Want The Detroit Lions in the Playoffs? We Can't Forget These Players
It is awfully easy to get excited about all the moves the Lions made this off season.
Whenever Martin Mayhew wasn't bringing in a new weapon for Matt Stafford he was adding beef to that defensive line. He even managed to add a defensive back or two and maybe finally filled that hole at Left Guard.
I don't know if I am more excited about what Jahvid Best, Tony Scheffler and Nate Burleson will do for this offense or what Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams and Kyle Vanden Bosch will do for the defense.
When we throw Rob Sims and Jason Fox into the mix on the offensive line all we need is some production out of the newcomers like Chris Houston, Jonathon Wade, CC Brown and Dre Bly and this Lion team might surprise a lot of NFL fans.
No position group was ignored, from the quarterbacks with Shaun Hill to special teams with Isaiah Ekejiuba, every unit got an upgrade this year.
The Stafford to Calvin Johnson connection should be in high gear after a full off season of work and second year players like Louis Delmas, DeAndre Levy and Brandon Pettigrew should be better because, well, it's their second year.
HaMMeR, Hammond and Sudds are giving us great reports on the training camp activities and along with the lesser outlets like M Live and the CBS Rapid Fire we are hearing some pretty nice things about the new guys.
Everybody is gaga over Best and Suh; Burleson and Scheffler look like the real deal and even the CB duo of Houston and Wade are getting good reports.
Then there are those big shit eating grins every time Scott Linehan or Jim Schwartz talk about Stafford. I bet behind closed doors those two are as giddy as a couple of school girls when it comes to his potential.
That's okay, so am I.
But if this is going to work there are some players we should not forget. They were here last year and most of them have something to prove.
Some of them are coming back from injury and some of them are simply hoping to erase the memories of a bad year.
Some of them are grizzled old veterans and some of them are still young pups—or should I say cubs.
Some of them are trying to remember better years on other teams and some are trying to remove the stench of the Millen years.
Some of them are starters while others are back-ups, but they all will have to play a role somewhere and sometime this year.
The one thing they all have in common?
They can't wait to prove that this is a good—no make that a damn good football team.
That's a dream we can all agree on.
Jeff Backus and Dominic Raoila
Kind of a two for one here, but these two are as linked as Trammell and Whitiker were for me, the biggest difference was the fans loved Whitaker and Trammell.
Before the name calling begins, let me point out that the Lions need these two producing if they hope to do anything this year. If either have a major injury that offensive line will get ugly in a hurry.
We sure can't question their motivation, there can't be two people in the whole world who want to turn this thing around more than Backus and Raiola.
With the dubious distinction of being the first two draft picks by Matt Millen they have suffered through ten long years. Nothing would make them happier than seeing all that pain and frustration pay off with some playoff games.
While many of the fans have singled them out for criticism, their coaches were always able to rely on these two pros' pros.
No matter the record of the team or the constant harping of the fans these two showed up for work everyday and never gave less than their best.
They were the two players Jim Schwartz mentioned first when he was hired and his opinion of them has not changed.
What has changed for Backus and Raiola is there was no change in the off season.
This will be the first time in years the offensive hasn't gone through some radical changes and this scheme seems to fit their skills the best. That has to be a good feeling to know you just want to improve on what you already know.
With the addition of Sims playing between them I expect to see some very good things on the left side of the offensive line this year.
There might not be any Pro-Bowls in their future but we shouldn't see the breakdowns we have seen in the past.
That is one image we do not want to see again.
Who knew Stephen Peterman was that valuable to the Lions?
I guess the Lions knew. One of the first moves Mayhew and Schwartz made last year was re-signing him to a four year contract.
I remember thinking the contract was a little high and figuring the chances he ever lasted that long were slim.
This is another of those times I would be thrilled to be wrong.
He really came into his own last year and was in the process of taking on a bigger role including making some of the line calls when the injury struck.
We can't forget that he is talented: when Bill Parcells drafts you in the third round you are not a scrub.
We also should not forget that he was cut from the Cowboys because of injuries and he has yet to play a full season in his two seasons with the Lions.
If he can stay on the field Peterman can be a mainstay on this team. The type of player who could actually get some post season accolades if the team starts winning.
For now I am just hoping he plays all 16 games.
Remember Kevin Smith?
You know, the guy who has over 1700 yards rushing and another 700 yards receiving in his first two years as a pro.
Easy to overlook him after the injury and adding Jahvid Best.
Some things we need to remember are he is not only the best all around back on the Lions, he is one tough player.
Going into last year he might have been the second best back in the NFC North behind Adrian Peterson, that would be the AP in Minnesota.
He was injured early in the season, but Smith continued to battle his way back into the starting line-up and seemed to be just hitting his stride again when tore his ACL against the Ravens in Week 14.
But he is back and reports say he looks fine.
