neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor dark of night

>> 3.20.2009

I've decided to start an as-frequently-as-will-be-productive "mailbag" post series.  I've gotten some interesting email over the past couple of days, so I figured I'd share both what's coming in, and what's going back out with you all.  If you've got a question, suggestion, or diatribe you'd like to send me, please hit me up at  Let's get to the first one, from "N O".


real quick about me: live in NH & just an all around NFL junkie.

so yeah, I don't get to see any Lions games but, love following
team rebuilds. 

all that being said, WTF is wrong with Stanton?? on paper he looks pretty good.
albeit I haven't seen one preseason game but, again, on paper...& if Linehan is
all he's cracked up to be shouldn't this be OK? with all the other holes in
the lineup why am I seeing talk about taking a QB? Unless you hear Trent
Dilfer talking these QB's are not Matt Ryan. 
educate me please!

Well, Stanton has a few issues. First, when he was drafted, Mike Martz didn't like him at all. His strengths aren't the strengths needed for Martz's system. At his first minicamp, Martz completely broke down Stanton's technique, starting with how he stands and how he holds a football. Then, Stanton got hurt. It looked like he would likely miss all of the preaseason, so they made the bizarre decision to put him on IR (presumably since the preseason was all the live action he was going to see anyway). However, since he couldn't participate in practice, Martz didn't work with him anymore. Stanton spent the first season not allowed to get reps, not allowed to be coached, not being built back up after being broken down.  Obviously, the one active roster spot they saved with this maneuver made a big enough difference in the won-loss record that it totally justified torpedoing the development of a quarterback they'd just spend a second-rounder on . . . Then, last season, Martz was gone, and the QB coach (Scott Loeffler) basically just got him back to normal. He flashed some serious potential in the preseason last year, then resumed his role as the third-string guy. Oddly, when Kitna got hurt, and Orlovsky got hurt, they signed Culpepper rather than let Stanton play. The reason given was that they didn't want him to "embarass" himself--yet in what little time he's gotten, he's looked great. Now he'll be on his fourth OC in four years, Loeffler is gone, too, and the current front office and coaching staff has no investment in him as the QB of the Future. Schwartz seems eager to evaluate him, but Mayhew seems to have completely written him off. It's a shame, but I think Stanton has a very bright future--just not with the Lions.

N O replied:

so...that's really really sad. It amazes me how quickly some of these potentially talented guys are quickly forgottenuntil some other team picks them up & then bam! to me, this is a bad a move as signing (the other) Johnson. If theyuse their 1st pick on a QB I'm going to puke. Maybe I'm crazy but, you can still get really good value at tackle with the 20th or trade down. I'm also really surprised that more teams aren't taking pages out of the Falcons playbook. I think Tom D (their GM) is the only guy that got "the Patriots way" (and no I'm some crazed Pats fan). Glad tosee one of the ex Patriots got it right..

If that's all true I hope Stanton lands in Philly or goes to Washington & is coached up by Zorn.
You know, it is really tough. There are so many players who come out of college with the aptitude to make it--but between injury, timing, coaching, personality disagreements, what have you--but don't work out. Let's face it, who's a better talent, Dan Orlovsky or Drew Stanton? Orlovsky got drafted and stashed for four years, and made the most of his moment in the sun--which happened to come in a contract year. He gets a nice FA deal to back up a weak starter on a team with a great offensive coach and a true stud wideout. If DS got the same treatment he'd be an all-Pro, I'm sure of it. Instead he's getting put out to the curb with all the rest of Millen's "trash".

You mention two good destinations for him, but I'm looking at St. Louis. The new OC there is Pat Shurmur, a former MSU QB and longtime Philly QB coach.   I believe Drew endorsed him for the MSU head coaching gig during the last hiring cycle. That all having been said, I still hold out hope DS blows 'em away in the OTAs and gets to keep his Lions' ballcap-and-clipboard.

