For the first time in 5 years the Detroit Lions have won 3 in a row

A few weeks ago the Detroit Lions fired defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. Speaking about the firing, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said “I just want to see us all on the same page, If we’re going to get beat, it’s because we’re—maybe we’re getting outrun or we’re not quite in-phase, but at least we’re kinda there. We gotta cut our mentals (mistakes) in half.” Winners of 3 in row, it looks like Campbell was right.

I am not a fan of pinning struggles on one individual. Yet, there is no mistaking the Detroit Lions have played much better since Pleasant was dismissed. Again, the secondary struggles were not entirely on the coach.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 20: Amon-Ra St. Brown #14 of the Detroit Lions carries the ball against the New York Giants during the first half at MetLife Stadium on November 20, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

For the first time since November 2017, the Lions have won 3 in a row. This is really big for an organization that has been rebuilding. After beating the Chicago Bears last week in Chicago, Campbell said it is important for the Lions to start to string some wins together. He is dead right. There needs to be signs that the rebuild is trending in the right direction.

Sunday afternoon the Lions again on the road in New York, the Lions took on the 7-2 Giants. The Lions played their best game of the season beating the Giants 31-18. It was a complete game by the Lions.

The Detroit defense held the NFL’s rushing leader Saquon Barkley to 22 yards on 15 carries. Rookie Aiden Hutchinson, continued to show why the team selected #2 overall in the NFL Draft. The 6′ 7″ Hutchinson came up huge for the Lions with 6:09 left in the second quarter, Hutchinson intercepted Giants QB Daniel Jones. The Lions used it to propel to victory.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – NOVEMBER 20: Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions congratulates Jamaal Williams #30 of the Detroit Lions after a touchdown against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 20, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The young Detroit Lions are heading in the right direction. Players are taking steps in their development and starting to get the results on the field. The Lions take on the Buffalo Bills Thanksgiving Day.

The Detroit Red Wings need Jakub Vrana to be better on defense

Last season saw Detroit Red Wings left wings (LW) Jakub Vrana score 13 goals, 6 assists 19 points in just 26 games played. Vrana was coming off of shoulder surgery which lead to the forward missing most of the season. Offense has never been an issue for Vrana, defense that is another story entirely. A couple days into training camp the Red Wings are asking Vrana to be more attentive when the other team has the puck.

MONTREAL, QUEBEC – JULY 07: Head coach Derek Lalonde of the Detroit Red Wings during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Detroit Red Wings head coach, Derek Lalonde said he met with Jakub Vrana and explained that he knew Vrana was a gifted goal scorer in order to take the next step in his development Lalonde challenged Vrana to become a complete hockey player.

When the Detroit Red Wings hit the ice on the first day of training camp it was Lalonde who skated with Vrana and showed him where he needs to be and what is expected from him when the Red Wings do not have the puck.

DETROIT, MI – MARCH 30: Jakub Vrana (15) of the Detroit Red Wings shoots the puck against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on March 30, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. The Rangers defeated Detroit 5-4 in O.T. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

It is up to Jakub Vrana to take the next step. two-way players are common place in the NHL. They add more value to the team and the the player. The Red Wings do not need Vrana to play at a high level on defense, they need him to be responsible and a trust worth teammate.

When the Columbus Blue Jackets traded for Patrik Laine, Laine was a bit of a train-wreck in the defensive end. The Blue Jackets began to explain that he could be a great goal scorer and dependable on defense. Laine did the things the team asked and is now more dependable on defense.

So the team, head coach can ask, explain, show, but it is up to the player to either grasp ahold of what is being asked or not. Preseason will be a good gauge for Vrana, if he enjoys the ice time and would like to keep or increase playing minutes he will take the advise and begin to show defensively.

Head coach Jeff Blashill believes the Detroit Red Wings are a better hockey team this season

Last season the Detroit Red Wings had 17 wins and 39 points in the COVID shortened 71 game NHL season. This season the Red Wings are 18 wins and 49 points in another COVID shortened NHL season. With only a one win difference in the two seasons, Red Wings head coach Jeff Blashill insists his hockey team is better.

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 08: Head coach Jeff Blashill of the Detroit Red Wings watches the action from the bench against the Anaheim Ducks during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on October 8, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. Anaheim defeated Detroit 3-1. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jeff Blashill who’s contract is up when the Detroit Red Wings season concludes Saturday, sees positive steps taken by the Red Wings this season. If you disregard one more win, Blashill’s statement may have some validity. No really.

