Suh: Saying an Early Goodbye to a Legend

Clevelan Browns v Detroit Lions

Last weekend it leaked that the Lions had lost Ndamukong Suh, a future hall of famer and hands down the best player on their team the last 2 seasons to the Miami Dolphins. Suh would reportedly sign a 6 year, $114 million deal with the Dolphins, and end his time with the Detroit Lions. And by the time the Free Agency window actually opened on Tuesday it was all over.

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

This is the lowest I think I’ve ever felt as a Lions fan. I know I know… I watched every game of an 0-16 season, and over a 10 year span I watched them go 39-121. You’d think there were some sadder moments in there. Saying I’m sadder about this moment then any of those makes it sound like I’m not a fan of the team at all, but rather just a fan of 1 player on that team (well… who USED to be on that team…).

But here’s the deal. During that 10 year, 39-121 stretch between 2001 and 2010 everything surrounding the Lions was hopeless. I was certainly sad and despondent, but that was all I knew when it came to the Lions. (Come to think of it I have no idea why I stuck with them through all that?) But that all started to chang in the 2010 draft when the Lions selected Defensive Tackle Ndamukong Suh with the 2nd overall selection in the draft.

Ndamukong-Suh (1)

With Suh came hope. Everything was different. The Lions certainly began the rebuilding process by adding franchise cornerstones Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford, but nothing really changed until Suh became a part of the team. And then EVERYTHING changed.

ndamukong-suh-aaron-rodgers-nfl-green-bay-packers-detroit-lions1-850x560 otkwiml139 suh-sacks-rodgers

It was a revelation. In 2010 Suh won pretty much every award in front of him (Defensive Rookie of the Year, Defensive Lineman of the Year, and like 4 different Rookie of the Year awards). Moreover, while the Lions only went 6-10 his Rookie year it was a lot better than 2 or 0 (their win totals from the previous 2 seasons). And then it happened. Suddenly the Lions were winning. In Suh’s second season in the NFL the Lions went 10-6, came in second in the NFC North, and made the playoffs for the first time in twelve seasons.

This was completely unheard of. The Lions hadn’t been in the playoffs since the Barry Sanders Era. But what was even more impressive was how much of this credit Suh himself deserved. The Lions secondary was atrocious, their linebacking corps wasn’t quite where it needed to be, but their Defensive Line was the best in football and that was more or less all thanks to Suh. There were certainly other good players on that like (Nick Fairley, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Willie Young) but Suh was the centerpiece. That’s the best thing about his play on the field. He makes EVERYONE around him better, and he was (and is) so dominant that he even made our secondary seem compitent simply because our pass rush was so dominant. All of a sudden, in the Suh Era there was always hope.

The rebuild process started with the drafting of Calvin Johnson. Continued with the firing of Matt Millen, hiring of Jim Schwartz, and drafting of Matthew Stafford, but after none of those moves did the Lions achieve any success. It wasn’t until Suh was with the team that the winning really started. He changed everything and brought hope back to the franchise. However, it wasn’t always a perfectly smooth road.

(Photo Credit: Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

(Photo Credit: Andrew Weber, USA Today Sports)

Suh was universally reviled outside of Detroit for his on the field actions. However, I’m not naive enough to think Football is as clean a game as the NFL wants us to believe. Theres dirty play constantly. Just watch any cornerback twist Calvin Johnson’s leg, throw an extra kidney punch at Matthew Stafford, or kick Larry Warford while he’s down. This is the way the game works. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that guys were doing things just as bad to Suh on the field. They just were smart enough not to get caught on camera. And whereas some of these guys make themselves look clean on the field, but are scum off of it, Suh couldn’t have been a better off the field guy.

(Photo Credit: AP)

(Photo Credit: AP)

In 2011 Suh donated some $2.6 million to charity, more than any other athlete that year. In a destitude and struggling city like Detroit a guy like Suh couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only did he give the city of Detroit something to hope for and feel good about on the field, he went out into the community and helped try to rebuild it from the inside. This is a guy who had no ties to the city of Detroit or the State of Michigan before coming to the Lions, but almost immediately after arriving starting working his ass off to help out. If that’s the kind of guy I’m dealing with off the field, rather than someone accused of domestic violence or animal abuse, I don’t particularly care what he does on a football field where violence is accepted.


(Photo Credit: Ndamukong Suh Family Foundation)

I’d much rather have a guy like Suh than someone like Greg Hardy or Ray Rice. No matter what anyone says He gives back to sick kids, donates to the poor, and even sponsors classes at the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit. He is EXACTLY the kind of star the Detroit Lions needed, and exactly the kind of person the city of Detroit needed. Perfect in every way and right on time.

But now the team has cut ties with the source of that hope. Why would they let this happen? Someone who was NOTHING but positive for the city of Detroit, and helped transform a moribund franchise into a playoff team. Well… I guess there were 114 million reasons why… Not that the Lions weren’t willing to give up the dollars to Suh. He obviously deserves that money (and then-some) and everybody knows it. But the Lions, unfortunately, could not fit him under their salary cap.

Let’s stop there for a second though. This is an excuse that comes up a lot in American sports, and it is always a miserable and miserly answer. Teams imply that its not their fault and that the system is preventing them from doing right by their players and their fans, but in truth teams have only themselves to blame. Everyone could see this disaster coming a mile away. Martin Mayhew has done a miserable job managing Detroit’s cap situation from day 1, just like Matt Millen did before him (oh… jeez… I wonder if we could have predicted this considering MAYHEW WAS MILLENS RIGHT HAND FREAKING MAN). Stafford and Calvin are very important to this team. Don’t get me wrong. But Suh is the single most important player on it. He is either the best or second best defensive player in the NFL (behind JJ Watt in Houston) and is the best player on Detroit’s team. So it only makes sense that the team should have known, as far back as that first playoff run in 2011, that they should do the best they can to lock him up. They did not, and they used the Salary Cap as their excuse. So let’s take a quick look at this upcoming season’s highest plaid Lions.

Lions 2015 cap hits

Image via 

The Lions have already paid Johnson and Stafford boatloads of money. They decided they couldn’t afford a third boatload or the whole ship would go down. They gave out huge dollars to Johnson and Stafford, which, again, I understand and can get behind, but here’s the problem. Suh is very much in his prime, and I’m not even certain that he’s halfway done with his prime yet. While Stafford, though in his prime, has probably peaked, and certainly has quirks that limit the team’s performance (although I have no interest in cutting ties with him) and I’m very worried that Calvin is actually on the back half of his prime.


