The Top 12 Detroit Lions of 2010
There were many new players on the roster for the Detroit Lions in 2010. For the second season in a row, Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew turned over a number of positions on the active roster, and released or traded many of the players that were on the active roster in 2009.
Today I'd like to take a look at some of the best players that were added to the Detroit Lions in 2010. Weather by trade, free agent signing or draft, these players made the biggest impact in stepping the Lions that much closer to a play off caliber football team. Lets get started.
This top 12 is a rating of players based on several factors, the biggest of them being actual performance all though future potential was taken into consideration as well.
# 12 Bobby Carpenter
Bobby Carpenter came to the Lions after being released by two teams in 2010 all ready. At first it didn't appear that he'd be making a significant contribution and honestly many of us (my self included) wrote him off as a special teams specialist.
However, the former 1st round draft pick from The Ohio State University didn't have his sights set on special teams specialist, he wanted to be a starter. Not even arriving in Detroit until the 20th of October, not much was expected out of him. However the Lions depleted line-backing corps was in dire need of help and he came to play.
The reason I didn't expect much out of Carpenter is that he was drafted to play in a 3-4 scheme, and he has been released by the Dolphins and Rams all ready in 2010. I mean how good could a guy like that be? Most of the time, you don't find Linebackers who can cover the pass, or defend passes in the 3-4. Carpenter has proven that myth to be a falsehood. He saw extensive playing time in the final 4 games of the season as it became more and more apparent that Julian Peterson was going to be released and that Carpenter could fill in. Fill in he did.
In very limited action starting from late October, through increased play and even starting as the season ended, Carpenter notched 30 tackles, 21 of them solo, with 9 assists and even defended 2 passes.
I took note of the first pass he defended against Tampa Bay. But when it happened again in the same game, I said to my self "this guy can play". Carpenter still has a road to hike to make it to the starting job in 2011, but I think he's got a very good chance of being a Lion in 2011, and playing well for Detroit.
# 11 Corey Williams
All though Corey struggled at times early in the season to keep the pre-snap penalties to a minimum, his dominance as a 4-3 Defensive Tackle quickly became apparent. As the season progressed he really locked it down and eliminated the penalties with out loosing a step on his penetration into his gaps.
Cory notched 37 tackles, 32 solo, 5 assists, 2 sacks and 1 fumble recovery. His stats may look small, but his presence was definitely felt from opposing QB's as well as running backs trying to get past him inside.
# 10 Chris Houston
For the past 3 seasons, corner-backs on Detroit's roster have been about as permanent as the beer in my refrigerator. The door was always opening, and they were always flying out the door. Every year since 2007 it seemed we would get another new pair of corners and we would all cross our fingers and hope that "this one is the one". I know I've crossed my fingers more than once at the acquisition's of some. All though some of them (Dre Bly) I thought would succeed didn't pan out, others I figured would become washouts did work out. Houston was one that did.
Chris Houston is like a Ford Taurus. He's not flashy. He's not "pimped with bling". He's not incredibly impressive to look at in size or shape. He's not super fast. But he gets the job done well, and he is very reliable. Teams found out very soon that Houston was the strongest corner on the Lions roster and began to target other corners instead as a result. He was not a "lock down corner" by any means but he did play a huge part in bringing the Lions pass defense from 32nd in the NFL (dead last) in 2009 to 16th. That may not seem like much, but they cut the distance from dead last to first in pass defense in half. And Houston was a huge part of that.
Even though there is still room for improvement at the corner-back position and we all know as Lions fans that it's arguably the biggest need in Detroit. Houston should be offered a contract to stick around and continue what he has started. He earned that much in 2010.
# 9 Lawrence Jackson
Even though Lawrence Jackson wasn't a starter for much of the 2010 season, he deserves a spot on this list. The biggest single area of improvement for the Lions in 2010 was their pass rush. This was made possible by constantly getting pressure on opposing QB's with out having to commit extra men to the effort.