Jeff Blashill has often been a target of Red Wings fans for a couple years now. But, as the developmental coach for the rebuilding Detroit hockey team, Blashill has seen his team have ups and downs. So is he correct? Are the Red Wings better?

For starters the games the Red Wings have won have come by and large with young players in the lineup. That in and of itself is indeed improved progress . It also lends to hope to the future.

Also, the Red Wings have improved defensively. No really. Last season the Detroit defense was 31st or dead last in the NHL, in a season the unit gave up an inexcusable  3.73 goals per game. This season the defense is ranked 20th allowing 2.98 goals per game.

What has not improved much is the Detroit offense. Last season the Red Wings offense was dead last averaging just 2.00 goals per game. This season the Red Wings offense is you guessed it, dead last at a very slightly better average 2.15 goals per game.

The offense needs to be a focal point for Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman this offseason. While the Red Wings wait for top offensive prospects like Lucas Raymond to develop.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – SEPTEMBER 12: Filip Hronek #17 of the Detroit Red Wings poses for his official headshot for the 2020-2021 season at Center Ice Arena on September 12, 2019 in Traverse City, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

In conclusion, Jeff Blashill is correct, the Red Wings are better this season. There is still a lot of work to be done. But in a long rebuild at least the defense has improved. Not to mention the Detroit Red Wings are not in last place for the first time in a couple seasons. That honor goes to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Detroit Red Wings need Danny DeKeyser to stay consistent

Embed from Getty Images Missing 27 of the first 47 games with two separate hand injuries that required surgery, Detroit Red Wings defensemen Danny DeKeyser  played in the fewest games of his six full NHL seasons. His play improved when he returned. The the Red Wings need him to stay consistent.

In the 2018-19 NHL season, DeKeyser averaged 1.8 blocked shots per game, second on team and first among defensemen. He also led the team in average ice time 21:58 and averaged 2:31 on penalty kill, third on team among defensemen. DeKeyser’s plus-minus rating was minus-5.

 DeKeyser showed improvement and more consistency during an injury-plagued season that cost him a total of 30 games. His skating and mobility enabled him to move the puck out of his zone more efficiently and quicker than he had the previous three years. Added strength allowed him to win more puck battles. Danny DeKeyser had his best season since 2014-15, but he still was not as strong as he was his first two full NHL seasons.

The question that needs to be asked is, was last season as good as DeKeyser can get at this point of his career or can he return to the form he played at during his first two NHL seasons?

DeKeyser  showed growth in terms of consistently defending last season. Danny has been good at different times in his career. Last season DeKeyser looked stronger, in the physical battles along the boards. He knocked people around way more. Some believe he is becoming an elite defender in the league, what was once envisioned for him   and now believe he is becoming.

This season the Red Wings are hopeful Danny DeKeyser picks up where he left off last season. He figures to be paired with Mike Green or Filip Hronek. Whoever he is not paired with on the top line will slide to the second line defense with Patrik Nemeth.

Those four defensive players should make up Detroit’s top four on defense.

2019 Detroit Lions defense may be one of the best in the NFL

Embed from Getty Images With the Detroit Lions offense learning a new system, Lions general manager Bob Quinn built a defense that is fearsome. Friday it was reported Detroit signed former Green Bay Packer All-Pro Mike Daniels to a one year deal. The former Packer was released for salary cap reasons.

Before the Lions were gifted an All-Pro the Lions defense was set to be a top ten NFL defensive unit. With A’Shawn Robinson, Da’ Shawn Hand and Damon “Snacks” Harrison returning from a defense that finished last season ranked #5.

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia has put a premium on stopping the run. Enter top free agent Trey Flowers to man the edge rush. Now Mike Daniels. Giving Detroit the best defensive line in the NFL.

Last season there was some noise coming out of Detroit that players did not like playing for Patricia. That turned out to be a false report. Both Flowers and Daniels turned down contracts and more money with other teams just to play and be coached by Patricia.

Given this offseason and the start of training camp it looks and sounds like every member of the Detroit Lions football team is on board fully with Patricia. The media who was a target of sorts for the head coach in post game exchanges. So far Patricia and the media seem to have found a common ground.

Patricia explained his thoughts on the Lions defense. “Defensive line right now is one of those groups- there’s a lot of positions within the positions if that makes sense- so being able to have multiplicity within a defensive line group always makes it difficult on the offense,” Patricia said “It puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback and the center to identify who everybody is, what position they play, and where they’re lined up, that really affects protections.”

What was unclear last season is becoming clearer. Given the moves the Detroit Lions have made they are switching to a 3-4 defensive front. Given the teams top six linemen they can rotate in and out to get the matchup they like.

