The Lions' Den: Detroit Lions Weekly

Rudy DominickCorrespondent IApril 30, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - DECEMBER 14:  Kevin Smith #34 of the Detroit Lions avoids a tackle by Kelvin Hayden #26 of the Indianapolis Colts on December 14, 2008 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Colts defeated the Lions 31-21.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The Lions’ Den:  Your source for Detroit Lion’s information year round.  Player profiles, analysis, rumors, interesting tidbits, etc.  The weekly will be published every Friday, barring any (punter) Chris Hanson-like injuries (I.E. Axe to the non-kicking leg or third degree burns from a cheese fondue accident).


Free Agent Outlook

Earlier this offseason the Lions brought in veteran DE Vonnie Holliday.  The Lions did not draft any defensive ends and while bringing a few veterans in for visits; it seems they will add one during free agency.

Holliday visited with the Lions in early March and is still available.  He is 33 years old 6’5” and 305lbs and started 15 games with the Dolphins last season.

Another free agent possibility at DE is another veteran, Kevin Carter.  Carter is 35 years old and is 6’6” 305lbs.  Carter visited with Lions officials this week.

He started all 16 games in 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, playing in 224 consecutive games.  Carter played in Tennessee from 2001-2004, those same years; Jim Schwartz was the Titans defensive coordinator.

One player on the offensive side of the ball is OT Ephraim Salaam.  Salaam is 32 years old 6’7” and 302lbs.  He visited with the Lions before the draft and stated he would make his decision afterwards; based on if the Lions drafted an offensive tackle.  No tackle was selected, so Salaam may be another possible piece to Detroit’s ailing offensive line.  

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Two players I hope the Lions look at:

Levi Jones-OT-Cincinnati Bengals

Jones is 6’5” 305lbs at age 29.  He is still under contract, but may be released this offseason after years of injuries.  The selection of Andre Smith could secure Jones’ exit.  He would be worth a shot since the Lions haven’t made any major improvements to the offensive line, as long as Jones doesn’t receive a large sum of guaranteed money.

Dewayne Robertson-DT-Free Agent

Robertson is 6’1” 317 lbs and 27 years old.  He is currently a free agent after being released from the Denver Broncos; before he could receive a $14 million dollar bonus.  He performed well with the Jets during his first few seasons after being selected fourth overall in the 2003 draft. 

When New York switched to a 3-4 defense, Robertson struggled adapting to the defense and was traded in 2008 to the Denver Broncos.  Carolina and Tennessee have been mentioned in having interest in Robertson, he would be a good signing for the Lions solidifying the defensive tackle position.

Kevin Smith:  The Other Lions Offensive Star

Kevin Smith seems to be forgotten at times when talking about the Lions star players on their improving offense.  Calvin Johnson rightfully takes majority of the praise, on his way to becoming the best receiver in the NFL.

Smith was a rookie in 2008, drafted in the third round by Detroit; he put up amazing stats in college playing at Central Florida and nearly reached the 1,000 yard milestone in his rookie season with the Lions.

He ran for 976 yards in 2008, averaged 4.1 yards per carry, and scored eight rushing touchdowns.  He achieved all this, while doing it behind a below average offensive lineman and five different quarterbacks.  Smith had to wrestle playing time away from former Pro Bowl running back Rudi Johnson and finished the season strong.

Smith averaged 61 yards a game for the season; in six games where Smith was given the ball at least 20 times, he averaged 94 yards in those contests.

He finished 17th in the NFL in total rushing yards last season, on 283 attempts, far less than leader Adrian Peterson with 363 attempts.  Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward were the only two players with more rushing yards on fewer attempts in 2008.  

Smith rushed for more yards than many great running backs such as: Brian Westbrook, Ronnie Brown, Marion Barber, Maurice Jones Drew, and Willie Parker. 

He also ranks very high in the Lions all-time rookie rankings.

Smith ranks third in two categories, behind only Barry Sanders and Billy Sims, in rushing yards gained and rushing touchdowns.  Doak Walker, a Hall of Fame running back, Heisman trophy winner, and two-time NFL Champion ranks behind Smith in Lions rookie rushing touchdowns.

Smith also ranks fourth in longest run with his rush of 50 yards, Barry Sanders didn’t break such a long run in his rookie season.

Barry Sanders was the greatest or at least in the discussion for greatest running back of all time, and in no way are these records attempting to compare Smith to Barry Sanders; it just states where he ranks and the Lions have a solid running back.

This offseason the Lions have shown their faith in Smith, by signing Maurice Morris instead of spending $10 million dollars more on Derrick Ward.  That signing tells everyone that Smith is the running back of the Detroit Lions, not a running back-by-committee, which has been adapted by more teams each year. 

Smith has earned this opportunity and Morris will be a solid back to spell Smith and give the Lions a decent option if Smith gets injured. 

The Lions added several offensive talents to build around Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith.  QB Matt Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew and WR/KR Derrick Williams will bring a more balanced  attack to Detroit. 

Detroit won’t continue their quarterback carousel in 2009.  Daunte Culpepper appears to be the starter, while Stafford bids his time on the sidelines.

Pettigrew will help with his pass catching ability and devastating run blocking.  He dominated fellow first round draft pick Brian Orakpo when they faced off in college. 

Look for Pettigrew to continue his outstanding run blocking which will clear holes for Smith to run through.

More improvement is expected of Smith in ’09 and beyond, which he’ll gladly accept. 


Philadelphia Eagles ruined Detroit Lions Draft?

The Detroit Lions had a trade in place with the New York Giants, if WR Jeremy Maclin was still available at No. 20.  The Eagles traded up to No. 19 from No. 21 and selected the Missouri wide receiver, the Eagles traded pick No. 21 and No. 195 to move up. 

It appears the Giants were willing to acquire No. 20 overall from the Lions in exchange for No. 29 and other considerations, believed to be No. 60 overall. 

Detroit would not have selected TE Brandon Pettigrew, but rather Louis Delmas at either No. 29 or No. 33, one such player that may have been selected was RB Chris “Beanie” Wells, whom the Lions had interest in. 

Other possibilities would be a middle linebacker either Rey Maualuga or James Laurinaitis to fill their major hole in the middle or maybe DT Ron Brace, to add a big run stuffer next to aging veteran Grady Jackson.

Obviously this trade did not happen, so it’s left up to the imagination of what might have been.  It’s still interesting to see that Brandon Pettigrew seemed more like a backup plan than their first option.

Overall the Lions did a great job in the draft, adding the top player at three positions of need:  quarterback, tight end, and safety. 

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