Injuries are finally beginning to catch up to him through absolutely no fault of his own. He is far and away the greatest wide receiver to ever play in the NFL. Jerry Rice can shove it. But for his entire career there was absolutely NO way any defender could LEGALLY slow him down or stop him. So what did they do? Twist his ankles. Throw late hits and cheap shots. Basically do anything illegal that the refs would let them get away with. Which as it turns out was A LOT. The NFL created unfair rules to try to limit Calvin’s impact on the game (which came back to bite them this post-season as it screwed over Dez Bryant and the Cowboys) and refs refused to give him the benefit of the doubt EVER as defenders took cheap shots at him constantly.

Well… all these extra hits and extra miles were bound to take their toll, and Calvin has undeniably slowed down this year. He missed large chunks of the season last year, and that wasn’t the only problem. The whole offense was sluggish and disappointing all last year. Detroit was 22nd in scoring in a year where they had Stafford, Johnson, and new high paid receiver option Golden Tate. In only 3 games last year did the Lions exceed 24 points (and half the time the defense was scoring at least 7, but up to 14 of those 24 anyway) and in 10 games they were held to 20 or fewer points. So the first question is, how much could those 3 guys REALLY be worth if for well over half the season they only account for 20 points? And the next question is, how did that team even make the playoffs? The answer to the first question is no and the answer to the second, of course, is Suh.

Mayhew has allocated $43,629,250 of cap space to Johnson, Stafford, and Tate. $38,279,250 to Stafford and Johnson alone, and has therefore decided that he cannot afford another $20,000,000 for Suh. Makes sense if Suh weren’t an all time great, but if my only options were to lose Suh (a surefire Hall of Famer and ALL TIME GREAT at his position who BY ALL ACCOUNTS should have retired with his original team) or overpay all three of them, I’m picking the overpay 1,000 times out of 1,000. It’s too late to take the money away from Johnson, Stafford, and Tate, and in truth I don’t really want to, but off all those guys if I can only have one I pick Suh every. Single. Time. We’re paying 35% of our cap to 3 guys accounting for maaaaaybe 15% of last season’s success and “unable” to pay 15% of the cap to 1 guy who accounts for something like 40% of our wins. Sounds like wise business planning to me. Keep up the good work Mayhew…

No, I'm not quite sure why I got the job either. I'm also not sure why I haven't been fired. Really I just keep cashing checks... (Photo Credit - Daniel Mears)

No, I’m not quite sure why I got the job either. I’m also not sure why I haven’t been fired. Really I just keep cashing checks… (Photo Credit – Daniel Mears)

I’d rather keep Suh at whatever his asking price was and be bad for the rest of his career WITH him than let him go and embrace whatever debacle is about to be inflicted on me for the next 5 years.

And the worst part? Cutting him doesn’t even solve any of Detroit’s cap woes. That money tied up in an under-performing offense is still there. We’re still paying big money to two tight ends, neither of whom are performing at the level we need them to. And the real kicker is this. Check this one out. Bill Barnwell brought this up last week on the Grantland NFL Podcast, and it is a hilariously depressing point. This is a list of the 5 highest paid DTs in the NFL next year based on average salary.

Top 5 DTs Salarys

Image via

But there is one name missing from this list. Ndamukong Suh. “But wait!” You exclaim. “He’s not missing! He’s right there at the top!” Yes he is friend, but you are forgetting the ghost of Ndamukong Suh. Because of the way the Lions restructured his deal when he was still with the team, Detroit still has exactly $9,737,500 worth of Ndamukong Suh on the books for this coming season. And yes, that means Ndamukong Suh is technically both the highest paid DT in football with his Miami figure as well as the 5th highest paid DT in football with his Detroit figure… If he was going to be eating up $10,000,000 of cap space either way, HOW could you not re-sign him??? The whole excuse was that we needed to move on for cap related purposes!!! Well we moved on and it sure doesn’t look like the cap is fixed!!! Moreover, refer back to that earlier image of the Lions 10 highest paid payers for next season… SUH IS STILL THE THIRD HIGHEST PAID PLAYER ON THE LIONS!!! Add that number to Detroit’s replacement for Suh (Haloti Ngata) and his $8,500,000 figure, and essentially you’re still paying $18,237,500 to your number 1 DT tackle…only $810,000 more than Suh’s figure anyway… so don’t feed me this cap crap Mayhew…

And Mayhew’s plan for replacing Suh? That was a real gem. We brought in Haloti Ngata who is a very good NFL player.

(Photo Credit: Tanya Moutzalias, MLive Detroit)

(Photo Credit: Tanya Moutzalias, MLive Detroit)

Used to be better, but his prime ended a couple years ago so what are you gonna do. He’s still very good, just not at the top of his game like Suh is. But that’s ok. We’ll take him off your hands Baltimore. We’ll give you a 4th and a 5th round pick for him because cap starved teams NEVER rebuild through the draft right? That would be stupid. Teams with cap problems don’t draft rookies on cap controlled deals, they trade those draft picks for old veterans with massive salary cap hits. That’s what smart GMs do, right Martin? Nevermind the fact that Baltimore GM Ozzie Newsome is the best GM in football who knows exactly when to cut ties with his own players, and nearly EVERY player Baltimore ever let’s go has a nearly immediate dropoff in production on their new team.

(Photo via

(Photo via

Haloti Ngata is still a very good player. Detroit needed some star power on the defensive line to plug the gap left behind by Suh. And Ngata will do that. For the next year… maybe two… but trading draft picks for him feels horrendously short sighted to me and seems akin to cutting off your right hand, and trying to duct tape it back together… it just isn’t enough.

Ndamukong Suh is one of the greatest defensive tackles to every play football. He’s one of the best players I have ever watched in my entire life. And he was on my team. He was my guy. I didn’t care about all the on field incidents of aggression, mainly because he was such a spectacular guy off the field. He came to Detroit at one of its lowest points in years (and let me tell you, there have been a lot of low points for the city of Detroit this past decade) and he helped put together something to be proud of and something fun to be a part of when the Lions and being a Lions fan has been anything but for for… ohhh… idk… my entire life.

