Lions vs Skins: Report Card

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Just something from our friends at TSX ...


PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- Rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford didn't throw an interception, after throwing five in his first two NFL games. Still, he was aggressive, firing the ball downfield and finishing 21-for-36 for 241 yards. He threw a 21-yard touchdown to wide receiver Bryant Johnson, who caught four passes for 73 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- Running back Kevin Smith rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries before leaving the game with a shoulder injury in the third quarter. Had Smith finished the game, he likely would have surpassed his career high of 112 yards as the Lions pounded the ball. Stafford's best play wasn't a pass but a 21-yard scramble on third-and-13 in the first quarter, when he ducked under Albert Haynesworth's right arm, cut past another defender and got the first down.

PASS DEFENSE: B-minus -- Quarterback Jason Campbell went 27-for-41 for 340 yards and two touchdowns. But some of those yards came when the Lions were in a prevent defense late in the fourth quarter, and in classic fashion, the Redskins couldn't turn yards into points. Safety Ko Simpson also intercepted a pass on the first play after he replaced injured teammate Marquand Manuel.

RUSH DEFENSE: A-minus -- The Lions held running back Clinton Portis to 42 yards on 12 carries. Of the Redskins' 65 rushing yards, 21 came on a scramble by Campbell. One of the biggest plays of the game came at the end of the Redskins' first drive, when linebackers DeAndre Levy and Larry Foote stuffed Portis on fourth-and-goal from the 1.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Neither team did anything of note in the return game. Nick Harris had three punts downed inside the 20, with no touchbacks, and Jason Hanson kicked 39- and 26-yard field goals. Redskins coach Jim Zorn respected Hanson's range so much, he didn't decline a penalty that would have set up a 50-yard field goal attempt. He accepted it, setting up a third-and-13. Two plays later, the Lions took a 7-0 lead.

COACHING: A -- In an elevator at the team hotel the night before the game, coach Jim Schwartz told Stafford not to be conservative because he had thrown some interceptions. The next day, Stafford came out slinging and had success. And after the Lions snapped their 19-game losing streak, Schwartz sent the players back onto the field to thank the fans who were left. While he wants the Lions to get to a point where they aren't celebrating regular-season victories like this, he knew what breaking the streak meant to the team and the town.

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

With the win against the Washington Redskins, the Detroit Lions have lost their #1 waiver wire priority. Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

The Thrill of Victory, and the Agony of Defeat

Monday, September 28, 2009

Kevin Smith, the running back who’d just rolled over Albert Haynesworth and the Redskins for 101 yards, was undergoing tests; per the Twitter feed of Will Carroll of Baseball Prospectus, he’d suffered a shoulder subluxation.  Ernie Sims had a shoulder problem of his own, and missed the first of what might be several games.  Starting cornerback Patrick Buchanon was again a late scratch, and his replacements Eric King and Will James were scorched for 340 yards.

The game was played before the smallest Lions home crowd since 1989--and many thousands more were prevented from watching the game at home by NFL blackout policies.  Afterwards, the Lions’ record sat at 1-2; once again looking up at the rest of the NFC North.  So why were all of the Lions’ players out on the field, celebrating with the fans?  Why did owner William Clay Ford say  “we got King Kong off our back”?  Oh yes, that’s right—the Lions hadn’t won a game since Brett Favre played for the Packers.

Center Dominic Raiola perfectly captured the emotions of both the players and fans: "All those people out there have been through a lot more than we've been through. They're fighting for their life out there, buying tickets to come to the game, losing their jobs," he said.  About celebrating with the fans, he said “It's something very little that we did just to show our appreciation."

It’s an important point: Lions fans have continued to support this team, throughout the second-longest losing streak in the history of football—one that capped one of the longest periods of futility in NFL history.  It speaks volumes about the dedication and passion of Lions fans that they came out 40,000 strong to see the streak get snapped.

“It had the feel of a post-season win--the jubilation,” said head coach Jim Schwartz.  “Players went back on the field and wanted to go celebrate with the fans that stayed. I thought that sends a strong statement about the kinship we feel with the city of Detroit."

However, this win is just that: one win.  The first words of Schwartz’s statement to the press were, “We'd like to get to a point where a regular season win isn't celebrated that much,” and he’s exactly right.  If the Lions are to turn the positive momentum of ending this nightmare into anything that will last, that’s the approach they have to take today.  The Lions are 1-2, alone at the bottom of their division, and are sandwiching a game against the reigning world champions with contests at Fields Soldier and Lambeau.

With key starters like Smith, Sims, and Buchanon out, and five rookies starting, the Lions have a mountain to climb just to get to the bye.  But with the confidence of this win under their feet, and the weight of King Kong off their backs, who knows how high this young, talented team can climb?

Discussion here, in The Den!

Now let's do what you're supposed to after one of these win things ...

... analyze where you can still get better.

The last two weeks (Lions losses) I posted lists of positives from the game, despite the result. Now that they've won (wow, strange thing to type) it seems appropriate to go the other way.

It's great that the Lions won, but...

* It came against a VERY flawed Redskins team that doesn't seem to have much heart. As noted here.

* The lack of a consistent pass rush still plagues the Lions. As the Redskins forged something of a comeback near the end, the inability to get to the quarterback was ulcer-inducing. Jason Hunter again looked good at the beginning of the game, but at the end he kept trying to speed rush around the tackle, who simply forced him long and Jason Campbell stepped forward in the pocket. Pass after pass after pass. Make an adjustment!

* The Lions' defensive secondary still leaves you feeling as if it can be gashed for a huge play at any moment -- and again it was. Part of that is a lack of cohesion and playing together; part is the aforementioned lack of a pass rush.

* Stafford played his best -- and smartest -- game as a pro. I absolutely loved the way he protected the ball and avoided turnovers in a game that ended up being close.
But anyone watching the game on Fox who heard Brian Billick's analysis knows that a lot more production was left out on the field by Stafford's continuing issues with accuracy. He seems to be very good with the zipped throw to the sidelines, but still has issues with over-the-middle throws that require some touch.
Calvin Johnson is the team's best weapon. He can make catches if the ball's just in the vicinity of where it needs to be. (Did you see that last catch of his in the fourth quarter? A yard behind him with speed and he snagged it?) But Stafford and Calvin still aren't connecting with consistency. Stafford needs to have confidence to look Calvin's way more, throw the ball over the top and let him make plays over and through smaller DBs.
One hopes that that simply will come with time and repetition.

* The Redskins' drive for their second TD in the fourth quarter was awful from the Lions' perspective. They let the pedal off the floor, went into a "prevent" and didn't prevent a thing. Indeed, it let the 'Skins into a game the Lions had pretty much dominated.

You need to adjust the strategy in those situations, Gunther. That clearly didn't work.

Share your thoughts in The Den!

Thoughts From The Win

Sunday, September 27, 2009

It's still a lot early to process the game and there were a lot of things happening. This won't be the first post on the game and certainly won't be the best analysis but here were a few of my takeaways.

I wasn't at all confident that Washington was a very good opponent for the Lions right now. Not that I think there are very good, in fact the opposite. I think they are terrible and are due for a collapse this year for a number of reasons. Even so, some of those things have already been exposed and that team was circling the wagons. I expected the Lions to break the streak by catching a team napping. This was far better, they caught a team fully prepared and whipped them.

