Leland Stein III

Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Lions’

Has priecemealed Lions overachieved in 2016?

In sports column on January 2, 2017 at 11:01 pm

 

matthew-stafford

Matthew Stafford hopes to point Lions to playoff win Sunday. Dan Graschuck photo.

By Leland Stein III

DETROIT – To my observation, this has been a noteworthy job Lions coach Jim Caldwell has implemented or jerry-rigged to turn this hodgepodge collage of athletes into a NFL playoff team.

After starting the season 1-3, many gloated and exclaimed, “See, I told you this team was garbage!!!”

Then out of nowhere, Caldwell cajoled, prodded, provoked and stirred this team to overcome injuries to its best players (Darius Slay, Travis Swanson, DeAndre Levy, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Ezekiel Ansah). His task was made even tougher because of an acknowledged thin roster, which new General Manager, Bob Quinn, by the way has done an excellent job of building some depth; however, the task is nowhere near completed.

me at USA basketball

Leland Stein III.

Before taking my seat in the Lions press area at Ford Field, and contemplating the two game losing streak Detroit was carrying as a burden, my gut told me this would be a very hard game for the home team to capture.

Unfortunately, my internal pre-game prognostication came true as the undermanned Lions could not muster up enough defense or offense to outlast their seemingly never-ending antagonist the Green Bay Packers and super evasive quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.

He is one of the best I have ever seen at eluding a pass rush. The way Rodgers slides and glides up in the pocket, to the right of the pocket, to the left of the pocket, while always looking downfield before scooting, many times untouched, for a valuable first down . . . is simply uncanny.

Lion’s defensive back, Nevin Lawson told me in the post-game locker room: “Man we were man-upping, but Rodgers ability to keep plays alive and scramble made it difficult to keep contact with their receivers. That is not an excuse, because we are paid to do that no matter the situation.”

The win was especially gut-wrenching for long suffering Lions’ faithful who would have witness its team corral its first division title in 23 years. Instead, the 31-24 loss gave Green Bay (10-7) a home playoff game versus the New York Giants.

Meanwhile the 9-7 Lions, thanks to a New York Giants win over Washington, get a wildcard and will have to travel to the Great Northwest and contest the Seattle Seahawks.

Caldwell said in his press conference: “It’s a new season. We are not going to talk about Green Bay anymore, it’s over, it’s a new season. We’re talking about Seattle, very tough team to play out there. We’ve got to get ready to go. You can’t linger on this stuff.”

He continued: “All I can tell you is, number one, it’s very difficult to get into the playoffs. Number two, there’s only 12 teams working tomorrow morning and we’re one of those 12. If you’re in, you’ve got a chance.”

What bothered me somewhat was I heard some guys saying the Lions inability to win any of its last three games was an epic collapse. What?

Anyone who feels that way about this 2016 version really does not know anything about football. Any retort like that smacks at this reality TV generation of demean, humiliate, degrade, or lower the efforts of others.

At the beginning of this narrative I asked the question: “Has the Lions overachieved?”

Well, any real analysis of the 2016 Lions’ personnel, coupled with the injuries, one would have to say, unquestionably, this team has overachieved!!!

Every talking head around gladly proclaimed before the start of the 2016 season that this Lions team did not have the personnel to compete at a high level with most putting the team’s chances between 7-9 to 5-11.

Caldwell did a masterful job, as he did in 2015, of righting the ship and molding a bunch of no name role players into a cohesive unit that was more gritty than talented. How else can I explain the Lions winning 8 of 9 games after that horrible 1-3 start?

My analysis concerning why Detroit has made the NFL Playoffs starts with the Lions coaches, then Stafford and finally the players buying into Caldwell’s urgings and overachieving. The last three Lions’ games clearly show that the Giants, Cowboys and Packers have some pieces that the Lions cannot match! Especially at running back, with Abdullah, then Riddick and rookie Dewayne Washington all going down.

Zack Zenner has done an admirable job the last two games, but his inability to get to the edge or cut up then slide outside is not good enough for a run at Super Bowl glory. There is no doubt the offense would be more versatile with a healthy Abdullah or Riddick giving Stafford a speed receiver out the backfield that can pressure the edges.

