Rounding Up the Latest Offseason Buzz Surrounding the Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions of June 2012 had lots of news and buzz to discuss about them.
Between coming off a 10-6 season, and near-monthly player arrests, the Lions news cycle was busier than it should have been last year—and mostly in bad ways.
In 2013, the Lions have been much quieter on the national stage. Their 4-12 record last season ensures that they're not generally in the national discussion for a Super Bowl, and a lack of legal trouble has kept them out of the bad kind of offseason headlines.
Still, there is plenty to discuss regarding this team, and their offseason trajectory of staying quiet after a lackluster year is similar to what happened before their 2011 campaign.
Put in a more direct way, no news for this team is good news. But this is the NFL, the league with the 12-month news cycle. There is never truly no news, even during the slowest time of the year (which this is, now that minicamp and OTAs are over).
So with that said, let's see what Lions buzz is out there to sustain us between now and training camp.
Ryan Broyles Looks Like a Quick-Healing Star
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Second-year wide receiver Ryan Broyles has impressed on multiple levels in the past month.
While he's obviously not at full strength, according to an article by Justin Rogers of MLive.com, the fact that he was on the field six months after an ACL tear is very surprising to begin with.
The fact that he was there as a full participant and making plays like nothing had ever happened? Even better.
Now, Broyles knows not to push himself, and since this is his second consecutive season rehabbing a torn ACL, he has plenty of experience to draw from.
That injury history is worrisome, of course, but it's similar to Matthew Stafford's early issues: he hasn't hurt the same part twice, and his rehabs have gone fine. It's just a matter of snapping his streak of bad luck and getting into the lineup.
Broyles played well when he got a shot last season, and it seems he has made a reasonable amount of progress since then. If the Lions can get him going from the slot, it gives the offense another much-needed dimension.
Ashlee Palmer Might Be the Front-Runner in the Linebacker Battle
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It doesn't seem like a good thing, but journeyman linebacker/special teamer Ashlee Palmer looks, at least at present, like the Lions' best option to take over the linebacker spot vacated by Justin Durant.
Palmer has never been a bad player, but until now, he was frequently thought of as quality backup and special teamer, not a quality starter.
Whether he is, indeed, a "quality" starter remains to be seem, but Tim Twentyman at DetroitLions.com has him pegged as the early favorite to earn the position, on account of his three years' experience and chemistry with the Lions.
Does that say more about Palmer being comfortable in the defense, or a lack of development from the two second-year players (Travis Lewis and Tahir Whitehead) the Lions drafted on Day 3 of the 2012 draft? No one can say, but training camp will tell us more.
People Are Talking Super Bowl
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It shouldn't be a huge surprise to hear that guys like running back Reggie Bush and defensive tackle Nick Fairley are putting Super Bowl expectations on the Lions, according to an article by Justin Rogers at MLive.com. The only people who aren't contenders in June are the ones who don't think they are.
Is all the Super Bowl talk jumping the gun a little? Most definitely. This team, at present, needs to crawl back to .500 before they can run through the playoffs. Still, there's no harm in some confident talk, especially from players that will be looked at as leaders this season.
Of course, the Super Bowl talk isn't just coming from the locker room and optimistic fans.
Of all people, Cortland Finnegan of the St. Louis Rams predicted a "Super season" for the Lions. According to Dave Birkett at the Detroit Free Press, Finnegan predicted the Lions to bounce back big from their 4-12 season, even going so far as to say that "if we don't win [the Super Bowl], I've got the Lions winning it next."
Now, granted, this is almost the same as the prediction coming from the Lions themselves. Finnegan made the statement while playing at a Lions charity softball game with his friend and former teammate Stephen Tulloch.
Finnegan was talking to the Detroit media in a charity environment, so, of course, he was going to be positive about his former teammate (Tulloch) and defensive coordinator (Lions head coach Jim Schwartz).
That doesn't make it any less pleasant for someone outside Detroit to be talking Super Bowls, though Finnegan isn't exactly a trusted analyst, so take it for whatever it's worth..
Nick Fairley Is a Bundle of Positivity
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Fairley isn't just spouting off about Super Bowls to be a loudmouth center of attention, he's also pushing his teammates in training camp and backing it up with his own performance.
According to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, Fairley has already set goals for 2013, not just for him, but for the entire defensive line. He's also doing it in minicamps, setting goals for himself in workouts (and meeting them), challenging his linemates to do the same, and regularly outperforming even Ndamukong Suh.
This isn't the same Fairley we're used to getting. This guy was supposed to have issues with motivation and mindset. He was arrested twice in 2012. Now he's taking the role of a leader and staying squeaky clean off the field.
This is exactly what the Lions ought to expect out of a first-round pick in his third year, and they're already starting to get it. Now if Fairley can stay healthy and translate the encouraging camp signs to on-field production, the Lions will be in business.
