With the NFL draft behind us and a lockout raging on, the opportunities to talk about real football are becoming fewer and fewer. That being the case, I have sought out bloggers that cover teams that the Lions will play in the 2011 season to get a glimpse into what is going on with those teams.
Granted, this exercise presumes that no games will be lost due to the lockout. That might be a big step of faith, especially in regards to the preseason games, but I have a hard time operating under any other assumption. I know what happens when one assumes, let’s hope the labor situation doesn’t prove the old saying true. These Q&As aren’t meant to be any sort of game preview, it is obviously way too early for that. The subject teams may end up looking much different when the Lions play them compared to how they look now, but I anticipate this being a good introduction to each teams’ hopes, fears, needs, expectations, etc.
The Lions are scheduled to play their second preseason game against the Cleveland Browns. I was able to send some questions to Steve DiMatteo, Dawgpound Daily editor, and he was kind enough to provide responses. Here we go…
Zac Snyder: Was the fan reaction as overwhelmingly positive to the Browns’ draft day trade with the Falcons as the national media’s?
Steve DiMatteo: It certainly seemed that way. While optimistic, Browns fans aren’t consumed with any outlandish dreams about the possibilities of this season. They are conscious of the fact that the team lacks depth at a number of positions, and one of the best ways to build that is through the draft. That trade allowed the Browns to build for a future draft in addition to getting a much-needed defensive lineman in this year’s class. Browns fans are known for being optimistic (because they have to be) but the reaction was certainly positive, on par with how much of the rest of the country felt.
ZS: How is Colt McCoy currently viewed? Is he the quarterback of the future or simply the best option at the moment?
SD: It’s tough to say, which means that most fans are cautiously sitting on the fence when it comes to this one. They want to believe that he is the quarterback of the future but they are waiting to see how he performs in his first full season as a starter (even though the quarterback job is “open,” it will most likely be his). Cleveland has been burned many times before with quarterbacks, so fans are taking a wait-and-see approach, and even though the prospect of Andrew Luck sounds nice, no one wants to see the Browns tank just for a better draft pick.
ZS: What weaknesses do the Browns still need to address and what is something that is becoming a strength?
SD: There are still a lot of holes that need to be addressed on this team. With the transition to a 4-3 defense, the Browns still need to find a quality defensive end, and they are aiming to acquire one through free agency, whenever that may start. As for a strength, the young secondary – built around young studs Joe Haden and T.J. Ward – is slowly becoming a reliable unit on the field. That will be especially important as the defense prepares for its switch.
ZS: The Browns and Lions will play in the second preseason game. Even though we are a long way out from then, what are you hoping to see in that game?
SD: By the time that preseason finally rolls around, I’m assuming the Browns will have had only a little bit of time to actually prepare. This particular preseason is of the utmost importance to the Browns, as they are attempting to implement both a new offense and defense. This lockout isn’t helping by any means, as the coaches aren’t able to be in contact with the players, leaving it up to the players-only workouts as the only current means of learning the new playbook. When the Browns do play the Lions, I’d hope to see some progress on both sides of the ball, especially on defense. Now, everyone would say that about a preseason game, but every Browns fan is truly just hoping that the 4-3 doesn’t look like a complete mess.
ZS: Give us one position battle to watch or the name of someone that will have something to prove.
SD: For starters, Colt McCoy obviously has something to prove, but running back Peyton Hillis is going to be out to prove that he isn’t just a one-year wonder. Teams are now prepared for him, and how he and the rest of the Browns offense make adjustments will determine his success this season. He caught a lot of teams by surprise last year, and that will no longer be the case, especially in the AFC North, a division that often prides itself on its defensively-gifted teams.
As for a position battle, every wide receiver has to fight for his job with the Browns. The team is bringing in draft picks and, possibly, free agents, as the receiving corps has been problematic these past few seasons. Players like Mohamed Massaquoi and Brian Robiskie are going to have to keep progressing in the system and truly earn their roster spots as time goes on and more players are brought in to compete for playing time.