The fact of the matter is Quinn needs to add linebackers, a stretch receiver and a speedy running back for this team to take the next step.

In spite of the disappointing three losses to end the season, this team has played over it head and present talent level. It has a game Sunday versus the Seahawks, but it will take a perfect game from Stafford to pull off the upset. The defense has been surprisingly stellar all season, but over the last three games against prime time opponents the patchwork linebacking core has been exposed by Ezekiel Elliott and Rodgers.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Back home, Jones impresses

In sports column on August 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Detroiter anchors Lion’s defense in win over Patriots

By Leland Stein III

The Detroit Lions’ defense was a question mark as the team began its preparations for the 2013 campaign. However, following its second preseason victory, a surprising 40-9 thumping of the lordly New England Patriots at Ford Field, hope again runs eternal for all the Lions faithful.

Detroit's Jason Jones at Lions press conference. – Dan Graschuck photo

Detroit’s Jason Jones at Lions press conference. – Dan Graschuck photo

With the Lions’ offense still sputtering, the defense took center stage against the Patriots, creating four crucial turnovers. Surprisingly, but happily, the linchpin of that effort was Detroiter Jason Jones.

Departed from the Lions defensive line were both starting defensive ends from the 2012 squad – Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. So, the concern about what would happen there was all too real.

Jones, a Southfield-Lathrup High and Eastern Michigan University alum, has stepped into the void and produced. Signed as a free agent, the 6-foot-5, 275 pounder, could become the pass rusher the Lions so desperately need.

After a stellar career at EMU, Jones was drafted in the second round (54th overall) in the 2008 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. Injuries kept him from being the best he could be, and, eventually he left the Titans and signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks for the 2012 season.

At Jones’ Lions signing press conference, he told reporters that lining up next to Pro-Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh should make both of them better.

Leland Stein

The Southfield product, now a six-year veteran said he was delighted to be back home playing in from of friends and family, with a chance to help make the Lions a competitive NFL entity.

“It’s going to benefit me a lot,” Jones said, about playing next to Suh. “All eyes are going to be on him with what he’s done and his track record in the league. It’s just my job to make some plays and play off him.”

Concurred Lions coach Jim Schwartz: “Jones has got great length, he weighs over 280 pounds, which is a big difference from a lot of defensive ends that we’ve had here. However, he’s not sacrificing speed or agility because of it. There is speed and agility that you have to have to be a defensive end and he has that.

“He also gives us a frame with super long arms. He should be able to help us in the pass rush game and should affect throws even if he doesn’t win in pass rush because of his length and be able to knock passes down.”

Everything Schwartz said manifested itself in the New England game. Jones was a beast, playing the position like a Pro-Bowler.

Jones led the way in the Lions impressive four-turnover outing against a potential Super Bowl team like the Patriots. After the game he noted: “That’s what we know we can do. We try to get the ball out in practice every day. Coming into this game we knew we had a pretty good challenge ahead of us. New England has a pretty good offense and they use a lot of things out there. We wanted to come out, set the tone and play aggressive out there, especially playing at home. We always want to be aggressive and we got four turnovers which is great for our defense.”

Yeah it was great to see the Lions beat New England, but the preseason really means nothing in the race to the NFL Playoffs. Still, any coach or fan or player will tell you they want to see their team win every time they line up.

On the momentum from the win carrying over, Jones said: “We don’t want to look back to two years ago and we don’t want to look too far in the future but two years ago we played here and had a very similar outcome and we went to the playoffs. Every year we put on pads we think we know mentally and physically that we are able to get to the playoffs but it’s about going out there and doing it. I definitely think this year with the chemistry of the team we will be able to go out there and perform.”

With a three-year contract in hand, Jones said he wants to be more than a football player and do all that he can to uplift the Detroit area. He has a good track record while in Tennessee, being a big part of the Coaches Association of the Brotherhood (C.A.O.T.B.) organization.

He noted that the group’s purpose was through charitable and educational events, they could help address the youth by mentoring, instructional and sports programs, while working with the juvenile detention systems as well.

Jones is a much need asset to the Lions and the Detroit Metro area, too.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com or Twitter @LelandSteinIII