In an interview posted on the Detroit Lions home page on May 14, 2009, coach Jim Schwartz was quoted as saying:
"....we've made a lot of improvements on the back of the roster also. When you replace the bottom five guys on the roster, you start moving up that way and you incrementally get bigger and that's places you can improve from the waiver wire, picking up free agents that are late in the game. You can improve the bottom five of your roster a lot easier than improving the top five.”
Here is the link to the entire interview.
It was obvious Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand, and Jim Schwartz needed to improve the roster over the off season.
Many thought the Lions would make at least one or two big splashes in free agency.
Remaining close lipped about their plans, the Lions filled the roster with second tier free agents. Guys like Philip Buchanon, Eric King, Daniel Loper, and Maurice Morris were the target.
Mayhew also disclosed publicly that he wanted to get the team bigger, younger, and faster overall.
The quote from Schwartz gives some interesting insight into the strategy the Lions have used. Raise the floor and the ceiling.
Last year, injuries in the line backing core had guys playing starter minutes like Ryan Nece, Anthony Cannon, and even Paris Lenon. There wasn't much depth beyond that.
The secondary saw guys such as Greg Blue and "Mr. Irrelevant" Ramzee Robinson get moderate playing time.
The Lions even signed Daunte Culpepper mid-season and started him almost immediately.
The Lions had no depth and the drop off from starters to backups was significant, unless the starters were misplaced second and third stringers to begin with.
A look through the roster right now shows a different trend. Depth at line backer, secondary, and offensive line now exists. The ability to rotate guys around now seems possible with little drop off.
The Lions are still signing players, Ephram Salaam and Larry Foote being two of the more recent additions, that raise the floor, Salaam, and the ceiling, Foote.
The depth the Lions have gives them a much higher floor. Instead of having guys on the first level of the high-rise. The Lions are starting on the third floor.
The only issue is it's a 10-story building.
Smart trades and a controversial draft have the ceiling as high as it's ever been.
If Stafford, Pettigrew, Williams, and Delmas can make an impact, the Lions may be the surprise team this year.
I know this, "If you are better at your worst, then you are closer to being your best." _ David McClure