Cleat Geeks

The Roar: Packers and Lions Set For Round One in Motown

Game Information:

The Green Bay Packers (2-1-1) will visit the Detroit Lions (1-3) @ Ford Field this Sunday at 1 PM EST.

You can catch the action on FOX and through Detroit’s radio waves on WJR-AM 760.

Briefing:

Last Sunday, the Lions dropped on the road in Dallas while the Packers took care of Buffalo at home.

Heading into the match-up with Dallas, Detroit’s defense knew that they were going to have to stall Ezekiel Elliott somehow, someway if they were going to have success.

Well, they didn’t come close.

Green Bay doesn’t have a back like Elliott, but that still doesn’t change the fact that the run defense in the Motor City hasn’t been good.

In fact, prior to last Sunday, Detroit ranked 32nd in the league on stopping the ground attack.

Image result for detroit lions vs green bay packers

For Green Bay, Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams will get most of the workload.

Jones ran 11 times for 65 yards with a touchdown as Williams had the same amount of carries for 27 yards in their victory over the Bills.

Detroit is much better at defending the ball through the air.

Despite a lingering knee injury to Aaron Rodgers, he’s going to test the Lions’ secondary, especially with Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison.

Rodgers targeted Adams and Allison a combined total of 25 times a week ago.

After allowing 83 points in their first three games, the Packers found a way to blank the Bills.

This Sunday, things will be more difficult for Green Bay’s defense.

Matthew Stafford and his offense are averaging 390.5 yards per game, good for 11th best in the league.

On average, Detroit is putting 23.5 points on the board as Green Bay places 23 up per game.

Injury Report:

Four players have already been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Detroit, three Lions and one Packer.

Randall Cobb (hamstring) is out for Green Bay.

Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), T.J. Lang (concussion) and Michael Roberts (knee) are out for Detroit.

Questionable for the Packers’ offense: WR Davante Adams (calf), WR Geronimo Allison (concussion), G Justin McCray (shoulder) and G Lucas Patrick (back).

For Green Bay’s defense: CB Jaire Alexander (groin), CB Breshaud Breeland (hamstring), S Kentrell Brice (ankle) and S Jermaine Whitehead (back).

Detroit’s only questionable player on offense is WR Marvin Jones Jr. (ankle).

Questionable Lions on defense: DB Quandre Diggs (hand), DL Da’Shawn Hand (ankle), LB Eli Harold (Not Injury Related), CB Nevin Lawson (illness), DB Tracy Walker (ankle) and S Tavon Wilson (back).

Prediction:

Needing a win, Detroit tops Green Bay, 27-24.

The Roar: Lions Visit Cowboys in “Jerry World”

Game Information:

The Detroit Lions (1-2) are making the trip to Arlington to face the Dallas Cowboys (1-2) @ AT&T Stadium.

You can catch this one on FOX and through Detroit’s radio waves on WJR-AM 760 @1 PM EST.

Briefing:

Last Sunday was good for the Lions, but not so good for the Cowboys.

Detroit took down Tom Brady and the Patriots on Sunday Night Football after Dallas fell to the Seattle Seahawks on the road.

Slow starts have been the early storylines for both teams.

Image result for Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott

Photo by; Detroit Free Press

Matthew Stafford and his offense got things going last Sunday, where as Dak Prescott and Co. are still trying to get the wheels moving.

A once dominant offensive line in Dallas has turned into a weak link this season.

Coming into the season, PFF (Pro Football Focus) ranked Dallas’ offensive line as the second best in the league. Through three games, Prescott has been sacked 11 times.

The 25-year-old quarterback has yet to throw for 200 yards this campaign.

Ezekiel Elliott on the other hand, is rumbling away.

Elliott rushed for 127 yards last week on 16 carries and is tied for most rushing yards this season.

Detroit’s run defense isn’t quite where they would like it. Coming into this match-up, the Lions sit at the bottom of the list when slowing opposing run games.

Expect the Cowboys to run, run and run some more.

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Photo by; USA Today

The Lions got their run game going against the Patriots as Kerryon Johnson rushed for 101 yards.

Johnson became the first Lion to rush for 100+ yards since Thanksgiving Day in 2013.

When handing off to a 100+ yard rusher, Stafford’s game is more complete.

In fact, in now his 10th season, Stafford has only had eight 100+ yard rushing efforts from a back, including Johnson’s from last Sunday.

