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Lions Questions

by Adam Benovic
Mar 01, 2014 12:22 PM EST



I’m going to be answering a few questions about the Lions here that I’ve received over the past week or so. I figure that they’re interesting enough things that people are curious, so here goes.

1. Do the Lions rebuild? What’s the state of their roster?
I don’t think that the Lions’ roster has the current talent to consistently match up to division titans Seattle and San Francisco. But that is for a couple of reasons. The Lions had a bad habit of developing players just to let them go. There has been a strain on continuity of depth. There just aren't that many quality depth players on the team, so if a player goes down, often times it is a huge drop-off in talent level.

One of the biggest examples of this was the linebacker position last year. Levy and Tulloch did very well, but our other OLB was Ashlee Palmer. While I love Palmer, he' s much more of a role player. The talent just wasn't there for him to be on the field all the time. With that said, the organization found ways to make him look good.

There was a price to that, though. Without confidence in their linebackers, last year's Lions staff was over-dependent upon the nickel, emphasizing the weakness at cornerback. There are plenty of young players there, but few that were ready to take advantage of being on the field most of the game.

2. Should the Lions resign Suh? Is he worth the big contract?
There is no doubt in my mind that Suh should be retained, and most likely for the price he will be asking. It is incredibly difficult to be game-changing at the DT position, yet he has managed to do so. Offensive lines plan around him heavily, looking at both his speed and athleticism.

Most importantly, though, Suh's improved every year. In the 2013-14 season, fans saw him take a huge leap, reeling in his aggression and actually becoming a dominant run-stopper.

Not only is he dominant in all phases of the game, but he has begun to step up as a vocal leader, one who will help more than hinder the coaching transition.

Suh's in Detroit to stay.

3. What do the Lions need to take that next step and become a competitor?
It is definitely possible that this is the Lions' year, but I'm not sold. The attitude that the Lions went into the coaching search with will be prevalent during the draft and free agency, though. They want to win now, and they'll get pieces that they feel will do that for them.

The Lions are currently estimated to have about $10 million to spend this year, and that's without restructuring Suh's contract. The Lions will most likely use that money to look for some mid-grade value free agents. No one is going to break the bank, and sometimes you just need those average players.

With that in mind, the high-caliber players that the Lions need can definitely be found in the draft. There are definite difference makers in receiver and linebacker with decent depth picks at many other positions.

Likely receiving a compensatory pick in around the 4th round, that may just be enough to cover a good portion of the depth needs that the team has.
Looking at the draft, I have a few targets in mind. While he will likely not fall to the Lions, Khalil Mack would be a game-changing player for the team. He has great football intelligence, excels at dropping into coverage, and can rush the passer as well. He is incredibly well-rounded and would be a huge upgrade to Ashlee Palmer from day one. This would begin to help fix the Lions’ issues with depth. Similar options would be CJ Mosley and Anthony Barr.
Calvin Pryor is another option for the Lions to look at in the first round. He would be replacing Delmas by bringing the same “guided missile” mentality, although he has far less injury concerns and from all evidence is a surer tackler. Add in with that that he was a vocal team leader, and I am sold. The one knock on Pryor is that the Lions recently shifted to a “defined” safety roster and he fits better as a strong safety, which the Lions already have in Glover Quinn. Haha Clinton-Dix is a solid free safety, although I am not sold on him at the 10th pick. If the Lions were to take him, I would like them to trade down a few spots first.
Obviously the Lions will look at Mike Evans, Sammy Watkins and other receivers as well. That position, though, has the most potential to wait. The depth is better there than at Detroit’s other needs. At the same time, do you really pass up someone you know will excel in your system for someone lower on your big board?

4. What does the new coaching staff bring to the Lions?
Believe it or not, I actually really like the coaching changes that the Lions have done. While uninspiring, Caldwell picked a great staff. It is consensus around the league that Teryl Austin and Joe Lombardi are on the fast track to become head coaches in their own right and are seen as some of the greatest minds in their fields.

On top of that, I believe in leading by example. Schwartz, while enthusiastic, often let his passion get ahold of him. He had trouble reigning himself in sometimes, and that reflected in his players. The same has never been the case for a Caldwell crew. He is calm and calculated and immensely respected by the majority of players who play for him. I can definitely see this being a positive move.

I also believe that Caldwell will incredibly improve the team with his "best player plays" mentality. Schwartz struggled with this, especially with our defensive backs. He was a very veteran-centric player. He went with the product that he knew, but not necessarily the one that was best for the team. A key example of this was that LaAdrian Waddle showed early on last preseason that he was the best tackle behind Reiff. As we all know, Jason Fox and then Corey Hilliard got the job. So, properly evaluating our talent may be that first key step to moving on.

5. Should the Lions draft Michael Sam?
No, I would not draft Michael Sam. At least for the Lions. While he definitely had a good college career, there's one thing in particular that bothers me about him in the Lions system. He's not good as a defensive end. He's far more suited to be a 3-4 linebacker, and, honestly, he's just not what the team needs as a result. If he fit our scheme and we could have him in, say, the 5th round, then maybe. But otherwise, I'll pass.