Detroit Lions: Let the games begin

With the preseason over NFL coaches get to decide who has an NFL career. The interviews are over and now the real job begins.

Detroit and Buffalo

Alright. I really liked the Lions away uniforms. The blue pants… nice. So much for the good news. Against the Bills, the Lions looked like they won’t win a game. Fortunately only the backups played and they did have a good week last week. The key is consistency and that’s why they’re backups.

For the first time since Jim Caldwell became the head coach I saw our defensive linemen lining up offside. That used to be a running joke. It’s that sort of discipline Caldwell has brought to the Lions. There were five offside penalties for lining up in the neutral zone. Not to worry. Those players won’t be around long and even if one or two of them are, they won’t see the field.

Jake Rudock played so well against the New England Patriots that Lions GM Bob Quinn fielded phone calls about what he would take in a trade for him. What a difference a week makes. If Rudock read his own headlines he got a taste of reality last night because he struggled. He wasn’t terrible but moving the ball was not something the Lions did in the first half.

Life in the NFL

When the Detroit Lions boarded their flight to Buffalo, one of their players boarded a different flight to San Francisco. Laken Tomlinson was a first round draft pick two years ago and was traded on Thursday to the 49ers for a 2019 fifth round draft pick.

In 2016 Bob Quinn was a rookie GM and began his new career by rebuilding the Lions offensive line. He did that by bringing in a completely new scouting department and in the third round selected OG Graham Glasgow out of Michigan. It didn’t take long and Glasgow earned the starting job by replacing former first round pick, Laken Tomlinson.

There are two advantages for trading Tomlinson at this time. First, Quinn gets an extra late round pick, not in next years draft but the following year. That sounds a bit weak until you consider Quinn can use that pick in the 2018 draft to move up and land a quality rotational player if not an outright starter. Tomlinson wasn’t likely to make the 53-man roster this year anyway. Second, Bob Quinn frees up cap space this year bringing the total space to just over $12.5 million. Now, remember, the final cuts aren’t completed yet but Quinn could land someone off waivers after 4:00 p.m. Saturday, or he could make another trade which is only a phone call away.

Detroit is desperate for defensive ends. Before or immediately after the cut deadline, Bob Quinn could be hitting speed dial looking for a DE. He could trade a player like S Tavon Wilson who is in the last year of his deal, throw in a late round pick and get a solid rotational DE and maybe a starter. Miles Killebrew is just about ready to start at safety, but to replace him inside the box Detroit could look to their depth at cornerback for that help. Detroit does have options and they do have players returning before or at their bye week. It’s going to be a busy weekend.

The dream, and the preseason, is over

So, the preseason is over. Now we focus on who makes the team, who makes the practice squad and who gets cut. As of last night, there were 2,880 players on NFL rosters (give or take because of early cuts). By 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time this Saturday that number will drop to 1,696. There will be an additional 320 players who will be brought back after clearing waivers this weekend and they’ll be on the practice squad.

Now consider there are 128 Division I NCAA college teams who can field an active roster of 125 players and you potentially have 16,000 football players on Saturdays. Not exactly how that works but you get the idea. They aren’t all seniors and they don’t all dress on gameday, especially for away games, but from a talent pool in college to an NFL roster is like winning the lottery. Being talented is a must. Being disciplined to work that talent to an NFL level is another. 

So, by 4:00 p.m. this Saturday there are going to be some very disappointed young men and some really grateful ones too. And it’s not just the young kids either because careers will end this weekend. For every player who makes it, someone doesn’t.

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