Jackson added depth to a formidable Defensive front 4, and when Kyle Vanden Bosch went down for the season with a budging disc in his neck, Jackson stepped in and filled some very big shoes, and he did it well. The Lions pass rush was equally as formidable with him in the lineup, and for that reason alone his addition was a solid one, and is noteworthy.
It's also noteworthy to add how we got Jackson in the first place. Lawrence Jackson was formerly a first round draft pick out of USC and played under Pete Carroll. It begs the question, why on earth would Pete Carroll (Now the executive VP and Head Coach of the Seahawks) trade a guy like Jackson, who he knows very well, recruited to USC, coached at USC and then had on his roster when landing the job in Seattle?
Detroit gave up a 6th round pick in the up-coming 2011 draft for Jackson. If I did a mock draft today and picked a DE in the 6th round and said he'll produce 34 tackles, and 6 sacks from a back up role on the defensive line, you'd probably call me crazy. But Martin Mayhew found a way to pull this rabbit out of his hat. That makes Jackson a very worthy addition to the top 12 list of new Lions in 2010.
# 8 Dave Rayner
I was at the game in Detroit with my cousin on November 7th when Jason Hanson went down with another knee injury. We didn't know what was going on when Ndamukong Suh came out and made a PAT attempt. But as soon as we saw that, we were both concerned about the health of the oldest Lions veteran.
Jason Hanson has been a staple of the Lions roster for nearly 2 decades. His accuracy and leg strength, and consistency as a place kicker in the NFL are among the best of all time. So it's safe to say that me and every other Lions fan became highly concerned about the Lions ability to win games with out him. After all, he's he all time leading scorer for the Lions.
Enter David Rayner, former MSU Spartan and hometown resident from Rochester Michigan. Rayner has had (and lost) a few jobs in the NFL before. Well not really just a few, he's been a member of the; Packers, Chiefs, Chargers, Dolphins and Redskins. Being that he was drafted in the 6th round of the 2005 draft, he's been around the NFL quite a lot for his short tenure as a professional place kicker. He was never really able to keep his job in the NFL though, always being released after short tenures with his respective teams. I have a funny feeling that is about to change for this young man.
David Rayner hit 13 out of 16 field goals for 81.35 as a replacement to Jason Hanson. He also drilled a 55 yard field goal that's second longest in Lions history, and he was also the first Lion to put a game into OT with a late 4th quarter field goal, and then win it with a field goal in OT against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It is safe to say that the Lions 4 game winning streak at the end of the season would not have been possible with out the services of this young man. Despite his typically shorter kick off placement, he showed up big time when it counted for the Lions in 2010.
#7 Nate Burleson
Detroit got exactly what they were looking for with Nate Burleson, a play-maker who can start opposite Calvin Johnson and draw coverage away from Megatron. He did exactly that.
625 Receiving yards
11.4 Yards per catch
He also proved he could step in when Megatron is injured and contribute as the #1 receiver with 6 receptions for 83 yards, a touchdown and 20 yards rushing on a reverse against the Minnesota Vikings in the final game of the season.
Look for several seasons of Burleson's gaudy yards after the catch, and expect him to get even more targets next year as Matthew Stafford tries to spread the ball around and incorporate this sure handed receiver into the mix.
# 6 Rob Sims
When it comes to offensive linemen, the less you hear their name the better job they are doing. I can honestly say that Rob Sims is the only offensive linemen I do not recall hearing about for making a boneheaded mistake, weather it be a false start, holding, chop block, or chipping. We had high hopes for Sims when he came from the Seahawks this season, and he showed up big time.
However, just being there and not making mistakes is not all Sims did for the Lions in 2010. He was an integral part of the resurgence of the running game in the final 4 game winning streak. The Lions made a concerted effort to run the ball, and do it as a team. Every game up until the climactic "epic fail" in Buffalo, the Lions running game got worse and worse.
At the start of the 2010 season, it seemed as though Jahvid Best was the second coming of Barry Sanders, and good blocking was not a prerequisite to a running game as Best found ways to juke and weave his way in and out of defenders tackling zones. Or in some cases he just made one break and then blazed away from defenders with lightning speed. But then reality sunk in. It's amazing how much a running back needs his toe's isn't it?