Suh should have been allowed to retire a lion. When you have one of the best to ever play the game. When he is a first round draft pick for your team and turns out to be even more than you ever hoped for. When he is an ambassador and a pillar for your struggling community. When you have a guy like that playing for your franchise you do your best to make sure he becomes a lifelong member of your organization. You make sure he becomes a part of your family and stays a member of your family for life because invariably its those kinds of players who become ambassadors for the sport and your franchise for many years into the future. When Suh came to Detroit it felt like the franchise had FINALLY turned a corner. They finally had pieces in place with Stafford, Johnson, and especially Suh to be winners on and off the field. It felt like they had finally moved on from the Matt Millen debacle era, and learned how a great organization thinks. But clearly this is the same old Detroit with the some old ignorance and losing ways.


The Relief of Mediocrity and Why I Won’t Turn on Matthew Stafford

(Image via Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(Image via Leon Halip/Getty Images)

At 4:40 PM Eastern time today the Detroit Lions will play the Dallas Cowboys in what will be only the second Lions playoff game I’ve seen in my entire lifetime. So needless to say this should be a pretty big deal for me. However, it isn’t. I don’t have much confidence in the Lions pulling this one out. Even in spite of the fact that Dallas in the Tony Romo era has earned a reputation as post season or late season chokers. Now, part of this is because I think that reputation is undeserved, and Tony Romo is underrated, but part of it is also that I lack faith in this particular Lions squad.

In spite of their 11-5 record, the Lions are somewhat of a paper tiger. The Lions played 5 regular season games against playoff teams this season (Green Bay twice, Carolina, New England, and Arizona). They are 1-4 in those games, with their only win coming in week 2 against the Packers, so its not like their exactly building momentum off that one. In fact, the Lions have only even played 6 games all year against teams which ended the season with a winning record. In those six games they are 2-4 (adding a win against 9-7 Miami to their week 2 Green Bay win).

So, the Lions haven’t exactly been world beaters this year, and in truth they’ve barely even been tested. And what few tests they took were mostly failures. I’m not saying all this to be critical, but am instead trying to temper my own expectations for the second Lions playoff game I have ever watched, since the first one (a 45-28 route against Saints in 2011) didn’t exactly end the way I wanted it to. Now, the Lions definitely can beat the Cowboys. Dallas is a spectacularly beatable team this year. Tony Romo has nursed various injuries (especially to his back) all year,and could easily be knocked out of the game by Detroit’s stellar defensive line. Moreover, Dallas’s stud running back Demarco Murray has been great all year, but Detroit has the #1 Rush Defense in the NFL, allowing only 69 yards per game, so it wouldn’t be a shock if Detroit shut Murray down. More importantly, Dallas’s defense has been put together with Elmer’s glue and bubble-gum so there is no reason to think that Calvin Johnson shouldn’t be able to eat them alive. However, with the way Detroit’s offense has been playing of late that is extremely unlikely. And heeeeere is where we get to the crux of the article.

Detroit’s offense has been a colossal disappointment all season long. Part of that was because Calvin was hurt most of the year and missed a substantial chunk of the season due to injury, but many sports fans and reporters alike have put the blame squarely on Matthew Stafford’s shoulders. They claim that Detroit has seen enough to know that their former #1 overall pick is not cut from the Championship cloth which swaddled Bart Starr in his infancy. They get really excited to bring up the fact that he is 0-17 on the road against teams with winning records. Stafford, they claim, will never be a clutch quarterback, and Detroit should cut ties with the Stafford experiment immediately and move on. I disagree.

Missing Calvin Johnson really crippled the Lions all year.

Missing Calvin Johnson really crippled the Lions all year.

Now, I don’t deny that the offense has disappointed this year. They average only 20 points per game, and were held to 20 points or fewer in 10 different games this year. That doesn’t exactly sound like a team that has the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game on it. Furthermore, its incredibly frustrating to have an offense letting the team down like that when we have one of the best defenses in the NFL this year. I also understand why it would makes sense for Stafford’s numbers to spike this year considering Detroit blew their entire free agency wad bringing in Golden Tate to be a #2 receiver behind Calvin, overpaid to keep TE Brandon Pettigrew, and wasted their first round pick on an offensively minded TE in Eric Ebron (all while they already had red zone threat Joseph Fauria on the roster). That sounds like a lot of weapons. That doesn’t sound like a team that scores 20 points per game. Seems like it should be more like 28-31ppg. And that isn’t what happened.

Maybe that means all these dissenters are right. Maybe that means I’m supposed to abandon ship on the USS Stafford, but I’m not sold.


To be completely honest, I couldn’t care less if Stafford is underperforming based on his contract right now. I couldn’t care less if the offense isn’t as explosive as it should or needs to be. And I assure you this is entirely irrational, and motivated by my own scarred sporting past. I started following the NFL in 1998 when I was 8 years old, but didn’t choose to adopt my Dad’s beloved Lions until the 2000 season. As it turns out this was the worst possible time I could have picked. I remember my dad trying to make me watch football with him years earlier because he wanted me to experience the Barry Sanders years before they were gone. Welp, I hopped on the bandwagon about 16 months late, and it was all downhill after that.

The Matt Millen Era was one of the worst attempts to run a sports franchise in history, and it was particularly hard on the quarterback position. When I first hopped on the Detroit bandwagon they rolled out the cavalcade of Charlie Batch, Gus Frerotte, Stoney Case (I’m gonna be honest I don’t even remember who this is) and Ty Detmer (6 years after he was already known as a universal bust). Not exactly a star studded cast. In 2002, however, 12 year old Rick had hope for the future because the Lions spent their first round draft pick on Oregon’s star quarterback… Joey Harrington.Now, I’m not sure if you know this but during my childhood Harrington was thought to be the biggest bust behind only Tim Couch… ouch…

"O" for Oregon or 0 for the number of games I intend to win in the NFL. Who knows? (Image via Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

“O” for Oregon or 0 for the number of games I intend to win in the NFL. Who knows? (Image via Bruce Ely/The Oregonian)

So that didn’t work out. But its ok… Detroit had other… uhh… plans… they had the veritable ace up the sleeve that is Mike McMahon (I distinctly remember arguing with me dad that all Detroit needed to do in the 2004 season in order to start winning was start Mike McMahon and we could easily win 8 games. The funniest part of this story to me is not that I thought McMahon would be a success [laughable in its own right] but that I thought “successful” meant going 8-8).

In 2005 they rented 5 games of Jeff Garcia, they put the serviceable Jon Kitna out to pasture (I loved the Kitna years. Kitna won 10 total games for us in the 2 years he started, and I still believe that the reason we went win-less in 2008 is because we went away from him). Then all hell broke loose as we decided to move on to the Dan Orlovsky era which lasted 7 games before we decided to trot out Dante Culpepper AFTER he had that devastating knee injury…

Dan Orlovsky... he of the self forced safety...

