Detroit is in a state of transition, from a bottom-dwelling franchise to a team on the rise.
Gone are the days of Matt Millen and a string of coaches unable to see the forest for the trees.
Gone are the days of taking luxury WR selections in the first round of the draft when more important positions were needed to be competitive in Detroit.
To say the day the Ford family finally wised up and realized Matt Millen was running their team into the ground was an epiphany would be a huge understatement.
Still, some Lions fans think a team owned by the Ford family will never win a championship, and to that I say, “Nonsense.” Team owners have varying amounts of input, but since Millen left town it’s obvious that Martin Mayhew has all the control he needs to restructure this team into a winning franchise.
Two years ago the rebuilding process began, starting with the Roy Williams trade to Dallas. The Cowboys are owned by Jerry Jones, arguably the most experienced football mind to own an NFL franchise today, yet he was completely duped by Mayhew in that trade.
I point this out because it goes to show you that you can have a car manufacturer with no football experience as an owner or a guy who has played, coached, and owned teams that won championships. In either case, owners have very little to do with a team's success or failure, except for Dallas, who has a hands-on owner.
Even with Jerry Jones as the owner of your football team, being hands-on is something he does at his own peril (see the Williams trade).
But this article isn’t about making the Ford family out to be a model owner in the NFL. I use this as an example to point out that William Ford is doing what he needs to do by staying out of Martin Mayhew’s way while he rebuilds the franchise.
Fast-forward to 2010, and what do we have?
We’ve got the makings of a seriously fearsome foursome on the defensive line. We’ve got a stable of running backs that include power hitters (Kevin Smith/Maurice Morris) and lightning-fast backs (Jahvid Best/Aaron Brown), especially when Kevin Smith returns to his old form (good luck with rehab, Kevin).
We’ve got a young QB with all the tools, talent, toughness, and leadership of a Hall of Fame QB. We’ve also got several bright spots in the LB corps and secondary that include Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy, and Julian Peterson.
We also have a solid stable of receivers and tight ends that includes Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler, and Brandon Pettigrew.
Since day one, Jim Schwartz has let us all know he wants to “establish the run and stop the run.” Having a strong running game the defense must respect by keeping an extra guy in the box, it will help the team's most talented player—Calvin Johnson—get open and not draw double or triple coverage.
We've heard from the Lions coaching staff that we can expect to see a lot of two tight end sets in 2010. That's going to do a few things for the Lions offense.
First, it's going to help protect the QB having two extra guys in to block. Second, it's going to help establish the run for the same reason—more blockers. Finally, it’s going to help keep Calvin Johnson in single coverage because there are a lot of other weapons to worry about for opposing defenses.
Let's talk about those other weapons.
I think it's safe to say that Detroit will be a very hard team to defend with five serious weapons for Matthew Stafford to choose from. These five guys are Calvin Johnson, Jahvid Best, Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, and Nate Burleson.
I'm very confident that Detroit has seen its last triple team of Calvin Johnson. Any team would be foolish to commit three guys to Calvin when you have four other guys that can hurt you.
Sure, it’s still June, and the season has yet to begin, but I believe the Lions offense is going to be a much improved unit in 2010. As for the defense, well, that’s a story for another article.
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