Kickalicious Can Kick Footballs
Last Tuesday, Havard "Kickalicious" Rugland attended Lions minicamp for a day of field-goal kicking. He put his helmet on and drilled each and every one of them, including a 55-yarder, according to Tim Twentyman at DetroitLions.com.
Rugland is still, undoubtedly, a long shot to make the roster, as a 28-year-old Internet sensation going up against a six-time NFL All-Pro in David Akers. It's also worth noting that Rugland has yet to put on anything more cumbersome than a helmet. There's no way to tell how putting on a suit of pads will affect his kicking motion or ability.
But if Rugland was going to give himself a shot, he needed to impress at every juncture, especially while Akers is rehabbing a groin injury. He has, so far, and his performance to this point is starting to create believers.
Akers is most likely still the favorite, but Rugland's strong early performance seems to show that he is more than just a trick-shot kicker. He legitimately could win this job if he continues performing like this.
The plot thickens when you consider that Rugland, a rookie, would cost less than half on a minimum contract than what Akers, a 15-year veteran, would.
The Right Side of the Offensive Line Is a Tossup
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Since this year's NFL draft, Larry Warford has been the more-or-less assumed starter at right guard for the 2013 season.
The Lions drafted him in the third round, he was rated the third-best guard in the draft, and the Lions had just bailed on their previous starter, Stephen Peterman, with no other apparent roadblocks.
It seemed like an obvious "rookie-starter" situation, maybe the most obvious of any of the Lions' draft picks.
Yet, according to The Detroit News' Chris McCosky, Warford has barely been put into the first-team mix, thus far, with veteran Dylan Gandy, taking up most of the reps. Bill Nagy, who was expected to make a push to start at either guard or center, is struggling with the same injury that prompted the Dallas Cowboys to cut him last season.
Meanwhile, the right tackle battle between Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox is a coin flip, and the possibility still remains that the Lions shoot that coin right out of the air by signing a veteran before training camp.
Of course, this is still premature. The "depth chart" doesn't exist in OTAs and minicamps, and there is a minimal amount of importance on who runs with what team, yet.
Warford, a rookie, has a great deal to learn in one of the NFL's more sophisticated man-blocking schemes, so it stands to reason that they would start team activities with veterans occupying top roles.
Fox and Hilliard are nearly even in terms of time with the team (if not quite playing experience, while Hilliard has a slight edge), which makes that a much tighter battle to start.
Still, the Lions are reminding us that younger players don't get handed starting roles, they have to earn them, even if the veterans they're battling against are poor players. Warford isn't going to get the right guard job; he's going to have to spend training camp earning it.
So at present, we have to consider both the right guard and right tackle positions too close to call. We could see over a half-dozen configurations on that side of the line by the time the regular season opens.
Louis Delmas Is Injured and Angry About It
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Don't think Louis Delmas doesn't know how disappointing it is that he can't get on the field. Nobody knows it better than he does.
Brad Galli, reporter for WXYZ-TV in Detroit, tweeted that Delmas "seemed frustrated, almost embarrassed" about not being able to get on the field, going so far as to say "I don't even wanna be here."
Chris McCosky of The Detroit News (and several others) reported that reporter attempts to speak with Delmas was met with a response of "Can you guys leave me alone, seriously!"
Now, before this starts a witch hunt for another spoiled, selfish athlete, consider Delmas' motivations here. He knows this team needs him. He knows that this season is probably make-or-break for him, not only as a Lion, but as an NFL player. All he wants is to get out on that practice field and do work, and his knee won't cooperate.
Delmas' injury is cause for alarm, since his knees have been an issue for years. But his attitude might be cause for near panic. It isn't just that he's hurt and frustrated about his injury. But if he had a positive prognosis on the injury, isn't it more likely that he'd be in better spirits about it?
This is just speculation, but it's possible that his attitude reflects something more serious about his knee than the Lions are letting on.
But then, Delmas has never really been warm and fuzzy with the media, so it's equally possible that he's just irritated by the slow recovery process and took it out on them. It's impossible to answer now, but it's definitely worth asking.
No News Is Good News
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Ultimately, aside from some reports of player performance from OTAs and minicamp, the Lions haven't been in the news all that much, and that's a welcome change from where the team was in 2012.
It's June now, so any team making national headlines is probably sorry it did—or will be soon.
The Lions are staying quiet, with the exception of a certain troubled former wide receiver, and it seems to be paying dividends in the locker room.
Of course, the media stigma of the Lions as a "dirty" team made up of "thugs" won't be dispelled in just one year. But this has been one year in which, largely, the proponents of that image have had no new ammunition. String a few of those together, and the media will forget they were ever talking about that (as will the fans that bought into it).
Start winning this year and that perception will change even faster, outside of division rivals who cling to it like Jets fans cling to Spygate.
The Lions' image makeover has already begun, simply by not doing anything. That makes for a quiet offseason, but that's how it should be. They can save the news making for the regular season.