Niyo: 10 hot Lions topics heading into training camp

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lions writer John Niyo of the Detroit News lists 10 hot Detroit Lions topics heading into the start of training camp. I won't list them all here (follow the link to see them all), but a couple that caught my eye:

So, who are these guys, anyway? It's way too early to suggest the 2009 Lions can repeat the feat of the 2008 Dolphins. Miami rebounded from a 1-15 finish in 2007 to win the AFC East and make the playoffs last winter under rookie head coach Tony Sparano. And the key was a Bill Parcells-led purge that saw 27 new faces on the Dolphins' 53-man roster to begin last season.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is on a similar pace, with nearly half the players from last year's Week 1 roster (25 of 53) already gone -- and others sure to follow in the next six weeks. Mayhew has made five trades since last October, claimed seven players off waivers since the start of free agency in late February, and signed 27 new players, not including draft picks, since the end of last season. In short, he's trying to, as new head coach Jim Schwartz puts it, "take advantage of being crappy."

When you stop and quantify it like that, there really has been a lot done to try to turn over last year's awful team. Many of us were calling for a major roster overhaul to start the road back, a la the Dolphins or the Saints under Jim Haslett years ago. We sort of got that -- and like Niyo said, with more to come.
But who'll emerge as a playmaker on defense? There simply wasn't one last season, though defensive end Cliff Avril showed promise as a rookie. The Lions finished 2008 with a NFL-low four interceptions, with only one by a defensive back. Not surprisingly, the secondary is almost all new, and free-agent cornerback Phillip Buchanon, along with rookie free safety Louis Delmas (Western Michigan), will be counted on to make a big splash.

So will the revamped linebacker corps, with Julian Peterson and Larry Foote helping to free up Ernie Sims. And while the addition of Peterson, a five-time Pro Bowler, may have been the team's biggest offseason move outside of the draft, the more noticeable difference could be schematic.

The answers will all start to become clearer -- for better or worse -- very soon.

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