We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2009 fantasy football questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2009 Lions Fantasy Football Preview comes courtesy of Pride Of Detroit.
1. First off, how good does it feel to be rid of Matt Millen? How has his departure made this team better?
When Millen was first fired, it took a while to set in that he was no longer involved with the Lions. Lions fans had been waiting so long for it to happen that it didn’t even seem real at first. Once it sunk in, though, the feeling was a combination of joy, excitement, and relief. Many were upset that the Lions stayed in-house by hiring Martin Mayhew as the new GM, but even so, it was universally seen as an upgrade over Millen. Based on what Mayhew did in the last few months of 2008 and so far in 2009, I’d say he’s already done a better job than Millen.
2. Scott Linehan’s offense seems well suited for a rookie QB and a talented running back like Kevin Smith. How do you see the offensive line playing this year? Will they allow Stafford and Smith time and space?
More than anything, the Lions’ offensive line will have more depth than usual this coming season. By bringing in Jon Jansen, Brandon Loper, and Ephraim Salaam, there is more competition and overall an upgrade in talent compared to recent seasons. None of those players are franchise O-linemen, but they are good transitional players. By that I mean that someone like Jansen can either start for a year or push Gosder Cherilus to be an even better player. Someone like Salaam will do the same thing for Jeff Backus at the left tackle position by creating competition. And then a player like Loper will compete for a starting spot at left guard and is probably the favorite to be at the top of the depth chart at that position right now. Those new faces will make the OL much better both by starting and being there for depth purposes. Add in the fact that Jim Colletto, the previous OL coach, is long gone, and I think Matthew Stafford and Kevin Smith will be pleasantly surprised by the ’09 edition of the Lions’ offensive line.
3. In the last question I already inserted Stafford into the starting role. I’ve heard all kinds of speculative reports on when he might start. What do you think? What do you think would be best for his development?
Right after the draft, the general consensus was that Stafford would ride the bench to start the season and not play until around the bye week at the earliest and possibly even until his second season in the league at the latest. That was probably the hopeful situation at that time, as it would mean Daunte Culpepper was getting the job done, allowing Stafford to have an extra year to prepare for the starting job. Fast forward to now, however, and the sentiment is starting to change quite a bit. Many fans are already anxious to see Stafford play and want him to start from day one. I think if he’s ready, that is a good idea, but Jim Schwartz said it best in regards to this situation by establishing two conditions: “One is he‘ll play when he’s ready. The second is when he’s the best quarterback for us.” When that will happen I’m not so sure, but I think post-bye week is a good guess. Training camp will provide a better idea, of course, both for when Stafford will be ready to play and when he should play.
4. Calvin Johnson is a beast. To do what he did last year was amazing. For us fake footballers who draft Megatron who should we root for to be the starting QB week 1?
This is a tough question since Stafford hasn’t ever played, but based on what I saw last year, I’m going with Daunte Culpepper. Most of the positive stats Culpepper put up last year were a direct result of heaving the ball down the field and letting Calvin go get it. With Stafford, I tend to think the offense would be more balanced. There will be more of a focus on the running game no matter who the QB is, but with a rookie, I think the coaches will be less apt to let him throw it down the field on a regular basis. What’s more, word out of some of the minicamps is that Stafford is forming a great connection with Brandon Pettigrew on the field. That’s not to say Calvin wouldn’t be Stafford’s de facto go-to guy, but compared to Culpepper, I see him spreading the love more.
5. This time of the year is usually the best for any team besides the eventual winner of the Super Bowl, but the Lions have turned over 40% of their personnel, they have a promising new QB, young stars on offense, new veterans on defense and a new outlook. What are you looking forward to most this season?
Aside from winning a game, I am looking forward to seeing what the new coaching staff can do, especially defensively. A staple of Rod Marinelli-coached teams was pure incompetence during games both by players and coaches. It seemed like there was just a lot of confusion and many people were lost out there last year, so I’m hoping we see very little of that and more than anything a glimpse of a bright future under Jim Schwartz.