The Lions Rest, But Do Not Sleep

>> 7.06.2010

Jarrad Page tackles Dennis Northcutt: a future Detroit Lion tackles a current one? According to Chiefs blog Arrowhead Pride, the Lions have inquired about KC’s disgruntled safety Jarrad Page.  Apparently, it didn’t get much past the inquiry stage, possibly due to the asking price.  Scout.com’s Nate Caminata found out from Scout’s Chiefs expert Nick Athan the Chiefs’ valuation of Page ($).  Whether the Page talks develop into a Page trade, or whether they’re not getting any farther than they’ve gotten, this is important.

For starters, it shows the Lions aren’t satisfied with throwing C.C. Brown atop a pile of bodies (Ko Simpson, Marquand Manuel, Marvin White, Daniel Bullocks) at safety.  Brown, nicknamed “Can’t Cover” Brown by Giants fans,  won’t fix the frequent blown assignments we saw from Lions safeties in 2009.  The others . . . well, they’re the same guys from 2009.  So nothing the Lions saw in minicamp gives them confidence that the answer at safety is currently on the roster.

The second, and arguably more, important thing: they’re doing something about it.  Throughout last season, the Lions cycled players on and off the roster at an incredible rate.  Any time they could make a move to improve the roster, they did—and given how much of that roster needed improving, they made a lot of moves.  A commenter, TimT, did a breakdown of last season’s roster churn, showing that 123 different players were Lions (to one degree or another) during the 2009 contract year.

After the free agent bonanza in March, and subsequent draft in April, there was a collective exhalation, as though the mad rush was over.  Outside of a few key spots (RT, OLB, CB, and S), the roster makeover was nearly complete.  Skilled veterans and talented youngsters were all over the starting lineup—and what’s more, they fit what the coaches want to do.  The Lions-observer hivemind was satisfied that with a couple of top free agents next season, and a third solid draft, the Lions would be well on their way to perennial contention.

While the Lions-observer hivemind are satisfied at the progress, the Lions execs and coaches are not.  Rather than call the last 18 months of work good, and head into camp with more answers than questions for the first time in forever, they’re still furiously turning over every stone.  With the signing of DrĂ© Bly, and this move for Page, we see that the Lions aren’t content with improvement in the relative sense, not satisfied with merely being better.  They won’t look on a hard-fought five-win season as a success; they’re not playing for 2011.

Given the brutal division in which they play, and magnitude of the mountain they had to climb just to get to “bad,” and the unknown height yet to climb before “good,” this relentless effort to improve in July won’t really matter, will it?  The difference between Ko Simpson and Jarrad Page won’t be the difference between a winning season and a losing one . . . will it?

Well, even discounting the impact that some of the “minor” additions like Zack  Follett have had on the roster, the greatest impact will be the process of improvement itself.  The phrase “relentess effort to improve” hasn’t been used in association with the Lions since . . . well, it’s been a while.  Just the fact that the Lions are continually adding, improving, changing, looking for more, striving to be better, even when other teams are not . . . it will pay real, material dividends in the W-L column this fall.



12 comments:

TimT July 6, 2010 at 5:07 PM  

Ty, don't forget to add the final 53 to that 123 number. All told, the team rolled (cut, IR'd, played or tried out) 176 players through here in 2009.

Staggering.

Mike aka CJ81TD,  July 6, 2010 at 10:32 PM  

I like where you are going with this but I would take it one step further by saying a lot can change between now and the end of the season. Assuming best case on all fronts for the boys in Honolulu Blue & Silver (big assumption I know), the tough division you speak of is an injury or two or three (Old man Favre, AP, Rogers) away from being closer than some people dare discuss. I am already banking on a full scale meltdown in Chicago with Martz and Cutler leading the self-destructive charge. Fingers crossed!

Ty July 6, 2010 at 11:23 PM  

TimT--

Really? None of the final 53 were in the 123? I guess I misunderstood what that number means. Either way, it's a jawdropping statistic. Thanks again for putting that list together!

