The Square Peg Brigade: Fifth in a Series

In this installment of The Detroit Lions Square Peg Brigade series, we will look at some more of those 23 players who were acquired by the Lions in 2010 via trades, free agency, waivers, or filched from NFL practice squads.

Ready? We've got a lot of ground to cover so let’s get to it!

LB Ashlee Palmer

Palmer was signed by Buffalo as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2009. He played in 14 games, starting two. Palmer was a special teams standout, and looked OK in the Bills’ 4-3 defense. When Jim Haslett took over the Bills defense, he decided that UDFA Palmer would be a square peg in the new 3-4 defense.

The Bills’ transition to the 3-4 was so rocky that they had to play a lot of 4-3 Flex sets in 2010. Losing Palmer didn’t help the cause.

Lions GM Martin Mayhew signed Palmer off waivers in February, 2010.

Palmer drew little interest in training camp. He didn’t stand out, but he didn’t embarrass himself either. He showed versatility insofar as he got some long looks at every LB position.

The coaching staff gave Palmer the "load test".

When the injury bug struck the LB corps, Palmer was pressed into duty. Mostly sharing snaps with Landon Johnson, and  Bobby Carpenter, Palmer did a commendable job in all 16 games (including five starts). Palmer had one sack, and three forced fumbles.

What was most noticeable about Palmer’s performance was that the Lions were no longer giving up those big running plays anymore. The Julian Peterson days were coming to an end.

Palmer looked nothing like an undrafted free agent. He proved to be a great value pickup by Mayhew, and with a full offseason to work on his game, Palmer could be a legitimate contender for a starting job in 2011.


FS C.C. Brown

Brown was drafted (sixth round) by the Texans in 2005, and was an underwhelming four year starter. Brown was not tendered a contract in 2009, and became a free agent, AKA Square Peg.

The Giants signed Brown to a one year deal. Brown was a backup safety until starter Kenny Phillips went on the IR. Brown started seven games in 2009 and was a disaster. Blown assignments and phantom tackles characterized Brown’s season.

"Can’t Cover Brown" was the derisive nickname given to him by Giants fans and media. That’s a tough crowd to please, but even a tougher reputation to overcome.

Brown became a square peg when the Giants signed Deon Grant, and Phillips returned after shoulder surgery rehab. The fans were still on him, even after leaving the "Big Apple."

Mayhew signed the free agent to a one year deal in May, 2010. Perhaps the more bucolic Allen Park environment would bring out the best in Brown.  Alas, Brown continued to have problems tackling and was abysmal in pass coverage.

In training camp, Brown played with a sense of desperation. Perhaps too much so?

Brown was the Week 1 starter, but only started eight games. He gave way to Spievey, and then Wendling while the coaching staff continued to look for production from the safety position.

Brown struggled, and one has to wonder if he over thinks his assignments.

Paralysis by analysis?

Brown is still on the roster, but faces stiff competition from Spievey, Coleman (recently acquired), Phillips, and Wendling.

Memo to Brown: Don’t buy a house in Detroit. Keep your bags packed. See a Shrink. Go on "walkabout". Buy some "Good Luck Jocks." Do whatever it takes. Get it fixed. Win a job.


CB Prince Miller

I know, Miller was a rookie in 2010. Miller, however, has had the square peg ride of his life, and becomes an honorary member of the "Square Peg Brigade".

Hey, I created the Square Pegs, so I will call ‘em as I see ‘em. Just like umpire Jim Joyce.

Miller signed as an undrafted free agent with the Ravens, and was the final cut in training camp. Bad luck.

Two days later, the Patriots signed free agent Miller to their practice squad. Less than a month later, the Ravens reclaimed Miller off the Patriots practice squad. Miller was losing his mojo.

I hope that you are writing this all down. Anyway, Miller was moved to the Raven’s active roster where he was promptly waived. Passing waivers, Miller once again was assigned to the Ravens practice squad.

A puzzling series of events. Not even the Bozo Decoder Ring could foretell the outcome. It kept flashing "square peg" on it’s micro-clown bionic screen.

Mayhew signed Miller off the Ravens practice squad, and Miller was promptly added to the active roster, where CBs were dropping like flies.

Whew! What a wild ride for an undrafted free agent, eh?

Miller played pretty well for the Lions in the four games where he saw some action, but I suspect that he will be moving on in 2011. That is, unless Miller finds some serious mojo.

"Hey! Has anyone seen Miller’s mojo?"


LB Lawrence Jackson

"LoJack" is definitely one of my "pet cats". I shall endeavor to be impartial, but I know that I’m gonna go "TILT" on Jackson, while channeling a hot serving of cornbread, and hopium laced Kool-Aid.

"Honey, is it time for my meds?"

Ah, that’s better. Where was I? Oh yeah, Lawrence Jackson.

Jackson was the first round (28th overall) draft pick of the Seahawks in 2008. As usual, defensive ends were at a premium in the draft. Jackson was selected behind Chris Long, Vernon Gholston, and Derrick Harvey in an extremely thin DE draft class.

Now, I think that you would agree that this isn’t the most intimidating class of first round DEs in recent years. Nevertheless, Jackson was taken with first round money.

I would be remiss not to point out that Cliff Avril was selected in the third round (92nd overall) by the Lions.

Jackson’s rookie season was largely FUBAR. Two sacks in 16 games for a first round stud?

C’mon, man? What’s up with that?

