Detroit Lions: 5 Veterans Failing to Meet Expectations
The Detroit Lions are 3-0, and they're gotten there with a series of wins so special, so liberating, so incredibly improbable, I'm loathe to write anything negative about the team.
But you see, that's the trap. Do you think Jim Schwartz is satisfied with this win? His team beat down the Kansas City Chiefs 48-3, and all he could talk about was how the team could have played better. That's what winners do. They constantly seek the perfect win, constantly try to improve, constantly right the wrongs.
And while the 2011 Lions certainly look like a charmed team, capable of winning every time out, they only looked that way for a half of football.
Even in the half they played well, there were still some opportunities for improvement. Oddly enough, though, it's the young guns who are really exceeding expectations right now (welcome to the NFL, Titus Young), and some of the veterans who need to raise their level of play.
The good news is, there's only five of them. The bad news is, most of the team doesn't fall under the "veteran" category.
But we'll start with the one everybody's going to talk about all week.
Damn it, Jeff, I try to defend you. I've been sticking up for you for a season and a half.
I blame your shortcomings on chemistry, continuity, the left guard, the tight end and fluky plays. I try telling everyone you're not as bad as the highlights make you look. I spent the entire 2010 season telling people it was a fluke that you got whipped by Julius Peppers, who proceeded to drive Matthew Stafford's shoulder two feet into the ground, splitting it in half in the process.
And this...this is how you repay me? You torpedo a game-winning drive with back-to-back pre-snap penalties and a sack before almost giving up a safety? You give up three sacks to Jared Allen? And you held him on one of them?
Crowd noise or not, you are a veteran left tackle, Jeff. Your biggest redeeming qualities are your durability and veteran leadership. You know, the kind of leadership that holds the team together and doesn't false start in a two-minute drill. Or blow blocking assignments. Or fall victim to crowd noise.
Get well soon, Jason Fox.
What happened to this Jerome Harrison fella? Wasn't he the guy who was supposed to make the absence of Mikel Leshoure a near-non-issue? Wasn't he a late-round fantasy steal? Wasn't he supposed to have more than 41 yards on 14 carries through two games?
Look, I'm not going to sit here and tell you Harrison is the reason the Lions can't run the ball. The problems run deeper than that, and Harrison was meant to fill in some spare carries, not lead the Lions to a 2,000-yard rushing season.
But still, Harrison has been an absolute non-issue through three games, and Maurice Morris didn't even play in one of them.
Admittedly, I never had incredibly high expectations for Harrison, and what he has produced thus far has been right around what I projected for him. But I saw lots of calls for Harrison to be the next great square peg, and that simply hasn't happened.
To be clear, I'm the least dissatisfied with Williams' performance, of all those in this piece.
I didn't expect him to be a statistical monster, so the fact that he's only notched one tackle and two assists all season doesn't bother me much. Defensive tackles aren't supposed to earn 15 tackles and two sacks per game; we've just been spoiled by Ndamukong Suh.
What I did expect is for him to be a monstrous space-eater in the middle, eating up blocks to keep the run game in check.
But not only is Williams himself not producing, but the Lions are currently sitting with the 21st-ranked run defense in football. Of course, there isn't much shame in holding Adrian Peterson to 78 yards, but the Vikings inexplicably gave him only a handful of carries and five yards in the second half, too.
Yes, it isn't as though it all falls on Williams to stop the run, so calling him out on account of the whole team's run defense is a little unfair.
But if he were only good for a couple of tackles and the run defense was great, we wouldn't hesitate to write songs of his incredible impact on the run game. So I don't feel bad talking about his lack thereof so far.
Gosder Cherilus is in his fourth year of NFL play. That makes him a veteran, right?
OK, good. Glad we cleared that up.
Now can we all agree he looks a lot like a Matt Millen first-round pick?
This was the year for Cherilus to pull it together. He's in his fourth season, he made a successful recovery from knee surgery and he's had plenty of time to learn his current system. So what's the payoff?
Inconsistency. Bad penalties. Sacks.
Footwork is one of the most important things for an offensive tackle, right? The man tripped over himself on a kick-slide. He granted Brian Robison (who?) a career day. He got himself pulled out of the game less than two quarters after earning his starting job back.
It's not working, and Cherilus is just about out of excuses as to why. This might not be an issue of Cherilus needing to step up, it might be that he needs to step out.
I don't have any qualms with Erik Coleman's performance on the field. It's more a matter of the fact that he's not on the field at all.
Coleman has become a bench-warmer with Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey tearing it up on the field. Sure, he comes in to spell the starters, and he's a talented reserve, but is that really what the Lions need with his roster spot?
I'll admit that there are few things more frightening than the prospect of John Wendling at safety; so having Coleman in as a buffer in situations of both injury and fatigue makes sense.
But meanwhile, Ricardo Silva sits around on the practice squad, waiting for his shot. I'm happy enough with the performance of the secondary thus far to not lament the release of Silva, but I wonder if Coleman is really the smartest use of that roster spot.
Coleman is a much better insurance policy than Silva, but not nearly as good of a long-term investment.