Next came one from a reader named Neal:

I must say I personally think that Mayhew has done very well. No big anmes were going to sign here, and they had no business trying to sign big names to big contracts, when they are about to have about $100 invested in the first 5 picks in the draft. All of whom should be starters or at the least contribute. I would greatly prefer an OL first overall, and then Lauranitis, at 20. Then Freeman with the third(33 overall) and as far as picks beyond that, hopefully find a diamon in the rough, and maybe a CB, or any Defensive player? I do feel as if Fluellen will get a oppurtunity. However, I beleive Mayhew really is going to roll with Darby and Jackson; hoping for a DT to fall into hsi lap in rounds 3-5, maybe? I do beleive that even though their young, I just cant see Dizon, Francis, and/or Cohen ever beign any good.
My thoughts are Mayhew thinks, HOPES he can make a star out of Culpepper, and I strongly believe if he CAN NOT get Cutler, then he'll stay away from Quarterbacks, Veteran, and/or rookie! Which I believe Orlovsky deserved to be the starter this year, but eh? So, if Culpepper really has slimmed down from his 300 lbs he checked in at last year, then they better get him some protection, draft Smith, or Monroe, and move Backus to LG or RG, even, especially with Gosder, and now Daniel Loper, they have flexibility. 
I loved the signing of a veteran CB, like Buchanon, and think trading for Henry to move to Safety, plus getting Morris, and Johnson are nice compliments. TJ "WhosYaMaama" and Derrick Ward werent coming here so, they did well with these signings.
Like I said in an earlier post, I secretly wear Martin Mayhew underoos. I think he might be a seriously, seriously gifted executive. The acquisitions have all been cheap, effective, no-committment deals that simply perfectly fill the holes in the roster for 2009. None of these guys are being billed as saviors, none of them have big guaranteed money; Mayhew could cut them all next season without a second thought. Yet, all of them are possible, if not probable, major contributors next year . . .

Draft stuff? I think Curry could be the next Ray Lewis, a game-changing dominator. I think James Laurenitis will be a good run-stuffing MLB. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that any first-round-caliber MLB will make an equal impact, and it just isn't true. That having been said, Laurenitis *should* be much better than Dizon would be this year, so it'd be an upgrade at the very least. I think that Curry over Dizon would be a much bigger upgrade than Smith over Backus, both for 2009 and beyond. I actually favor going Curry, then drafting a C/G for the future with the 2.1 (presuming Michael Oher doesn't fall to us at the 1.20, which he might).

Outside of his inexplicable love of Culpepper--which, you're right, he seems to think that it's either Culpepper, an established young stud, or fugheddaboudit--Mayhew seems to have a great grasp of what talent he needs to turn the Lions into the team he wants them to be. It so happens that I agree with his vision, as well. I think the Lions are in great hands . . . it's nice to be able to think that for the first time in a long, long time.


the Lions Congregation, part IV

>> 3.19.2009

It's time for another round of the Lions Congregation over at the Church of Schwartz.  Topics for today are:

* Julian Peterson Trade: Yay, Nay or Meh?

* What Do You Prefer: Aaron Curry at 1.1 or Stafford/OT at 1.1 and James Laurinaitis at 1.20?

* Are any of the young linemen on the roster (Cohen, Fluellen, Ikaika A-F) capable of filling Redding’s shoes?

I encourage you folks to check out the Good Reverend's site; he has a draft review series going right now that's a unique idea.  It's also brutally depressing . . .


dhani jones tackles your heart

>> 3.18.2009

The other night, I was watching the Travel Channel--I'm a big fan of the Anthony Bourdain vehicle, "No Reservations"--and what came on, but the new Dhani Jones show, "Dhani Jones Tackles the World".  The concept is that former Michigan linebacker, NFL journeyman, NFLN personality, and noted fashion plate Dhani Jones travels the world, engaging in a variety of indigenous sports, games, and feats of strength.  Along the way he interfaces with the local culture, exploring their food, music, customs, and nightlife.

