Lions on lookout for defenders, but scouts not forgetting about offense, either BY NICHOLAS J. COTSONIKA • FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER • February 21, 2008
The Lions need help on defense -- on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. They need starters. They need backups. They finished last in the NFL in average yards and points allowed last season.
"We do need young defensive players," coach Rod Marinelli said Tuesday.
But when the NFL scouting combine opens today at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, the Lions' brass won't concentrate on just one side of the ball.
"You never want to go out and just say, 'This is just going to be a heavy draft on defense,' " Marinelli said, "and then a really nice-looking offensive tackle is sitting there right in front of you. If that guy is an excellent player and we think he's got a chance to come in and maybe play early, then you have to take a shot at him."
The Lions have needs on offense, too -- running back, right tackle, tight end. They need to see what happens after the free-agent market opens Feb. 29 before they can zero in on the draft April 26-27. The Lions have the 15th pick.
But when it comes to the draft, the most important thing is just doing a better job overall. The Lions have had some big busts since Matt Millen became president in 2001 -- top-10 picks from quarterback Joey Harrington to wide receiver Mike Williams -- and haven't found enough gems in the later rounds.
"I think our offense is in pretty good shape," Marinelli said. "But if the right offensive player is sitting right in front of us, too, I think you've got to take that guy. That's how you have a tendency on that first day to miss."
Marinelli thinks the Lions have done a decent job in the first three rounds since he joined the Lions in 2006.
Some might argue with that. Safety Daniel Bullocks, running back Brian Calhoun, quarterback Drew Stanton and defensive lineman Ikaika Alama-Francis haven't contributed as much as hoped, battling injuries to various degrees.
But Marinelli likes their potential, along with that of safety Gerald Alexander. And look at his two first-round picks: Linebacker Ernie Sims was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, and wide receiver Calvin Johnson has superstar potential.
"Understand, you're going to miss on guys," Marinelli said. "But you've got to eliminate ... you've go to limit misses. The thing we've been able to do well or do better is, we're not missing in that first day.
"I've had such a strong belief, it's solid. You want this guy back in five years. You want to re-sign the guy. You've got to have a guy starting for you -- first-round pick, second-round picks that are solid. And then that second day, we've got to find guys that are making our team and then eventually are starters for us."
The Lions have struggled in the later rounds. Last season, cornerback A.J. Davis, a fourth-round pick, and linebacker Johnny Baldwin, a fifth-rounder, were gone almost immediately. Guard Manny Ramirez, a fourth-round pick, essentially redshirted. Cornerback Ramzee Robinson, the last pick in the draft, contributed mostly on special teams.
Marinelli has not changed his criteria for prospects. He wants fast, explosive players. He wants football character, guys who love the game and will do anything to play.
"It's the same things," Marinelli said. "You've just got to get better at it."
Marinelli has studied the Lions' draft performance, as he would a game performance, and tweaked his approach. He said the Lions got a jump start on the interview process at the Senior Bowl last month, talking to about 28 prospects in Mobile, Ala.
That allowed the Lions to get to the prospects earlier, before they had been well-schooled by agents, and helped the Lions get to know the prospects better.
"I really felt coming out of that I really knew that group of men that were there," Marinelli said. "I really felt good about that, with the interviews and the amount of film work we did. I think this is going to be a help going into the combine."
Fantasy Football: "Luck is where preparation meets opportunity"
Yeah, we have no RB, our O-line sucks, our QB can't avoid being hit and is 36 tears old, and we just fired the only reason our offense scored last season...but at least we replaced him with Colletto-who has failed at any OC job he's ever had.
we're not missing in that first day.
What???? We've landed a LB who makes some plays but isn't a game breaker and took a no-brainer WR who underperformed his potential. All our other first day picks were players who either didn't play or didn't contribute much to a team that blew. The Giants have done more with their second day picks last year than the Marinelli has with his first two day one drafts.
He wants football character, guys who love the game and will do anything to play.
This is the translation for players who don't have enough talent but might work themselves onto an NFL roster. Problem is he is taking these guys in the second round. See Akia Alma Francis or Cody. Coach Knucklehead so prises their love of the game that he takes these players over guys with talent.
He said the Lions got a jump start on the interview process at the Senior Bowl last month, talking to about 28 prospects in Mobile, Ala.
I guess that could show Knucklehead is learning since he declined to participate in his first year. I am alone or does Coach Knucklehead sound like a high school coach with his fawning over men who love football and have character?(whatever that means to a guy who befriends a coach who goes cruizing around wearing nothing but a beer, smile and an appetite.)
I think, therefore I am. I think fantasy, therefore I am unreal?
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