The draft is fun for all, isn't it? Is any team more scrutinized or ridiculed than the Lions?
Much of it may be justified and especially during the Millen era. But In watching each and every pick for many years, I know that many of the picks at the time were lauded as smart. It is only in hindsight that many of these picks haven't panned out and the Lions have simply not only had clouded draft patterns, but also some of the worst luck in the NFL.
With the arrival of Rod Marinelli, the focus shift has been to more of the eternal make-up of the players as well as the external. Numbers still make sense, but the Lions are looking for a different breed of animal. The love of the game and the appreciation of the NFL is also a major component of what the team is looking for. With the interview process looking like it played a bigger role than any recent Lion draft, you have to think that the players selected were taken by those interviews, out of need, and direction.
Like it or not (and some don't), the Lions believe Jeff Backus is their left tackle of the present and the future. He's tough, he plays hurt, and doesn't miss a start. He was asked to play in a system that did not play to his strengths as many of the Lion lineman were. He kept it to himself until the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Martz and has been vocal in his appreciation of the new direction the offense is going to go in. This why the team passed on the available Jeff Otah of Pittsburgh and went with the player they needed, right tackle Gosder Cherilus of Boston College.
Point blank, George Foster, the right tackle that came over with Tatum Bell from Denver, had a horrible season and his failure was felt up and down the line. Was he a fit for Matrz's offense? Of course not. But false starts are not acceptable and although his pass blocking responsibilities may have caused him anxiety, he couldn't pass block, run block, sun block, nothing. He was brought back for depth reasons and perhaps he will be a better fit for the new power running game.
Cherilus is a run blocker. He is an earth mover. Could he have been had lower that at 17? Yes, I do not dispute that. But just as I have said before, they selected Ernie Sims where they wanted to take him and did not allow the "experts" dictate where they select whomever they want. This is where the team wanted their new right tackle and public opinion or the media did not dictate, which you have to admire. And for all intents and purposes, Cherilus is a good fit for the team and should excel.
At 6-6 and 313 pounds, he has a nastiness and mean streak that you love in an offensive lineman. He has quick feet, exceptional balance and comes off the ball quickly. He has his areas in which he will need improvement of course . His interview must have convinced the team that he will be receptive of coaching and is willing to work on these weaknesses.
Cherilus needs to work on his technique, finishing his blocks and his on-field awareness in order to be efficient in blitz pick-up, stunts, and second level blocking. Although the power running game will allow for less thinking and more reacting, on-field intelligence is still vital for Cherilus to improve on to lessen situational mistakes that can result in not only penalty but a play-breakdown.
Overall, the Lions stuck to their guns and drafted the player they needed to move forward. They have a plan and a direction, maybe more so now than at any time during the Millen era. Cherilus will be under a microscope and there will be pressure there. Its up to the Lion staff to make sure this was the right choice as well Cherilus to get into camp on time and put in the work. He has the opportunity to make the Lion brass look good here and for the fans, lets hope so.
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