Lion Defense's Mid-Season Report Card: They're Solid, but Could Soon be Treading Water.
I think it's safe to say that the 2004 Lion defense has exceeded the expectations of experts and fans alike. This group is the real reason that this team is still at the .500 mark. I have a sinking feeling though that unless Detroit's offense can start to pull their own weight, the Leo defense could collapse down the stretch as a result of too many three-and-outs from their teammates on the other side of the ball.
Defensive Line: Overall B
Shaun Rogers: A
Big Baby is an absolute force. "Hook ‘em Horns!" He's the best Lion defensive lineman since Doug English.
Dan Wilkinson: B-
Big Daddy remains one of the best free agent signings of the Matt Millen era, a solid veteran run stuffer who's tank is far from empty.
James Hall: B+
James is playing the best football of his career. His play right now reminds me of Robert Porcher during Porcher's breakout year of 1996.
Cory Redding: B-
He is the unsung hero of this line's overall development. Has played great against the run and continues to develop as a pass rusher.
Like Hall, is playing the best ball of his career right now. Twice this season (versus the Bears and the Falcons), he has come up with big pass rushes on the opponents' last possession to help seal Lion victories.
Kelvin Pritchett: C+
Doing well in a reserve role. His biggest contribution is coming in the lockeroom as a leader and mentor to the youngsters on defense.
Marcus Bell: B-
Has shown flashes of greatness. Should one day step into the starting-cleats of Big Daddy in the middle of the Lions' D-Line.
Kalimba Edwards: C-
Remains a major disappointment. Disappears for long stretches during games and has yet to develop any pass rushing moves to take advantage of his athletic ability.
Linebackers: Overall B-
Earl Holmes: B-
Team's leading tackler is a good run-plugger but lacks speed in coverage. Nevertheless, Earl is a true professional that brings leadership and solid play to a young and talented LB corps.
Teddy Lehman: C+
Rookie has played well at SLB after being thrown to the wolves after Boss Bailey's pre-season knee injury and should only get better as the season rolls on.
James Davis: B
He is a playmaker with a motor that doesn't quit. I sure wish Dick Jauron would turn him loose on the QB more often.
Alex Lewis: C+
Like Davis, Lewis has a knack for making plays. He, along with Davis, Lehman, and a soon to be returning Boss Bailey should give Detroit a lot of big plays from the LB corps for many years to come.
Secondary: Overall B-
Dre' Bly: B+
Despite missing most of the season with an injury, he still leads the team in interceptions. He is also fearless when it comes to run support. Bly is the best Detroit free-agent signing of the Millen era.
Fernando Bryant: B-
Has done a nice job versus the run and pass and should only become better now that Bly is back in the fold. Hey Coach Jauron, how about some more bump-and-run coverage for your two high-profile free agent CB's?
Brock Marion: C+
He'll never knock your socks off, but he is a solid performer who has done what is expected of him.
Bracey Walker: C+
Walker is good player who maximizes his abilities. His interception at the end of the Bears game went a long way toward getting this team to the .500 mark.
Chris Cash: B-
Cash is an underrated playmaker that, like Walker, maximizes his ability with smarts and a nose for the football, if he had more speed he could be a star.
Keith Smith: B
This rookie can play. He might just be the biggest hitter in the entire secondary and has already shown a knack for making plays.
Terrance Holt: Inc.
Many wonder why this kid doesn't get more playing time. Until he does, the jury's still out.
Andre Goodman: Inc.
If he can return from injury and begin to contribute once again, the Detroit secondary could soon become more crowded than Anna Nicole Smith's brassiere.
Special Teams: Overall C -
Nick Harris: C-
He is, like the rest of the team, consistently inconsistent. Is there another team in the league that would have this guy as their starter?
Coverage Units: C-
The coverage on special teams has been woeful, which has to be driving special teams coach Chuck Priefer looney. No offense to Priefer (who is a great coach), but if Frank Gansz was dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave.
Defensive Coaching: Overall B-
The confusion of the Kurt Schottenheimer era is long gone as Dick Jauron has done a good job of bringing consistency to this group. However, Jauron has done a poor job of taking advantage of the speed and playmaking ability of his linebackers. In addition, his bend but don't break philosophy all too often seems to stifle the natural aggressiveness and competitive fire of his players (as evidenced by the collapses against the Eagles and Packers). With Detroit's offensive struggles likely to continue, it will be imperative that the Lions turn up the heat defensively to create more turnovers and big plays. Otherwise, this team could be on the verge of a monumental collapse that would overshadow any advances they made during the first half of 2004.