have the Lions left the safety off?

>> 6.30.2009

A few days ago, the excellent Chrissie Wywrot of the official Lions site penned a piece on embattled safety Daniel Bullocks.  It almost seemed like a direct challenge to recent articles by Mlive.com’s Tom Kowalski and the Detroit News’s John Niyo suggesting that Bullocks is simply not in the mix to start next to rookie Louis Delmas.  Wywrot discloses something only hinted at before: Bullocks never really recovered from the blown ACL that sidelined him in 2007. 

Safety play is something difficult for the HDTV-deprived fan to quantify (thanks, 4:3 aspect ratio!).  We see the strong safety come up and lay the lumber, and we see big interceptions.  Sometimes, on replays from alternate angles, we can see a safety get beat deep.  However, unlike front-seven defenders, it’s impossible for the average fan to simply watch a safety for a snap, or series of snaps, to see how they’re doing.  Therefore, when it comes to ‘grading out’ a safety, we’re beholden to those who have access to game film.  Kowalski’s sources tell him that Bullocks’ angles were all wrong in 2008, and that the fluidity, quickness, and aggressiveness he displayed in 2006 appeared to be “gone”.  Killer added that when a defense gives up many long runs (as the Lions did in 2008), that’s often the result of poor safety play.

Interestingly, the Niyo piece I linked above appears to have been edited.  Here is the original quote, as snagged from The Den, Scout.com’s Lions forum: Correction: the below quote is actually from rotoworld.com, adding their own analysis to Niyo's.  The article linked above is apparently as it was first published.

“Gerald Alexander and Kalvin Pearson split time at strong safety with the Lions first-team defense during Tuesday's minicamp.  While rookie Louis Delmas is locked in at free safety, the new coaching staff has been less than content with its option at strong safety. They no longer see Daniel Bullocks as a starter, and free agent Marquand Manuel was recently brought on board as another option.”

This jibes with the other reports: the post-trade safety pecking order has Pearson and Manuel splitting time with the ones—but Pearson is thought of as a valuable backup, but too athletically limited to be a starter in the Lions’ new symmetrical defense.  This leaves the door wide open for Bullocks—but Bullocks has to recover his physical skills, rebuild his confidence in those skills, learn the new system, and then incorporate it all, so he can play as aggressively and instinctually as he did his rookie year.  Both from published reports, and my talks with some folks in the know, it sounds like he’s got about 1.5 out of 4 down pat right now—and an uphill climb to be relevant this fall.

5 comments:

DrewsLions July 1, 2009 at 2:42 PM  

Ty - Thanks for being the only other person ever to complain about not being able to watch the play of the safety from snap to finish. I have a pretty large collection of self-made game film that I like to analyze as a hobby (yes, quite pathetic). I have always been frustrated by the lack of secondary coverage that's in-screen.

On Bullocks... he might be damaged goods. I sure hope not. That's another high draft pick we'll have to expend next year when we already need tackle, guard, receiver, defensive tackle, end and corner. Sheesh. Can just a few of Millen's second rounders work out? Thank God for Raiola and even that's not saying too much.

Drew

Ty July 1, 2009 at 3:05 PM  

Drews--

Yeah, being at the mercy of the camera guy has always been frustrating. What I really want is for other channels to have other angles I can switch to. I appreciate that the producer in the truck is better at picking out camera angles than I am, but I want to see all 22 guys presnap, and most of those 22 from the snap forward.

I envy the youth of this nation, growing up with HDTV, DVR, Sunday Ticket, NFLN, ESPN Classic--and, of course, the Internet. For most of my formative years, NFL info was only available by the over-air networks, the newspaper, and ONE ESPN (which wasn't nearly as football-obsessed as it is today) . . . now you have access to hundreds of times the information as ever used to be available.

I just remembered--did you ever videogame football with "passing windows" on? It was a fad back in the mid-90s. Half of the screen would be taken up by an extreme close-up of your three top passing options, to show if they were covered or not. I remember practically throwing cartridges over what a horrible view of the field they offered . . .

I don't know what it is with the second-round curse. I really, really, really thought that out of the whole roster, safety was the only unit being "set" with young, talented starters.

Peace
Ty

TimT July 1, 2009 at 4:44 PM  

Wywrot quotes Bullocks...

“Wednesday was my first day of two-a-days; in the first mini-camp I didn’t get to do anything,” he said. “But Wednesday was my first day of two-a-days. I also practiced back-to-back days for the first time, too, as well. It felt pretty good.”

Meanwhile, Killer, Niyo and whoever are spinning the same yarn.

Is he practicing and leaving a bad impression? Or, has he been injured and not practicing much at all?

Any judgment of Bullocks's starting status at this point by Killer does him and Bullocks a great disservice.

Ty July 2, 2009 at 12:04 AM  

TimT--

Okay, this is the thing though. He played all 16 games on this same knee last year . . . now he misses all of the OTAs? Did he have another surgery?

I'm guessing that he did drills, but no scrimmaging in the veteran-only minicamps, and Tom was basing most of his evaluation on that--and the fact that they were installing the defense with him on the sidelines. Presumably, he's near-100% now and ready to contribute . . . but again, he's got to be way behind all the others in knowing the defense--and he MUST know it cold in order to be able to play with the freedom and abandon he once did. As Schwartz said, reps will be at a premium, so he'll have to do a lot with the few he gets.

Peace
Ty

TimT July 2, 2009 at 8:22 AM  

I'm guessing it was a recovery process that was cut short and/or additional injuries.

There's been a handful of guys the team has been "playing it safe" with. Why wasn't Bullocks mentioned among them. That's some "valuable, need-to-know" information that's kind of important in determining that he's going to struggle to get the starting gig.

Sure, the net result may be that he's got an uphill climb through training camp, but I'm more confident in the guy knowing that his practice time was limited due to injury rather than talent, ability or the coach's confidence.

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