Tag Archives: Lions

Detroit Lions 2015 Preview

It seemed like yesterday that the Detroit Lions were supposed to be turning the fortunes of their franchise around and giving the Motor City a contender.  Now it seems like they are  learning how to gradually get expectations back down to reality.  The hire of Jim Caldwell was received with mostly positive feedback, but that’s because he was replacing Jim Schwartz.  That’s the equivalent of moving from tap water to bottled water.  Not saying Caldwell didn’t keep his players in line better than Schwartz did, but he doesn’t exactly sell you on being the head coach to turn a team’s fortune’s around.

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The Lions lost N’damukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the off-season.  They expected Suh to sign for the big bucks elsewhere (and he did, with Miami) but they also thought they have a more-than-good-chance at re-signing Fairley.  The Lions have proven veteran Haloti Ngata now, but he can’t fill the void left by Suh, let alone Suh and Fairley. Something has to be said about Ngata no longer being on the Ravens as well.  Teams like the Ravens, Steelers and Patriots, do their homework and never get emotional with their players.  If they feel like they can part with somebody – there has to be a reason behind it.  Steven Tulloch returns this season at linebacker and will play alongside the equally aggressive DeAndre Levy.  Levy and Tulloch will be relied on a lot in blitz packaging now more than ever with the losses to their line.

This defense’s one true pass rusher and star is defensive end Ziggy Ansah.  Ansah is 6’5″ and two hundred and seventy eight pounds of pure athlete.  His quickness and strength at the line are amongst the best in the league but this could be a season which frustrates the young star, who will see double teams every week and on almost every down.

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The secondary was celebrated last year, especially safety James Ihedigbo who lead the NFL with seven interceptions.  Once again, because of the strength lost at that defensive line, expect teams to not be scared and to even run deeper routes against a team that for years never gave the quarterback time to do so.

Even on the offensive side, the “trenches” are a place for concern.  It wasn’t good last year and that is one area in football that you don’t just flip and become great at in one off-season.  The guard position may be their only dependable spots and that comes in the form of mostly unknown Larry Warford and rookie Laken Tomlinson out of Duke.

The running game is always just a weird situation in Detroit and this year they have the incumbent starter in Joique Bell but behind him are rookie Ameer Abdullah and Theo Reddick who showed some flashes last year.  Abdullah gets a lot of fan fare for running for over 1600 yards in his final season at Nebraska but the truth is, his smallish frame has had over 750 carries in the last three years, while having suspect hands and being a risk in pass protection.  He tore the lid off of defenses like Florida Atlantic, Illinois and Rutgers but looked human, or even average against the likes of Michigan State, Wisconsin and USC.

Calvin Johnson is getting as much hype before a season as he usually does, but he is still regarded as a top three wide-out in every conversation.  Johnson had some durability issues last year but thanks to the acquisition of Golden Tate, the offense always had a game breaker at the wide receiver position last season.  It was good to see Tate go off like he did, not only for himself but also because it forced Matthew Stafford to rely on somebody else other than Johnson.

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Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been given weapons around him every season, but it’s something about him and not what’s around him that turns people off from this Detroit offense.  His accuracy is suspect and his decision making makes some of the NFL’s most classic gunslingers scratch their collective heads.  One of the pieces they brought along with Tate last year was rookie tight end Eric Ebron, but for the lack of productivity he provided it could’ve been Zac Efron out there and nobody would’ve noticed.  Ebron struggled with blocking assignments, route running and getting on the same page with Stafford, which isn’t exactly easy to do anyway.  Ebron is in a fortunate position in this offenses passing game and needs to step up quickly or the team will look to Ryan Broyles or newly acquired free agent receiver Lance Moore to become the third wheel in this passing game.

Predicted Record: 6-10

Predicted Pro Bowlers: Ziggy Ansah, Calvin Johnson

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio

Grading Free Agency, Part 1

The NFL free agency period is one of the most hyped moments of the off-season.  Every team uses free agency as a means to better themselves before the draft, making their draft day decisions a little clearer.   We have seen teams in recent history like the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins, make huge splashes with free agent signings, only to fall short come season’s end.

