No Noose Is Good News; No News Is Bad News

>> 5.06.2011

It’s been a little while since my last labor/lockout update, mostly because there’s not much to say. No mediation or negotiation has occurred—or will occur until the 16th. In the meantime, the lockout was lifted, teams reopened their facilities, the first round of the draft was held. Patrick Allen of Arrowhead Addict penned an incredible first-person account of the abuse Roger Goodell took from the NFL Draft audience—and the craven steps he took to get them off his back. Besides the boos, though, it looked as though we were in for a typical draft weekend, full of all the stuff we usually see, and maybe OTAs and free agency afterwards!

Then the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals granted the owners a temporary stay of the injunction awarded by Judge Nelson. The NFL reinstituted the lockout while, incredibly, telling everyone who would listen that “they want football,” too. What a stinking crock.

In the meantime, everyone is waiting on the 8th Circuit Court to rule on a full stay of the injunction—and ProFootballTalk wonders if it will ever happen. The Court may simply not rule on the full stay, instead allowing the temporary stay to remain in place until June 3, when oral arguments will be heard for the appeal.

In the meantime, there will be precious little football, and precious little hope of any change. The players were in an excellent position when the lockout was lifted—but now that the lockout is back in place, both sides are back to waiting on the courts. Sure, Commissioner Goodell will talk about ‘getting back to the table’ until he’s blue in the face, but it’s all nonsense. As NFL Network reporter Albert Breer explained on Twitter, sitting down and bargaining, at this point, is:

"Almost impossible legally, without one side or other compromising legal position. Both sides burned that bridge on March 11."

Besides--and we saw this same effect in between the players decertifying and the injunction hearings, neither side is interested in talking until they know who has the legal upper hand. The owners’ plan, throughout, was to lock the players out,  make the players miss game checks, and wait for the players to knuckle under. The players’ plan, throughout, has been to decertify to avoid the lockout. Why negotiate now, when you might be able to negotiate under far more advantageous conditions soon?

Yes, “BECAUSE IT’S THE RIGHT THING TO DO AND BECAUSE BOTH SIDES OWE IT TO THE FANS WHOSE MONEY THEY’RE ALL ARGUING OVER,” that’s correct—but if the NFL gave two hoots about its fans, they’d have negotiated a new deal back in February.


Meet The Cubs: Doug Hogue

>> 5.05.2011

12 September 2009:  Penn State QB Daryll Clark rolls out and throws as Syracuse's Doug Hogue (32) hits him as he throws.  Clark threw for 240 yards and 3 TDs.  The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Syracuse Orangemen 28-7 at Beaver Stadium in State College, PA.
5.26 (157): Doug Hogue
          Outside Linebacker, Syracuse 

    Deep into the fifth round, the Lions finally “addressed a need.” That is, they finally took a player who plays a position that fans and media identified as a weak spot in the starting lineup. But just taking a linebacker doesn’t mean the “need” has been “addressed;” if a late-fifth-round player stepped off the plane and into the starting line, it’d be surprising. Does Doug Hogue really have what it takes to challenge for a starting role?

Hogue, at 6’-3”, 235 pounds, is slightly shy of prototypical Schwartzingham OLB size. However, he was the fifth-fastest linebacker at the combine, turning in an official 4.63. With that combination of height, weight, and speed, he has a lot of potential. Like Johnny Culbreath, Hogue has the tools to become an above-average NFL player. Unlike Johnny Culbreath, it’s because Hogue’s only been playing his position for two years.

Maybe we should back up. First, I suggest you read this Doug Hogue feature, which gives you a peek into just how long and winding Hogue’s road to the NFL has been:

“Who the heck is that?” Roosevelt High coach Anthony Fiorelli demanded. “Who is that running the ball?”

The answer came from one of the assistants standing motionless in the backfield, his jaw scraping the grass.

“That’s Doug Hogue, coach. He goes to Mark Twain Elementary School. And he’s coming here next year.”

The first play from scrimmage Doug Hogue ever made with the varsity was a run anybody who witnessed it can still recount juke move for juke move.

