Today is a glorious day for the Detroit Lions and their loyal fans! Matt Millen has done nothing but make a bad team worse. The Lions haven’t been even remotely decent since the greatest of all time – Barry Sanders – left after the 1998 season. In Millen’s tenure, the Lions never reached the playoffs, compiled an abysmal 31-81 record, finished last in the division all but 2 years, and never won more than 6 games before last season. He was absolutely atrocious as a GM and CEO and the Lions let things get too bad before letting him go.
Just look at the moves he’s made in just the last few years: Trade Shaun Rogers, let Dre Bly and Boss Bailey leave, sign Jon Kitna as a starter, pick up Rudi Johnson, release Kevin Jones, fail to let J.T. O’Sullivan play and then let him go to San Francisco and become a starter.
So now the Lions have Jon Kitna at QB and Rudi Johnson at running back. Um, did Millen notice that these were guys even the Bengals thought were trash? In what world do you let Kevin Jones go and get Rudi? The only thing Millen has done right in his tenure is draft Calvin Johnson. I actually support the signing of Rudi, BUT, and this is a big BUT, only as a supportive back to grind out goal line carries and short yardage situations. You still need a premier back. Did he ever even consider picking up Michael Turner? I never heard of any interest the Lions had in him.
No QB, no real solution to the running back situation, no offensive line, good wide receivers (but no one to get them the ball), no D-line, no LB’s, no secondary. So now what?
First thing’s first, perfect the zone blocking scheme for pass protection and for running the football. I mean absolutely hammer this into the O-line until it’s instinct. Solid offensive line play allows the offense a chance to succeed. Without blocking, there’s no use in even stepping onto the field. With zone blocking, it’s all about assignment instead of talent. If everyone works together, the system works for itself. Denver hasn’t had a steady running back for years and no matter who they put in the backfield, they succeed. Between Smith and Johnson, I think there is enough there to have a successful running game. Next, put the leash on Kitna. He threw 20 interceptions last year and fumbled 4 times to tally the most turnovers in the league. He needs to be a game manager and minimize turnovers. The ball should stay in the backs’ hands because the defense is too bad to allow on the field too much. If you want to get crazy with play calling then do it with screens, reverses, end arounds, and flea flickers. Don’t do it by letting Kitna throw the ball all over the field. Keep the other offense off the field and you have a shot at keeping them under 20 points and a shot at winning. The only other time you allow Kitna to let the ball fly is when Calvin or Roy are clearly on a mismatch. And if Kitna can’t keep the ball out of the other teams’ hands, then let Drew Stanton play. Kid has a big arm, good mobility, and a great head on his shoulders to be able to decide which weapon to use. Plus, he might as well get some experience if you’re not going to be winning. And no offense to Orlovsky, but I don’t think he’s the answer.
For the defense: I don’t even know where to start. I think you have to switch to a Cover 2, at least until the talent level on this side of the ball gets better. Keep teams from having a big play against you and getting up early, and you can’t possibly leave the corners out on an island against good receivers. The cushion the corners have to allow for will give the safeties a little longer to read the play and figure out run vs. pass which will help in run support. On the D-line, find one guy who can get penetration and let him fly. Whether it’s at the ball carrier or the QB, let him create havoc and adjust game plans to what he’s able to do. If you can get one guy in the backfield consistently, you can do so much more with your other front six. Try some zone blitzes to add to the confusion. Find creative ways to change the opposing QB’s look so he can’t find a rhythm. Hell, even switch to a 3-4 if need be to allow more speed and more flexibility in your blitz packages. Anything is worth a shot when you’re looking at being the worst defense in the NFL two seasons in a row.
There’s always a scheme and a way to win with the talent a team puts on the field. The Lions might as well start trying to mix it up or else they need to start looking at the best defensive players that will be available next April.
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