Detroit Lions are 'two good pieces away' from contending: Here's why that's not crazy

Wholesale Nike NFL Jerseys From China Free Shipping Online
Post Reply
admin
Site Admin
Posts: 61
Joined: Fri Nov 01, 2019 6:32 am

Detroit Lions are 'two good pieces away' from contending: Here's why that's not crazy

Post by admin » Wed Feb 12, 2020 2:40 am

Dan Orlovsky has always been one of Matthew Stafford’s staunchest supporters, so it’s no surprise that the former Detroit Lions quarterback-turned-ESPN analyst doesn’t see the logic in his old team taking Tua Tagovailoa in the first round.

But Orlovsky’s reasoning, which has as much to do with the Lions’ proximity to contention as it does his friendship with Stafford, got me thinking about the offseason.

“You’re probably two really good players away from, all right, let’s have a conversation of being one of the better teams in the conference,” Orlovsky said during a chat on radio row at Super Bowl 54 last month. “I think they caught a lot of bad breaks last year, just keeping it real. So if they stay healthy, they’re two good pieces away from being in the conversation of being a good, good football team. A good, solid, you-can-win-every-game football team.”

I don’t know if that team means a legitimate Super Bowl contender or not.

The Lions, after all, could have won every game they played last season. They led in 14 of 16, blew fourth-quarter leads seven times and by Halloween were on the no-fly list to Miami.

But even taking “Super Bowl” out of the equation, the Lions being two players away seems … not quite accurate, but not completely far-fetched, either.

In the NFL, you are what your record says you are, and at 3-12-1 last season, the Lions were a bad team.

But from a pure talent perspective, they’re better than most of the other teams populating the top 10 of the draft, and it’s not a stretch to think they would have doubled their win total had Stafford not missed two months with fractured bones in his back.

That’s not playoff material, by any means. But it is reason to believe the Lions don’t have quite as big a jump to make to get there.

Offensively, the Lions should return 10 of 11 starters. Right guard Graham Glasgow will be a free agent in March and the Lions don’t seem to want to spend the money to bring him back.

The Lions aren’t great offensively. Too much of their success was concentrated on scripted early drives, and they struggled to move the ball at times with games on the line, even before Stafford got hurt.

But they have the potential to be an above-average offense with a healthy Stafford, with the underrated Kenny Golladay at wide receiver and with tight end T.J. Hockenson ready to take a bigger role in his second season, so long as the line doesn’t regress sans Glasgow.

The Lions will tinker with their offense. Maybe draft a starting guard. They need a young wide receiver to pair with Golladay in 2021. And they definitely have to address the backup quarterback spot.

Defensively, though, is where Orlovsky’s "two-players-away" theory comes in.

The Lions need pass-rush help in a bad way. They need a starting cornerback. They have questions at safety beyond Tracy Walker. Their vaunted defensive line was a big bust last season. And they lack speed in the linebacking crops.

Two players won’t fix all of those holes, and if Darius Slay is traded and Damon Harrison retires ... well, multiple two by 1,000.

But two players — one home run of a draft, really — would make a world of difference.

For all of the Tagovailoa smoke and south Florida rumoring about Stafford’s future in Detroit, the Lions are still likely to draft defense in Round 1.

In fact, I see one of two scenarios playing out in April: Either the Lions successfully convince the other NFL teams that Tagovailoa is in play, causing the Miami Dolphins to trade up to No. 2 and have Chase Young fall in the Lions' lap, or they swing a deal with the Dolphins themselves, drop to No. 5 and take maybe the same defensive player they would have gotten had they stayed at No. 3.

Whether that’s Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah — my pick for the Lions — Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown or Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, I don’t know. But if I make it to Las Vegas for the draft, I’m beelining to the nearest sportsbook to lay odds on one of those three becoming a Lion.

It's possible the Dolphins won't feel the pressure to deal up. They play poker, too, and should feel comfortable in knowing neither the Lions nor the Giants, owners of the No. 4 pick, will take a quarterback. But if Tagovailoa really is the apple of owner Stephen Ross’ eye, there’s no reason to risk losing him with the draft capital they have.

Birkett's mock draft: Lions stay put at No. 3, take defense

The Lions should net either Miami’s third first-round pick, No. 26 overall, or first second-rounder (No. 39) in a trade, which would leave them with three of the draft’s first 40 picks, just what they need to test Orlovsky’s premonition.

(I realize the Lions will enter free agency with $50 million or so in cap room, but every team in the NFL is loaded with cap space this year, and the Lions plan to use some of that money on Golladay. Early indications are that they’ll be more apt to spend on mid-level free agents than break the bank for a Trey Flowers type again.)

Teams that have nailed the draft in recent years have made a big jump to be playoff contenders, and while most of those teams were starting from a better spot than the Lions are now, that, more than anything, is the ticket to instant success.

In 2017, the New Orleans Saints drafted starting cornerback Marshon Lattimore with the 11th overall pick and traded up to take starting offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk at the end of Round 1. They got a starting safety (Marcus Williams) in Round 2, and got venture-capital rich with running back Alvin Kamara in Round 3.

After going 7-9 in 2016, the Saints won 11 games and the division in 2017 and have been a Super Bowl contender ever since.

In 2018, Ozzie Newsome left the Baltimore Ravens an even better parting gift in his last draft as GM. While his first pick, tight end Hayden Hurst, has been nothing to write home about, he drafted league MVP Lamar Jackson with his second first-rounder and found two more starters, tackle Orlando Brown and tight end Mark Andrews, on Day 2.

Last year, the San Francisco 49ers found the final pieces to their NFC championship team in the draft, nabbing defensive rookie of the year Nick Bosa with the second overall pick and wide receiver Deebo Samuel at No. 36.

The Lions have pick Nos. 3 and 35 right now, and even without a Dolphins deal have the chance to change the trajectory of their franchise in a similar way.

Taking Tagovailoa certainly would set them on a new course. But Orlovsky’s right: With general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia on the hot seat, one way another, the Lions are two players away from something new, too.

Post Reply