Is OJ OK for Detroit Lions? Answering the Atogwe Question

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Is OJ OK for Detroit Lions? Answering the Atogwe Question

Well, he's a free agent now, according to a report by MSNBC.

O.J. Atogwe refused to sign his tender and St Louis refused to pay the nearly $7 million it would take to keep him.

If you google Atogwe you will see that thousands of NFL fans are asking all kinds of questions like, is my team interested, how good is he, how much will it cost, and any chance we can get him?

But we don't care about thousands of other fans think about Atogwe—well, maybe a little, but more on that later—mostly we only care about how he matches up with the Lions.

The answer to the first question—are the Lions interested?—seems to be answered already. Ryan Steck of Bleacher Report quotes a source that says the Lions are very interested and this seems in line with other reports we have heard from various national reporters.

Just a little add-on here, doesn't it seem like John Clayton has some pretty good information coming out of the Lions?

At this point, short of seeing an expense report from Schwartz listing some of the finer eateries of Windsor we can assume that at least the Lions have done their homework on him and they are seriously considering it.

Note to Schwartz, no need for a jacket with predicted lows only down into the mid 60s for tonight. Get him signed and back to Detroit early though as storms are headed that way.

So even though I hate quoting agents, "next question."

How good is he and does he fit the Lions and wouldn't he look good next to Delmas and...whoa, slow down there. Let's see if we can find some answers.

So how good is he anyways?

He only had 2 INTs last year and he has never made the Pro Bowl in his five year career?

While that last statement is true there are some reasons behind all the hype. For one, over the 60 games he has started he has 18 INTs and 14 forced fumbles. That's a little better then creating a turnover every other game.

ProFootballFocus has charted 37 of his last 45 games, and looking at some of the numbers might give us some ideas behind why the Lions would be interested.

For those interested in their rankings among safeties it was, 2007 - fourth, 2008 - 54th, and last year it was 32nd. Not that impressive over the last two years, but I usually don't pay much attention to their rankings. I should write an article on how various sites rank players but for now I will just say I take all rankings with a grain of salt.

I do, however, love the job ProFootballFocus does with recording things like snaps and such. That has to take untold hours but I am sure it is a labor of love for them.

If you have read some of my articles on the Lions secondary recently you know I have been trying to identify what kind of players Mayhew and Schwartz have been bringing in and seeing if I couldn't find some common threads in the numbers. For those who haven't suffered through those articles, a couple of the links include a breakdown of the safeties and cornerbacks.

One common quality I have found was an abilty to be consistent tacklers and the numbers I used to identify that is comparing tackles missed to tackling opportunities (MT/T+MT). It's simple and straight forward and to put it in words, how often did a player not make the tackle when he had the opportunity to do it?

When we look at Atogwe over those 37 games is he has had 163 opportunities to make the tackle and he has missed on 7 of those attempts, or a percentage of 4.3 percent of the time. That might not seem all that great until we realize that NFL safeties averaged around 11.9 percent last year and among all safeties who played at least 25 percent of their teams snaps only seven had a lower percentage then O.J.'s average for three years.

Another thing I look at is yards after the catch. The Lions want their safeties to keep the play in front of them and close to make the tackle before giving up extra yardage.

That is a pretty simple equation (YAC/Rec) and Atogwe gave up an average of 4.52 yards per reception over those last 37 games while the league average for safeties last year was 5.38. So he does okay there too, not great, but we will take it. Besides, ProFootballFocus had him with one TD given up; we would be happy if our safeties did that in one half.

One other thing I look at is stops per snaps. They define stops as solo tackles that cause an offensive failure and Atogwe makes a stop on 1.38 percent of his snaps. That is slightly lower than the league average for safeties of 2.12 percent last year.

While that is lower it is most likely a natural affect of the type of role he had as a centerfielder compared to a safety playing in the box. For example Darren Sharper was 1.30 percent while his running mate, Roman Harper, had a 3.61 percent. To me that 1.38 percent would work well with Delmas, who was 2.41 percent and we would hope could improve on that if he has a good centerfielder behind him.

