Monday, April 2, 2018

2018 Pre-Draft Roster Review

Time to review the roster as it sits today.

The coaching hires (and firings) have come and gone, so has the start of free agency when most of the action takes place. Now we can better see just where the Lions are at. With 72 players under contract (or tendered, or tagged) the Detroit Lions are sitting on $10,067,577 in salary cap space. They currently have 6 draft picks in the upcoming draft and they usually sign around 10 guys who go undrafted immediately after the draft ends. That means they have room for one or two more "vet" players they could sign in free agency over the next few weeks. Still, the roster is pretty much shaped up into what they will have in their OTAs and off season programs so let's take a look at it one position group at a time.

I shall preface this with a few thoughts though... the coaching staff and front office tend to favor players who are versatile over players who are not... and the front office (and not the coaching staff) have the salary cap to contend with so some guys just won't be going anywhere while others could. 53 jobs are up for grabs and the competition to work one of those spots is fierce. But, at the same time, teams need a modicum of depth so if an injury happens they have someone, who may not be quite as good at it, who can take over. Teams are also dealing with a set number of roster spots, so a few assumptions have to be made.

Let's start off the quarterback. The Lions have under contract their starter, who is lock to make the 2018 team, in Matthew Stafford. They also have carried only one other QB on the roster these past couple years and tried to stash the 3rd on their practice squad. That didn't work out so well in 2017 as Brad Kaaya was signed off their squad and is no longer under the teams' control. Their 2nd string QB (Stafford's backup) could be either Jake Rudock (last year's backup) or Alex Torgerson, who they signed right after the 2017 season ended to a future/reserve contract. It's also possible they could select another QB in the upcoming draft to compete with these two. It's possible they keep 3 on the roster so they don't lose their practice squad QB to another team. It's also possible they will gamble and only keep 2 again. They want that 3rd QB to help with film study so if there isn't on the 53 roster their must be one on the practice squad. My 2018 Roster Estimate at QB is: Matthew Stafford (lock) and both Rudock and Torgerson make the roster. The 4th camp arm might be an undrafted player they sign after the draft is over or an unsigned vet to a vet minimum deal.

At Tight End they ended Eric Ebron's contract and signed two veterans to go with their 4th round pick in last year's draft Michael Roberts. Roberts started the year in the dog house having some issues being late to meetings and so on, but nothing a better alarm clock won't cure. Luke Willson had a $900,000 signing bonus and $500,000 of his 2018 salary is guaranteed and he's about to be paid $100,000 for attending the workouts that start in a week... so $1.5 million of his $2.5 million contract is guaranteed. That makes him a lock. Roberts is in his 2nd year of his rookie deal, as a 4th round draft pick he's also a lock. Levine Toilolo signed with $400,000 in a signing bonus and is also about to make $100,000 in workout bonuses, so a third of his $1.5 million contract is guaranteed as well. That doesn't make him a lock, but it does make him hard to get off the roster if you are Brandon Barnes, Hakeem Valles, a draft pick or an undrafted player (the first two being signed to contracts right after the 2017 season ended). My 2018 Roster Estimate at TE is: 3 make the roster, Roberts and Willson are locks and Toilolo won't be outplayed enough to move him. Up until Toilolo was signed I figured the Lions were looking to the draft for their 3rd, but no longer.

At Running Back they are returning the entire 2017 corp and then added LaGarrette Blount in free agency. Blount had a $1 million signing bonus and was the 11th ranked RB in yards per attempt last year, he is a lock. Speaking of ranking in the yards-per-attempt category, I find that stat to be the most meaningful as far as rushing goes. There are 32 teams with 32 QBs and 32 OLs and 32 coaching staffs... just about every variable or combination of such is in that group of 32... and with teams having from 3 to 6 running backs, well, rushing yards per attempt would be the only stat that you can use to see how your players stacked up (and that includes your coaching staff, your OL, your QB, and all the pieces that go into making a run game work). You'd think the Lions would have a runner in the top 32 (before Blount was signed)... nope... the top 50?... nope... the top 100? well, yeah, at 99 Jamal Agnew, the corner back, managed to rank there. The Lions were so bad at running that not only don't they have a runner in the top 100, but you have to go to 155 to find the first one on the roster that is in fact a running back... Tion Green. The OL coach was fired... and the OL is being worked on and hopefully will be healthier, but the RBs themselves are not safe either... not a single one of them. Oh sure, they can do this or do that, but most of them would find it hard to make the roster of another team and actually be a starter. Here is how they ranked in 2017:

99 Jamal Agnew
108 Golden Tate
155 Tion Green
201 Theo Riddick
202 Matthew Stafford
206 Ameer Abdullah
241 Dwayne Washington
257 Zach Zenner

The Lions will keep 4 or 5 running backs, probably five but I'm going to say four for now. Blount is the lock. Riddick is also a decent receiver and gets yards after the catch, he has the next best chance to make the roster. Ameer did some good stuff before his Lisfranc injury, if he can come back full speed from that this year he probably has the next best chance... and by virtue of being better then the rest of the roster, Tion Green has a shot. I fully and completely expect the Lions to draft a running back in the 2018 draft, day 2 (2nd or 3rd round). My 2018 Roster Estimate at RB is: Blount, Riddick, Draft Pick, and Green. There is no salary cap reason to keep the others, and there is no production reason to keep them either. Zenner, Washington, Abdullah and whoever else the Lions sign after the draft will compete against Tion Green for that one roster spot, unless they keep five... then those two roster spots.

