Draft position aside, the Detroit Lions need to build the culture

The Detroit Lions are 2-11-1 on the season. Do not let that fool you, the Lions are better than the record would indicate. For weeks the Lions seemed locked into an destined for the first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. By beating the Arizona Cardinals, Sunday the Lions fell to the second pick at least for now. Here is the catch. Draft position does not matter. Really. Detroit will still pick in the first 10 draft slots and by all accounts they will get an elite player. That should not be the focus.

ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN – JULY 28: General Manager Brad Holmes of the Detroit Lions looks on during the Detroit Lions Training Camp on July 28, 2021 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

Perhaps you have heard the phrase that reverberates around sports franchises, “build the culture.” So what exactly is building the culture? The phrase in it’s truest meaning is an expression of team values, attitudes and goals. Building the culture put’s the team’s focus on winning, improvement and promotes team successes.

Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes said that is critical to the teams success by laying a solid foundation of culture building. Head coach Dan Campbell echoed the same thing. The fact that the Lions are winning games late in the season is a good thing.

This is a rebuild. Dan Campbell and his coaching staff have done a remarkable job with a roster void of a bunch of talent. The Lions have lost many close games. The fact they are starting to win some shows a few things.

Players have clearly bought into what Holmes and Campbell are trying to do. The team has fought hard and not given up even as losses mounted. The Lions are not even close to being the worst team in the NFL.

Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) runs onto the field during an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, December 19, 2021. (Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Another thing that has become clear, the organization does not seem to mind sliding in draft position either. Players are focused on winning games, the coaching staff is focused on getting everyone better prepared.

Fans need to look past draft picks. It is far more important to build the culture simply because that has a far reaching impact on the team moving forward.

The Detroit Lions: The State of the Rebuild

0-10-1, that is a pathetic, humbling record. For the rebuilding Detroit Lions that was the teams record heading into yesterdays tilt against the Minnesota Vikings. It has been a long painful season for the Lions record wise. But through the losses there has been some good, believe it or not.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 31: Amon-Ra St. Brown #14 of the Detroit Lions runs the ball against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Ford Field on October 31, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

This season was never going to be about wins/losses. It was going to be about getting Lions General Manager, Brad Holmes first draft class experience. As bad as the Lions record is, they have only been blown out in two games. The Cincinnati Bengals (34-11) and Philadelphia Eagles (44-6.)

The Lions roster as it stands now was never put together to win many games. They were put together in all honesty to be near the bottom of the NFL in order to get a good first round draft pick. Check. As of right now the Lions and Brad Holmes will be picking first overall.

As I mentioned, Holmes draft class was said to be one of the best. Those players have played like it. Players such as Derrick Barnes, Jerry Jacobs, Alim McNeill, Ifeatu Melifonwu, Penei Sewell, Amon-Ra St. Brown (who has really been coming on as of late.) Have played very well for the Lions this season and are getting better as the season goes on.

Dan Campbell has had some in-game decisions that have been head-scratchers. Yet, Campbell and his staff have done a solid job overall with player development.

Detroit Lions cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu (26) celebrates with Detroit Lions defensive tackle Alim McNeill (54), Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55), and Detroit Lions defensive end Michael Brockers (91) after a play during an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the San Francisco 49ers in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, September 12, 2021. (Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions defense is a player or two away from being a very good unit. This group has been fun to watch grow, have set backs, learn and move on. The offense is a few players away. The offensive line is good and has really not had all of the starters all season because of injuries.

Sitting at 1-10-1 is not glamorous by any means. Yet, there is some hint of a silver lining. Rebuilds are tough and not fun. Yet, watching the Detroit Lions fight and stay is many games has been a good sign of things to come.

With the 2021 NFL trade deadline coming, will the Detroit Lions make a move

Detroit Lions principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp, recently said about her franchise’s current rebuild, “Everyone knew this was going to be a hard year. A rebuild, no one wanted to say that exactly, but we all kind of knew it was going to be and I think, as I say, the good news is that our young guys are getting a lot of experience, probably a lot more than they would have normally, So, I think at the end of this year, we’ll really know what we have. I think we’re building our foundation, and as you know, we have a slew of draft picks coming up the next few years. So, I see nothing but positive going forward. I think we’ll have a chance to really, really improve ourselves, and I feel like we’ve got the right leaders to get us there.”