Stafford was fine. Unlike last week, when he hit a lull he didn't go crazy and melt down with a series of bad decisions. While it isn't a cumulative stat, it is notable that his passer rating today was greater than his ratings of the first two weeks combined. I expected that the coaches would beat him up for ignoring Bryant Johnson the first two weeks. Maybe the interception in preseason on the pass to Johnson robbed Stafford of any faith he had in the guy. Regardless of the reason though, Stafford was convinced to go to Bryant repeatedly and it paid off well, even allowing for a drop by Bryant in the first half. The touchdown to Johnson as well as the 2nd down pass to Will Heller in the 4th quarter were the two most important signs of growth in Stafford that I have seen yet. Instead of trying to force the ball in Stafford put it up and trusted his receivers to make plays. I believe that the touchdown in particular would have been an easy interception only two weeks ago. There were a few misses, but overall this was the Big Step I've been expecting from Stafford, and this game restores much of my faith in the decision by Schwartz to start him.

Kevin Smith was brilliant and if he misses significant time it will be a real blow. While the offensive line blocked well the entire game, it is hard to overlook the difference in production between Smith (16/101) and the rest of the running backs (17/21). While the reality of things won't be that dramatic, the numbers do reflect the quality that Smith brings to the position.

The Lion defense was the key to the win. Unlike the first two games, Detroit held the opposing quarterback to a fairly average game. Combined with a run defense that continues to be effective they were able to slow Washington enough for the win. Schemes tend to win on defense, and Detroit demonstrated this today with their relatively anonymous group of contributers. Something called Kevin Hobbs was the Lions' third leading tackler, need I say more?

On the other hand though the game that Detroit played today would not be good enough to win in most weeks. The Redskins did as much to lose as the Lions to win, even going down to the decision in the last few seconds by Zorn to take no shots at the endzone. Washington committed the only turnover and it was unforced, the blocking by their offensive line was very sketchy, their play-calling seemed to lack much cohesion, they committed almost 100 yards of penalties. None of this is to detract from the Lions' accomplishment, they took what the Redskins gave them and did what they had to do. It is, however to point out that this was more the type of win that poor teams are able to nab a few times per year, not nearly the type of win that good teams carve out weekly. There is still plenty of work to do.

Jason Hunter's coming-out party

Friday, September 25, 2009

Watchers of last Sunday's Lions game might have thought, "Who's that guy playing rather well at DE and not named Avril?"

That would be Jason Hunter. Carlos Monarrez at has a nice write-up on the Green Bay castoff, who was undrafted out of Appalachian State in 2006, who had a sack, a pass deflection and hurried Brett Favre throughout last Sunday's game.

Coaches and teammates love Hunter's mean streak.

"Everybody always says, 'Well, Jason doesn't do this and doesn't do that,' " defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. "I said, 'You know, every day, I watch Jason Hunter, and he's tough every day.' I think, when a player plays the way he does, he's going to have success, because he is stone-cold tough."

Added RT Gosder Cherilus, who frequently has to go against Hunter in practice:

"He's not going to try to run around a block," Cherilus said. "He's going to try to run through it. If you're one of those guys who likes to have people go around you and not through you, you're in trouble, because if you're off-balance, not doing the right thing, he's going to bring you right back into the quarterback's lap."

But Hunter admits he was less effective later in the game when the Vikings and massive tackle Phil Loadholt made adjustments. He's certainly in a better situation in Detroit than he was in Green Bay to get playing time. With experience may come adjustments of his own, and a much needed, consistent pass-rushing threat.

Talk about it in The Den!

WSJ: Lions "the NFL's worst defense, ever"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Football writer Reed Albergotti of the Wall Street Journal (the Wall Street Journal has a sports page?!) explores how the Lions defense got so terrible.

The headline says "The NFL's Worst Defense, Ever: Bad Drafts and Strategic Bungling Have the Lions Bleeding Yards at Record Pace." To be fair, nowhere in the article does Albergotti call the Lions' D the worst ever, and editors, not reporters, write the headlines. Albergotti does note, however:

The team's defense has allowed 1,033 points in 34 games—the most since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

Despite a new defensive-minded head coach and a completely re-engineered roster, the Lions lost their first two games this season by a combined score of 72 to 40, putting its defense back in its familiar place at the bottom of the league.

All this presents an enduring mystery: In a league like the NFL that's expressly designed to help bad teams help themselves, how can a defense whose players will earn $45 million this season be so stubbornly horrible?

Albergotti imparts to the nation reasons for which we here are all too familiar (my paraphrases):

1. Committing to, then bungling, the Tampa 2, which can work with smaller, less strong players BUT requires discipline and knowing the playbook and your responsibilities so well as to be instinctive. The Lions got smaller, weaker, less talented and the players never grasped the defense.

2. Ridiculous hires (Rod Marinelli as head coach and The Son-in-Law as defensive coordinator, neither of whom had experience in the job they were doing.)

3. Millen's impossibly bad drafting.
Though he's famous for picking bad wide receivers, Mr. Millen's greatest shortcoming may actually have come on defense. He used a second-round pick in 2007 for defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis, who is no longer in the NFL, and two third-round picks in 2004 and 2005 for cornerbacks Keith Smith and Stanley Wilson, who are not on an NFL roster. In addition, from 2004 to 2008—when Mr. Millen left the team—nearly all of the players the Lions drafted in the late rounds haven't panned out.

Albergotti talks about how Jim Schwartz and Gunther Cunningham are transforming the defense again. Going bigger and stronger, running a more traditional 4-3. Clearly the transition isn't complete. (Albergotti defends the Lions in this respect, though -- that New Orleans offense also shredded a typically stout Eagles D the following week.)

Albergotti concludes thusly:
Mr. Schwartz hasn't been around long enough to get very much depth on defense, and a season-ending injury to defensive end Jared DeVries was a significant loss.

"What Jim Schwartz took over, in my opinion, was worse than an expansion franchise," says former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick, who will call the Lions game against the Redskins for Fox on Sunday. "There's only so much you can do in a year."

A fair and accurate assessment? Share your thoughts in The Den.

Tick Tock

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

With a couple of days to sober up from Sunday's game and a little thought into the matter I started to wonder when we could expect to see the corner turn for Matt Stafford. My initial thought was that this would have been an argument for sitting him at the start of the season - and in a way it still is, but that is all water under the bridge. The decision is made and reversing it now would be a pretty bad idea.

Stafford's first couple of games have been pretty bad. So far he is either the worst or second worst starting quarterback in the NFL (Jamarcus Russell is simply awful, despite his game winning drive on Sunday). That isn't good, and if it was predictable then it is really difficult to support the decision to play him this early. On the other hand, these games weren't the easiest for any quarterback on a bad team to handle. Often you see arguments for waiting for an advantageous schedule position to insert a rookie. The Lions chose to ignore the schedule when selecting their quarterback. The results weren't terribly surprising. Stafford was forced into a position where he would have to lead a comeback against New Orleans, and then was put in a spot where he would face one of the tougher defenses in the NFL.

None of this excuses the team for the decision, or Stafford for his play, but it perhaps explains things a bit. Stafford did seem to play within himself a little more on Sunday. As with the prior week, when he tried to go downfield bad things typically happened, but at least this week he was finding open players on checkdowns rather than just locking in on Calvin Johnson and heaving the ball into triple coverage.