The defense is a very good unit. In my opinion that was by design. I believe Bob Quinn and Patricia believe the best way to allow the offense to have time to learn a new offensive system is to put a defense on the field that can attack.

There will be many restless nights for coaches around the NFL when they face the 2019 Detroit Lions defense.

Detroit Red Wings defenseman Dennis Cholowski looks to improve and stick in Detroit

Embed from Getty Images Last season nothing came easy for Detroit Red Wings rookie defenseman Dennis Cholowski. After a solid start to the 2018-19 NHL season, Cholowski’s play had slipped a lot. Hot on his tail was another Red Wings rookie defender,  Filip Hronek who overcame his own shortcomings and earned more playing time. Dennis Cholowski found himself demoted to the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The Detroit Red Wings 2016 first-round draft pick, Cholowski, is viewed as a player who if he can stay mentally strong has another chance to make the Detroit roster out of training camp. That will be a tough road given the veteran depth at the defensive position.

Dennis Cholowski must show up and compete hard to avoid being  disappointed again. Dennis said he has spoke with Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman about his expectations for the young defensive player.

“It’s really just being more responsible, having the coach’s trust to be able to put me out and know that I’m not going to get scored on, that I can box guys out, that I can kill plays in the D-zone,” Dennis Cholowski told reporters. “If I can come in and do that, and then let my offensive side take over, I think I’ll be OK.”

Steve Yzerman has said he wants to see players earn their spots and that “the most competitive kids are going to make our team better.” Last season Cholowski’s mistakes outweighed his solid contributions to the team. At Christmas, Cholowski had 14 points in 36 games and was a team worst minus 11. From Christmas until Feb. 10, Cholowski had one goal and one assist in 16 games, and was  a team worst minus 9, a strong sign his defensive play was not where it should be.

Being mentally strong, being smart with the puck, being smarter with passes, will help Cholowski’s game improve. Consistent playing time will earn trust with coach’s and the general manager.

The Detroit Red Wings 2019 NHL draft: Day 2

Embed from Getty Images April 19, 2019, Steve Yzerman returned to the Detroit Red Wings organization. The only organization he knew during his 20 year Hall of Fame career. When he fielded questions from the media right after accepting the general manager position, Yzerman was asked what his first order of business would be. His answer, “To assess the entire organization and go from there.”

Steve Yzerman’s assessments have become crystal clear. Clearly we was not happy with the current state of the Detroit Red Wings defense. Friday nights first round of the NHL draft saw Yzerman and his scouting department begin to overhaul and reshape the defense.

Starting with first round draft pick Moritz Seider, The Red Wings would continue to add defense. With the first of three second round draft picks Detroit picked Finnish defensemen Antti Tuomisto.  standing 6′ 4″ he is the same size as Moritz Seider.

Tuomisto, is fast he has a powerful stride he reaches top speed quickly with his above average acceleration. Tuomisto is hard to knock off the puck. He absolutely needs to add upper body strength to improve leverage.

Red Wings fans will be happy Antti Tuomisto is an offensive defensemen. He is nasty on the forecheck and is a very good passer, allowing him to quarterback the power play. He needs to polish his defensive skills up a bit. Once he adds some muscle Tuomisto will be very dangerous in the dirty areas. He excels at blocking shots.

With the next second round pick, Detroit went offense. Robert Mastrosimone. In Mastrosimone the Red Wings get a left wing/ center who is a good not great skater. Robert does possess a explosive first step and acceleration. He has some rough aspects to his game that need to be refined.

What Mastrosimone is, is a sniper. He has an above average heavy wrist shot and excellent release. He has very good stick handling ability and is dangerous one on one. His defensive game needs to be more consistent.

With they’re third and final second round draft pick, The Detroit Red Wings selected a prospects I am very high on. Going defense for the third time in the first four draft picks, Detroit picked Albert Johansson.

Albert Johansson is shorter than both Moritz Seider and Antti Tuomisto. Johansson stands an even 6′ 0″.  Albert becomes the Detroit Red Wings best skating defensive prospect. Great speed, great acceleration combined with the ability to pivot crisply allows Albert to transition quickly from defense to offense and vice versa.

Johansson has great stickhandling control has has very good vision up the ice. He is very good at avoiding defenders in the offensive end while above average passing sets up teammates very well.

He possesses a nice slap shot but needs to clean up on accuracy. Johansson’s defensive game is stellar. He has great gap-control and is hard to beat one on one. He is very good at poke check and stealing the puck. He also needs to clean up containing opposing forwards.

All and all the Detroit Red Wings had a very solid second round. The defense is in better shape for years to come.

