Lions Must Make More Changes to the Depth Chart

Ross Maghielse@@MaghielseCorrespondent ISeptember 23, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03:  Matthew Stafford #9 and Jeff Backus #76 of the Detroit Lions react to comments made by an official prior to play  against the Buffalo Bills  at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 3, 2009 in Orchard Park, New York.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Last week, the Detroit Lions made some changes to their depth chart, and the changes helped. But more changes are needed this week for what is quickly becoming thought of as a “must win” game against Washington.

Among the new starters for Detroit last week were Manny Ramirez, Brandon Pettigrew, and Phillip Buchanon. Defensive end Jason Hunter and wide receiver Dennis Northcutt also saw increased time. But the end result was the same as it has been for the past 19 regular season Sundays: another Lions loss.

I think the depth chart adjustments made last week by Jim Schwartz were helpful, but not nearly enough. Only two roster clarifications have been made official by the Lions this week: Matthew Stafford will remain the starting quarterback, and Ernie Sims will be out with an injury.

Keeping Stafford under center is the right move for now, and Sims will likely be replaced by the tandem of Darnell Bing and Jordan Dizon.

But what else can be done to give Detroit a chance at snapping its current 19-game losing streak?

First things first: Marquand Manuel and Grady Jackson need to sit down, or be used sparingly.

Manuel was the go-to or go-at defender for Drew Brees in the season opener, and he showed no improvement against Minnesota last Sunday. It’s time Ko Simpson gets a chance to show what he can do on the field.

Simpson may still be playing catchup with Gunther Cunningham’s defensive schemes, as he was picked up after the preseason ended, but he should have a grasp of how Detroit’s defense works by the third week.

There was a time when Jackson was one of the premiere run stoppers in the league. He clogged running lanes and pushed around offensive lines with the best of them. That time has passed.

Now, in his later years and perhaps his last season, he is a step behind every play. Granted, the Lions don’t have many desirable options behind him, but Landon Cohen and Andre Fluellen should be able to at least keep up with the speed of the game.

Offensively, the Lions need to finally admit their largest inconvenient truth: Jeff Backus is not good. He was a high draft pick in 2001 and showed some brief promise early in his career. Now, he is a below average starting offensive tackle in this league.

I’ll go as far as to say he is a bad starting offensive tackle. The Lions' organization has protected him and excused him for far too long.

Detroit should start Jon Jansen. Jansen is by no means a guaranteed improvement, but he was an effective player in the NFL before injury problems took his career off track.

If the Lions do not improve their pass protection this season, Stafford will end up being the next David Carr. Benching Backus for Jansen is the only option Detroit has right now. The other tackle, Gosder Cherlius, is in a development stage just like Stafford, and benching him at this point would be counter-productive.

On a side note, Detroit should also look to replace Dominic Raiola in either next year’s draft or free agent market. Like Backus, he too is overrated and over-protected by the organization.