The Detroit Lions Square Peg Brigade: Fourth Installment in a Series

Michael SuddsCorrespondent IApril 4, 2011

GREEN BAY, WI - OCTOBER 03: Chris Houston #23 of the Detroit Lions (L) celebrates a pass interception with teammate Jonathan Wade #24 against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on October 3, 2010 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Lions 28-26. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images


In this, the fourth installment of the “Square Peg Brigade” series, we will continue to examine those players added to the Detroit Lions roster in 2010 via trade, free agency or claims off waivers and practice squads.

OK, gang! You know the drill, so let’s get this show on the road!

CB Jonathan Wade

Wade was an All-American at Tennessee. On the track team, that is. Wade originally played WR for the Vols, but switched to CB in his junior year.

Wade demonstrated great technique and blazing speed. The problem was that he seldom made a play. It’s true, I suppose, that “An athlete does not a football player make”.

Wade’s athleticism was enough to send him to the Rams as a third-round draft pick (84th overall) in 2007. He found himself in a limited role as a nickel DB, where his contributions and skills were equally limited.

Wade never cracked the Rams starting lineup behind O.J. Atogwe and Craig Dahl, and declared for free agency on March 5, 2010. Wade had clearly become a square peg in the Rams plans.

On March 10, the Lions signed Wade to a 1-year contract. We went "Huh? Weren’t Pacman Jones and O.J. Atogwe available in free agency?"

It was definitely a “C’mon, man!” moment for most of us.

We can only surmise that Wade was only a stopgap player who was a depth addition only. Not so fast, folks.

The plan went sideways when third-round rookie Amari Spievey was switched to FS. This move saved Spievey’s roster spot, but pushed Wade into the starting role.

This would prove to be the worst move of the Mayhew era. Wade was the worst-ranked CB in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. It wasn’t even close.

The signing of K Dave Rayner gave the Lions the excuse that they were looking for, and Wade got the ax in early November, being replaced by Nathan Vasher — another member of the square peg brigade.

LB Bobby Carpenter

Carpenter, the Buckeye alumnus, was a first round pick (18th overall) by the Cowboys in 2006. His most memorable moments occurred on the NFL show Hard Knocks in 2006.

Carpenter, the rookie was repeatedly “punked” by right tackle Marc Colombo in training camp. Colombo? Are you kidding me?

C’mon, man?

Anyway, Carpenter was hazed relentlessly. The rookie was made to wear a pink dress, and was thereafter referred to as “Barbie Carpenter” due to his poor performance and his long, Clay Mathews-like blond hair.

Carpenter would be nothing more than a nickel LB, and a special teams player for Dallas. Square peg city.

It’s interesting to note that in the deal that sent Roy Williams to Dallas, Mayhew wanted Carpenter. Here is clear evidence that sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.

Carpenter was sent to the Rams for OT Alex Barron in May, 2010. A square peg deal if ever I saw one. Failing to make an impression on the bottom feeding Rams, Carpenter was a late training camp cut on Sept. 4.

Two days later, free agent Carpenter was signed by his former coach in Dallas, Bill Parcells. Who can fathom the thought process of “The Big Tuna”?

I got out my Bozo Decoder Ring, and set the finely tuned mechanism for “Dolphins“. After a series of unintelligible squeaking sounds, I fine tuned the BDR to “Miami Dolphins”.

The answer was clear. The BDR translated the Parcells-Carpenter connection as an awful fit. Sure enough, after a series of special teams missed assignments, Carpenter was waived on Oct. 18. Square pegged again.

Two days later, Lions GM Martin Mayhew picked up Carpenter off waivers. Bobby’s suitcase was overstuffed with Cowboys, Rams, and Dolphins jerseys that showed very little wear.

Initially, Mayhew’s acquisition of Carpenter met with mixed reviews. Carpenter was plugged into special teams, where he filled in nicely for the injured Isaiah Ekejiuba.

Carpenter didn’t light it up in 2010, but did step in at every LB position when other linebackers were dinged up, or benched. He was a modest upgrade in the area of run support, and pass coverage.

Carpenter will never be the pass-rushing stud that the Lions need, but he should be an adequate depth player in the LB corps and continue to contribute as a special teams player.

FS John Wendling

Wendling was drafted out of Wyoming in the sixth round (184th overall) by the Buffalo Bills in 2007. The 6’ 1”, 222-lb safety would be a special teams “gunner” primarily, and see little action as a safety.

Wendling’s blocking on special teams was so bad that it limited him to punt and kickoff coverage. Rather than offer Wendling a contract extension after the 2009 season, the Bills hung the square peg tag on him. He was released on Feb. 16, 2010.

Mayhew, desperate for any and all help in the Lions secondary, signed free agent Wendling to a contract prior to the end of training camp.

At the time, the Lions safety unit was a train wreck. Louis Delmas was nursing a groin injury, and Amari Spievey — a recent transfer to the unit — would require a lot of coaching in order to learn the position. C.C. Brown was the obvious favorite to start beside Delmas, but wasn’t the answer. UDFA Randy Phillips had raw talent but needed to be coached up.

Wendling would be the gunner on punt returns, and performed so well that he was named a Pro-Bowl alternate for the Lions in 2010.

Injuries happen in the NFL, especially to the DBs, who are taking on much larger WRs, TEs and RBs. Such was the fate of the Lions safeties in 2010. When Brown and Spievey were dinged up, Wendling came to the rescue.

While Wendling had zero INT, forced fumbles, sacks or passes defended, he didn’t give up a lot of real estate either. Wendling is a very good tackler who takes great angles to the ball. Wendling was solid, if unspectacular.

Moving forward, Wendling will continue to add value as a special teams player, and will be an extremely difficult, if not impossible cut in 2011.

K Dave Rayner

I added Rayner as a bonus square pegger. Most kickers are members of the square peg fraternity. These gypsies seldom gather moss, and prefer to rent rather than buy their housing. The placekicker is only as good as his last field-goal attempt.

Rayner is another homegrown hero. The Oxford high grad starred at Michigan State.

Even one paragraph on each of Rayner’s NFL team “visits” would bore me and you to death. Here’s the short version:

1. Drafted by the Colts in 2005.

2. Played for the Packers in 2006-2007.

3. Played for the Chiefs in 2007 (Replaced by John Carney)

4. Played for the Chargers in 2007.

5. Signed by the Dolphins in 2008. Cut before camp.

6. Signed by the Lions in 2008. Cut after Jason Hanson recovered from injury.

7. Signed by the Bengals in 2008. Cut when Shayne Graham returned.

8. Signed by the Redskins in 2009.

9. Signed by the Bengals in 2010 (again). Released Sept. 4, 2010

10. Signed by the Lions in 2010 (again) for injured Jason Hanson.

Whew! See what I mean? That’s 10 teams in five years. Probably not a record among placekickers, but would probably earn an honorable mention as the squarest peg in the NFL.

Will Rayner, who made 13 of 16 attempts last year, make the team in 2011? Or will Jason Hanson return to reclaim his job?

Hanson is the longest tenured player in the NFL. He’s played exclusively as a Lion since being drafted in the 2nd round in 1992. Age and a recent rash of injuries might end his streak.

The recent change in kickoff rules should help both Rayner, and Hanson. One thing for sure is that the Lions have to make a very tough cut of one.

Note: The stats for this series were provided by Pro Football Focus and

Fifth installment preview

In the fifth installment of the “Square Peg Brigade," we will examine LB Ashlee Palmer, FS C.C. Brown, CB Prince Miller, CB Tye Hill, and DE Lawrence Jackson.

Mike Sudds is a Syndicated Feature Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for




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