This is intriguing to me for several reasons: first, Dhani Jones is an interesting fellow.  A rare scholarship athlete who strove to live life as just another student, Jones made a bit of a name for himself as an intellectual.  Well spoken in interviews, Jones definitely comes across as more than just a jock.  However, a couple years back, PFT ran a small article (haven't found it yet), saying that Jones was a disappointment to the Eagles because he had trouble understanding the playbook.  This touched off a mini-firestorm, as some folks pointed out his reputation as a scholar, and others said the bowtie-and-glasses 'warrior poet' image was basically an act to get girls.  Ever since that day, I've always wanted to see more of Dhani, to settle the matter once and for all.  Second, I have always been curious to see exactly how NFL athletes stack up to other athletes.  It seems to me that there's no other sport that both allows and requires such a wide variety of body types to succeed.  Barry Sanders at a (generous) 5'-8", 180# is one of the greatest football players who've ever lived.  So is Johnathan Odgen, at 6'-9", 345#.  All American football players benefit from American nutrition, American gyms, American doctors, etc.. . . essentially, all NFL players are absolute freaks of nature, combinations of size, speed, and strength that seemingly cannot exist.  Other countries around the world often pooh-pooh football because of the massive amounts of protective gear they wear--but if they let Jonathan Odgen play rugby, that sport would adopt pads and helmets in very short order. 

I really enjoyed the show.  Dhani trekked to Thailand to try his hand at Muy Thai, a Thai martial art that involves a lot of elbows, shins, and cracked ribs.  If you've watched any of that MMA stuff all the kids are into these days, you've seen some of it.  Dhani is only a middling NFL linebacker, but he looks like an incredible physical specimen--and believe me, we got to see plenty of him with his shirt off.  Note to my fellow married men: your wife will definitely not mind you watching this show.  Even while training alongside some of Thailand's best fighters, Dhani was a giant; a physical freak from what might as well be a different planet.  Yet, the training regimen they put him on completely changed him in just a week.  He dropped "five kilos" (about eleven pounds), and it was definitely noticable.  He didn't have much body fat before, but he looked really really lean and mean.  I don't know how he can film all these show and bulk back up in time for training camp.  Anyway, at the end of the week, he squared off against a large (frankly fat) Muy Thai fighter and defeated him in the second round.  It was clear: had Dhani spent six months or a year grinding away at this training, he might become a champion--as it was, he merely took his bows and moved on to the next challenge.

He strove to learn not just the kicks and punches, but the customs, the clothes, the prefight dance that fighters do to honor family, ancestors, teachers, etc.  He picked up the moves very very quickly; even though the footage was edited, it was obvious that he was getting most stuff on the first try, and executing it very well, with lots of attention to detail.  Even more fascinating, the language 'barrier' barely existed.  Most of the guys who interfaced with Dhani spoke a modicum of English, but in all the training montages, there was little talking. Dhani was staring intently and mimicking: stance, pose, motion, technique.  I got the distinct feeling that the Dhani and the fighter who was primarily training him had gone past "English" and "Thai", and were communicating entirely physically.  It reminded me of an interview with Larry Fitzgerald, when he was still a draft prospect.  He'd been a ball boy for the Vikings, and he talked about thow the Vikes wideouts would coach him.  Cris Carter would coach like a coach, talking to him, explaining, correcting his technique.  Randy Moss, however, would simply say "watch me" and then demonstrate.  It's here where we start to see different forms of intelligence, different forms of communication take over.  Like the famous case of Vince Young getting a 6 on the Wonderlic after leading Texas to a national championship, and looking Jordanesque while doing it.  There IS, I'm convinced, such a thing as physical intelligence.  An ability to understand how the body works.  An instinctual knowledge of kinesthetics that applies to everything you do.  Full command over every part of your body at once, without the restriction of concious thought.  Dhani Jones has this gift.  His counterpart remarked to the other fighters at the gym that he was amazed at how quickly, how instinctually he grasped the techniques--as well as how large and powerful he is.