Fiorelli certainly knew what he was watching. He’d coached three Division I players before. And even as a scrawny 14-year-old, he knew Hogue was destined to be the fourth.

“You just knew it right there,” Fiorelli said. “Even at that age, you knew he was going to play major college football.”

It’s a story Fiorelli loves to retell at every opportunity — not because he can boast some sort of eye for talent, but because its the first chapter of an urban fairy tale.

Hogue grew up into a pretty big boy: 6’-3", 210 pounds by the end of high school. Those moves and that speed in that big of a package is bound to attract attention—and sure enough, Hogue was rated a four-star RB prospect by, and a three-star (5.6) by Rivals. He racked up a very impressive offer list of Big Ten and Big East schools, including Michigan and Michigan State. Neither made his top three, however; the Yonkers native went fifty miles along I-95 to Syracuse University.

Hogue was added to the mix at tailback, and in his first two years he tallied 483 yards on 111 carries. Oddly, 77 of those carries came in his freshman season. His role in the offense actually decreased his sophomore year, despite his YpC increasing from 3.26 to 6.63 (4.41 if you take out an 82-yard touchdown run)! Syracuse blog of record Troy Nunes Is an Absolute Magician suggests it’s because Greg Robinson hates Doug Hogue. But the man Michigan fans know as GERG (apparently in Syracuse territory it’s GROB) was axed, and Hogue was moved to outside linebacker after the first spring practice. Per The Cuse Connection, Hogue made an immediate impact:

In his first career start at linebacker against Minnesota in the Dome, Hogue recorded four tackles. Two weeks later against Northwestern Hogue led the defense with 11 tackles, seven of them solo. A week later against South Florida, Hogue added another 5 tackles and his first career sack.

He finished the year with 72 tackles, 49 solo, 16.5 TFL, and 9.5 sacks—6.5 of those TFL coming in one MONSTER game against Rutgers. That performance broke Syracuse’s single-game TFL record—previously owned (in part) by Dwight Freeney—AND earned Hogue the Walter Camp Football Foundation National Defensive Player of the Week. Phil Steele named Hogue to his All-Big East second team, to boot.

In Hogue's second season at linebacker, he switched to the weak side, and took it to the next level: starting all thirteen games, Hogue notched 95 tackles  (60 solo), 10.5 TFLs, and three sacks. He earned Player of the Week honors from both the Big East, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation again with his performance against West Virginia: 10 tackles (8 solo), 2 INTs, half a sack, and a batted pass. By the end of the season, he’d led the defense in tackles four more times, and was named First Team All-Big East.

In just two seasons (25 games) on defense, Hogue climbed his way to ninth on Syracuse’s all-time TFL leaderboard. Impressively, he put on about ten pounds from the start of his senior year to the combine, and didn’t slow down at all (the lower of his two 40 times was a blazing 4.52!). Comments from Hogue’s high school coach just before he committed to Syracuse indicate the Orange didn’t build Hogue’s body out to its maximum potential, either:

“Doug hasn’t touched a weight in his life. He’s incredibly strong from doing natural movements like pushups and pull-ups. Three kids had dislocated shoulders from trying to tackle him last year. His potential in the weight room is insane. I think he’ll end up a 235 pound running back running a 4.4 forty-yard dash. Our school is small. Our starting center last season was 140 pounds. If he played for Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, NY, Doug would be one of the top 20 recruits in the nation.”

What are the experts saying?

  • My friends at Sideline Scouting:

    Positives: Athletic and speedy, transitioned from running back to linebacker in 2009... Has pretty good coverage skills for the position... Plays with a lot of passion, tries hard to improve as a linebacker... Had good production in 2009 and 2010, combined for 167 tackles, 12.5 sacks and three interceptions in those two seasons... Shows good quickness and flexibility, hips are pretty fluid... Has very good range, can get sideline to sideline pretty quickly... Does a pretty good job blitzing off the edge and is shifty enough to shoot gaps when blitzing... Has a lot of upside, but will need to continue to work hard to improve as an all-around player.

