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Rebuilding the Lions

By Imperical Evidence

So , once again we as Lions fans are at that time in the season where we look forward to free agency and the draft. The Lions did add some young talent in the off season , but obviously still need a tremendous amount of overhaul. Where do they look to improve the team?
I think they should consider longterm solutions a little more this off season. One of the major hurdles the Lions face in rebuilding is the defensive side of the ball. It's very bad.

There are a few problems here , and some of them have to do with long term answers. Larry Foote signed a one year contract , and the Lions need to answer the MLB position for the long term. Is DeAndre Leavy the long term answer at MLB? If Levy moves to the middle , does Jordan Dizon become a starter at OLB , or does Sims remain a Lion?

Even if Ernie Sims can find his way in the Gunther Cunningham system , will Julian Peterson become a cap casualty? This year Julian Peterson will make $6.5 million , next year $7.5 million , and in 2011 Peterson will make $8 million. Thats a contract that demands performance , and so far Peterson hasn't lived up to it. Bodden had a huge contract to play cornerback here , and after a 1 interception season he was released. I think the situation is very close to the same with Peterson.

Grady Jackson will be 37 next year , playing defensive tackle for the Lions. He will still have a year left on his contract after next year. Who do the Lions really have at defensive tackle that can make an impact on the game? There isn't anyone. Sammie Hill has some upside , but is a project.
That leaves Landon Cohen and Joe Cohen , both younger players. They are not impact players. Time will tell.

Cliff Avril showed promise at defensive end as a rookie , but this year has been a disappointment. The Lions need an impact DE that can pressure opposing QBs and change the flow of a game. They don't have one.
The safety spot does show some promise for the future with Louis Delmas here for the long term. I think he will become an impact player that will be the leader on defense. The other safety spot? Weak , but I think there are other areas on the defense that need more immediate attention.

Cornerback is a weak spot on either side of the field for the Lions. Buchanon hasn't performed as well as many thought he would when the Lions got him. Anthony Henry has made a few big plays , but he has also been beaten over the top on pass coverage many times. This Lions defense gives up a lot of points , over 30 a game. They desperatly need a cornerback that can cover some of the best receivers in the NFL. Can they draft one? Well , they would get a project. Impact corners right out of the draft are rare. They can also be found in the second and third rounds of a draft. I think the Lions might need to make a trade or look to free agency to fill this need , and it might not be long term. They might also draft a good corner for the future.

So how do we set all these needs in order?
I think a defensive tackle remains the biggest need on the defensive side of the ball , and the reason can be explained with an understanding of a 4-3 defense. The front seven of any defense have the responsibility of pressuring the opposing QB and stopping the run. In a 4-3 defense , 4 of those front seven are linemen. Two of them are defensive tackles. In a 3-4 defense , there are still 2 defensive ends , only one Nose Tackle. The defensive tackles and nose tackle are usually the biggest players on any defense. Now , in the 3-4 , there are 4 linebackers. This allows for more versatile blitzing and pass coverage schemes. In the 4-3 , the 2 DTs become more important in getting pressure on the opposing QB , not just stopping the run. If a safety is brought on a blitz , that leaves 3 in the secondary to cover pass routes. If this is a passing play , they better get pressure on the QB. In a 3-4 , blitz the safety and drop a linebacker back into coverage. If the 2 defensive tackles can get pressure on the opposing QB , that means the defensive ends will not get doubled up on , and they can get a cleaner pass rush. That also means the secondary will not have to try to cover receivers for a long time on any one play. No secondary can cover forever. Sooner or later a receiver will get open.

I think the Lions need a defensive tackle the most on defense , followed by a lockdown cornerback.

The one thing that could make that not happen has a name: Matthew Stafford. If the Lions don't get a left tackle high in the 2010 draft , he could have a short career here in Detroit. He has been injured twice this season , and played today with a seperated left shoulder. I don't think that was wise , and it was worse leaving him in the whole game , even after all was lost. In my opinion the lions do not have a solid #2 QB , so maybe throw Stanton in there? Culpepper will be gone at the end of the year , and sooner or later the Lions need to see if Stanton can play for an extended time if needed without getting injured. Stafford threw 5 touchdown passes against the Browns , it was hard watching the game today against the Packers. He has the talent , the injury was obvious.