Ndamukong Suh – Miami Dolphins: 

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The moment the Lions decided they no longer needed Suh, that was the moment the man known as Ndamukong became the prize of this year’s free agency frenzy.  He instantly adds credibility to even the weakest of defensive lines but the Pro Bowl defensive tackle joins a unit that was already good, but with the addition of Suh, they are noticeably elevated.  With (now) former Dolphins defensive tackle Jared Odrick leaving Miami by ways of a 5 hour drive north up to Jacksonville, this left an obvious opening for Suh.  Keeping in my that Suh is a definite upgrade from Odrick,  just how much better will this move make the team as a whole.  The Miami Dolphins have offered Suh a contract worth about $114 million and this might hurt them because the real need for an upgrade was on defense.  With no wide receivers, running backs and questions with Ryan Tannehill at quarterback the Dolphins ignored their real needs.

Grade: C

Byron Maxwell – Philadelphia Eagles

We all knew the Legion of Boom would take on a different look going into next season because Byron Maxwell was going to head  elsewhere to get paid.   Philadelphia, who has been keeping things interesting to say the least in the off-season, decided to give Maxwell the payday he wanted to the tune of 6 years for $63 million.  The Eagles defense is more opportunistic than it is good.  Maxwell no longer  will be able to “hide” behind the team-mates he was playing with in Seattle.  Even then, saying “hide” sounds as if someone is saying he “can’t” play — the truth is, we all really won’t know how good he is as a team’s number one corner until the season goes under way.   Seeing him play against Odell Beckum Jr. twice this season should show if that signing will pay off for the next 6 years.  It’s a lot of money thrown to a position in which a player’s talents are only exhibited in a system that he’s comfortable in.

Grade: B

Rodney Hudson – Oakland Raiders

Offensive linemen are the perennial Rodney Dangerfield’s of the NFL because they “get no respect.”  The Raiders are seemingly parting ways with their center Stefen Wisniewski, who is a free agent this year  and have decided to pay for an upgrade at the position with former Chief Rodney Hudson.  According to Pro Football Focus, Hudson is the third highest rated center in the league.  This is nothing but good news for Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who the franchise is banking on to be their guy for the next decade.

Grade: B+

Pernell McPhee – Chicago Bears

Much like (but not as forgotten as) offensive linemen – defensive specialists, are also lost in the shuffle when it comes to free agent buzz.  The Chicago Bears in announcing that they are turning into a 3-4 defensive scheme, have now signed one of the best 3-4 linebackers in Pernell McPhee.  Pro Football Focus ranked him as the second best linebacker in the league amongst that scheme and did so while playing behind the likes of Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil on the depth chart.  The Bears need help in pretty much every area of the football field, but lining up McPhee with Willie Young and Lamaar Houston should make for a nice start to what the Bears want to build defensively.

Grade: B

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Frank Gore – Indianapolis Colts

Yes, the Eagles have been busy.  After trading LeSean McCoy to the Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, it was obvious that the Eagles were looking to shave money at that position.   It seemed it was all but done, the Eagles and Gore agreed to a three year deal, in which $7.5 was guaranteed over the first two years. Then, the Colts called. Gore is exactly what the Colts offense needed because we all know how they didn’t need to trade a first round pick to the Browns for running back Trent Richardson.  Gore is still a strong back, who can do it all: tough yardage, pass block and catch out the backfield. Quarterback Andrew Luck is without a doubt a stud, but this offense became too predictable without a viable running attack.  Gore’s deal with Indy is reportedly 3 years for $12 million – that’s a bargain in the first two years of this deal, easy.  Colts did not overspend and in the process picked up a great piece that this offense desperately needed

Grade: A

Stephen Paea – Washington Redskins

The Stephen Paea signing is such a Redskins thing to do, that it’s almost hilarious. . . if it wasn’t so tragically Redskins-ish.  Paea was a perennial under-achiever with the Bears and played pretty well in the last season of his contract.  The Redskins jumped on Paea’s contract year performance and offered him a four year deal.  It seems the Redskins organization never questioned why the Bears, who are turning into a 3-4 defense wouldn’t have looked to keep the 6’1″ 300 pounder.  He’ll be released or be a “depth guy” in two years.

Grade: D-

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Jeremy Maclin – Kansas City Chiefs

In other Eagles related news, it appears Chip Kelly and his staff in Philadelphia will not lose sleep with the departure of Jeremy Maclin.  Maclin is a good route runner, with nice speed and can upgrade a wide receiver core which didn’t record a touchdown reception all of last season.   He’s paired up once again with his original head coach Andy Reid, who he started his career with.  Last season Maclin took a gamble on himself, coming off of injury and signing a one year deal with Philadelphia resulting in his most productive season racking in 10 touchdowns and over 1300 yards with 85 receptions.  Maclin can be the guy that opens up this Chiefs offense.  Yes, even with Alex Smith at quarterback.

Grade: A

G.W. Gras

twitter @GeeSteelio