Pros and Cons of Every Projected Detroit Lions Starter in 2012

Dean HoldenAnalyst IAugust 26, 2012

Pros and Cons of Every Projected Detroit Lions Starter in 2012

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    The Detroit Lions have some roster battles going on as the preseason wraps up, but the team is returning 21 of 22 starters from last season.

    So much of the mystery there is pretty well gone. Even at the most contentious positions, we have a pretty good idea of who is going to serve as opening day starter at what position.

    However, most of the Lions starters are human, and not supreme football machinations hiding their whirring gears and hydraulics behind the No. 81.

    That is to say there are both strengths and weaknesses for almost all of the players we expect to be Lions starters, even the really good ones. Consequently, I have taken it upon myself to present said strengths and weaknesses for your discussive purposes.

    Enjoy, contemplate and take to the comments if you wish to discuss these things further.

QB: Matthew Stafford

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    Pros

    • Elite arm strength
    • Unshakable confidence
    • Improved decision-making
    • Finally played a full season of football
    • At home in the Lions' offensive system

     

    Cons

    • Still hasn't gone a year without injury (he played through a broken finger in 2011)
    • Can hold the ball too long waiting for routes to develop
    • Sometimes over-reliant on his receivers to make plays
    • Trusts his arm more than his brain

RB: Mikel Leshoure

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    Pros

    • Actually healthy now, missed out on a year of NFL-level punishment
    • Theoretically the best between-the-tackles rusher on the team
    • Able to catch passes out of the backfield

     

    Cons

    • Achilles injury makes him a complete unknown in terms of ability
    • Lacks explosive breakaway speed
    • Was intended to be part of a 1-2 punch with Jahvid Best; is now just a jab

WR: Calvin Johnson

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    Pros

    • Is bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic, more agile, more aware than any combination of defenders trying to cover him
    • Tireless worker, even when at the peak of his sport.
    • Could set records with his talent-to-humility ratio.
    • Can pull off a pink shirt with his suit
    • All the other things I haven't mentioned yet

     

    Cons

    • Only one of him
    • Hasn't yet broken all the records ever

WR: Nate Burleson

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    Pros

    • Exceptional team leader
    • Natural skill set as possession/slot receiver, great YAC
    • Seems to step up when most needed
    • Model citizen on and off the field

     

    Cons

    • Surprisingly inconsistent production for a veteran
    • Lacks explosive athleticism
    • Probably on the downside of his career

TE: Brandon Pettigrew

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    Pros

    • Excellent both as a blocker and receiver
    • Effective pressure release for Stafford
    • Athletic enough to generate YAC
    • Huge red-zone target

     

    Cons

    • Still doesn't have the most reliable hands
    • Not fast enough to stretch defenses downfield
    • Averages less than 10 yards per reception

TE: Tony Scheffler

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    Pros:

    • Better downfield target than Pettigrew
    • Perfect fit in Scott Linehan's frequent 2TE sets
    • He and Pettigrew complement one another's skill sets
    • At 6'5", another great end-zone target

     

    Cons:

    • Not a great blocking TE
    • Likely to lose targets as young WRs emerge
    • Inconsistent production

LT: Jeff Backus

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    Pros

    • Rock steady for 11 seasons and counting
    • Coming off two of his better career seasons
    • Natural fit at guard when Riley Reiff is ready to take over at LT

     

    Cons

    • In the twilight of his career
    • Despite a career of solid, consistent work, has never been a top-tier player
    • Has a bad tendency to play very well, then implode in the most notable way possible

RT: Gosder Cherilus

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    Pros

    • When he's on, actually looks like a former first-round pick
    • Particularly good run blocker
    • In the final year of his rookie contract

     

    Cons

    • Frustratingly inconsistent
    • Takes way too many penalties
    • Probably just taking reps away from Riley Reiff/Jason Fox at this point
    • Matt Millen's final first-round pick

LG: Rob Sims

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    Pros:

    • Way, way better than any other guard on the team
    • Put on an additional 20 pounds for more power at the point of attack
    • Gives Backus some much-needed consistency and a reliable line partner

     

    Cons:

    • Doesn't generate much push on running plays
    • Only the Lions' best guard because the Lions don't care about guards
    • Little upside

RG: Stephen Peterman

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    Pros

    • Has been relatively quiet in preseason, which means he might be doing a good job
    • Isn't always the worst starting guard in the league
    • Will likely play out his contract because the Lions don't really care who starting guards are

    Cons

    • Is out of excuses for poor play
    • Inconsistent
    • Struggles with run blocking
    • Struggles with pass blocking

C: Dominic Raiola

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    Pros

    • Extremely vocal team leader
    • Exceptional football IQ and technique
    • Great upper body strength

     

    Cons

    • Too undersized to match up against heavyweight DTs (especially NTs)
    • Advancing age will start hitting him hard because of his stature
    • Can get a little hotheaded (though isn't often penalized because of it)