Peace
Ty

Ty July 6, 2010 at 11:30 PM  

CJ81TD--

Yeah, there's a definite opportunity for a big, big step forward . . . but keep in mind that as quickly as the Vikes' or Packers' fortunes could turn, so could the Lions'. The starting 22 are better than they've been since the mid-90s, but depth is still a critical issue.

Peace
Ty

TimT July 7, 2010 at 7:53 AM  

I'll clean up that sheet a bit by the end of the day. Bottom line is, there were 53 players on the team at seasons end, then there were 123 players that were cut, practice squad or IR'd.

TimT July 7, 2010 at 10:12 AM  

I cleaned it up a bit... added a couple of notes... it should be a little easier to read now.

Scotty G July 7, 2010 at 11:19 AM  

Ty, did you reference a pay site in this article? I can't read the second link without a subscription that costs $80 per year.

Ty July 7, 2010 at 11:22 AM  

TimT--

Thanks! That is just amazing to look at. Again, great work putting it all together.

Peace
Ty

Ty July 7, 2010 at 11:35 AM  

Scotty G--

Yeah, that's what the "($)" means: the link goes to an article you have to pay for. It's a convention used by Brian over at MGoBlog.com, and others in the college football world, where people are much more willing to pay for insider info.

"What the Chiefs are asking" is a bit of info I figure you folks want to know, so I linked to it . . . it just so happens that those who have the info are charging admission. I don't know whether a subscription is worth it to you, personally, but I respect the years of grinding Nate's put in to that site, and I respect his right to earn a living off of it--so I won't copy and paste his premium info here.

Peace
Ty

StreetWorm,  July 7, 2010 at 9:17 PM  

I get the essence of what you're saying and respect it, but it seems to me what we're talking about here is pretty marginal improvements. Even Dre Bly, as much as I enjoyed watching him before, is just a shadow of what he used to be. He may very well be a starter, but that more just points to just how weak our secondary is. While I am happy that the Lions continue to show offseason activity, I don't believe they should be applauded for it. That's their job, and considering their record over the past decade, it's a job long overdue. This should be par for the course, not something that's celebrated just because of it's rarity on a lackluster team.

Not trying to rain on anyones parade, just trying to put things in perspective. The Lions are showing progress, but then, we see progress every off season...and then the regular season comes and vanquishes any semblance of hope that we had.

StreetWorm

Anonymous,  July 8, 2010 at 8:27 AM  

Ty-
"hivemind" ?? is that a reference to the Hive-Queen, I know that you are an Orson Scott Card fan. So perhaps instead of the self proclaimed Philosoper-King of Lions Fandom (an appellation which I like very much for you - poetic as well as apt) I might suggest the Hegemon of Lions Fandom. While I'm at it I think that I will appoint Neil at Armchair Linebacker as the "Poet Laureate" of Lions Fandom - what do you think?
--KoolAide Man

Matt,  July 10, 2010 at 12:05 PM  

I think both Ty AND Mike have valid points here. On Ty's side, I definitely agree that it's encouraging to see the Lions organization constantly, consistently, and actively trying to improve the team (as opposed to the Millen Era strategy of mainly drafting poorly and just hoping something magic happened with the players on the roster). On Mike's side, I agree that the current attempts at improvement should be the standard (as they are with just about every other team in the NFL) and don't deserve special praise. The number of players cycled through the organization last season is not really a plus to me either. Sure, from one perspective, it shows that, as I said, the Lions are constantly, consistently, and actively trying to improve. On the other hand, that means they cycled through 123 guys, give or take, who weren't even good enough to stick with the 2nd worst team in the NFL. That's not really a good thing and suggests that the Lions are either bringing in any warm body for a tryout (not really an efficient way to use time/resources) and/or they aren't giving guys enough of a chance to prove themselves.

If you bring in a guy at the beginning of the week, get him some practice reps, throw him out there for a few plays on Sunday, then decide he can't hang, cut him, and start over with someone else. . .well, it was probably a waste of time and energy to bring the guy in in the first place.

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