At Wide Receiver they are returning most of the 2017 corp as well. Golden Tate III and Marvin Jones are locks to make the roster. Kenny Golladay is as well, through virtue of his size, draft pick status, and rookie production. That leaves two spots for TJ Jones (who is set to make $1,907,000 but it is not guaranteed so he's really got to prove he is worth that much, as so far, he has not done that), Jace Billingsley, Andy Jones, Bradley Marquez, and Dontez Ford. Those 5 guys will find themselves also competing against the Lions draft pick I expect them to make at WR, and perhaps other undrafted players and veteran signings in free agency after the draft. I also expect the draft pick will be some kind of special teams ace, either gunner or punt returner, so he'll most likely be the 4th lock. That leaves all of them fighting for one spot (barring injury... knock on wood). My 2018 Roster Estimate at WR is: Tate III, Marvin Jones, Golladay, draft pick, and TJ Jones (unless anyone else comes mildly close to his ability, then they are in and he is out).

Last but not least on the offense we have the Offensive Line players. The Lions will keep 9 or 10, most likely 9, so here we go. The locks to make the team are; LT Taylor Decker, C/G Graham Glasgow, RG TJ Lang, and RT Rick Wagner. Vet pickup Kenny Wiggins has the inside track on the 5th and final starting spot on the OL, but it is not guaranteed. The other 4ish spots have no less then 7 guys fighting for those jobs and there will likely be a draft pick added to that fight. Depending on when drafted, the draft pick would also become a lock. Last year's 5th round draft pick Joe Dahl has a small inside bonus for his draft status, and a couple of the backup tackles did half way decent in relief last year so the race is really going to be something. Versatility might be key, as will draft status (they didn't draft them if they didn't like them) and salary cap... so my 2018 Roster estimate at OL is: Decker, Dahl, Glasgow, Lang, Wagner, Draft Pick, Wiggins, Cleary, and Mahalik. The last 3 will face stiff competition from Koloamatangl, Wesley Johnson, Corey Robinson, and Dan skipper.

We all know who the special teams players to make the roster are; Martin, Prater and Muhlbach are here for another year, so it's off to the defensive side we go.

The Lions have spent draft picks on guard, wide receiver, and running back (see above)... so we need to mix in three more with the next 4 corps. At cornerback the Lions have their locks in Darius Slay (production), Nevin Lawson (contract), Teez Tabor (draft status), Jamal Agnew (returner), and DeShawn Shead (contract and free agent status). That leaves 3 guys hoping for an injury as I don't think there will be an open roster spot for another. Charles Washington, Desmond Lawrence, and Adairius Barnes will be joined by some undrafted players so that some may make the practice squad. Obviously my 2018 estimated CB corp is: Slay, Lawson, Tabor, Agnew, and Shead. I don't anticipate a draft pick being used on a cornerback this year, unless he can play safety as well.

Speaking of corners who can play safety, the 2015 6th round pick Quandre Diggs is one my locks at Safety, since he can also play corner. My other locks at Safety are Glover Quin (production), Killebrew (draft status and production), and Tavon Wilson (past production and contract). That leaves one roster spot open for the draft pick I assume they will select and Stefan McClure and Rolan Milligan. Needless to say, the draft pick would likely make the roster over the other two barring injury and off field stuff. My 2018 Safety corp is: Diggs, Quin, Killebrew, Wilson, and a draft pick.

Now Linebackers have 8 guys signed for what should be 6 spots. The Locks are Christian Jones (free agent status and contract), Devon Kennard (free agent status and contract), Jarrad JD Davis (draft status and production), Jaleen Reeves-Davis (draft status and ceiling), and you guessed it - Nick Bellore (can play full back and LB and special teams). That leaves one spot for Steve Longa, Brandon Chubb, and Jonathan Freeny. I don't expect a draft pick for this group any longer with the vet pickups in free agency. So my 2018 estimated LB corp is: Davis, Kennard, Jones, Bellore, Reeves-Maybin, and Longa (sorry Freeny, but Longa on special teams takes your spot).