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 24: D’Andre Swift #32 of the Detroit Lions rushes for a touchdown during the first half in the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

For the 0-7 Detroit Lions who’s record hides the fact that rookies have played very well and improved week to week, the trade deadline can speed up the painstaking rebuild.

Lions General Manager, Brad Holmes who knows the Los Angeles Rams very well, could swing a massive trade is he chooses to do so. The Rams are in the market for a running back. Not that the Lions want to deal one, but one player could net a huge return.

D’Andre Swift, who is one of the NFL’s versatile running backs could net the Detroit Lions a return they simply could not turn down. Rams general manager Les Snead, has never shied away from dealing draft picks to gain talent.

The Lions who currently holds two first round draft picks in next springs draft could add more. Dealing a player like Swift, the Rams could cough up draft picks that include:

2022 second round draft pick

2023 second round draft pick

2023 third round draft pick

GLENDALE, AZ – DECEMBER 09: A Detroit Lions Helmet sits on the field before the NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Arizona Cardinals on December 9, 2018 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That is not an overvalue of D’Andre Swift. As I stated he is very talented and would fit seamlessly into the Rams offense. I am not saying this will happen. But in a rebuild nothing is or should be off the table. Including one of the better young players in the league.

Will Brad Holmes swing a massive deal like this? We will find out next week.

 

Cornerback Jerry Jacobs has been a surprise for the Detroit Lions

Everyone loves an underdog story. The person who is unassuming that reaches heights few believed they could. For the rebuilding Detroit Lions undrafted rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs is that underdog. Season ending injuries to  Jeff Okudah and 2021 third-round draft pick Ifeatu Melifonwu, left the Lions with little choice but to insert Jacobs into the starting lineup. Jerry Jacobs has taken full advantage of the opportunity.

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – OCTOBER 10: Alexander Mattison #25 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball as Jerry Jacobs #39 of the Detroit Lions defends at U.S. Bank Stadium on October 10, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Minnesota Vikings defeated the Detroit Lions 19-17. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Entering Sundays tilt against the Los Angeles Rams, Jerry Jacobs will be starting his third game for the Detroit Lions. Head coach Dan Campbell went on record as saying that Jacobs has grown a lot since he walked through the Lions doors on a try out.

Jerry Jacobs plays with a tenacity. To pinpoint where that tenacity comes from it could be safe to say that Jacobs feels the need to prove himself everyday. Be it practice or game day. This is what being an underdog can do, it can bring the absolute best out of a person.

What has been fun to watch, is the times that he has been beaten, Jacobs bounces back. He is still learning, still applying what he is learning and it shows in his steady play.

Once a player “makes it” it is easy to forget how they got there. For an underdog, they generally never forget. They do not forget teams that passed on them in the draft or in free agency or a try out. The work they put in. The belief they have in themselves when it seems no one else does. Tom Brady is a prime example, of an underdog that reached heights few thought he would, but Brady is a high bar for underdogs.

ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN – JULY 28: Jerry Jacobs #39 of the Detroit Lions walks out to the field during the Detroit Lions Training Camp on July 28, 2021 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

In the pass-happy NFL, Jerry Jacobs game is centered around physicality that he uses to his advantage. In a rebuild, teams need a player like Jacobs to come along. They need to find a player that turns heads and grows. Jerry Jacobs has turned heads and has shown he fits into the Lions future.

Fourth round draft pick, Derrick Barnes is set for a larger role with the Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions General Manager, Brad Holmes continues his purge of former Lions GM Bob Quinn’s roster. This time linebacker Jamie Collins has one foot out of town as the Lions announced they are shopping the linebacker and looking for a trade partner. Enter fourth round draft pick Derrick Barnes, the former Purdue Boilermaker is set to make a bigger impact on the Lions starting Sunday.

DETROIT, MI – AUGUST 27: Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55) during the Detroit Lions vs Indianapolis Colts preseason game on Friday August 27, 2021 at Ford Field in Detroit, MI. (Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Detroit Lions are not only one of, if not the youngest teams in the NFL, are set to get both younger and more athletic with Derrick Barnes in the lineup. Jamie Collins is a good linebacker, this is not a slam on him. Collins simply does not fit the vision of the Detroit Lions front office and coaching staff.