The rumblings in the Seahawks blogosphere were ominus. Was Jackson going to be lame duck GM/head coach Mike Holmgren’s final draft bust?

Jackson made some incremental improvement in 2009, but Seattle had tired of the lack of output from Jackson, who was being referred to as a "diva" in the media.  There are few things worse than having the diva tag put on you.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Jackson got a square peg tattoo on his left forearm. OK, I made that up, but the writing was on the wall when Pete Carroll took the reins in Seattle.

Jackson must have felt a deep sense of betrayal when his college head coach traded him to Detroit for a sixth round draft pick in 2011. What in the world were they thinking?

Were the Seahawks right?  Was Jackson truly a first round bust?

Jackson would be the third former Seahawk starter to join the Lions in 2010, and go on to play a prominent role in the Lions resurgence.

Memo to Pete Carroll: On the behalf of Lions fans everywhere, I’d like to thank you for your largesse. OG Rob Sims, WR Nate Burleson, and DE Lawrence Jackson have performed much better than your lame expectations. Can we pick our own players off your roster this year? No, wait, we would rather that you pick them, Pete. Not even St. Martin could do a better job of finding Lions starters than you.

Yes, it seems that the Seattle Seahawks are the de facto Detroit Lions farm club. One could argue that Mayhew sends Seattle’s draft picks to the podium.

"We gotcha covered, Pete!"

Back to Jackson. He joined the Lions in mid August. The training camp sessions where I eyeballed him were like "What the f…?"

"Who IS this guy?"

Jackson brought his lunch bucket to work every day. Inside, there were two huge chips that he inserted under his shoulder pads. The assistant coaches had to carry a whip, a chair, and a gun to keep Jackson under control when he got into frequent altercations with the offensive linemen in the African heat of training camp.

One such episode occurred in a vanilla, quasi contact training camp drill where Jackson absolutely blew up LT Jason Fox. Fox, and LG Rob Sims (Jackson’s old Seattle teammate) went after Jackson with malice aforethought. Jackson held his ground admirably against 600 + pounds of bad intentions.

Jackson later said that he was frustrated and needed a little contact to get his head right. You could hear the smile cracking on KVB’s face. Defensive pride was being built in Allen Park, and Jackson was more than willing to bear the flag.

Jackson saw extensive action in 2010 after Kyle Vanden Bosch’s season ending neck injury. He made the best of it, collecting eight sacks, two QB hits, and 11 QB pressures in only 337 snaps.

Jackson’s playing style is in stark contrast to KVB’s. Vanden Bosch likes to get some depth before shedding a LT. Jackson uses the inside rush to great effect off the first step, but will take on a LT as long as he’s not redirected too deep.

These complimentary, yet contrasting styles are just one more dimension that offensive coordinators must scheme for.

I think that Jackson will play an even larger role in the Lions defense in 2011, as we have not seen Jackson’s ceiling yet. Not by a long shot.

There has been a lot of talk in the national media that Jackson could win the starting job in 2011 from KVB. That might be the case, but I believe that a platoon system would benefit both players.

Yep, LoJack is definitely one of my "pet cats". Considering the cost (a sixth round pick in 2011?), Jackson will return dividends for years to come.


CB Tye Hill

Who is Tye Hill, and what is the nature of his game?

Hill was a lofty first round draft pick (15th overall) by the Rams in 2006. The smurfish Hill was all about his dazzling measurables. Under 5’ 10", and weighing in at 185 lbs, Hill was the darling of the 2006 Underwear Olympics, where he posted 4.34 forty speed, a 1.52 ten yard split, but a whopping 41" vertical, and an eye popping 10’ 9" broad jump.

Wow!  Hill’s got hops!

Hill had a decent rookie campaign, and was named to the Professional Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie team. So far, so good.

In 2007, Hill suffered an unfortunate ACL tear, and was put on the IR after eight games.

Knee problems plagued Hill again in 2008 where he started the opening four games before returning to the IR. Astute observers thought that Hill was rushed back too soon. I concur.

Hill’s stock plummeted in St. Louis, and he was traded to the Falcons for a seventh round 2010 draft pick in September, 2009.

So much for first round money, and leverage, eh?

Anyway, Hill’s stay in Atlanta was the NFL’s version of a "drive by". He was released after the 2009 season after seeing spot action. Hill did have a nice 62 yard INT return for a TD.

Ah, the memory.

Hill was signed to a free agent, one year deal by the Titans in March, 2010, but, again, was square pegged by the end of training camp.

In the meanwhile, the Lions were wearing out CBs at such a prolific rate that Mayhew rolled the bones in December, 2010, and signed Hill to a one year deal as an insurance policy.

Hill was active for the last four games, playing 102 snaps in the final two weeks only. Hill’s play was undistinguished, but he was by no means an embarrassment.

I guess that the moral of Hill’s story is that fame is a fickle mistress in the NFL. Take those first round rookie millions, and save some. You never know when you will be viewed as a square peg, or when the ride comes to an end.

Hill is another player who will have an uphill struggle to make the 2011 roster. Will Hill be square pegged by the Lions, or will the former first round pick be THE surprise of the Lions 2011 training camp?

I hope it’s the latter.


Sixth Installment Preview

In the sixth installment of the "Square Peg Brigade," we will look at honorary member FS Randy Phillips, CB Brandon McDonald, OG Donald Thomas, OT Tony Ugoh, and CB Nathan Vasher.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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