Midway through the season, I was adamant about the Lions drafting interior linemen in the upcoming draft. However, since the secondary debacle that started at Lambeau and ended in the Big Easy, I’ve teetered back and forth whether Detroit should indeed address their line concerns in the draft or look at prospects that can make a stop when it really counts. After much consideration, I’ve made up my mind. However, before we get to that, one must consider all options. Before you bash me for my final decision, please consider the following.
I can hear it already: “Go after Courtland Finnegan”, or “Go after Brandon Carr”, or “Go after (Insert Big Name Free Agent )”. The problem with big name free agents is that they also want big contracts. Why is this a problem? Well, with Megatron establishing himself as the Master of the Universe, he has set himself up to cash in on a “Fitzgerald-esque” contract. (Thanks Larry) Also, Stephen Tulloch has just completed a productive one year contract, and Pro-Bowl snub Cliff Avril is also looking to cash in on his big season. With these and other contacts to fill, there’s only so much dough to go around. Let’s not forget that Matt Stafford had to re-structure his contract to help the team out financially during the off-season. Which brings us back to the draft. With the new CBA, combined with the Lions not having to pick in the top ten, we should be able to find reasonable talent without breaking the bank. So the big question: Who do we draft?
A Case for Linemen:
With Jeff Backus at age 34, and Dominic Raiola at age 33, the two most important components of the offensive line are way past their prime. Gosder Cherlius has been as consistent as the stock market since the year he was drafted. On top of turning 30 before the next season, Stephen Peterman has battled injuries since arriving in Motown. Rob Sims has been the only competent lineman since arriving from the great northwest, yet at age 28, he’s no spring chicken either.
Combined, the Lions have the most experienced o-line in the league at 523 starts between the five of them. (The next closest team is the Giants at 496). However, they allow the 12th most hits on the QB, 16th most sacks, and have the 4th worst rushing attack. For a line to have that much experience, I’d expect a lot more.
The unit as a whole isn’t atrocious but, it isn’t a strength either. It’s not that the Lions brass hasn’t addressed the o-line; it’s just that they haven’t put as much emphasis on it as they have other positions. When you consider mid to late round picks addressing any positional group, you’re in trouble. It’s been a patchwork system that is falling apart. Infusing youth and talent along the offensive front would go a long way to keeping Stafford upright and more importantly, would set the foundation for a running game. Could you imagine the offense with a decent rushing attack? SCARY GOOD
A Case for Cornerbacks:
No disrespect to Matt Flynn, but when you’re heading to the playoffs and a backup QB shreds your starting secondary to the tune of 480 yards and 6 touchdowns, something is just not right. A decent 250 to 300 yards is digestible but, 400+ is straight up ridiculous. People will defend the secondary saying that it was banged up. Well, then there’s no excuse for the outing against the Saints. All starters were healthy but simply did not perform when it came down to it.
The secondary looked lost and confused at times. Let’s be honest, nobody expected the secondary to be out of this world good when the season began. Much of the success enjoyed by the secondary was directly attributed to the ability of the d-line to collapse the pocket. The inability to get to Drew Brees exposed the Lions secondary for what they really were, mediocre to average at best.
Much like the o-line, the Lions front office has chosen to do a patchwork job of putting together role players in the secondary. Since taking over, Mayhew and Schwartz have only taken one Cornerback in the first three rounds (Amari Spievey). Spievey; however, was converted to Safety so a total of zero draft picks have been used to address the Corner position. In fact, the last time the Lions took a corner in the first two rounds was Terry Fair back in 1998. Although, I liked the moves to acquire Houston, Wright, and Smith; sometimes, you need to stop patching the leak and just change the whole pipe.
Houston and company are nice role players but, at this point, you gotta spend some to get some. With the league going pass happy and elite receivers like Andre Johnson, Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, and Julio Jones coming out more frequently, a legitimate shutdown corner is almost a requirement these days. Can you imagine a shutdown secondary to complement the d-line? SCARY GOOD
So without further ado, here is my unofficial 2012 Detroit Lions Mock offseason…