Tag:Julian Peterson
Posted on: June 12, 2011 11:09 am
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McGinest jokes about ending NFL retirement

Willie McGinest was joking when he said he'd like to make a comeback (Getty).Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Willie McGinest, who’s spent the years since he retired as an NFL LB in 2008 working for the NFL Network, was in Detroit on Friday, filming a segment for his employer.

He participated in the conditioning circuit with the approximately 30 Lions in the player-led workout, and afterward, he took part in position drills with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Ndamukong Suh, Cliff Avril, Andre Fluellen and Willie Young.

McGinest felt so good, in fact, that he told the Detroit Free Press that he’s thinking about making a comeback.

"We're going to see if I get offered a contract now," McGinest said. "After I send this tape out to a few teams, we're going to see."

He was, ahem, not being serious, as he explained in a statement to Pro Football Talk, “Even though I looked as good as I did, this number 55 has been retired for three years and plans to stay retired. The only thing that will bring me back is a one-day contract with New England to retire as a Patriot.”

Though I can see why the Lions might want to give him a shot – our Lions offseason checkup pointed out LB Bobby Carpenter isn’t exactly irreplaceable and they’ll have to fill the void left by Julian Peterson – there’s just no way the skills of McGinest, who turns 40 in December, would be NFL-worthy at this point.

But, if McGinest WERE serious, he could do worse than Detroit. After all, with the Lions, he’d get to play behind the best young DL in the league with Suh and Nick Fairley, and he’d be on a team that could be a trendy poll to make the playoffs.

Instead, McGinest will get to keep watching them on TV and then commenting on it for your pleasure.

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Posted on: April 8, 2011 5:44 pm
 

Offseason Checkup: Detroit Lions

Posted by Andy Benoit

C. Johnson (US Presswire)


Eye on Football's playing doctor for every NFL team with our Offseason Check-ups .



If we’re to stick strictly to the metaphor here, a team that always finishes in ICU was at least hobbling around one of the more respectable rehabilitation wards when the 2010 season ended.

The Lions went 6-10, ranking 15th in points scored and 19th in points allowed (the 15th scoring offense ranking was partly due to a penchant for fun but unfulfilling garbage time comebacks). It’d be interesting to find out if the Lions brass would have been willing to trade the 6-10 finish for a 4-12 finish if had meant Matthew Stafford getting a chance to develop. This team likely would have been better than 6-10 had Stafford not missed 13 games with shoulder problems. But the point is, his development is crucial to the franchise’s long-term growth, and he didn’t develop while on the sidelines.

At least rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh developed. He went from “monster” early in the year to “mega monster” late. Suh headlined a revamped defensive line, which headlined a defense that still sorely needed revamping at the linebacker and secondary levels.

 

An unsung hero

How did this story slip through the cracks in 2010? Pettigrew, a first-round draft choice out of Oklahoma State in ’09, was operating at full strength on the field just nine months after tearing his ACL. In his return, the 265-pounder was an even quicker, more fluid runner than before.

Pettigrew’s newfound receiving prowess gave the offense an underneath dimension that was crucial in capitalizing on defenses rolling coverage over the top against Calvin Johnson. Augmenting this was Pettigrew’s ability to snag balls on the move.

Pettigrew’s newfound receiving prowess gave the offense an underneath dimension that was crucial in capitalizing on defenses rolling coverage over the top against Calvin Johnson. Augmenting this was Pettigrew’s ability to snag balls on the move.



1.Cornerback
Having a zone-based playmaker like an Asante Samuel would do wonders for Gunther Cunningham’s secondary. Last year’s corners were too focused on fundamentals to even listen to whatever instincts they may have had. It’s questionable whether Chris Houston is wanted back, and it should be questionable whether Alphonso Smith deserves to be welcomed back (at least to the starting lineup). Nate Vasher has experience in a Cover 2 scheme, but a few decent games down the stretch in Detroit don’t override his last few disastrous years in Chicago.

2. Outside Linebacker
You actually have to have a strong side to your game in order to be a starting strongside linebacker in the NFL. Which is why finesse-based journeyman Bobbie Carpenter is not the answer. Last year’s strongside ‘backer, Zack Follett, is penciled in as the replacement for gargantuan disappointment Julian Peterson on the weak side. Follett, however, doesn’t begin to have the necessary athleticism to play this position.

3. Interior Offensive Linemen
Center Dominic Raiola’s lack of power has become too much of an issue. An upgrade there could help keep thoroughly average guards Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman afloat.



The Lions could very well become the trendy pick of 2010. A lot of the hype will depend on how people feel about Stafford.

If he’s sharp, the Lions might be able to mask their middling offensive line. In that case, it would come down to how much the young secondary improves. If it’s lofty goals you like, 9-7 wouldn’t be an unfairly high bar for this club.

