View Full Version : Offseason Primer: Detroit Lions

02-26-2008, 12:15 AM
The Detroit Lions are an interesting case study. For years the Lions have drafted in the Top 10, picking up some top-flight talent and missing badly on some picks. The Lions have also left football fans scratching their heads, as they drafted three wide receivers three years in a row with their first pick, and then again, two years later picking another wide receiver.

Meanwhile, theyíve struggled to find a solid quarterback. Joey Harrington clearly wasnít the answer and Jeff Garcia didnít fit either. Ironically, journeyman Jon Kitna has had two pretty decent years in Detroit, including leading them to their best overall record since 2000, in 2007.

Kitna will be around again in 2008, but he is starting to age. He does seem to understand the previous offense and thrived, but gone is all-out passing guru Mike Martz. So, the question is, can Kitna adapt to new coordinator Jim Collettoís offense, which most likely, will be a much tamer offense? Clearly, the Lions need to be thinking towards the future at the quarterback position, but is spending their No. 1 pick on a quarterback going to fix much in 2008? Probably not, and Matt Millenís leash has to be getting thin. So, donít expect the Lions to address the quarterback position in the offseason.

The Lions have a talented running back in Kevin Jones, who shined in his rookie season in 2004, but has struggled with injury ever since. T.J. Duckett and Tatum Bell have both been decent complement running backs on other teams (Falcons and Broncos, respectively), but neither are the No.1. Combined, all three could be an effective force. Collettoís offense should be a little more conservative than Martzís, so the Lions will rely on these three a little more next year. Duckett is an unrestricted free agent, and he probably wonít end up in Detroit. So does that mean the Lions need a short yardage back, or will Jones be healthy enough to carry out those duties? Martz rarely utilized a fullback, but Jon Bradley has a chance to step into that full-time role in 2008.

The Lions have plenty of talent at wide receiver, it just seems that production is a problem. Finally, it seems theyíve settled in with a solid No. 1 and No. 2, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson are two of the most talented receivers in the NFL. Johnson started to show signs of what they expected when they drafted him at No. 2 overall in 2007. Williams is starting to look like an elite receiver, but is recovering from a knee injury that he suffered in Week 12. Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald can both be solid No. 3s, and both have shown they can be the No. 2. This gives the Lions, surprisingly, with four decent receivers, two of which could be All-Pro. Ironic, of course, because both Charles Rogers and Mike Williams, top 10 picks at the wide receiver position, are now gone.

At tight end, Sean McHugh isnít really a top receiving threat, and Dan Campbell, a long-time starter was forced to sit out most of the season. However, with the talent at wide receiver, the Lions donít need top-flight tight ends, just tight ends that understand the offense, block well and can score in short-yardage situations. Weíll find out how these two guys fit into the new scheme.

Jeff Backus is one of the most reliable left tackles in the business. He hasnít missed a game in his career. Heíll be 31 next year, and is still in the prime of his career. Lions quarterbacks went down 47 times in 2007, and that number will have to improve, but the Lions are counting on Backus to anchor the line.

Edwin Mulitalo, a long-time Baltimore Raven, came to the Lions in free agency before the 2007 season. Mulitalo may be a little past his prime, but is still a decent guard. I wouldnít be too surprised if the Lions brought in some competition for him.

Dominic Raiola is one of the most solid centers in the NFL. He hasnít not started a game since his rookie season, and he continues to be an anchor for the line. However, he needs to be more consistent in 2008 to make up for some of the deficiencies along the line.

The Lions struggled on the right side of the line, and Stephen Peterman and George Foster should definitely consider their jobs in jeopardy. Peterman started 13 games this past season, after spending his first three years as a backup, Foster, as Broncos fans know, lacks effort at times, but has the bulk to be a good lineman. The Lions should bring in some bodies for depth and competition at both positions on the right side of the line.

