Last year, the Lions gave up plays of 40 or more yards the third most in the NFL (the Falcons and Chiefs gave up more). The Lions also were 22nd in takeaways per game, and 29th in turnover margin per game. This year, new defensive co-ordinator Teryl Austin is looking to fix those problems.
"I think the way you become a game-changing defense is you cut down on the amount of big plays, because those are demoralizing to your defense," he said. "You try to create some more turnovers. I know that’s an area that we weren’t as good as we want to be."
via The Freep
An interesting quote from Austin is who he considers as playmakers on our current roster. He named Suh, Fairley, Tulloch and Delmas as "difference makers". That's interesting to me because I thought Levy was probably our biggest difference maker last year, and I thought Quin did a slightly better job than Delmas last year as well, while both made about the same amount of big plays. Anyways, after watching these big plays happen time and time again, it was evident that our secondary seemed to struggle the most with them. Whether it was Delmas bidding on a playaction to leave Chris Houston or Darius Slay out to dry in 1 on 1 coverage, or a LB and then Quin missing a tackle in the backfield, the hits just kept on coming.
As of now, the Lions have released Delmas. They could bring him back to a cheaper deal. But for now, safety has become an even bigger need for the Lions. The two safeties that could possibly go that high are HaHa Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor. Both are playmakers, but HHCD has the most experience as the deep safety, which the Lions would be looking for since Delmas was that guy last year. It's a rarity to see a safety taken that high, however. There has only been 8 safeties taken in the 1st round since 2008, and only two of those taken in the top 10 (Eric Berry and Mark Barron). I've decided to take a look at HaHa Clinton-Dix because there has been some talk about the Lions possibly taking a safety at #10, and the overall consensus has him as the best safety in this years draft class.
*Stats not considered official. (Had to gather from a few different sources, so I'm betting the pass deflection stats are off. ESPN and sports-reference don't always agree on certain stats.)
Clinton-Dix's stats aren't the best indicator on how good of a player he can be. He had a good year in 2012 with 5 interceptions, but only had 2 in 2013. The biggest problem I have is how he only had 37 tackles in 2012 and 51 in 2013. Other safeties drafted in the 1st round the past 5 years like Berry, Thomas, Vaccaro, Reid and Elam all had at least 75 tackles in their final year. Granted, HHCD was suspended for 2 games in 2013 for receiving improper benefits. But still, he would have only been projected to get around 60-65 tackles if he played a full season. I would have liked to have seen him make more plays against the run.
One of HHCD's biggest knocks is his physicality. He's very passive in the run game for the most part. Every once in a while you will see him get a big hit, but often tends to shy away from contact. He's also really thin for a safety, and will need to bulk up and add some strength if he wants to succeed in the NFL.
In this play, HHCD is lined up about 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. He sees the quick slant to Beckham Jr. and lowers his head at the point of contact. Beckham just runs right through him, as his tackling form is awful here and is lucky to even get an arm on him.
Here is a play where HHCD was in great position to make a HUGE stop on 3rd down to give his offense the ball back to try and tie the game up. Unfortunately, instead of wrapping up for a tackle, he lowers his shoulder along with his head and attempts to go for the big hit. The RB bounces off of him for the first down to extend the drive. Oklahoma ends up draining another 4 minutes off of the clock and Alabama ends up losing 45-31.
A lot of people like to compare Calvin Pryor to Louis Delmas because of his reckless play. While Pryor does tend to get reckless at times, I tend to see more Delmas in HHCD than Pryor. Pryor has been flagged for some big hits, but I see HHCD lower his head when he shouldn't more often. Also, this next play sort of gives me flashbacks to the Lions 2013 season.
Here you'll see both C.J. Mosley and HHCD commit to the RB on a zone-read. This one is mostly on Mosley, as he's in much better position to make the play on Mason, but a better read by either of those guys gives them a better angle to make the stop and make a play on the QB. I feel like we saw Delmas and Quin end up making these same mistakes way too often ending up in a lot of big runs, especially at the beginning of the year.
Where HHCD thrives is in the passing game. I was really impressed with how fluid he was when changing directions, and he never slowed down at all. He's very instinctive and has great ball skills.
This might not be the perfect play to show how good HHCD is in coverage since he gave up a TD here, but I want to point out how well he reacts and how his technique looks.
I don't think many CB's or safeties are going to stop a play like this. It's a perfect throw, a perfect route and a perfect catch. Jalen Saunders goes in motion as the slot WR and HHCD lines up across from him at the LOS. Saunders then runs at HHCD and stems his route perfectly, driving his right foot in the ground when he reaches HHCD and makes a quick cut to the left. When you stem your route, your main goal is to open the defender's hips to the opposite side of where you're trying to go. Saunders does everything he can do to ensure that, but HHCD actually has his hips pointed to the sidelines the entire time and makes a great read and a great break on the ball, but cannot make the play as it was thrown perfectly to the WR.
Again, you can point to the result of a TD, but we're talking about technique and how players will translate to the NFL. HHCD probably has the best technique in pass coverage out of all safety prospects in this years draft.
As the deep safety in zone coverage, HHCD does a great job of reading the QB's eyes and has great closing speed whether it's against the pass or run. But he's also shown that he can make plays in man coverage as well.
He does a solid job of picking up the receiver and staying with him the entire way. But what's most impressive is how he's able to turn his head before the ball arrives, out-muscle the WR and play the ball like he was the WR instead.
Why We Should Draft Him
Louis Delmas has been released. The Lions might bring him back for a cheaper deal, but for now he's gone and will be testing the market. If Delmas does not return, the Lions may be looking to add a safety who can either play as the full time deep safety, or switch around with Quin, since Quin can play both FS and SS and is pretty interchangeable. If the Lions want to add a FS that can play center field, then HHCD is probably their best option in the draft, and should be available for them at #10. Pryor is a stud, but was often late to the targeted WR when playing deep, and some believe he is a much better fit as a strong safety. While HHCD needs to get more physical and make more plays against the run, he is great in pass coverage. And the Lions need a lot more help with pass defense than they do stopping the run. HHCD is also a great athlete, and we could see his stock rise at the combine very soon.
Why We Shouldn't Draft Him
If you take a look at HHCD's tape, and then you compare it to Calvin Pryor's tape, they are completely different players. Pryor always seems to be in the middle of the pile to make a tackle, while HHCD is constantly standing and watching his teammates drag down the ball carrier. HHCD is a very poor tackler. He needs to keep his head up and make tackles, and was often tackling with his shoulders instead of wrapping up for the tackle. 9 times out of 10 I'm going to pick the guy who brings a lot more intensity to the field, and is willing to do the dirty work to get down in the trenches and make a play on the ball carrier. Pryor is that guy to me, which is why I view him as the #1 overall safety in this draft class, beating out HHCD just slightly. HHCD also has some character concerns as he was suspended two games this past season for receiving improper benefits. I don't see that as a big concern, but some might.
My next FanPost will probably be on Calvin Pryor, since I talked him up so much in this one. I really want to get to Odell Beckham Jr., as I've been really high on him lately and think he is the 4th best WR in this class and could even be above Lee at this point. After that, I want to focus on some more 2nd-3rd round WR's and CB's. Too many people to get to.
Again, feel free to discuss and rec the post if you like it.