    Negatives: Doesn't have great size or strength, will need to put on some bulk to make the transition to the NFL smoother... Inexperience at linebacker position shows, does not have great instincts, takes too long to diagnose plays and will get fooled by misdirection plays far too often... Struggles to get off blocks, does not have the size to overpower blockers and disrupt plays... Not the surest tackler, wraps up fairly well but does not have the strength to drag some ball carriers down after contact... Has some minor durability issues (knee injury), size may be some cause for concern in that area... Is still very raw, will likely need some time to adjust at the next level.

  • Pro Football Weekly:

    Positives: Has a frame to carry added bulk. Very athletic with good movement skills, knee bend and hip flexibility. Redirects efficiently. Chases hard and can run and hit. Accelerates quickly, ranges to the sideline and shows burst to close when he sees it. Flashes explosive striking ability and potential as a blitzer. Good character. Stood out at the East-West Shrine Game.

    Negatives: Does not play with pop or power in his hands — only 18 reps of 225 pounds at the Combine. Not stout at the point. Stays stuck on blocks. Speed-dependent as a blitzer. Still developing positional instincts. Most production comes when he has a clear path. Could require extra reps to understand a complex game plan.

    Summary: Undersized, athletic, field-fast, converted running back with starter potential on the weak side in a 4-3 where he could be protected and allowed to flow to the ball. Could require patience but should be able to contribute readily on special teams.


    Positives: Athletic linebacker who displays tremendous skill in space. Shows good awareness and instincts to quickly locate the ball. Gets depth on pass drops, displays outstanding skill in coverage, and constantly around the ball. Very aggressive and productive in his all-around game. Fluid pedaling in reverse and smooth opening his hips in transition. Stays with tight ends or running backs down the field, plays with explosiveness, and moves quickly in every direction. Immediately alters his angle of attack and loses no momentum. Breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself.

    Negatives: Lacks bulk and easily controlled at the point of attack. Gives effort defending the run but not stout at the point.

    Analysis: Hogue showed tremendous improvement the past two seasons and ranks as one of the more underrated weakside linebacker prospects in this draft. In many ways he reminds us of former Syracuse star Keith Bullock, and like the NFL veteran, Hogue should eventually find his way into a starting unit at the next level.


    Strengths: Works best in space and to the sideline, scraping to chase down backs before they get the corner. Has a strong safety build and is smooth in coverage of running backs and tight ends from the strong-side position. Gets his hands on a lot of passes by staying home. Good recovery speed when beat on play-action or misdirection. Used regularly on run and pass blitzes, can catch running backs from behind from the backside or wiggle through creases to track down quarterbacks in the pocket. Defeats cut blocks on the run.

    Weaknesses: Lacks strength at the point of attack, losing leverage battles against fullbacks and tight ends and winds up on the ground too often. High-cut defender doesn't always break down easily in space. Ballcarriers can stiff-arm him easily. Does not beat blocks to reach the quarterback when blitzing. Has fair hands but dropped potential interceptions. Had arthroscopic surgery on right MCL/meniscus after an injury in the 2010 spring game.

You see a very, very consistent picture: Hogue’s height, weight, speed and athleticism give him the potential to start in the NFL someday—and he isn’t maxxed out yet. He’s still raw technically, and doesn’t always make use of what size and strength he has. He’s more of a hunter and pursuer than a guy who’s going to meet a ball carrier in the hole and pop him—but this may be due to lack of instincts/experience putting him a step behind at the snap. Still, he’s an excellent pursuer, and if the defensive line can keep blockers off of him—Hello, Nick Fairley!—he should be able to make plays from the weak side soon, if not right away.

But who cares what I (or the experts) think? We appeal to the dispassionate Circuit Court Judge Panel of NFL Potential: YouTube Highlight Reels!! Unlike Johnny Culbreath, there is an Doug Hogue-specific YouTube Highlight Reel:

Next up, two video vignettes featuring extensive player interviews about Hogue's switch to linebacker. The first is from the spring practice where he was switched, and the second was recorded a few games in:

I can't embed it, but has its own Doug Hogue highlight reel.

