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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Lions Must Emphasize Defense in Playoff or Bust Off-Season

Brady (right) and Manning (left) have guided
their teams to the post-season the past 10 seasons.
        The NFL has become a passing league, led by star-studded Quarterbacks. Looking around the divisional round of the playoffs, you'll see Quarterbacks like 4-time MVP Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Joe Flacco, Matt Schaub, and new comers Collin Kaepernick and Russel Wilson. All, at times, have lead their respective teams too heroics and game winning drives. Three, Brady Manning and Rodgers, have won Super Bowls and many personal accolades, but what do those three have in common? Their teams went into the 2012 off-season emphasizing defense for a return shot at glory. The Packers and Patriots spent their top 6 draft picks on defense. The Broncos spent 4 draft picks in the draft on defense and bolstered their secondary in free agency. The Ravens have prided themselves on defense the past decade in a half, with playmakers like 2-time Defensive MVP Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. Throw in arguably the NFL's top defense, San Francisco 49ers, and you'll get my point.

Stafford has what it takes to keep
the Detroit Lions in the playoff
hunt for a long time.
      Now we turn towards the Lions. They have a promising young quarterback, who coincidentally threw for 5,038 yards and 41 TD's in 2011 named Matthew Stafford, while taking the Lions to the playoffs. He has the top Wide Receiver in the game, and a couple other promising young wide-outs to go along. The Lions front office believes they have two solid tight ends, and a promising Left Tackle of the future. Their problem? a defense.

      I have witnessed many saying the Lions need more weapons for Stafford, while this may help, its not how great organizations do things. Denver saw their top two young wide-outs, Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, perform poorly with mediocre quarterback play in 2011. They add a four time MVP and there play improves drastically to the point were Thomas is considered the top pro bowl snub.

     Elite quarterbacks make the players around them better, period. The Lions believe they have an elite quarterback. I have suggested the Lions look at a few free agent options at Receiver, this won't include a high draft pick. The high selection of offensive skill positions have to stop, immediately. The Lions shedding disgruntled WR Roy Williams was neglected by a mediocre selection of TE Brandon Pettigrew with the 20th selection in 2009. Titus Young hasn't worked, Jahvid Best looks like his football days are over, yet another second round picks were used on Ryan Broyles and Mikel Leshoure. If things don't change this year, we're looking at a Millen esque tenure with the Lions for Martin Mayhew. Take a gander at the Packers Running Backs over the past three seasons and you'll see one undrafted player after another. Then look at the development of Joique Bell, an undrafted RB out of Wayne State for the Lions.  What you won't see for the Packers, is a lack of resources poured into their defense. They have playmakers throughout, whether it be Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson or playoff hero Sam Shields. Mayhew claims he wants these playmakers, yet outside Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley and Louis Delmas he hasn't put much effort into that area in the early rounds since his arrival in 2007. Defensive playmakers don't land in your lap, it take dedication and a keen eye of talent.

The duo has its work cut out in hopes of leading
the Lions back to the postseason.
      Jim Schwartz believes in his wide-9 defense, predicated on pass rush from his Defensive Ends. They have put the resources into this unit but little elsewhere. They need a ball-hawking safety, another corner to compliment Chris Houston, and a two-way Linebacker. These must come through the draft. Cliff Avril will most likely walk after denying a 3 year 30 million dollar deal in the off-season. Chris Houston and Delmas are also free agents, who the Lions must retain. 27 others are set to hit the free agency market come march.  Free Agency is a luxury, not a way to build a defense. The Lions must pour into this side of the ball through the draft, while adding pieces through free agency. They haven't. Kyle Vanden Boesch, Corey Williams, Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch are key members of the Lions defense they picked up through free agent acquisitions, yet combined for 1 takeaway and 4.5 sacks. These are the playmakers we were told would form a defensive based team that made played downhill, pressured the quarterback, and created turnovers. They haven't worked and now Mayhew has work to be done in the draft.

      Many holes must be addresses this off-season, and with a little luck we may see a turnaround in Detroit. They have playmakers on offense, and with a few additions on defense, we just may be watching them in the playoffs instead of another year of looking towards the draft in 2013.


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