At Defensive End the lock is Ziggy Ansah. I would say Hyder as well but less then half of all athlete's can come back from the injury he had last year so I'm not able to say he's a lock, or even if he'll make the roster. Zettel could be a lock due to his being a 6th round pick in 2016, but he has to show at least more then the rest. Cam Johnson, Jeremiah Valoaga, and Alex Barrett may or may not ever develop. I have never understood the Cornelius Washington signing and saw nothing that should suggest he automatically has a roster spot. I'd almost bet anything that a DE will be drafted in the first two days of the draft this year, and that means the pick will be a lock. Just about anyone who shows something could make the final roster, so it's all up for grabs really. The Lions usually keep 5, though 4 and a DT who can switch back and forth, or even an OLB who can switch back and forth, are possible. My 2018 estimated DE corp at this time is: Ziggy Ansah, a high Draft Pick, Kerry Hyder (50/50 he can do it), Anthony Zettel (draft status), and and and... ah... oh heck, Jeremiah Valoaga (cool name).

At Defensive Tackle the Lions will probably keep 5 and the locks are A'Shawn Robinson (draft status), Akeem Spence (a little of the production and free agent status), Jeremiah Ledbetter (draft status and ceiling), and Sylvester Williams (contract this year in free agency... ala $2 million signing bonus). That leaves one spot open for Toby Johnson and Christian Ringo and an early Draft Pick that I assume will also, like the DE, be in the first two days of the draft... which would make him the final lock and roster spot barring injury or some kind of super human effort by the last two. My 2018 estimated DT corp then is: Robinson, Spence, Ledbetter, Williams and a Draft pick.

The link to my estimated depth chart (and salary cap chart) is to the upper right. My next blog entries should all be on the 2018 draft. Obviously I'm looking for the Lions to pick:


Not everyone agrees with these but that's the way I see it, for the reasons given above.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Head Coaching Search and Draft Picks, etc.

The Lions 2017 draft picks are as follows:

Due to some ties the Lions move around a little, not staying at 20th pick of each round. Also, one trade is recorded and one is pending. So here's the latest info on the draft...

Round 1, 20th Overall.

Round 2, 51st Overall.

Round 3, 82nd Overall.

All picks after this spot will be moved down once compensatory picks are awarded, Lions are not expected to get any compensatory picks in 2018.

Round 4, 113th Overall.

Round 5, 144th Overall.

Round 6, 180th Overall... traded to Rams • Greg Robinson to Lions for 2018 sixth round pick (?-?) on 06-15-2017.

Round 7, 211th Overall... traded to Buccaneers (conditional) PICK MAY OR MAY NOT TRANSFER DEPENDING ON UNCONFIRMED CONDITIONS Traded • Johnthan Banks to Lions for 2018 conditional seventh round pick (?-?) on 11-01-2016 ... Conditions on pick are unconfirmed.

In addition, for next year, Laken Tomlinson was traded for a 5th rounder in 2019... The Lions traded Bademosi to the Patriots. ESPN reported the deal is for a 2019 sixth-round draft pick.

Now as for the head coaching search, rumor is that the Patriots DC Patricia will get the job, but you can't always count on rumors, so here's the interviews so far.

Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur
Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin
Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter
Packers assistant head coach/linebackers coach Winston Moss (but the Lions blocked Teryl Austin from interviewing for their DC)
Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel
Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia

and of course right after I type the whole thing I find what I was looking for already done, with even more details.

That's what I got on it so far, other then Teryl Austin was given permission to interview for the Bengals defensive coordinator job and rumor is he may end up there, unless the Lions sign him as their new head coach.

In my forum I have a great deal of info on each position group, but it is mostly just my musings on how I came up with my estimated depth chart, so I won't post all that here. On the other hand, if the Patriots keep in the playoffs the Lions won't be able to hire Patricia and therefor he and Quinn won't be able to put together a coaching staff. The longer that goes on the more likely that many of the current Lions coaches will remain on staff (with a few additions and promotions I would imagine). More on that later too.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

More (early 2018) Salary Cap stuff

The Lions currently, by my estimate, have about $53.5 million in salary cap space available for 2018 (see yesterday's post below). So who are the top 15 in taking up the cap space already spoken for?

Stafford (of course) $26,500,000
TJ Lang $10,916,666
Golden Tate $ 9,351,250
Marvin Jones $ 8,600,000
Eric Ebron $ 8,250,000 (unless he gets an extension)
Glover Quinn $ 6,516,666
Ricky Wagner $ 5,900,000
Darius Slay $ 5,576,269
Theo Riddick $ 3,887,500
Akeem Spence $ 3,500,000
Cornelius Washington $ 3,487,500
Matt Prater $ 3,200,000
Taylor Decker $ 2,990,994
Sam Martin $ 2,925,000
Jarrad Davis $ 2,493,050

all the rest are under $2 million this year (so far).

Bob Quinn's signature is on 14 of those 15 contracts. The only exception is Golden Tate, signed two years before he got here. ALL the rest are directly due to Quinn.