What do we see? Again, a lot of what they told us above: a lot of speed, a lot of backside pursuit, a lot of playmaking. Not much running through guys, not much blowing stuff up before it happens, but definitely a guy who stands out athletically.

Where does he fit on the Lions? Honestly, I don’t see him as an immediate upgrade over Ashlee Palmer, more like an immediate rough equivalent with notably higher upside. Honestly, Hogue reminds me of Ernie Sims, minus the musculature, plus some height, minus some pop, and minus some crazypants. Hogue is knocked for a lack of instincts, but not a lack of decision-making; unlike Sims, Hogue is sometimes a step slow to get to the correct hole, rather than flying two steps past the correct hole with his hair on fire.

If you're thinking it's ridiculous to compare a former #1 overall recruit in America, who was drafted with the eighth overall pick, to a fifth-round converted running back, you may have a point. But remember: Hogue graduated his small public high school at 6’-2,” 210 having “never touched a weight in his life.” Ernie Sims, meanwhile, graduated from a private Florida football powerhouse rocked up like Wesley Snipes in Blade. Sims was made the centerpiece of one of the best college defenses of the last decade, while Hogue was a tailback in the doghouse of one of the least-well-regarded college football coaches of the last decade.

However valid the comparison is, Ernie Sims is gone—and for the first time, we have an idea who his replacement may be. If the lockout shortens the offseason much further, I can’t expect Hogue to see time at linebacker this season. He’ll certainly be an immediate contributor on special teams, though—and who knows? Maybe by the end of the year, he’ll make a play that’ll leave us all shouting, “Who the heck is that?


Old Mother Hubbard: Shopping for Need, Talent, Impact, Patrick Peterson, etc.

>> 5.04.2011

Just after the regular season ended, I wrote a piece called "On the Instant Impact NFL Rookie." I was trying to make a few key points. First, that college coaches now prefer to schematically maximize players' raw natural gifts, rather than slowly build positional technique and craft. Second, that these rawer players are being asked to step in and start as professionals earlier than ever--and given up on before they have a chance to develop. Finally, even when lighting does strike, it doesn't always translate into long-term success. You should read the whole article, because I meant it, but here's the upshot:

Not every good player is an instant-impact player. Not every instant-impact player evolves into a Hall of Famer. “Great for a rookie” is only “decent” overall. As the Lions round the bend into this draft season, they do so with only a few pressing needs. I trust the Lions leadership not to reach for those needs, but I’m cautioning us as fans to do the same. As this roster matures, the Lions should indeed be drafting to develop, not to start; the second- or third-round pick may not start right away and that’s okay. The likes of Sammie Hill will have to hustle to make the team, and that’s okay. The Lions have a much bigger need for a Mike Williams type, who slowly develops into a quality starter, than a Michael Clayton—who set the world on fire in his rookie year, and has barely moved the needle since.

In the 2011 draft, the Lions snagged three outstanding talents who will rotate in at positions of strength--rather than start from Day one at positions of weakness. With no free agency to this point, and murky prospects thereof going forward, Lions began to panic that they'd be stuck watching the same dire back seven . . . maybe even a worse one, without FA-to-be Chris Houston. Last night, Jason LaCanfora reported that the Lions explored moving up to the top of the draft to address their most immediate need—cornerback—and teh Twitterz asploded.

It's true, I did that the Lions need two corners in this draft. I do see a need for an immediate challenger for Nate Vasher at the #2 spot, as well as a developmental corner who'll be two-to-three years away from seeing heavy rotation. I was thinking that challenger-for-#2 could be Prince Amukamara with the 13th pick, or a second-rounder like Ras-I Dowling. However, it's clear that the Lions saw only one corner in this draft as a possible immediate starter: Patrick Peterson.

I told Wade at The Honolulu Blue that I didn't think the Lions could do this deal, because they didn't have enough ammo to move up as far as they needed to--not without making it, essentially, a one- or two-man draft plus a seventh-rounder. Sure, the Lions would dramatically upgrade at a position of pressing need, but it would mean missing out on adding either (or both) of the immediate needs they addressed--not to mention all of the immediate and developmental needs they didn't address.

