Way back in 1994, I used to play one of the greatest football video games of all time: NFL Football 94. You may remember it as the game that Mel Gray owned or the game where Lon Simmons provided great commentary like “I don’t believe it, it’s... starting... to... rain.” When I wasn’t hitting the spin button every time Barry carried the ball, I was trying to pass to Herman Moore non-stop.
I never would have thought at that point, that someday I would interview Herman Moore, or Cory Schlesinger and Lomas Brown for that matter as well. But that moment came true this past weekend when I covered the Detroit Lions charity basketball game in Allendale, Michigan for the local newspaper The Holland Sentinel.
There were a million things I wanted to ask these guys. I wanted to completely fan out and get autographs and pictures and ask if they would play catch with me or maybe join my fantasy league or even come over for Mother's Day dinner. But I kept it together and got some good thoughts on the Lions current offense and what these guys think the Lions can do in 2018.
First an foremost, I wanted to talk about what’s on everyone’s mind right now: the Lions’ run game. If you’re still catching up, allow me to play some of the greatest hits. The Lions run game has been the worst in the NFL for some time. They’ve had the fewest rushing yards over the past two years, haven’t had a 100-yard rusher since 2013 and have only had four 1,000-yard rushers since Barry Sanders retirement.
“The first thing that’ll help is health on the offensive line,” former Lions offensive tackle Lomas Brown said. “There were so many lineup changes with the offensive line because of injuries last year, and it’s hard to get a chemistry up front when you’re in and out of the lineup. So I think those guys coming in healthy, being able to play together and practice together will help.”
Brown didn’t stop there. While he spent a great deal of his time blocking the blind side of guys like Scott Mitchell and Rodney Peete, he also opened up plenty of holes for the greatest running back to ever do it in Barry Sanders. So he knows a thing or two about the type of back the Lions need in 2018.
“In the running game, I just think we need to get backs that are going to put they’re foot in the ground and get down and go down hill,” Brown said. “Regardless of what’s going on, you got to get positive yards on every carry. When you lose two or three yards, on the next play it puts them in a difficult position.
“We have to stay third-and-manageable and just get 2-3 yards a carry out of the run game. We’ve got to at least get 2-3 yards a carry from the run game. You can’t have Matthew running and dropping back to throw the ball 60 times a game.”
Perhaps another thing that could help the Lions run game succeed again is the return of the fullback position with the drafting of seventh-round pick Nick Bawden out of San Diego State. Who better to give his thoughts on a fullback than perhaps one of the greatest fullbacks of all time, Cory Schlesinger?
“This offense could probably utilize a fullback a little bit,” Schlesinger said. “I don’t know what plans they have for him. Is he a between the tackle blocker? Is he a receiver? Or is he going to lineup single back? We don’t know what they’re going to do with him yet. But they need to bring a fullback in there, especially on those short-yard and goal-line situations.”
But the Lions offense isn’t all about the run game. The Lions may have one of the best, if not the best receiving corps in the NFL. Marvin Jones Jr. and Golden Tate were the only tandem in the league to grab 1,000 yards receiving in 2017. With Kenny Golladay in tote, they could be even more dangerous. But don’t take it from me, three time All-Pro receiver Herman Moore had some things to say too.
“I think it’s a good corps,” Moore said. “They have done a good job of getting together a good group. Golden Tate has come in and brought in some veteran leadership and Marvin Jones has stepped up and become a big-play receiver. I think with Golladay, it gives you a solid number two or three guy that can really come in and disrupt the defense. I think they’ve made the right decisions and have brought in the right players. Now they just have to perform.”
I was happy to get some good stuff from these guys. but I couldn’t let them get away without giving me some thoughts on the upcoming 2018 season. Both Schlesinger and Moore made it clear that they weren't the type to try and make predictions, but Brown sure had some things to say.
“For me, it has to be playoffs or bust.” Brown said. “When I say playoffs, we got to win a playoff game. Coach Caldwell been gettin’ us there. He got us to the playoffs. But we got to take the next step and win a game. So, with Coach Patricia, to me, it’s a playoff win or bust, you know? That’s how I’m looking at it as alumni, and I think that’s how most of the other alumni are looking at it too.”
I can’t say I disagree with Brown. It’s time for the Lions to finally step up and get that second playoff win in the Super Bowl era. But will they? That’s a question I look forward to getting the answer to.