In those games, Stafford and the Lions are 7-1.

Injury Report:

Sitting out for the third consecutive week for Detroit will be defensive end Ziggy Ansah (shoulder).

Offensively, the Lions will be without tight end Michael Roberts (knee).

Wide receiver Golden Tate (hip) and Jarrad Davis (knee) are listed as questionable.

For Dallas, their defensive unit will be less fierce as linebacker Sean Lee (hamstring) and defensive tackle Maliek Collins (knee) have been ruled out.

Offensively, Cowboys’ offensive line continues to miss center Travis Frederick (illness).

Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (groin) and wide receiver Cole Beasley (ankle) are questionable.

Prediction:

Elliott rushes for two touchdowns, but Lions win, 33-27.

The Roar: Lions Shock Patriots in Primetime, 26-10.

After a not so good first two weeks, the Lions were staring Tom Brady and the Patriots in the face, not supposed to win.

They wrote their own script and won.

Detroit put a three-spot on the board in their opening drive, proceeded to put on 10 points in the second quarter while holding New England to a field goal in the first half.

Both teams split the third quarter with a touchdown apiece, but that was all the Patriots would get. Matt Prater added a pair of field goals in the fourth to seal the deal.

Final score:

Patriots 10, Lions 26

Breakdown:

Detroit’s defense set the tone early as they forced Tom Brady and Co. to go three-and-out.

Brady went 14-for-26 for 133 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Rob Gronkowski was New England’s leading receiver as he grabbed four of Brady’s passes for 51 yards. Sony Michel carried the ball 14 times for 50 yards.

Matthew Stafford and his offense were much more productive.

Stafford completed 27-of-36 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

Kerryon Johnson had 16 carries for 101 yards, becoming Detroit’s first running back to reach 100-yards on the ground in a game since Reggie Bush did so on Thanksgiving Day in 2013.

LeGarrette Blount also had 16 attempts and gained 48 yards with his efforts.

Both Marvin Jones and Golden Tate picked up 69 yards. Tate caught six passes and Jones caught four, one being a touchdown. Kenny Golladay also grabbed six from Stafford for 53 yards and a score.

Prater drilled all four of his attempted field goals with a long of 38 yards.

Sam Martin punted away just twice.

Defensively, the Lions had things locked down in their den. Detroit held New England to just 12 first downs, seven of which were done on the ground with four through the air and one that came on a flag.

New England’s third down efficiency finished at 22% (2-for-9).

Eli Harold led the Lions with three tackles and two sacks. Darius Slay came away with an interception in the fourth quarter.

In the end, the Patriots collected a total of 209 yards of offense, compared to the 414 yards that the Lions put together.

In his post-game press conference, Lions Head Coach Matt Patricia hit the nail on the head. “We work really hard to get better every day. I fully believe in that blue-collar work ethic,” said Patricia. ”You know, grind it out, work hard during the work. Shoot, that’s what this city does, right? Doesn’t everyone in this city go out and work hard every single day? So, why are we any different? That’s what we’re going to do every single day, try to work hard and try to get better.”

For four quarters of play, the Lions got after it and left nothing in the tank, just like Detroit as a whole.

The Roar: Lions Look to Rebound in San Francisco

Game Information:

The Detroit Lions (0-1) are on the West Coast to pay a visit to the San Francisco 49ers (0-1) @ Levi’s Stadium. You can catch the action on Fox 2 or on WJR-AM 760 in Motown.

Kickoff is set for 4:05 PM ET.

Briefing:

Monday Night Football was disastrous in Detroit, at least for one side. Matt Patricia’s Lions certainly didn’t start the season on the right foot.

The 49ers didn’t win either, but they didn’t walk away from the stadium that night with their tails between their legs.

Matthew Stafford is coming off the worst performance of his career as he completed 27-of-46 passes for 286 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

Not to mention, No. 9’s signs and signals were being picked all night long.

That cannot happen.

With it being a shortened week, for Detroit’s sake, hopefully offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Stafford have things figured out.

On San Francisco’s side of the field, they gave the Vikings a run last Sunday in Minnesota, but Jimmy Garoppolo wasn’t all that great in the losing effort.

The 26-year-old quarterback was 15-of-33 for 261 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions.

He’ll have to clean it up a bit as well.

Though, it will be interesting because Detroit’s defense allowed a rookie in Sam Darnold to have a rather strong debut in their own building. Garoppolo, who is familiar with Patricia’s defensive ways from their days in New England together, has more experience than Darnold.

