Ok, we got ourselves a new 53-man roster, at least it appears to have solidified for the time being. Just how good is it, maybe in comparison to last year, and, heck how good is it compared to the rest of the league?
I got to take my stab at giving it a preseason grade. Please make some comments about whether I've hit it on the nose, or missed the mark.
QB - Jared Goff is really all that matters. We were asked to move Matt Stafford, so who could they have gotten instead? They could have drafted Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Mac Jones. They could have pursued another veteran via free agency such as Teddy Bridgewater, Carson Wentz, Mitch Trubisky, or maybe now grabbed Cam Newton. By trading to get Goff the Lions also got several draft picks - including a pair of 1st round picks over the next two years; but the rookies mentioned were on the board. You have to consider what they drafted instead of a QB to evaluate the total value, but no position is more valuable than a QB so it's a hard measure. Still, Penei Sewell might prove to be an All Pro offensive tackle, so perhaps you can still feel happy. Grading this position compared to last year, probably means it's a downgrade. Grading the position compared to other QBs around the league is less clear to me. I also want to hope that Goff maybe has something to prove and will be better than naysayers believe. All and all, I'm going to give the position a C, and hope that perhaps there is some high upside.
RB - The team has two front runners to lead the campaign, but is the top player, D'Andre Swift, really healthy and will he ever be able to be all that we want. The jury is out on that one. Rather than having a sure fire premier rusher we have a hope that as a committee there is enough to be good or at least respectable. I'm not going to belabor the whole thing and simply say the position right now to me merits a C compared to last year and the rest of the league.
FB - It just doesn't seem to matter than much as a position, but hey I like that we have one and all and all he's decent. Yet, relative to last year and the rest of the league I'm going C again.
TE - TJ Hockenson seems to be on the cusp of greatness. He has to do it and earn it, but he should be a dominant part of our offense this year. Although he was very good last year, I think he should be quite a bit better this year. I'm going to give the position an A despite the lack of depth that seems to exist.
WR - Oh man, this position has come under fire over and over and over. No one expects much. Last year we had Danny Amandola and Marvin Jones, Jr. Kenny Golladay barely played although he teased us with his presence being a question mark for most of the year as to whether or not he would play. Compared to last year I think a case can be made that we are worse off, but I also think we are building and re-grouping with some younger players. Quintez Cephus, Trinity Benson, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Kalif Raymond, Tom Kennedy, and older, but still promising Tyrell Williams in many ways represent an upgrade to me. Coaching also seems to be a favorable factor. I'm going to give us a B, despite question marks being so evident in respect to how we compare with the rest of the league.
OL - Are they over-rated or vastly under-rated. I think they need to prove who they are. I like the idea of building the team through the trenches and hope that another year of 80% of our line playing together proves beneficial too. I liked the work that Tyrell Crosby and Matt Nelson did last year, but expect Penei Sewell to eventually prove to be better. I also think that Hal Vaitai has quite a bit more talent than he's shown. Add in that Jonah Jackson has a full year under his belt now, this whole line should be better provided they stay healthy. Depth is a concern, but for all the mentioned reasons I'm being hopeful and going to give this position group an A.
Offensive Summary - The OL has to be the deciding factor as to whether the passing and running attack succeeds. I think it might take a little time to gel before it all comes together, but I'm hopeful that it can. With that in mind I'm going to go out on a limb and give the offense a B overall.
DL - I think this is an awesome group with outstanding potential. I could elaborate but I don't want to sound too much like a fan and simply state that the talent is there that could dominate. I also like the new scheme and coaching so much better. This group gets a A in my book, now they just have to prove it.
Edge - The talent is there and seems to be healthier and even smarter. Depth is always an issue in the NFL, but I think our coaching also is better to make the position better and deeper. Can't go too crazy giving out a grade since there is dominant talent elsewhere in the NFL, but a solid B for this group seems reasonable.
LB - Jaime Collins and Derrick Barnes make me so much more optimistic that the rest of the squad seems to be just icing on the cake. Again there is so much talent in the NFL that has established itself as premier, but these two make me feel really good, and I'm going out on a limb again to give them a B in the hopes that they are better coached and the scheme adds a great deal more to the group too.
CB - This is a very, very, very young group. Can it be worse than last year? I personally doubt it and expect Jeff Okudah to take a major step forward. This group has lots to prove, but I'm in for a B grade again.
S - Tracy Walker and Will Harris have huge potential. Dan Campbell's voracity is on the line here. He's extolled their virtues throughout the pre-season. I'm buying it. I think the entire group has grown and, or matured. I can't go too crazy but another B seems possible, if Coach Dan isn't fibbing.
Defensive Summary - Yeah, I drank the Kool-Aide. I admit it. I also didn't see the defense collapse and give up 40 points, so I'm feeling pretty good so far. The coaching, the scheme, and the improved line all seem to help this unit as a whole seem so much better. Dare I give them a B? Compared to last year this seems like a no-brainer. Compared to the rest of the league it's a bit generous until they earn it, but I think the pieces make it possible.
Overall Team - Could this be a Cinderella team? The first four games might look bad. These games are against tough opponents and the team may not be quite ready to gel just yet. However, if they can keep from collapsing or having serious injuries, I'm hopeful that the remaining 13 games could show promising improvements. Could they win 7 or 8 out of those? Is 8 - 9 great? That's in the realm of possibility, I think. 9 - 8 seems harder to imagine, and anything less makes the playoffs highly unlikely. Compared to last year that totals and win percentage seems like an improvement, so I'd say a B is warranted. Compared to being in the hunt for a playoff spot I'm less optimistic, although hoping beyond what would seem prudent given the past 5 or 6 decades I've experienced. I suppose my overall grade has to be tempered relative to the rest of the league as a C. Whether you lean to giving a grade more for improvement to last year's team or relative to the rest of the league, I think I'll leave that to each of you to decide. So, on an average grading perspective I'll say this is a C+ or a B-. This isn't a stunning break-through, but it seems positive to me.