In this, the fourth installment of the "Square Peg Brigade" series, we will continue to examine those players added to the Detroit Lions roster in 2010 via trade, free agency, or claims off of waivers and practice squads.
Richard Evans, an avid, articulate fan at Bleacher Report made a very astute observation (I paraphrase):
"The Lions are doing a great job of building talent from top—down in the draft. How they have built depth from bottom to top is nothing short of remarkable."
OK, gang! You know the drill, so let’s get this show on the road!
CB Jonathan Wade
Wade was an All America at Tennessee. On the track team, that is. Wade originally played WR for the Vols, but switched to CB in his Junior year.
Wade demonstrated great technique, and blazing speed. The problem was that he seldom made a play. It’s true, I suppose, that "An athlete does not a football player make."
Wade’s athleticism was enough to send him to the Rams as a third round draft pick (84th overall) in 2007. Wade found himself in a limited role as a nickel DB, where his contributions, and skills were equally underwhelming.
Wade would never crack the starting Rams lineup behind O.J. Atogwe, and Craig Dahl, and declared for free agency on March 5, 2010. Wade was not even tendered by the Rams.
Wade had clearly become a square peg in the Rams plans.
On March 10th, the Lions signed Wade to a one year contract. We went Huh? Wasn’t Pacman Jones, and O.J. Atogwe available in free agency?
It was definitely a "C’mon, Man?" moment for many.
We can only surmise that Wade was only a stopgap player who was a depth addition only. Not so fast, folks.
The plan went sideways when third round rookie Amari Spievey was switched to safety. This move saved Spievey’s precarious roster spot, but pushed Wade into the starting RCB role.
This would prove to be the worst move of the Mayhew era. Wade was the worst ranked CB in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus. It wasn’t even close.
Carpenter, the Buckeye alumnus, was a first round pick (18th overall) by the Cowboys in 2006. His most memorable moments occurred on the NFL TV series, Hard Knocks in 2006.
Carpenter, the rookie was repeatedly "punked" by right tackle Marc Colombo in training camp. Colombo? Are you kidding me?
C’mon, man? Columbo is the most shed prone blocker in the NFL.
Anyway, Carpenter was hazed relentlessly. The rookie was made to wear a pink dress to lunches, and was thereafter referred to as "Barbie Carpenter" due to his poor performance, and his long, Clay Mathews like blond hair.
Carpenter would be nothing more than a nickel LB, and a special teams player for Dallas. Square peg city.
It’s interesting to note that in the 2009 deal that sent Roy Williams to Dallas, Mayhew actually asked cuzzin Jerruh for Carpenter. The Lions got Derrick Williams instead. Williams is a failing experiment on life support.
Here is clear evidence that sometimes, it’s better to be lucky, than good.
Carpenter was sent to the Rams for OT Alex Barron in May, 2010. A square peg deal if ever I saw one. Failing to make an impression on the bottom feeding Rams, Carpenter was a late training camp cut.
Two days later , free agent Carpenter was signed by his former coach in Dallas, Bill Parcells. Who can fathom the thought process of "The Big Tuna?" Hadn’t Parcells thrown Carpenter under the Cowboys bus?
I got out my Bozo Decoder Ring, and set the finely tuned mechanism for "Dolphins". After a series of unintelligible squeaking sounds, I fine tuned the BDR to "Miami Dolphins".
The answer was clear. The BDR translated the Parcells—Carpenter connection as an abysmal fit. Sure enough, after a series of special teams missed assignments, Carpenter was waived on Oct. 18th.
Square pegged again.
Two days later, Lions GM Martin Mayhew picked up Carpenter off waivers. Bobby’s suitcase was overstuffed with Cowboys, Rams, and Dolphins jerseys that showed very little wear. The pink dress was nowhere to be found.
Initially, Mayhew’s acquisition of Carpenter met with mixed reviews. Carpenter was plugged into special teams, where he filled in nicely for the injured Isaiah Ekejiuba.
Carpenter didn’t light it up in 2010, but did step in at every LB position when other linebackers were dinged up, or benched. He was a modest upgrade in the area of run support, and pass coverage.