Getting to him in the backfield would help, but that’s been a struggle for the Lions in recent times.

It might not get any easier this time around.

You can make the case that San Francisco is stronger with protection up front than the New York Jets, but they’re battling a few injuries.

Potentially evening that out, if Ziggy Ansah can’t dress due to his shoulder injury, it could be a low pressure afternoon for Garoppolo.

Garoppolo won’t have Marquise Goodwin to throw to as he’s out with a quad injury.

Last Sunday, he connected with tight end George Kittle on five occasions. You can expect a similar nine targets in his direction.

Detroit’s offense will be without T.J. Lang up front and could potentially be without LeGarrette Blount as well. Both guys are nursing back issues.

At least five of San Francisco’s defensive players missed time at practice this week due to ailing injuries. Only two are listed as questionable for the matchup, safety Adrian Colbert and linebacker Malcom Smith.

Prediction:

Matthew Stafford puts together a solid day, but the Lions fall short, 27-24. Robbie Gould with a 49-yard field goal to win it in the waning moments.

The Roar: Lions Bullied by Jets at Home

20 seconds into the game, the Lions had a lead and Ford Field was rockin’.

Quandre Diggs’ pick-six delivered by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold had the city feeling good about its chances on Monday Night Football.

Then, SOL happened.

Matthew Stafford threw four interceptions, Matt Prater missed a 44-yard attempt, Detroit’s running backs combined for 39 yards on the ground while Ziggy Ansah and T.J. Lang left with injuries.

Final score: Jets 48, Lions 17

Detroit’s first offensive drive looked far too familiar as they went three-and-out.

The Jets responded quickly as they flew down the field and found the end zone on the fifth play of their drive.

On third down on the pursuing drive, Matthew Stafford threw his first of four interceptions.

New York’s kicker Jason Myers chipped in a 35-yarder to make it 10-7 to start the second quarter.

Shortly after, Robby Anderson reeled in a pass from Darnold and took it to the house for a 41-yard touchdown.

Prater brought Detroit back within a score before halftime as he notched a 21-yard field goal after a 10-play drive.

The Lions were the receiving team to open up the second half.

Golden Tate tied things up with a 24-yard touchdown, concluding a four-play, 75-yard drive.

It was a game, until it wasn’t.

It wasn’t long before the Jets stormed down the field, left and right.

Nothing was going right for Detroit.

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In fact, when the opposing team knows just about everything you’re about to do, chances are, things aren’t going to go your way.

“We were calling out their plays as he was getting up to the line”, said Darron Lee, New York’s 23-year-old linebacker. “We knew his signals, we knew everything.”

After a shotty preseason, last night’s performance was an absolute nightmare that came true in the worst way possible, in front of a national audience.

Week 1, an absolute kick to the groin.

 

The Roar: Lions Host Jets for Monday Night Football

Game Information: 

The New York Jets visit the Detroit Lions for Monday Night Football @ Ford Field in Detroit, MI. You can catch the action on ESPN or on WJR-AM 760 in the Motor City.

Kickoff is set for 7:10 PM ET.

Briefing:

After cringe worthy preseasons out of the Jets and Lions which led to 1-3 records, both football teams are chomping at the bit to get off to a good start in the regular season.

Matt Patricia is entering his first season as head coach of the Lions and will be presenting a different running back combination this fall with LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson. Blount signed a one-year deal with Detroit back in March, about a month before the Lions drafted the 21-year-old Johnson 43rd overall out of Auburn University.

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That duo is presumably the best one Detroit has had in the backfield in a while and should be expected to be an aid against New York’s defense tonight.

The Jets are rolling with the 21-year-old quarterback out of the University of Southern California, Sam Darnold, who was drafted third overall this past April. Darnold is set to become the youngest quarterback to start a Week 1 game during the Super Bowl era.

Prediction: 

Crowd plays a factor, Darius Slay and Glover Quin with interceptions as Lions defend the den, win 28-17.

