Lions’ Lack of Awareness, Running Game Is All Too Familiar

It’s the same old problems. It’s the same old Lions.

Photo by Daniel Meers of the Detroit News

Nine months ago Lions General Manager Bob Quinn was blunt. How could he not? The Lions were next to last in the running game (30th out of 32 teams) in 2016, and haven’t finished better than 28th in the past three seasons. Lions were down to Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and table scraps after starter Ameer Abdullah was lost to a foot injury after only two games, then backup Theo Riddick missed in the final four regular-season games with a wrist injury.

Quinn vowed for changes.

“Listen, I’m always looking to upgrade. That’s what my job is. I think the players understand that,” he said in a news conference.

“I think the number of new players that we brought in this year and the number of guys we tried out and worked out, I think it was eye-opening to a lot of people. My eyes are always open. If we can get somebody better, then great.”

Granted he put his money where his mouth was by signing former Packer T.J. Lang, and Rick Wagner to help bolster the offensive lines, but he failed to take a running back with his draft picks. Tion Green was added as an undrafted free agent.

But the pains of a running game have shown their head again this season as the Lions are still near the bottom of the league at 29th, and the headaches continued Sunday against the Steelers.

Matt Stafford had previously connected with tight end Darren Fells, and again to T.J. Jones to put Detroit on the doorstep on the four yard line at home in front of a national TV crowd from beating an NFL blue blood.

The next play was a hand off to Washington who lowered his shoulder and bowled over the Steelers defense, and was just shy of putting the Lions a head. But instead of extending the ball a few inches for a touchdown, the Lions saw the goal line as a cliff hanging disaster.

The next plays was an incomplete pass, then another Washington run that went no where, and the Lions were still down 13-12, and stared down yet another field goal opportunity that would once again secure the lead. But the Lions fumbled that idea, and went for another touchdown try, unnecessary mind you, and still came up short.

The ball was snapped, and Stafford’s options were slim, and he tucked the ball and was sacked for a loss. Three

Photo by Kirthmon F. Dozier Detroit Free Press

plays later, Ben Roethlisberger found JuJu Smith-Schuster over the middle and Smith-Schuster sprinted 97-yards for a 20-12 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Why not be secure and take the lead when your defense was holding the Steelers in check? Why not rely on a kicker you extended earlier in the week? Why stop listening to conventional wisdom?

The Lions defense who held Le’Veon Bell to his second lowest rushing total this season with 76 yards. Antonio Brown was held in check with 70 yards on five receptions, was waiting for its offense to pick them up, and it refused.

Instead, Detroit Lions totaled 482 yards (71 on the ground). That total became the third-most in NFL history for a team that failed to score a touchdown.

Yes, the Lions weren’t completely sunk by the decision to go for it when they didn’t have to. They did get another opportunity late in the fourth quarter. But the passing game stalled, and Stafford on third down checked from a pass to a run where Riddick was stopped for a loss of two yards from the six yard line. And, the Lions failed to score because a field goal wouldn’t have won the game.

Instead, had they gone for the field goal in the third quarter, and the game played out exactly how it did, the Lions would have been down 20-18 and could have kicked a short field goal to take the lead.

But that didn’t happen. The opportunity was lost. Now here we are. Back to where the Lions started clinging to hopes and dreams instead of grabbing their destiny by the throat and taking positive steps forward.

The Minnesota Vikings sit atop of the NFC North at 6-2. The Green Bay Packer-less Aaron Rodgers are 4-3. And the Lions are 3-4 with a tough loss after a bye-week, and a Tuesday trade deadline staring at them in the face.

There is still much of the season to play. They still face the Packers next week, and the Vikings on Thanksgiving with the Browns and Bears in between them.

But at some point, you have to be a different team instead of the same old Lions.

SRD Weekly Fantasy Football – Week 5 Advice

The first quarter of the season is through, and it has been an extremely strange yet exciting start to the fantasy season.

The busts of this year have been identified, but will they bounce back? Are they worth holding onto, or is a guy like Cooper, Crowder or Crowell better served on the waiver wire? The waiver wire/player claims after Week 4 are usually pretty crucial. We have a better sense of what teams have the favorable matchups, and what players are more involved than others.