That's 1 QB, 3 OL, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 S, 1 CB, 1 RB, 2 DL, 1 LB, and 2 K/P

That should be the "core" of the team. These are the top assets (cap). So if any on this list don't appear to be core to you, then perhaps the GM made an oopsie, since his name is on all but 1 of their contracts. Or, perhaps, they were developed correctly, used correctly, were healthy, or adjusted to their new team quickly enough.

The next 9 cap hits are all draft picks still playing their rookie contracts. After those, you're below a million a year on the rest of the roster.

So we are a young(ish) team. We have a core that may or may not need to be improved upon. And we MUST be able to develop these players. Just some more stuff I noted as I'm working on my cap info these last couple days.

By the way, I suspect the number two slot will eventually be Ziggy Ansah, moving the rest down a peg. Number three or so will be Ngata or even more likely, his replacement (a free agent) moving them all down another slot, and adding two more DL to the balance. Before the list runs out, sooner or later a Center (or another OL) will be added to the numbers... I don't think Glasgow or the free agent concussion prone Swanson are the final answer, so a draft pick or a free agent who would likely show up on this list at that point.

Our 2018 1st and 2nd rounders from this draft will also end up on this list. Could it be another DL and then a RB? That's what I'm predicting right now, but we'll see and I'll change my mind a dozen times before the end of April.

Maybe I should qualify that statement. On my estimated depth chart I have 14 current Lions free agents who I would re-sign that would make the final roster. I have 32 players already under contract that make the final roster. I suspect two free agent pickups from other teams (as in 'name' players, not camp fodder). And I have the 5 draft picks making the final roster. Total of 53. My "needs" then are (and this is AFTER re-signing 14 guys):


The way I see it, if it went according to plan, is the need for a starting center and a starting defensive tackle. So those would be the two free agents. Then a 5th WR, a 3rd QB, a 5th DT to eventually rotate in and develop, a 6th LB (same) and hopefully finding a starting RB in round 2 of the draft. By the way, the Lions could have selected a number of RBs in round 2 in 2017 instead of CB Teez Tabor, the names include Mixon, Kamara, Hunt, and Foreman. I wouldn't have minded that not that I have anything against Teez Tabor though. Still, if even one of the 14 free agents do not re-sign with the Lions, or if the draft falls in a weird way, the entire plan of mine would be ripped up and thrown away. In addition to that, it's perhaps the Lions won't see things the same way I do, so anything is truly possible right now. I'm pretty much just thinking out loud as it were. Still, what else have we to do while the Lions look for a new head coach? Take a peek at the links up to the right for my estimated depth chart and salary cap chart for more info.

2017 Detroit Lions Player Eval (and other tidbits)

The Flip Side.

Here we are, what is known in the NFL as Black Monday. That is, the day after the regular season ends. The day when many coaches are fired in the NFL. Yesterday a couple teams started Black Monday a day early, similar to many Black Friday sales after Thanksgiving start on Thanksgiving day. This morning though the Detroit Lions fired head coach Jim Caldwell. They also fired the assistant head coach, who is also the offensive line coach, Ron Prince. Ron was the one coach I wanted the Lions to fire, so that didn't take long. Now the Lions are setting up interviews for the head coach position. I'd put money on the Patriots DC Patricia but it remains to be seen who will end up with the job.

Meanwhile, there are a number of other tidbits in the news today. For example, the Lions will be drafting 20th overall. It is likely they will have only 5 draft picks in 2018 as they have a couple pending trades (called conditional picks at the time) that will be going through, unless they make other deals before the end of April.

Another news item is it now know who the Lions opponents are for 2018:

Home: Bears, Vikings, Packers, Rams, Seahawks, Patriots, Jets, Panthers
Away: Bears, Vikings, Packers, Cardinals, 49ers, Bills, Dolphins, Cowboys

At first glance it would appear it's going to be an interesting year.

2017 Player Review

At quarterback Matthew Stafford hit over 4,000 yards for his 7th straight year, only Drew Brees has a longer streak going at present. He is also the quickest to obtain 3,000 completions. His yearly completion percentage exceeded 65% for 2017 and his contract is such he is going no where. Meanwhile, his backup, Jake Rudock, briefly showed why Stafford continues to play even when he is not at 100%. Brad Kaaya, the Lions 3rd QB drafted in 2017 was cut and placed on the practice squad, the Panthers signed him, later cut him, the Lions claimed him, cut him, put him on the practice squad, and a bit over a week ago the Colts claimed him. So no 3rd QB exists for the Lions at this point in time. In fact, no backup either for 2018 as Rudock is a free agent, but I assume he'll be re-signed. I imagine a 3rd QB will be drafted to compete against Rudock in camp.

