Have at It: The Lions' future


Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert

I thought you produced a constructive and lively discussion this week on the future of Detroit. The most interesting thing I found was the wide disparity on the Lions’ most pressing issues.

Torgo112 noted their secondary has been “staggeringly, comically inept; guys are wide, wide open almost every play.” Severs28, meanwhile, suggested that Louis Delmas is the only defensive back the Lions should build around.

GB Arodge12 crossed state lines to advocate a focus on the offensive and defensive lines:

“I think they need to begin at the core. Although O-Line picks aren't sexy, they can make or break an offense. Look what Denver's O-Line is doing for Orton. He's throwing some nice football games. … On the flipside, build a better D-Line. A D-Line that can stuff the run and rush the passer will automatically make the LB and secondary look a lot better than it is.”

Some of you want a more philosophical change toward building the defense, amid a perception the Lions have drafted too many offensive skill players recently. The latest were quarterback Matthew Stafford and tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the 2009 first round. Preachamanmike wrote: “Defense, defense, defense. This is what we get for drafting two offensive players in the first round again. I like them but we need defense. Who cares if you can score.”

Whether it’s defense or offense, wrote TheGhostof, the Lions should pick a side and focus on it, much like the way Indianapolis has emphasized its offense and Baltimore has highlighted its defense: “What we need is an identity. We're a helluva lot closer on O, so let's pimp it out!”

Few of you had suggestions for improving in the short-term. As Packornotatall wrote, the Lions don’t have the personnel depth at most positions to give them many options for in-season changes: “They continually have one good player at each position, but no more. One good tackle. One good receiver. One good running back. One good quarterback. One good tight end. You can't patch poor players around good players and expect the team to average out at decent.”

My take? Like you, I don’t have a ton of advice for making 2009 demonstrably better. But I’ll throw out one item for further discussion.

I’ve mostly agreed with Lions coach Jim Schwartz’s revolving lineup as an exercise for creating accountability, evaluating multiple players and giving everyone a chance. Schwartz has been especially active in shaking up the secondary. But coming out of the bye, I wonder if it wouldn’t make some sense to commit to a lineup and give it some time to coalesce without the fear of getting benched after one mistake.

Injuries might make this difficult at some positions, but there are at least some areas -- cornerback and safety among them -- where you at least wonder if lineup consistency wouldn’t lead to better play at some point.

In the long-term, I won’t stray from what I wrote last December. The Lions have sub-par personnel on both lines and made only minimal attempts to elevate long-term during the offseason. They added only one starting-caliber offensive lineman, left guard Daniel Loper, and Sammie Lee Hill was the only defensive lineman they drafted.

In the past five seasons, the Lions have drafted only three offensive or defensive linemen in the first or second rounds. The only player remaining from that list is right tackle Gosder Cherilus (2008). You can certainly uncover some late-round gems at some line positions, but usually you have to draft high to find a tackle or speed-rushing defensive end. That sounds like as good of a place as any for the Lions to start this winter.