It's time once again to turn over the topics of discussion to you, the faithful readers and Detroit Lions enthusiasts.
The last mailbag produced a lot of quality questions, and a couple of these are holdovers from that segment two weeks ago. Since several folks asked essentially the same basic question, a couple of these are amalgamations from multiple sources.
The first question is a pretty subversive one, which I strongly encourage to keep things fresh:
@JeffRisdon I keep hearing how every player on d will be better in new scheme, who will be worse off?— Pete (@thewash_pete) June 25, 2014
This took a bit of thought to answer. The first name that popped into mind was Nick Fairley, but the defensive tackle's issues are generally of his own device and not anything schematically related.
The better answer is Glover Quin. Detroit's safety responsibilities are going to change quite a bit from the Schwartz regime to Teryl Austin's new scheme.
Quin got to play a lot in the box under Schwartz, and his ability to attack the run by sneaking around the edge of the block was a great fit there. But that was a function of having corners play more zone and off-man coverage behind him, taking away a lot of his cover responsibilities.
With Austin's emphasis on press/man coverage, Quin will have more traditional "safety" duties like playing center field and diagnosing his own responsibilities on the fly. He also will get more man coverage assignments.
It's similar to the role he played in Houston, especially his final year with the Texans when his conversion from cornerback was complete. Quin is capable of handling the role, but there are going to be bumps in the road. And because the corners aren't great, those bumps could be ugly.
A related question from my old cohort PistonPete: What does the depth chart at safety look like, and how bad will it really be?
Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo are going to start. Surprisingly, they're a pretty strong tandem. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) rated Quin 11th and Ihedigbo 16th in its 2013 safety ratings. Only four other teams (New England, San Francisco, Tennessee and Seattle) have a better combined ranking.
Obviously, that's a bit of a reach. Ihedigbo is coming off what was far and away the best season of his career, and he did that in Baltimore. It's encouraging that he already knows Austin's system from the Ravens, but sober eyes would rate him no better than an adequate starter.
As noted above, Quin's role is changing some. He's a talented player, one grossly underrated by the national media, but ranking 11th is probably the apex of his ability. Chalk him up as a pretty solid starter with some playmaking ability.
Behind them, the depth has a chance to be very good. Don Carey returns as the third safety, and in that capacity, he's a real asset. Like Quin, he's a converted corner. He struggled when pressed into extended action last year, but he's perfectly fine in a 15-25 snaps-per-game role.
I'm an unabashed supporter of Isa Abdul-Quddus as the fourth safety. This is a player who started for the Saints in the 2012 playoff win over Detroit. He's quite aggressive against the run—too much so at times—but can also close quickly in coverage. The Fordham product is better than either Chicago Bears starter from a year ago, yet in Detroit, he's the fourth safety.
DeJon Gomes could beat out Abdul-Quddus with a strong camp, though he's more notable for his special teams play. Gomes managed just 35 defensive snaps for the Lions last year, recording four tackles against the Steelers.
Two undrafted rookies, Gabe Lynn and Jerome Couplin, will get chances to make their marks. The reality is that they are likely fighting for the same practice squad position.
A couple of Twitter followers (@seenable and @PlatoPutty) asked about the left tackle situation and, more specifically, if LaAdrian Waddle can switch sides to take over that position. This stems from ongoing unease voiced by many fans with Riley Reiff at left tackle.
There are zero indications from the Lions that such a move is imminent. Prior to the draft, I brought up the idea of switching Waddle and Reiff, as my own opinion is that Reiff is probably a better fit on the right side in the long run. Two different team sources informed me back then that Reiff is the left tackle, period.
That's not to say that Waddle won't get some reps at left tackle in training camp and likely during preseason, too. The second-year starting right tackle is a much better option than veteran swing tackle Corey Hilliard to flop to the left side in case of a Reiff injury.
Right now, that's the only way I see any case of Waddle playing on the left. This is a conversation that might have a lot more traction next offseason, however.
@JeffRisdon Are we really so bad at CB that Cass Vaughn has a chance to make the team or are the OTA/MC stories just "Veteran Presence"— Redruckus81 (@Redruckus81) June 25, 2014
Anyone else get the feeling that the fans are more than a little worried about the secondary?
In all seriousness, Vaughn is a proven better fit in a pressing style of coverage than youngsters like Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green. The new coaching staff is not as invested in those guys as the Schwartz regime, the guys responsible for drafting them.
It's not saying much that Vaughn would be an upgrade. This is a player who PFF graded as the absolute worst corner in the league in 2012, after all.
Yet his experience and toughness close to the line should serve him well in Detroit. He's likely competing for the fifth corner spot, behind Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley and Nevin Lawson. The veteran presence does indeed mean something to Coach Caldwell.
Speaking of underwhelming veterans...
@JeffRisdon see Babin as an option on a one year deal to build his value? Rotation DE for depth?— Tom Paulson (@tomjpaulson) June 20, 2014
The player in question here is journeyman pass-rusher Jason Babin, who was recently released by the Jaguars.
My honest answer is that I certainly hope not. Babin is as one-dimensional of a player as you can find in the NFL. He has one legit skill: lining up in the Wide 9 and exploding around the edge to pressure the quarterback.
He's proven to be pretty darn good at that one skill. The Western Michigan product bagged 7.5 sacks last year and has two seasons with at least 12 sacks on his resume (h/t Pro Football Reference).
Babin has also played for six teams since 2006. That's a strong indication that he's got some issues strong enough that teams won't deal with them for his pass-rushing prowess.
The Lions need to be rid of players like this.
Would Jason Babin make the team better as the third or fourth defensive end? Yes, he probably would. But he would have been a much better fit in Schwartz's Wide 9 than Austin's narrower line scheme. Also, he takes away from the development of Devin Taylor, a second-year player with higher long-term potential.
Factor in that the Lions cannot afford a first-year veteran minimum salary at the moment, and it's just not going to happen.
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