But this isn't about that. I got a little curious about when we could expect to see Stafford make that leap. In his case, even an improvement from awful to merely poor would do a lot to reinforce the faith that so many have put in him. While it is impossible to predict when - or if - Stafford will make any kind of sudden improvement, we can certainly look at other quarterbacks as guideposts. The good news is that Stafford's experience is not atypical. He's on the low side of normal, but other than a few notable exceptions most quarterbacks have started out similarly their rookie year:
Player Game 1+2  Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT
Stafford          67  34 50.7 357  1  5

Weinke            63  40 63.5 499  1  1
Carr              47  16 34.0 232  2  3
Harrington        70  35 50.0 449  3  4
Ramsey            67  31 46.3 455  1  4
Leftwich          64  36 56.3 567  3  3
Boller            60  29 48.3 230  1  2
Grossman          32  32 51.6 406  2  1
E Manning         58  23 39.7 228  1  2
Roethlisberger    47  29 61.7 337  2  1
Smith             39  17 43.6 166  0  5
Frye              44  29 65.9 646  3  1
Orton             49  29 59.2 291  1  1
Fitzpatrick       81  47 58.0 398  0  6
Young             50  24 48.0 218  1  3
Leinart           77  46 59.7 485  4  1
Cutler            51  27 52.9 331  4  2
Gradkowski        75  45 70.5 409  4  1
Edwards           59  45 76.2 410  1  2
Ryan              46  22 47.8 319  1  2
Flacco            48  28 58.3 258  0  0
As every circumstance is pretty different it is difficult to peg Stafford. It is very safe to say that guys like Roethlisberger and Cutler and Edwards had stronger starts, tougher to say the same about players like Eli who had both the benefit of a stronger supporting cast as well as several weeks to absorb the game before being inserted into the lineup. Looking ahead to games 3 and 4 we see:
Game 3         Att  Comp Pct Yds TD INT

Weinke         30    18 60.0 160  1  1
Carr           22    12 54.5  99  0  1
Harrington     41    25 61.0 309  2  1
Ramsey         27    12 44.4 204  1  0
Leftwich       42    24 57.1 256  0  3
Boller         21    12 57.1  98  1  1
Grossman       10     6 60.0  31  0  0
E Manning      21     6 28.6 148  0  2
Roethlisberger 21    16 76.2 231  1  1
Smith          24    16 66.7 185  0  3
Frye           32    21 65.6 198  0  1
Orton          39    17 43.6 117  1  0
Fitzpatrick    24    10 41.7  69  1  1
Young          25    13 52.0 161  1  0
Leinart        32    13 40.6 203  0  2
Cutler         31    21 67.7 261  2  1
Gradkowski     26    13 50.0 104  0  0
Edwards        21    11 52.4 153  0  1
Ryan           18    12 66.7 192  1  0
Flacco         31    16 51.6 192  1  0
Game 4          Att Comp Pct Yds TD INT

Weinke          47   29 61.7 275  1  3
Carr            29   16 55.2 188  2  2
Harrington      29   16 55.2 199  0  0
Ramsey          35   23 65.7 213  3  0
Leftwich        27   15 55.6 158  1  2
Boller          26   15 57.7 140  0  3
Grossman        35   16 45.7 227  0  2
E Manning       25   12 48.0 113  0  0
Roethlisberger  25   21 84.0 193  2  0
Smith           22    9 40.9  77  0  1
Frye            39   20 51.3 183  0  0
Orton           26   16 61.5 117  1  0
Young           15    7 46.7  87  1  0
Leinart         35   14 40.0 157  1  1
Cutler          23   12 52.2 179  2  1
Gradkowski      48   20 41.7 139  0  0
Edwards         21   14 66.7 130  0  1
Ryan            41   21 51.2 158  0  0
Flacco          27   18 66.7 153  0  2
Even at this point we don't see much improvement for most quarterbacks. Eli Manning continued to struggle. Ryan remained effective while Flacco was still on the interception streak that marred his rookie year. If this tells us anything it is that it will be quite a while before we can really determine what Stafford will become. Whether it is wise to be playing him at all is a different argument for a different post, but that decision is made. It is very likely that Stafford will continue to produce just about the same as he has for the next few weeks with any improvements incremental and not necessarily reflected in the statistics.

Believe it or not ... more than a couple of positives out of Sunday's loss

Monday, September 21, 2009

There was a lot of ugly and bad as the Lions took their losing streak to an astounding 19 games in Sunday's 27-13 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

But there were a noticeable amount of good developments, too:

* As pointed out by Carlos Monarrez at "The defense did its job by holding Adrian Peterson to 92 yards, getting good pressure on Brett Favre, sacking him three times, and forcing four three-and-outs. The defense allowed only one touchdown on a sustained drive. The two other Vikings touchdowns resulted from turnovers that gave the Vikes the ball inside the Lions' 28 both times."

Brian VanOchten at noted that even the Lions' halftime lead is progress -- it's only happened five times in the Lions' past 19 games. VanOchten quoted Lions C Dominic Raiola saying, ""I expect all of these guys in this locker room to be motivated by our first-half performance. We need to be that team all of the time. For a half, we were a different team."

As VanOchten also noted, the Lions finished with more rushing yards (129-112) and the same amount of total offense as the Vikings (265 yards).

Yep, it's the NFL. There's only one stat that counts -- wins. No moral victories.

But when you're as far down as the Lions have gotten, those positives can be building blocks toward where they need to get to. A 60-minute effort like the first half of Sunday's game, making your own effective adjustments when your opponent makes theirs, fewer mistakes from Matthew Stafford, and ... is that a 'W' I see off in the distance?

Lions fans -- some, anyway -- are looking for positives in The Den.

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

Sunday, September 20, 2009

AdamJT13 posted the salary cap figures for all NFL teams and had the Lions at $2.34M under the cap. Below are week 2 transactions that effect the Lions salary cap as well as an adjustment to Dennis Northcutt's player cost: Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

Martz: Lions spent too much time dealing with "periphery"

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The New York Times has a nice overview story on the Lions and the changes from last year's horror.

The part I found interesting is this comment from former Lions Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz, now an NFL Network analyst:

“The meat of that organization, of any organization to me, is inside, and that’s been lacking over the years,” said Martz. “There’s just too much time spent on the periphery.”

I've been among the contingent who puts most of the Lions' recent failure on the inability to effectively put together the offensive and defensive lines. And it's interesting, to me anyway, that Martz -- a guy who's perceived as being all about flash and developing high-powered offenses with players others might discard, the Kurt Warners and Mike Furreys of the world -- sees the core Lions problem as fundamentally the same thing.

Talk about it in The Den!

Stafford vs Other No. 1 QB Picks

Friday, September 18, 2009

Pro Football Weekly had a nice analysis of first-starts made by No. 1 pick quarterbacks, providing a clean table with output that might shed nice perspective on Stafford's less than impressive performance.

Here's an intriguing example ...

Peyton Manning 1998 Week One, '98 vs. Miami (1) L, 15-24 21 -of - 37, 302 yards, 1 touchdown, 3 interceptions, QB rating of 58.6


Detroit Lions Injury Report from Friday's Practice

Hot from our friends in the Detroit Lions media relations department ...

The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' Injury Report: DE Cliff Avril (hamstring) and QB Drew Stanton (knee) did not practice; DE Andre Fluellen (knee), DT Grady Jackson (knee), CB Williams James (foot), CB Eric King (shoulder) and G Daniel Loper (knee) were limited in practice; CB Phillip Buchanon (neck) and K Jason Hanson (right knee) had full participation in practice today. Avril and Stanton are doubtful; Fluellen and King are questionable; Buchanon, Jackson, James, Loper and Hanson are all probable. Today Buchanon was added to the injury list and Jackson was upgraded to limited practice.

The following players were listed on the Minnesota Vikings' Injury Report today: LB Erin Henderson (calf) did not practice and LB Heath Farwell (hamstring) was limited in practice. G Anthony Herrera (back) and TE Jim Kleinsasser had full participation in practice today. Herrera was upgraded to full participating today. Henderson is out, Farwell is questionable and Herrera and Kleinsasser are probable.


