Neither Rain, Nor Snow, Nor Sleet . . . Mailbag!

>> 9.23.2009

I got some great submissions for this week's edition. First up is "Calvins Got A Job":

I want to know what the deal with Gosder Cherilus is? He's huge and has a NASTY streak and has seemed durable so far in his short young career. But he guy gets a flag or two thrown at him every week! 15-yarder after 15-yarder... Unreal, Millen... I'm starting to think this kid is going to suck and do this his whole career... i'd be happy if some team was dumb enough to trade for him. Do you know how many penalties he's had in his tenure with the Lions?

Well, you partially answered your own question there; Cherlius's emotions often get the better of him. He has a tendency to get too wrapped up in the emotional battle between him and the guy across from him, and lose his head. It's these lapses in focus that get him to jump early, commit personal fouls, and miss assignments.

The good news is that the initial fears about Gosder--that he just wouldn't be any good--appear to be unfounded. His size and strength are unquestioned, and he's shown improved fluidity and technique. Outside of the penalties, you really don't hear his name called--and as we know, for O-linemen, that's a good thing. I'm going through the film right now, so I'll let you folks know if I see anything on there either way.

From Jeremy Riesman, Lions writer for the Study of Sports:
How do you explain Detroit's success on the ground last week against Minnesota? I figured they would try a bunch, but I really thought Kevin and Pat Williams were going to crush us. You think ManRam won himself the starting job?

Well, again, I'm just tucking in to my film review, so no "Eureka" moments yet. One thing I noticed the Lions' interior linemen doing in the preseason was a judo-like move: they allow DTs to "beat" them in the direction away from the play--then when the back runs past, use their momentum against them, with a hard shove in the direction they're already going. This prevents the DTs from changing direction and getting back in the play.

I'd be willing to bet that that little trick, along with a lot of traps and pulls to Pettigrew's side, opened up seams that wouldn't normally be there. Credit must also go to Kevin Smith for finding those seams and decisively bursting through. According to Nick Cotsonika, Ramirez is now splitting reps 50-50 with Loper, and the Lions will essentially play the matchups between the two of them. Considering I'd essentially written off Ramirez ever contributing, this is great to see. Also, it gives the Lions depth and options at guard--which, considering the Lions' history at that position, is never a bad thing. Mike emailed in with some very kind words (highly appreciated!) and the following question:

Can you see the resemblance? If Ben from Lost was coach, what would he do to help the Lions right this ship?

Well first, I can see where you're going with the resemblance; I chuckled. As for what do to with the team? I think the answer's obvious! He'd beef up the pass protection:

sparring-polar-bears-492311-lw

And from Matt:

I still would like your take on Schweigert getting cut? Again, all I saw him do was make plays. . . so what's the problem?

As anyone who's been reading for a while knows, I've been rooting hard for Stu ever since he stayed late to sign my kids' football at the "Lions Uncaged!" open event. He also made plays like crazy in the the preseason; he was practically a one-man defense against Atlanta.

I was aggrieved enough by his release to do some judicious asking around. The response was that he played his way out of a gig during the Cleveland game--of course, the one I didn't see much of. That explains why he was still essentially quarantined to the second halves of the Colts and Bills games--he was already a dead man walking. Impressive performances against the Colts' and Bills' dead men walking apparently weren't enough to stop the Lions from trading for Ko Simpson, and cutting Stuey Schwagger. He continues to stay in touch with fans with his Twitter feed, @schweigert39.

Finally, my man Steve of Detroit Lions Weblog called me out:

You have recently defended the Lions decision to select Brandon Pettigrew with their second first round selection in the April draft. In a comment on another blog you said regarding the selection of Pettigrew over additional assistance to the Lions defensive personnel would have made a tangible difference in the game's outcome, : "No. Absolutely not. The Saints have the best offense in football, and might well be the best team in football this year. With Buchanon out and Eric King starting, it’s a wonder the Saints didn’t push for triple digits! The Lions certainly played better against the Saints this year than last, and for right now that’s all you can ask." Really? Do you honestly view the Saints as legitimate Super Bowl contenders? Do you believe that the Saints are truly that good, or is the Lions defense that bad? Is playing better than last year a real consolation? I know that Saints offense is quite prolific, but given the attention that the Lions paid to their defense during the recent off-season, is it unfair to expect better results? I am already worried that very little has changed in Allen Park, and I will remain a skeptic until given reason to believe otherwise.

First of all, yes, I absolutely believe that the Saints are going to be playing in January, and probably February. That offense is going to go down as one of the most potent ever assembled--and while their defense is not exceptionally talented, it's the *right* one for their offense. What the Saints did to the Lions--get up 14-0 and send everybody at the QB--they're going to do to a lot of teams; they're going to win a LOT of games because of it. Given that divison, I see a 12 or 13-win season for the Saints.

Second, yes, I absolutely stand behind my statement that Brandon Pettigrew is going to do more for the Lions this season (and for the next decade) than any of the defensive personnel available at the 20th pick. Rey Maualuga certainly wouldn't be playing any better than Larry Foote has shown so far, and Peria Jerry--besides being the completely wrong kind of DT prospect--has already been lost for the season due to an knee injury. Can you honestly tell me that there was a late-first-round rookie that was going to slow down the best offense in the NFL?

On Sunday, the Lions will be starting Sammie Lee Hill, DeAndre Levy, and Louis Delmas. They'll also be starting Grady Jackson, Jason Hunter, Anthony Henry, Philip Buchanon, Larry Foote, Julian Peterson, and either Marquand Manuel or Ko Simpson. Given that the whole defense was overhauled, should we expect better results? Well, that depends on what you mean by "better results". All of these players are either untested rookies, or veterans on the downsides of their careers. This was a defense assembled from scratch in one offseason. Will it be better than the 2008 defense--by almost any standard, the worst defense ever? Yes. Will it be a "good" defense? Maybe. Should we "expect" it to be a good defense? . . . no.

