The 2020 Michigan Wolverines offense could look a little different

Embed from Getty Images One year ago Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines football team’s offense was stale, and did not have the firepower to win in the schools biggest games. Harbaugh went outside the box and brought in Josh Gattis to run his offense. Gattis arrived in Ann Arbor and said his offense is based on “speed in space.”

“Speed in space,” is based on spreading the ball around and getting it to the best play makers. It sounded like a good theory. Michigan had some players needed to become a bit more explosive offensively.

Yet, Gattis and the Wolverines did not have enough play makers to move the meter much. Jim Harbaugh and Josh Gattis watched as the Wolverines struggled to grasp the offense early in the 2019 season.

Then it began to click, Michigan went on a mini tear, amassing points and yardage in the second half of the season. throw out a combined point total of 43 against Ohio State and Alabama, it goes without saying that is bad, Michigan did gain a combined 791 yards against the two national powerhouses.

The Michigan Wolverines offense clearly showed signs of growth. Enough growth to suggest the Wolverines look set to be a dangerous offensive team next season.

Cutting down on turnovers and finding a running game opened things up for the Gattis lead offense. Hammering Notre Dame for 45 points and hanging in against both Ohio State and Alabama, albeit for only the first half are positive steps.

The real question for Harbaugh, Gattis and the Michigan offense is what’s next? The team must replace quarterback Shea Patterson, who both struggled and played well sometimes within the same game. Michigan has an outstanding offensive line, but need to replace four starters as well as wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones who declared for the NFL draft.

While that is a lot to replace, Michigan, thanks in large part to solid recruiting have the depth for a smooth transition. It is not difficult to see improvement for the 2020 Big Ten season.

Jim Harbaugh knew this would be a bumpy step-back season as his team went in a new direction offensively. If the team can find it’s way through the non-conference games with new starters, Michigan’s offense looks prepared to take the next step.

The Detroit Pistons look to join the Tigers and Red Wings in rebuilding

Embed from Getty Images Tom Gores has been consistent in his expectations, when Gores bought the Detroit Pistons in 2011 he expected his teams would compete for playoff spots every year. With the 2019-20 Detroit Pistons the season having been nothing short or utter disappointment, changes are coming.

Pistons owner Tom Gores was asked Thursday night if he was OK with the team taking a step back if it meant getting more than just a playoff spot and actually competing for NBA championships.

“We probably have to take some chances with some of the younger guys, but absolutely, That’s what we’re aspiring to- something bigger than what we’ve been doing, but I have not lost faith in what Dwane Casey (Pistons head coach) is doing and how we’re developing the players and our future,” Gores said.

Just like that. It was not an out and out “We are going to rebuild,” but that is exactly what Gores is saying. Then came the proof, last night two NBA insiders reported the Detroit Pistons are looking to (or shopping if you like that verbiage better,) trade veteran center and Pistons mainstay Andre Drummond.

Drummond is the right player to start with. The market for centers in bare, making Drummond very attractive to playoff bound teams looking to add rebounding, defense and scoring. The Pistons know full well Drummond would bring in a tremendous haul. Players, prospects and first round draft picks. The Pistons are said to be engaged with the Atlanta Hawks with the Boston Celtics also keeping an eye on Drummond.

The Pistons also have other nice players to sell off, none short of Blake Griffin will bring in talent and coveted draft picks like Andre Drummond. I believe (if my memory serves me correct) last season both Tom Gores and Dwane Casey said they want to build around Griffin, so at this time I do not think they will move him. If they get an offer to good to pass up, then all bets are off.

In Detroit, the city already has two rebuilding sports franchises the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings and despite what general manager Bob Quinn said the Detroit Lions are also rebuilding at least on the defensive side of the ball.

For the Pistons with and older roster, this is the right path to take. By trading a star and getting current players already on NBA rosters, prospects and draft picks the Pistons position themselves to get better sooner. What will speed that up more is after the season when the team has expiring contracts off the books and can go after big name free agents, like Gores has always wanted to.