Alex Smith, currently the No.2 QB behind Tom Brady, is the biggest surprise at the position. Cam Newton shook off a rough start against the Patriots, who look like one of the weakest defense of the years and ranks as such. Several different players have seen 20+ point games vs the Patriots, including Kareem Hunt’s coming out party, and a two-touchdown game from Devin Funchess this past weekend.

The leader of AFC East? The Bills. Their defense looks like a good one to stay away from overall. The Lions are also looking tough on that side of the ball, and have forced plenty of turnovers early on.

The Rams’ Todd Gurley continued his early-season rampage vs the Cowboys this past week, and Steelers running back LeVeon Bell gave you the kind of game you expect from a top-3 pick. It was a cold week for the position overall, but players like Alvin Kamara, Lamar Miller and Leonard Fournette were able to get it done.

Latavius Murray will take over lead-back duties in wake of the Viking’s Dalvin Cook’s torn ACL. The Seahawks running back situation is as clear as a magic 8-ball, and one that I am avoiding for now, as better options are available this week. Alex Collins is slowly taking over as the Ravens early-down runner, Andre Ellington is one of the most targeted RBs this year, and Giants’ Wayne Gallman, a sneaky pickup, may just become the G-Men’s starting back after this week.

Other notable pickups are Eli Manning, JaRon Brown, Danny Amendola. For those looking for some Tight-End solidarity, you could do a lot worse than Austin-Sefarian Jenkins. I think players such as Crowder, Terrance West and Paul Perkins are absolutely worth dropping at this point.

In Week 5, I really like Frank Gore vs the 49ers. He is a strong RB2 play and is due for a bigger, 15-point game. This matchup feels like a good time for the veteran to break out a little. I also think that Golden Tate vs the Panthers, Randall Cobb vs the Cowboys and Carson Wentz vs the Cardinals at home are good to as starters.

Andre Drummond Getting A Breath of New Life

Andre Drummond wasn’t right last season, and it stemmed from his college days at UConn.

On Oct. 28 2011, Drummond was accidentally hit in the nose by then freshman Brendan Allen who just made the team as a walk-on, and was immediately sent for tests. After getting X-Rays and tests, it was determined he had a mild concussion and a broken nose forcing the then freshman to wear a mask for several weeks allowing the nose to heal naturally.

After playing for four seasons with one nostril, Drummond decided to do something about it, and get it fixed through surgery.

“It took until last season for me to realize how bad it got. I literally couldn’t breathe in games. I couldn’t fall asleep for long periods of time because I was actually choking at night. It was tough,” the 6-foot-11 center said.

“I broke my nose in college and it gradually got worse over the years. I didn’t know how bad it got until my doctor asked how I played like that (with one nostril). I’m just happy I got it done.”

For Drummond having two nostrils has been a blessing even though it added some extra work in the off-season shedding close to 30-pounds.

“Having two nostrils is definitely a blessing. Being able to breathe again is great. I’m able to workout harder. I’m able to sleep better. I can smell things again. Things are good,” he said, noticeably thinner.

“I think I weigh about 285 (the roster has him at 279). I lost about thirty pounds or so from last year, and I’m definitely feeling it. I’m moving quicker, jumping higher. I just feel great overall. When I had my nose surgery, I wasn’t 100-percent breathing clear. I had to push through the wall of being able to use my nose again. I did a lot of conditioning to get myself in tip-top shape.

“I know I can’t run like I did during the season, so I also changed how and what I eat. I needed to get creative to keep that weight down, while keeping myself ready to play.”

Drummond has a new lease on life, and he wants to let it shine through this season. He says that the year he had in 2016-17 wasn’t an accurate representation of who he is. He also said that he took that slap on the wrist as a wake up call.

“There is no time to bull**** or anything like that. Everybody’s window is short in this league. I needed to make sure I took each and every day and be the best I can be,” he added. “For me, I put so much pressure on myself to focus more on my free throws. I spent all summer working on my game. I took the time to really develop that aspect and others. I just have to trust that I’ve done what I’ve needed to do to get better, and not dwell on the past.”