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Posted on: January 5, 2011 9:04 pm
 

Surgery for Ndamukong Suh

Posted by Andy Benoit

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will miss the Pro Bowl due to shoulder surgery. The news shouldn’t be considered too alarming, though. For one, it came from Lions GM Martin Mayhew (big stories pertaining to injuries tend to first break from reporters, not team officials). By all accounts, Suh’s injury is not serious.

In other Lions news, Mayhew also said that outside linebacker Julian Peterson would not be back in 2011. Peterson was scheduled to make $8 million, which, based on his 2010 performance, is about $6 or $7 million too much.

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Posted on: September 24, 2010 7:21 pm
 

Don't mess with Gunther Cunningham

J. Peterson was benched by Detroit defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Apparently to Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham,  it doesn’t matter who you are and what your qualifications are. If he’s not happy with the way you’re playing, you’re headed to the bench.

That includes you, five-time Pro Bowler Julian Peterson. After watching Eagles RB LeSean McCoy burn him and the rest of the Detroit defense for a long touchdown, Cunningham pulled Peterson from the game and replaced him with Ashlee Palmer.

“There's a reason, and he understood the reason,” Cunningham told the Detroit Free Press. “We expect certain things, and he's had a good week of practice."

More importantly than the temporary benching, though, was the message the move sent to the rest of the team.

"If he'll bench a five-time Pro Bowler, then he'll definitely bench anybody else,” CB Jonathan Wade said. "We've got to be accountable, and we've got to be doing our job. It's time to get it done. It's time for things to change."

But that wasn’t necessarily the worst-performing portion of Detroit’s defense that week.

Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, at times, was quadruple-teamed during the game, but the rest of the Lions couldn’t take advantage.

That’s four guys on one guy. Which theoretically means three Lions weren’t being blocked at the time. So you can excuse Cunningham’s anger. Because that's pretty ridiculous.

"I'm not going to tolerate four guys blocking one, and that was made loud and clear this week," Cunningham said. "I think we got some results on the practice field. Now it's going to depend on how we play in the game."

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Posted on: September 17, 2010 8:27 am
 

Week 2 Key Matchup: defending Michael Vick

Posted by Andy Benoit

It usually takes a national holiday to inspire Americans to watch a Lions game. This week, however, a lot of eyes will be on Motown with football fans tuning in for Michael Vick’s expected starting debut as the Eagles quarterback. Vick looked like the Vick of old in Philadelphia’s second half loss to Green Bay. His electrifying athleticism is back. So how will Detroit defend him?M. Vick (US Presswire)

The short answer: with zone coverage. Zone defense, whether it’s traditional Cover 2 with cornerbacks guarding the flats and safeties covering the deep middle, or Quarters with each of the four defensive backs taking ¼ of the field, is the obvious tactic against a mobile quarterback because it allows defenders to see all of the action in front of them. In man coverage, defenders must follow the receiver and turn their back to the ball. When teams see man coverage, they often design their routes simply to clear out defenders against the run (FYI, Sean Payton happens to be a genius with this tactic). You obviously can’t leave that kind of open field for Vick.

Thus, look for Detroit to strictly play zone defense Sunday. (For what’s it worth, you can tell what type of coverage defenders, especially linebackers, are playing by how they take their first step. A first step towards the line of scrimmage usually indicates man coverage; a first step backing away from the line of scrimmage indicates zone.)

Chances are, even without Vick, the Lions would have played a lot of zone against the Eagles anyway. Reason being, the Lions cornerbacks simply don’t have the speed or agility to handle the quickness of DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Because the way to beat Jackson is with physicality at the line of scrimmage, and because Lions corner Chris Houston is ineffective when he’s not physical, don’t be surprised if Houston and company try to get a jam on the Eagle receivers before dropping into their zone. This will not only disrupt the timing of the routes, but it will also disguise some of the defensive looks for Vick. You have to figure Vick will be a tad rusty in his reads, given that he hasn’t had a team game-plan specifically against him in roughly three years.

Last week, once Vick entered the game, the Packers secondary employed some of the purest zone coverages known to football.

However, the Packers remained aggressive with their front seven blitz tactics. This flustered Philly’s passing game at times, but whenever Vick was able to flee the pocket and get outside the widest defender, he found plenty of open space to eat up (hence his 103 yards rushing). The Lions can’t afford to yield those kind of running lanes.

Don’t be surprised if Detroit shadows Vick with a linebacker. Using a shadow linebacker can be expensive in coverage, but it’s not like Vick scans the field with the quickness of a Manning or a Brees. A shadowing linebacker doesn’t just provide a fulltime potential tackler against the quarterback, it also forces him to scramble outside, where the sideline can act as a 12th defender. When Vick was a Falcon, no team defended his running better than Bucs. The Bucs were a zone-based team (Tampa 2) that used their fast linebackers to shadow and force Vick outside.

