It’s been awhile since I’ve gone off on a rant. It’s time for a good old fashion thermonuclear meltdown, and I have a soft target of opportunity: The Lions defensive coverage scheme and personnel.
It all came to a head when the Lions cut UDFA safety Ricardo Silva. Silva was anything but a picture of technical excellence. All he did was make plays. Everywhere.
Silva’s venial sin was his propensity to gamble. Yes, Silva played with that sense of urgency that compelled his inner demon to come to the forefront. When there was a play to make, Silva was there to do it.
Does anyone recall Silva getting burned? And don’t tell me about the Wes Welker TD where the Lions bit on Brady’s play fake or we will go to war.
When I think of great safeties in the NFL, I think of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. What these two perennial All Pros have in common is that they are intuitive and instinctive beyond any other attribute that they possess.
They gamble. They make plays. They are trusted, even after they get torched on rare occasion. Opponents fear them.
Then, there’s the Lions, whose coaches seem to have written in stone somewhere the golden rule of Lions DB play:
“Thou shalt not gamble. Thou shalt keep the play in front of you."
It’s true. The evidence is clear when you watch how the Lions play their oh so soft cover two defense. Yeah, I said soft. And I’m hating it.
When you look at the Lions safeties, there isn’t one who will go out on a limb. They give up huge chunks of yardage in coverage in a bend, but don’t break paradigm that troubles me.
That mindset was a necessary evil when the Lions lacked play makers. Now, however, it looks so sissy. Vanilla so sweet that it’s giving me a toothache.
Louis Delmas, for all the love that fans shower on him, is mediocre in coverage. Delmas loves those highlight reel hits, but seldom makes a play of any circumstance in coverage. If you are a Delmas slappy, that’s tough.
Eric Coleman? Soft. Almost invisible. Oh, Coleman keeps the play in front of him. It’s almost impossible not to when he plays as soft as he has. Coleman played the preseason like a politician leading the polls. As long as he didn’t blunder too badly he’d make a regular paycheck.
Coleman is the friendly ghost of the secondary. Now you see him—now you don’t.
Amari Spievey is possibly the most improved Lions player on the team, but you will notice that Spievey doesn’t stray off the reservation. He plays it safe; making sure tackles after the damage has been done.
Safe is soft. Soft is how the Lions safeties will be perceived by NFL offensive coordinators. Passing schemes will exploit the soft, predictable Lions secondary and the safeties in particular. Don’t believe me? Just wait.
Why? Because the Lions coaches don’t trust their player’s instincts to make plays. Fear is a terrific motivator. The paranoia among the coaches created “the reservation” from which defensive backs dare not stray.
The coaches can hold up CB Alphonso Smith’s abysmal second half performance against New England in 2010 as their rationale for staying on the reservation. Play safe. Play soft. Stay on the reservation.
I can see it all so clearly. After the halfway point in the 2011 season, fans will be clamoring for upgrades in the secondary, just as we did in 2010.
It’s not necessarily the player’s fault in this case. Here, I put the blame on the coaches, who are showing themselves to be mistrustful of the player’s ability to make plays.
If the paranoid Detroit coaching staff wanted true playmakers, they would never have cut Silva. Period.
Am I pissed? You bet I am. For all the improvement that we see in the Lions, the secondary needlessly remains the biggest question mark going forward. It’s beyond sad. It’s the same old Lions. And that sucks!
I’m going to remember head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham for their collective brain fart. They will most certainly reap what they have sown.
You are most welcome to disagree with this voice in the wilderness. I have plenty of rant left in me.
In fact, I’m just getting started.
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.