Wednesday, January 2, 2013
Detroit Lions must find their identity this off-season
Bosch, Nick Fairly and Lawrence Jackson over the course of three seasons to bolster the defensive line. The results where immediate. The unit finished 6th and 9th in sacks in the NFL in 2010 and 2011. Suh won rookie of the year and Cliff Avril improved every year earning a big raise for the 2012 season. This past season the D-line regressed. 29 sacks on the year and a significant drop off from field general Vanden Bosch. The offensive line, well, not so much. After drafting Matthew Stafford first overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, many saw Michael Oher plummet down the draft board and into the Lions arms at 20th overall. Instead, the Lions decided to draft Tight End Brandon Pettigrew with their second first round pick they received from the Roy Williams trade to Dallas. Although Pettigrew has turned into an above average TE when healthy, the Lions only upgrade on their offensive line came through a trade with the Seattle Seahawks for Rob Sims at RG in the Regimes first three seasons. Last year they drafted Reilly Reiff in the 2011 NFL draft, but to this point has yet to make a significant impact along the line. The result, lacking any signs of a consistent running game. Backus is a stout pass blocking LT, surrenduring 1.5 sacks despite Stafford breaking the pass attempt record, as well is his counterpart Rob Sims. Raiola is undersized and rarely gets into bigger defensive tackles with a push in the run game. Peterman is the weakest link and Gosder Cherilus is set to hit Free Agency this Off-Season, it's safe to assume turnover along the offensive line is inevitable. Raiola, due 6.1 million in 2013, Peterman, due 3.3 million, and Cherilus have all worn out their stay in Detroit. Reilly Reiff seems to be a good fit to settle down at either Tackle spots in 2013, but Mayhew needs a strong Off-Season makeover for this unit to return to a solid balance lead by Mikel Leshore and Matthew Stafford.
Now to be fair, the defensive line battled through thirteen changes in the secondary in a single season, causing breakdowns which were frequent. Aaron Berry was dismissed before the season, the Lions lost a starting corner to a unit that already had question marks heading into the year. Despite the changes, Mayhew must infuse new blood into this unit and rekindle the promise it once had after drafting Nick Fairly. Avril and Vanden Bosch could both leave, and with a great class of edge rushers the Lions could look their in the first round.
This cycle has been here for years. Anyone remember Barry Sanders and Herman Moore? Two of the top talents in Detroit's lackluster history wasted away behind a quarterback who couldn't stay on his feet, and an offensive line that was led by Lomas Brown. With arguably the greatest Running Back in league history and a top down field receiving target, an offensive line that could clear holes and keep QB Scott Mitchel upright surely would have registered more than a single playoff victory in a decade. If the Lions want to make the most of arguably the greatest receiver all-time and the best quarterback in a Lion uniform since Bobby Lane, they must address these areas to maximize there potential.
Both need upgrades and both will set the tone, one way or another, for the Lions in 2013.