Detroit Lions: Lawrence Jackson and the 5 Most Talented Yet Overlooked Players
The Detroit Lions have gone 8-40 over the last three years. So, it stands to reason that not every player gets the notoriety he may deserve.
Now, pundits and critics alike are starting to take notice of the Lions again and shine the spotlight on bonafide superstars like Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
Yet, teams aren't just build at the top of the roster, but from the bottom up as well. Good football teams have quality depth at many positions and not just passable starters.
Here are five Detroit Lions players who are talented, yet too often overlooked.
Getty images doesn't even have a decent photo of Bobby Carpenter as a Lion.
Carpenter was signed in October after being jettisoned from the Miami Dolphins thanks to a horrific Monday Night Game which got special teams coach John Bonamego axed.
Carpenter finished out the year with 30 tackles for the Lions including 10 in a late-season win at Miami. Moreover, he graded out at the Lions' best linebacker in coverage according to ProFootballFocus.com.
With no viable replacement drafted and multiple linebacker spots up for grabs, Carpenter is set to see playing time in 2011 and may even be a starter. At 27, and playing better than he ever has before, that might be a good thing.
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First, the obvious: Vasher isn't an above-average starting cornerback in the league and he was signed by the Lions as a deep reserve, thrust into a starting role thanks to countless injuries.
He performed well.
Looking beyond the obvious stigma of being pulled off the scrap heap, lies a player who deserves a second look rather than ire.
Vasher finished 57th in Pro Football Focus' rankings. While not great, it certainly qualifies as a borderline starter in a 32-team league with two "starting" cornerbacks. In fact, his rating is better than both Chris Houston (75th) and Alphonso Smith (80th).
Ironically, one of the players more rumored to be replacing Vasher is Antonio Cromartie who only managed to rank a few spots higher (53rd.)
Now, this isn't to say that Vasher is better than Cromartie (he isn't) and Cromartie is a few years younger which is certainly a plus.
On the other hand, Vasher has been a model citizen and knows the system as well as his teammates. He is still on the right side of 30 and he could have plenty of good football left in Honolulu Blue.
Perhaps breaking the bank for a cornerback isn't the most shrewd idea.
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Rob Sims wasn't perfect for the Detroit Lions last season, he wasn't even their best lineman. That honor goes to one Jeff Backus (believe it or not).
What Sims was, however, was a breath of fresh air next to Backus at a position that had been stale for quite some time. Sims was also the team's best pass blocker and performed up-to-snuff in almost every game. Best of all, he took only two penalties, the low mark among starting linemen.
It is notable that Sims' worst games were against 3-4 defenses featuring larger nosetackles-specifically the New York Jets.
Sims is only 27 and fits the power rushing system nicely.
Most good linemen stay out of the spotlight, but Sims deserves at least a little more recognition in the media and from fans.
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Aaron Berry was added to the roster in 2010 as an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburgh
Berry quickly earned a spot on the roster during the preseason and made enough of an impact that the coaches gave him an opening day starting spot opposite Chris Houston. This is not only remarkable for who Berry is (a UDFA) but also who his coach is—Gunther Cunningham who has long been known as a "rookie hater."
In week one versus Chicago, Berry played only the first half and posted three tackles, a pass defended and an interception returned for 23 yards setting up a Jahvid Best touchdown.
Not a bad day for a guy whom 31 other teams deemed useless.
He was placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury after that game.
Hard to knock a guy who beat all odds to win a starting spot and looked like an all-star for two quarters before a fluke injury.
Berry will win a roster spot again in 2011 and could end up starting if no other defensive backs are signed.
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Lawrence Jackson is starting to become one of Detroit Lions fans favorite players thanks to Twitter. Around the league, it's hard to find evidence that anyone else realizes he's still around.
Often, Cliff Avril has been referred to as the "forgotten" Lions defensive linemen; but with a big long-term contract likely pending for Avril, Jackson is an important name this offseason.
Considered a "bust" in Seattle, Jackson faced both insult and injury as his college coach—Pete Carroll—deemed a 6th round pick more useful than keeping him around.
That trade paid dividends for the Lions as Jackson stepped in for the injured Kyle Vanden Bosch and performed far better than any realistic expectations. In fact, Jackson performed about as well as many people thought he would when he was drafted 28th overall in 2008.
His 34 tackles and six sacks in 2010 were both career highs and Pro Football Focus listed him as the second most effective Lions defender (after Avril.)
Avril should be re-signed at all costs and Vanden Bosch (hopefully) has three or four good years left, but Jackson has earned a long-term spot on the Lions roster that has put so much emphasis on the defensive line.
He also earned the right to be overlooked a lot less than he has been thus far in his three year career and publicity from his play on the field as much as his tweets off of it.
Michael Schottey is an on-call editor for the Bleacher Report College Writing Internship, as well as an NFL Featured Columnist and an NFL Labor/Draft Expert. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, he has professionally covered the Minnesota Vikings and the Detroit Lions, as well as NFL events like the Scouting Combine and the Senior Bowl. Follow him on Twitter.