Lions Reach Sellout; Games Will Be Televised

From our friends in the Lions Media Relations Department

Sunday's game will air live in the local television markets; Tickets are still available to purchase

Allen Park, Mich. - The Detroit Lions have reached a sellout for Sunday's home-opener against NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings. By reaching a sellout by today's 1 p.m. deadline, Sunday's game will air live in the local television markets (Metro Detroit, Lansing, Saginaw/Flint and Toledo markets), including WJBK-TV FOX 2.


Why didn't Gun Blitz? He Explains ...

From The Den's SamHayne ...

For those upset about the Non-blitzing last week.

Gun speaks about it here:

He calls out Julian Peterson, Larry Foote, Ernie Sims & Marquand Manuel all for screwing it up in the 1st quarter so the moved away from it.

Quotes from Gunther Cunningham: "Larry Foote played as hard as he could play, but he missed some things and it cost us, it broke us down," Cunningham said. "Julian Peterson did the same thing, and Ernie (Sims) reverted back to doing some things he did last year."(Safety) Marquand Manuel, on the flea-flicker, jumped up, while Louis Delmas was great on his side. Fortunately, Anthony Henry covered him up and intercepted the ball. That's what was happening throughout the game."


Peter King Picks The Lions

You know it's pretty bad if an expert picking your team to win against a 40-plus year old quarterback in your home opener is met with, "He must be on drugs." But that was the sentiment from Denizens after SI's Peter King selected Detroit to upset the Vikings and Las Vegas in his latest predictions.

Said King: "In 2007 at Ford Field, Detroit beat the Vikes on a Jason Hanson field goal in OT, 20-17. In 2008 at Ford Field, the Vikes overcame a 13-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win 20-16; at the Metrodome last year, the Vikes survived 12-10, thanks largely to Lions QB Dan Orlovsky running blindly out of the back of the end zone. This is going to be an emotional game, the Lions returning home and starting yet another new era. Jim Schwartz is going to send the house at Brett Favre, and I think the Lions will get there a few times and force him into some mistakes."


Lions' Family Loses Another Member

Passed along this morning from our friends in the Detroit Lions media relations department ...

Allen Park, Mich. - An ironman along the offensive line for the Detroit Lions from 1966-76 and a pillar in the community has died. Bob Kowalkowski, 65, died last night at Henry Ford Hospital in West Bloomfield (Mich.) after a brief illness.

Kowalkowski was a Lions' starting guard through most of his 11 seasons in Detroit after he was drafted as a future pick in the seventh round from Virginia in 1965. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound lineman immediately stepped into a starting slot at left guard as a rookie in 1966 and was switched to right guard in 1968. He started every game for the Lions for five straight seasons (1972-1976) before being traded to Cleveland in 1977. He finished his career playing four games for Coach Bart Starr and the Green Bay Packers in '77.

Kowalkowski played in 138 games during his Lions' career.

"Bob exemplified the tough, physical player you had to be to succeed in the NFL," praised Pro Football Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders who played nine seasons with Kowalkowski. "When you played with him you knew he had your back, and if he was your friend he was your friend for life."

Quarterback Greg Landry counted Kowalkowski as among the leaders on his offensive line. "Bob was a little undersized compared to most offensive linemen, but he made up for it with hard work and always going the extra measure in the weight room, film room or during practices," recalled Landry. "Also, I will always remember how much Bob loved to hunt and fish. He and teammates Larry Hand and Ed Flanagan took every chance they could to enjoy the Michigan outdoors."

Tackle Jim Yarbrough was another standout on the Lions' offensive line from 1969-1977 and fondly remembers Kowalkowski as "determined to outwork everyone. Bob left everything on the field each Sunday. When I came in as a rookie he told me to be very thankful we had line coach Chuck Knox. Bob told me to keep my mouth shut and learn to do things the right way.

He was always a leader by example and a great role model for the work ethic required to be a real professional."

or 44 years, the Kowalkowski family has been closely associated with the Lions. Kowalkowski was drafted by the Lions in 1965 and, since 1990, Bob's wife Judy has worked in the Lions' front office and is the Lions' manager of accounting operations.

Another football Kowalkowski, son Scott, was signed as a free agent by the Lions in 1994 and was a standout on special teams and at linebacker for Detroit through 2001. Daughter Robin owns her own business in Chicago.

"The entire Kowalkowski family means a great deal to our organization," said Tom Lewand, president of the Lions. "Obviously, the football side of their contributions is well known but, off the field, the family contributes enormously to the Lions and to our entire community. Bob was a special leader on the field and off."

Community involvement is another Kowalkowski family tradition.

Bob Kowalkowski founded the "Kowalkowski Open" golf tournament in 1973 with friends from the Gladwin (Mich.) Lions Club to support Leader Dogs for the Blind. He also was active with the Danny Thomas March and co-chairman for the St. Jude's Children's Hospital Radiothon during his Lions' career. His Bob Kowalkowski Scholarship Award helped enable students with financial needs and high academic achievements attend college. He was voted the Lions' "Man of the Year" for his community involvement in 1975.

In 1991, the Kowalkowski Open grew into what is now known as Kolo Charities, which has helped raise thousands of dollars for a variety of charities in Michigan. Included among them is the Detroit Lions Courage House which benefits the child abuse prevention and treatment program at HAVEN in Oakland County.

Funeral arrangements for Bob Kowalkowski are incomplete and will be announced later.


Former Lions Head Coach Monte Clark dead at 72

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sad news for the Lions family.

Former Head Coach Monte Clark has died. He was 72.

He died Wednesday night at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, the team said Thursday. He had a bone marrow malignancy associated with lung and liver disease.

Clark was the offensive line coach for the Miami Dolphins team that went 17-0 in 1972. He became the Lions' coach in 1978.

"Monte will always be remembered as a consummate football man," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "He knew football inside and out, and had a passion for it. He played the game at a high level and had success wherever he coached."

Under Clark, the Lions went 43-63-1 and made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time since their three straight playoff runs from 1952-54. The Lions lost both games.

I'll always remember Monte Clark praying on the sidelines as Eddie Murray lined up to kick a very makeable field goal that would have sent the Lions into the 1984 NFC Championship game. Murray's 43-yarder sailed wide right with 5 seconds to go, the Lions lost 24-23, the 49ers went on to a multiple Lombardi Trophy-winning dynasty under Bill Walsh, and the Lions went, uh, in a different direction.

But Monte Clark was a really solid football coach in the years back when the Lions were competitive. RIP.

Lions fans are remembering Clark in The Den.

Favre Passes Along Advice to Stafford

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keeping with his never-say-quit-even-if-everyone-wants-you-to mantra, Vikings' quarterback Brett Favre encouraged Lions rookie Matthew Stafford to "keeping slinging it," in a conference call with the Detroit media.

According to the Detroit News: "I saw a couple plays he made in preseason, some really good throws," Favre said Wednesday in a conference call previewing Sunday's game between the Lions and Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. "I mean, he's got all the tools, there's no doubt about it. But there's only one way to get better, and that's play. They drafted him for a lot of reasons, and from what I can tell, I think he'll have a bright future."

Lions cutting it thin on the DL

With John Niyo’s Twitter report that the Lions have released DT Orien Harris to make room for DE Turk McBride, the Lions have only three named DTs on the roster: veteran run-stopper Grady Jackson, fourth-round rookie Sammie Hill, and 2008 seventh-rounder Landon Cohen.  As Jackson is considered a 10-20 snap situational player, the Lions now have, quite literally, no depth at the tackle spot.

Even if Andre Fluellen, who has shifted from DE to DT and back again several times already this season, flips back to DT, both depth and production at the DT spot are alarming.  Jackson is now the only player on the roster who’d started an NFL game at DT before last Sunday.  With true big-bodied DTs always in high demand, and the season already underway, it seems impossible that the Lions could do much of anything to bring in reinforcements--save re-sign one of the veterans they’ve already cut.

Keep an eye on the waiver wire as the week winds on . . . and discuss it here, in The Den!

Lions Claim Turk McBride

John Niyo (DetNews) has announced via his Twitter account that the Lions have claimed DE Turk McBride from the Chiefs in a move which was widely suspected.

McBride, a collegiate DE at Tennessee is still slightly undersized for the position at 6'2" 278lbs and has issues with lower body strength. However, he had decent production in nine games last season before being transitioned to OLB this year in Kansas City's new 3-4.

In Detroit, McBride is reunited with Gunther Cunningham who favored McBride as a prospect and is very familiar with him. Although McBride is young, and a work in progress, he immediately steps in as the Lions 3rd DE.

Check out more possible free agent signings here

New Orleans paper breaks down the game film

New Orleans Times-Picayune football writer Jeff Duncan has an article analyzing the game film from last Sunday's game.

A couple of points were interesting from the Lions' perspective -- though don't tell anybody anything they didn't see with their own eyes:

FRESH MEAT: The Saints ruthlessly attacked Lions cornerback Eric King, a last-minute replacement for Phillip Buchanon in the starting lineup. The first two touchdowns - a 9-yard catch by Marques Colston and a 39-yarder to Robert Meachem - came against King. Brees also victimized King on the 58-yard strike to Devery Henderson and caught him in single coverage for a 20-yard connection with Lance Moore, who made a spectacular leaping grab. The Saints also were trying to set up King on the failed flea-flicker pass, but rookie safety Louis Delmas did not bite and had Colston covered deep, forcing Brees to go to his second option, Devery Henderson. Further proof that Brees, while a nice guy off the field, is a cold-blooded assasin on it. He showed no mercy on King for four quarters.

Get well soon, Phillip Buchanon.

CALL OF THE GAME: The Saints' second touchdown was a perfect example of offensive deception. The Saints had run the ball on their past two first-down calls. On this play, they lined up in a two-tight end set with fullback Heath Evans and Reggie Bush in the backfield. The lone wideout was Robert Meachem, the team's best run-blocking receiver. The personnel package and alignment screamed "run." The Lions responded accordingly, packing nine defenders in the box. Brees faked a hand-off to Bushand was able to buy enough time in the pocket to find Meachem alone in single coverage in the end zone against cornerback Eric King. A tip of the cap to Sean Payton on that play call. Excellent work.

Did I mention Phillip Buchanon should get well soon?

Duncan said the refs blew it on calling Calvin Johnson out of bounds on that long pass that should have been a touchdown. And he did have words of praise for one Lion:

The Lions got a good one in rookie free safety Louis Delmas. He was all over the field for Detroit and showed tremendous instincts and play-making ability. He flashed excellent speed on his 65-yard fumble return for a TD and also laid out Bush, Moore, Bell and Shockey with big hits. The kid can play.

Discuss in The Den.

Paul Spicer Visiting Lions

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

John Niyo reports via Twitter that journeyman defensive end, Paul Spicer is visiting the Lions.

As Niyo also reports, nothing is imminent. I believe (someone back me up on this) that Spicer is a vested veteran and now that week one is over, he is free to be signed for non-guaranteed money.

Spicer, a Saginaw Valley State grad, is originally from Indianapolis and went undrafted in 1998. He jumped from the Seattle practice squad to the Saskatchewan Roughriders to his NFL game debut in 1999 with the Lions.

Spicer had 7.5 sacks in 2005 but now, at 34, is seen mostly as a reserve/rotational player.

Was Culpepper giving Stafford cold shoulder during Sunday's game

Den-izen kb760 is a little fired up at what he/she perceived as a sulking Daunte Culpepper on the sidelines during Sunday's blowout loss in New Orleans.

"If Daunte is going to act like he did yesterday and distance himself from the QB, never helping the rookie (only Stanton talked to Matt) then what good is he?," kb760 writes. "Get him the heck out of here. The one time I did see him, he had his earphones on and just stood around uninvolved. Grow up and impart some wisdom during the game to the rookie."

Others see that as much ado about nothing, that Culpepper is there in case Stafford goes down, and that it's the coaches job to coach the rook; and that a few glimpses of him from TV on the sidelines may not accurately portray Culpepper's involvement; and that it's possible the veteran provides more guidance and pointers during practices.

On the other hand, Culpepper was retired because he wanted a starting job somewhere and couldn't find one. Now, to give it a very good shot but be a backup on the LIONS has got to hurt -- as evidenced by his written statement after Stafford was named starter, that was submitted to the media by the team.

Is it Culpepper's job anyway, to give Stafford pep talks? Is Culpepper sulking, and bringing negativity to the sideline? Does that matter much anyway, with the defense looking as it did Sunday? They're talking about it in The Den!

More positives from the Week One Loss

Monday, September 14, 2009

Matthew Stafford, meet humility

Matthew Stafford is a lot of things. He is talented, composed, charming, and an all-around great guy.

He's not humble.

He doesn't have to be! He's been the No. 1 pick in the NFL since his sophomore year in high school. He has always been the best player on his team, until now.

's biggest vice will always be the trust his has in his arm, his hubris.

That lack of humility is the cause of throws being forced into coverage, the cause for throws way too high or too low because Stafford trusted his arm instead of sound mechanics.

To be frank, Stafford missed horribly on a number of throws. He was, possibly, worse than his numbers suggest. He also seems to have a case of "Kitna-itis", the condition which strikes talented quarterbacks on the most crucial of drives.

The upside, Stafford is down with that sickness (ooh-wah-ah-ah-ah) at the beginning of his career, whereas Kitna was far too old to be taught new tricks.

Stafford, by all accounts, is one of the most coachable quarterbacks ever. Linehan, by many accounts, is a great quarterbacks coach.

This game, however, may have been necessary in the grand scheme of Stafford's career. This game was his Aikman moment. Troy Aikman lost in his first game, also to the Saints, 24-0. Aikman had Herschel Walker at the time.

Eventually, Aikman had to learn that the NFL is not the Pac-10, and he's not always the best player on the field. Stafford now knows that.

How he handles that knowledge over the course of this year is more important than a 45-27 loss to a very good team.

Stan Kwan slept like a baby last night

He had sweet dreams about laughing at all of us who consistently blamed him for all of the Lions' special teams woes.

I'm not making the case that Kwan is the next Frank Gansz, he's not even the next Chuck Priefer. However, maybe he's not as bad as we all thought.

The bottom of the Lions roster is one of the least talented groups in the league. In terms of coverage squads, Kwan doesn't have a lot to work with. In terms of blocking during returns, he has even less.

The purge of talent that took place on this roster after numerous offensive and defensive scheme changes, is why the Lions are where they are.

Yesterday, the Lions contained Reggie Bush and sprung Dennis Northcutt and Aaron Brown on long returns. In addition, Nick Harris and Jason Hanson were both perfect.

Don't start singing the praises of Stan Kwan, but for once, perhaps give him the benefit of the doubt.

Anthony Henry Might Be the Real Deal

If it weren't for Darren Sharper, Henry would have been the best defensive back on the field in New Orleans.

The Saints picked on Eric King all night.

Eric King is who he is. As a nickelback, no one is better against the run. As a nickelback, he is decent against the pass—better in a zone. On the outside, he has some issues. He lacks polish, which may come over time. Right now, this Lions team needs Philip Buchanon.