Dan Orlovsky… he of the self forced safety…

In 2009 we finally drafted Stafford, but his career didn’t really start until 2011 because he was hurt so often. Instead we spiced things up with a little Drew Stanton / Shaun Hill combo [the two QBs responsible for that beautiful 12-6 field goal clinic on Thursday night football earlier this season] until finally in 2011 we were squarely planted in the Matthew Stafford era.

Stafford has started every game for Detroit the last 4 straight seasons *knockonwood* and if my little narrative showed you anything it should be that, regardless of his faults, he is very clearly a sight for sore eyes. In those 4 years Detroit has won 32 games and made the playoffs twice. That is 2 more playoff games than I had seen in the rest of my lifetime and only 5 less losses than Detroit had in the 9 seasons before that (starting with the drafting of Joey Harrington).

Stafford has clearly been the best quarterback I’ve ever watch on Detroit in my years as a Lions fan. As such I’m willing to give him absolute mountains of slack. We very well could lose this playoff game tonight. And the talking heads and armchair GM’s of the world will be gleefully calling for the Lions to move on from Stafford. But I for one am entirely unconvinced. Even if this is the best Stafford can do, who cares? This is the best era of Lions football I have ever seen. Why risk moving on from Stafford if only to wind up back in the death spiral of has been’s, never were’s, and never will be’s that I spend my formative years watching?

Instead I’d rather just treat this Stafford/Calvin Johnson era as a better version of the Barry Sanders years my dad remembers. The Lions made a couple playoff games out of Barry’s sheer will, and the guy solidified himself as the greatest running back of all time in my opinion,. With the way Stafford forces the ball to Calvin we’ll have the same scenario with Johnson now. Make a few playoff games. Have a few chances to do something, and watch one of the greatest football players ever born prove his worth among the games elite. Dumping Stafford is the kind of thing franchises with Superbowl aspirations might do, but that isn’t this Detroit team. We could definitely win a Superbowl with this group because the NFL playoffs are so random (Carolina beat Arizona last night for instance) but no-one will ever call this group the favorites. And that’s enough for me. It’s January. We’re still playing football. And Matthew Stafford got us there. Enough with the rest of it. I just want to enjoy the success that I’m fortunate enough to see right now.

Go get'm big guy. Go get'm.

Go get’m big guy. Go get’m.

Martin Mayhew and the Barren Cupboards of Detroit


(Photo Credit: Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images)

So late last week Grantland’s NFL writers Bill Barnwell and Robert Mays did a redraft article covering the 2013 NFL draft. Normally this kind of thing is interesting to me, but doesn’t really stand out. However, something interesting happened this time around. Both guys had all 3 of the Lions’ first 3 picks in the 2013 draft (Ezekiel Ansah – 1st Round, Darius Slay – 2nd Round, Larry Warford – 3rd Round) reclassified as 1st Round Picks. Moreover, every single guy moved UP in their draft position as Ansah (#5 overall in 2013) we selected by both Barnwell and Mays to be the #2 overall player if the draft were redone today.

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

(Photo Credit: USA Today Sports)

Now, in its own right I suppose this isn’t a huge thing. Ansah was the most surprising product, in my opinion, to come out of the 2013 draft for the Lions, but I always had faith that under Jim Schwartz’s [part-time defensive line guru and full-time asshole] tutelage his freakish athletic ability could be converted into stellar play, but even that was at risk after the Lions fired Schwartz. Those fears proved to be unfounded as Ansah has not only shown signs of life in his last 3 games but has looked every bit the top 5 pick that he was.

(Photo Credit:

(Photo Credit:

Darius Slay, Detroit’s 2nd Round Cornerback selection was a First Round caliber player coming off a serious injury which forced him to drop into the second round. I knew the guy was talented, but was very skeptical that he could regain his former athleticism, and indeed last year he looked like he would be a bust. This year, however, with Chris Houston cut, Slay has slipped right in as the Lions’ #1 Corner and looked fantastic.

(Photo Credit: Tim Fuller, USA Today Sports)

(Photo Credit: Tim Fuller, USA Today Sports)

Larry Warford I always knew would be good after watching him at Kentucky, but he damn near barged his way into the Rookie of the Year race last year. This is impressive not just because he’s an offensive lineman, but because he is a Gaurd!! Sometimes you might see a Left Tackle (generally considered the most important player on your O Line) sneak into these discussions but a guard?? Hardly.

(Photo Credit: Daniel Mears, Detroit News)

(Photo Credit: Daniel Mears, Detroit News)

So anway, Barnwell and Mays are totally right. Detroit [and GM Martin Mayhew by extension], at this point anyway, appears to have smacked it out of the park on their first three picks from last year. This got me thinking though. Does this mean that the Lions front office is better than I think? In the past I gave most of the credit for successful Lions draft picks to Schwartz. He drafted D Linemen high and developed them into stellar players. I was always reluctant (with good reason) to give any credit to Lions GM Martin Mayhew.

Good lord just look at this picture. Note Joey Harrington's "God save me" eyes and Millen's... oddly lustful eyes as he stares a whole through Harrington with like 6 buttons undone on that shirt.... this, ladies and gentlemen, was the Matt Millen Era.

Good lord just look at this picture. Note Joey Harrington’s “God save me” eyes and Millen’s… oddly lustful eyes as he stares a whole through Harrington with like 6 buttons undone on that shirt…. this, ladies and gentlemen, was the Matt Millen Era.

First and foremost this was because I never thought he should have gotten the job after Matt Millen was fired. Mayhew was Millen’s right hand man, and promoting him after firing Millen represented a victory for the Old Regime when, in my opinion, what the franchise needed was a changing of the guard. My thoughts were validated by the fact that Mayhew runs operations very much like Millen did before him (not a surprise since he worked under the guy for a decade).

Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley

Recent events, however, have forced me to question this opinion. The Lions current roster is littered with draft day success stories, something which I wasn’t lucky enough to see for the first 20 years of my life. Guys like Suh, Ansah, Fairley, Levy, Slay, Warford, Reiff, Johnson, Stafford… the list goes on… but the point is Detroit used to be a team that either drafted bad players or drafted good players and failed to develop them. They were then forced to wander aimlessly into free agency and overpay inferior, over the hill players to try and stop the bleeding, which never worked. That is not the way to succeed in the NFL. Things appear to have changed for the better and I decided to take a look and test the validity of this assumption. What I found, however, was more in line with my own opinions than this flowery new picture.

First off, I decided to start things off by going back to 2009. This was Mayhew’s first offseason in charge, and also gives us a nice 5 year, half decade window to examine. So lets take a look at the 2009 draft courtesy of

2009 draft

So first and foremost, everyone from Derrick Williams down is no longer on the team. Not THAT uncommon in the NFL, but still… not a good thing. Brandon Pettigrew is overpaid for what he provides, he’s currently hurt, and the Lions just drafted Eric Ebron in the first round when they already had Joseph Fauria and Pettigrew on the roster anyway so… I’m gonna go ahead and say the TE position is a clusterfuck and I refuse to say Mayhew has handled it correctly. Stafford is what he is. Strong arm QB who locks on to one receiver far too often, but he’s my guy. When you spent the entiretly of your childhood trying to root for Joey Harrington, Mike McMahon, Dan Orlovsky, Past-his-prime Dante Culpepper, and the cavalcade of inferior QBs the Lions had… you tend to be all in on a guy like Stafford, even if he’s not perfect. So I’ll call that a win for Mayhew. Delmas, though injury prone, was consistently the best coverage defensive back on the Lions rosters. However, Mayhew inexplicable cut him this offseason so I really don’t feel like that is a win either. DeAndre Levy, however, is like a ten gold star player. Good job Mayhew. To get a guy like that in the 3rd round who is now one of the best Linebackers in football is outstanding. So in the end Mayhew found 4 starters out of this draft, better than his goal, and the draft itself was a success, even if his player management after the fact was exceedingly poor.

2010 draft

2010, however, wasn’t as great. Suh is obviously a success story, but if these contract talks don’t go well this summer and we lose him it will mean the 2010 draft was an absolute disaster. Jason Fox, Jahvid Best, and Amari Spievey all looked to be adequate NFL players but for one reason or another none of them stayed with the Lions long term. Fox is a backup with the Dolphins now. Spievey, though talented, couldn’t stick around in the NFL. The more important player, however, is Jahvid Best. Best had concussion history in college and it ended his NFL career as well. These are the kind of things you have to be aware of as a GM. Now, Best was a very good player while he was here so I’m not saying Mayhew drafted a bad player BUT he traded up in the draft to grab him. Trading up generally costs you picks elsewhere, so if you’re going to give up 2 potential players for 1 potential player, you better make sure the guy you’re trading up for is healthy and will stick in the league for a long time.

Willie Young also turned out to be a spectacular pick. The guy is a legit starting DE in the NFL and Detroit drafted him and developed him out of the 7th round. However, they lost him in Free Agency this past summer to the Bears, so again, the problem is keeping talent around more than finding it.

2011 draft

2011 was a terrible draft. Mikel Leshoure had a lot of hype around him last year and the year before, but ended up getting cut this offseason. Titus Young had countless off the field issues and washed out of the league. And Nick Fairley was lazy in college and lazy in the NFL. He finally started putting together a good season this year (the last year of his contract with Detroit) but went out injured int he London game so who knows if he’ll be the same player next year, leaving the Lions with an awkward contract issue going into this summer.

2012 draft

2012 looked much better. Bill Bentley (IR this year) still has a little time to develop into starting caliber corner alongside Slay once Rashean Mathis finally retires. However if he doesn’t turn into something in the next year or so its probably time for the Lions to move on. Jonte Green already proved he wasn’t up to this task and was cut this year. Same for Chris Greenwood. Ryan Broyles appears to be a major bust, and the Lions seem to agree. They spent big money bringing in a #2 receiver (Golden Tate) this offseason. Tate now plays the position Broyles was drafted to occupy. Moreover, Broyles doesn’t even get on the field in the slot as that position is occupied by Corey Fuller, and he hasn’t even been able to fight his way into the starting lineup via injury. Calvin Johnson has been injured all year, but its been Jeremy Ross who plays over Broyles. Travis Lewis is on IR right now but I doubt he’ll ever be anything more than a Special Teams player (which ultimately is fine for a 7th rounder). Ronnell Lewis is long gone and out of the NFL. So really, the only 2 bright spots out of this draft are Riley Reiff and Tahir Whitehead. Whitehead is a great guy to have as second string in your linebacking corps, and with Stephen Tulloch out of the year he’s filled in more than adequately at outside linebacker after Levy was moved to the inside to replace Tulloch. Reiff, I think, has a lot of potential and should stick around in the league. The only problem is that I think he’s an above average starter at Right Tackle, but the Lions, because of their talent deficiency, have been playing him at Left Tackle. I worry that he’s not up to the task and will lose confidence on the left side if left there for too long, but that remains to be seen. In any event the 2012 draft doesn’t look too great. You have 2 guys in Whitehead and Reiff who I think belong in the NFL. One as a backup and part time starter, one as a full time starter at a position where he currently isn’t playing. And 1 guy who might make it in Bentley, but the rest is a wash.

2013 draft

The 2013 draft has already been touched on as a success. In addition to the top 3 guys already mentioned, Corey Fuller plays significant minutes in the slot and Theo Riddick is a very useful pass catching back, albeit injury prone.

2014 draft

Its definitely too early to judge on last year’s draft but so far here’s how I see it. Nate Freese was terrible and was already cut. Eric Ebron was very much the wrong pick (already handed out a big contract to Pettigrew and had Fauria on the roster) but he will probably develop into a valuable weapon eventually. I have a lot of faith that Kyle Van Noy will make some noise when he finally gets healthy and gets on the field. But the rest of those guys I have no idea. If I had to guess I’d say they don’t make it but only time will tell.

So in the end here’s how Mayhew’s drafting tenure looks to me. He’s drafted 46 guys in his 6 drafts. Let’s toss out last year because its too early to tell. That leaves us with 38 guys in 5 drafts. He found 15 NFL caliber players. However, of those 15 1 was forced into retirement due to an injury history that we knew about at the time (Best) and 3 are good players but not every down starters (Fuller, Whitehead, and Riddick). That leaves us with 11 true NFL starting caliber players. Two of them are no longer with the team, but starting elsewhere (Delmas and Young). Nine of them are still with the team (Suh, Fairley, Slay, Ansah, Warford, Reiff, Stafford, Pettigrew, and Levy) but might not stay that way for long. Suh is in a highly publicized contract dispute and can walk this summer if he wants to (which he very well might which would absolutely destroy this Lions defense which is completely built around him). Fairley is also in the last year of his contract and could leave in free agency. Even if he stays, however, we don’t know if he’ll be even close to the same player once he comes back from this injury. Reiff may wash out of the league if we continue to play him at Left Tackle and he doesn’t develop a feel for the position. Pettigrew was signed to a large contract extension this summer after which the team moronically drafted another first round tight end to replace him so who knows how long he’ll be on the team. The only surefire players the team can count on for the next few years are Levy and his glorious beard (who the team MUST lock up to an extension soon or risk losing him like so many others) Stafford, Warford, Slay, and Ansah. All together not bad, but not as positive a set of results as I was hoping to find. And there’s a bigger issue.

