This is the second installment in the Detroit Lions Square Peg Brigade series. In the previous installment, we looked at OG Rob Sims, and CB Chris Houston.
We examined how they became square pegs with their respective former teams. We analyzed what they have brought to the Lions, their performance, and what areas they need to improve in that will add value to the team moving forward.
In this installment, we will take a look at TE Tony Scheffler, CB Alphonso Smith, and KR/PR/WR Stefan Logan.
OK! Let’s get this party started!
TE Tony Scheffler
It’s been said that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Scheffler is the poster child for this hoary old axiom.
Tony Scheffler is a hometown product from Chelsea, MI. He attended Western Michigan University.
In 2007, Scheffler didn’t see action until late October after suffering a broken foot that May. In spite of the late start, Scheffler caught 49 passes for 549 yards and five touchdowns. The Cutler to Scheffler connection was very productive.
In 2008 and 2009, then Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels decided to use the tight end primarily in a blocking role. Since Scheffler is largely a receiving TE, his role was greatly reduced.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” -Yogi Berra
In 2010, the writing was on the wall after some clashes between McDaniels and Scheffler. Scheffler got the square peg tag, and put his house up for sale.
How ironic. McDaniels, Cutler, and Scheffler are no longer Broncos.
On April 20th, Scheffler was traded (technically) to the Eagles, who flipped him to Detroit for LB Ernie Sims. The Lions also got the Eagles seventh round pick in 2010.
This was GM Martin Mayhew’s first multi-team trade. There were a couple of significant factors that played into this controversial trade.
First, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wanted to run a lot of two TE sets. Head coach Jim Schwartz gave Linehan his full endorsement.
Second, the Lions had grown disenchanted with Sims, who overran plays, and missed more tackles than he made. Sims, a fan favorite, had succumbed to the square peg syndrome, and got “The Ziggy”.
Who coined that term, “The Ziggy”? Joe Schmidt? Wayne Fontes? I forget.
So. What does Scheffler bring to the dance? The 6’ 5”, 255 lb TE is a reliable “possession” receiver. He played 417 snaps, and was targeted 66 times in 2010.
Scheffler made 45 catches (68.2 percent average) for 378 yards, and four TDs. His 8.4 yards per catch was higher than the Lions meager 6.7 yard per catch average, but well off his production with Cutler in Denver.
Scheffler had three drops, one fumble, and was intercepted four times. He committed only two penalties.
How do you make sense of these stats? Well, the first thing that stands out is the fact that Scheffler was lightly employed (417 snaps). Then, he was targeted only 66 times. The other snaps would see Scheffler utilized as an outlet receiver, or as a blocker.
Scheffler suffered most, according to Pro Football Focus, in run blocking. This was the poorest facet of his game, by far.
It’s easy to point to Scheffler’s “down” year as a function of the QB situation. The QB injury situation, however, can’t cover for his poor blocking.
Now that I think about it, run blocking failure seems to be a reoccurring theme among the Lions “Big Uglies”. Perhaps it’s time to scrutinize offensive line coaches George Yarno, Jeremiah Washburn, and TE coach Tim Lappano more aggressively. Hmm.
What should we look for in the way of improvement in Scheffler’s game in 2011?
Scheffler needs to see more snaps. 600-700 would be about right. Having the franchise QB at the trigger on a regular basis would help.
The caveat here is that Scheffler’s blocking at the line of scrimmage has to improve dramatically.
If Scheffler does not improve his blocking, he will be viewed through jaundiced eyes as part of the problem, and not part of the solution.
CB Alphonso Smith
Smurfish Smith (as I like to call him, since he’s smaller than me) was a second round (37th overall) draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 2009. Denver traded out of the first round to select Smith.
Smith played special teams as a punt return specialist, and had a decent, but undistinguished rookie season with Denver in 2009. A rookie thing.
Days before the Lions 2010 Week 1 loss at Chicago (did I get your juices flowing at the memory of the “process?”), the Lions traded TE Dan Gronkowski to Denver for Smith.
Geez, Does anyone else see the connection to the Tony Scheffler trade? Denver was desperate for a blocking TE, and gave Smith to Detroit as compensation.
Mayhew does it again! He “whamboozles” Denver out of a top second round pick for a seventh round TE? Denver lets go a promising rookie for Gronko? Didn’t the Broncos have a clue that Champ Bailey would be a free agency goner in 2011?
C’mon, man? What were you thinking? No wonder that the Broncos cleaned house.
Now I suspect that Smith was picked up to return punts, primarily. The 5’ 9”, 190 lb scooter was never thought to be a contender for a prominent role as a starting CB in Detroit.
