Thursday, May 24, 2012

Detroit Lions' Post-Draft Offseason Progress Report


Earlier this off-season I complied lists of the Lions biggest needs on defense and biggest needs on offense. Let's take a look at how they've addressed those needs so far:


Offense:

Receiver: Complete
The Lions took Oklahoma Sooner Ryan Broyles in the second round of the draft. While this may have seemed like a luxury pick to most fans it was a wise move on the Lions part as Burleson struggled last season. Burleson is still a solid receiver and a vocal team leader, but Broyles is the future. Also, imagine Young, Burleson, Broyles and Megatron lined up. It's going to be fun to watch. Patrick Edwards seems like the early favorite to land that fifth receiver spot, but I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Rashied Davis back in the mix.

Tackle: Complete
Riley Reiff out of Iowa is going to compete for a starting spot but may be relegated to swing tackle duties as Cherilus plays out the final year of his contract. The Lions also have Corey Hilliard, Jason Fox and Johnny Culbreath competing for a roster spot.

The Lions' best case scenario would be Fox or Culbreath showing they could be the right tackle of the future. If that happens the Lions will have someone to slide into the right tackle spot should they play Reiff this season at right tackle and then move him over to the left side in 2013. I don't expect Hilliard to make the 53 man roster.

Center: Incomplete
Raiola still has two years left in his contract so this isn't exactly an immediate need, but they need to address this position soon. They failed to add to this position in the draft but could still add someone when cuts start happening later in the summer.

Fullback: Complete
The Lions' front office released Will Heller and then re-signed him. They then signed former boxer James Bryant. Bryant's probably just a camp body, but could be a big surprise.

Halfback: Complete
Injuries are a huge concern here, but with LeShoure, Best, KSmith and Bell the Lions could have a beast of a backfield. A steady rotation will hopefully keep the injury bug away and quell the Lions third-and-short woes.

Defense:

Safety: Complete
The re-signing of Erik Coleman marks the Lions' third annual veteran-to-back-up-Spievey event. I imagine Spievey will be on a short leash, but maybe having a full off-season in his position will get him on track. Delmas has to stay on the field and Spievey has to be consistent this season to secure their spots on the team in the future as they are unrestricted and restricted free agents in 2013, respectively. The Lions also added Jonte Green in the draft who could shake out as a safety and brought in UDFA Alonzo Lawrence who has potential but is a long shot to make the final roster.

Cornerback: Complete
Aaron Berry has been running with the first team across from Chris Houston with Jacob Lacey manning the slot. This setup could have a similar look to last year or could be an upgrade. The Lions also drafted Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood who will have back up duties in their rookie seasons but are likely to see playing time at some point in the season due to injury (Houston missed two games last season, Berry missed six).

Defensive End: Complete
Lawrence Jackson is ready to take over for Kyle VandenBosch when it's time, he just has to stay healthy. The Lions drafted Oklahoma Sooner Ronnell Lewis who could take over for the currently franchised Cliff Avril if he departs in 2013. Willie Young has also played consistently well as a rotational pass rusher.

Linebacker: Complete
Levy, Tulloch and Durant will be back for the 2012 season. Levy will have to prove that he is a long-term solution at weakside backer this season or the Lions will let him walk. Levy would make for a decent trade chip right now, but I suspect the Lions will value continuity over possibility. The Lions would be wise to lock Durant up for a few more years, though they may not have the cap to make that move right away.

They also added Okalahoma Sooner Travis Lewis and Temple Owl Tahir Whitehead in the draft who will compete with 2011 draftee Doug Hogue and Ashlee Palmer for backup and special teams duties.

Defensive Tackle: Complete
The Lions didn't release Williams in their darkest hour and re-signed Fluellen bringing back the same personnel as the 2011 season. It will be interesting to see if Hill or Fairley push Williams for his spot in camp and if so how the Lions react to that situation. I expect Ronnell Lewis to take Fluellen's roster spot when final cuts happen.

Summary:

  • The Lions' have a successor for Jeff Backus. 
  • They still need to find depth behind Raiola. 
  • Lawrence Jackson is ready to replace KVB and Ronnell Lewis could do the same for Avril should he depart. 
  • Two potential starting caliber cornerbacks were added in the draft. 
  • A receiver who can also return kicks was added in Ryan Broyles.
  • The Lions now have depth with potential rather than aging veterans at most positions.    

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