Put The Nooses Away

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Put the hemlock tea bags back up. Unload the 12 gauge. It wasn't that bad. Really.

Okay, so it was pretty bad, but if you maintain a comfortably pessimistic philosophy regarding the Lions, then it is actually pretty easy to find some of the bright spots in an otherwise uninspiring and borderline disastrous game. Drew Sharp, the only local writer I know of who is more cynical than me regarding the Lions wrote

It looks like they're already in regular-season form.

This is exactly why the Lions are certifiably nuts should quarterbacking savior du jour Matthew Stafford start when the March to 0-32 begins in earnest in New Orleans on Sept. 13. It's counterproductive exposing a rookie quarterback to a team apparently still hell-bent on creating as insurmountable an early obstacle as possible.
in an otherwise rambling column. He also wrote
If attitudes are indeed changing and Schwartz is indeed the right messenger, he should quickly make it clear that these Lions remain too fundamentally weak defensively to needlessly risk sentencing the future face of this franchise to the football gallows.
and while I agree, I fail to understand how this is surprising to anyone. Detroit's biggest flaw in 2009 was the defense, and not biggest by a little, but rather biggest by a lot. Despite multiple quarterback injuries, the Lions demonstrated a modestly decent offense last year with Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith leading a reasonable two-way threat. It wasn't remotely good enough to overcome an awful defense, nor was it good enough to lead the way to any kind of contention even with a defense approaching average. It just wasn't the reason that Detroit went winless.

And over the winter Detroit followed their pattern of the last 8 seasons to fix the defense, they brought in a number of veteran free agents while waiting til the middle rounds to focus on their defensive holes. It is entirely predictable that their 2009 defense will resemble their 2008 defense. I expect it will be better, but nowhere near good.
So if we go into this whole thing accepting that it will be another long year, it is much easier to enjoy the small victories, knowing that the big ones aren't coming.

Stafford Okay, he didn't play well. Not even a little. But better for the faithful to see it now, then to have unrealistic expectations build throughout the preseason. The pressure for Detroit to play the kid is officially off and the Lions can go into the season with Stafford on a natural developmental trajectory, rather than a forced one that is more likely to end in disaster.

Jerome Felton He really played well, coming in with Culpepper midway through the 2nd quarter and immediately getting three consecutive runs for a first down. After an up-and-down rookie year exclusively at fullback I think we can hope that Felton may be able to fill a bigger role as part of a two-headed tandem that may really wear down opposing defenses.

Culpepper For the second consecutive week he looked very comfortable running the Lion offense. He showed great patience and good mobility in the backfield to stretch out plays. He was effective at waiting for plays to open and then throwing very catchable balls.

DeAndre Levy He whiffed on one of the Cribbs returns but otherwise was very effective, making plays all over the field including a great open-field tackle on special teams.

Jordan Dizon Is starting to really come on after a washed-out rookie season.

Sammy Lee Hill After an underwhelming first game, Hill seemed to consistently get a good push inside. He didn't show up on the stat sheet but he spent much of his time in Cleveland's backfield disrupting things.

Nick Harris Just killed it, averaging 50 yards over his 7 punts. Unfortunately the 22 yard average on returns ruined his net average, but that speaks more the quality of the two return teams and Josh Cribbs, rather than to Harris. He wasn't kicking line drives.

So see? There you go, a nice handful of positive takeaways from last night's game and that was only on one viewing. So forget the sleeping pills, don't lock yourself in the garage with the car idling. It's another day and the Lions are pretty much the same as they were two days ago.