Now, I could editorialize ad nauseum, the Lions CB situation, but will simply characterize it as follows:
“If you throw enough dung at the wall, some of it has to stick, right?”
I will not bore you with the squeaky turnstile of CBs who contributed to the 2010 Lions version of “The Gong Show”. Suffice it to say that many of the applicants are now bouncers at a Pizza Hut near you.
With the move of Amari Spievey to FS, there was this huge sucking chest wound at right CB. Jonathan Wade was expected to staunch the hemorrhaging there, but proved to be an even deeper vacuum. Ugh!
In steps Smith, and Mayhew the Alchemist turned lead into gold. Well, almost. Smith amassed five interceptions in his first nine games as a Lion, and had a nice return:
The second half was all Patriots. Brady would be named AFC Player of the Week, thanks to the “Phonz”.
Smith chose to think outside the box, and the Lions game plan, as well. He freelanced his way to a third quarter benching, and a public scolding by defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. I’ve never seen Gunther so pissed.
Smith was “punked” by Deon Branch and Brady. Can you count the whiffs after Smith was caught out of position on these two plays?
Smith was never the same, after being taken to the woodshed by the Patriots, and Gunny. He issued a public apology, and would play only briefly in the Week 13 loss to Chicago. Smith went on the IR list for the remainder of the season.
What, then, are we to make of Smith?
Smith will be entering his third year as a Pro, and his second year as a Lion. Opposing offenses know his game, and I foresee some falloff in production.
Smith is, however, a player with some upside. For this reason, I’d be reluctant to call him a bust—yet. The position is Smith’s to lose, and I’m certain that he knows it too.
The Lions will actively seek an upgrade to Smith in the draft, or in free agency. Smith will be an acceptable alternative as a nickel DB, and will provide some much needed depth at the position.
Smith absolutely must learn to play within the confines of the system, and stay on the reservation.
If the Lions fail to upgrade the RCB position, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Amari Spievey’s return to CB.
KR/PR/WR Stefan Logan
At a diminutive 5’ 6”, and 180 lbs, Logan is the smallest Lions player by far. Detroit is Logan’s second Lions team. His Pro career began in Canada, where he played for the B.C. Lions.
Logan’s case is curious. He led the NFL in all-purpose return yards in 2009 (1744 yards) while playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Logan also set the Steelers franchise records for punt, and kickoff return yards in a season.
How did Logan become a square peg in Pittsburgh?
Logan became expendable when eight of the 10 Pittsburgh draft picks in 2010 made the roster. Two of them, Emanual Sanders and Antonio Brown gave the Steelers more versatility as wide receivers who could return punts and kickoffs.
Logan became a roster spot casualty, and was the last player cut on Sept. 4th, 2010. Head coach Mike Tomlin alluded to the release of Logan as the toughest cut that he had ever made.
In the meanwhile, Detroit was trying a number of training camp options in a frantic search for return specialists.
The Lions looked at Derrick Williams, Nate Burleson, Tim Toone, Brian Clark, Amari Spievey, Paul Pratt, Aaron Berry, and Jahvid Best. Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman could be seen scanning the bleachers for an answer. None of the fans raised their hands
Derrick Williams eliminated himself when he called a fair catch on the two yard line in the preseason.
When Logan became available, Martin Mayhew snapped him up. There is no truth to the rumor that Crossman threatened bodily harm to the smaller Mayhew if he didn’t sign Logan.
OK, I started the rumor. My bad.
Logan was active for the Lions first game of 2010 before the ink dried on his contract. He didn't see any action until Week 3, but started lighting it up once he learned the return schemes, and found a uniform that would fit him in the children's department of a local sporting goods store.
OK, OK! I made up that last part as well.
Logan finished fourth in the NFL in kickoff return yards (1,448), and fourth in punt return yards (362) in 2010.
Logan tied a Lions franchise record with a 105 yard kick return for a TD against the Rams.
During the last half of the 2010 season, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan used Logan in some creative ways. Logan was a member of the slot receiver by committee tag team that gave defenses fits.
Logan was split out wide for some end around plays as well. While the results of these experiments were largely unproductive, Logan showed that he's a football player at heart. Get him the rock in space, and Logan is dynamic.
It's tough to find fault with Logan's game. OK, he fumbled three times, losing one.
Honestly, I can't think of a better fit for the one time square peg.
The stats for this series have been provided by Pro Football Focus, and NFL.com.
Third installment preview
In the third installment of the "Square Peg Brigade" series, we will take a look at QB Shaun Hill, DT Corey Williams, and WR Nate Burleson.
Mike Sudds is a Syndicated Feature Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.