Let’s take a break from the free agency talks and look at some guys who are currently on the roster. After all, they are the only true players we can count on for sure being on the roster at the start of the training camps.
If the Lions are to cross over from the “Above Average Zone” to the “Elite NFL Team Zone,” some of the mediocre players we’re used to seeing 16 times a year will need to either up their game or hit the road. While looking through the roster and some of 2011’s games that stood out, my findings were that only a couple positions need addressing, in terms of returners from last season.
It’s a fairly obvious claim that the interior offensive line has been less than stellar in recent years. Time and patience is running out for these guys as the Lions continue to improve in other aspects of the game. As Marty Medvedik noted earlier this week, the Lions have a team that’s very close to being championship caliber, but they should consider drafting a guard in the draft, notably Cordy Glenn, in order to breathe some life into the running game. Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman have done a decent job of protecting Matt Stafford, but have been largely ineffective throughout their Lions careers at anchoring a solid run-blocking corps. While teams like the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots have proven that championships can be won without a top-notch running attack, consistent pressure on the ground could definitely be that aspect of the game that pushes them to elite level.
The Spievey Project may come to an end sooner rather than later if some serious improvement isn’t seen through the off-season. The former cornerback has been adequate in his two years with the Lions, actually transitioning to the strong safety position fairly well, but he hasn’t played at the level the Lions need him to. If you remember back to week 10 against the Carolina Panthers, he was burned several times for “taking bad angles and missing tackles.” Subsequently, he was benched in week 11. He’ll be entering only his third year in 2012, and with the addition of Chris Harris last season, hopefully he’ll use the competition to get better and keep the starting spot. Keep in mind the Lions are also opted to bring back Erik Coleman and will host free agent O.J. Atogwe later in the week. Pressure’s on, Amari.
It’s the last year on his rookie contract, and if the Lions don’t extend it this year, he’ll be looking for a major pay raise while potentially testing the market next offseason. If he expects to be sought after by the Lions, in my mind, he’ll have to address a couple things.
The first is patience while playing in the zone. If he can control himself and stay in his cover zones a bit longer, his value against three and four receiver sets would drastically improve. The other thing he could improve on is his as well as being a bit more conservative before making the decision to knock someone’s hat off. Because of his ability to make plays and deliver big hits, he has also been known to keep his eyes in the backfield too long and forget about receivers. He’s been torched on play action a few times and it’s simply because he can be overly aggressive.
Don’t mistake me, Delmas is a very talented defender. I like him a lot and would love him to remain in Detroit for several years to come. But he’s is in a very similar situation as Spievey, as the Lions safeties’ performances have been in question for the better part of the year. Delmas is very much a part of that conversation. Perhaps the problem is the lofty expectations we had for the Western Michigan product, as his production and possibly his potential have tapered in the last year. A guy who was drafted for his high energy and neck-breaking tackles, he still finds himself out of position, which leads to big-play passes by opponents. It’s not too late for him to still improve.
Take a look at this article I found from NFL.com. It’s about the top safeties in the league from nearly a year ago. Do you agree with the rankings?
Safeties and guards are on the chopping block if they don’t step it up next season. With the addition of a solid cornerback, these are the two positions I see that are keeping the Detroit Lions from reaching the next level.