My goodness its like staring at the Gates of Heaven... (Photo Credit: Detroit Lions)

My goodness its like staring at the Gates of Heaven… (Photo Credit: Detroit Lions)

The Lions are a very talented team. The best players on the Lions are as good or better than their equivalents on any team in the NFL. The problem, however, is depth. Depth is an issue most teams address through the draft. The Lions have been great at picking out top level talent in the draft. Acquiring starters. But where the best NFL teams use the draft to add depth (the next generation of starters is always waiting in the wings for an opportunity to step up and displace higher paid starters) Detroit hasn’t been so lucky. When we lose starters to free agency or injury we often struggle to plug the gaps. Mayhew’s purported goal is even always to find 3 starters, 3 contributing players, and 3 developmental players every draft. While it looks like he’s hitting fairly consistently on the first goal (admittedly the hardest to achieve) the other categories aren’t falling in line so nicely. Time and again the Lions have drafted good players but their player and cap management is bad enough that they lose these guys in free agency before they have anyone on the bench ready to replace them. Part of that was the massive talent dearth Millen left us with. Its going to take a full decade or more to rebuild this franchise from the bottom up and for the time being I’m just glad that we at least have starting caliber players actually starting for us, but if you can’t lock those guys up long term (as Detroit didn’t do with Delmas, Cliff Avril, Gosder Cherilus, Willie Young, and many more) then you need to be sure you have the guys in the wings ready to step up and replace them. Detroit has done a good job of this on the Defensive line (VandenBosch is getting old? We’ve got Cliff Avril. Avril goes to the Seahawks? Ok we have Willie Young. Willie Young leaves for Chicago? That’s ok Ziggy Ansah is ready to step up for a bigger role.) but we don’t have the depth yet at other positions to follow this same kind of smooth transition.

Overall this makes me think I’ve been too harsh on Mayhew in the past. He has found talent for us and he has helped build the skeleton of a winning roster in Detroit. However, the issue of depth is an absolute Sword of Damocles, hanging over the Motor City’s head right now. You can get by without depth if your starters stay healthy, resign for reasonable contracts, and play out of their minds. But right now we don’t have health (Tulloch, Fairley, and Johnson are out) we might lose some of our best and key players in the offseason (Suh and Fairley) and the only thing keeping us afloat is how well the players we have left are playing. If we have a mass exodus this summer it will be right back to rebuilding mode again this summer. Only this time hopefully we can build with some Depth instead of the top heavy, redundant roster Mayhew gave us right now. Because we already know what the alternative looks like… and nobody wants that…

(Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP)

(Photo Credit: Paul Sancya, AP)


Naive Optimism: The Joys of Being a Detroit Lions Fan


With the Free Agency period pretty much over and the NFL draft on the horizon I figured now might be the right time to recap the retooled Lions. Now, generally any Lions front office moves are a clinic in incompetence (still waiting on approval of that Matt Millen restraining order), but this year I’m feeling fairly confident (which certainly means something terrible is about to happen. Somebody go check on Calvin Johnson’s knees! Can we take out another insurance policy on them? Maybe protect them with 4 armed guards?) BUT IN ANY EVENT! Let’s take a look at the damage.

Things started out in typical Lions fashion. Ask any Lions fan what the team needed to prioritize after the Coach Schwartz firing and they would have said improve the secondary (which has needed repair for a decade but that doesn’t prevent the team from avoiding top level corners in the first round like the plague) and add a legitimate #2 threat alongside Calvin Johnson to make teams AT LEAST think twice about triple teaming him before ultimately decided “screw it… give him the triple team.”  So… of course… with these two concerns in mind what does Detroit do? They cut Safety Louis Delmas, their best secondary player who, by the way, WAS ONLY 26 YEARS OLD!!! Yes he had injury history, but he played all 16 games last season… so… this was smart… And then, in order to improve their receiving corps, they cut their #2 receiver Nate Burleson. Awesome. Now I know Nate injured himself last year as a result of his unhealthy love of pizza, but this does not seem like the way to build your receiving corps… unless they just thought everyone else on the field was getting in Calvin’s way…

In a lot of ways its like you never left Matt... (photo credit Matthew Emmons)

In a lot of ways its like you never left Matt… (photo credit Matthew Emmons)

That was all before Free Agency  had even started. Free Agency made things worse. One of my biggest fears with losing Coach Schwartz is that this dominant defensive line he built will take a huge step back. However, I tried to convince myself that, hey, we still have all the players from that unit so even without the coach we should still be able to produce on some similar same level. Buuuut as it turns out… Mayhew did not think those players were as important as I did… We lost defensive end Willie Young to division rival Chicago (which has shades of the Cliff Avril to Seattle loss… except worse because the Bears are in our division) and we also lost defensive end Israel Idonije to the Bears (less important loss, but its the principle that matters!) We also lost Shaun Hill to St. Louis which is fine until you realize that we replaced him by bringing back Dan Orlovsky.

HOWEVER thankfully that is where the bad news stops and I get to put on my Honolulu Blue Fan Goggles!!! Prepare yourselves for wreckless optimism! The first big move (and really the Lions only big free agency splash in recent memory) was signing Golden Tate away from the Superbowl champion Seattle Seahawks. At first I was a little unsure of this signing because Tate is undersized and he’s never really put up huge numbers in Seattle. However, *fan goggles* that was in an offense which ran the ball 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and only thought to pass as a 4th option. If Tate can put up 64 catches, 898 yards, and 5 TDs in that Seattle offense, there is absolutely no reason he shouldn’t be able to dwarf those numbers when playing next to the walking triple team that is Calvin Johnson. I’m thinking around 80 catches, 1,200 yards, and 8-9 TDs. Plus if Tate really can put up numbers like that its just gonna free up Calvin Johnson even more. Not only that, but Tate’s leaping ability makes up for his size so he can play #2 BUT if we decided to draft another receiver in this loaded WR draft, we could probably slide Tate into the slot. He clearly has no fear going over the middle. This is a major improvement over Nate (as much as I loved him).