Henry, on the other hand, locked up Marques Colston for much of the day, which is not an easy task. He had to deal with one jump ball all day and picked it off.

That's not bad for a guy who was judged to be about as good as Jon Kitna.

Not everything was glass-half-full, there were also "teachable moments".

More Over At My Bleacher Report

Positives to take from the rubble pile in New Orleans

Searching desperately for positives from the Lions' season-opening blowout loss to New Orleans, I have this:

1. Special teams looked very good all day, on both coverage and returns. Kind of a surprise, as I didn't think special teams looked particularly good in the preseason. Aaron Brown just basically took what was (I think) supposed to be Derrick Williams' job away from him.

2. Turnovers! Including one for a score! Remember those? Me either. It's been a LONG time.

3. There was a battling back after (again) going down big early that I don't recall from any point last year.

Discuss in The Den!

The Stafford debate starts in earnest

Looks like some of us are better at prognostication than others. Like that wise man who said before the game, "Go to Vegas and bet your entire 401(k) on the over." (Ahem.)

With another blowout road loss and a generally bad performance by rookie QB Matthew Stafford, The Den is afire with debate about whether anointing him the starter for Week 1 was the best move.

"This is not the way to start a season," said Den-izen acmjmm34. "Granted (Stafford) has looked relatively calm in the pocket, his throws to members of our team have been off on a number of occassions. His INTs though have been right on target. The defense didn't do him any favors but in all fairness we needed a far better ball control offense to hang with this team. Daunte would have been a better choice for starting considering our first 6 game schedule. A lot can be said for veteran leadership."

My take is somewhat similar to that posted by ARJANTIS: "Either go through it early this year or go through it next year... Either way you have to go through his lumps sooner or later."

Stafford's the guy. He may become John Elway-like. He may become Ryan Leaf-like. But he has been given the keys to this franchise, and his attempt to grow into greatness and turn this sad-sack team around must now follow its multi-year course. It's clear he needs work on decision-making under adversity, accuracy and recognizing disguised defenses.

But the Lions are going to be a bad team this year with Culpepper at the helm or Stafford. Playing experience through a brutal year for the team and through brutal stats for the rookie QB worked for Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning.

The Lions Will Win

Sunday, September 13, 2009

It came to me like a bolt from the blue. Set it in stone, the book is writ. If a curmudgeon like me can come around then it must be so.

Game over. Flawless Victory.

Okay, so there is still the little matter of 60 minutes of football to be played so let's figure out how it's going to happen.

The Lions have gone through something like a 90% personnel turnover since the last time they won a game, both on the field, in the coaching ranks, and above, so it is not so simple as to look back at prior victories and say 'they'll do it like that!'. But in a sense, this is one of the team's better weapons. We don't really know what they are going to do, and neither do the Saints. But even so, here's how the victory will unfold:

Stafford Those who expect a big day out of Stafford will be disappointed, and that's probably a good thing. If Stafford throws for over 250 yards Detroit will almost certainly lose. Stafford will spend the afternoon practicing handoffs but will also manage to avoid any turnovers. Look for him to turn in an efficient 10/16/150/1 performance.

The Offense The key to this win will be Detroit's new ball control offense. Detroit finished tied for 3rd preseason in rushing attempts and 2nd for rushing yardage with a robust 5.1 yards per carry (tied for 1st). While the latter number is a little bit smoke and mirrors, take away Tristan Davis' 80 yard touchdown and the team was closer to 4.0 yards/carry, the rushing attempts are the true story. Detroit will run and run and run. New Orleans will have no answer for the right side of the Lions line, and when they do overload to stop the run the Lions will snap off screens to Kevin Smith or take shots downfield. Gregg Williams blitzes and pressures get thwarted as he gets outcoached by Linehan and Schwartz in each of their respective debuts.

The Running Backs Kevin Smith will get the most of the work but expect Morris to see about 10 carries and Felton another 4-5. Watch for a single sweep play for Aaron Brown. Detroit rushes 35 times for 150 yards and one touchdown.

Defensive Front Seven This is where the game will be decided. Pro Bowl left tackle Jamaal Brown is out for New Orleans and his absence cannot be underestimated. Watch for Sammy Hill to dominate his gap while the remaining tackle rotation gums up the interior. Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims will shut down the sweeps and off-tackle runs and by the end of the first quarter New Orleans will be forced to abandon the run. Detroit's soft zone will offer plenty of targets to Drew Brees but pressure up front will make it hard for him to breath and he will be forced into plenty of mistakes.

The Defensive Backs It is hard to imagine that they won't be exposed against this prolific passing team, but Detroit winning the time of possession battle and sustaining pressure up front will mitigate the damage. Brees goes for almost 400 yards and 3 TDs but also throws 2 INTs.

The Kicking Games Hanson is back strong. His kickoffs will lack depth but he is smart and will not expose the Lion coverage unit with bad kicks. New Orleans will get good starting field positions but not great. Watch for Lion drives to stall out and for Hanson to come through. On the other end of the field Garrett Hartley is suspended for taking a stimulant and the team signed John Carney to spell him. Carney made the Pro Bowl for the Giants last year on the back of his great accuracy but he no longer has the leg for deep kickoffs or long field goals. Look for Detroit to consistently get great field position with Aaron Brown shining in the return game. Also watch for New Orleans to be put into some awkward situations inside the Lions 40 where they are outside of Carney's range.

The End Game It will be a see-saw game. Detroit will jump ahead early and maintain the lead throughout the first half, going into halftime up 17-14, and will trade scores deep into the fourth quarter when the Saints go ahead 28-26 on Brees' third TD pass. The Lions will mount a clock grinding, back breaking, field-long drive culminated by Hanson's 3rd field goal with less than 0:30 to go for a 29-28 final.

So there you go. Sorry for the big spoiler. Now go cut the lawn.

Live Gameday discussion Here, in The Den

Lions Name 2009 Team Captains

Friday, September 11, 2009

From Detroit's media release ...

  • Lions Head Coach Jim Schwartz announced the team's 2009 captains: LB Larry Foote (defense), K Jason Hanson (special teams) and C Dominic Raiola (offense). Injury Report
  • The following players have been listed on the Detroit Lions' Injury Report: G Stephen Peterman (ankle) and QB Drew Stanton (knee) did not practice today; CB Phillip Buchanon (neck), WR Yamon Figurs (finger), K Jason Hanson (knee), DE Jason Hunter (ribs), DT Grady Jackson (knee) and WR Dennis Northcutt (hand) were limited in practice. Stanton is doubtful; Buchanon, Figurs and Peterman are questionable and Hanson, Hunter, Jackson and Northcutt are probable for Sunday's game. TE Casey FitzSimmons (knee) and CB Anthony Henry (shoulder) were removed from the injury report today and Jackson was upgraded from no practice to limited practice.
  • The following players were listed on the New Orleans Saints' Injury Report today: T Jammal Brown (hernia), TE Darnell Dinkins (foot), TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) and RB Pierre Thomas (knee) did not practice and S Usama Young (shoulder) had full participation in practice today. Brown, Dinkins and Thomas are out and Shockey and Young are probable for Sunday's game. Shockey was added to the team's injury list today.

Fun with Stafford!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Many Denizens are finding the utter glee in the Detroit News' rather creative flash presentation. It uses some fancy web-work, along with commentary from reporter John Niyo, in presenting quite the optimistic approach to rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Talk Lions Football in The Den Message Board

Shaun Smith Suspended

Although there has been no word on Detroit's veteran DT Grady Jackson, judgment was carried about for former Lions' DT Shaun Smith, who was among the team's final training camp cuts.