Through the runup to the draft, I'd noticed the Lions’ active search for a change-of-pace power back conflicted with my understanding of their approach. With all the high-priced, high-powered skill position talent they'd collected, why on Earth would they take carries and catches away from them so some fifth-round rookie could pound it into the line a few times? It seemed like a cavemanesque "you gotta move the pile, hurr hurr" capitulation to football orthodoxy, way out of character with The Grandmaster we've come to know and love.

Turns out, the Lions never had any intention of giving precious reps to an unremarkable player. They replaced the Kevin Smith/Maurice Morris/Aaron Brown/Stefan Logan platoon with a dynamic talent many rated the second-best back available--and at a lower position on the board than most thought he'd go at. He meets the immediate need of a change-of-pace back, and has the potential to be half of a long-term star tandem with Jahvid Best.

Same goes for wide receiver: the Lions had need of a field stretcher who could open up space for Burleson, Pettigrew, and Scheffler—and draw coverage away from Megatron. I thought maybe the Lions would target a fifth- or sixth-rounder like USC (and Muskegon’s) Ronald Johnson, since there were more pressing needs. But again, RoJo wasn’t going to pull any coverage off of Megatron, not for a couple of years. Instead, the Lions got Titus Young—again, an impact player who meets the immediate need at third WR, but will have a permanent role in this offense for years to come.

This morning, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Lions offered Arizona their first-, second-, and fourth-round picks to move up and get Peterson. The Cardinals said no. This should give you an idea of A) how pressing the need is at cornerback, B) what they thought of Peterson’s ability to fill it, and C) how skimpy of a draft class this would have been if the Lions had sweetened the pot until the Cardinals said “yes.”

Again, I know the OMHs aren't complete yet, but here is the Lions' updated shopping list:

  • A power back who can complement—and serve as an insurance policy for—Jahvid Best.
  • A receiver who can stretch coverage downfield.
  • an impact starting center for 2012 and beyond.
  • An impact two-way defensive end to rotate soon, and develop for 2012.
  • A credible backup middle linebacker.
  • An athletic, pass-rushing OLB ready to start right away.
  • An athletic, pass-rushing OLB to rotate soon, and develop for 2012.
  • An athletic cover corner, ready to take over one side in 2012.
  • If Chris Houston leaves, a complete two-way corner, ready to start right away.

If the Lions had sweetened the pot by upgrading that fourth-rounder to the third-rounder, those top two lines wouldn’t have been crossed out—and, at best, only one of the other ones would have. All of those needs would be left to fill in free agency (and of course, many of them can’t or won’t be) . . . or for next year. The Martin Mayhew Mantra has always been “right player at the right price,” and that sticking with that philosophy no matter what would serve the Lions well. Remember when the Lions refused to give the Steelers anything more than a seventh-round pick for Larry Foote?  “BUT C’MONNNN!!!” we all said, “THE NEED IS SO GREAT! LARRY FOOTE’S SO GREAT! IT’S JUST A SIXTH-ROUNDER!”

Yeah, well, Larry Foote was okay for one year on a totally horrible Lions team. He was never the long-term answer—and that sixth-round pick became Chris Houston, who is the Lions’ only legitimate starting cornerback. The Lions needed Chris Houston last year (and this year!) more than they ever needed Larry Foote—and the Lions need Nick Fairley, Titus Young, and Mikel LeShoure for the next five years more than they need Patrick Peterson now.


Meet The Cubs: Johnny Culbreath

>> 5.02.2011


7.6 (209): Johnny Culbreath

    South Carolina State OT

With their fifth and final pick in the 2011 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions selected Johnny Culbreath, an undersized (6’-5”, 278#) offensive tackle out of South Carolina State. Or, possibly, Johnny Culbreath, a huge (6’-5”, 322#) offensive tackle out of Sound Carolina State.

