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 Mike O'Hara on the Draft 
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Post Mike O'Hara on the Draft
Thursday, April 21, 2005

Analysis

Lions' No. 1 need is defense

Someone who can help them will be available when they make No. 10 pick.

By Mike O'Hara The Detroit News


ALLEN PARK -- Reality is closing in with a rush on the NFL draft. It is time for teams to put aside fantasy picks and narrow their focus on what is real and practical.

For the Lions, the bull's-eye at the top of their draft board should be defense.

When they make the 10th pick in the first round Saturday, the Lions will be best served to choose from a half-dozen defensive players. Based on most draft projections, Derrick Johnson, an outside linebacker from Texas with playmaking skills, will be the No. 1 prospect available.

Six of the top eight picks Saturday are projected to be offensive players. That means quality defenders will be on the board for the Lions.

Two cornerbacks are worthy of going in the top 10 -- Miami's Antrel Rolle and West Virginia's Adam "Pacman" Jones.

The linemen and linebackers have varied skills. Troy State's Demarcus Ware and Maryland's Shawne Merriman are combination linebacker / defensive ends, depending on the scheme. Louisiana State's Marcus Spears and Wisconsin's Erasmus James are more traditional ends.

If the Lions want to trade down, they might snare Georgia's David Pollack, a multitalented end who won't last much longer than the middle of the first round.

"There's going to be a good football player," Lions president Matt Millen said Wednesday. "There's going to be about five or six guys there.

"I still go back to keeping it open for everything -- down or up. That doesn't scare me.

"There's a couple 'tweeners there. You're going to have to find a spot for some of those guys, how you use them. They're all going to do well. You've just got to know what you're getting and make it work."

Throughout the predraft scouting process, Millen and coach Steve Mariucci have considered every possibility -- a wide receiver to go with Charles Rogers and Roy Williams, a right tackle for the offensive line and even a quarterback, if somehow they might get in position to take Utah's Alex Smith.

All of those choices would add glitz, but the Lions need sizzle on defense. The second half of the 2004 season showed they were short of playmakers and drive-stoppers.

The defense gave up winning touchdowns in the second half of three games and in overtime of a fourth loss.

The Lions were not without problems on offense. But the best way to get over the hump and challenge for a playoff spot and first place in the NFC North is to strengthen the defense.

Millen made an important upgrade by signing free-agent strong safety Kenoy Kennedy. Linebacker Boss Bailey is expected to return in 2005 after missing all of last season because of a knee injury. Bailey started every game in 2003 and was a playmaker with outstanding speed.

There is already youth and speed among the linebackers. Bailey and weak-side starter James Davis were drafted in 2003. Teddy Lehman, the strong-side starter last year, and Alex Lewis, a pass-defense specialist, were rookies last season. Earl Holmes, Wali Rainer and Donte Curry are the veterans.

But there is room for Johnson.

"It would be crowded," Millen said. "It would be a nice problem to have. I'm looking to get as many playmakers as I can. I think Derrick Johnson is a playmaker."

The Lions have three true playmakers -- tackle Shaun Rogers; right end James Hall, who had a career-high 11.5 sacks in 2004; and cornerback Dre' Bly, who has made the Pro Bowl in his two seasons as a Lion.

But the defense struggled to make big stops last year. It did not rank high in any of important drive-stopping categories: third-down efficiency (28th), sacks per play (20th), percentage of passes intercepted (23rd) and fumble recoveries (tied for 23rd).

There were these glaring examples of second-half breakdowns in the last eight games of 2004:

? In the Lions' 23-17 loss to Jacksonville, the Jaguars went 76 yards in 11 plays to win on the first possession in overtime. Backup quarterback David Garrard converted a third-and-6, second-and-15 and third-and-10 for first downs and passed for the winning touchdown on third-and-8.

? The next week at Minnesota, the Lions had a 19-7 lead midway through the third quarter. The Vikings scored fourth-quarter touchdowns on consecutive drives that totaled 30 plays and 140 yards to win, 22-19.

? It was more of the same in Week 13 at Green Bay -- a 16-13 loss on a last-second field goal. The Lions had a 13-0 halftime lead, but Packers quarterback Brett Favre worked in a howling wind in the second half to produce three field goals and a touchdown pass. The Lions gave up 16 first downs in the second half.

? In Week 15, at home against the Vikings, the Lions gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns on consecutive drives of 68 and 83 yards in a 28-27 loss.

Not so incidentally, the Lions' offense did not score a touchdown in three of those games.

Three opposing defenses helped win games.


------------------>

Personally, I agree, we need to go defense on Saturday. Particularly given that we signed Kevin Johnson yesterday.

What do you think... Offense or Defense?


