Re-Tooled Lions Look For Further Improvement

Two years into the Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew era, the talent level on the Detroit Lions is certainly stronger than in the team's previous regime -- but that doesn't mean the organization is done. More inside ...

Coach Jim Schwartz has said it many times since taking over in January 2009 in the aftermath of the NFL's first 0-16 season: The Lions' No. 1 need is talent.

So now, after two free agency cycles and two drafts under general manager Martin Mayhew, how does Schwartz feel about the Lions' talent level?

"Better, for sure," Schwartz said.

The Lions have been active and aggressive while trying to upgrade their personnel. After drafting defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh second overall, they traded up to take running back Jahvid Best at No. 30. In free agency, Schwartz showed up with a bottle of Cabernet at the home of defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, while offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wined and dined wide receiver Nate Burleson.

"We looked and said, 'Hey, let's get guys that fit exactly what we want to do, let's have a role defined for them and let's try to fix those positions rather than just Band-Aiding them and having to do it again next year or any other time,' " Schwartz said. "I feel good about what we've done there. We still have a long way to go, but if you look at some of the talent that we've put in place over the last two years. ... I think you're seeing significant gains."

The Lions came out of the draft with six picks. Suh and Best likely will be starters on opening day. Cornerback Amari Spievey, a third-rounder, has a shot, too.

But Mayhew also used picks in this draft in trade packages for cornerback Chris Houston, safety Ko Simpson, guard Rob Sims and defensive tackle Corey Williams.

"We had the ammunition to do it, and we got players that are still young that have experience in the league that fit what we want," Schwartz said. "I think if we were drafting at those spots and we got those kinds of things ... we would be very happy with them."

General manager Martin Mayhew said: "When we're sitting there on the clock and we don't have a pick in the fifth round and we don't have a pick in the sixth round, we talked about, 'Hey, we don't have those picks because we acquired starters with those picks already.' "

Last year's draft netted quarterback Matthew Stafford, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, safety Louis Delmas, linebacker DeAndre Levy and more. Combine that with the new additions -- which also include tight end Tony Scheffler -- and at least the Lions don't look like a team that has lost an NFL-record 30 games over two seasons.

Mayhew will keep exploring trades, talking to free agents and combing the waiver wire.

"There's still a lot of opportunity," Schwartz said. "This isn't going to be the final pool that we'll draw that 53 from when we open at Chicago. ... There's going to be somebody that's going to come between now and the first game that's going to help us win a game this year. I honestly believe that."

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