playoff spot.  However, it would take a lot of luck. Just as important will be how the Lions fill out the defensive secondary and the linebacker positions this ifseason.  Stafford can throw to CJ all day, but the Lions can’t stop anyone, they won’t go anywhere in the playoffs should they luck into a trip there.

Have a question or topic you want to see?  Email the 

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Reddy Freddy

My middle daughter couldn't sleep so I told her she could watch playoff football with daddy. She told me she needed to grab her sock monkey Reddy Freddy because he loves football.  Pretty easy to tell which team he roots for isn't it?  Maybe next season, we'll be able to watch the Lions in a playoff game!

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  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 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

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Jersey Time

My brother and I have a tradition of making a trip to Ford Field just the two of us for one or two Lions games each year. Now, we finally took the plunge for our first Jerseys. Looking forward to next season already!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lions Congregation: Defensive Player of the Year?

Just one question this week before the Lions Congregation panel once again delves into what was, and what could be throughout another ifseason - and it regards the Lions' Pro-Bowl rookie DT, Ndamukong Suh.

the Panel:

Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience 
Zac of The Sidelion Report
Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog
Joshua of DetFan1979 Lions Blog

Q:  Should Ndamukong Suh also be getting strong consideration for Defensive Player of the Year, not just Defensive Rookie of the year?  Will he win one or both?  Thoughts?

Al:  If there is a player who could win one of the NFL's 2010 awards unanimously, Suh taking Defensive Rookie of the Year could be it.

There's no doubt in my mind, Suh is an outright lock for DROY. He has been since mid season. The Lions prize rookie has been dominant from game one, and is still dominant going into game 16. There's not many, if any, first year interior defensive linemen who have to be game planned..except forNdamukong SuhOffenses ignore him at their peril...which they don't, as Suh is double teamed on almost every snap. 
Suh is starting in the Pro Bowl for a reason. He's damn good, and going to get better. The NFL can start engraving the DROY award with Suh'sname. 

As for Defensive Player of the Year, it's not going to happen. The NFL's DPOY award will almost assuredly go to either Packers LB Clay Matthews Jr. or Ravens DT Haloti Ngata. Both are excellent players having great seasons. But more importantly, the Packers and Ravens are teams with winning records and are going to the post season (Ravens are locked in, Packers hold their own destiny, or could back in with help).
Suh will get his shot at DPOY/MVP awards. It could happen as soon as next season...if the Lions to continue to improve in the standings. 

I'll go on record right now. If the Lions become a consistent playoff contender in the next few seasons, Suh will win a least one Defensive Player of the Year award. You can book it. But it won't be this season. Not that Defensive Rookie of the Year is a bad consolation prize.

Hope all is well, and happy holidays!
Zac:  Ndamukong Suh deserves consideration for Defensive Player of the Year but I don't know that I would go so far as to say strong consideration. I'm sure his name will pop into the head of many voters when they think about the great defensive players of this year but there are a lot of other players that are worthy of the award. Justin Tuck's 75 tackles, 12 sacks and 6 forced fumbles give him a strong resume for the award and I might consider him the front runner. Patrick Willis, Cameron Wake and Clay Matthews have also had great seasons. Suh has to be the favorite as Defensive Rookie of the Year, followed by Devin McCourty, and could be a Defensive Player of the Year winner in the next couple of years.

Steve:  Should Ndamukong Suh receive consideration for NFC Defensive Player of the Year? Hell, Yes!

Let the results speak for themselves:

Suh has:9 sacks (1st for DT's)
60 combined tackles (3rd most for interior linemen, 1st DT)
1 interception returned for 20 yards
1 fumble recovery returned for a TD

Individual defensive statistics can be misleading, but let's look at some of the changes in Lions team defensive statistics from 09' to '10:

The Lions Total Team Defense was ranked 32nd in '09, and is currently 22nd in '10. They are allowing 39.7 fewer yards per game (392.1 to 352.4) and .5 yards fewer per play (6.1 to 5.6).

The most noticeable improvements have been made in team pass defense:

Opp. Pass Comp Pct: 68.1 to 63.8
Opp. Passing Yards: 4, 249 to 3, 361 (a decrease of 888 yards)
Avg: 8.1 to 7.5 (a decrease of .6 yards per pass)
Opp. Yd/G: 265.6 to 224.1 (a decrease of 41.5 yds/g)
TD/INT: 35/9 to 23/13 (12 fewer TD's, 4 more INT's)

Here is where Suh, and I believe the performance of the entire Lions defensive line has made it's biggest difference.

Completed Passes of 20 yards or more: 54 to 41
Completed Passes of 40 yards or more: 41 to 9
Sacks: 26 to 41 (+15!)
Opp. Qb Rating: 107.0 to 91.1

Opponents are being pressured to deliver shorter, quicker passes. Opposing Qb's are not being allowed to find a rhythm, nor are they able to exploit the weaknesses still lurking in the Lions secondary.

The Lions defense is still far from dominant, but even after injuries and roster deficiencies are accounted for, this team could not have possibly improved this much defensively solely because of another year of tutelage under Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham.

The Lions defensive line has been the single biggest factor which has made this team competitive and appearing on the verge of better things to come. An argument can be made for Corey Williams being the most dominant DT on the Lions roster, but no Lions defensive lineman has exhibited the playmaking and difference-making ability of Ndamukong Suh.

Suh's pernicious attitude on the field, which has consistently drawn double teams from opponents, has been infectiously influential upon the entire defense. The Lions defense is playing with a chip upon it's shoulder and not allowing opposing QB's to become comfortable.

In all likelihood, Suh will not receive legitimate consideration for the NFC Defensive Player of the Year. He has yet to establish the kind of pedigree or track record necessary to receive that kind of notice. That being said, watching one of the league's all-time worst pass defenses become viable and respectable, albeit still residing in the middle of the pack, largely has to be attributed to the Lions biggest off-season addition, Ndamukong Suh.

Suh is a shoo-in for NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year, and is a top five finalist for NFC Defensive Player of the Year. If nothing else, no one off-season addition can be considered to be remotely as propitious as the Lions draft selection of Suh, who has changed the face of the entire franchise.

Josh: What can I say?  DROY is a cold stone lock.  Possibly unanimous.  Devin McCourty is mentioned, but while having a good season, how many other rookie DT's have been double teamed from their first snap in preseason?

Yeah. Exactly.  Suh is all he was advertised to be and more.  All those temper your expectations people are looking at his performance this season and making us wonder if this is his rookie year, what better things are to come?  Hellz yeah.  Good to be a Lions fan right now.

As for Defensive Player of the year...while the Lions are tagged as up and comers for next season, the team improvement as a whole, and Suh's impact on that just isn't registering for the national media yet -- and they just don't watch Lions games still.  The Lions GM isn't mentioned as a GM of the year candidate, despite having a 6-10 record with no starting QB all season, and the numerous trades and moves that brought the Lions from expansion team talent to competitive in just 2 years.  All this despite facing one of the toughest schedules in the NFL in terms of playing teams with winning records.  Same for Schwartz.

All that being said, a lot of deserving defensive players had great years, and the voters will consider Suh "awarded" for his efforts with the DROY.  Someone else will get the DPOY.  Next year, however...

If the Lions are in contention and make the playoffs, I'm guessing that the Lions will have lots of candidates for awards (outside of their two pro-bowlers CJ and Suh).  And it is very possible.

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