With out Best's explosive play-making toes in tact, the Lions were required to do it the old fashioned way, north and south into the teeth of the defensive lines they faced each week. But they just couldn't quite get on the same page, at least on the same play, until later in the season. When they did though, it was Sims, Raiola and Peterman who were responsible for many of the interior running holes that allowed Maurice Morris to have the finish to the season that he did.
Not only did Sims have a very solid season by limiting errors, but he was an integral part of the resurgence of the interior running attack of the Lions offense as the season finished. For that he earns the 6th best addition of 2010.
# 5 Alphonso Smith
Martin Mayhew may have set a new high water mark with his trade of Dan Gronkowski (former 7th round pick) to Denver for former 2nd round draft pick, corner back Alphonso Smith. Gronkowksi, for as much as he tried to earn a roster spot was just not going to fit on Detroit's roster with future super stud TE Pettigrew, newly signed Scheffler, and FB/TE Heller. So a day before Detroit was set to release Gronkowski to free agency, the Denver Broncos agreed to a trade for Alphonso Smith.
He did not disappoint either. Notching 5 interceptions and giving solid help in run coverage, Smith had a strong year as a Lion in his first year as a starter on an NFL football team. He was never given the chance in Denver, but Cunningham and company saw something in him and we're sure glad they took the chance on this young man. In what amounts to his rookie season, since he saw no real playing time in Denver, Alphonso is this high up the list for both leading the team in Interceptions, and the tremendous potential he brings going forward at the corner position in Detroit. I'm looking forward to many years of his ball hawking the secondary at ford field.
One of my personal favorite high points to the 2010 season was watching his "Carleton Dance" after intercepting Sam Bradford for a pick six. To this day, if I want a reminder of the things to come for the Detroit Lions, I just go to YouTube and type "Alphonso Smith Carleton" and I get a warm fuzzy while I watch it again. Especially when watching the clip that is paired with Tom Jones, "It's Not Unusual". That just makes my day.
#4 Kyle Vanden Bosch
Kyle Vanden Bosch was a true leader for the Detroit Lions in 2010. He came in as a vocal leader and by the end of training camp he was selected as one of the teams captains.
Arguably one of the hardest working guys in the NFL, Vanden Bosch's motor never quits running. He was the leader of the defensive front, as well as the defense as a whole. I firmly believe a lot of his personal character of never quitting was a big reason why the team as a whole never quit even when they fell to 2-10 on the season.
Statistically Vanden Bosch was also a leader, accumulating 49 total tackles, 33 solo, 16 assists, 4 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
All those stats and he only played through week 11 of the regular season, missing the final five games. Up to that point though, he was both an emotional leader, as well as a statistical beast they expected when they signed him the first day of free agency in 2010.
Jim Schwartz has all ready announced that they fully expect Vanden Bosch to make a recovery from his bulging neck disc which was removed in a surgery before the season was over.
Even though he finished the season on injured reserve, Vanden Bosh made a big impact for the Lions in 2010.
# 3 Jhavid Best
Jahvid Best was dynamic, explosive and sensational in the first two games for Detroit. Even though he suffered turf toe injuries in each of these games, he scored 5 touchdowns in the first two games of the season. Four on the ground and one through the air. After that, his production dropped off heavily due to nursing two turf toes through out the rest of the season.
You could tell he wasn't the same runner we saw in the pre-season right away, yet something interesting happened, he kept on playing. He could have sat down and healed, and many of you might think that is exactly what he should have done. However, this is the game of football and injuries happen. If you can play through it, and it won't do any more damage, you're expected in this sport to get out there and do your job. Best did exactly that, and despite his double turf toe injuries, he lead all rookies in yards from scrimmage (1042 total) with 555 rushing yards and 487 receiving yards.
I firmly believe that if he had never injured his toes, Best would have run away with both the Offensive ROY, and much much more in 2010. Many people seem to be under the impression that he's not an every down back in the NFL and he may be more of a 3rd down back in the mold of Reggie Bush. However he's only 21 and his rookie season was plagued with turf toes. Expect to see a lot of this young man in 2011. If he can keep his piggies (and the rest of his body) in shape through 2011 I expect him to eclipse the 1000 yard rushing mark and 1700-2000 total yards from scrimmage.