No no no Patrick! That is not how we catch the ball!!

No no no Patrick! That is not how we catch the ball!!

However, the biggest positive about bringing in Tate is the fact that he never. drops. passes. Ever… Tate has only dropped 5 passes in the last three years combined. Last year alone the Lions dropped more balls than a Scarlett Johansen nude scene.

Evidently Scarlett finds my comments to be excessively lewd. My apologies.

Evidently Scarlett finds my comments to be excessively lewd. My apologies.

SO after filling their self made hole at receiver, the Lions had to address their self made hole at safety. They did so admirably in my opinion by signing James Ihedigbo, even if it is just a bandaid solution. Whereas Delmas was only 26 and Tate is only 25, Ihedigbo is already 30. This makes it clear that the Lions are in win now mode, and honestly they probably don’t have more than a 2-3 year window anyway. Calvin Johnson is 28 and Reggie Bush is 29 so this window isn’t as wide open as it used to be. Plus the Lions are already strapped for cash and pushing up against the salary cap, so within a couple years they’ll probably be in the same terrible problem the Panthers found them in this offseason where they need to cut valuable players year after year just to stay under the cap. So while it would have been nice to grab someone younger, Ihedigbo is still a serviceable player, he’s familiar with Coach Caldwell, and he’s generally stayed healthy throughout his career. Paired with Glover Quinn that should give us some solid leadership at the 2 safety positions. In this same vein, the Lions brought back Rashean Mathis (thank God) to bring some veteran experience to the worryingly young secondary led by the disappointing and troubled Chris Houston and Darius Slay (who will hopefully look 100% recovered this year from an injury late in his college career). They also brought in Cassius Vaughn for the same reason so hopefully between the talent of the young guys and the skill of the old guys we can duct tape together a pass defense.

Hey! Hey guys! Mr. Ford Jr. how you doin today? I really like those shoes!! Hey, you wouldn't fire me right?? Right??? (photo credit AP)

Hey! Hey guys! Mr. Ford Jr. how you doin today? I really like those shoes!! Hey, you wouldn’t fire me right?? Right???
(photo credit AP)

Those were really the 2 major stories in the Lions offseason moves. I also think its interesting to point out that our new OC grabbed a Fullback off of the Saints (his former team) to come with him and help implement his schemes. The Lions haven’t used a Fullback consistently for maybe 8 years as far as I can remember. So I don’t know if this is good or bad or if it will even change anything, but hey… thats new. They also brought back Joique Bell which is a great story (Michigan kid who went to Wayne State right in the city and has experience working with our new OC Joe Lombardi from his time in New Orleans along with Reggie Bush) but also a solid move. I love having a two back system to protect Reggie’s legs as much as possible. Moreover, the offensive line is looking young (outside of Raiola) and solid with the addition of Larry Warford from Kentucky last season, which is a Godsend for Stafford.

(Leon Halip - Getty Images)

(Leon Halip – Getty Images)

All things considered I’m cautiously optimistic about all these moves. The draft will hopefully address some other concerns. The Linebacking corps could use an influx of talent so I wouldn’t mind UCLA LB Anthony Barr. But I’ve also praying for a 1st round corner for the last 7 years so I would love to see Justin Gilbert as well. And like I mentioned earlier I wouldn’t mind drafting another receiver at 10. Maybe someone like Mike Evans if he’s still around, but if they end up trading up for Sammy Watkins I think thats a mistake, because they can’t afford to give up draft picks that they need to use to add talent other places.

(Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports)

(Kirby Lee – USA Today Sports)

Either way though, this is a competitive team. At its ceiling it could probably win 11 games but that would definitely require a slip from either Chicago or Green Bay within the division. There’s probably no chance that they win less than 8 games, but I think the team really needs to do whatever it takes to make it to the playoffs this year. You can’t continue to waste the greatest receiver of all time (shut up Jerry Rice). I know this team can’t win a Superbowl, but the core of Johnson, Stafford, Bush, and Suh should at least have won a playoff game by this point. We have a three year window to make some noise here so I’ll be polishing up the Honolulu Blue Goggles and preparing to go down with the ship.

Shiny New Toys: Same ol’ Lions


Last week was not so great for the Lions faithful. I, for one, had talked myself into a victory at Lambeau (the first in 20+ years no less) heading into the game. Detroit was coming in with a high powered offense in an early season game before the cold could shut down their passing attack and the Packers were stumbling out of the gates. They had already ended 1 ridiculous streak beating the Redskins on the road for the first time since 1935. And then we found out Calvin Johnson couldn’t play and everything got turned on its head, as Mr. Edwards has been so kind to demonstrate for us.

I really do think this Detroit team is good. The secondary continues to be suspect but as long as Louis Delmas is healthy, he and Chris Houston usually manage to patch together only moderately disastrous pass coverage. The D Line remains a strength and even improved surprisingly enough with the addition of Ziggy Ansah. And the Linebacking corps has looked especially good this year with the anchor of Stephen Tulloch and the pick-6 machine that is DeAndre Levy.


(Detroit’s pass defense has made significant improvements since their showing in 2009-2012, depicted here. [Note: artistic liberties may have been taken])

And the offense has been one of the most entertaining, efficient spectacles ever to take the field in Detroit. However, that statement is significantly more suspect than I would like. First off, I personally live with an ever present fear that Matt Stafford will return to his early career, paper mache status at any moment and go down with a season ending knee injury. But now, in addition to this we have learned that the offense does not only fall apart with the loss of our quarterback (as most offenses do) but also with the loss of our shiny new running back. Reggie Bush’s absence from the Arizona game turned Detroit’s offense from Greatest Show on Turf to Oh Lord Carson Palmer is about to Beat Us I Would Rather Watch One of those Depressing Sarah McLaughlan Abused Animals Commercials Than This.

But I digress. Back to last Sunday’s Packers game. The one where Detroit was about to make a statement and take  commanding control of the division with back to back wins vs. Chicago and Green Bay. Didn’t happen. Calvin Johnson did not play, and, as has been the case for his entire career, no Calvin Johnson means nearly no chance of victory in any game ever. The Defense hung with Green Bay for pretty much the entire game save for one beastly play from Randall Cobb (#BBN) and a suspect 4th quarter. But the offense couldn’t do anything. I guess I like Ryan Broyles in spite of the fact that we drafted him in the 2nd round already injured  (*cough* Darius Slay… *cough* why are we making this a habit?? *cough*) and Pat Edwards is a great story working his way up from the practice team. And honestly I think its hilarious in the best way possible and really like the fact that Kris Durham is now a key component to the Detroit offense simply because he roomed with Stafford at Georgia. However, with Nate Burleson possibly out for the year due to pizza related injuries Detroit’s receiver corps is looking slightly sub par.



