Monday, April 20, 2009

Draft time in D-Town

Being from New Jersey, I am not truly a Lions fan. But with the Draft fast-approaching, and my current location being the Metro-Detroit area, I feel obligated to root for the current "sorriest team in all of professional sports".

Over the past few months, there has been a ton of talk about who the lions are going to take. General consensus around the country (and amongst the "experts") is that the Lions will take Georgia QB Matt Stafford. The fan's general feeling about this is unabashed panic - and I couldn't agree with them more.

First and foremost, the Lions sure do need a QB. No doubt about it. Daunte Culpepper will never be an elite QB in the NFL again, and Drew Stanton is unproven, and perhaps incapable of doing the job at an NFL level. But what does a team need before they bring in a young quarterback? That's right kids, an o-line. As of right now, the lions have one of the worst o-lines in the NFL, and with the fairly stout defenses they look to face this year, they will be in desperate need of a strong o-line to protect said QB. Why not choose a high-quality franchise o-lineman? Jason Smith comes to mind.

Not sold on choosing a lineman with the #1 pick? Okay, what about the defense? Last year, the lions couldn't stop anyone if their lives depended on it. The defense continually snapped late in games with the outcome hanging in the balance. Why not start there? A few stops on defense last year, and the lions may have had a few wins (although still not many). Furthermore, look at the teams in your division. Chicago, Green Bay, Minnesota are all teams that run the ball very well, but have mediocre passing games (save for Green Bay). So why not focus on stopping the teams in your division, and choose someone who can help you do that. Aaron Curry perhaps?

You have the number one pick overall, and you are destined to pay this player a boat load of cash to be on your team for the next few years. I know a QB is the sexy pick when compared to the possibilities of a LB or OT, and you certainly do need a QB. But when you go 0-16, you need to clean house, and get a new foundation that will set you up for success. Chances are, you will have a top-5 pick again in 2010, a class that is poised to be full of QBs better than Mr. Stafford. I think that the lions can make a smarter pick than Matt Stafford, and I can only hope for the fan's sake that they do.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The ACC, who'd a thunk?

Given Miami's switch to the ACC in 2004, many thought that they would be the kings of the conference in 2009. Not so fast my friend. Many believe that the switch to the ACC initiated a slide that has finally resulted in no first rounders for the first time in 13 years. Boo hoo.

Coming into ACC play this year, it appears as though the emergent hot team from last year, UNC, is the team to beat. Building their program under the guidance of former NFL and Nebraska Cornhuskers coach Butch Davis, the Tarheels are making strides towards retaining the top flight talent that North Carolina has to offer that would have normally gone elsewhere (like... oh I don't know... Michigan), as well as landing some kids from all over the east coast. In doing so, they managed to pull in a stellar recruiting class, and look to repeat with a similar class next year. After their exciting season last year in which they beat Miami (at da U), BC, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame (well who hasn't these days... except us...), and lost in nailbiters to WVU and Va Tech, UNC is starting to turn some heads and gain momentum.

Is UNC the team to beat in the ACC? Will the ACC ever be good again? Your thoughts...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring Game notes

A record turnout for the spring game this year. It's good to see that Coach Rod is trying to give Michigan football a much-needed facelift to bring it into the 21st century. Michigan can no longer survive among the elite programs by being a giant in the hills. The changes that Bill Martin are Coach Rod are starting to bring to the program in terms of marketability, fan involvement, facilities overhaul, etc... are extremely exciting to watch as a fan. A change in momentum is almost palpable at this point in the program, and we are on the upswing in a big way.

The spring game was a great opportunity to see our new and improved team in action. I saw the live feed online and here are a bunch of my thoughts and observations. Feel free to comment, agree or disagree. That's what this blog is for.