With coaching vacancies the Detroit Lions have work to do

Embed from Getty Images Tuesday the Detroit Lions gave six assistant coach’s pink slips. Yesterday, two Lions coach’s announced they were leaving coaching. Also yesterday the Detroit coaching staff was confirmed to be coaching the Senior Bowl. The Lions have three weeks to fill eight coaching positions in order to be able to coach the Bowl game.

The Detroit Lions will have a new defensive coordinator in 2020. Paul Pasqualoni, who  oversaw the Detroit Lions defense the past two seasons and the second worst defense this season, announced Thursday that he’s stepping away from football because the Lions said he wants “to be closer to his family.”

In more of a surprise, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson also is taking what the team described as an “indefinite leave” of absence from coaching. Davidson worked wonders for the Lions offensive line.

The Senior Bowl is widely viewed as the most prestigious college all-star game. Last year’s event showcased 40 players who were taken on the first two days of the NFL draft, including 10 first round picks and 93 drafted players overall. This year’s game is Jan. 25 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama.

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, now has a lot of work in just three weeks. Patricia needs to find a: Special teams coordinator, linebackers coach, assistant strength and performance coach, Football performance coordinator,  Defensive backs coach, tight ends coach as well as a defensive coordinator and offensive line coach.

In my opinion, Patricia will move quickly. Really he has no other choice. It is possible he has already in mind the coach’s he would like. Coaching in the Senior Bowl is considered a serious advantage because it gives teams an opportunity to actually work with prospects and put them through drills, rather than just seeing them rip a 40 yard dash at the NFL combine or a pro day. Usually the two worst teams in the league that didn’t make a coaching change land the gig.  Detroit picks at No. 3 in the first round of the draft.

Both Patricia and Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn are excited about the opportunity to head to Alabama. Its is a golden chance to see talent up close. But before then there is work to do. Lions fans can expect to hear about new coach’s in the next two weeks.

The Detroit Lions fire six assistant coaches

Embed from Getty Images Monday afternoon in the end of the season press conference’s  Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia said he was evaluating everything as the team fresh off a 3-12-1 season needs to be overhauled in some areas. Lions general manager echoed the same. Evaluate, think, make moves.

Tuesday afternoon The Detroit Lions announced some changes. The unfortunate outcome was six coaches received pink slips. This is what 3-12-1 looks like. Some of the firings were justified, more on that in a moment.

Tuesday, strength coach Harold Nash, special teams coordinator John Bonamego as well as four other assistant coaches were let go beginning what looks to be a rather significant offseason makeover for the Detroit Lions.

One puzzling move that was not made was defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was not fired, not yet anyway. Heading into the 2019 NFL season the Lions defense looked as good as it has in a while on paper. But paper does not play games nor does it coach.

Monday afternoon when GM Bob Quinn spoke, he said he did not like to make excuses, but the Lions had an NFL high 18 players on IR (injured reserve.) It seemed every game at least two Lions players were being carted off the field. To dismiss, Harold Nash was probably the right thing to do.

It is mind-blowing and downright boggling Paul Pasqualoni was not at the very least reassigned a different role. The Detroit Lions had one if not the most underachieving defenses in the NFL this season. The Lions ranked 31st in total yards, 26 in points allowed, dead last against the pass and blew seven second half leads.

Watching the Lions, the linebackers were out of position often and certain players development such as former first round draft pick Jarrad Davis has stalled. Leading to the linebackers coach getting his pink slip.

Coaching is not an easy job to be sure. Bob Quinn said he expects about a 25% roster changeover this offseason. That is down from last season where the Lions were closer to a 60% changeover.

Time will tell if the changes pay off. Lions owner Martha Ford gave a playoff or lose your job next season mandate to both Quinn and Patricia. If there is no playoffs next season, there will be a total rebuild, again. Lions fans are use to rebuilds the team has been doing it since 1957. Perhaps that why Mrs. Ford wants to give it one more shot.