At running back Ameer Abdullah, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, and even Theo Riddick had to watch undrafted 2016 free agent Tion Green be active when they were not, or at least take snaps away from them. Mike James ended up on IR and as far as I know didn't ever see a single snap in a game. Riddick, Abdullah, Washington and Green all have 2018 contracts but I'm not so sure they will all make the 2018 team. Zach Zenner may be offered a minimum contract to compete in camp. Mike James probably won't be back. It's also possible the Lions will either pick up a cheap free agent or draft a RB to compete with the rest of them. The Lions are now going on 4 years without a 100 yard rusher, but is it the RBs or is it the OL blocking?

At wide receiver the Lions had Marvin Jones Jr, Golden Tate, TJ Jones, and Kenny Golladay. TJ Jones ended up on IR and Jace Billingsley was re-signed to take his place but was inactive. Andy Jones and Bradley Marquez never saw the field. TJ Jones is also a free agent now. I expect TJ will get re-signed and they will look for a 5th WR in camp. The two already on the roster will be competing against free agents and maybe even a draft pick to make the roster. I doubt the Lions will carry more then 5 WRs and they could go with 4 but that too is doubtful. The WR corp for the Lions is decent, not talking about super stars but Golden Tate regularly leads the league in run after the catch and towards the end of the year both Marvin Jones Jr and Golladay were showing they can go deep and make plays.

At tight end the Lions had Eric Ebron, Darren Fells, and rookie Michael Roberts. Roberts played like a rookie, Fells did okay but is now a free agent who I think the Lions will try to re-sign, and Eric Ebron started doing better as the year went along. He was even the top receiver in a number of games late in the year. Ebron is signed for one more year, but the contract is for $8.25 million... so it's possible the Lions might try to sign him longer term to lower the 2018 cap hit. It's also possible they will allow him to play out the year as is to see if he is worth signing longer term. Hakeem Valles was recently signed too, but again as far as I know he didn't see any playing time. So he'll start the camp competition at TE along with whoever else is picked up.

The offensive line was the real problem with the Lions this year. Ranking 32nd at run blocking, allowing over 60 sacks (a Stafford record for one year) and 31st overall in the league. The OL coach has already been fired, but was that the whole issue? At tackle there was Taylor Decker who missed half the year but came back strong and will be the mainstay at LT as long as he is healthy. Rick Wagner was signed to take over the right tackle spot and played okay (not great) when healthy, but he missed a number of games. The Lions traded for Greg Robinson to play in place of Decker but he ended up on IR, so that, along with the Wagner injuries had the team scrambling to sign depth, and found Emmett Cleary (who did okay then got hurt) and Brian Mihalik (who also did okay but got hurt) and finally had to play Corey Robinson... the only guy on the OL who Quinn did not personally find (sign). At guard Graham Glasgow played left guard and T.J. Lang was signed to play right guard (after signing a monster sized contract for a guard) they were backed up by Joe Dahl who I think should have played instead of Glasgow but the Lions like their vets (or maybe it was the recently fired coaches who did). Glasgow is also the backup center so he at times had to move out of the guard position. Lang was injured a number of times as well. The added backups of Don Barclay and Zac Kerin ended up on IR, so at times one of the tackles played guard. Travis Swanson was the only center other then Glasgow, and he ended up on IR with another concussion. Swanson is also now a free agent and may not be back. Heck, with two big time concussions he may be done in the NFL for all I know. Kerin and Robinson are also now free agents. I don't know if the Lions will sign any of the three back, and I don't think Glasgow is the answer at center (but he makes a great backup at center and guard) so it's possible the Lions will look to free agency for a new center this year.

Kerry Hyder Jr was supposed to start at right defensive end but ended up on IR to start the year. Ziggy Ansah had 6 sacks in the lst two games for 11 total on the year (if memory serves me correctly) but is now a free agent along with Hyder and Brandon Copeland. In fact, ALL the Lions DEs are free agents except for Cornelius Washington and tackle turned end Anthony Zettel. Ziggy Ansah only really started doing well when Dwight Freeney was signed, and it was mentioned that moves Ziggy made in the last game of the season were nearly trademark moves last seen done by Freeney. It's my estimation that Freeney is the reason Ziggy started to pour it on and he should either be kept or hired as a coach! The Lions need to re-sign at least a couple of their free agents or go shopping as they can't play with only the two remaining that they have and draft picks have a tendency to take more then a season to learn the position.

Starting defensive tackles A'Shawn Robinson and Haloti Ngata started the year causing all kinds of problems for teams, especially against the run, but when Ngata went on IR early in the season the entire defense went down hill, fast. DC Austin was unable to find a means to bring the defense around, despite some pretty good play by the back 7 (at times). Ngata is also now a free agent and in his mid-30's so his NFL career may be over too, probably depends on him. I suspect the Lions will sign another free agent DT and probably draft one as well, as backups Rodney Coe, Jeremiah Ledbetter, Christian Ringo, Akeem Spence and Jordan Hill (another who went on IR) don't appear to have the same starting quality as Ngata has and Austin needs to make the defense work. Plus three of those backups are also free agents (Coe, Ringo, and Hill).

