The Detroit Lions Square Peg Brigade: 5th Installment in a Series

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The Detroit Lions Square Peg Brigade: 5th Installment in a Series
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In this installment of the "Detroit Lions Square Peg Brigade" series, we will look at some more of those players who were acquired by the Lions in 2010 via trades, free agency, waivers or filched from NFL practice squads.

Ready? OK, let’s get to it!

 

LB Ashlee Palmer

Palmer was signed by Buffalo as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009. He played in 14 games, starting two. Palmer was a special teams standout, and looked OK in the Bills’ 4-3 defense. When Jim Haslett took over the Bills defense, he decided that UDFA Palmer would be a square peg in the new 3-4 alignment.

Lions GM Martin Mayhew signed Palmer off waivers in February, 2010.

Palmer drew little interest in training camp. He didn’t stand out, but he didn’t embarrass himself either. He showed versatility insofar as he got some long looks at every LB position.

The Lions coaching staff gave Palmer the “load test.”

When the injury bug struck the linebacking corps, Palmer was pressed into duty. Mostly sharing snaps with Bobby Carpenter, Palmer did a commendable job in all 16 games (including five starts). In only 339 snaps, Palmer had one sack and three forced fumbles.

Jeff Gross/Getty Images

What was most noticeable about Palmer’s performance was that the Lions were no longer giving up those big running plays anymore.

Palmer looked nothing like an undrafted free agent. He proved to be a great value pickup by Mayhew, and with a full offseason to work on his game, Palmer could be a legitimate contender for a starting job in 2011.

 

FS C.C. Brown

Brown was drafted (sixth round) by the Texans in 2005, and was an underwhelming four-year starter. Brown was not tendered a contract in 2009, and became a square peg free agent.

The Giants signed Brown to a one-year deal. Brown was a backup safety until starter Kenny Phillips went on the IR. Brown started seven games in 2009 and was a disaster. Blown assignments and whiffs characterized Brown’s season.

“Can’t Cover Brown” was the derisive nickname given to him by Giants fans and media. That’s a tough crowd to please.

Brown became a square peg when the Giants signed Deon Grant, and Phillips returned after shoulder surgery rehab. The fans were still on him, even after leaving the “Big Apple.”

Mayhew signed the free agent to a one-year deal in May, 2010. Brown continued to have problems tackling and in coverage.

Brown was the Week 1 starter, but only started eight games. He gave way to Spievey, Phillips and then Wendling while the coaching staff continued to look for production from the position.

Brown struggled, and one has to wonder if he over-thinks his assignments.

Paralysis by analysis?

Brown is still on the roster, but faces stiff competition from Spievey, Coleman (recently acquired), Phillips and Wendling.

Memo to Brown: Don’t buy a house in Detroit. Keep your bags packed. See a shrink. Go on a “walkabout.” Buy some “Good Luck Jocks.” Do whatever it takes. Get it fixed. Win a job, or else.

 

CB Prince Miller

I know Miller was a rookie in 2010. Miller, however, has had the square peg ride of his life, and becomes an honorary member of the “Square Peg Brigade.”

Hey, I created it, so I will call ‘em as I see ‘em. Just like umpire Jim Joyce.

Miller signed as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens, and was the final cut in training camp. Bad Juju.

Two days later, the Patriots signed the free-agent Miller to their practice squad. Less than a month later the Ravens claimed Miller off the Patriots practice squad. Miller had lost his mojo somewhere between Foxboro and Baltimore.

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

I hope that you are writing this all down. Anyway, Miller was moved to the Ravens active roster where he was promptly waived. Passing waivers, Miller once again was assigned to the Ravens practice squad.

A puzzling series of events. Not even the Bozo Decoder Ring could foretell the outcome. It kept flashing “square peg” on its micro-clown bionic screen.

Mayhew signed Miller off the Ravens practice squad, and Miller was promptly added to the active roster.

Whew! What a wild ride for an undrafted free agent, eh?

Miller played pretty well in the four games where he saw some action, but I suspect that he will be moving on in 2011. That is unless Miller finds some serious mojo.

Keep looking, Prince, and here’s hoping that you will be the second of two Princes on the Lions roster in 2011.

 

LB Lawrence Jackson

“LoJack” is definitely one of my “pet cats.” I shall endeavor to be impartial, but I know that I’m going to go “tilt” on Jackson, while channeling a box of Fruit Loops that is half full.

“Honey, is it time for my meds?”

Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Ah, that’s better. Where was I? Oh yeah, Lawrence Jackson.

