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.
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