Detroit Red Wings Tyler Bertuzzi makes his first All-Star team

Embed from Getty Images Detroit Red Wings Tyler Bertuzzi is many things. To opposing teams, Bertuzzi is a pest who gets under the skin and smiles while being annoying. To his Red Wings teammates he is simply known as “Bert.” The front tooth missing almost always smiling, almost always joking teammate. To the Detroit Red Wings Tyler Bertuzzi is now an NHL All-Star.

When the NHL announced the player selections Monday afternoon, Tyler Bertuzzi heard his name called. He nor anyone who follows the Red Wings or NHL hockey should have been surprised.

Bertuzzi leads the Detroit hockey team with 14 goals and 16 assists with 30 points, six points ahead of both Dylan Larkin and Anthony Mantha. Mantha would have made the All-Star team is he had not suffered a rib cage injury.

The NHL All-Star rosters are voted on by the fans. Dylan Larkin has been singing Bertuzzi’s praise for a while now. “I’ve said it before, he’s just a hockey player. He battles, he plays hard, blocks shots and scores goals. Bert is not afraid to jump into battles.” Larkin told reporters.

Bertuzzi has a great sense of humor as well. Last season in a game where Anthony Mantha broke his hand in a fight defending Larkin, Mantha skated to the bench sat down next to Bertuzzi took his glove off to reveal a swelling hand and asked Tyler if he thought it was broken. “How should I know, I’m not a *beeping* doctor”, Bertuzzi told him. Leading Mantha to breakout in laughter.

Bertuzzi is a bundle of sheer grit and determination. He has elevated his game and the game of his teammates everywhere he has played. The fact “Bert” is an All-Star is not surprising to anyone in the Red Wings organization or the Wings fan base. As Bertuzzi is a HUGE fan favorite.

Tyler Bertuzzi also has another big fan, Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman who smiles whenever Bertuzzi’s name is brought up. Why? Because Tyler Bertuzzi is a big part of the Detroit Red Wings future.

Weeding through some good in a lot of bad for the 2019 Detroit Lions

Embed from Getty Images Mercifully the 2019 Detroit Lions season has come to an end. At 3-12-1 the Detroit Lions were done in by a woefully underperforming defense and a rash of injuries. The Lions were in nearly every game, but could not put teams away. That is the bad in a nut shell. So let’s take a look at some good that the team and fans can take away.

For starters the Lions actually found talent in the later rounds of the NFL draft. Rookie defensive back Amani Oruwariye, became the first Detroit Lions player since 2010 to record two interceptions in their rookie season. Oruwariye looks like a solid player moving forward.

Defensive back Tracy Walker, became the fifth DB in Lions franchise history to total 100 tackles in a season. Walker’s feat is even more impressive as he did it in 13 games played.

Danny Amendola, Marvin Jones Jr. and Kenny Golladay, had 60+ receptions for 675+ yards each. That is a franchise first.

Rookie running back Ty Johnson was the first Lions RB since 1991 to record at least 50 rushing yards in the first half of a game while averaging more than 20.0 yards per attempt.

Lions running back Kerryon Johnson recorded the eighth most rushing yards by a Lions player with 1,104 in their first two seasons. Only Detroit Lions legends Billy Sims and Barry Sanders had more.

Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay, caught a touchdown pass in all four games against AFC teams. Golladay, totaled 5 TD catches in all. Only Lions great Calvin Johnson had more (6 in 2011.)

Speaking of Kenny Golladay, he lead the NFL with 11 receiving touchdowns. Joining Detroit greats, Herman Moore and Calvin Johnson as the only players in Lions history to post 1,100 receiving yards and 11 receiving TDs. Golladay also had 16 receptions of 25+ yards, the most by a Detroit Lions since Calvin Johnson in 2012.

Since the NFL began recording pass defenses, Lions cornerback  Darius Slay became the only player in NFL history to have six consecutive seasons with 12 pass defenses and 2 interceptions.

It is not much. But there is the good in a lot of bad. The Detroit Lions have a lot of offseason work to do, in order to put a better defense on the field. The team will pick at #3 in the first round of the NFL draft and has $50 million in cap space to make improvements.