Drummond also had time to see the new Little Caesars Arena this off-season, and thought the arena looked more like a hockey arena than a basketball arena. But coach Stan Van Gundy said that he thinks Drummond’s opinion will change once the season begins.

“If you walk into the arena and the ice is down, yeah it looks like a hockey arena. So does the Palace when the ice is down. When the court is up, it’s a basketball arena, just like Staples Center, Madison Square Garden, the United Center, and a lot other places,” Van Gundy offered.

“I haven’t talked to him about it, but I think his opinion will change when he’s playing in it.”

Drummond did walk back his comments on Monday as well saying that he went down there a few times and saw a lot of hockey stuff and that it didn’t feel like home.

“I understand we’re sharing the space, but we have to be represented somewhere. I was just speaking from a place of emotion. I thought there’d be more Pistons stuff,” he said. “Maybe I’m looking at it in a wrong angle because everything isn’t done yet. Obviously when the season starts, and we’re playing there my views will probably change. But at the time, that’s how I felt.”

 

Pistons Players Offer Sign of Support to NFL, NBA

During the Golden State Warriors’ media day on Friday, Steph Curry doubled down on his stance that he wouldn’t be going to the White House to celebrate the Warriors’ NBA championship.

“That we don’t stand for basically what our president … the things that he said and the things that he hasn’t said in the right terms that we won’t stand for it. And by acting and not going, hopefully that will inspire some change when it comes to what we tolerate in this country and what is accepted and what we turn a blind eye to,” he said.

“It’s not just the act of not going. There are things you have to do on the back end to actually push that message into motion. You can talk about all the different personalities that have said things and done things, from [Colin] Kaepernick to what happened to [Michael] Bennett to all sorts of examples of what has gone on in our country that we need to kind of change. And we all are trying to do what we can, using our platforms, using our opportunities to shed light on that.

“ … I don’t think us not going to White House is going to miraculously make everything better … [but] this is my opportunity to voice that.”

During Monday’s media day, the Detroit Pistons also weighed in with their thoughts about Curry’s stance, and the NFL players who protested en masse during Sunday’s national anthems.

“I thought what the NFL did was commendable. Those guys did it as a team. Whatever you believe in, whatever you’re behind, all 53-men might not be of the same accord. They might not agree with everything. But when you have each other’s back that goes a long way. It brings us together,” guard Ish Smith said.

“We’re doing this for entertainment. We’re not saving lives. We’re not doctors or lawyers. But for three hours, or two and a half hours, if we can bring people from all walks of lives together, that’s what sports does. I’m happy to be a part of that, and I commend the NFL for doing what they did.”

Anthony Tolliver, who was brought in this past offseason after playing with the Sacramento Kings last season, offered his thoughts as well as saying the Pistons may do a protest of their own this season. The Pistons last year, stood with their arms locked last season after ex-49-er Colin Kaepernick took a knee last season.

“We haven’t had a chance to really discuss it as a team, but we will. We’ll make a decision as a team or individually. At the end of the day, we’re in this together whether it’s one guy, two or all five. We’re all on the same page and we’re together as brothers,” Tolliver said.

“As far as the NFL is concerned, it is what it is. Some guys knelt, and other guys stood. As long as those guys aren’t alienating their teammates, as long as they’re not doing something to put a negative light on their team, I don’t view it as a negative thing.

“Those guys are doing what they feel is right. And you should always do that. I don’t care what color you are. If you do what you feel is right, then you’re doing the right thing. Unfortunately some people are offended by it. But, a lot of people were offended by people sitting at a lunch counter. A lot of people were offended by Rosa Parks and whether she sat in the back, or the front of the bus, or anywhere on the bus.

“Sometimes being offensive isn’t the wrong thing. That’s their decision to do that, and I respect it.”

Point Guard Reggie Jackson, who was raised in a military household also added his thoughts.

“Each person is an individual. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a debate or a discussion. What people are standing up for (by kneeling), that’s something they feel they need to do,” he said.

“It makes me proud as an athlete, that no matter what your stance is, you’re using your platform to try to better the world in whichever way you feel, needs bettering. I appreciate that, and I have appreciation for the military that helps protect those freedoms by laying their lives on the line. To have the fortitude to stand up and say something, or just having a stance is something to be proud of.”