 

 

Detroit Lions 2018 Defensive Preview

Football season is upon us! Every team is full of hope, and everyone is hearing all the wonderful reports from camp. There’s always a lot of news to follow along with, so in this article we’ll just focus on the Detroit Lions defense. The Lions made a lot of changes this off-season. The first, and most obvious change being the one at Head Coach. Detroit decided to part ways with Jim Caldwell after 4 seasons and a 36-28 record, as well as two playoff appearances. While that’s not necessarily a bad record, especially by Detroit’s standards, the team has been more talented than that record suggests. Caldwell was obviously replaced by former New England Patriots Defensive Coordinator, Matt Patricia. This signing was quite popular among most fans, as it brought hope that the defense can be returned to the heights they reached in 2014, now that they’re under a more defensive minded coach. Patricia made his goals for this defensive very clear with his free agent signings. Patricia signed 3 LBs in a 10 day period, to fit the defense to Patricia’s scheme to hopefully return it to the form of 2014 as previously mentioned. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Detroit defense, what changes Patricia has made, and what we should expect the defense to look like in the 2018 season.

 We’ll start with the biggest change, the coaching change, and the large impact it’ll have on the defense. For the last four years Detroit has been an offensive minded team that relied very heavily on the passing game. The switch to Matt Patricia should make the team a little more defensive, which would obviously take some of the pressure off of the offense, and the passing game specifically. The biggest difference you’ll notice with Patricia at the helm should be the defensive scheme. Detroit for years has played a very basic 4-3 scheme. In 2018, Detroit is expected to still base their defense off a 4-3. However, Patricia has called a 3-4 defense in the past and I expect to see some 3-4 this year. We should expect the 4-3, and 3-4 to both be mixed into the scheme, as well as a lot of hybrid and sub packages. In the past Patricia has shown a willingness to cater his defensive strategy to the strengths of the players at his disposal. That trend should continue in Detroit.

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Photo by; 97.1 The Ticket

 

When you consider the scheme Patricia is likely to implement, it brings some more sense to the signings of Christian Jones and Devon Kennard. I expect to see Kennard and Jones rotate in and out a lot throughout the season in various different roles. Reports from the Lions joint-practice with the New York Giants have placed Kennard in the SAM role, playing a key role on run stopping downs, and helping on tight end coverage in the extra safety sets that Patricia leans towards. When we look at the skill set possessed by Christian Jones, he should fit perfectly in Patricia’s, “bend, don’t break,” style of defense. Jones isn’t an elite run stopper, or extremely skilled in pass coverage, but what he does provide is reliability in tackling, which is something Jarrad Davis didn’t afford the Lions in 2017. In 63 career games, Jones has yet to record an interception, and only defended 8 passes. He does have the ability to make a large impact on the game despite this. One of the more notable performances of Jones’ career was against Carolina last season. Jones played a large role in the Bears limiting Christian McCaffery to just 14 touches for 42 yards. He recorded 9 tackles on the day, and seemed to be on top of McCaffery as soon as he touched the ball every time. You could look for Jones to attempt to repeat this performance when Detroit matches up against Carolina in week 11. The final key linebacker signing made by Patricia was Jonathon Freeny. Freeny was an easy signing to make as he’s worked with Patricia in the past, and is therefore already familiar with the scheme. Listed as a DE by some sources, Freeny should be most often deployed as an ILB in this system. He should be a serviceable backup to 2nd year LB Jarrad Davis. In addition to backing up Davis, with his past experience as a DE, Freeny could be used in rotation with the other DEs who are more established on the team such as Ziggy Ansah, who’s playing on the franchise tag, Anthony Zettel, who had an impressive sophomore campaign last year recording 6.5 sacks, and Kerry Hyder Jr., who missed all of last season with an achilles injury. The other DE of note on the Lions roster is 4th round draft pick Da’Shawn Hand. On the first release of the depth chart, Hand was listed in the “other” category as far as DE was concerned. I expect this to change quickly however, as Hand seemed to really impress on his 29 snaps in the first preseason game against Oakland, earning praise from Patricia in his post game press conference. Hand does have his doubters, but the man whose opinion really matters appears to have faith in what hes seen thus far. As far as the interior lineman go, the main man in Detroit this year will be A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson showed some good potential during the 2017 season, and is looking like the clear cut first option on the interior DLine. The other notable names to watch out for on that interior this season are Sylvester Williams, Cornelius Washington, and recent singing Ricky Jean Francois, who has worked well in Patricias scheme in the past. Detroit’s defense is finally looking strong, and is deep overall.