The running game still needs improvement , but part of that problem is that the Lions are not running the ball as much as I would like. Today Stafford had 43 passing attempts. Kevin Smith had 18 carries. Last week , against the Browns , Stafford had 43 passing attempts. Kevin Smith had 12 carries. I would like to see Kevin Smith get 20 carries a game , but that will not happen behind an offensive line that dosen't block very well. Kevin Smith has been playing hurt a lot this year. A left tackle high in the draft would also help the running game. Kevin Smith is a solid runner and good in the receiving game , but hasn't shown the breakaway speed in the open field. The Lions might need to look for another running back.
I don't think any readers want to read that thye Lions need another wide receiver , but they do. Question is , where do they fill this need? They can draft one , trade for one , or sign one in free agency.

So on offense I think the Lions need a left tackle the most , another wide receiver , and another running back.

All of the above adds up to a few different ways things can happen.

The draft that would make me gag would be an offensive draft taking a wide receiver or running back in round one , the one not taken picked in round 2 , then looking for defense in round 3 and beyond. I think we have all seen enough of this draft strategy.

I wouldn't mind seeing the Lions draft a defensive end or tackle in the first round , then looking at left tackle or cornerback in the second , then fill in the ones not taken in the 3rd and beyond , either a DE , DT , or cornerback. I do think the Lions need to take a left tackle in one of the top 2 rounds in the 2010 draft.

I think the best draft strategy at this point would be to take that left tackle in round one , then go after a defensive tackle in round 2. Round 3 needs to be a good cover cornerback. Maybe look at a LB or guard in round 4 , round 5 needs to be a #2 type QB or RB. Fill in the blanks after that. Add in free agency for that receiver , or trade for one , and maybe go after a good DE there too.

There are many more ways this all breaks down , I just wanted to break down a few of them. I would love to see all defense in the next draft , but that offensive line needs to get fixed and the future of Matthew Stafford depends on it.


  1. Imperical Evidence,
    Wow, I could have written that article, probably not as articulate though. The only thing I'd change is; no RB, QB in the draft. KS and Stanton will have to do until 2011. Get a WR through FA next year concentrate the entire draft on the treches and DB's. Like it or not we're going to need a replacement for Hanson sooner or later. I think he starts collecting Social Security in 2012. Rustylion

  2. I would appreciate any and all ideas on the draft and free agency , so post away!!!
    This could turn into a long list of good ideas , but you need to post yours.

  3. Pit78
    I think I agree with waiting on the RB , but there might not be any QB answers out there in FA because of the collective bargaining agreement and the extra 2 years added before FA.

  4. Imp,
    Good cover corners are really hard to find in the third round, and if you find one it may be that they only become starters when they become eligible for free agency. Ronde Barber was one. Do you or other posters know of any others? I'd go for a DT or CB in the first round depending on which is the best player at that point in the draft. I'd also go for the best corners I can in free agency to expand my draft options. Then, depending on their first round choice, I'd go for the best of the other or the best developmental left tackle. I'd get a guard in the third if there's a good one available, there've been a lot of good ones found there over the years. Later picks will depend on Mayhew finding players that don't have a high profile but fit what Schwartz and his coordinators want.
    Pressure up the middle creates pressure on the outside. DE may have to wait a year. Can't do everything all at once. If they get good athletic guys in the bottom rounds, you may get a few who produce, but the odds are really low.

  5. I say pickup your RB, WR, QB prospects off of the other teams practice squads about two weeks before the end of the season. That way you get some prospects other teams thought were good enough to keep around, but don't have to pay their checks till the last two weeks. You might also pick up a good LT as well, since they don't seem to explode on the scene, and need a couple of years of seasoning before being any good. Trade the Cohens as bookends, and buy a book on drafting for the trenches. Then take DT ist and 2nd round. Then a D-end project with upside, then BPA, the rest of the draft.

  6. Looking for talent in free agency is a waste of time this year, as you can see, very few good players want to sign a contract with the lions. Fix the Lines. You fix the Lines and then players will see you making the necessary moves and want to then play for a team with a future. No Linemen, no future! Worry about cornerback after you fix the lines!

  7. Keep the ideas coming!!!
    Great stuff , hopefully the Lions do some of this.

  8. From my understanding of this uncapped year the rules of free agency change. From what I heard very few players will be moving, and if they do the Lions have a better shot than normal. I believe in the current system a player is a FA after 4 years, but in the uncapped year it changes to 6. Also playoff teams are unable to sign FA until they lose a player of similar stature. So unless the Cowboys cut players they will not be able to stack their team with all the best FA this offseason. That leaves the lower tiered teams a better oppurtunity to sign FA's.
    I believe I heard this in one of the Killer's podcast a month or so ago.