DE: Cliff Avril

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    Pros

    • Extremely productive pass-rusher
    • Statistically, forces a fumble roughly once every two sacks
    • Has improved his sack production every year since his rookie season

     

    Cons

    • Still a liability against the run (though that seems to be a scheme philosophy these days)
    • Franchise tag thing may become a distraction (for fans, if not for Avril himself)
    • Has only played all 16 regular season games one time in four seasons

DE: Kyle Vanden Bosch

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    Pros

    • Never-quit attitude makes him a leader by example
    • Despite declining athleticism, high motor keeps him effective
    • A madman on the field (in a good, generally non-penalty-drawing kind of way)
    • According to Aaron Rodgers, apparently sounds like Christian Bale as Batman

     

    Cons

    • High motor won't cover for declining skills forever
    • Often injured
    • Effective, but not terribly efficient as a pass-rusher

DT: Ndamukong Suh

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    Pros

    • Unmatched combination of size, power, explosion and agility for a DT
    • Can push pocket even when double-teamed
    • Still has plenty of upside

     

    Cons

    • Limited repertoire of moves
    • Has not adjusted to opponents' plans to neutralize him
    • Overblown or not, does have a tendency to lose his composure

DT: Corey Williams

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    Pros

    • Maybe the best run defender on the Lions defensive line
    • Space eater
    • "Stay home" nature makes him ideal complement to aggressive Suh

     

    Cons

    • Better at holding the line than pushing it back
    • Not quick enough to get past blockers—has to go through them
    • Jumps offsides a lot

WLB: DeAndre Levy

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    Pros

    • Versatility to play any LB position
    • For an LB, not a total liability in pass coverage
    • Decent (not elite) speed, quickness, positioning 

     

    Cons

    • Misses more tackles than he should
    • Technically can play all positions, but wasn't very good in the middle
    • Lacks a true specialty—more of a solid all-rounder

SLB: Justin Durant

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    Pros

    • Thumping hits cause lots of fumbles
    • Despite hitting ability, still a good wrap-up tackler
    • Generally positions himself relatively well
    • Should be comfortable in his second year with the same scheme/teammates

     

    Cons

    • Missed time due to concussion last season
    • Not incredibly athletic
    • Many of his tackles come downfield, not near the line of scrimmage
    • Played for the Jacksonville Jaguars

MLB: Stephen Tulloch

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    Pros

    • Speedy, can makes plays anywhere on the field
    • Excellent at reading a play before it develops
    • Hard hitter and sure tackler
    • Can stay with most TEs in coverage
    • Never missed a game due to injury

     

    Cons

    • Small for his position
    • Not a great blitzer
    • Sometimes gets beat when spying running QBs

CB: Chris Houston

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    Pros

    • Quietly became a ballhawk with five interceptions in 2011
    • Very fast, good recovery speed (and return speed after INTs)
    • Has learned to diagnose routes and jump short ones

     

    Cons

    • Might not actually be a starter Raiders if he's not healthy
    • Considering his history, 2011 might be a flash-in-the-pan year, not the new norm
    • Not a great tackler, especially on running plays

CB: Bill Bentley

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    Pros

    • Shows good playmaking ability
    • Good athleticism allows him to cover for technical mistakes
    • Inquisitive, quick and anxious to learn

     

    Cons

    • Is a rookie cornerback
    • Small-school background makes him ill-prepared for elite NFL talent—so far
    • Got beat twice and injured against Oakland

S: John Wendling

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    Note: Louis Delmas is not being considered an opening day starter as of yet, though he obviously will be if healthy.

    Pros

    • Pulls double-duty as a safety and All-Pro-quality special teamer
    • Hits like he's on special teams, even when he's not
    • Great positioning, athleticism

     

    Cons

    • Relatively new and inexperienced with safety work
    • Effective, but unpolished in pass coverage
    • Playing on defense and special teams will wear him down faster

S: Erik Coleman

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    Pros

    • Thoroughly outplayed Amari Spievey in the preseason (but who hasn't?)
    • Extremely sound tackler, especially in short-yardage situations
    • As bad as the Lions secondary has been, Coleman has not been part of the problem
    • Provides badly needed veteran experience in the secondary

     

    Cons

    • Hasn't notched an interception in over three years
    • Spent all but four games last season on IR
    • Rarely opts to play the ball instead of the man
    • Entering his 10th NFL season

K: Jason Hanson

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    Pros:

    • One of the greatest kickers in the history of the NFL
    • At age 42, still has FG power from 50+ yards

     

    Cons:

    • Doesn't bomb his kickoffs out the back of the end zone anymore
    • Won't last forever

P: Ryan Donahue

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    Pros

    • Has a powerful, accurate punting leg
    • Can angle his punts out-of-bounds without sacrificing too much distance
    • Great at getting punts to stay inside the 20

     

    Cons

    • Spent more of last season on IR than he spent playing
    • Can outkick his coverage at times
    • Lions locker room will miss Ben Graham's sweet Australian accent