Image result for Glover Quin, and Darius Slay

Photo by; Pride of Detroit

 Beyond the front line, and linebackers as already mentioned, Detroit will also feature a secondary including the likes of Glover Quin, and Darius Slay. Last season Darius Slay was tied for the NFL lead with 8 INTs. Darius Slay also posted the 5th lowest passer rating allowed by a CB in a single season, in NFL history as reported by PFF. Across the field from Slay we should expect to see Nevin Lawson once again, with the newly acquired DeShawn Shead likely taking the slot corner role. The Lions will also expect to see improvement from second year CB Teez Tabor. Tabor only featured in 10 games last year, but Detroit will expect to see some improvement from Tabor this year, and in turn he should see the field more often. As far as safety is concerned, the aforementioned Glover Quin will be a staple of this defense as he has been for the last 4 seasons, during which time he’s recorded 16 interceptions, and forced 6 fumbles. Returning in the backfield with Quin will be Miles Killebrew, and Tavon Wilson. As well as being joined by Quandre Diggs, who is expected to be deployed by Patricia in the safety role after he saw some time there last season. Charles Washington who saw very sporadic time on the field last season has also been getting some reps in camp, and at times has even looked to be ahead of Killebrew, who has been rumored to be in danger of being cut. The only relevant addition to the safety group is 3rd round draft pick Tracy Walker. A lot of people were really surprised by this selection, and I’ve even seen some people say they had a 5th round grade on the ULL prospect. Walker appeared on the inaugural depth chart as 4th FS. Seeing as he was a 3rd round selection, and Patricia seemed very excited to have gotten him, I would be surprised if we didn’t see him get a chance of some sort during the 2018 season.

 When you look at the defense as a whole, you can begin to see how this defense can fit the Matt Patricia mold. They have plenty of versatility and depth on the EDGE, and at LB, which caters very nicely to Patricia running many different sub packages throughout games and the season. In addition to this, the secondary should prove itself to be very reliable with Quin and Slay working together to limit the oppositions passing attack. When you consider all of these things, it’s not difficult to imagine that this team could return to being the powerful force that they were in 2014. This defense could be one that you don’t want to mess with in 2018. Offenses beware.

NFL Dynasty Surefire Sleeper

Everybody knows, or should know that Wide Receivers are, or should be, the top pick in dynasty. They last much longer in the league than Running Backs. This year, guys like Odell Beckham Jr. and Deandre Hopkins are the top options at 1.01. However, they likely won’t be the 1.01 in 2020. But there are loads of young wide receivers out there everyone thinks could be the next big thing. Cameron Meredith and Corey Davis are two examples of this. Both of these players have great upside, and have the ability to be a great receiver, but neither of them are the guys who will actually be the next star though. The one who will make the jump is Kenny Golladay. Now, anybody who knows me, or simply follows me on twitter, knows that I have overwhelming love for Golladay. There is a reason for this however, besides my blinding Detroit Lions fandom. Buy low on him now like I have, before it’s too late and he’s helping another owner take your money year after year.

Image result for kenny golladay college

Photo by; Detroit Free Press

Kenny Golladay was a college football stud. During his sophomore season at North Dakota, he led the team with 69 catches. These 69 catches turned into 884 yards and 8 touchdowns. He also added a 64 yard punt return for a touchdown. The impressive stats of that 2013 season earned Golladay a bit of D1 attention, which eventually resulted in a transfer to Northern Illinois. After sitting out the 2014 season due to the NCAA transfer rules, he proceeded to light up the MAC conference. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Kenny caught 160 passes for over 2,200 yards, and 18 receiving touchdowns. He also carried the ball 29 times for an average of 7.1 yards per carry, and 3 rushing touchdowns on top of the impressive receiving stats. At the NFL Combine, Kenny Golladay measured at 6 foot 3.75 inches, and weighed in at 218 pounds. Despite being such a big player, he ran a 4.50 40 yard dash, and his hands measured at an impressive 9.75 inches, which is the same size that Calvin Johnson measured when he participated in the combine. These eye popping collegiate statistics, and impressive combine measurements, inspired the Lions to spend a third round draft pick in the 2017 NFL draft on him.

