2021 Lions Roster- Refine to Define (Act 2)
So what started off as what I thought would be a shorter article about what the Lions roster should look like in 2021, it turns out I just love writing and it'll be a pretty long piece so I'm cutting it down to manageable entries. Previously we discussed the Quarterbacks and the Offensive Backfield, this entry we will be taking a look at the rest of the offense, namely the O-Line and the Receivers.
As a Lions fans there will be certain nice things your not used to having in life. Running games, playoff wins, dynamic coaches etc. Offensive Line would usually fall into that category, yet despite looking at the stats and seeing Stafford has endured 27 sacks this season which is joint 5th highest in the league, the Offensive Line has stood up as a sign of positivity this year. Despite the sacks, Stafford hasn't been getting chased all over the field as he often as in previous years and some are saying it's this new chunk of time he has to stop and look and throw the ball that has resulted in his drop in quality, sometimes a quick thought and reaction is better than having an extra second to let doubt creep in. For all his shortfalls, Bob Quinn has assembled 4/5ths of a great line and they will be critical to the franchise going forward
Taylor Decker (LT) - KEEP - Left tackle is one of the most important positions on a football team, and having one of great quality is essential to any team wanting to build for success. Luckily for the Lions they already have that vital cog locked up under contract for years to come. Decker has always looked promising as a tackle, but some inconsistant play and a big shoulder injury led many, and I stand up and admit that I was fully entrenched in this crowd, to question whether he was the guy to move with going forward, with those feeling further amplified when he was handed a 4 year $60 million contract which left some fearing we were overpaying for the product we had received. However I am happy to say that I had a humble pie the size of Mekhi Beckton cooked for me and I have eaten every last piece of it as he has had nothing short of a sensational season, he only gave up his first sack of the season in game week 11 just gone and that's cause the running back messed up their cover. Decker has very quickly risen into the ranks of the elite LT's of the league and will provide Stafford and his successor much needed relief from rabid pass-rushers for years to come. Plus the Pokemon meme of him is the greatest thing to hit social media in 2020.
Tyrell Crosby (RT) - KEEP - From one tackle to the next. Crosby has been one of the revelations of the season. Initially slated to start as a backup behind expensive FA acquisition Halipoulivaati Vaitai, Crosby caught a break when Vaitai picked up a minor injury before the season started and so got the nod at RT and he's performed so well in the roll that Vaitai only got a look in for 1 week at tackle before getting pulled and Crosby was given it back immediately. Coming into the season my impression of him was he was a decent backup, nothing special and did his job but was prone to penalties. In addition to blowing the notion of his just been a serviceable backup out the water, he's really worked hard on his dicipline issues and only has 2 holding calls to his name all season, and his performances have been very good, none more so than when he completely shut out highly sought after EDGE Chase Young in the Washington game, the same Chase Young who is leading the stakes for DROY such has been his high levels of performance this season. I said this in the podcast, with Vaitai proving to be a massive bust, it's ideal that our first out on Vaitai's contract is after 2 years in 2022 which is Tyrell's contract year. If he continues with his level of performance and development, I'd cut Vaitai and send his $10 million dollar a year contract over to Crosby who would be more than deserving of such a deal. He's in my notes when it comes to the ROTL's panels time to pick most improved player of the year.
Frank Ragnow (C) - KEEP - By far our biggest success in the 2018 draft. Ragnow has slotted straight in at center and made that position his own. There's not much more to say other than he's one of the best centers in the NFL and he's not even due to hit his contract year till 2022. He's going to become one of the highest paid at his position in the game and he's going to be worth every single penny that he is paid and the second he indicates he's ready for a contract they need to have put one in front of him no less than 60 seconds later and get it signed in the next 60 seconds. Like LT, top level Centers are a critical part of a developing team and to already have both of them in place saves a lot of draft capital and money for the new coaching staff.
Jonah Jackson (G) - KEEP - Rounding out the quartet of top guys from the O-Line this season is 2020 3rd round draft pick Jonah Jackson, the Ohio State guard. In a season where rookies had no rookie camp, training camps, basically anything of help for their on field product until the final few weeks before the season, the rookies could be forgiven if they took some time adjusting to the NFL, not Jonah Jackson. Not only was he inserted straight into the starting lineup at RG for the Bears opener, but you'd have been forgiven for not realising their was a rookie in the line such was the level of his performance. The fearsome Bears defense was very quiet that day in part to the efforts of the entire line. An injury to Joe Dahl saw Jackson switched over to LG and he's not looked back, and Dahl who is a perfectly good guard has struggled to get any playing time at all. Make no mistake there are areas that Jackson can improve but he's a first year rookie and that'll come over time, and you couldn't be positioned any better than inbetween Decker and Ragnow to learn the tricks of the trade. A very bright future awaits and if the RG position can be resolved this line is going to be amongst the best in the league.