The Lions used Landon Johnson and Julian Peterson as their nickel linebackers in Week 1; of the two, the versatile and athletic Peterson would make the best shadow option. In base packages, middle linebacker DeAndre Levy, who did not play in Week 1, is Detroit’s best athlete, though coaches may want Levy focused on attacking downhill.

Keeping Vick’s scrambling in check is a tall order. The Lions, with their iffy back seven personnel, will need a dominant performance from Ndamukong Suh and company just to have shot. At least the blueprint is clear.


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Posted on: July 6, 2010 12:08 pm
Edited on: July 6, 2010 12:19 pm
 

Position rankings: 4-3 outside linebackers

Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit resume their debate, with today’s focus on 4-3 outside linebackers.

Josh Katzowitz’s top five

5. Geno Hayes, BuccaneersB. Cushing (US Presswire)

4. Julian Peterson, Lions

3. Daryl Smith, Jaguars

2. Lance Briggs, Bears

1. Brian Cushing, Texans

Last week, we talked about outside linebackers who play the 3-4. Now, it’s the 4-3 linebackers’ turn. Despite the fact he violated the steroids policy and won’t be around for the first four games of the Texans season – personally, I think the voters should have stripped away his NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award as well – Cushing was phenomenal last season. He’s extremely well-rounded – he can rush the passer, play the run and drop into coverage with aplomb – and he’ll be a great foundation for Houston in the years to come. Hopefully, his pituitary gland won’t give him any more problems in the future.

Briggs had another Pro Bowl season, but he missed too many tackles last year. He still plays with speed and strength and is still a top-notch OLB. Smith is coming off a career season (106 tackles) when Jacksonville experimented with a 3-4 scheme, but with the Jaguars going back to the 4-3 and moving Smith to the strong side, it’ll be interesting to see how the change affects him and whether he drops back into the 70-80 tackle range. Peterson is getting older and losing a step, but he’s still more than solid. I’m not sold fully on Hayes, but he had a nice season last year, and Tampa Bay expects big things in his third season.

I thought about adding Keith Bulluck – who’s 33 – but the fact he’s coming off an ACL surgery and that, you know, he hasn’t been claimed off the free agent market dampens my enthusiasm for him.

Andy Benoit's top five

5. Chad Greenway, Minnesota Vikings

4. David Hawthorne, Seattle Seahawks

3 Brian Cushing, Houston Texans

2. Lance Briggs, Chicago Bears

1. Jon Beason, Carolina Panthers

We’re in agreement on Cushing and Briggs. Cushing has been a star since day one. Of course, we’ll have to see how explosive he is now that he’s not juicing (presumably). Lance Briggs has terrific speed, plus he’s strong enough to play in traffic.

My guess is you’re considering Beason a 4-3 MLB. He’s been the best 4-3 MLB in the league the past few years, but it’s looking like the Panthers will foolishly slide him to the weak side to replace the injured Thomas Davis in 2010. I figure Beason will be a demon at weakside linebacker, too – it’s the position he played at Miami. If he’s a WLB in ’10, where do you rank him?

Hayes is up-and-coming, but he needs to learn to get off blocks before I consider him top five. Peterson has been a non-factor in Detroit, which is almost like being dead. Smith is just too plain for me. His tackle numbers were good in part because the players around him stunk. Put Smith next to a Ray Lewis or a Bart Scott and you’d never notice him again.

Regarding the guys rounding out my list…Greenway is a playmaker when he can trust those around him. He’s especially effective in coverage. I’m taking a risk by going with the undrafted Hawthorne, mainly because his NFL experience is at middle linebacker and it’s not a 100 percent guarantee he’ll even start ahead of Leroy Hill in Seattle this year. But I’ve seen enough of Hawthorne on film to feel comfortable here. Hawthorne is instinctive, nimble and punishing at the point of contact. He regularly infiltrated opponents’ backfields last season.

Josh’s rebuttal

You’re absolutely right on Beason. If he does move to the weak side – and it’s still not certain – he automatically moves to No. 2 on my list. I still like Cushing a little bit better, but that could change on next year’s list, because of the chemical questions you mentioned. Greenway, aside from his coverage skills, seems run of the mill to me, and it’s not clear whether Hawthorne, who had a breakout last season, will even start this year – depending on what happens with Leroy Hill. He’s almost the Omar Infante of your list.

Andy’s final word

I didn’t realize how few elite 4-3 OLB’s there are until we did this list. The best athletes used to be weakside linebackers. Now, they’re 3-4 outside linebackers. (Or, sometimes, strong safeties.)


(Other positions: Safety | Cornerback | 3-4 Scheme Outside Linebacker | Punter | Kicker )


--Josh Katzowitz and Andy Benoit

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