Rebuilt Detroit offence aims to ‘pound the rock’
It’s not a hard and fast rule. But show me a good team, and more often than not, I’ll show you a team that can run the ball.
And then there’s the Detroit Lions.
Rarely do they find success. They have only one playoff win, a 38-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1991 divisional round, since claiming the NFL championship in 1957.
Lions fans are nothing if not patient.
Detroit had the great Barry Sanders, the fourth leading rusher of all-time, from 1989-98. He rushed for more than 1,100 yards in each of his 10 seasons, and 2,053 yards in his second-last season.
But the Lions were never as great as they should have been with Sanders, compiling a 78-82 regular-season record and going 1-5 in the playoffs. Anyway, Detroit had a good year along the ground last year, for them. They ranked 21st in the run game.
In this off-season, they have made a commitment to improve that part of the game. In free agency they signed former Eagles tackle Halapoulivaati (Big V) Vaitai. Then they drafted Georgia running back D’andre Swift in the second round and guards Jonah Jackson (Ohio State) and Logan Stenberg (Kentucky) in the third and fourth, respectively.
Now they’re working on their overall mindset.
“Running the ball is all about the toughness,” third-year centre Frank Ragnow said from his off-season home on the team’s website. “It’s the hard work. It’s the dirty work. I’m just trying to work my tail off individually here in Minnesota, in my mom’s basement, trying to get to be the strongest, toughest guy I can be, so we can pound the rock this fall.”
Ultimately, Swift could be a difference maker. At Georgia, he played behind Cleveland’s Nick Chubb and New England’s Sony Michel.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Lions running back Kerryon Johnson told reporters on Wednesday. “I remember playing against him at college. I hated seeing him. I’m telling you, when that kid stepped on the field, he was lightning in a bottle.”
If the running game is, in fact, much better, and quarterback
Matthew Stafford plays the way he did before getting injured halfway through the 2019 season, the Lions just have to do something about their 31st-ranked defence.
SECOND AND LONG
The NFL and NFLPA are discussing chopping the pre-season in half, from four games to two. By all indications, it’s going to get done … The statue of Jerry Richardson is being removed from outside Bank of America Stadium. Who, you say? How quickly they (want to) forget. Richardson founded the Carolina Panthers and owned them for 23 years, until he was basically forced to sell after allegations of workplace sexual harassment and racially insensitive language toward a former scout. When David Tepper purchased the Panthers in 2018, he said he was contractually obligated to keep the statue on the grounds. He has since found a loophole, apparently.
DOWN THE SIDELINES
New Browns coach Kevin Stefanski seems like a wise man. When it comes to the playing of the national anthem before games, he says he’ll do whatever the players decide.
“I am just so keen on dialogue with our players and listening,” Stefanski said in a conference call. “My big note to our players is that I have their back, and that’s not just lip service. I’m standing right there beside them. They have my support, and I promise one thing, we will just continue to listen to each other from a place of mutual respect.” Stefanski wants his players to play for him. For whatever reason, they didn’t do that for his predecessor, Freddie (The One Year Wonder) Kitchens … There’s talk Jadeveon Clowney, who reportedly turned down an $18-million offer from the Browns, could now accept $15 million from his old team, the Seahawks.