 

Bad calls, missed calls did not cost Ohio State a loss vs Clemson

Embed from Getty Images Ryan Day whined, he whined about calls against his team. He whined because of missed calls. That is a first for an Ohio State head football coach, even the last head coach (Urban Meyer) did not bemoan officials after a loss. A loss that has become somewhat routine now. Ohio State vs Clemson in the College Football Playoffs.

The Clemson Tigers, the team that gave Woody Hayes his last loss, Urban Meyer his worst loss and now Ryan Day his first loss. The Ohio State Buckeyes looked strong to start the game. In fact the Buckeyes would stake claim to a 16-0 start.

Missed opportunities would ultimately cost Ohio State victory. Buckeye running back J.K. Dobbins ran for 141 yards on six carries, including a powerful 68-yard touchdown run, yet Dobbins dropped two go ahead touchdown passes on consecutive possessions inside the red zone leading to field goals.

Momentum shifted to Clemson when a controversial targeting call was made. Yet, that did not decide the outcome of this contest. Clemson had not scored and was struggling to move the ball. After the targeting call, Clemson scored 29 points.

Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, who wasn’t 100% with a brace on the left knee he injured against Michigan , threw two interceptions after throwing only one all year. The second pickoff was the back breaker. On a designed play, Fields was running a scramble play the wideout went in the opposite direction. The miscommunication resulted in a interception in the end zone to end the game.

Ohio State went 13–0 and made its first playoff run since 2016, Ohio State will be just fine. Sure players will leave for the NFL, that is nothing new. Still a loss on the national stage stings.

Perhaps, Ohio State should focus on avoiding Clemson. The Tigers are a very good team and football program. Or at least wait to play them for the National Championship.

The current Tampa Bay Lightning gives hope to a bright future for the Detroit Red Wings

Embed from Getty Images While it has not shown up in wins this season, and it has been a while since Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman has spoken to the media, he does have a vision for how he wants his hockey team to look. It is that vision that will lift  one out of the four Detroit floundering sports teams.

Sunday when the Tampa Bay Lightning invade Hockeytown, Red Wings fans will see the future. Yzerman carved a juggernaut hockey team in Tampa. In classic Yzerman fashion he will not be at Little Caesars Arena for the game. The Red Wings GM is in the Czech Republic for the World Junior Championships, scouting for next June’s NHL draft.

So what type of team does Yzerman want to put together? He wants a skilled, fast team with players who can play with pace, players who have a foundation of skill, skating and strong hockey sense.

Steve Yzerman does not care if it is a Russian, Swede, American or from anywhere else. Black, White, Yellow, Purple, skin color aside, can a player play the way Yzerman is both looking for and demands? That is THE key question. It is also what he looks for.

Let’s look at one of the NHL’s best players, Nikita Kucherov. Kutcherov was not viewed as anything special when he entered the 2011 NHL draft. Yzerman who had personally scouting the Russian forward begged to differ. When the third round rolled up, Yzerman selected Kutcherov ignoring the mainstream meida and scouts. Kutcherov is no stranger to hockey fans, he is an All-Star and a top 3 player in the league.

Perhaps the one thing that Steve Yzerman and his scouting department do as well or better than others is drafting. From 2010-19, no NHL team drafted better than Tampa Bay. That is key for any team, it is beyond important to the rebuilding Red Wings. It is also why Yzerman brought most of his scouts with him to Detroit when he left the Lightning organization.

Steve Yzerman has taken his experience and his ultra competitiveness as a player into his front office role. Make no mistake it will take some time but Yzerman and his scouting department will build the Detroit Red Wings into a strong, sustainable, winning hockey program.

Detroit sports are sick! 2020 offers some much needed medicine

Embed from Getty Images To say 2019 has been rough for the Detroit Pistons, Tigers, Lions and Red Wings, is like saying the sun is hot. While the Tigers and Red Wings are deep in rebuilds, the Lions as it turns out are in one as well, there was never an official announcement which angered fans. The Pistons are an older NBA team up against the salary cap which kept them from upgrading the team in much needed areas. So what does 2020 hold for the four Detroit franchises?