Rookie Jarrad Davis had a rocky start but learns fast and showed everyone why he was drafted in the first round. Nick Bellore did some good stuff as a backup and on special teams but really helped out by playing full back from time to time on offense. He's one free agent I hope the Lions do re-sign for sure. Draft pick Jalen Reeves-Maybin started to pick up the art of being a LB toward the end of the year and Steve Longa did some special teams work. Tahir Whitehead did okay at times and stuggled at other times, not sure what to think about him yet... but he was better at weak side then middle linebacker. Paul Worrilow also contributed on the strong side when the Lions weren't in nickle, which they were a lot. Both Whitehead of Worrilow are free agents along with Bellore, so the Lions need to re-sign or replace at least 3 guys and it wouldn't hurt to have a draft pick to compete for the final spot against Longa and Brandon Chubb (who I don't think saw the field this year). At least this LB corp was able to get some sacks and some tackles for a loss on running backs... last year's corp got nary a single one of either.

At safety Glover Quin did his usual good showing, while Don Carey is especially important for special teams. Miles Killebrew got a lot of playing time but seems to be having problems learning or maybe he just needs more time. Charles Washington made too many errors to see the field a lot. Tavon Wilson went on IR early in the year so there was a bit of a scramble to fix the safety position until Quandre Diggs was moved from cornerback to safety. He needed a game to get the swing of it then excelled. I suspect safety will be his full time position from now on. Carey and Wilson are free agents and should be re-signed.

Cornerback Darius Slay is the only Lions to make the pro-bowl this year, so that explains how good of a year he had. Jamal Agnew was the return man and a good one, he also got time in playing CB but he's a rookie and they take time to learn the position. DJ Hayden, played a lot due to injuries and is now a free agent. Not sure if he'll be back and he certainly doesn't play like the first round pick he is (not picked by Lions, they got him later) but he can fill in well. Nevin Lawson started opposite Slay for most of the year and did okay with a few weird games here and there. He too is a free agent now. Rookie Teez Tabor eventually saw the field, but not until injury made it happen. If the Lions re-sign Hayden and Lawson they will probably be set at CB, or nearly so. They'll still load up for camp just in case of more injuries.

I updated my estimated depth chart today and the link is towards the top right, and also can be found on my website and in my forum. I show the free agent with an orange background and where the Lions might draft in yellow... along with the names of those who will likely be fighting for a roster spot on the right side. After finishing it up I found out the Lions signed 10 guys (9 from their practice squad) to future/reserve contracts. They are:

Barnes, Adairius CB
Barnes, Brandon TE
Barrett, Alex DE
Ford, Dontez WR
Johnson, Toby DT
Koloamatangi, Leo C
Milligan, Rolan S
Skipper, Dan T
Torgersen, Alek QB
Valoaga, Jeremiah DE

All ten will also compete for roster spots now, with the center perhaps having the best odds of making the team, imo.

In addition to my estimated depth chart I updated my salary cap chart for the Lions. They have 40 others under contract for 2018 and about 34 of them I expect will be making the team unless something odd happens. Of course, if the Lions do re-sign the 15 free agents and select 5 in the draft they would have over 53 players to keep so someone who might otherwise make the team will be cut... and that doesn't count undrafted rookies, other free agents they may sign, and some of the other names I listed above. I estimated the team cap to increase by about $11 million over last year, and the Lions have $4.1 million left in 2017 cap space to roll over into 2018, so that would give them about $53.5 million in cap space to work with. Plenty to re-sign their guys, sign their draft picks, even franchise tag Ziggy Ansah if need be and have cap to work the season. All this is assuming that these players will fit whatever system the new head coach installs (if any new systems are installed). More on Salary Cap space later, this blog post is getting rather lengthy and it's time to turn in for the night. See you all on the flip side (that means tomorrow lol).

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017, Week 17, Detroit Lions vs Green Bay Packers @ Home (Season finale).


The 9-7 Detroit Lions beat the 7-9 Green Bay Packers 35-11 and the first time they have swept the Packers since 1991. This is the second 9-7 season in a row, but this time it was not enough for them to make the playoffs. How large is that stupid loss to the Steelers now? Or that called TD that wasn't against the Falcons causing 10 seconds to be run off the 8 second game clock when it overturned? Or any other game that could have or should have been a win but was not for whatever reason. So even though it was another winning season the 2017 season can be summed up in one word. Fail.

Matthew Stafford was 20 of 29 (68.97%) for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. This makes his 7th season in a row of exceeding 4,000 yards passing, only Drew Brees has more (11 or 12 I think it is). This was also the only game Stafford ever has had with 3 passes of over 50 yards in it. Proving it could be done if the plays were called and/or attempted, but were not until the playoffs were out of reach. That means too much conservative play calling when it matters. Another data point in that vein is the trick play called for a 2 point conversation which ended up with Tate III throwing a 2 point conversion to Matthew Stafford. Despite all these beautiful records, the offense for the Lions in 2017 has but one grade. Fail.

