Wow, are we that fickle?
The Lions lose three games to this years surprise team plus a couple of play off teams and suddenly it's the same old Lions?
By the way Matt Stafford missed two and a half of those games, but fans believe the Lions should be beating play off caliber teams with Shaun Hill at quarter back.
Take a deep breath fans.
When your starting QB is out it's hard to win in this league and when you are talking about a team just learning how to walk it's almost impossible. I don't want to waste my time tracking down all the numbers but way better teams than the Lions have lost games when their QB went out.
Instead of crying about the coaching, referees or injuries I'm going to do what the Lions and mostly Martin Mayhew are doing. I am going to try and evaluate where the Lions are at, just what is in that part of the glass that's wet.
I realize it's hard to find any good Kool-Aid out there right now so I am going to try and provide some. I'm looking big picture here, not many of us had the Lions winning the Super Bowl this year so how are things progressing towards the future.
For these articles I don't care how Julian Peterson is playing or if Maurice Morris is a viable back up. This exercise is all about the development of the young players we hope can win some play off games for the Lions in the future.
One of the most discussed questions during training camp was the Gosder Cherilos and Jon Jansen battle over RT and a few heads were turned when they cut Jansen to give the job to Cherilos. After two pretty mediocre years you can count me as a skeptic but Gos has stepped up his game.
Through the first three games he has faced Julius Peppers, Trent Cole and his nemesis Ray Edwards. Through those games he has not given up a sack and had one holding call while doing an excellent job in the running game. Cherilos has easily been the most consistent offensive lineman with zero false starts or apparent blown assignments. At this point it appears that he has arrived and should be a mainstay at RT for years to come.
For many of us that's one somewhat surprising answer. While nobody is putting Cherilos in a Pro Bowl any time you can say a position is filled with a young, good player that's a win. With the potential stars on this team the Lions can use all the solid starters they can get.
The biggest question coming into the season might have been the secondary and the Lions have had some very mixed results.
We have seen the missed assignments and open receivers and as fans we know they are not getting the job done.
But are they improving?
We know the plan was to develop these young guys and frankly as fans we do not have the ability to know. So what does Gunther Cunningham have to say? He sees the game film and he knows what he expects out them so how does he rate their progress?
From Gun's September 23rd Post-Practice press conference.
"Some of the corners tried to play as hard as they could. I thought Jonathan Wade, after the one controversial call played hard, he played physical. Chris (Houston) had a tough time a couple of times, but he stepped up in practice and he knocked down about four passes yesterday and intercepted three of them. So, I think we're making some headway."
When asked about Jonathan Wade's comments after the Eagle game about how he needs to play better Gun replied;
"I think he's kind of learning something about himself. I think Chris and even Alphonso Smith - these are all three young guys that have tremendous speed upfield. ............ He needs to be more aggressive, but from what I saw in the game, the one area I was pretty impressed with was the corners playing man-to-man. The breakdowns we had were in the safeties.
So how did those young corners respond in the Viking game?
Gun in his Sept 30th comments;
"Well, we had a lot of fight in this last game. We got called for some penalties - a couple of them were ticky tack - but what we're doing is we're playing a lot more aggressive. We're hitting receivers; we're jamming them at the line of scrimmage. I was really pleased with that part of it. Maybe Minnesota wasn't from what I understand. But we're coming around to playing back there the way we should play, which is real physical."
"I'll say this: Chris Houston probably played as good as he can play ............ He played as well as any good corner would play."
I find the comments from Cunningham very encouraging. Wasn't this exactly how we hoped it would be with these talented young corners learning every week.
So what about those safeties Gun talked about?
From Gun's Sept 30th comments;
"Well, it's kind of hard to judge them because they've never been together for any stretch of time. We're working guys like Spievey into the rotation back there and having Delmas miss as much practice time, to be able to play with CC Brown is tough then CC Brown went down. So the combination of things that have gone on back there are difficult to overcome..."
There is no doubt that Louis Delmas is not 100 percent. That groin injury is acting like they usually do and lingering a little but he is playing and having some impact back there. We have to think of this as a learning process for him as he finds ways to have an impact while playing with an injury. It may seem strange to say but this can be a positive in the long run if he is forced to use more preparation and reading keys than pure athletic ability.
It seems to be that other safety spot that is causing the most concern and it's possible the Lions have an answer for that with Amari Spievey. Maybe the surprise of the week was the Lions letting Ryan Phillips go but what that does say is Spievey passed him on the depth chart and we can expect to see him playing more.
Don't look for Dante Wesley back there, Jim Schwartz says that was a special teams move, which by the way are vastly improved this year. But that's another article so back to the secondary.
I think it is important to remember what the grand plan is and that's to find a handful of good players and get them experience playing together this year. Schwartz has said numerous times that cohesiveness is a major part of any good secondary and this is just the first step.
As fans it's easy to think why don't they go sign this guy or trade for that one but we need to understand the Lions were starting with nothing other than Delmas. They needed a base or core to work with first, after they have a few players who can play they can add a player or two if need be.
For now this is almost a try out camp with the DBs having 13 more games to prove their worth. They have five young, talented players who need to learn how to play as a unit and the only way they can do that is play together.
So don't judge them on what they did in the last game, we have to judge them on how we believe they will do in the next game and beyond. When Donald Driver schools a Lion DB this Sunday think of it as a learning experience and watch how he fights back. Consider this from Gun's comments on the 30th;
" You're out there on an island by yourself, 85,000 people in the stands, they see you screw up. To me, a corner's got to have the heart of a lion. He's got to keep coming back, keep fighting."
In this age of Arena Football style NFL the ability to bounce back is even more important, now a cornerback is fighting not only the WR and QB he's fighting the rule book. We saw those pass interference calls last week and the old school in us knows that's a bunch of crap.
But we have to understand that's the reality of the situation and if we want our DBs playing aggressively they will have calls against them and they will get beat sometimes. What we can't have are DBs playing tentative or questioning their ability.
Maybe they were torched on the last play but they will win the next play.
If we think about it, it's like being a true Lion fan. Maybe we were drilled last week or last season stunk but we have to look to the future. Just like the whole team, if the DBs can string a couple of good games together nobody will remember the dark days.
Will they do it?
Don't know, but I will be watching and hoping and I will be back writing about it. Hopefully I will be writing about a glass filling up and maybe next off season Mayhew can throw a little sweetener in our glass.
I still care if the Lions win, I'm not pulling for a high draft pick yet; but I am also trying to keep an eye on the future. We might have to look a little deeper but there are good things happening.
But that's enough sugar for now so enjoy the game and blame the referees and coaches, I will be right there with you. I will also be back with more results from the Kool-Aid testing facility and I hope to have news on some new and improved flavors.