Rating the Lions: Top 5 Players

The cupboard isn't completely bare in Allen Park, but unless Matt Millen starts listening to Sheldon White and Steve Mariucci on personnel decisions it could be. Lions' insider Mike Fowler evaluates the Detroit Lions at the midpoint of the season. Who should stay, who should go, and what 5 players are worth building around. Find out now.

(DETROIT) -- The cupboard isn't completely bare in Allen Park, but unless Matt Millen starts listening to Sheldon White and Steve Mariucci on personnel decisions it could be.

Millen's poor decisions in the free agent market have hurt the team, but even worse, Detroit is now the second oldest team (17 of 40 players on the active roster are over 30) in the NFL.  Explain to me why that should be true?  If Detroit was on the verge of the Super Bowl, OK, but the Lions aren't even a playoff team.  Getting younger, faster players who have a track record of being productive should be a must, but Millen too many times goes for veteran players who are approaching the end of the line.

Look, we've spoken here over and over about Millen's rash decision to allow 25-year old linebacker Chris Claiborne (62 tackles, tied for 3rd in the NFC) to leave in free agency and how it set back the team's linebacking corps, so we'll leave that alone.  The point is, shouldn't the team's motto ought to be young, fast and productive?  Their philosophy should be to add players who are between 24-28 years old ideally and hope that you get a group of young guys growing up in the league together and gelling together.

Let's take a look at the core group of players who fit that criteria and who should be built around.

1. Dre' Bly (26) Bly is clearly the best player on a bad team.  He is a shut down corner who ought to be in the pro bowl this season.  No one has played his position better and with little help from the safeties behind him.  Bly has a five-year deal. Good move.
2. Boss Bailey (24) A better tackler than previously advertised his speed and cover ability is really coming to the fore now.  Bailey may not be a 100 tackle man this season, but after he'll been around the league this kid is going to be a force to be reckoned with.
3. Charles Rogers (22) He is going to be a pro bowl type player once he's gotten his legs under him and hits the weight room.  Rogers needs to get stronger and learn the NFL game when it comes to getting off the line of scrimmage.  Still with experience he'll be the next Herman Moore, in spades
4. Kalimba Edwards (23) Edwards was really slowed by the effects of a sports hernia and despite his bold prediction of 14 sacks for this year (he won't come close to that) he does possess that kind of ability.  Edwards possesses a rare combination of size and speed.  He admits he needs to get stronger but watch for Edwards to break out in the last half of this season.
5. Joey Harrington (25) Harrington isn't playing like one of the five best players on this team but he will.  Harrington is a real student of the game who puts in the hours to learn and eventually he will succeed.  Here's guessing that 2004 will be the season. Harrington moves to the middle of the pack among quarterbacks before breaking out in 2005.

Younger players like Terence Holt (23), Cory Redding (22), James Davis (24), Rod Babers (23), Scotty Anderson (23), Chris Cash (23) and Andre Goodman (25) should be given the benefit of the doubt over older players who may at present be slightly more productive.

For other players, it's clearly the end of the line and although they could hang on, why not move on an allow the younger players to develop:

1. Robert Porcher (34) - Edwards provided pressure and a spark at the end position normally occupied by Porcher.  Porcher doesn't have a sack eight games in, even when matched up against Lions castoff Aaron Gibson last week in Chicago.  It's over, but he'll be a natural in the front office starting as the community liaison.  He's just a classy guy who ought to be a Lion for life.
2. Corey Harris (34) Harris is a proud man and a warrior, a leader in the locker room, but the wheels are gone and it's time for a changing of the guard at safety for the Lions.
3. Ray Brown (40) - Another great player, perhaps a hall of famer, but the Lions need a younger more athletic player in that position.  Still, he's been a mentor to many of the younger players, particularly Stockar McDougle and would be a great offensive line coach.
4. Bill Schroeder (32) - This is the guy that was supposed to take over for Johnnie Morton?  Puhleeze! Schroeder makes too many mistakes, drops too many balls, short arms too many balls and makes too many excuses to be a valuable part of this football team.
5. Bracey Walker (33) Walker is a tough nosed, hard worker, but he's getting long in the tooth and it's time to make way for younger guys.

Other players over 30: Ty Detmer, Cory Schlesinger, Shawn Jefferson, Bradford Banta, Matt Joyce, Kelvin Pritchett, Dan Wilkinson, Earl Holmes, Doug Evans, Otis Smith, Brian Walker, Jason Hanson, John Jett.

Look, it doesn't take a so-called genius atop the franchise to make the right calls on which players fit into the West Coast offensive system and who can play  the Lions defensive scheme.  Detroit simply needs to develop a model of the type of players that it needs -- young, fast and productive -- and stick to it.  When it's time to fix a position, identify the best young players at the position and sign them.  Detroit doesn't need any more grey beads on their roster.  It's time to build around their core group of young players with more of the same.



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