  9. But back to the matter at hand, defense, defense, defense. DL and CB should be the main focus of this draft.

  10. A player is a free agent depending on the length of the contract he signs with the team. A first round high draft pick can sign a contract up to 6 years long , a later first round draft pick can sign a contract up to 5 years long , and second round draft picks can have contracts up to 4 years long. In the last year of the collective bargaining agreement , the season is uncapped and players get 2 years added until they are eligible for free agency. In an uncapped year this is one of the checks to keep the league balanced so that a big market team can't get all the best free agents.
    There will not be a lot of free agents available , but keep in mind any team can release any player from his contract. There will be free agents out there , just not as many.

  11. Right, so it may be a limited pool of free agents, but the Lions might not have as much trouble as they did in the past because the better teams may be standing pat because they don't want to release their players.

    And if they release players from there contract they still have to pay the guaranteed money. So that usually

  12. Sorry, I am at work and lost my place...

    So that usuallly means teams will hold on to what they have unless there is a huge upgrade for them to get.

  13. I would like to see us have a shot at Steve Breston and Kyle Vanden Bosch. Then Draft Gerald McCoy with the 1st pick as I think Sue will be gone. Then I like Crezdon Butler CB from Clemson in the 2nd Projected 40 Time: 4.39.
    43 tackles, four picks, five passes broken up and 3.5 TFL Height: 6-0. Weight: 185 and the 3rd round Kyle Wilson CB from Boise State Height: 5-10. Weight: 187. Height: 5-10. Weight: 187. 10 passes broken up and five picks three punt returns for touchdowns average of 14.2 4th round OT Zane Beadles from Utah


  14. I really think with a good offseason the Lions could be a .500 team bext year.

    The Raiders are strapped for cash currently trying to sell 10% of there team. We almost traded for Asomugah earlier this year lets make it happen in the offseason the Raiders want to get rid of his contract. Trade Ernie and a 3rd rounder for him.

    Get out your pocketbook WCF and sign Carlos Rogers and Logan Mankins/or Marcus McNeill.

    Then draft like this.....

    1(4) Eric Berry S Suh is gone no great LT worthy of top 5
    2(36) Corey Wooton DE
    4(100) John Jerry RG
    5(132) D'Anthony Smith DT
    5(156) Bryan Anderson WR
    6(164) Thomas Austin C
    7(196) Leigh Tiffin K

    I would be happy with this...2 new corners with starter skills
    2 new guards and maybe even a LT if you sign McNeill and move Backus to LG
    Eric berry along with Delmas as safeties and Rogers and Asomugah as cb's
    Hopefully they could get the unlimited potential out of Dunlap.
    Kicker of the future
    Project WR from CMU


  15. I would look much more for a very good LG then LT. While Backus gets a lot of crap he isn't the worst player on the line, and also isn't going anywhere. If we get a good LG then the Dom and Backus get something to solidify the line as well as getting a true run blocker. Kevin Smith while not talented is serviceable if the line is able to open holes.

    The defensive side of the ball is where I would spend the time and money. I would take a DT as high as possible, which may be round 1 if Suh is there or round 2 and then take the best CB in round 1. I also think that Levy or Follett can take Peterson's place but I think we need to look at a true MLB for the long term and not pay Foote what he is going to want. Having 1 good season does not change the fact that Foote is old and on the decline. He may look like a super star but that is because everything is getting through the sieve of our line.

    I understand when you are as bad as we are that taking BPA is the standard practice, but Pettigrew and Williams both show that it doesn't work the way it should. I say we need to target certain positions in particular round sets, for instance DT and CB in rounds 1-4 (2 CB needed), LG in rounds 3-5, and then in rounds 6 and 7 take BPA on either side of the ball.

    I know this is a longish post so I will end it with this, look at our actual list of needs, DT to create pressure and stop the run, CB to actualy defend a pass, interior lineman to create holes to open up the running game, which in turn opens the passing game, a second reciever who can actually take some pressure off CJ. The rest of the team is passable until these major holes are fixed.

  16. What is that word when you think you have lived the same situation before? Oh that's right "Lions".