For the Detroit Pistons and Red Wings and Tigers the first thing 2020 brings in salary cap relief. Not only cap relief but a lot of it. With expiring contracts in upwards of $190 million dollars, the Detroit Tigers will begin the 2020 off-season (yes it is a ways away) ready to enter free agent bidding wars. Steve Yzerman and the Red Wings will see nearly $19 million come off the books, I do not think Yzerman will chase big name free agents after this season. I believe he wants to see the organizations top prospects develop a bit more. The Pistons will have an estimated $65 million freed up to improve the team.

What about the Detroit Lions, you ask? The NFL just announced next years salary cap and the Lions will have at the very least $50 million to improve a defense that woefully under-performed in 2019.

The Lions, Tigers and Red Wings all will have a top three draft pick in next years NFL, MLB and NHL amateur drafts. The Detroit Tigers do in fact have the number one overall draft pick and because they finished dead last in 2019 the Tigers have been awarded a compensation draft pick, the team will have two second round draft picks. The Red Wings are currently dead last in the NHL in points and have a real shot at the first overall pick in 2020.

The Pistons, with all of the issues they have are a fringe playoff team. If they do not improve they will be a lottery team and looking at a top ten draft pick. The Detroit Lions currently have the third pick in the NFL draft and depending on what happens could move up to number two.

For rebuilding teams draft picks are the most important life-line. Next summer’s MLB and NHL drafts offer the most talent baseball and hockey has seen in on a draft in nearly two full decades. Setting the Tigers and Red Wings up nicely in terms of getting the absolute best players.

2020, offers three of Detroit’s four professional sports organizations real hope for a brighter tomorrow. Of the Detroit teams, I have the most trust in the Red Wings. Because of Steve Yzerman. One of the best general managers in all of sports is set to have a top three overall draft pick and over $18 million in cap space. I believe the Red Wings rebuild gets done first.

 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker review

Embed from Getty Images Being a person who has been blessed to see now all nine Star Wars films in their original releases (Han shot first!) the final film in the epic Skywalker arc of Star Wars is in theaters now, The Rise of Skywalker. This review will have spoilers.

To begin, The Rise of Skywalker starts unlike many of the films previously, No space ship chase or fast paced action intro, the movie opens with Supreme Leader Kylo Ren engaged in a ground attack on Mustafar.

Ren there finds a Sith wayfinder and is off to search for Emperor Palpatine whom we find somehow survived being tossed over the second Death Star reactor core. Palpatine has been bidding his time on the ancient Sith planet Exogol. It is a dead planet which sets a dark tone. Ren finds the Emperor who tries to bait him into doing something for him, in exchange Ren is told he can run the Empire. The Emperor tells Ren he is every voice inside his head he has ever hear (insert cool part here.) He tells him he created Snoke as we see clone chambers with multiple Snoke’s in them.

Emperor Palpatine, is attached to a sort of life-support arm that moves with him. It adds to his already creepy nature. For this viewer Palpatine steals the movie. He is at his all-time evil prime.

Poe, Finn, Rose, Chewbacca all are at their collective best in the sequel trilogies final film. A film that is clunky after the opening scene, until it finds it’s footing about halfway through.

Rey, is at her best. After Kylo Ren tells her she is the grand daughter of Emperor Palpatine, Rey goes on a mission. Her showdown with the Emperor is very well done.

Kylo Ren, sees a vision of his father Han Solo, and is changed. He goes back to being Ben Solo. Though he has Skywalker in his bloodline thanks to his mother Leia Organa (Skywalker.) Ren then joins his grand father Anankin Skywalker and uncle Luke Skywalker and makes a sacrifice that costs him his life. A nice tie-together for sure.

The last scene is perhaps the best. Rey goes to Tatoonie, to bury Luke and Leia’s lightsabers at the old farm house. A lady asks who she is, Rey pauses and says “I’m Rey……… Rey Skywalker.” Effectively doing what Kylo Ren said back in The Force Awakens “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.” She no longer wanted to be associated with Palpatine and started over while honoring both Luke and Leia.

All in all, this is the best film of the sequels. It is a thrill ride and it is an emotional journey. A very fitting end to the Skywalker saga.