Monday, January 3, 2011

Detroit Lions: Things I Got Right, Things I Got Wrong

I’m not a big fan of ‘I told you so’ posts and this isn’t intended to be one. With that said, I did add something at the end which probably is that type of statement.

Things I Got Right

Suh To me, picking Suh was the easiest, most obvious thing the Lions have done in a decade. When you can pick the best player in the draft and when that player fills a position of need then there is really no question about it.

Stafford I’ll put this out there, but it’s a bit weak. He surpassed my expectations for him this year in his limited time. I would have been happy to simply see progress, to see him start to recognize the game, to start to take what’s given. Instead he bought all the way in, stopped trying to force the ball on every drive, took what defenses gave and became a solid NFL quarterback with considerable remaining upside. However, when I was worried about whether Stafford could succeed in Detroit, one of my main concerns was that he would get killed. So far, he has. Some of it is a testament to his stubbornness, to trying to make plays, but this is still something he has to learn; that he can’t always be the guy, that in the NFL discretion usually beats valor. Maybe with the two shoulders this year, he will come back subdued and complete his evolution to NFL star.

Backus/Raiola I defend these guys and defend them. I don’t think most fans here appreciate how much worse many teams have it. Sure, it would be great to have a Jake Long or Ryan Clady, but last I checked their teams aren’t doing well and their quarterbacks got knocked out too. Neither of these guys are great and both of them will have to be replaced eventually, but they are also both players a team can win with.

Shaun Hill I’ve been a fan for years and he did nothing to let me down. Other than transition time, there is really no drop off with him under center. It’s a different type of offense, but definitely no less effective. He threw too many picks. I thought the one yesterday was terrible, considering how the game was going. Otherwise though he is smart, he finds open receivers, he will make plays with his legs when he has to. The team averaged 1.7 more ppg with him in the game than out. He doesn’t fumble much or take too many sacks. He’s just a heady player who I really like.

Things I Got Wrong

Suh Even though I was right about the pick, I was absolutely wrong about the impact that he’d have. He could have had 50% of his statistical production and I would have been delighted. I fully expected that he would have to grow into his role. Instead he is already the rare type of player who makes the entire team better. Not just his unit, not just the defense, the entire team. He gets the defense off the field, he prevents offenses from going 5-wide, he gives the offense field position. The Lions haven’t had a player this dynamic at this stage of his career for 20 years. The next decade is going to be amazing.

Corey Williams While I believe that some of Williams’ play can be attributed to the guy standing next to him, not all of it can. Williams was a force, both with Suh in and out of the lineup. I thought he might be solid, and a gap solution. Instead he appears to be a multi-year starter still capable of playing with the best in the conference at his position. With Hill behind them, the center of the Lions’ defense looks very bright for the next half decade.

The Defensive Backfield Funny. For many years I have believed that scheme trumps talent, and when it comes to other teams I’ve still believed it, but I lost faith when it came to the Lions. Despite my belief in the coaching staff, I fell into my old beliefs about the Lion curse (or whatever). Well, I am glad to say that again, scheme trumps talent. I still don’t think the Lion corners are very good, and I definitely don’t think the guys who were playing at the end of the year are very good, but it didn’t matter. With the havoc being created up front the demands on cornerbacks and other pass defenders were reduced to a point where they were able to manage receivers fairly well. Other than the 4th quarter onslaught by the Patriots, no team’s quarterback put a thumping on Detroit.

Where They Got Their Wins I was both wrong in the number and the way they would win games. I believed that the Lions would have to win their games in the first half of the season, that once injuries started eating into their depth that they would really have no chance. I was obviously wrong. As surprising as anything is how resilient this team was with depth players at key spots. I predicted 3-4 wins, simply because I couldn’t see them doing much better than 1-7 in the 2nd half.

Bryant Johnson Not a lot to say here. I really thought he would do well with the pressure off.

Drew Stanton Okay, he doesn’t completely suck donkey cock.


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