April 21st, 2005, 5:38 am
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Sry Mike...our offence was no gem at times either. In fact because we did so many 3 and outs it put unecessary pressure on our D. Put that in your pipe and smoke MR.Oharararara :lol:

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April 21st, 2005, 7:26 am
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theAlphaMale wrote:
Sry Mike...our offence was no gem at times either. In fact because we did so many 3 and outs it put unecessary pressure on our D. Put that in your pipe and smoke MR.Oharararara :lol:



I'm sorry Alpha, I have to disagree. Look at KC. A top tier defense would serve us better than a top tier offense. We gave up so many drive saving plays, and a great offense isn't going to help.

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April 21st, 2005, 7:58 am
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I am not saying let's ignore the defense all together. People often site a team but that is anecdotal evidence. I could say that NE has a balanced team and that is what we should emulate. Or Tampa was a top tier defensive team and disappeared some how. I think for years our offense has been a liability to our defense who at times have been our only offense. We had too many games over the last few years where 50% of the points the lions put on the board was from our defense or our kicker.

What is the big joke about our team? Well that we cannot buy a 3rd down and until we resolve that issue we will lose. Whether its personal, coaching, our QB, or the curse of Bobby Lane I don't know but here is my creed 'defence wins championships (but they can't spend the entire game on the field)'.

There were only 8 teams with less points for then us last season and 14 teams with more points against than us.

5 on the list of those with more points vs were playoff teams including

Indy
GB
Min
Seattle
St.louis

The stellar teams that scored less than us were

Miami
Cleveland
Washington
Dallas
Chicago
Arizona
San Fran

The only obvious trend of either groups is that in the "can't score" group they were all last place in their division or 2nd to last to a team that was in the "can't score" group.

I know there are many other aspects to offense and defense but IMO you must build a balanced team. It seems to me we have invested lots of picks in offense but more free agent $$$ on defense with the signing of KK, Dre Bly, Fernando Bryant, Resigning of Shaun Rogers, Earl Holmes, Brock Marion, Dan Wilkenson, etc...

You cannot ignore either side of the ball but we seem to forget that we have gone out and signed the top rated CBs, safety, and DTs in bringing in Big Daddy when we did and resigning Big Baby. We had a hole at safety and we filled with the best available player this offseason.


Teams that win the Super Bowl are balanced. Yes you can say Tampa Bay, Batlimore, 86'Bears were defence but more often than not the teams have very good offense and very good defense.

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Last edited by theAlphaMale on April 21st, 2005, 9:23 am, edited 2 times in total.



April 21st, 2005, 9:16 am
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You sign the player most likely to help the TEAM, not the offense or defense in particular. At the ten spot, it will most likely be a defender if the Lions stay put. It can't be held to being a defensive or offensive prospect. Both sides of the ball need improvement in certain areas. We still need a tight end. Marcus Pollard simply won't cut it for the entire year. With the Jets trading away their pick to Oakland last night, there's a chance Heath Miller could fall to us in round two. I would also like to see the Lions possibly think about next year and maybe go after a pure left tackle sometime on day one. If Backus goes, there's nobody left in the ranks to fill the position and a free agent LOT will cost a bundle. They can pick one up this year and give the lad a year of seasoning before putting him in as a starter in 2006. Defensively, the arguments have been made about getting DJ. We also need another DT, a speed pass rusher DE, and I wouldn't mind seeing a young SS to backup Kennedy. Walker sucks and Fox, although re-signed last night, just isn't all that good.

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April 21st, 2005, 9:18 am
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Those are all great stats Alpha, but remember one thing......your offense can't score points while your defense is on the field for long periods of time not able to stop the opposition. Part of the Lions not scoring points has to do with the defense giving up LONG drives to opposing teams.

It's a catch 22 really. Your offense goes three and out, the defense comes in with little rest, gives up a long drive and the offense gets cold. The offense goes out and has a short drive, the defense comes back with little rest and gives up a long drive.............

We need playmakers on both sides. As I said in my previous post, you take the best player for the TEAM, not for a particular unit or position.

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April 21st, 2005, 9:23 am
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I totally agree Mike but from what I saw last season the defensive lapses happened in the 4th quarter. Typically they played well and that was without Bailey, Bryant, terrible safeties and even Bly at times. We had fill-ins that did pretty good for 3 quarters but after so many short drives by our offensive our defensive collapsed in large part I feel to playing way too much.

Out defense should be improved through FA, and some depth through the draft. They were about middle of the pack last year in the league where our offense was bottom 3rd.

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April 21st, 2005, 9:28 am
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Good points Mike.

IMO we need:

DE - need medium (Rd 1)
DT - need high (Rd 4)
SS - need medium
WR - need low (could get a UDFA)
QB - need medium (Rd 6)
TE - need high (Rd 2)
OT - need high (Rd 3)

What does everyone think as far as what positions we should take in each Rd?


April 21st, 2005, 9:33 am
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This is CRAZY TALK!!!!!!

Let me use Mike Oharas cases against himself...