Best truly is the explosive weapon they were looking for and he should have a break out season next year with all that he's learned in his rookie campaign.
# 2 Stephan Logan
Stefan Logan tallied 1448 yards of kick off returns, good for 4th in the NFL. He also tallied 362 punt return yards, which was also 4th in all of the NFL. But that wasn't all he was able to add. The Lions eventually realized that they had something special in Logan and began to use him in both the passing games and running games. Sometimes as just a decoy and sometimes as the actual ball carrier. Though he lined up in the slot several times, his biggest extra addition was in the rushing attack, where he tallied 95 yards on 15 attempts. Good for a 6.3 yards per carry average.
Stefan Logan was actually released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let me say that again, The Pittsburgh Steelers RELEASED Logan to free agency. And it's not like he was lacking in production. In 2009, Logan set records for return yards for the Steelers, yet they decided to release him to keep newly drafted WR Antonio Brown. They decided Brown was more worthy of a roster spot because he could contribute to the passing game as well as the return game. And every team wants to get the most out of every player right?
Well lets see, what did they give up? Logan once again set records for his team in return yards and was named an alternate to the Pro Bowl for his return production in 2010. Where as Antonio Brown had 397 kick off return yards (42nd in the NFL) and 110 punt return yards (39th in the NFL). But wait though, didn't Brown also contribute in the passing game for the Steelers? Sure, a whopping 16 receptions for 167 yards. So all tallied total production for Brown was 674 yards. All tallied total production for Logan was 1905 yards! That's right Lions fans, Logan moved the ball the equivalent of the entire football field 19 times in 2010.
Were it not a season when we had a rookie of the year awarded to one of our players, Logan would probably be considered one of the very best acquisition's for this year. All I can say is, Thank you Pittsburgh Steelers for releasing Logan, we truly appreciate your mistake.
#1 Ndamukong Suh
Suh is the most dominant defensive line player to come out of college ever, period. People didn't think he would be able to pick up where he left off in college, and then he did. He lead the NFL for all defensive tackles in sacks.
He scored a touchdown on a fumble recovery against the Redskins on a play that showed his true dominance as Santana Moss tried to smack the ball away from him but only looked like a child playing with his daddy in the process. Suh just turned and looked at Moss as though it were some kind of practical joke he was playing as he trotted into the end-zone. That play is the symbol of the pure dominance Ndamukong Suh exhibits in the game of football. Weather it's in college, or the NFL, he simply takes control and does not give it up.
He's a hard worker. He's modest minded. He never takes a single snap off. He's not outspoken or arrogant. He is constantly trying to improve his game and do better. He is quite simply the rock of stability the Detroit Lions defense needed, and he couldn't have come at a better time.
Just this week he was awarded the Rookie of the Year award by the Sporting News. To the dismay of Sam Bradford fan's everywhere, common sense has prevailed. The Lions fans can rejoice in the first Rookie of the Year award given to a Lion since Barry Sanders was drafted in 1989. I'm sure he will get more awards and accolades before the season is over as well. As he should, but the best part is it doesn't stop there.
Ndamukong Suh is a rookie. He's got years and years to hone his craft and sharpen his skills. Most defensive tackles don't peak until later in their careers. Put that into perspective for a minute, and ask your self a question. If Suh can lead the NFL in sacks from the DT position in his rookie season, what will be be doing in 2011, 2012, 2013, or 2020?
As long as he stays healthy, and he continues to learn and grow as a player, I see no reason why Suh won't go down in history as the best Defensive tackle to ever play the game. Maybe even one of the best players to ever play the game of football. Ladies and Gentlemen, Lions fans everywhere, Suh is the piece that will anchor the Lions first Super Bowl Championship. Sometime in the next few years, Detroit's defense is going to decimate the opposition. And much of it will be directly attributed to Ndamukong Suh.