Being a tall receiver, and being drafted by the Lions, fans such as myself inevitably compared Kenny Golladay to the legend that is Calvin Johnson immediately. It didn’t help to calm the comparisons that Golladay was explosive in his first game. In Detroit’s season opener against Arizona, he caught 4 passes on 7 targets for 69 yards and two 4th quarter touchdowns to give the Lions the lead, and the win late in the game. Golladay went on to have several other explosive games in the 2017 season. However, he never could quite break the 100 yard mark. He may have had a chance to had he not missed 5 games due to a hamstring injury in the middle of the season. Injury put aside, when all was said and done, through 11 games Golladay caught 28 of his 48 targets, putting him at about a 58.3% catch rate. To put that in perspective, his teammate Golden Tate led the NFL with a 76.7% catch rate, and Larry Fitzgerald finished 15th with a 67.7% catch rate. Those 28 catches were turned into 477 yards, which works out to just over 17 yards per catch, and 3 touchdowns. Now those numbers may not seem huge, but they’re not bad for a rookie receiver who was arguably the fourth or fifth option on his team and missed 5 games. Golladay also consistently showed that he was a deep threat. He caught 6 passes of 30+ yards, and looked explosive after the catch. He made some ridiculous grabs in tight coverage, showing some of that Calvin Johnson type ability. When you combine the solid numbers with how good he looks when you actually watch him play, you’ll have no doubt that Kenny Golladay really is the next big thing.

2018 NFL Drafting Needs; NFC North

Nothing beats a bit of draft speculation straight after one of the best Superbowls of all time, right? I’ll be going through the draft needs of every NFL franchise, and now I’m 75% done with this, the NFC North edition!

Minnesota Vikings – CB, DT, C

The ‘nearly-men’ of the NFL last season, following a death-defying, last-second touchdown, and then a soul-destroying defeat a week later to the eventual Champions; the Vikings must be feeling like they’re very close to making it to the big game, and possibly even winning it. Dalvin Cook will hope to be ready in time to start week one, money to spend on a quarterback and only Joe Berger and Tom Johnson considered urgent contract situations, the future is bright in Minnesota.

Potential picks:

30 – Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa

2017 was an insane year for Jackson, with a ridiculous playmaking rate, allowing a lowly 41% completion rate when defending the pass. Elite instinctive player with good height and arm length. He’s drawn to the ball rather than the man with fantastic handling skills, which figures given his history as a receiver. Loves the attention that comes with the big plays but works hard at the same time in order to improve. There is however, a huge concern for me. He’s started 14 games. What’s to say 2017 isn’t an outlier. If you look at the stats, which will be below this paragraph, it has to be considered his absolute ceiling. An experienced quarterback will be able to manipulate him into a route misread. Tackling isn’t a strength either making Josh Jackson a low floor, high ceiling prospect but very alluring based on upside.

2017 stats – 13 games; 48 combined tackles (0.5 for loss); 18 passes deflected; 1 forced fumble; 8 interceptions (2 for TDs); 1 kick blocked

62 – BJ Hill, DT, NC State

Athletic guy who plays mostly inside. Good burst and anticipation. Uses his instincts well and is able to notice pre-snap movement and adjust accordingly. Stamina is above-average so BJ Hill may be able to play more snaps than most within a DL rotation. Solid tackle production in his college career so far. Has shown a tendency to get caught out by double-teams. He’ll need to work on his body control and balance on contact. More strength will be required at the point of attack in order to make it at the next level.

2017 stats – 13 games; 57 combined tackles (5.5 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 1 forced fumble; 3 sacks; 1 blocked kick

94 – Austin Corbett, C, Nevada

An intelligent and strong player; Corbett plays with good awareness and instincts, combined with technical ability. Only played at tackle in college so will have to adapt in order to play center. Leg drive isn’t the strongest and his allows defenders through too often due to poor hand placement. This may be another reason to bring him in as a center. I highly doubt he’ll be an NFL tackle or even guard, but the Vikings could sure use him in the middle.

Detroit Lions – RB, DT, LB

I can’t be the only person anticipating a busy off-season in Detroit? I’m also highly intrigued to see how highly-coveted HC Matt Patricia does in his new role – a role he fully deserves. At the time of writing, They have Travis Swanson, Darren Fells, Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow, Tavon Wilson and Nevin Lawson out of contract, as well as several other areas of need. It looks like Frank Gore may sign, and between us, my bold prediction is that Gary Barnidge makes a return to the NFL at tight end.

Potential picks:

20 – Sony Michel, RB, Georgia

One of my favourite prospects in this year’s draft, Sony Michel is the better of the two highly-promising running backs coming out of Georgia. He’s decisive and has the intelligence to make decisions quickly, avoiding taking unnecessary risks and finding the most efficient path. Huge home-run potential. His ability to burst through linebackers quickly gives him a huge advantage and his vision will allow him to get extra yardage regularly. He also happens to be a very competent blocker as well which will always go down well with NFL coaches. He may need to work on his catching technique – he hasn’t had any real issues with drops but could catch the ball more cleanly, especially under NFL level pressure.