Halipoulivaati Vaitai (RT) - KEEP - Big V, where do we start? He stays next year because of his contract which is a given, we can lay that one to rest. Unfortunately for Big V, injury and circumstance have handed him a VIP card into the executive lounge of the toxic branch of Lions Fans 'Players we love to hate' club along with Jarrad Davis and Jahloni Tavai. Vaitai was brought in with a big contract for an injury prone player (although 'those' fans conveniently forget we have an out after 2 years and we don't have wait 5 years to get rid) which wasn't a great start. Then 2 things happened. He unfortunately lived up to the injury prone moniker and was out early doors albeit not for long. Unfortunately in his absence occurred the unforeseen rise of Tyrell Crosby from squad backup to leading RT. The reason Vaitai was signed was because Crosby hadn't yet shown he was ready to take the starting job and yet before Vaitai even took the field Crosby had already proven his doubters wrong. That left the Lions with a conundrum, bench Crosby who absolutely did not deserve it for their well paid FA tackle, or keep faith with Crosby and leave a whole heap of money sat on the bench. Their solution was to shoehorn Vaitai into the vacant guard spot and play them both, and it was noticeable for the first few games that the sack number went up and it was mainly though the channel Vaitai was guarding between C and RT and the murmurs of discontent against him kept growing, but that's not his fault, he was brought to play RT and then finds himself thrown in as a guard. As the season has progressed PFF will argue that Vaitai has gotten better in the position and he hasn't been too bad but with Dahl not getting game time and Stenberg waiting in the wings it feels like we need to, you know, put an actual guard in the guard slot. I feel sorry for Vaitai and think circumstance has screwed him over but now the problem the Lions have is that Crosby is the future at RT but we can't part with Vaitai till 2022, we will have to find someway to utilise him until we can respectfully part ways and give Crosby the same money instead. At least we have a solid option if Crosby were to get injured.
Joe Dahl (G) - KEEP - I like Joe Dahl, he's just been unfortunate that like Vaitai he suffered an injury early on in the season and when he returned he found that a young whippersnapper had stepped up and supplanted him from his position. He's always been a solid Lion, provides good depth coverage for the line and he's contracted till the end of next season anyhow so the Lions and Dahl should continue their association with one another. His presence will keep Jackson on his toes cause if his form slides Joe will be waiting in the wings, this is the good type of competition we need.
Oday Aboushi (G) - CUT - Just made the team this year after initially getting cut. I don't know, he's too much of a penalty machine for my liking and I'm far higher on Logan Stenberg so for me we don't even need him as depth.
Matt Nelson (OT) - KEEP - A solid rotational option, and you can never have enough of those.
Logan Stenberg (G) - KEEP - He's not played a snap, he's not even been involved in a game day squad, but Stenberg is already one of my favourite players. The enthusiasm he showed in his interviews last year wanting to get involved and make life a nightmare for opposing D-Lines resonated with me, I like to see that type of enthusiasm and seeing his tape makes me think when he does start we will have a great guard on our hands. There may well be a slot open at RG and I would love to see Stenberg step up and grab it once he's had a proper offseason to adapt the rigors of the NFL.
Conclusion - Out of all the areas in this team, Offensive Line is one of the areas where this is a lot of quality and the immediate future looks very bright for them if they can solve the conundrum of RG. But overall starter quality is high and depth is good.
Coming into this season the offense was where I was most looking forward to seeing us progress this season and the receivers were a big part of that. We have a breakout WR1, a very experienced and much loved WR2, a good quality slot receiver, and some promising deep threats in the depth chart as well as a hot prospect snagged in the draft. Which is why after 10 games and looking towards next years roster it's painful to write that they just have not lived up to expectations. But that doesn't mean they are suddenly bad players and not worth a place in the future of the franchise.
Kenny Golloday - PAY HIM AND KEEP HIM- This all comes down to a simple question, is he worth the contract he will likely get? Well as I'm GM for a day I get to decide and for me he is absolutely worth paying. Kenny Golloday has stepped up for this franchise and delivered big time. He's one of ours, he wants to be here, and most importantly is he has the trust of his QB. Anyone wanting to progress with a franchise needs to have a top receiver. To just let ours walk away and go elsewhere sets the franchise back, as we then have 2 options, overpay in the FA market and given the lions history of overpaying FA's we don't want to go there, or we draft his replacement, and the draft at it's barest component is a lottery, your gambling on someone been good in the NFL. Also working in the pro-Kenny camp is we have no heir apparent to take his crown, it would be easier to stomach letting him go if someone was ready to take his place, and we're not even close to having someone ready to step up as WR1. We as a franchise want to be successful and move forward, well you do that by locking in your young talent and showing the team your serious about progressing. Letting your elite walk away sends out the wrong message.
