Cook: Chips or Lions? How about both

Central Michigan University won as many games on the Ford Field turf as the Lions did this year. Perhaps the Lions should have a more heavy Chippewa representation on their team. At least the Chips know what it's like to win regularly in Detroit. Columnist James Cook offers his pre-draft analysis, and why the Lions should consider a few of his fellow alumni.

How bad is it?

Well, Central Michigan University won as many games on the Ford Field turf as the Detroit Lions did this year.

Luckily, NFL teams only come here once a year (with the exception of Seattle and their Super Bowl XL appearance), or that list would likely be considerably longer. Still, the Seahawks are 1-1 this calendar year in Ford Field.

Perhaps the Lions should have a more heavy Chippewa representation on their team. At least the Chips know what it's like to win regularly in Detroit.

Heck, throw in an Ypsilanti win over Eastern Michigan, and CMU has more wins in the Detroit area than the Lions can possibly get this entire season, regardless of locale.

And who wouldn't want Chippewa standouts Dan Bazuin or Joe Staley?

Granted, as a product of CMU I'm a little jaded, but Bazuin and Staley fit into two of the Lions' weaknesses.

Imagine a scenario where the Lions trade down a few spots in the first round to pick up an extra second-round pick, snag Joe Thomas, then take Staley and Bazuin in the second and sign Simeon Rice as a free agent.

Two glaring weaknesses instantly taken care of for the long term.

A firm believer in doubling up to fix weaknesses (take a look at what the Saints did this year with the same concept), you can't go wrong with a DE rotation of James Hall, Rice and Bazuin, with Jared DeVries and possibly Kalimba Edwards in the mix. That frees up Cory Redding to move into the DT rotation with Shaun Rogers, Shaun Cody and Marcus Bell, leaving Tyoka Jackson as the odd man out.

And on the line, you've got Backus, Thomas, Staley and Jon Scott at tackle, which leaves Rex Tucker, Barry Stokes, Damien Woody and Frank Davis at guard if the Lions don't pick up Ross Verba's costly option.

Instant depth, changing weaknesses into at least positions of stability.

Add a solid corner and another impact player or two in free agency (middle linebacker, anyone?), and voila, you've transformed a team that will likely be 2-14 into a team with a legit shot at a winning season.

The Lions take a lot of flak -- and much of it deservedly so -- but the fact remains that the Lions were competitive in all but the first Bears contest and the Thanksgiving flop, with those two the only games Detroit lost by more than 10 points. With eight losses by a touchdown or less, the Lions realistically aren't that far away, but that has seemed to be the case for the past five or six years.

Bazuin has the potential to be an every-down DE in the NFL. At 270 pounds, he's already bigger than most successful pass-rushing ends coming out of college and still runs a 4.68 in the 40. He's seen double teams consistently this year and still performed well, although his stats took a little dive from the constant multiple-blocker attention he drew from offenses. If you watched the Motor City Bowl, you saw how relentless he can be, especially on the play where he hurdled a lineman to bat down a pass. The only way Middle Tennessee State cold slow him down was an illegal chop block to the knees that forced him to miss a drive or two.

Staley is an amazing specimen at offensive tackle. Unfortunately, his stock will likely skyrocket after the all-star games and the combine. When scouts see him clocked at 4.7 in the 40 at 305 pounds, some jaws will drop at a tackle who can outrun a good amount of QBs. Add in Staley's incredible footwork and the fact that he didn't allow a sack as a junior in a pass-happy system, and both Bazuin and Staley are solid second-round picks. If they slip any lower, they are incredible bargains.

Bazuin told me that the nimble Staley will open up some eyes at the combine, as if he already hasn't. Bazuin is also a quality character guy, earning academic All-American honors, as well as awards for his work in the Mt. Pleasant community. He would also be a perfect fit because he plays a position the Lions desperately need production from.

Bazuin's younger brother committed suicide this summer, and being able to stay close to his family that has endured a lot would mean a much to the northern Michigan native.

Maybe even someday the Lions can turn things around and win 10 games in a season like the Chippewas.


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