Hundley was 14 of 24 (58.33%) for 172 yards 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. The Lions defense also allowed 103 yards rushing and recovered 2 fumbles (well, 3 fumbles but one was Agnew recovering his own fumble so I'm not counting that). The Lions defense went from a top 10 defense (primarily from it's run defense at the beginning of the year) to 32nd by year's end. The turning point was exactly due to one player. Ngata. The pro-bowl DT was healthy for the first time as a Lion to start the year and was playing like a pro-bowler, then he got injured and put on IR and the defense never was the same again. How can a defensive coordinator not be able to counter for the loss of one guy in 3/4 of a season? This isn't the first time Austin lost a pro-bowl DT and failed to do anything after that... same thing happened when Suh left the team (they did get Ngata, but he was playing injured the entire year and was not himself). Apparently, and as I have said often, Austin can NOT field a decent defense against a winning team unless he has a pro-bowl and healthy defensive tackle on the team playing the majority of the snaps. So the grade for the 2017 defense? Fail.

I haven't too many complaints about the special teams coach other then why wait until week 17 to do a trick play that helps score points? Was that a head coaching decision or something self inflicted? Special teams won't get a failing grade, but I'm forced to go no more then B+ because of those two questions.

Now after reading my post(s) you might think I want all the coaches canned. But, there are issues with that. You see, new coaches mean new systems, new playbooks to learn, new language, new problems even. The talent may no longer fit. The time for everyone to sign on and be able to execute can often be measured in years not games. I'm not looking forward to a whole new coaching staff, not at all. But, at the same time, the current OL coach was the TE coach until Lombardi was fired then he was moved (and the not so great OL coach at the time was canned along with Lombardi). I don't think he is the answer at OL coach. Cooter is a great QB coach, but he needs training on how to be an OC, and perhaps, maybe, he could be worked with by hiring an assistant with play calling experience to help him learn his position that he was never properly taught. As for the defense, I do not want Austin back unless we have a pair of pro-bowl caliber DTs on the roster. But I don't want a whole new defense either, just a DC who is not afraid to blitz. So perhaps let Austin go and promote one of the assistant coaches to DC, such as the DB coach maybe. Does that mean I want to keep Caldwell? Well, it would make my choices easier, but it's also possible that Quinn will bring in Patrica (the Patriots current DC) as the head coach and he could do the things I suggest above. That is, fire Austin, promote the DB coach to DC. Replace the OL coach. Bring in an assistant to properly train Cooter in the art of play calling... and perhaps just perhaps Patricia won't go for it on 4th down when in field goal range and only 2 points down... maybe he'll take the points and the lead and not lose that game giving the Lions a wildcard game. Perhaps he can even find ways to improve other aspects of the game and win the division, especially in a year in which Rodgers is out for most of it and the other two teams in the division are going to backup QB plans of their own due to injury or ineffectiveness. Anyway, that's my say on the coaching issue at this point in time.

I have a lot more to discuss on the players, and will, but until the coaching decisions are made that can wait... what's the point of replacing half the OL if the OL coach remains. What's the point of getting a top notch RB if the OC always calles run plays on 1st downs and can't call more then 20 run plays a game. What's the point of getting a DT if... oh, well, we need one anyways... but if we need a pro-bowl ready made DT to make Austin's D work it would have to be a very expensive free agent and not just a draft pick. (could or should be both is Austin stays). Anyway, I'll get into player eval and other comments later, after I see what the coaching situation is.

Have a good New Year's everyone, see you on the flip side.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

2017, Week 16, Detroit Lions @ Cincinnati Bengals

It's Official.

The 8-7 Detroit Lions lose to the 6-9 Cincinnati Bengals with a score of 17-26. With the loss the Lions can no longer mathematically make it into the 2017 playoffs. Though the Lions play the Green Bay Packers next week to end the season it's officially the time to begin off season talk. Before we do that let's get to the official numbers for this game.

Matthew Stafford was 19 of 35 (54.29%) for 203 yards a touchdown and an interception. A good part of the incompletions were desparation throws at the end of the game in an attempt to make something happen in the limited time left in the game. Another chunk can be attributed to drops. That's not saying Stafford played well, he's not blameless. Meanwhile Andy Dalton was 27 of 41 (65.85%) for 238 yards also with a touchdown and an interception. The Lions had 87 yards rushing if you combine four different runners, while the Bengals had 142 yards rushing. The Lions had 9 penalties to the Bengals 5. The Lions also lost the time of possession battle, if there was a battle for it that is.