Clearly the Shaun Rogers dilemma still is up in the air. Rumors swirl about his departure from Detroit to Denver, and by the time many of you read this, it will probably be solved. The oft-maligned, malcontent defensive tackle has been a very good defensive tackle for the Lions, even recording his highest sack total, 7, in thr 2007 season. Cory Redding hasnít missed a game in four seasons, and is another solid defensive tackle. If Rogers is gone, the Lions will have to fill his void. Langston Moore may be a candidate to fill that position.

The Lions need a lot more production out of their defensive ends. Kalimba Edwards started six games and notched just 17 tackles and three sacks. Dewayne White, coming over from the Tampa Bay Bucs, had 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks this season. Neither replaced James Hall in the pass-rushing category. Jared DeVries is really nothing more than a pass-rush specialist. The Lions will probably look for a defensive end in the draft.

The Lions need some help at linebacker, as at least one of their top linebackers is leaving, and another promising young player is, as well. In the middle Paris Lenon, who will be 31 next season, actually had his most productive season of his career, with 118 tackles, two sacks and an interception. The Lions will need him to repeat that performance in 2008. On the weak side, Boss Bailey is likely gone. Where to, we donít know, but heís an unrestricted free agent. That leaves a gaping hole on the weak side of the defense.

On the strong side, Ernie Sims is one of the better young linebackers in the NFL, recording 134 tackles, a sack and recovering three fumbles, he is starting to prove he can be a top linebacker in the NFL.

The departure of Dre Bly in the trade with Denver left ninth-year veteran Fernando Bryant and six-year veteran Travis Fisher as the starting cornerbacks. Neither have ever intercepted a lot of passes, though both did record solid tackle numbers, 69 and 78, respectively. The Lions need them to be a little more ball-hawkish, as both hauled in just two interceptions. Donít be surprised if they look for depth in the draft.

Kenoy Kennedy is a hard-hitting strong safety, who Broncos fans know all to well. He may have become a little gun-shy after being fined so much in Denver, but heís still an effective player. He had 88 tackles and two interceptions in 2007, and the Lions will need more of that in 2008.

Gerald Alexander, a second round pick last season, stepped in and started every game at free safety for the Lions. As bad as the Lions have drafted in the recent years, it looks as if theyíve found a diamond in the rough with Alexander. He had 81 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions in his rookie campaign. They will need him to step up even more in 2008.

Jason Hanson will be turning 38 before next season, but heís still a solid kicker in the NFL. Donít expect the Lions to get rid of him, unless, of course, he retires. He still completes kicks in the 80 percent range, and he doesnít miss extra points. Nick Harris has been a very solid punter, especially in the last three seasons.

Troy Walters came over from Indianapolis before the 2007 season to be the full-time return man, and he should keep those duties in 2008.

The bottom line for the Lions is that they need to draft better, and certainly more efficiently. Todayís game revolves around how well you draft, and then a few key free agents. The Lions have relied too much on free agents under Matt Millen. And, if this continues, youíd have to think his time is growing short.

02-26-2008, 09:26 AM
The departure of Dre Bly in the trade with Denver left ninth-year veteran Fernando Bryant and six-year veteran Travis Fisher as the starting cornerbacks. Neither have ever intercepted a lot of passes, though both did record solid tackle numbers, 69 and 78, respectively. The Lions need them to be a little more ball-hawkish, as both hauled in just two interceptions. Donít be surprised if they look for depth in the draft.

And just as I write that...


Vet cornerback Bryant released after four seasons with Lions

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Veteran cornerback Fernando Bryant was released Monday by the Detroit Lions after four seasons with the Lions.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound defender signed with Detroit as an unrestricted free agent in 2004 after five seasons with Jacksonville, who took him in the first round of the 1999 draft, 26th overall. He had seven interceptions in 109 starts in his nine NFL seasons, two of them for the Lions last year.

Bryant played and started in 38 games for the Lions, including all 16 games last season.

Bryant, who played in college at Alabama, was due to make $3.35 million next season.