Derrick Barnes enjoyed a standout preseason. So much so that he left both fans and the Lions coaching staff to wonder what more he could offer. Now he gets his chance. It appears that Barnes will play most if not all the Lions base defensive packages. Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin will enter games in nickel situations.

Other than his speed and explosiveness to the point of contact, Barnes’ ability to drop back in coverage, is what the Detroit Lions coaching staff likes about the young Barnes who is also a film junkie, he studies opposing teams and then applies what he finds during film sessions.

For the Detroit Lions who are rebuilding, and adding more speed and athleticism to the roster, giving Derrick Barnes a chance to show what he can do in an expanded role is what is best for both player and organization.

Brad Holmes and the Detroit Lions had a very solid 2021 NFL draft. To date six players drafted have all seen playing time. This is what Holmes has been known for.

Detroit Lions linebacker Derrick Barnes (55) reacts after a play during the first half of an NFL preseason football game between the Detroit Lions and the Indianapolis Colts in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Friday, August 27, 2021. (Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

As for Derrick Barnes, his time has come. It is up to him to show he can stick in a larger role. Popular thought is he will.

San Francisco 49ers vs Detroit Lions game recap

There was bad, there was awful, there was some good sprinkled in and a rally that fell short. Just like that the Detroit Lions 2021 home and season opener came and went. The Lions had eight new players on offense and four newcomers on defense. The team also have a new head coach and coaching staff and a new general manager. No other NFL team has undergone more substantial changes.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 12: Jamaal Williams #30 of the Detroit Lions carries the ball against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half at Ford Field on September 12, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Let’s dive right into the bad. I mean there is no sugarcoating it. The Lions defense is bad. Bad may be a kind word to use. Former Lions head coach Matt Patricia was viewed as one of the problems of the defense. That simply is not entirely true. The Lions gave up 31 first half points to the 49ers.

New Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff looked, well bad and lost at times. To be fair the Lions roster is void of playmaking wide receivers. Still Goff is a good deep ball passer and did not attempt very many deep passes.

Some good news 2021 Detroit Lions draftee Derrick Barnes played well. The young linebacker played well and made some very nice tackles. Barnes looks like a player who should see more playing time until he cracks the starting lineup. If he continues to play well his time should come quickly.

One unit that was viewed as the Lions strength lived up to the billing. The offensive line. They opened running space for the backs. The Lions ran for 116 yards a marked improvement over the past several seasons. Second year player Jonah Jackson and rookie Penei Sewell stood out. Both players held their own vs a 49ers defense that is one of the leagues best.

ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN – JULY 28: Detroit Lions head football coach Dan Campbell speaks with the media before the Detroit Lions Training Camp on July 28, 2021 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

The Lions had a late flurry and almost pulled off a comeback. The team showed fight and fought until the end. That is something head coach Dan Campbell vowed when he took the head coaching job his team would do.

Rebuilds are not fun and losses mount. But if the Detroit Lions can come away with positives and fight until the end, the losses will be easier to take.

Detroit Lions: Jared Goff and General Manager, Brad Holmes are not tied together

As far as the NFL goes there is a rule of thumb. That rule of thumb is that quarterbacks are tied to general managers. Meaning, when drafted or signed as a free agent or even traded for, the general manger (GM) and his job security is directly tied to the quarterback that is brought in. When Detroit Lions general manger Brad Holmes traded longtime starting quarterback (QB) Matthew Stafford and received draft picks and Los Angeles Rams starting quarterback Jared Goff many believed Holmes and Goff were tied together. I do not view that as the case here is why.

ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN – JULY 28: General Manager Brad Holmes of the Detroit Lions looks on during the Detroit Lions Training Camp on July 28, 2021 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

No matter if Brad Holmes is true to his word (no reason to think otherwise) and he and the Detroit Lions were happy to get Jared Goff in the blockbuster trade or if Goff was a salary dump by the Rams, it does not change the fact Goff is now the starting QB in Detroit.

Due to his contract Goff will need to be on the Lions roster at least two years before the team can move on if that is what they choose. That said, I do not believe Brad Holmes job is in any trouble as long as Goff is the Lions quarterback win or loss.

The Lions are in a rebuild. A rebuild that in the early stages is off to a solid start. Holmes has focused, both his first draft as Lions GM and free agency on building the offensive and defensive lines. Which in my opinion is the right way to build a team.