Add thirty pounds and a whole lot of speed, and you get Aaron Curry.


mild franchise makeover: detroit lions edition

 Here's your new logo, folks, or at least a close rendition thereof.  After the onslaught of obvious fakes, this one matches up with all the leaks from credible sources.  Supposedly a photoshop done by someone who's seen the real thing, this logo matches up with what I've always wanted for poor Bubbles: clarity on where his head stops and starts, what is his mouth, what is his eyes, and what is his arms, separation between the front arms, and some teeth.  If this truly is what the real logo will look like, then I must applaud Lewand and the leadership once more, because it's just the right amount of change.  It's still quite clearly the Detroit Lions, and yet it's a definite improvement.

I am very, very glad to see this, because it's similar to what I've been rooting for all along.  Something about this just screams "right" to me, and with luck we'll see it (and similarly tastefully redone) unis on Aaron Curry before too long.  Thank you, Messrs Lewand and Mayhew.  Thank you.


told you so

>> 3.17.2009

From Killer:

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew addressed several topics in an interview today, including the fact that the acquisition of Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson does not change the team's draft plans concerning Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. In college, Curry played the strong side but Mayhew said that if the Lions draft Curry, he would be the team's starting middle linebacker "from day one.''
Maybe it's not the most likely scenario out there, but I still say we need this kid to be the heart of our defense.


speculation about speculation about speculation

This little tidbit appeared on the "Highlight Reel" blog: the Lions might be sniffing around Buffalo's LT, Jason Peters.  Peters played last year in Buffalo only after an extensive holdout, and this year he looks ready to do the same.  Peters is doing the same thing that many of us have been doing lately when examining candidates for the first overall pick: comparing his worth to that of 2008 rookie LT Jake Long.  This is the first time (that I know of) that a player is trying to establish his market price in relation to a recent top pick, as opposed to what other veterans are fetching on the free agent market.  The Bills appear to be essentially saying, "Hey, 1.1s get 1.1 money; their market is compared to previous 1.1s, not to veteran players of the same position".  These negotiations, if they go sour, might be a tipping point in the debate over the contracts doled out at the top of the draft . . .

Meanwhile, the Lions are licking their chops.  If they can get a young, proven veteran LT in his prime, then they will have filled another hole.  Moreover, that would give them tremendous flexibility in their attempts to swing a deal for Jay Cutler.  If they already have a franchise LT, and MLBs look plentiful at 1.20, they could trade the 1.1 to Denver, let them board the Matt Stafford Failboat, and ride Jay Cutler to the NFC North title, the year after going 0-16.  Or, they could draft Aaron Curry 1.1, and still give up the 1.20 without giving up the chance to land a quality LT.  Or, they could draft Stafford 1.1 without guilt, knowing they've already built a tremendous OL in front of him, and put talented skill players around him.

One other article I'd like to draw your attention to is over at DF79's blog.  He dissected the Redding/Peterson trade in incredible detail, including all of the various salary cap implications.  A tip of that hat to you, sir.


l.j. still in play

>> 3.16.2009

PFT, citing a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says L.J. Smith will not be signing with the Falcons after all.  As the report states, Smith was down to Atlanta and Detroit, and now it won't be Atlanta, so . . . follow your nose.  If Smith is inked, that will give, er, whoever is playing QB for the Lions a legitimate pair of hands to lean on on third-and-7.  Linehan has always utilized recieving TEs well; I think this signing would be a big boon for the offense.  Moreover, it would pare the "gaping" roster holes--where we don't have anyone who could be considered a legit NFL starter down to MLB and QB, both of which should be able to be filled through the draft.  Let's see if Mayhew can land another "dollar ninja", to borrow a phrase from my compatriot in Lions fandom, DetFan1979.

