Jun 102013

Reggie Bush5. Detroit Lions
Head Coach: Jim Schwartz
2012 Record: 4-12
2012 Offense: 372 points scored, 17th in points, 3rd in yards (2nd in passing, 23rd in rushing)
2012 Defense: 437 points allowed, 27th in points, 13th in yards (14th in passing, 16th in rushing)


Key Additions
RB Reggie Bush, S Glover Quinn, WR Devin Thomas, DL Jason Jones, DL CJ Mosley. K David Akers, DE Ezekiel Ansah, DB Darius Slay

Key Losses
T Jeff Backus, K Jason Hanson, WR Titus Young, CB Drayton Florence, LB Justin Durant, DE Cliff Avril, G Stephen Peterman, CB Kevin Barnes, DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DE Lawrence Jackson

Why 2013 will be better
Reggie Bush brings a running game to Detroit, something that was nearly non-existent in 2012. Having any consistency from the running attack will nearly guarantee more production from an offense that had no problem moving the ball last season, but had difficulty turning yards into points. A defense that lacked aggressiveness underperformed in 2012, forcing only 17 takeaways for the year. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley had good seasons, with Suh doubling his sack production last season (8 sacks) while Fairley racked up 5.5, but the Lions overall pass rush took a step back. It is hoped that the additions of Ansah and Jones up front should add more pass rush and create a better wall against the run, but the loss of Avril is noticeable. The additions of Slay and Quinn should improve the secondary, though Slay lacks physicality to complement his coverage skills and is currently behind Ron Bartrell on the depth chart. Head Coach Jim Schwartz is coaching for his job this season, so nothing less than an 8-8 record is likely to be acceptable in the Motor City this season, and even that may not be enough. And if a head coach is fighting to keep his job, that usually means the same for the starting quarterback. Matt Stafford has tons of talent, but took a step back last season from his breakout 2011 campaign. He will need to return to form if the Lions have any hope of competing for the playoffs.

Why 2013 will be worse
Calvin Johnson is a sensational receiver, but the Lions lack secondary targets to help distribute the load. The Lions have done little to upgrade this group, meaning Johnson is again a predictable focus of any opposing defense. Having Bush as the primary back is a major plus, but if he struggles to gain consistent yards and move the chains, the Lions will again be a team who pass for a lot of yards but fail to put up points. The defense appears to be improved, but the linebacker corps is thin in talent, and is playing in a read and react system off of Suh and Fairley. Stephen Tulloch is among the nest middle linebackers in the game, but he needs DeAndre Levy and Ashlee Palmer to step up their games, or else the defense continue to hemorrhage points.

On paper another 4-12 season seems unthinkable; this team is more talented than that. But the Detroit Lions gave the vibe in 2012 of a team that felt it was entitled to win, but wasn’t necessarily willing to give the effort to make it happen. Schwartz doesn’t always seem to be in control of his own team, and the use of the term undisciplined seems an accurate way to describe this team, who ranked 23rd in penalty yards last season. Bush’s addition is important, but the receiver corps is weak after Megatron. Given the strength of the division that they are in, the Lions will do well to win six or seven games this season, in which case 2014 promises a new head coach as the first of what is likely to be many changes.

Sep 182012

I watched the Falcons beat the Broncos 27-21 last night and marveled at the defensive game plan put together by the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. They confused Peyton early and often to stake the Falcons to an early lead and then held off the late Manning surge to escape with a hard fought victory last night. I noted that running back Michael Turner didn’t exactly have a great game last night, rushing for 42 yards on 17 carries with one touchdown.

What I didn’t know was that Turner’s night was about to get a whole lot worse.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Falcon’s running back was arrested early this morning for driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding. Turner was allegedly driving his Audi R8 97 mph in a 65 mph zone on I-85 northbound near Indian Trail Road just after 4 a.m.

Turner of course is now entitled to his legal process and presumption of innocence, and this article isn’t just about Michael Turner. Rather, the purpose of this post is to raise a simple question: what the hell are NFL players thinking when they choose to drink and then get behind the wheel of a car?

This has been quite a year for NFL players and DUI arrests. Since the end of the 2011 regular season, here is a list of the players arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence:

July 20 – Titans WR Kenny Britt (DUI)
July 19 – Chiefs CB Donald Washington (Possession, Driving under influence of drugs, Speeding)
July 14 – Seahawks RB Marshawn Lynch (DUI)
July 10 – Rams DE Robert Quinn (DUI)
July 2 – Buccaneers CB Eric Wright (DUI)
June 23 – Lions CB Aaron Berry (DUI)
June 10 – Giants OT David Diehl (DUI)
June 3 – Jaguars WR Justin Blackmon (aggravated DUI)
June 2 – Vikings FB Jerome Felton (DUI)
May 27 – Lions DT Nick Fairley (DUI, Eluding police)
May 9 – Raiders WR Darrius Heyward-Bey (DUI)
April 26 – Redskins S Brandon Meriweather (CUI)
February 1 – Broncos RB Knowshon Moreno (DUI)
January 27 – 49ers LB Aldon Smith (DUI)

You get the point… I could essentially put together a football team with the number of players arrested. So why are NFL players not getting the point? And what is the league going to do about it? This is the same NFL that has partnered with MADD to create a game-day designated driver program for fans but couldn’t get players to use a Safe Ride program set up by the league for players, which was ultimately shut down because it wasn’t used. So what gives?

