The Lions are 6-2 going into the bye week. I thought it might be a good time to take an early look at the 2012 NFL draft and see what goodies might lie beneath Santa Goodell’s Christmas in April tree.
Are we to assume that the Lions will strictly adhere to their draft philosophy of taking the most talented player no matter the position? Or have the Lions stockpiled enough talent in key areas that they can start targeting positions of need?
With half of the 2011 season yet to unfold, it’s appropriate to take inventory of the Lions roster and start lobbying for those college players whom we covet.
Going into this season, there were three areas that begged for improvement: Linebackers, the secondary and the offensive line. At this point, we can safely say that two of those questionable areas have been addressed in free agency.
The additions of OLB Justin Durant, MLB Stephen Tulloch and CB Eric Wright have stabilized the defensive back seven. The contributions of OLB DeAndre Levy, OLB Bobby Carpenter, and the much improved play of CB Chris Houston and SS Amari Spievey can’t be overlooked.
But what about the Lions offensive line? This group is essentially the same one that took the field in 2010. The Lions' LT Jeff Backus and C Dominic Raiola are at, or beyond the end of the line. Meanwhile RG Stephen Peterman and RT Gosder Cherilus look no better than depth players, at best. Even LG Rob Sims has been very inconsistent.
To put it succinctly, the Lions need an infusion of impact talent on the offensive line. To have waited so long might have caused the Lions to seek an emergency transfusion of O-line personnel in 2012.
The Lions find themselves in a fragile position, being unable to stop the run, or run the ball. They continue to win in spite of this contradiction of the almost genetic tenet of football fundamentals on any level:
Run the ball and stop the run.
In my opinion, stopping the run hasn’t reached critical mass—yet. The Lions can tweak schematically to mitigate this flaw because the talent on defense certainly seems to be in place.
Running the ball is another story. It’s high time for the Lions to realize that improving on recent success can only be achieved behind a great offensive line.
Furthermore, the Lions must realize that the running back position has become a bit of a question mark moving forward. Do we really know what we have in Mikel LeShoure? Or, for that matter, Jahvid Best?
Neither of these fine running backs is assured of future success given the gravity of their respective injuries. LeShoure will be returning from a ruptured Achilles and Best seems to be susceptible to suffering concussions. As a result, the Lions have to be prepared for the worst case scenario—that neither will be a significant contributor in 2012.
In a series of slide shows, I will offer up the early leading candidates that could form the foundation of a dominating offensive line for the next decade. The “Dancing Bears” and the “Road Graders” that will turn a good Lions team into an elite Lions team.
Who knows? There might even be a running back or two that might figure into the mix.