UPDATE:  Well, that lasted about three and a half seconds.  Killer is reporting that the Lions signed free agent TE Will Heller--who, outside of having turned down a schollie to Julliard for his acting chops, has no more impressive of a resume than Gaines or Fitz.  Killer says he does not know if this affects the chances that L.J. Smith will be signed.  Oh, and Anthony Cannon has been released.


old mother hubbard: the wrapup

THE LATEST:  The Lions have traded DT Cory Redding for 30-year-old, 5-time Pro Bowler, former Spartan Julian Peterson.  This dramatically alters the makeup of the defense . . . they have also re-inked RB/KR Aveion Caseon and signed Jets UFA Cody Spencer, both for depth.  They have also signed TE Will Heller, to compete with Michael Gaines for now, and released LB Anthony Cannon.

I'm keeping track of the movements and needs by merely updating and bumping this post as signings occur. Bold indicates a probable starter for 2009 if no new players are acquired, a star* means the player may not stick around due to contract or terribleness issues, and a slash/ between two players indicates that either one or the other might occupy a given spot.

LB: Ernie Sims, Jordon Dizon, Julian Peterson, Cody Spencer, Ryan Nece*, Alex Smith*

Now that we are more sure the Lions will use a 4-3 alignment in 2009, the need for a true middle linebacker is critical. A veteran starter MLB may be tough to find on the free agent market, but there should be at least one or two sitting at 1.20 for the Lions to draft. Lenon then moves into the mix to shore up the SLB spot.  UPDATE:  When I initially set this post up, I didn't realize that Paris Lenon was a free-agent-to-be.  When I found out about my error, I left him as our probable Mike, but starred him to indicate he may or may not be here.  Now that he's reportedly getting nibbles from the Browns, I'm calling him gone--partly to highlight the need.  The Lions signed former Titans and Jets LB Cody Spencer (6'-2", 245#) for depth.  The Lions have traded for SLB Julian Peterson, a two-way pass defender (rush/cover) whose production has been incredible, but had a down year last season.  Peterson brings size, speed, and playmaking ability not seen at the Lions' strong side spot since . . . Reggie Brown?

QB: Duante Culpepper, Drew Stanton, Drew Henson*

Though most Lions fans hiss and snarl when the idea of drafting a quarterback--ever--comes up, the reality is that the cupboard is painfully bare here, and coming off an 0-16 season, there's no pressure to "win now". It's the perfect time to draft and groom a QB of the future. As for the present? Culpepper is awful, Stanton is still a complete unknown, Kitna is approaching 40 and was openly disgruntled, Dan-O was impressively not-awful in 2008--but wants to seek his fortune, and Henson will be lucky to make the roster. There is a high need to draft a quarterback of the future, or let everybody but Stanton and Henson go and bring in a veteran starter. UPDATE: The Lions have traded Kitna to the Cowboys, and Dan-O has signed with the Texans.  This need remains very high, as Culpepper is at best a 2009 stopgap, and DS is still an unknown quantity.  Schwartz indicated at a recent presser that great attention will be paid to evaluating this position group in the workouts & OTAs preceeding the draft.

OL: Jeff Backus, Daniel Loper, Dominic Raiola, Stephen Peterman, Gosder Cherilus, Damion Cook, Andy McCollum, Manny Ramirez, George Foster*

The need to upgrade the LG position is high, and the "need" to upgrade from Backus to an elite franchise LT would really be more like an "awesome bonus". With the Lions possibly leaning that way, they could dramatically upgrade the entire line by drafting LT 1.1 and plugging that player in at LG, or shifting Backus to LG. There's also the possiblity that they draft one of the several excellent C/G prospects in the late first or early second, which would give them a possible new left guard and inproved depth. UPDATE: The Lions attempted to trade for former Bills OG Derrick Dockery, but the Bills fumbled the paperwork.  Dockery became a free agent and signed with the Redskins.  Damion Cook was re-signed as flex G/C depth.  Former Titans G/T Daniel Loper was brought in to compete for the starting LG spot, and assuming the Lions do not draft an offensive lineman with a high pick, he 'll be the presumptive starter.