2017 stats – 14 games; 1,227 yards on 156 touches (7.87 YPC); 16 TDs

96 yards and 1 TD on 9 receptions

51 – Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan

Now, before I start…yes, I am aware that before ANY of the prophecy below can come true, Maurice Hurst will need to be medically cleared. For the purposes of my article, I am assuming that Detroit luck out and get a first round talent at 51 overall because of the fear in relation to the heart irregularities which came out of the combine. Hurst has good initial quickness and aggression. He manages to find a way to sneak through the blockers and toward the quarterback or ball. His speed is accompanied by good footwork and this allows him to adjust his positioning and angles well. He’s a little small compared to other defensive linemen, at college and NFL level and so will have to close the gap on stronger blockers to avoid trouble. He would definitely be more effective in a 4-3 defence, but let’s just say Matt Patricia knows how to run a good defence.

2017 stats – 13 games; 61 combined tackles (14.5 for loss); 2 passes deflected; 5 sacks; 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked kick

82 – Shaquem Griffen, LB, Central Florida

My new favourite linebacker? Who wasn’t entirely awestruck with Shaquem’s combine performance? Incredible. Matt Patricia will love his character and the fact he is capable. Good athleticism, great intelligence and clearly, the ability to adapt. He’s a punishing hitter and disruptive in several ways across the field. Will be a very good fantasy football player as he fills up the box score. Good technique. He’ll need coaching to improve his tackling technique as he can go in a little high and this may allow tackles to be broken. He will be somewhat limited by his physical limitation (for those who don’t know, he doesn’t have a left hand) but I think he is fully deserving of a place on an NFL roster.

2017 stats – 13 games; 74 combined tackles (13.5 for loss); 3 passes deflected; 7 sacks; 1 interception;2 forced fumbles; 1 fumble return (for a 20 yard TD

Green Bay Packers – CB, WR, DE

In 2017, Packers fans had to endure the majority of the season without Aaron Rodgers. From 2018, they will have to watch their team sans Jordy Nelson. They have signed Jimmy Graham who will certainly provide a red-zone threat; and generally they don’t have too many contracts to extend, with Jahri Evans, Davon House and Morgan Burnett the only guys out of contract. It remains to be seen whether the Packers will look to build for the future or go ‘win now’, but the below picks will help them achieve either.

Potential picks:

14 – Denzel Ward, CB, Ohio State

Elite athletic ability, with the patience and technique to make him an instant starter in the NFL. True ‘lockdown’ corner. In fact, over the last two years, he has allowed a completed pass less than one-third of the time he is the targeted cornerback. Excellent disruptive ability and can keep up with the receiver in most situations. Reminds me a lot of Chris Harris at Denver, so that is the level we’re dealing with here. His build is a bit smaller than average and visually at least, he appears small in coverage against bigger receivers. He would immediately start as a slot cornerback with a view to moving him outside after some NFL experience and coaching, but a solid pre-season could see him go outside straight away.

2017 stats – 13 games; 37 combined tackles (2 for loss); 15 passes deflected; 2 interceptions; 2 blocked kicks

45 – DJ Moore, WR, Maryland

Size, speed, and a good teammate. These are three ringing endorsements from coaching staff for whom DJ Moore played at Maryland. He was the go-to guy there, using his quick feet and acceleration to great effect. He can be trusted by a quarterback to make plays. Lethal on screen plays and took on punt return duties in 2017. He will need some coaching to ensure he’s as competitive as a route runner as he is after the catch as he fails to gain enough separation at times. On 50-50 balls he loses more often than he wins. I think he has it in him to really focus once drafted, work on the areas his coaches ask him too and confidently play his play into the hearts of the Green Bay fans.

2017 stats – 12 games; 80 receptions for 1,033 yards and 8 TDs;

61 rushing yards and 1 TD on 5 touches (12.2 YPC);

15 punt returns for 153 yards

76 – Rasheem Green, DE, USC

It may be optimistic to think Rasheem Green will; still be available at this point but you never know. Green is tall and once he bulks up, will have a very intimidating frame to work with. Explosive bursts at point of attack with violent, aggressive tendencies against the blockers initial contact. His overall strength and body control needs work, but this is normal when going for early draft eligibility. Can be slow to find the ball on occasion. Needs to learn how to trick his opponent as he is easy to read at times. With the right coaching, Green will be a top defensive end in the NFL, but patience may be required initially.