Always a team player, he seems willing to share the work load with Best and the coaches have nothing but high praise for the former USF standout.
He was just short of Barry's record for season rushing yardage in college. I doubt he will challenge any Barry Sanders Lion records, but that doesn't mean he can't be a very valuable part of this Lion team.
His tough, give-it-all running style and heady, all-around play seems to be a perfect compliment to Best. I expect him to have a very nice season and the Lions will need it.
How can we overlook the only Lion player to even be picked as a Pro-Bowl alternate is a tough question to answer but that's what happened to Julian Peterson.
The only thing I can remember being written about him this off season was when the Lions were talking about restructuring his contract.
Even a little talk that maybe they cut him if he didn't want to come down off that 10 million he is scheduled to make.
It appears that it was only talk and it would be a monumental shock if he isn't lining up on that first play of the season, and the only way it won't be at 10 million is if they extend his contract.
It was our expectations as fans that needed the adjustment because after a little adjustment period the coaches seemed pretty happy with his play.
If we think about it, he is the only player on defense who is truly settled into his position and that should prove invaluable when we have two second year players lining up with him at linebacker this year.
His skill set fits the Lions perfectly and it's that versatility this defense needs. What other linebacker do you want covering Sidney Rice like he is doing so well in the picture?
With all the new players and still young cubs on the defense this year Julian Peterson is as valuable to success of the Lions as anybody this side of Stafford.
I guess Cliff Avril is a little bit of a stretch for this slide show.
He has been a fan favorite since the Lions drafted him in 2008 but maybe we are overlooking what the Lions need out of him this year. The Lions can get all the pressure they want out of the defensive tackles but if Avril can't seal the edge it will mean nothing.
It appears that he has matured into his body, supposedly around 280 now, and the things we are hearing out of camp say that Avril is handling the run well.
The Lions want their DEs sealing the edge by penetrating and turning those RBs back into the middle of the field where the LBs can clean up.
The addition of KVB should help with his growth in this defense and Avril has the opportunity to put up numbers that could get him noticed. Anything less than double digit sacks will be a disappointing season.
Isn't he that undersized defensive lineman we picked up off waivers from Kansas City?
With all the new additions on the defensive line why should care about him?
It's simple: because he is no longer undersized and he seems to be taking over the top back-up defensive end spot.
Don't forget he was the 54th overall pick in 2007 by Kansas City and seemed to be on his way to a nice career when he was a starter by his second year for Gunther Cunningham.
Fortunately for the Lions, when the Chiefs decided to go to a 3-4 defense McBride had no position and they quickly picked him up when he was placed on waivers.
Another heady kid who plays with a high motor at only 25 years old, he could be a fixture around here for a while. Kind of a young Jared DeVries type career.
If he can nail down that thirrd DE spot he will see plenty of action and we need him to produce.
I'm betting he does just fine.
You can't get by with just two defensive tackles in this League.
Even in the Pro-Bowl years of Albert Haynesworth he was only on the field for 70 percent of the snaps. Schwartz has always rotated his defensive linemen and I doubt that changes now.
It wouldn't surprise me if Sammie started because he is the run stopper in this three man DT rotation–but start or not, he will play.
He had a decent rookie season last year but when we consider where he was coming from and the help he had around him it was a pretty remarkable debut.
Extremely talented, he has shown the drive and heart to succeed and he is showing the progression any NFL team would hope out of a DT prospect.
Compare where he is at with fellow 2009 draftees Ziggy Hood and Ron Brace and we would have to rate him slightly ahead based on his game experience last year. Now he is the right situation where he isn't the best player on the defensive line.
With what he did last year and how he is playing in camp this year Sammie looks like the perfect long term compliment to Ndamukong Suh.
For now the Lions need about 400-600 snaps of stuffing the middle of the line.
Players we could consider
There are some other returnees we need to play well, however many of them are in battles for their roster spot. I only wanted to include slam dunks—players we know will see the field a lot.
We might want to include Bryant Johnson, the reports out of camp sound great and usually the third wide receiver gets plenty of action.
It's that usually part that holds me back a little on him. Scott Linehan's history says he is far more likely to throw to a TE or RB than a third WR and with the options the Lions have Bryant Johnson might be the odd man out.
Another player I considered was Jordan Dizon but obviously that has changed.
You might have noticed the lack of defensive backs and it is possible that Ko Simpson or Jack Williams might end up contributing but it's a long ways from a slam dunk.
Considered a couple of defensive linemen with Landon Cohen and Andre Fluellen, but it would take some injuries before either played much and both are on the bubble for making the team.
Derrick Williams and Aaron Brown could contribute or get cut. Same with Jerome Felton, Will Heller and Dylan Gandy.
But this wasn't about what could be or who should be, this was about players who have established roles.
We know we will need them and if the Lions do have a big season these players will have played a big part in the success.