Could the Detroit Red Wings trade a young forward for a defenseman?

Embed from Getty Images At the World Championships, Detroit Red Wings forward  Anthony Mantha is generating a lot of buzz. With 3 goals, 4 assists and 7 points in three games. Anthony Mantha could have possibly  increased … his trade value.

No Red Wings fan should read too much into that. Steve Yzerman pointed out Mantha as being a “core player.” Odds are slight he would get moved. Not to mention Mantha, Dylan Larkin and Tyler Bertuzzi’s line absolutely exploded the final weeks of the regular season.

Andreas Athanasiou, and Michael Rasmussen, Taro Hirose, Filip Zadina, Joe Veleno, Evgeny Svechnikov and Jonatan Berggren not to mention whoever the Detroit Red Wings  draft next month gives them some great talent at forward.

One problem, outside of Dennis Cholowski and Filip Hronek there is no good defensive talent in the Wings pipeline. Defense is the single most need the Red Wings have.

Tyler Bertuzzi is not going anywhere. He simply brings too much to the table night in and night out for the Red Wings. Which means in a league where you have to give talent to get talent the two names that would bring in a young top line defensive player is Mantha and Athanasiou.

For that to happen it would have to be a trade that makes sense, especially for a general manager like Steve Yzerman. Yzerman, is known as a very aggressive general manager. He will want to get the Wings closer to the playoffs sooner than later.

The Colorado Avalanche, are said to be looking to add scoring. Defensemen Tyson Barrie could be moved for that to happen. That could be an option for Detroit. Also, Carolina, or Anaheim or Nashville all have deep defensive players who could be moved to add scoring.

Players like Mantha and Athanasiou have become valuable bargaining chips if the Wings choose to go the trade route. Both players will become restricted free agents in the summer of 2020, with Mantha currently making $3.3 million per season and Athanasiou $3 million. Both players will be in line for big raises.

Factor in Veleno and Zadina and it is probable a trade is made.

Michigan State football team returns the No.1 defensive line

Embed from Getty Images In 2018 Michigan State football’s defensive line became the nation’s best run-stopping defense. Kenny Willekes emerged as an All-American. Raequan Williamsand Mike Panasiuk formed an impenetrable wall up the middle. The defensive line is very good, but there are questions.

For the Spartans defense to improve during the 2019 season they must find more depth to combat high-tempo offenses which is a major concern. So is generating more of a pass rush.

Michigan State’s front four held opponents to 77.9 yards per game on the ground, which was 17.2 yards fewer than the next closest run defense Mississippi State . That included limiting eight teams to fewer than 65 yards. The Spartans were so  disruptive against the run that opponents averaged only 30.2 carries per game.

The Spartans need to find a pass rush plain and simple. The Spartans managed just 28 sacks all season, including just seven in the final six games. It does no good to stop the run, only to give it all back on a pass. That was a broken record last season.

Stopping the run only to give up a huge pass, the Spartans defense could not get off the field. It must change for Michigan State to find more consistency to their game.

If Michigan State can count on the offense to extend drives and score, if the Spartans defense can find a pass rush, they will be a force in the Big Ten race. If not the 2019 season will look an awful lot like last season.

Michigan Wolverines: defense will be scary good

Embed from Getty Images With much focus on quarterback Shea Patterson and Jim Harbaugh calling offensive plays himself. The Michigan Wolverines 2018-19 defense heads into the season ranked #1.

Rashan Gary, is a returning all-American defensive end. Gary, is not the best player on the Wolverines defense. The defensive line also boasts of Chase Winovich,  Brian Mone and Aubrey Solomon as it’s core. Other players will rotate in during games.

This Michigan Woverines linebacker corps is outstanding. Devin Bush Jr. is a beast and the best player on defense. Noah Furbush, Josh Uche, Devin Gill  round out the talented unit.

The Michigan secondary is the best in the Big 10. Khaleke Hudson is tough hitter at safety.  Casey Hughes who transferred from Utah will anchor the strong safety. Lavert Hill and David Long set up as the top cornerbacks on the team.

Defensive coordinator Don Brown, is set to unleash his unit. His favorite saying is “Solving problems with aggression.” Expect the Wolverines defense to attack at all times.

As good as this defense is and can be. Under classmen will be counted on in important times in games. It is the only way to prepare them for when they start.

Last season Michigan tied for the national lead with 114 tackles for loss. The Michigan coaching staff expects that number to increase this season. This defense is  national championship good.

Michigan, hopes the offense does just enough to get them to the Big 10 championship game. Which is a real possibility.