2017 stats – 14 games; 43 combined tackles (12.5 for loss); 4 passes deflected; 10 sacks; 1 forced fumble

Chicago Bears – CB, WR, G

Definite signs of improvement already for Chicago. Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Taylor Gabriel are significant upgrades on Kendall Wright, Dion Sims and Kevin White. They have an ever-improving, young defence as well as a solid coaching setup. Mitchell Trubisky should have much more fun out on the field in 2018, but let’s see what else the Bears could achieve via the draft…

Potential picks:

8 – Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/S, Alabama


Arguably the best defensive back in this year’s class. Eats, sleeps and breathes football. A big-game player with the utmost competitiveness, Minkah Fitzpatrick is a franchise player. Can play all over the secondary and even in nickel linebacker roles. Excellent blitzer, and home run ability if he makes an interception. Also elite playmaker on special teams. An NFL coaches dream. He’s not the finished article just yet, but there really isn’t much to work on. Think Jamal Adams or Budda Baker.

2017 stats – 13 games; 60 combined tackles (8 for loss); 1.5 sacks; 8 passes deflected; 1 interception; 1 forced fumble; 1 blocked kick

39 – Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

Chicago improved their offensive weapons on the outside in free agency; now they get their slot guy. Christian Kirk is well-built and strong. He has a fantastic work ethic and runs slant and whip routes excellently. Great hands and able to catch the passes which aren’t 100% accurate. Good after-catch ability which translates into punt/kickoff return skill. He isn’t the quickest but I think he fits well in a Nagy system as a pure slot guy.

2017 stats – 13 games; 71 receptions for 919 yards and 10 TDs;

31 rushing yards on 4 touches (7.75 YPC);

10 punt returns for 191 yards and a TD;

22 kickoff returns for 490 yards and a TD

105 – Will Clapp, C, LSU

Will Clapp is the right build for an NFL center and also has experience playing guard in college so if needed he could handle reps there in the NFL. He’s competent when it comes to blocking. Very intelligent and has good awareness of space particularly in pass protection. He may not start right away as he will need to work on his technique but eventually he could become a good addition to Trubisky’s protective unit.

 

 

 

*2017 stats from www.cfbstats.com

The Roar: Lions’ Sign 11 Free Agents Including Blount

It’s been a relatively busy first week of free agency for the Detroit Lions as they’ve signed or resigned a combination of 11 players, including LeGarrette Blount, who signed on the dotted line on Friday night.

Blount is coming off back-to-back Super Bowl championships and has been part of three of the last four championship teams. Two with the New England Patriots and one with the Philadelphia Eagles, who captured their title last month.

Detroit hasn’t had a running back drive for a 100-yard game since Reggie Bush accomplished the feat during the 2013 campaign. Last season, in a Week 4 match-up against the Los Angeles Chargers, Blount had 16 carries for 136 yards.

In eight seasons of work in the National Football League, Blount has ran for 100+ yards in 15 regular season games and two play-off games.

Blount’s services will be an improvement to Detroit’s running game that consists of Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Zach Zenner and Tion Green.

The run game isn’t solved, but the Lions took a step in the right direction on Friday night. You can expect more of the same from Detroit’s brass, especially with the draft rounding the corner.

Who Were The Other 10 Free Agents Signed?

The Lions addressed their defense first, signing a pair of linebackers — Christian Jones & Devon Kennard — and cornerback DeShawn Shead.

“I’ve obviously watched what he’s done in New England for a long time and always had admiration for the style of defense that he has and the type of players he develops and things like that, so I’m excited for the opportunity and I have a great first impression,” Kennard said. “Great guy, great energy and he has the right mentality so I’m excited.”

The Lions also added depth to their offensive line, signing unrestricted free agent guard Kenny Wiggins. Wiggins started all 16 games for the Los Angeles Chargers last season.

In addition to signing new players, the Lions also re-signed several of their own free agents. Check out the full list below:

  • Long snapper Don Muhlbach
  • Defensive end Kerry Hyder Jr.
  • Safety Tavon Wilson
  • Linebacker Nick Bellore
  • Cornerback Nevin Lawson
  • Quarterback Jake Rudock
  • Running back Zach Zenner

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