7 comments:

Steve September 24, 2009 at 1:50 PM  

Happy Matt Millen Termination Day! It's the one year anniversary. Ty, thank you for addressing my question. I sent this question pre-Vikings game, with a head full of steam, not due to your position, but because of how poorly the Lions defense and offensive line had played against the Saints.

Already, in one week, I believe that progress has been made by the Lions against a pretty good team in the Vikings.

If they could have found better DT's in the offseason, they might have been able to boast a middle-of-the-pack defense this season. Unfortunately, teams are blowing the Lions out in the middle, and running seemingly at will.

I appreciate you addressing my question, especially in light of my being proved wrong in under a week, which is nowhere near a record!

Isphet,  September 24, 2009 at 2:52 PM  

Ty,

you're the man with the Pettigrew talk. Don't back down on that one; you're right on target.

I'm tired of everyone talking about the Lions only drafting offense in the first round and therefore, they must have thought the defense would be good enough this year to compete. That's a stupid argument if I ever saw one. They knew. They just couldn't draft an entire new team or aquire one in free agency in one offseason. They knew the team would still have holes.

A lot of Lions fans and media have thrown patience completely out the window. It's stupid. I'm so glad for sites like this one and Roar of the Lions that actually have bloggers with intelligent opinions about the Lions. If they didn't exist; I think I would have given up on the Lions and their fans all together and just say they deserve eachother.

Pacer September 24, 2009 at 11:30 PM  

Ty and Steve-the proof in the pudding re the Lions and Saints is really what the Saints did to the defense in Philly. Yes, Jim Johnson is gone, the middle linebacker is out for the season and one of the best safeties in the last 10 years is now in Denver. However, the Eagles are supposed to have a better defense then Detroit and gave up 3 more points then the Lions did when the Eagles QB threw for 391 yards. Go figure.
The fact is the Lions picked their poison for this year. They drafted for talent and in the first round the talent was on the offensive side of the ball. How exactly do you draft for need when you need about 15 new talent? You don't. And can anyone show me how Daute starting, a rookie 1st round pick at left tackle and and a new big body in the middle of the D Line would have made enough difference for the Lions to win either of the first 2 games. Mistakes killed them against the Vikes and the Saints-come on-how could the Lions beat the Saints in that game?

Ty September 25, 2009 at 11:01 AM  

Folks--

First, let's call off the dogs on Steve! As he said in his comment, he fired that one off before the Minny game, all full of great vengance and furious anger . . . and as you folks have pointed out, the Saints went and did the exact same thing to the Eagles, and we showed we can contain the best running game in football with the personnel we have.

Peace
Ty

Ty September 25, 2009 at 11:08 AM  

Isphet--

You are absolutely spot on with this:

"They just couldn't draft an entire new team or aquire one in free agency in one offseason."

And this:

"A lot of Lions fans and media have thrown patience completely out the window. It's stupid."

It's amazing how many people were perfectly willing to see a team that was 0-16 last year facing a murderous first six weeks six losses . . . here we are, two weeks in, having faced two teams that may well meet in the NFC Championship Game, and sitting at a competitve 0-2--and people are jumping ship.

I myself just posted that I'm getting tired of making excuses and putting a smile on it; after not having seen a win since Christmas 2007, it's understandable. I think people just need to see one win. Any win. As soon as possible.

Peace
Ty

Steve September 25, 2009 at 11:47 AM  

That elusive win could come this week, Ty. Regarding Lions fans and patience, given the complete picture (economy, unemployment, etc.) the Lions may actually serve as a healthy outlet for people's general frustrations with their lives, at least in some cases.

On top of that, none of us really can put into context how bad this current run of Lions losses is (or will be) until it's over. I, for one, will be filled with joy when the Lions finally win this season.

Matt,  September 29, 2009 at 12:10 PM  

Regarding '09 1st round picks: I completely agree that the Lions were in more dire need of defensive help and also completely agree that defensive help was not the strength of the '09 draft class. Ty and I were both all about Aaron Curry, probably the best defensive player in the draft, and he really would not have helped much this season (even a great LB can only do so much without a decent line in front of him - making Maulaluga or Laurenitis low-impact picks as well). Drafting to fill out the offensive skill positions and attempting to fill holes on D through trades (Peterson) and free agency (Foote, etc.) was the right move. Despite "only" being 1-2, I think the season thus far has proven that correct.

That being said, more work is clearly needed, particularly on the D-line. I think the 2010 draft/off-season needs to/will be focused on both lines (the impact front-liners that weren't really there in the '09 draft should be in '10). Better protection and more/bigger holes will boost ALL the offensive skill guys already in place and gaining experience (Stafford, Smith, Calvin, Pettigrew, etc.). Getting some big bodies up front will help an LB corps that is probably the most talented the Lions have had in recent memory and also, hopefully, allow Cliff Avril to be set loose on QBs (I think he's got the skills to be a successful pass rusher, but needs some other guys to draw attention). The secondary is patchwork for now, but that is workable, especially if attempts to improve the line are successful. Which brings me to Delmas (who you can sorta' count as a 1st round pick). Dude already wakes up in the morning looking to hit somebody in the mouth. Again, with D-line improvements the entire defense could/will take a HUGE step forward in 2010 and allow Delmas to develop into the kind of versatile, playmaking safety that is a staple of elite defenses in today's NFL.

I might be drinking a lot of "first win Kool-aid" here, but, as I've said a million times, the Lions couldn't get on with "the business of winning" until they got the first one. That's outta' the way now, so I'm looking ahead to the business plan. The past is getting dimmer and the future is looking bright.

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