Yes, the league regularly takes disciplinary action against players for various acts of misconduct, and no doubt Turner will face a penalty once the facts come out. But that is a bit like closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out. The past several seasons have been full of tales about the NFL’s increased focus on good citizenship and personal responsibility, yet it is still a cause for celebration whenever PFT’s meter for days without an arrest hits double digits. I get that these are young adults that think they are invincible. What they seem to fail to get is that playing football in the NFL is a privilege, and that privilege can (and should) be compromised when a player cannot meet basic behavioral expectations. Unfortunately, the coddling of athletes from high school through college and into the pros has too many of these young men thinking that there will always be someone else to fix the problems that they create and they can therefore avoid responsibility for their actions. The old argument raised by Charles Barkley that he wasn’t a role model isn’t even a question to many players anymore, and this is extremely disheartening, especially to a parent who attempts to be a role model to his own children and who is disappointed when athletes that his children idolize fall far short of being good citizens (thank you, Michael Vick).

I am not throwing the baby out with the bath water. There are many, many NFL players that “get it”, but as we all know if takes many pieces of good publicity to make up for just one bad one. And 15 DUI arrests of NFL players in 2012 is giving the NFL a black eye that no amount of positive news is going to overwhelm.

Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones received some criticism for creating a personal code of conduct for Dez Bryant as a result of Bryant’s off-field issues. The plan was complete with a 24 hour security detail to protect Bryant from himself. Maybe Jones is on to something.

May 272012

Greetings from the Rat’s Lair. This page will serve as a semi-regular space for me to provide updates on our website and to offering quick snippets on events surrounding the NFL.

We are excited to finally have gone to a live launch with the banner and design fully implemented. Kudos to Three Design Three for putting this site together, for responding so quickly and deftly to requests for changes or troubleshooting, and for handling the Twitter and Facebook feeds. Folks who need web design work should call on this company. Similarly, I was floored by the work done by Shannon at FlyDesign on our site banner. I offered a very general idea of what we were looking for in the artwork, and what you see on this site was her very first attempt to meet our needs. It was simply so good that there was nothing to change. So thanks to Shannon for her fantastic work.

We have gone and launched the site with just a few articles, and there are more under development from a number of authors. I enjoyed Fat Jesus’ piece on Roger Goodell and player safety, and hope it generates some discussion as we move forward. All of the authors are also busily putting together our predictions for the 2012 season, which we will be releasing in early August. We have several offers out to other people to serve as writers for the site, and we welcome new writers, whether as a one-time guest piece or as a regular contributor. If you are interested, we will need to get to know you a little and get an idea of what your writing skills are like, but do feel free to email me at girghostrat@gmail.com if you have some thoughts on how to contribute.

On the NFL front, I was a bit dismayed to read that Nick Fairley of the Detroit Lions was arrested for speeding past an Alabama State Trooper at 100 mph and then eluding arrest. This is his second brush with the law in two months, as he was arrested for marijuana possession just last month. Between this guy and Ndamukong Suh’s antics last season, it is getting really ad to continue cheering for the Detroit Lions, who are finally becoming relevant again after suffering through many years of disgrace. I was very disappointed last season that the Lion’s coaching staff didn’t seem to crack down on Suh early enough, and now Fairley’s lack of responsibility or discipline has me questioning whether or not this team really has what it wakes to make it to the next level, or if they are going to take a step back this coming season. Here’s hoping the Lions can rein in their players and give the city of Detroit the winning football team that their fan base desires.

Another developing storyline is the ongoing saga of a lack of a contract for Drew Brees in New Orleans. As if this hasn’t been a bad enough off-season for the club, their franchise quarterback (who led the team to their only Super Bowl appearance and win) is still without the contract that he has earned. While I really didn’t care for Brees’ attitude as the Bountygate sanctions were being issued, the fact remains that Brees has performed like a franchise quarterback is expected to, and he remains of the top five quarterbacks in the league. The rumor now circulating that Brees might be willing to sit out the 2012 season is a very ominous sign for this team moving forward into 2012. Losing Brees for the year would essentially turn this team into last year’s Colts in terms of an epic collapse.

That’s about all for now; keep checking back as we begin to post more content over the next couple of weeks. Eventually we will see better balance in terms of the teams covered, but for Patriots fans I am currently working on a preview of the 2012 season. Thanks for reading!

 UPDATE: Even better… Fairley’s arrest was a DUI. This kind of immaturity could well stop this team from achieving its potential, and Head Coach Jim Schwarz needs to do a better job of holding his players accountable.