“Hey guys… brb… I gotta go take care of something”



“My bad Nate we still cool? Nate?”

This Detroit team (if healthy) will still make the playoffs. And can probably pull some serious upsets if the offense (pending health) is clicking. But I almost feel worse about this team than I did a couple years ago when we were only worried about Stafford’s health. I suddenly love watching the Lions. Its not just something I do on Sundays because I hate myself. I look forward to it all week because this offense is just so much fun to watch. And its great to watch DeAndre Levy pickoff tipped balls and to see that D Line abuse opposing quarterbacks the way I abuse a dozen Krispee Kreme donuts on any given Wednesday afternoon. But suddenly I have to watch every game fearing that rogue pizza slices will spell the downfall of one of our myriad must have players. Its supposed to be fun finally having something to root for but I live in constant fear that its all going to break down on me the same way those donuts usually do around 5:30PM that same Wednesday.



So if Calvin is a scratch against Cleveland, or one of Reggie or Matt goes down, and we lose to the only NFL franchise that may be more depressing than the Detroit Lions… well… I can hear it now… “In the aaaaaarms oooooof an Aaaangel…” SING IT SARAH!!!! REPLACE THE PAIN WITH OTHER PAIN!!!!


I am Icarus.

So I was texting my buddy Mike, a Dolphins fan, during last Sunday’s Lions – Cardinals game absolutely raving about Reggie Bush and the wonders he is going to work for the 2013 Detroit Lions. Mike’s response was simply to laugh maniacally at my jubilation and tell me to be patient and wait for Reggie to break my heart. Five plays later Reggie is out and I promptly crash to earth, by avian aspirations shattered.

I am a Detroit Lions fan. Now, this is problematic enough in its own right, but this season, although it is quite early, may prove to be especially problematic for me. This season for Detroit seems to hinge entirely on Reggie Bush’s health. When Detroit first cut Jahvid Best and signed Reggie I was none too pleased. Best needed to be cut for his own health and he wasn’t helping the team so that didn’t worry me at all, but I didn’t see Reggie as a sterling model of health and a viable option to replace him. He hadn’t helped the Dolphins to win in his time there and he hasn’t exactly been a perfect model of health during his time in the NFL (but then again I suppose no RBs are).

And then I was swayed by a semi-glowing endorsement by Grantland’s Bill Barnweel, a litany of fantasy gurus singing Bush’s praises, and even some strong encouragement from friends of mine who are Dolphins fans and have watched Reggie the last few years in a feature back role. I began to think back to Bush’s college days at USC and how my dad and I had started the 2005 Lions season hoping we could end up with Bush in DET (yes, we had already given up hope on picking outside the top 10) and decided everything could work out alright.

We had the new feature running back I had always wanted who could really open up our offense.

We had kept the D Line strong by picking Ziggy Ansah with the #4 overall pick (please disregard the fact that Ziggy had only played 1 season of football IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE coming out of BYU)

we had locked up our star quarterback with a new 3 year, $50million extension (please disregard the fact that until last season Mr. Stafford was a running joke at which dubbed up “Matthew Stafford if-he-stays-healthy” When  you spend the entirety of you NFL fandom life watching the likes of Charlie Batch, Joey Harrington, Mike McMahon, Jon Kitna, Dante Culpepper [post knee blowout], and Dan Orlovsky [who is not aware the stepping out the back of the endzone gives points to the other team] you are willing to roll the dice with a guy whose best attribute [and I’m not trying to be factious] is that he can throw a football as hard and as fast as Calvin Johnson runs.




(Dan no! Please stop!)

We had taken steps toward improving a badly undermanned secondary by drafting Darius Slay out of Mississippi State in the 2nd round [please disregard the fact that Slay was coming off a knee injury that required surgery just after the Lions had drafted him.]

All this, whether predictably or not, came apart last Sunday against the Cardinals when Bush went down. Losing Bush hurt both the running game and the passing game. I love Joique Bell, but he just doesn’t have the same hands as bush (few running backs do) and we Stafford sent one of his patented bail out rockets Bell’s way he dropped them much more often than not.

The Lions have an insanely scary offense when Bush is on the field. But without him they take a serious step back and are certainly not a playoff team.

Moreover, the defense looked anything but great on Sunday. Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald could not be happier to have one another in their respective lives and our secondary felt it. I’ve really softened my hatred of Chris Houston over his time in Detroit and Louis Delmas is great when he’s healthy but Detroit still lacks an elite pass defense. This can be duct taped together when the D Line is running on all cylinders, but Rashard Mendenhall looked pretty good running against them in spots and for whatever reason they weren’t their normal dominant selves (only sacking Carson 1 time all game in spite of the fact that Arizona’s best offensive lineman broke his leg before the season even started).

So in short, I’m reaching desperately for the panic button at this exact moment in time. Bush’s injury doesn’t look serious and the Lions can obviously recover. I still think they’re a playoff caliber team, but losing that Arizona game right before a murderous 3 game stretch (Washington at home at 0-2 might need this win more than the Lions do, Chicago is Detroit’s biggest competition for 2nd place in the NFC North and a Wildcard spot, and at Green Bay for week 5… I mean… the Lions haven’t won in Green Bay since 1991… so yeah). The D Line will improve (as much as I hated the pick at the time, Schwartz is obviously a wizard with linemen cuz Ziggy has looked really good in limited snaps over 2 games), the secondary is still healthy and improving this early in the season (and better than last year. Hurt or not I think Darius Slay + Chris Houston and Delmas is a serviceable core), and the Detroit Linebacking corps has looked great (DeAndre Levy with 2 picks returned for TDs on the year [even though the one against MN was wiped off the books] and I continue to love the steal of Stephen Tulloch in 2011) so the defense will shape up. And your offense can never really go wrong when it revolves around Calvin Johnson (Even with Hill at QB I wouldn’t be worried). Now if Bush can bounce back and stay healthy and Patty Edwards, and Ryan Broyles step up to become legitimate contributors this is easily a 10-6 team. But things are not clearly as sturdy as they seemed and I for one will probably have to do my best of staying out of the sun.