Carpenter will never be a pass rushing stud, but should be an adequate depth player in the LB corps, and continue to contribute as a special teams player.
One must wonder, however, if Bobby Carpenter will ultimately go down as a first round draft bust.
FS John Wendling
Wendling was drafted out of Wyoming in the sixth round (184th overall) by the Buffalo Bills in 2007. The 6’ 1", 222 lb safety would be a special teams "gunner" primarily, and see little action as a safety.
Wendling’s blocking on special teams was so bad that it limited him to punt, and kickoff coverage squads. Rather than offer Wendling a contract extension after the 2009 season, the Bills hung the square peg tag on him. He was released on Feb. 16, 2010.
One thing you can say for the Bills is that they look at every square peg in the NFL. In November and December of 2010 alone, the Bills signed a whopping 22 players to their practice squad. Only three were promoted to the roster. The rest were released before the Super Bowl.
Thank goodness for St. Martin!
Mayhew, desperate for any and all help in the Lions secondary, signed free agent Wendling to a contract prior to the end of training camp.
At the time, the Lions safety unit was a train wreck. Delmas was nursing a groin injury. Spievey was a recent transfer to the unit, and would require a lot of coaching in order to learn the position. C.C. Brown was the obvious favorite to start beside Delmas, but wasn’t proving to be the answer. UDFA Randy Phillips had raw talent, but needed to be coached up.
Wendling would be the gunner on punt returns, and performed so well that he was named a Pro Bowl alternate for the Lions in 2010.
Injuries happen in the NFL, especially to the DBs, who are taking on much larger WRs, TEs, and RBs. Such was the fate of the Lions safeties in 2010. When C.C. Brown and Spievey were dinged up, it was Wendling to the rescue.
While Wendling had zero INTs, forced fumbles, sacks, or passes defended, he didn’t give up a lot of real estate either. Wendling is a very good tackler who takes great angles to the ball. Wendling is solid, if unspectacular.
Moving forward, Wendling will have to compete with the first Square Peg of 2011, Erik Coleman for a job. If Wendling can survive roster cuts, he will continue to add value as a special teamer, and would be an extremely difficult cut.
K Dave Rayner
I added Rayner as a bonus square peg. Most kickers are members of the square peg fraternity by default. These gypsies seldom gather moss, and prefer to rent, rather than own their housing. You see, the placekicker is only as good as his last field goal attempt.
Rayner is another homegrown hero. The Oxford High grad starred at Michigan State.
Even one paragraph on each of Rayner’s NFL team "visits" would bore both you, and me to death. Here’s the short version:
1. Drafted by the Colts in 2005.
2. Played for the Packers in 2006—2007.
4. Played for the Chargers in 2007.
5. Signed by the Dolphins in 2008. Cut before camp.
6. Signed be the Lions in 2008. Cut after Hanson recovered from injury.
8. Signed by the Redskins in 2009.
9. Signed by the Bengals in 2010 (Again) Released Sept. 4, 2010
10. Signed by the Lions in 2010 (Again) for injured Jason Hanson.
Whew! See what I mean? That’s 10 teams in five years. Probably not a record among placekickers, but would probably earn an honorable mention as one of the squarest pegs in the NFL.
Will Rayner, who made 13 of 16 attempts last year make the team in 2011? Or, will Jason Hanson return to reclaim his job?
Hanson is the longest tenured player in the NFL. He’s played exclusively as a Lion since being drafted in the second round in 1992. Age, and a recent rash of injuries might end his streak.
The recent change in kickoff rules should help both Rayner, and Hanson. One thing for sure is that the Lions have to make a very tough cut.
Rayner is an unrestricted free agent in 2011. Whether he reports to the Lions training camp depends upon the interest of other teams to sign him when, and if there is free agency.
In any event, Rayner will keep his bags packed.
Fifth Installment Preview
In the fifth installment of the "Square Peg Brigade", we will examine LB Ashlee Palmer, FS C.C. Brown, CB Prince Miller, CB Tye Hill, and DE Lawrence Jackson.