Some of you have read this series elsewhere, but Ee Oulo asked me to reprise it here.
The Detroit Lions will not be making the kind of wholesale changes to the roster in 2011 that characterized the rebuilding effort of 2009 and 2010 where entire units were gutted in the certain knowledge that desperate times called for desperate measures.
This is a good thing, right?
The players that remain are fully aware that showing up for a paycheck will no longer be tolerated, regardless of your glorious past. The Lions have entered the "what have you done for me lately" phase of team development, and team continuity.
In this series, I will take a look at some of the surprising player acquisitions made by GM Martin Mayhew, and company in 2010. Who are they, and how did they become Lions? What were their contributions in 2010? And, most importantly, what does the future hold for them?
The 23 players acquired by the Lions in 2010 via trades, free agency, waivers, and filched off of other team’s practice squads make up what I like to call "The Square Peg Brigade."
In this installment, and installments to follow, we will analyze those square pegs, and marvel at how quickly a talented team came into being.
OG Rob Sims
The former Buckeye star was drafted, and played for the Seattle Seahawks from 2006—2009. In 2008, Sims suffered a season ending injury due to a pectoral muscle tear.
The Seahawks hired head coach Pete Carroll in 2010, and Carroll made some significant changes. One of which was to install a Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS) for his offensive line.
Sims, a man—power blocker became a square peg in Carroll‘s scheme.
I wonder if Sims felt betrayed by his former college coach who threw him under the bus?
Martin Mayhew was able to swing a deal that sent DE Robert Henderson, and a fifth round draft pick to Seattle for Sims, and a seventh round draft pick in 2010.
Now, you could expect a new member in an offensive line to take a season in order to adjust to the scheme, the line calls, and build synergies with the left tackle (Jeff Backus), and center (Dominic Raiola).
Sims proved to be a plug—and—play left guard. The upgrade was noticeable from day one. Sims was stalwart in pass blocking, where he stabilized the left side of the offensive line.
Sims, however, has a down side. Run blocking has never been his forte, and it showed statistically, as well as with the eyeball.
Sims was the 39th ranked offensive guard at Pro Football Focus. Sims saw 1138 snaps, and committed only two penalties. Sims graded out nicely in pass protection, yielding three sacks, four QB hits, and 18 QB pressures.
Statistically, Sims was a horrible run blocker. This, I suspect, may have been partially a function of the Lions rushing game in general.
A systemic failure.
So, what does the future hold for OG Rob Sims? I am certain of one thing. George Yarno, the Lions offensive line coach will have Sims on a steady diet of lower body strength work, and technique training. Sims must get his pad level lower than the defensive player in front of him.
Sims, in my humble estimation, will need to show some incremental improvement in run blocking, or he will succumb to the "square peg" syndrome again.
Houston was a second round draft pick (41st, overall) by the Atlanta Falcons in 2007. The former Razorback star seemed to have the "chops" to be a fixture in Atlanta’s secondary.
When Atlanta pulled the trigger on the bombshell free agency acquisition of Dunta Robinson, something had to give. That something was Chris Houston, who found that he was the square peg in Atlanta‘s secondary.
Mere days after Atlanta signed Robinson, Mayhew came calling. Houston would become a Lion for a sixth round draft pick in 2010, and a conditional seventh round pick in 2011.
Now, I gotta tell ya, some deals seem too good to be true. This was the consensus of opinion amongst Lions fans.
Had Mayhew gone Jerry Jones?
I watched Houston daily in training camp, where he was matched in mano y mano battles with Calvin Johnson. In the beginning, Houston looked like a rookie. That’s to be expected from a newbie.
However, as training camp wore on, Houston was actually winning some of those battles. The improvement was very noticeable to even the most casual observer.
Who in the NFL has a tougher job than covering Calvin Johnson every day? Such is the hubris of Chris Houston, who is 5’ 11", and 178 lbs, going up against the 6’ 5", 236 lb "Megatron", who has him seriously outgunned in every respect.
It has been said: "That which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger."
Houston and CJ are by no means strangers. They worked out together in preparation for the 2007 draft. One can only imagine the chagrin of Houston in those early days: "OMG! This Johnson guy’s a freak of nature!"
The irony of having to cover the "Big Johnson" in practice daily was, and is a serious growing experience for Houston.
Now, nobody will speak Houston’s name in the same breath with Derrell Revis, or Nnamdi Asomugha, but Houston did not embarrass the Lions as the starting left CB.
Although Houston was ranked as the 75th CB at Pro Football Focus, he was a nice upgrade over the CB’s that the Lions swept away in the great DB purge of 2010.
What does the future hold for the scrappy Houston? He’s testing the free agency market in 2011. If the Lions invoke their right of last refusal on Houston, it could be a byproduct of those daily battles with Calvin Johnson.
Proud members of the "Square Peg Brigade."