TE: Will Heller/Michael Gaines, Casey Fitzsimmons

There is a medium need to draft or sign a pass-catching tight end, to provide a reliable third-down and red zone option.  UPDATE: free agent John Owens has left to the Seahawks, so this need only increases.  Veteran L.J. Smith visited, but word is he's leaning strongly towards the Falcons.  Former Seahawks TE Will Heller has been signed . . . but he does not appear to be a clear upgrade over Gaines or Fitz.  I'm calling this a split for now.

DL: Dewayne White, Andre Fluellen, Grady Jackson, Cliff Avril, , Ikaika Alama-Francis, Shaun Cody*, Landon Cohen, Chuck Darby*, Jared Devries, Langston Moore*

There is a high need to draft or sign a starting nose tackle; Darby may or may not be kept around, and nobody else has the bulk or strength to play that spot. White and Avril are pretty solid as the starting DEs, though there is a low need to draft a third guy to rotate in and provide quality depth. UPDATE: The Lions have signed NT Grady Jackson, who will be the two-down gap plugger they so desperately needed.  There's a real logjam at these positions now, lots of depth, but how much of it is quality?  The Lions dealt away DT Cory Redding, which loosens up the depth chart a little bit--but even assuming Cody is gone they still have Darby, Fluellen, Five-O, Cohen, and Moore at the DT spot, all of whom are sub-300 pounders.  Flu is arguably the most talented, and he's definitely the biggest-framed.  I see Flu putting on 20+ pounds this offseason, and potentially becoming a real force next to Jackson.  After that, Jackson is 36 years old, the time to draft a replacement for him should be now, and there is not a legit pass rusher on the line beyond White & Avril.

WR: Calvin Johnson, Bryant Johnson, John Standeford, Keary Colbert, Travis Taylor

There is a high need to sign a true #2 wide receiver to complement Calvin, as draft pick would be unlikely to immediately contribute. If a WR is drafted, it should be to address the high need at KR. UPDATE: the Lions have signed former 49er and ex-Cards first-round pick Byrant Johnson, the man best known for not neing as good as the same team's second-round pick that year, Anquan Boldin. Johnson should compete for the #2 spot.  The Lions pursued Nate Washington, but he signed with Tennessee.

CB: Anthony Henry, Phillip Buchanon, Travis Fisher, Eric King, Ramzee Robinson, Stanley Wilson*, Keith Smith*

Due to contract and injury issues, Wilson and Smith may or may not be on the roster. Fisher and Robinson are depth at best. There is a critical need to acquire TWO new starters, preferably a veteran and a rookie, at least one of whom can return kicks. UPDATE: The Lions have traded Jon Kitna for Anthony Henry. Schefter and Kowalski confirm the trade but not the compensation, yet. The Lions have also inked ex-Titans backup Eric King. King is way down on the depth chart and is mostly a special-teams ace, he got a two-year tryout for the same role here. The Lions have also signed former Bucs CB Phillip Buchanon.  The Lions need to draft a talented CB/KR in the third or fourth round, to be groomed to replace Henry in a year or two.

S: Daniel Bullocks, Kalvin Pearson/Gerald Alexander, Stuart Schwiegart, Lamarcus Hicks

There is a low need to draft or sign an all-world SS to provide a clear upgrade over Pearson or Alexander.

FB: Jerome Felton, Jon Bradley

UPDATE: With veteran Moran Norris gone to the 49ers, the Lions might look for a veteran option here.

RB: Kevin Smith, Maurice Morris, Aveion Caseon, Brian Calhoun*

There is a medium need to draft or sign a "speed" back for third down/change of pace duties. However, such a "speed" back should could also contribute to the high need for a KR. UPDATE: The Lions have signed former Seahawk Maurice Morris, who is an excellent out-of the backfield reciever and has kick-return experience.  Avieon Caseon has also been re-signed.


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