PART II: Continued from Monday's, "Smoke
Screen: Reading between the Lions"
Excerpt: To decode Detroit's smoke screen (and this is by no way mathematic or guaranteed) is to breakdown the state of the team, along with the small, off-season news tidbits that might otherwise seem irrelevant.
No Brady (or Jamarcus) bunch: Barring injury, Jon Kitna will be Detroit's starting quarterback next season. While the thought of Brady Quinn or Jamarcus Russell "waiting in the wings" under Kitna's tutorship is both touching and pliable (Kitna helped develop Cincinnati Pro Bowler Carson Palmer), it isn't realistic. Detroit likes both reserves Josh McCown and Dan Orlovsky, and have a considerable investment tied into both. Plus, if anyone has learned anything about quarterbacks selected early, it is that they are far from a guaranteed thing.
So long, Adrian: After reports that he wouldn't return until mid-season with a career-threatening injury, it seems Kevin Jones -- Detroit's most productive offensive player last year -- should be fine by training camp. Jones' Lisfranc injury is healing quicker than expected, and the team's optimism about a complete recovery is well-founded. Certainly, the Lions may draft a running back in the later rounds, or find an insurance policy in free-agency, they won't be spending the No. 2 overall pick on one. The Lions also have a sizeable chunk of their salary cap already tied to Jones, last year's third round pick Brian Calhoun and veteran Shawn Bryson.
The Wildcard: Calvin Johnson is an amazing prospect at wide receiver. So was Charles Rogers, and so was Mike Williams. It's unlikely the Lions want to be around to witness another sequel. But Johnson has drawn similarities to Roy Williams in speed, size, hands and, most importantly, work ethic -- something missing in Detroit's previous failures. Still, drafting another receiver that early isn't only a big (and largely unnecessary) risk for Detroit, Millen would again bear the brunt of criticism league wide.
Not that he's ever cared about that, however.
Pass Rush: The most important part of Detroit's Tampa Two defense is to apply reckless, or "violent" (in the words of Marinelli) pressure to the quarterback. As new defensive coordinator Joe Barry has already figured out, the team had little help from its defensive ends in 2006. Defensive ends Kalimba Edwards and James Hall combined for eight sacks (matching the total of franchised DT Cory Redding) last year, and pressure was few and far between. Frequently, the opposing quarterback was gifted with ample time to pick apart Detroit's zone defense.
With Redding (who moved over from defensive end) and Rogers clogging the middle, and the pending departure of Hall (trade request), the Lions have an obvious and desperate need at defensive end. In Marinelli's press conference at the combine, he lobbied for speed on his defense, and specifically mentioned the defensive end position
However, there isn't a defensive end that seems destined to be selected No. 2 overall or even No. 3. The team would certainly move down a few slots to snag Clemson pass rush specialist Gaines Adams. Adams, 6-4, 258-pounds, has the requisite speed (he timed an impressive 4.69 and 4.71 in each respective 40-yard dash run) and is considered the draft's best player at the position. The only concern is (you guessed it) his work ethic.
If the Lions are able to trade down and shore up the defense, they could grab Staley, provided he is still around early in round two, with additional selections to spare. That is the team's intent, and the most logical reasoning behind any smoke screen.
But if a trade doesn't materialize, Joe Thomas is the obvious pick. He fits the repertoire of what the Lions want in attitude, leadership, size and position. He also has loads in common with left tackle Jeff Backus.
The Lions clear intention of the smoke screens is to draw a trade, whether it is from Arizona, Tampa Bay or another team that fears losing its targeted prospect to a Detroit franchise that cannot go wrong with any pick. Millen wants to move down, pluck more picks, and pepper the roster with youthful talent in attempt to help grow a franchise that needs help everywhere.
Detroit's front office staff are in an ideal and enviable position, and if they play their cards right, can hand the ball club a much needed influx of youthful talent.
If they select the right players, anyway.
Nate Caminata, publisher of the
Roar Report, is an award-winning journalist
and has written for numerous publications in both print and on the internet. He has covered the Detroit Lions for 10 years.