Smith achieved suspension status by violating the league's anabolic steroid policy, and will sit the first four games -- which he might have done anyway, considering he's presently without a home.

The league has yet to determine Jackson's fate, although it is forthcoming.

Discuss This Topic in THE DEN Message Board

Larry Foote on Rome is Burning

Former Wolverine and Lions' middle linebacker Larry Foote was interviewed by Jim Rome, according to a thread in The Den message board. One of the highlights of the interview was Foote's insistence on not just winning a set number of games, but "winning all of them."

Naturally, and as predicted by Lion Mom, we're just waiting for the national media to assume Foote's predicting a Super Bowl win and lambaste him for, you know, having, like ... the audacity to ... like, want to win.

Discuss this in The Den Message Board

Culpepper makes a statement

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Daunte Culpepper has spent most of the offseason far away from the media, rarely making himself available for questions.  In the wake of the announcement that Matthew Stafford is the Lions’ new permanent starting quarterback, Culpepper has issued the following statement to the media, through the team’s website:

“My position is that if you want to be the best you have to beat the best. Coach Schwartz gave me a fair opportunity to compete for the starting job and now the decision has been made that Matt is the best quarterback in Detroit. I support the decision and I am ready to settle into my role.”

It’s an extremely classy statement, and it speaks well of Daunte.  The absolute worst thing that could happen for the Lions now is for Culpepper to publicly challenge the Lions’ leadership, or privately incite mutiny.  Still, it’s no secret that he went all-out in recommitting himself to football, in hopes of winning the job.  That his effort was in vain hasn’t gone unnoticed by the veterans.

Perhaps it’s an unnerving glimpse into the future for these players; a preview of the day when working their butt off ensures only a spot for that butt on the bench.  Perhaps Matthew Stafford under center is a reminder that no matter how hard they work, how well they execute, or how polished their technique, a day will come when a bright-eyed youngster with fresh knees and an explosive bank account balance takes their job away from them.

However, all of that will go away when the kid performs, and the Lions win.  Coaches Schwartz and Linehan have the ability—and responsibility--to ensure that their bold decision looks like a smart decision come December.

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Still no word on Grady Jackson's status

It looks like DT Grady Jackson will be able to play in Sunday's season opener against the New Orleans Saints. It looks that way today, anyway.

Tom Kowalski at reports that Jackson appealed a four-game suspension he received last year as an Atlanta Falcon for allegedly using a banned substance.

Writes Killer: "NFL spokesman Greg Aiello would only say that Jackson has not been suspended and that the situation is still under review."

The NFL has had months since Jackson appealed his suspension to resolve this. It isn't fair to him, and it isn't fair to the Lions to not have resolution one way or the other. And it's better for the team, if there's going to be a suspension, to have it early and get it out of the way.

Should Jackson be suspended -- soon or eventually -- replacements include Landon Cohen, Andre Fluellen, rookie Sammie Lee Hill and Orien Harris.

Talk about it in The Den!

Hanson "Back Kicking" According to Schwartz

Monday, September 7, 2009

Lost amid the buzz of annointing Matthew Stafford as his starting quarterback, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz had other news to deliver.

Veteran placekicker Jason Hanson, who missed the bulk of the preseason after undergoing minor knee surgery, has returned to practice. Hanson was replaced by Swayze Waters and Billy Cundiff in Detroit's efforts to, at the least, simulate some kind of kicking game.

“He’s back kicking – I don’t want to put a percentage (on it). He’s not 100-percent right now, but he’s taking it slow on purpose; he hasn’t really opened it up yet," admitted Schwartz. "Later this week, we’re going to get some kickoffs from him and then see how he responds to those and then (see) how he’s able to bounce back without getting sore.

"Then we’ll make a decision of where we need to go kickoff-wise. I would be surprised if he wasn’t able to do field goals this week. Kickoffs are really the next hurdle that we have to get over."

Hanson is day-to-day, but will likely play in the season opener against New Orleans.


Meet Your Practice Squad

The Lions officially have until 4pm today to make waiver claims in order to fill out the roster before the beginning of the 2009 NFL season. However, the Lions will continue to have 1st waiver priority for the duration of the month of September.

The Lions did make a move this morning, adding QB-Brock Berlin as the eighth and final member of the practice squad. Berlin doesn't have NFL level size or talent and is probably only fodder for the scout team until Drew Stanton returns.

Here are the other seven members of the practice squad.

Dan Gerberry

Gerberry is two inches taller and seven lbs heavier than Dominic Raiola. Some hope he can turn into the mauler type center fans want after a year or two under Schwartz and his power lifting plan. Gerberry was kept because he can play all three interior line positions and has great upside out of Ball State.

John Broussard

Originally drafted out of San Jose St, Broussard is a speedy young receiver who can get vertical in a hurry but lacks fundamental skills and the ability to beat more physical corners in press coverage. Again, a player with a bit of upside.

Carson Butler

The undrafted rookie TE out of Michigan had a surprising preseason and showed flashes of talent but lacks consistency. (Every Michigan fan already knew this.) If the coaching staff can get him to concentrate and get past his own mental shortcomings, he has the ability to be a very good receiving TE.

Dan Gronkowski

A seventh round pick and fan favorite, "Gronk" is a TE with a lot of size and athleticism known for his blocking rather than his receiving. The front office will look for him to add weight and take over for Will Heller down the road.

Tristan Davis

After TE, RB is probably the Lions deepest position. For what its worth, the Patriots also put a claim in on the oft-injured speedster from Auburn. He is a little bigger with the exact same talent set the Lions had in Antone Smith (now with the Vikings).

Zack Follett

It is surprising that Follett, possibly one of the team's most popular players, wasn't kept on the active roster as a special teamer. Follett has immediate value in small doses but the organization is hoping he can improve his coverage skills and be a diamond in the rough for a franchise lacking late round (or any round) draft success.

Lydon Murtha

At 6'7", Murtha has more than enough size and smarts to play in the NFL. Seattle put in a waiver claim for him as well and the Lions may need to activate him later in the season to avoid losing his upside to another team. Down the road, he could easily become the Lions' swing tackle.

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

2009 Lions Cap Status through September 6th

Ko Simpson Player Cost

Kevin O'Connell Player Cost

Transaction Log Updated through September 6th

Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

An Early Look at the 2010 Mock Draft

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ok, I know its really early.

But as a guy who's main beat is to look at this sort of thing, college football starting means the draft is on its way!

Here are some guys I've pegged for the top of the draft that the Lions may be looking at.

Carlos Dunlap (DE-Florida)

A premier pass rusher who will be tempted to leave early by Florida's success and draft status. He is slightly bigger and slightly bigger than Mario Williams and will be just as tempting. The Texans made the right pick years ago, will this year's number one be as shrewd?

Offensive Tackles

Here's something you already know. The Lions need help on the blind side. Here's what we don't know... who the top tackle will be. Right now Trent Williams (Oklahoma) Russel Okung (Oklahoma State) and Ciron Black (LSU) are on the top of everyone's boards. However, Michael Oher was in much the same position last fall.

While you're watching football this fall, keep a special eye on Sam Young (Notre Dame) Bryan Bulaga (Iowa) and Adam Ulatoski (Texas). All three have NFL ready bodies and the athleticism to go with it.

Defensive Tackles

As of right now, Shaun Smith doesn't look to be the answer. Ndamukong Suh (pronounce "soo" like sooper-star) is a nice talent from Nebraska, but remember, playing defense in the Big 12 North doesn't always provide the best spotlight.