I haven't been able to figure out the reason for the discrepancy, but ESPN’s database has Culbreath 44 pounds lighter than he weighed in at his Pro Day (he wasn’t at the NFL Combine). I’d already identified “developmental offensive tackle,” in a general sense, as a need for the Lions, but Culbreath is not Nate Solder—and by pure draft grade, he’s also looking up at Jason Fox, last year’s “well I guess this guy is our developmental tackle.”’s high school recruiting database doesn’t contain Johnny Culbreath, and Rivals has him as an unranked tackle. Culbreath lettered in football and wrestling in his hometown of Monroe, Georgia—even winning a state wrestling championship! Rivals lists his high school size at 6’-5", 273—which, I’m not sure how wrestling weight classes work, but did he win the 273-pound class by default? That’s a big high schooler. I’d hate to think that’s what ESPN based their size figures for Culbreath off of, but it looks like it. They even said:

He is an undersized OT who needs to add bulk to his frame and has raw tools. He is clearly a developmental project at this point.

Were they looking at old film? A different guy? How much more bulk than 323 pounds can you add to a 6’-5” frame? Still, at 6’-5”, 273 going into college, Culbreath looked like the real deal. He drew interest from several SEC schools, including plain old South Carolina ($), before committing to Florida State. Unfortunately, Johnny didn’t have the grades to qualify; that may be why a naturally huge dude from Georgia with SEC offers ended up with no ranking. Culbreath went instead to South Carolina State, alma mater of NFL veteran Orlando “Zeus” Brown.

If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Brown lost three seasons of his NFL career after an errant penalty flag hit him in the eye. Brown sued the NFL and got a $25M settlement, but nevertheless worked his way back to play one more season for the Ravens. Culbreath says lots of people at SC State—including one who coached “Big Zeus”—compared him to Brown . . . considering Brown was a multi-year NFL starter despite losing his best years to that injury, that’s quite a compliment.

In Culbreath’s freshman year, he started eight games for the SC State Bulldogs, sliding over to start at left tackle for the fourth game. In SCSU’s first-ever game against South Carolina, Culbreath started at both OT and DT! In 2008, he played and started the first 12 games, missing the last game of the year with an injury. After that season, he was named first team All-MEAC for the first of what would be three straight times. In his junior year, the “starting left tackle” thing wasn’t a question. At the end of that 2009 campaign, Culbreath was named MEAC Offensive Player of the Year, and FCS All-American by several media outlets. In 2010, he was named a team captain, Preseason All-everything, and held up his end of the deal—again FCS All-American, first-team All-MEAC, etc.

Now, what the experts have said. I already embedded ESPN’s (plainly erroneous) take above, but here are some more:

  • Pro Football Weekly:

    High school wrestling champion, team captain and four-year starter who looks the part with very good size, long arms and large hands with nice movement skills. However, is raw and unrefined technically. Has a lethargic lower body — is not explosive out of his stance and kickslide needs work. Held his own against Georgia Tech, flashes a mean streak and has moldable tools for a patient position coach to work through mental hurdles.

  • CBS Sports:

    Positives: Looks like an NFL tackle with thick lower and upper bodies, good height and long arms. Has natural bend, good technique on slide. Owns a strong punch and extends arms to maintain distance with defender, resets hands multiple times. Effective cut blocker on stretch plays and in pass protection. Hits multiple targets on zone blocks and downfield. Plays with real attitude, attacks defenders in the run game and latches on, finishing the play. Team captain in 2010.

    Negatives: Overextends in the run game and in pass protection, losing posture and opening himself up to be out-quicked in space. Needs to move his feet after contact because won't dominate with pure strength athleticism as he did against FCS competition.


    Negatives: Does not use his hands well and tends to do too much catching of defenders rather than jolting them with good punch. Falls asleep at times and is late picking up assignments or recognizing blitzes. Marginal strength in his base and really does not get movement at the point of attack. [Ed. Note: there weren't any 'Positives'.]

The lack of explosion and lower-body drive is the only flaw that sounds like a permanent one; most of the rest of the issues seem as though they’re coachable. Some of the assessments vary wildly, and it sounds as though whether you scouted him during 2009, after 2009, during 2010, or after 2010 makes a big difference on your impression of him. He grew an awful lot in his upperclassmen years (from 278 to a senior season weight of 310; now 322), and his technique improved along with it. Though he isn’t an academic stud or considered a film room junkie, I don’t believe his ability to understand or execute complex plays is in question. He told the National Football Post:

"I think I made a good impression with the visits with the board work I did with all the offensive line coaches. They want to see if can take in the plays. I did real well. They showed me plays. They did an install and I took notes and did a recall."

