Louis Delmas (Round 2, Pick 1)
This is a long one, mainly because this guy deserves it…so let’s get right into it:
Here are Delmas’ numbers in 2009: he had 94 tackles (65 solo, 29 assisted – leading all rookie DBs & 11th among all DBs), one sack, 2 INTs, and a safety in 15 games. Delmas returned a 65-yard fumble for a touchdown in Week 1 of the 2009 season against the New Orleans Saints. He won September's rookie defensive player of the month award. On December 20, 2009, Delmas became the first rookie in NFL history to record an interception return for a touchdown, a fumble return for a touchdown and a safety in the same season. He is only the second player in NFL history to accomplish the feats in the same season (source). Not too shabby for a 2nd round pick from Western.
To really understand Delmas’ impact as a Lion, we have to look a little deeper. AdvancedNFLstats.com has a statistical category called +WPA (Positive Win Probably Added) – you can read more about how it is figured out here. Basically, it translates to "big play making" ability that effects the chances we win or lose a game. Among all safeties, Delmas has a +WPA of 1.26 (12th in the league…nice).
Another stat is +EPA (Positive Expected Points Added) – explained here. This basically tells you on a play-to-play basis how effective his decisions are that lead to keeping opponents points off the board and putting points on the board for us. Among all safeties, Delmas’ +EPA is 55.0 (4th in the league!) for the season and +EPA per game is 3.67 (3rd in the league!).
Lastly, to measure the "quality" of Delmas’ tackles we can take a look at his TF or tackle factor – explained here (this is an extremely valuable statistic IMO – it is the ratio of a player’s proportion of his team’s tackles compared to what is expected at his position). Delmas has a TF of 1.16 (among all safeties); this puts him in the top half of the league. On average a safety in the 4-3 will be around a 1.10. It also tells you that he is making a lot of tackles for his team and more than what others are making for his position.
Numbers aside, I shudder to think of what the Lions’ 2009 season would have looked like if Delmas was not on the field. Let’s be honest, our defense over all was heinous (ranked dead last in passing defense), but it wasn’t Delmas’ fault. He really was the last line of defense on a lot of plays, could have arguably been in the running for the Defensive Rookie of the Year Award and is a solid building block for the team. He has already won a lot of fans over with his attitude and work ethic. The Lions need to continue to find him help in the secondary and allow him to keep up his high level of play.
Key additions to the Defensive:
Corey Williams (DT), Ndamukong Suh (DT) – In the 4-3 defense, a DT is primary responsibilities include stopping the run, keeping guards of linebackers and rushing the QB on passing plays. The addition of Willams and Suh to the defensive line will make Delmas’ job that much easier. There will potentially be fewer runs breaking into the secondary, thus allowing him to focus on assisting in tackles, picking up a free roaming TE/FB, or double teaming on a WR. Suh, especially, is expected to pressure on the QB, and if he does, then Delmas could be more of a ball hawk safety – looking for poorly thrown passes and churning out big plays on defense. It is really exciting to see what Suh’s pressure can do for our defense; the linebackers and secondary should reap the rewards of his work.
Kyle Vanden Bosch (DE) – The DEs in a Gunther’s scheme are primarily concerned with getting to the QB and stopping the run. KVB did not a have a great statistical season last year, but when paired with a talented DT like Suh or nose tackle like Sammie Lee Hill, he could have more success. So again, as with the defense tackles, KVB’s pressure on the QB should allow Delmas to ball hawk and stop the run earlier for shorter gains. When he was paired with Haynesworth, KVB destroyed offense lines and sacked QBs. In his best statistical season, KVB had 65 tackles and 12.5 sacks – far and away the best DE stats of any current Lion. I highly doubt we will have the KVB of 2005 or 2007 but he should be able to contribute and be a mentor to our young line. Age and injuries will eventually be a factor with KVB, but I don’t think it will be this coming season.
Willie Young (DE, Round 7, 213th overall) – Here is someone who has a ton of upside. At NC State, Young was a Second Team All-ACC, he had eight sacks in 2009 tied for seventh place on the school’s single season-record chart. Young was also one of five Wolfpack defenders to record at least 40 tackles for loss in a career, as only Mario Williams (55.5, 2003-05) had more than Young’s 46.0 on the school’s all-time record chart. With help from KVB and the other veteran DEs, Young has potential to get to the QB and disrupt the pass game. Cliff Avril showed progress in 2009 but with the addition of Young there is more and more competition at this position. It looks like Schwartz is slowly molding that D-line into a force, and as a NFC North team we are getting back into blue-collar football (this is very good).
Jonathan Wade (CB), Chris Houston (CB) – The biggest additions to the secondary came in FA with the addition of Wade (STL) and Houston (ATL). I personally don’t think too highly of Wade, he hasn’t produced much since he was drafted in the 3rd round by the Rams. He struggled to stay on the field and is simply depth on our roster as well. Houston has been more productive since being drafted in the 2nd round by the Falcons. He played in all 16 games as a rookie and led all Falcons rookies with 55 tackles after emerging as a full-time starter (11 starts), primarily at right cornerback. He started 16 games in 2008 and had two interceptions, one of which he returned 10 yards for a touchdown (KC, 9/21). Houston also started in Falcons’ playoff game. His 2009 season was cut short by a hamstring injury.
Amari Spievey (CB/SS? Round 3, 66th overall) – At first I was not sure about this pick, but as I read about this guy, he is quickly becoming my favorite player of the 2010 draft. I’m not going to list all his credential in Iowa – you can read about them here or watch here and here. Suffice it to say this guy is a leader, a Louis Delmas type who played against better competition. Big 10 fans know the stout defense Iowa has played the past few seasons and Spievey was the heart of the secondary. Spievey can also tackle (and that’s putting it mildly) so he has the potential to be a CB/SS hybrid. This is really exciting and I can’t wait to see him on the field. Oh, and those of you who follow the college football blogs need to check out Black and Gold Pants (Iowa football blog) and this glowing article about him.
Key departures to the defense:
Larry Foote (MLB), Ernie Sims (ROLB) – I wanted to put his in here because statistically Foote and Sims had quite an impact on our team. Foote led the team with 99 tackles (70 solo, 29 assisted), 11 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. His tackle factor on the team was 0.82 (tied with Delmas) – you can see our entire defense here. Without Foote being the QB of the defense, we will need more leadership from somewhere else. Levy showed that he is capable of handling more responsibility in 2009 so he should get the start at MLB in 2010. Sims also had an impact with 49 tackles, but injuries limited him to 9 games (0.58 TF). Our linebacking corps went from outstanding with Peterson-Foote-Sims to a big question mark. This might not necessarily be bad, but it’s difficult to say that the departures of the best talents on the team are good.
What all this means to Delmas’ future production is that even though our D-line is vastly improved, our linebackers took a hit, so Delmas will still be a big factor in the run game. Hopefully our young LBs like Follett, Dizon and Levy step up so we don’t put too much on Delmas’ plate. It’s hard to ask much more from Delmas in 2010, but in fact we just might have to. I don’t believe we have solved the problems in our secondary especially considering that we will be facing (Rodgers, Cutler and Favre (?) twice a season + Brady on Thanksgiving). Green Bay improved their O-line with Brian Bulaga and Minnesota now has Toby Gerhart. Delmas showed in one season that he belongs in the NFL and can ball with the best. But can he improve his coverage skills, be a leader and continue to make big plays? I really hope so, and I expect 2010 to be a carbon copy of his rookie campaign: around 80 tackles, a handful of tackles for a loss & sacks, and a few picks – but all in dramatic fashion.