Marvin Jones Jr - KEEP - A month ago this would have been CUT. I was highly critical of Marvin for not stepping up and leading the line in Kenny's absence. If we want to be taken seriously as a top franchise then we need to be able to field players who can step up when our WR1 is injured and he was anonymous for the first stretch. However since Kenny's return and subsequent further injury Marvin has been on fire, we've seen the player we know he can be and that guy is an asset to any team. Given how much an influential locker room figure he is and how much he is trusted by our QB, he offers plenty of value moving forward, especially as under me he's going to be the veteran presence of the receiving corps as Amendola is getting cut (SPOILER). He's also due to hit FA so if the Lions can can get him to sign a short team friendly extension then that's a win-win for everyone.
Danny Amendola - CUT - I already know this is the one that'll kop the most flak, I've had the discussion on twitter already. Why would I cut a guy who is on par to have his best year in terms of yards caught and is a favourite amongst many? Because apparently I expect far too much and maybe that's true, I'm just a random guy on the internet. This all goes back to how the team looks without Kenny Golloday, even I didn't realise just how much this offense relies on having Kenny in the team. Whilst Kenny has been out injured the offense has really struggled to put up points. The biggest thing for me with Danny is 0 TD's this season. Whilst Kenny's out he's our 2nd guy after Marvin and he's struggled in patches, for me I need to be seeing more than 50-70 yard games with no points. People might say that's not his game but for me if we want to progress forward we need a slot receiver who provides at least some threat in the redzone and can carry the burden of scoring points if the main guys are banged up. This is just my opinion but for me we need to go out and find a new slot option to refresh the WR corps.
Quintez Cephus - KEEP - Straightforward, a young rookie who hasn't seen much action and needs far more time to develop. Has got a catching problem which will need rectifying and a full offseason with all the training the rookies didn't get last year will help. Has shown glimpses of his potential with some good plays, I have high hopes for him and in 12 months time his star may well be a lot brighter.
Marvin Hall - ?????? - Is Marvin Hall good? One week he'll bust out 100+ yards, next week he'll get no yards, then the week after that he'll catch a great 40 yarder but thats the only catch. It feels like he's always on the periphery and just when you lose hope with him he'll bust out a massive play and you start thinking he's the deep threat ace up the sleeve guy. But if I'm been critical to Jones and Amendola surely I have to look through the same lense for Hall. No he's not contributed enough when required to in Kenny's absence, but there's still a part of me that doesn't want to let him go cause somewhere in there I believe is a difference maker worth sticking with. He's a FA this year, for depth purposes so we aren't having to invest too much on WR's in the draft I think it makes sense to try and find a team friendly deal for another year but really ramp up expectations on him. I'm leaning towards KEEP.
Conclusion - The receiving corps has disappointed this year, let's get that out the way, but the global situation and injuries have not helped them at all and there is a good backbone in there that we need to hang on to. For me a WR 1 is vital, we have one, let's pay him and build an offense around him. Jones as his trusted buddy and for the new slot guy I'd spend some money to be put in a talented guy there cause even though I believe its time to move on from Danny whoever comes in will need to be good to fill that void. I'd also devote one of our five draft picks to getting another talented rookie so we would have our elite guy, his right hand, a red zone slot receiving threat, Hall as deep threat, and 2 talented rookies looking to break into the team.
Overall conclusion- That's it for the offense, hopefully I've not missed anyone. So looking at from my point of view towards the offense, we are certainly not in a blow it up situation which this article is arguing against. We have our Quarterback to be successful, we just need to invest time to find his replacement in the draft and get him to start the process, at running back we need a depth guy to compliment Swift who is our guy, at TE again just some depth as we have our main guy. The offensive line is sound and the two critical positions on it are filled with elite players, yes the Vaitai situation makes it awkward cap wise but we've got prospect guards ready to fill that one hole, they are already at the club, and in 12 months we can fix the RT cap issue. The receiving corps is where most attention is required, and that can be fixed by paying Golloday and finding a good quality slot receiver who wont break the bank, it's the only first teamer your looking for who may cost a bit, the rest are depth and should be cheap or can be found in the draft. So definitely don't go blowing up this offense when so much of it is in place.
Again what are people's thought's at my day attempt of been a GM? Have I got the right picture of this offense or am I been far too generous and in reality we actually do need a rebuild? Do let us know your thoughts with this ever so early prediction of next years roster and I appreciate you taking the time to read through this.
Refine to Define Acts 3 & 4 covering the defense will be available to read next week. I look forward to been wrong some more again then.