Ohara wrote:
? In the Lions' 23-17 loss to Jacksonville, the Jaguars went 76 yards in 11 plays to win on the first possession in overtime. Backup quarterback David Garrard converted a third-and-6, second-and-15 and third-and-10 for first downs and passed for the winning touchdown on third-and-8.


Scoring:
Eddie Drummond 55 yd punt return
Jason Hanson 21 yd FG
Eddie Drummond 83 yd punt return

That was our 17 points!!!!!!!! No offense from our offense :?

we had 14% on 3rd downs

Ohara wrote:
? The next week at Minnesota, the Lions had a 19-7 lead midway through the third quarter. The Vikings scored fourth-quarter touchdowns on consecutive drives that totaled 30 plays and 140 yards to win, 22-19.


Scoring:
Eddie Drummond 92 yd KO return
Jason Hanson 48 yd FG (48 yds!!!!!)
Corey Redding safty on Onterrio Smith

12 of our 19 points were not by our Offense

Lion have 36% 3rd downs :?

Ohara wrote:
? It was more of the same in Week 13 at Green Bay -- a 16-13 loss on a last-second field goal. The Lions had a 13-0 halftime lead, but Packers quarterback Brett Favre worked in a howling wind in the second half to produce three field goals and a touchdown pass. The Lions gave up 16 first downs in the second half.


Jason Hanson kicks two FGs for 6 of our miserable 13 points.

*Also GB only scored FGs vs us in this game. Good defense IMO

Lions 31% 3rd downs [-(

:shock: Point is that our offense generated a total of 14 points in these 3 games that he is using to make a case against our defense :roll: That is weak. How the hell is defense going to help you there???

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Last edited by theAlphaMale on April 21st, 2005, 9:50 am, edited 1 time in total.



April 21st, 2005, 9:43 am
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I totally agree with you Alpha...but you have in keep in mind the personnel playing in those games. Kircus, Hakim, injured Roy, Alexander. KJ did a bunch of the offense himself. With a healthy CRog and Roy, they should be MUCH better. But either way, deep needs to be greatly improved, which it definatly has started to.


April 21st, 2005, 9:48 am
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We had major injuries on both sides of the ball but the defense still at least came close to doing its job. Unless we improve offense our defense will still suffer. If we can convert 3rd downs at a better than 30% and rely less on Drummond and Hansen then our defense will seem worlds better. It is my opinion of course but if we can get our offense to more of a 15th in the NFL than our defense will look more like a top ten D with the personel we have.

We have by many reports one of the top defensive lines, an all pro corner, and now a studd safety. With bailey we have to have one of the faster linbacking cores as well.

For your team to win on as a defensive team you have to have the BEST defense in the league. Look at those teams now? Batlimore and Tampa got raped by free agency and were terrible the following years. But teams with balance stayed better longer.

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April 21st, 2005, 10:00 am
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conversion you forgot one guy- Joey Harrington who played in all those games. 22, 23, 16 and 28 is not the sign of a poor defense. I agree with alpha here 100%. When you watch these games you see the offense go into these terrible spells where they cant get anything done and even worse, it doesnt look like they are trying to get much done. Part of it is Joey and the other part is some of the play calling but I side with Mooch bc he is not happy with Joey's play. Joey shows up at press conferences and says things like " i have not made a bad decision in 6 weeks."
The defense holds its own but eventually too many opportunities for good QBs like Culpepper and Favre results in scores. I dont mind seeing an addition on defense in the 1st round but O'Hara's article was a completely mindless product...


April 21st, 2005, 3:13 pm
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Guys,

This is an awesome debate and I'm enjoying it immensely. Everyone is making some great points.

The reason I went with defense as our first round pick was for several reasons.

1) First and foremost, I don't believe that there is a quality offensive player that will hit us at the # 10 spot. The draft is thin as it is and we really have few 'holes' on the roster. Personaly I think Braylon is the best player in the draft and we won't get him. Mike Williams likely won't fall to us and if he did I have concerns that we would want him as a Slot/TE and he won't go for it. As for the RB's - we don't need them. It's to high a pick for OT's and as for the QB's we likely won't get them either; however, if Alex Smith is there at # 10 I'll bet anything Millen takes him.

That really leaves us with defense.

And I think that DJ is the best defensive player on the board.

2) I blame a lot of our offensive problems of last year on; a) to many injuries, b) a very youthful offense. I really think that maturity and experience will contribute to a vast improvement this year. And that maturity and experience extents to the coaching staff as well. This was a very young (and very busted up) offense last year.

3) I want a defense that gets the opposition off the field as quickly as our offense got off the field last year. I want a defense that dominates our opponents to the point of their embarrassment. I could argue that the reason our defense is tired is because they can't finish people off. Teams stop us on 3rd and 8 - Why can't we? Long John Silver said it best: "Dead dogs don't bite".

Given all of that, I have to go with the big "D".


April 21st, 2005, 5:53 pm
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