Normally, this would be the part where we consult the indisputed arbiter of truth in draft prospects, YouTube Highlight Reels, but the pickings are slim. First, an interview:

Last, a SCSU Bulldogs 2009 highlight reel:

This is the only real footage of Culbreath I could find, and a lot of it is defense and special teams . . . and white text on black, and the ESPNU intro, and cheerleaders, and a bulldog . . . anyway. Check out 3:02 for protecting his QB in space, 3:47 for help springing a long run, 4:35 for what seems to be a good zone block (they cut to another angle mid-play)  . . . and then, the best part. At 6:00, pick out Culbreath (#50). He gets his hands on a guy and drives him from inside the numbers all the way to the sideline, pancaking him and knocking his helmet off in the process. If you miss it, our editor helpfully replays it three times. At 7:40 and 8:20 you’ll see Culbreath do his job well.

Mostly, what little info these plays give us confirm the scouts: NFL body, NFL mean streak, and technique that isn’t polished because it didn’t need to be against FCS competition. With some help from George Yarno, and a couple-three seasons to . . . well, season, Culbreath definitely has the potential to become a legit NFL tackle. Whether he does so sooner than Jason Fox, or in time to contribute if/when Backus or Cherilus need to be replaced, well, that I can’t say. If nothing else, history’s on our side: the last SCSU Bulldog drafted by the Lions was a fella named Robert Porcher.


Parenting, and the NFL draft

>> 5.01.2011

I can’t remember which parenting book I read that contained this description, but imagine this: everything is black. You’re sitting on a chair, and your feet are on the floor. You have no idea where you are, where the walls are, or how far out the floor extends. You feel out with one foot a bit, and it seems as though the ground is solid. After building up your resolve for a little while, you take a chance and stand up. Nothing happens, so you take another step or two. Then, on the third step, you hear a “CRACK” and a piece of the floor gives way. You rush back to that chair--and you don’t leave it unless you absolutely have to, right?

This illustrates the importance of consistency. When a child’s learning the world around them, they need to know there are absolutes they can count on—especially, their parents, and the rules their parents set. When they know where the boundaries are—and that the floor isn’t going to drop away beneath them—they have the confidence to keep exploring.

Us Lions fans aren’t new to this whole “football” game, what we are is traumatized. We’ve been burned so many times, over and over by terrible drafting, we’re scarred by it. When the Lions’ picks match our desires and expectations (like Ndamukong Suh) we have no problem abandoning ourselves to the moment. However, the Lewand/Mayhew/Schwartz crew has been so logical, so rational, so ruthless in taking the best talent on the board that we’ve grown comfortable with it. Further, the results have finally begun to show on the field.

But, when the pick comes out of left field—and is, let’s just say for the sake of argument, a wide receiver—we panic. We frantically scramble back to our mental safe place. We boo. We hiss. We moan. We kvetch . . . at least, some of us do.

I’m already working on my annual Meet The Cubs series, so I won’t do a quick rundown of Titus Young or Mikel Leshoure just yet. Suffice to say, most national football analsysts love what the Lions have done—and in fact, all of the first three picks will each be able to make immediate, positive impacts, as well as have obvious roles on the team going forward. That was such a tall assignment going in, I flat-out said it wouldn’t happen.

It’s true; I was stunned the Lions went WR so early, and even more stunned when the Lions traded back up into the second, who took an RB. Even though I didn’t see it at the time, the more I learn about the young men the Lions have added to the team, the better I feel about where the Lions are headed in 2011 and beyond. Full credit goes to the Lions’ leadership, whose consistent vision, and unwavering execution, helped complete a Lions’ offense that’s going to be one of the best in the business for years to come—and make sure the Lions’ defensive line is THE best in the business for years to come. That’s something we can be confident about.


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