While it is still unknown whether or not the Pistons will offer a visual sign of protest again this season, they have the support of owner Tom Gores who offered a statement via twitter on Monday. They also have support of their head coach in Stan Van Gundy.

The Pistons being training camp on Tuesday with a shoot around at the practice facility in Auburn Hills. They will being the pre-season at home at Little Caesars Arena on Oct. 9 against the Pacers.

Stan Van Gundy Doesn’t Stick To Sports

The shockwave of reactions from President Donald Trump’s attack on NFL players on Friday night has moved beyond the NFL, and now has the NBA’s attention.

First it was calling former NFL QB Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” for kneeling during the national anthem to a crowd of supporters in Alabama. Then it was turned to NBA star Steph Curry who said he wouldn’t visit the White House in February when the Warriors are planning on making the trip to celebrate their NBA championship. The president rescinded the invite on Saturday morning via twitter.

On Monday during the Pistons’ media day coach Stan Van Gundy offered his words of support for the NFL players that decided to exercise their right to free speech by taking a knee, or staying in the locker room, or standing with arms locked in solidarity, or those who sat on the bench during the national anthem.

“While it is unfortunate that our current president has made our national anthem a divisive issue, the positive is that people are now talking about some very important problems,” his statement read.

“There are serious issues of inequality and injustice in this country. People of conscious are compelled to oppose racism, sexism, and intolerance of people of different sexual identities and orientation wherever and whenever they see it. I stand with those opposing bigotry. I, as an individual, and the Detroit Pistons as an organization, support diversity, inclusion, and equality. I was proud of the statement that our owner Tom Gores released this morning.

“I applaud, the professional athletes using their platform to voice their opinions. I encourage our players to be engaged, involved citizens. Peaceful protest is a hallmark of our democracy, and has been an impetus for social change throughout our history. While people can differ on the issues, no one should seek to discourage freedom of speech. The athletes involved in these protests should be respected for exercising their rights of free speech in an appropriate and non-violent manner.”

On whether there would be a form of protest, similar to the locking of arms during the national anthem last season, Van Gundy said it’d be something they would discuss.

“We talked about it a little bit in there among the team,” he added. “They may do something as a group, but each individual needs to make up their own mind as well. We encourage our players to get involved wherever they can.

“I take my job really seriously, but I also take my responsibility as a citizen very seriously. And when I see things I’m opposed to, I’ll usually speak out. While we’ll support our player’s decision to speak out, we’ll also support their right not to.”

Van Gundy also said he didn’t know exactly where it’d take his team, but support from

Stand Van Gundy by Keith Allison WikiCommons

the owner on down will be shown in whatever they decide.

He also had a message to the “stick to sports” crowd.

“Couldn’t we say that to virtually anybody, and anything? When you say ‘stick to sports’ what are you saying? As an athlete you’re too stupid to speak out, but it’s ok for business people to speak out? Do you not want anyone to speak out,” he asked.

“Generally, they don’t want anyone who disagrees with them to speak out. But athletes have the

same rights anyone else does. If there is a strength in our democracy, it’s that we are encouraged to exercise those rights and speak out, and to hold people in power in check.

“The stick to sports stuff, I don’t get it. Only our politicians get to speak out? Then everyone else has some sort of job. Stick to sports writing. Stick to camera work. Stick to building a new arena. Who is allowed to speak? If you’re a person in power, and wants to be tyrannical that’s great. Get people to shut everyone down who wants to talk. Then you’re the only ones left standing.

“No. No. We all are compelled to talk. As people of conscious, and you have something that’s important to you…it happened this summer with the Charlottesville situation and them moving the rally to a park. The ACLU was getting killed for that. I’m a big supporter of the ACLU, and I sent a letter to the executive of the local chapter here applauding them.

“You’re either for freedom of speech or you’re not. Democracy is hard. I don’t advocate violence, nobody has the right to that. But everyone has the right to their opinion whether I like it or not. I don’t hear stick to business, or stick to philanthropy if Bill Gates wants to speak out. It’s condescending to athletes, and I don’t agree with it. We have smart, involved guys on this team and in our league who have the right to make their opinion’s known.”