As we enter the 2009 NFL season, many Lions fans are curious as to what we have to look forward to for years to come. Can this team rebound from 0-16? Are we a cursed franchise with no hope? I believe there are a few essential things necessary for the Lions to achieve success. So let’s breakdown the team and see where they need to go for the future.
Obviously are QB situation is vastly improved with Mathew Stafford. We finally have a potential franchise QB that the coaching staff believes in. I do believe it would be in the Lions best interest to sign Duante Culpepper to an extension as the backup for years to come. It is also time to cut ties with Drew Stanton. We do not need a player to just take up space. Third stingers most likely will never play, but you never know, however I do know I don’t ever want to see Stanton taking snaps in a real game. There are a few worthy QB’s left on the market like Cleo Lemon, Anthony Wright, and Brian Griese, all of which would be an incredible improvement.
This position looks to be in great shape with Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris. I think we all have seen enough of Aveion Cason in a Lions uniform. Let’s hope that fifth round draft pick Aaron Brown can give us some punch as a number 3. As for next year a speedy scat back like Brandon James from Florida would be a nice mid-round grab.
This position is without a doubt one of the easiest to predict. We have the future in Calvin Johnson, and Bryant Johnson should give us a quality number two opposite Calvin. Most hated the trade for Dennis Northcutt; I personally didn’t mind it at all. Northcutt will give us a nice slot receiver, while we coach up Derrick Williams to take over for the future. After Calvin, Bryant Johnson, Northcutt, and Derrick Williams there is a group of receivers who all look a little suspect. Out of the remaining bunch of WR’s Keary Colbert or John Standeford offer the best option. Don’t be surprised if the Lions pick up a fifth receiver after the cuts are made.
This is another spot where the team improved greatly this year. Drafting Pettigrew gives us a bonafide starting TE with both blocking and catching skills. Will Heller will give the team solid blocking as a number two. Casey Fitzsimmons will likely be the number three TE, but don’t be shocked if seventh round pick Dan Gronkowski takes his spot. Gronkowski is a bigger end with better blocking skills, and let’s be honest what has Fitzsimmons really done for this team?
This position is probably the one that looks to be the biggest issue. Whether you love or hate Dominic Cryola or not, we are stuck with him for years to come. Many would say we need to completely overhaul this position, but I believe we have three serviceable options already in place. Cherilus at right tackle looks like he can hold that position down adequately, he may even become dominate one day. Raiola is secure and staying put. Stephen Peterman has shown that he has what it takes to play in this league. That leaves the left side of the line with the biggest holes. Currently the LG battle is between Manny Ramirez, Toniu Fonoti, and Daniel Loper. I actually see a dark horse taking the spot though, former Wolverine Jon Jansen is big enough and strong enough, smart enough, and plays with a mean streak to take that position over for this year. Jeff Backus will be back on the left side for another year, but something tells me it may be his last as the starting LT for Detroit. Look for Detroit to address this position in the 2010 off-season in either free agency of more likely the draft. There are a couple of nice options early in the draft like Brandon Pettigrew’s former teammate Russell Okung, and if Brian Bulaga from Iowa decides to declare early he too could be a nice option; A couple later round prospects are Sam Young from Notre Dame, Adam Ulatoski of Texas, and Charles Brown of USC. If the Lions address this position next year look for Backus to move inside to LG.
This is another position that is in real disarray. Grady Jackson was a nice pick-up, and it looks like we will be getting Kevin Carter as well, but these two are both on the tale-end of their solid careers. Hopefully Sammie Hill can become the run-stuffer we need in the middle. It would be nice to have either Landon Cohen or Andre Fluellen step-up and play big-ball, but I am not holding my breath. This position has to be addressed next year, their will be a couple of decent free agents available like Fred Robbins from the Giants, Ryan Pickett from the Packers, or ex-Michigan State alum Domata Peko. At defensive end we have a little more help Cliff Avril showed real promise as a rookie, but I doubt his ability to play in all situations. His capacity to stop the run is little weak, in the right situation however he could be extremely productive. This is the year Alama-Francis needs to prove he can play in the NFL; if he fails it is time for us to cut ties. One name that has recently surfaced as wanting to be traded is Oakland Raider defensive end Derrick Burgess, at 31 years old he a little past his prime, but at the right price he could be a nice fit. I personally would pray that our first round pick in next years draft would be Carlos Dunlap, DE of Florida.
Ownership and management really worked hard on this position in the off-season, and without question it looks to be vastly improved. The additions of Larry Foote and Julian Peterson to play with Ernie Sims makes this group look pretty dangerous. They also have some pretty good reserve as well in Zach Follett, Jordan Dizon, and DeAndre Levy. Do not be surprised if Detroit uses some aspect of the 3-4 defense in passing rushing situations.
The coaching staff for Detroit has made a good decision by bringing in many players and letting them compete for their position. At safety I think most would agree that Louis Delmas looks like he could be great. Next to him will either be Kalvin Pearson, Daniel Bullocks, or Anthony Henry there is a possibility that Stuart Schweigert makes a play for the position. The cornerback position is a little more murky, I would think that Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry would be there, but for some reason I like Keith Smith or newly acquired William James. This would free Henry to play next to Delmas at safety. This is another position that needs to be addressed next year by signing someone like Marlin Jackson form Indy, or drafting a Kareem Jackson of Alabama or Walter Thurmond of Oregon in the middle rounds.
No matter what happens this team can only get better. I see many positive things happening all the time. Instead of just releasing players the look to make trades to improve the team, this has already gained them some respect around the league and with the fans. In the draft the team was not swayed by what people said they should do, instead they just went out and drafted the best available players. After it is all said and done all we can do is put on our jerseys, grab a beer, find a nice quiet place to watch the game, and throw our shoe through the T.V.