Let me start off by saying that I think the Lions missed a marketing opportunity by failing to sign Mike Vick. PETA has guaranteed that it will send around 100 protesters to any stadium in which Vick plays. The Lions could have doubled their attendance if they could have convinced PETA to protest inside Ford Field.
I wanted to see the preseaon game between the Lions and the Falcons because I had not seen the Lions since Thanksgiving Day. They don’t make the nationally televised game often. The one feeling I came away with is that Stafford is the real deal. He is going to put up decent numbers in Fantasy Football.
Stafford can make all the throws and the Lions have sped up his delivery a little. Given the challenges that the team has on the O line, that is a very good thing. Stafford has always been able to read the D and has decent touch. He has an above average arm and the leadership to keep the O focused. He was impressive against a D that made the playoffs last year. I will be amazed if he does not start week 1.
Vet Daunte Culpepper looks healthy for the first time in a while. He is a capable starter and a well above average backup. Culpepper has slimmed down and it has helped him move in the pocket to avoid the rush. Drew Stanton may not make the team.
WR Calvin Johnson can be as good as he wants to be. There is some question about his work ethic. He has all the tools and a couple of QBs that can get the ball to him deep. He has to continue to develop. The new offense stresses timing patterns so he will also have to be more consistent running patterns. The #2 WR is a question mark. Neither Bryant Johnson nor Dennis Northcutt will get the job done well enough to prevent CJ from facing double coverage on every play. One bright spot could be Keary Colbert. Colbert has always been able to get open but he drops too many passes. If he can make the ball his friend, he could become that solid #2. Ronald Curry and Derrick Williams have potential but are far from being good enough now to step into that role. The rest are training camp fodder.
College TEs don’t block much if at all. Rookie Brandon Pettigrew was the best combo TE possessing both some blocking and decent speed and hands. At least he is willing to try to block which even some NFL TEs don’t.
The running game in undergoing a major transition from the Denver zone blocking scheme to a power running game. Last year starter Kevin Smith looked lost in game 1. With the power game you hit the hole that is assigned. Smith was dancing too often waiting for a hole to open. In the NFL those that hesitate are lost. Former Seahawk Maurice Morris may be a better option. The FB is solid with 87 year old Terrelle Smith who still has enough pop to drill a LB in the BOB (back on backer) play.
We know who the Lion Offensive linemen will be. We just not sure how they will play. The starters will be LT Jeff Backus, LG Daniel Loper, C Dominic Raiola, RG Stephen Peterman and RT Gosder Cherilus. Backus is over rated but not too bad. Raiola is solid at C. Cherilus has a lot of potential and is developing nicely. Loper is a first time starter and an unknown quantity. Peterman is a journeyman with limited athleticism but work hard. There is some experience on the bench. Both Ts Jon Jansen and Ephraim Salaam have started in the league. Jansen was one of the best but has been hurt the last 2 seasons at Washington.
The best thing about the D line is the upside of E Cliff Avril. He is young and athletic. E Dewayne White is solid. Beyond that there are questions all around. In football terms NT Grady Jackson is older than rock and has very little stamina. He does anchor against the run while he has energy but is recovering from a knee problem. T Chuck Darby is nothing special. The Lions were hoping that solid vet E Jared DeVries would be in the rotation but he is on the IR with an Achilles injury and will likely retire. Two reserves with upside are DTs Andre Fluellen and Sammie Hill. Both are nasty and big. They also need to get better conditioned and more instictive.
Vets MLB Larry Foote and SLB Julian Peterson join youngster WLB Ernie Sims in the second line of defense. Peterson must provide pass rush. Foote will be solid in the middle against the run. Jordon Dizon moves outside to better use his speed. DeAndre Levy is the primary inside backup.
The Lions revamped their D backfield again this year. They have a lot of the “P” word—potential. Potential gets more NFL coaches fired than anything else. CB Phillip Buchanon will frustrate you because he has all the tools but doesn’t make many big plays due to bad ball skills. CB Anthony Henry has been around. The Browns determined he was not good enough for their D. Enough said. I really liked FS Louis Delmas in college. The only question is can he adjust to the speed of the NFL game quickly enough? I like SS Daniel Bullocks more than most do. He is solid against the run but must study more tape so that he can overcome some athletic shortcomings with knowledge of the game.
OVERALL: The Lions will be better but when you go 0-16, that’s not saying a lot. They have to solve the problems on the O and D line to be competitive in the NFC North. At the very least the combination of Stafford and Johnson will be fun to watch.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .