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Good news, bad news: Lions are starting over

FROM: http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2009/03/good_news_bad_news_lions_are_c.html

by Tom Kowalski | Opinion

Monday March 09, 2009, 9:15 AM

The good news for Detroit Lions fans is that the new regime isn't fooling itself and knows they have to start over from scratch. The bad news is ... they're starting over from scratch.

After 10 days of free-agency activity, the Lions are sending clear signals they aren't going to count on many of their recent draft picks.

One of the most notable areas is the defensive line where the Lions recently signed 36-year-old defensive tackle Grady Jackson and, according to the Miami Herald, the Lions will entertain 33-year-old Vonnie Holliday at some point this week.

Jackson is going to be a two-down starter and Holliday, who started 15 games for the Dolphins last year, would play a big role in the defense if he's signed.

Ideally, the Lions didn't want to target free agent players of that age, but they feel they have no choice.

The Lions like Cliff Avril, a third-round pick last year, but the future of other young players -- such as Ikaika Alama-Francis, Andre Fluellen and Landon Cohen -- is much more in doubt. The Lions are completely changing their defensive philosophy and moving away from speed and agility to more size and power.

The Lions also are in the market for two starting linebackers, which means Jordon Dizon -- last year's second-round pick -- isn't being counted on as a starter.

Lions president Tom Lewand recently said the team is interested in signing a veteran backup (presumably to Daunte Culpepper). That means they're not counting on Drew Stanton -- the second-round pick in 2007 -- to be their backup.

And, if the Lions draft a quarterback at some point -- which is very possible -- Stanton might have trouble making the roster.

The Lions tried to sign veteran left guard Derrick Dockery, which means they're not counting on Manny Ramirez, a 2007 fourth-round pick, to be much of a factor.

The Lions also are expected to address that left guard spot at some point in the draft. With the injury to 2007 second-round pick Gerald Alexander (neck) and his questionable return, it's possible that the only 2007 draft pick who will be on the roster this season will be Calvin Johnson.

The Lions currently don't have any draft choices from 2005 on the roster and only two (Ernie Sims and Daniel Bullocks) might remain from the 2006 draft. In addition, they have just two backups (Keith Smith and Alex Lewis) left from the 2004 class. The Lions have no picks remaining from 2002 and just one -- Cory Redding -- from 2003.

In those five draft classes, the Lions should have at least 18 key players who are either in or entering the prime of their careers. The Lions have three.

Back to the good news. The new regime isn't making the same mistake as the old regime.

They aren't going to kid themselves that some of these young players eventually are going to "develop'' into good players. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has precious little patience in that arena. He wants to see results, not excuses.


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