The numbers show once again that the Lions are incapable of stopping the run (even when the starting RB leaves the game early) without a pro-bowl and fully healthy DT in the mix. They also failed to pressure Dalton enough to win the game, as Dalton has proved early in this game and in most games on film that he slightly panics when he's about to get hit. Of course, it's hard to create pressure when your DC refuses to blitz, even when your opponent is starting a new tackle on their OL. The Bengals had no issue blitzing the Lions who were playing without their starting center, starting right guard, and starting right tackle. I would not hesitate to trade the Lions DC for the Bengals DC even up... I'd even spot them the Lions OL coach to sweeten the deal.

The Lions had chances early in the game to put pressure on the Bengals (and many other teams this year) by taking a few calculated chances early in games to pile on the points but as is constantly the case, they don't. The conservative play calling is well beyond stupid, into the area of impossibly idiotic. But I digress. Actually, no, I'm not digressing. Now that the Lions wasted yet another season by not making the playoffs and since we're already into the time we can start talking about the off season then the very first thing that will be talked about the most is if the coaching staff should remain. I think Jim Bob Cooter is a great QB coach. I'm far from impressed with him at OC. I'm far from impressed with Austin at DC. I'm far from impressed with the OL coach. I'm okay with the TE coach and the DB coach. That's about it. The rest haven't shown me anything to make me even comment on them one way or the other. With this much lack of enthusiasm for a coaching staff it makes think there will be changes coming. What exactly those will be I'm not yet certain. I do know that the team in the division who plays its starting QB for the entire year when none of the other teams in the division are able to, you would think said team would practically walk into the playoffs ... instead of failing to even make it into a wildcard slot.

Next week the Lions finish the season at home against a Rodgers-less Packers team who also has failed to make the playoffs. The outcome of the game only affects the draft slot both teams will be in. It's also possibly the last chance for some players to prove they are worthy of remaining on the team just like the coaching staff. Though I'm not sure many fans will be rooting for a win, as a loss improves their draft position and improves the chances the coaching staff getting replaced. I know there will be some fans who won't want to start over with all new coaching philosophies and all new playbooks and all new problems with player fitting systems and so on, and I'm actually one of them... but it's also kind of proven that this coaching staff is not able to get it done so do you fix part of it or start over from scratch? We won't know until it's official, and that's at least a week away yet.

So Merry Christmas Lions fans. Sorry there won't be any presents this year. Older fans are maybe more used to this then other fans, but it still sucks.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017, Week 15, Detroit Lions vs Chicago Bears @ Home

Catching Up.

The 8-6 Detroit Lions beat the 4-10 Chicago Bears 20-10 on a Saturday Afternoon. You'll note I failed to blog about the Baltimore Ravens loss or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers win due to work related issues so now I'm catching up.

Matthew Stafford was 25 of 33 (75.76%) for 237 yards and 2 touchdowns and no interceptions or fumbles. The Lions produced another 91 yards rushing but more importantly the Lions defense held the Bears to 43 yards rushing and also got 3 interceptions on the Bears rookie QB Trubisky, who was 31 of 46 (67.39%) for 314 yards and a touchdown.

The leading receiver for the Lions was TE Eric Ebron (again) who had 5 catches for 33 yards and a touchdown. Marvin Jones Jr had the most yards though, 3 catches for 85 yards. The Lions took the lead with a field goal on the first drive of the game and never lost it. The Bears were the team spending an entire game trying to catch up, which made for a more comfortable job of watching the game (just hours earlier I finally got to watch the Ravens game I had DVR'd, that was not comfortable to watch). The Lions even had some new plays in the Bears game, that worked, and up until the 4th quarter when the defense went into prevent (the dreaded zone defense) the Lions proved they were the better team. Of course, the record says they are even before the kickoff, but with the "any given [Sun]day" and the "that's why they play the games" you just never know for sure.

I could go into all the things the team still does wrong... maybe complain some more about the coaching... even talk about the next off season (including the draft)... but there is still a chance the Lions could make the playoffs so I won't, much. I mean the Lions still would have to win both their next two games AND have a couple of key teams lose one or more games in order to actually make the playoffs, but that is also not new news (or fake news either for that matter).

After the Sunday and Monday games perhaps I can get into more catching up on the playoff picture, if I have the time to do so. If not, the Lions next game is against the Bengals in Cincinnati (the Bengals are currently 5-8) and the Lions will need to play even harder then today to win that game... thing is, the Lions have shown they can... and the Bengals are not playing with a winning record... so most likely the Lions will be favored to win... even if it could end up being another uncomfortable game to watch. Here's hoping the Lions can once again get an early lead then keep it, makes life so much less stressful (except for Bengals fans I suppose). Meanwhile Lions fans need to root for the Panthers, the Falcons, and the Seahawks to lose. An eye must also be kept on the Cowboys and the Packers, but if the Lions win their last two games neither of those two teams can do anything about it, and the Lions play the Packers New Years Eve day.