Other names to watch out for, Gerald McCoy (Oklahoma) and Arthur Jones (Syracuse).

I Hope this enriches your early season college football watching. Check out my preliminary 2-round mock for more info. Hint: I have the Lions selecting Dunlap and Patrick Robinson (CB-Florida State).

Many questions remain on D-line heading into last preseason game

Thursday, September 3, 2009

At a time where teams optimally are making their final roster decisions for a couple of positions, the Lions have questions yet to answer and decisions yet to make regarding virtually their entire defensive line heading into tonight's final preseason game with the Bills.

Tom Kowalski at reports that a season-ending Achilles injury to DE Jared DeVries didn't help matters.

DeVries already was slated for the starting left defensive end position with Cliff Avril and Dewayne White fighting for the starting job on the right side. Now, the Lions probably will move Avril to the left side -- that's where he will get a lot of action in Thursday's game -- to compete with Jason Hunter.

Andre Fluellen, last year's third-round draft choice, also has been moved since the injury to DeVries. Fluellen was at tackle but also is playing at left end.

Questions remain on the interior of the defensive line as well, according to Killer:
Veteran Grady Jackson is expected to be a starter, but the Lions expect only 12 to 15 plays per game out of him for the first few weeks of the season. The Lions need to find another starter and another player to rotate with Jackson.

Who will step up? The candidates are Shaun Smith, Chuck Darby, Sammie Hill, Landon Cohen, Ikika Alama-Francis and Orien Harris.

Having this much unresolved this late in the preseason about so many D-line positions probably isn't good. But it's a long road back from 0-16.

Talk about it in The Den!

An incredible testament to Matt Millen's drafting incompetence

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Detroit Free Press noted today that with the waiving of CB Keith Smith, the Lions now have a grand total of one player remaining from their drafts between 2002 and 2006 -- LB Ernie Sims.

One player! From five drafts! That's almost impossibly bad. That's worse than "random chance, closing your eyes and stabbing your finger into a list of players" bad.

View the roll call of whiffs here, and talk about it in The Den!

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

Practice Squad Rules and Eligibility Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

Skeletons in the Closet

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Recently, while surfing through channels, I stumbled upon a replay of the 2000 Holiday Bowl, featuring the Texas Longhorns and the Oregon Ducks.  I nearly continued changing channels, then I realized: 2000 Oregon Ducks . . . Joey Harrington.  The game was already into the fourth quarter, so a complete TV scout was impossible, but it was certainly worth watching.

What I saw was unnerving.  Joey looked good; very good.  By the time I’d tuned in, he’d already thrown two touchdowns, rushed for another, and received yet another (!).  He got rid of the ball quickly, hit receivers in stride, and was instrumental in engineering two critical touchdown drives in the closing minutes.  It was unnerving because I saw very little of the indecisive, inaccurate quarterback Lions fans would come to know.  There were some little things that looked familiar---his lower body mechanics were still way off—but on the whole, it was a completely different John Joseph Harrington, Jr., under center for the Ducks.  What unnerved me the most?  How much I liked what I saw—the same way I like what I’ve seen of Matthew Stafford.

What went wrong?  Where did Joey’s accuracy, the decision-making, and clutch performance go?  What happened to the sharp, accurate passer I saw on TV, swathed in one of the most ridiculous uniforms in sports?  I suspect the answer has something to do the guy they kept cutting to up on in the booth: OC/QB Coach Jeff Tedford, whom we saw on-screen no less than three times in the waning minutes of the game.

Tedford, whose potent college offenses have produced a string of high-profile NFL busts, is a universally-acknowledged offensive mastermind, a brilliant X-and-O man who puts his players in excellent positions to win.  He does a lot of of the work for his quarterbacks, having enginered an offense that’s based on one or two pre-snap reads.  Often, these keys will remove all but one or two options for a quarterback--meaning when the ball is snapped, he can focus entirely on execution.  While this leads to Tedford being able to extract quality play from nearly any quarterback with a solid arm and decent athleticism, it’s resulted in many of his star pupils failing to catch on at the next level.

When Joey Harrington came to the Lions, he was inserted into the classic Bill Walsh offense; 4 or 5 options on every play, with quick reads, quick decisions, and accurate passing absolutely vital to the success of the offense.  The Walsh offense and the Tedford offense share a lot of fundamental terminology and philosophy: a mix of power running, passing to the running backs, and quick timing passes to the wideouts.

The coaching approach, however, is completely different.  The Tedford offense relies on the quarterback to be an extension of the offensive coordinator; to execute a predetermined gameplan.  The Walsh offense requires a quarterback to be a ‘coach on the field’, with a full understanding of the goals and philosophies of the offense, and making all the reads and decisions as the action unfolds.

It’s no wonder common wisdom holds that quarterback needs three full years of coaching in the WCO before he can execute it at a high level, and it’s further no wonder that Joey Harrington failed to perform right away.  Historians—and Denizens--can debate for eternity whether Joey Ballgame ever had the potential to succeed.  But the success of Aaron Rodgers proves that with good coaching and lots of patience, a Tedford-coached player can indeed become an excellent professional quarterback.

How, then, can we apply this lesson to the development of Matthew Stafford?  The answer is, we can’t.  Stafford came from a relatively complex (for college) pro-style offense in Georgia, and the Lions run a relatively simple (for the pros) pro-style offense.  Stafford is a much different quarterback than Harrington in terms of physical and mental strengths and weaknesses.  Finally, Stafford is a much different person than Harrington, with a much different upbringing, football career, psyche, and attitude.  As much as we humans are wired to learn from past experiences, we may just have to get over our Harrington-induced phobia of rookie quarterbacks.

Then again, Roy Williams played in that Holiday Bowl too; the game-winning touchdown bounced off of his hands.  Maybe the past should make us wary about the future . . .

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Drew Stanton’s future in doubt?

According to John Niyo of the Detroit News (via Twitter), the Lions are sending Drew Stanton to consult with Dr. James Andrews, the renowned orthopedic surgeon. Meanwhile, they’ve signed former Vikings QB Brooks Bollinger.

This is terrible news for Stanton fans, as his inability to stay healthy has been made even more maddening by his improving production.  Just as it looked like he had a roster spot sewn up as the Lions’ #3 QB, he may well be facing more surgery and another year on the shelf.  It’s premature to say he’s destined to lose yet another season to injury--but Dr. Andrews is the biggest name in orthopedic surgery; if it weren’t potentially serious, Drew wouldn’t be going to see him.

On the other hand, the Lions could easily have waived Drew, and given him an injury settlement, cab fare, and a firm handshake.  For them to make this kind of continued investment speaks well of the organization’s attitude toward the former second-round pick’s progress.

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Jon Gruden: Matthew Stafford Should Start

Crediting ESPNews, The Den user KyrptonianQuarterback relayed the news that former Buccaneers' head coach and life-size Chucky puppet Jon Gruden believes Detroit "should" start rookie Matthew Stafford at quarterback. Other than winning a Super Bowl, Gruden's career has been underlined by his ability to squeeze the most out of his quarterbacks, including the likes of Jeff Garcia and Brad Johnson.

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Lions host Milloy; Can't Agree To Terms

The Detroit Lions hosted Lawyer Milloy on Monday, but the two sides couldn't agree on terms. The Lions have been rumored to be interested in upgrading the safety position, and although the 35-year old, former New England Patriot standout would at least make things interest in Detroit, it isn't likely to happen.

The article also mentioned DE Kevin Carter, whose apathetic approach to signing ... well, anywhere ... evidently continues. Carter is reportedly leaning towards retirement, which means he prefers his couch to Detroit, Michigan.

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