Lions' Answer Is Simple: Protect Your Investment

Joshua GrangerContributor IApril 12, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 04: Alex Brown #96 of the Chicago Bears sacks Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions on October 4, 2009 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The most exciting day of the year for Detroit Lions fans is almost here. Yes, sadly the annual NFL Draft is the only day that brings much optimism to supporters of the motor city kittys. The ironic thing is that the hope this day brings is usually squashed after just a few months but every year we all get excited again. Will we ever learn? Hell no! That's what makes us Lions fans! 

Amazingly, last year's draft actually has a few rays of sunshine that have continued throughout the offseason. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, the first overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft, earned our praises with his toughness and guts and showed many signs that he will not be a repeat of Joey Harrington.

And that is why this years second overall selection is a no-brainer, it should be OT Russell Okung from Oklahoma State. As tempting as Ndamukong Suh may be, he will not help keep the most promising player the Lions have had in a decade healthy and on the field. Stafford missed six games last year due to injuries suffered while he was running for his life behind the "protection" of the Lions offensive line. And while I love the guy for his heart and dedication to this team, I would like to see left tackle Jeff Backus replaced. 

Now there are those, including head coach Jim Schwartz (who I suggested the Lions hire in 2006 when they hired Rod Marinelli and for whom I have the greatest of respect) that praised Backus's play last year and they have a point. Backus unofficially allowed eight sacks in 2009 as compared to 10 in 2008 but I watched every second of every Lions game twice, sometimes three times, and there were simply too many instances of the quarterback being pressured from the left side. Look at this play by play of the Lions' game against the Steelers from last year when the Lions' were down by eight points and driving at the end of the game.

1st and 10 at PIT 34(Shotgun) D.Culpepper SACKED at PIT 43 for -9 yards (L.Woodley).  
2nd and 19 at PIT 43(No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Culpepper pass incomplete deep middle to D.Northcutt.  
3rd and 19 at PIT 43(Shotgun) D.Culpepper pass deep right to D.Northcutt to PIT 21 for 22 yards (T.Carter).  
1st and 10 at PIT 21(Shotgun) D.Culpepper SACKED  at PIT 27 for -6 yards (sack split by L.Woodley and W.Gay).  
2nd and 16 at PIT 27(No Huddle, Shotgun) D.Culpepper SACKED at PIT 32 for -5 yards (W.Gay).  
 Timeout #2 by DET at 01:23.  
3rd and 21 at PIT 32(Shotgun) D.Culpepper SACKED at PIT 45 for -13 yards (L.Timmons).  
 Timeout #3 by DET at 01:18.
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That's four sacks in six plays! I was at this game, and the pressure on all four of those sacks came from the left side. Now, all the blame cannot be placed on Backus as left guard has been a problem position for years, but that's why drafting Okung makes so much sense. Backus could move to left guard and newly acquired Rob Sims could plug right guard and the offensive line is improved astronomically.

The Lions have already passed on quality tackles such as Joe Thomas, Jeff Otah, Sam Baker, and Michael Oher, here's hoping they don't pass on another.