Jackson was the first-round (28th overall) draft pick of the Seahawks in 2008. As usual, defensive ends were at a premium in the draft. Jackson was selected behind Chris Long, Vernon Gholston and Derrick Harvey.

Now, I think that you would agree that this isn’t the most intimidating class of first round DEs. Nevertheless, Jackson was taken with first-round money.

Jackson’s rookie season was largely a waste. Two sacks in 16 games for a first-rounder?

C’mon, man?

Jackson made some small, incremental improvements in 2009, but Seattle had tired of the lack of output from Jackson, who was being referred to as a “diva” in the media, and in the Seattle blogosphere.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Jackson got a square peg tattoo on his left forearm. OK, I made that up, but the writing was on the wall when head coach Pete Carroll took the reins.

Jackson must have felt a deep sense of betrayal when his former college head coach traded him to Detroit for a sixth-round draft pick in 2011. What in the world were they thinking?

Jackson would be the third former Seahawks player to join the Lions, and go on to play a prominent role in the Lions resurgence in 2010.

Will Lawrence Jackson earn a starting spot at DE?

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Memo to Pete Carroll: On behalf of Lions fans everywhere, I’d like to thank you for your largesse. OG Rob Sims, WR Nate Burleson and DE Lawrence Jackson have performed much better than your lame expectations. Can we pick our own players off your roster this year? No, wait, we would rather that you pick them, Pete. Not even St. Martin Mayhew could do a better job of finding Lions starters than you.

Yes, it seems that the Seattle Seahawks are the de facto Detroit Lions farm club. One could argue that Mayhew sends Seattle’s draft picks to the podium.

“We gotcha covered, Pete!”

Back to Jackson. He joined the Lions in mid-August. The training camp sessions where I eyeballed him daily were like, “What the heck? Who is this guy?”

Jackson brought his lunch bucket to work every day. Inside, there was this huge chip that he inserted under his shoulder pads. The assistant coaches had to carry a whip, a chair and a gun to keep Jackson under control when he got into frequent altercations with the offensive linemen.

Jackson saw extensive action in 2010 after Kyle Vanden Bosch’s season-ending neck injury. He made the best of it, collecting eight sacks, two QB hits and 11 QB pressures in only 337 snaps.

That’s remarkable, folks, and I think that Jackson will play an even larger role in the Lions defense in 2011, as we have not seen Jackson’s ceiling yet.

Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Yep, LoJack is definitely one of my “pet cats.” Considering the cost (a sixth-round pick in 2011), Jackson will return dividends for years to come.

 

CB Tye Hill

Who is Tye Hill, and what is the nature of his game?

Hill was a first-round draft pick (15th overall) by the Rams in 2006. The smurfish Hill was all about his measureables. Under 5’10”, and weighing in at 185 lbs., Hill was the darling of the 2006 "Underwear Olympics" (aka the combine), where he posted 4.34 40 speed, a 1.52 10-yard split but a whopping 41” vertical, and an eye-popping 10’9” broad jump.

Hill had a decent rookie campaign, and was named to the Professional Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team. So far, so good.

In 2007, Hill suffered an ACL tear, and was put on the IR after eight games.

Knee problems plagued Hill again in 2008 where he started the opening four games before returning to the IR.

Hill’s stock plummeted in St. Louis, and he was traded to the Falcons for a seventh-round 2010 draft pick in September, 2009.

So much for first-round money and leverage, eh?

Anyway, Hill’s stay in Atlanta was the NFL’s version of a “drive by.” He was released after the 2009 season after seeing spot action. Hill did have a 62-yard INT return for a TD. That was Hill's lone highlight.

Hill was signed as a free agent to a one-year deal by the Titans in March, 2010, but again, was square-pegged by the end of training camp.

In the meanwhile, the Lions were running out CBs at such an alarming rate that Mayhew rolled the bones in December, 2010, and signed Hill to a one-year deal as an insurance policy.

I guess that the moral of Hill’s story is that fame is a fickle mistress in the NFL. Take those first-round rookie millions, and save some. You never know when you will be viewed as a square peg, or when the ride comes to an end.

Note: The stats for this series were provided by Pro Football Focus, and NFL.com.

 

Sixth Installment Preview

In the sixth installment of the “Square Peg Brigade,” we will look at honorary member FS Randy Phillips, CB Brandon McDonald, OG Donald Thomas, OT Tony Ugoh and CB Nathan Vasher.

 

Mike Sudds is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.

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