So the numbers work for me but I also like to see what the experts feel about him, and unfortunately I am too cheap to subscribe to the services that scout NFL players. Fortunately though, CBSSports does give us the pre-draft scouting reports from NFLDraftScout, who are maybe the best in the business.

For those who want to see for themself here is the link . I will just sum it up on here and basically it says great centerfielder who keeps the ball in front of him and has the skills to play some man to man. Sounds like we can check that box.

So what are the reasons we wouldn't want him?

Well, he is coming off shoulder surgery, so that question will certainly have to be answered. We can be sure that all the medical records are in front of every GM courtesy of his agent and any team interested will have their own doctors check things out.

If the Lions do not get the right answers on his health it will be end of discussion; however, for the purposes of our discussion we will assume that things are okay.

What about the money?

Well, he ain't coming cheap. He just turned down a couple of mil from the Rams and he made around $6.5 mil last year at the franchise tag number for safety in 2009. With teams like Dallas, Minnesota, and Miami among other expected to be interested, according to a tweet by Adam Schefter , I doubt he will get much less then $7 mil a year.

I know, who cares, it is an uncapped year, but like the NetRat said this genie should not be let out of the bottle as it will be very hard to put it back in.

So how are the Lions and their salary condition?

Well, according to the aforementioned NetRat, the Lions are in great shape and should be able to fit in the money for Atogwe. By the way, the NetRat is a great site for Lion salary cap information. Check it out, I have it bookmarked.

Okay, we want him, we can afford him, now why would he come here?

Wouldn't it be nice to be the Patriots or something and just say he wants to win?

Someday maybe, but for now we have to answer that question anytime we look at a free agent—so why would he come here?

Most of you are aware that he grew up in Windsor, which is about the equivalent of a suburb of Detroit or is it Detroit is a suburb of Windsor now? Only a river and a passport separate the two towns, so Atogwe would be coming home.

That excites a lot of fans in Windsor if we are to believe the comments on the many blogs about Atogwe. It's more than likely he followed the Lions while growing up.

But is that enough?

He might have grown up a Lion fan?

Doesn't that actually work against us if he remembers all the disappointments we remember?

Fortunately for us, there is a little buzz about the Lions out there. Players know players and they listen to what their fellow players are saying. Remember when Schwartz said KVB perked his ears up like a puppy when he heard that the Lions were planning on trading for Williams?

So is there any reason to believe the Lions have somebody to perk Atogwe's interest?

Maybe. He did play against the Lions last year, so he is aware of Stafford and his potential. Plus, I am sure he respects Calvin Johnson.

He has played against Nate Burleson twice a year since he has been in the NFL, and while he hasn't played against Scheffler since his first start in 2006 I would have to believe he knows of him. Plus, he knows they added Best in the draft, so he knows the Lions have made some improvements on the offensive side of the ball.

What about his running mates on the defense?

I'm sure he knows about Delmas and is aware of the additions like Williams, KVB, and Chris Houston, but maybe the biggest addition for the Lions in this case is Jonathon Wade. Wade was his teammate for the last three years in the Rams secondary and hopefully they are best of friends or at least doesn't owe him money from a poker game.

Throw in that Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was the Rams head coach when they drafted him, and Atogwe just might have some interest in coming to Detroit.

Hopefully we have answered some of our questions. I know I talked myself into signing him while writing this. When I started this research I was skeptical of the possibility. I am more the type to want them to develop players and the numbers on the surface for Atogwe didn't impress me much.

Now, I think he might be the perfect piece to add provided the medical questions are answered. His age doesn't scare me—Sharper was 34 last year and Brian Dawkins was 36, yet both made the Pro Bowl and had a tremendous impact on their new teams.

Only one question left and only the Lions and Atogwe can answer that one.

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