1) Tate: Looks comfortable in most aspects of running the offense, and has the potential to be a very good quarterback. He throws very well and accurately on the move, he can scramble well, and he has a knack for finding the open man. That being said, Tate's greenness showed particularly when he held onto the ball too long, as it is with most QB's out of high school. Look for that to be a bugaboo this year and cause many a fumble (and forehead slap). I just hope that Tate doesn't get himself killed this year a la McGuffie by holding onto the ball too long or taking an ill-fated scramble. I cringe to imagine a guy my size getting nailed full speed by college linebackers. This is why Coach Rod says he wants 2 good quarterbacks who can run his offense. Let's hope Denard's skill and work ethic are as good as Tate's.

Related: Let's hope David Cone never sees the field this season. He looks like he's dry heaving the ball every time he throws. Jack Kennedy freshman walk-on looked great against the thirds.

2) Running backs: Running back depth this year is awesome. I'm a huge Mike Shaw fan, and he showed flashes of brilliance last year. If he, Carlos Brown and Minor can all stay healthy and mix in V. Smith, we'll have a killer backfield. That is if we can muster any semblance of a good passing game.

Mike Cox performed so-so overall. He got absolutely blown up Mike Williams on one play. I don't see him panning out.

Apparently Carlos Brown is fast.

4) O-Line: The offensive line looks much improved. Reports say that the cohesion and talent this year is night and day improved from last year. Thank the lord. Mark Huyge has created some buzz in the summer practices, look for him to start sometime during the season.

5) Wide Receivers/Slots A "meh" day for wideouts. Granted we kept our playcalling very vanilla, but I hope somebody steps up. Nothing big out of Odoms or T-Rob either. I'd like to see what Gallon can do in the fall if he qualifies.

Let's hope Roy Roundtree performs just as well during the season. Good chemistry developing between him and Tate?

Nice Mathews touchdown!

6) D-Line looked ok against the offense's 2's. Obviously Mike Martin is missing, but depth is a huge concern here. Brandon Graham is an absolutely beast, and it'll be a pleasure to watch him terrorize opposing offenses this year. NFL 1st rounder for sure.

Anybody catch on the thirds Dominique Ware 5'7 245?! Like a stump in the ground!

7) Linebackers: We have linebackers? Demens looked pretty bad in his drops and only so-so in run support. Fitzgerald showed flashes of greatness, let's hope that pans out. Obi needs, NEEDS, to step up this year or else it'll be like Purdue all over again. Linebackers is a great area of concern for me and a lot of other people watching the program closely. We need to get a blue chipper in there. Urgency is at Defcon 4.

8) DB's: Obviously no Donovan Warren. Boubacar looked solid, he'll be a good player this year. Look for JT Turner to get some PT as a true freshman this year. Safety play was so-so. Brandon Smith laid OUT some poor 3rd string offensive running back.

9) New guys (other than Tate):
Vincent Smith looked pretty solid running against the Defense's 1's. I'm excited to see him get some touches this year.
Great to see Brandin Hawthorne out there, I've heard good things about his tenacity.
Emilien took a bad angle to C. Brown on the long TD run, but word is that he is our best safety by far and will start in the fall.
Lalota = redshirt.
Mike Jones got KILLED by Carlos Brown on one play, special teams or redshirt for sure.
As highly heralded as Will Campbell is, he does indeed look like he needs a lot of work on fundamentals and conditioning. He stood straight up numerous times, his pad level was high and he simply tried to outmuscle the lineman (which he is certainly capable of doing). He'll probably play this year because of lack of depth, but ideally I'd redshirt him.

10) I've heard our tight ends are the best offensive group we've got. Big, scary and fast. I'm very interested to see the wrinkles that RR installs in the fall. Not even one tight end pass in the spring game, however. Don't want to show our hand, I suppose.

Related: I'd love to see some more downfield stuff. Again, can't wait til the fall.

11) No INT's on Defense? Not even ONE?! Even when David Cone was throwing? Jeez, c'mon!

Impact Players: Look for these players to step up this year:

-Mike Martin (tied with Brandon Graham for my favorite player this year)
-Brandon Graham
-J.B. Fitzgerald (looked superb on special teams last year. I'm a big fan. Hopefully he'll make something happen this year)
-Mike Shaw/Vincent Smith
-Tight ends (Webb, Koger)