It is also my opinion that Jared Goff will at the very least serve as the rebuild QB. This can work in the Lions favor. If Jared Goff can recapture his Pro Bowl form he could be a longer-term solution for the Lions who then would not need to use a high draft pick for a quarterback. If Goff’s play continues to decline, the Lions are only on the hook for two years before they can move him.

ALLEN PARK, MICHIGAN – MAY 27: Principal Owner and Chairman Sheila Ford Hamp and General Manager Brad Holmes watch the afternoon practice session on May 27, 2021 in Allen Park, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

This is one case I feel where GM and quarterback are not tied at the hip. It is a rare exception dues to the rebuild that is taking place.

What will success look like for the 2021 Detroit Lions

It is nearly here again. The 2021-22 NFL football season which started this past Thursday. For the rebuilding Detroit Lions and a roster that is in transition this will be a difficult season for wins to be found. Losses will be aplenty. That is alright, this will hardly be a throwaway season. The Lions have plenty to play for and that is what the focus should be on. So for this season and most likely next forget about wins and losses. Here is what the team needs to focus on.

ALLEN PARK, MI – AUGUST 10: Detroit Lions Jalen Elliott safety (42), Detroit Lions Alex Brown cornerback (27), and Detroit Lions safety Booby Price (47) wait their turn to run drills during Detroit Lions Training Camp on August 10, 2021 at Lions Practice Facility in Allen Park, MI (Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The first focal point for the Detroit Lions should be the development of this years draft class. A class that was widely praised as one of the best in the NFL. Lions General Manager, Brad Holmes, really made a mark with the solid draft class.

Many of the Lions draftees showed themselves very well during preseason games. Many people would argue it was just preseason. But young players are made or broken in preseason games.

Next the Lions need to focus on compete level. While the team will loses more than they win, they need to compete in games. By compete I mean fight and keep fighting until the final tick of the clock. Do not give in, do not give up.

The final focus for the 2021 Detroit Lions is to show improvement in December. Why December? Well the season will be nearing the end. It is also enough time for young players to establish themselves in terms of growth. There still will not be many wins, but more importantly young players stepping up into a more defined role and gaining more playing time is much more critical that wins.

LANDOVER, MD – NOVEMBER 24: A Detroit Lions helmet rests on the field before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Detroit Lions at FedExField on November 24, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Sure there are other things that the Detroit Lions can and perhaps should focus on. In my opinion development, compete level and improvement late in the season are the most pressing focal points that can lead to a bright future.

Defensive back Jeff Okudah has some telling words about former Detroit Lions coaches

To say Jeff Okudah struggled during his rookie season is to say the sun is bright. Okudah struggled with injuries and when healthy he struggled to cover the wide receiver across from him. Yet, Jeff Okudah came out of Ohio State as a top 5 talent, who was widely viewed by NFL and football experts as the top cornerback in last years NFL Draft. Day’s ago during an interview Okudah shed some light on why he struggled so mightily.

Jeff Okudah is good at saying what he means even if it means talking in code. I do not believe Okudah was taking a pot-shot at form Detroit Lions coaches, as much as he was explaining why he struggled despite being top 5 talent.

GLENDALE, ARIZONA – SEPTEMBER 27: Cornerback Jeff Okudah #30 of the Detroit Lions in the NFL game Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium on September 27, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. The Lions defeated the Cardinals 26-23. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Jeff Okudah was recently asked about the new Lions coaching staff specifically new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant.

“Within the first couple of meetings, I was just picking up so much things that I thought to myself, ‘It just would have been nice to have these tools in my toolbox in my rookie year, Looking at the film and breaking down how the offense is trying to attack. That’s what I try to do every single day going into the game plan. So just having the tools that (Aubrey Pleasant) has put in my toolbox, it’s like I’m seeing film from a whole new perspective, I’m seeing the game completely different. That’s one thing that has me really excited going into my second year.”

On the surface it is a harmless quote. A deeper look is a rather damning blow to former Lions head coach Matt Patricia and his coaching staff. Okudah in essence pointed out that film study was never part of Lions game day preparation.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 14, 2014: Assistant defensive backs coach Aaron Glenn of the Cleveland Browns celebrates a game winning field goal by kicker Billy Cundiff #8 after a game against the New Orleans Saints on September 14, 2014 at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won 26-24. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images/Getty Images)

Many NFL experts have singled out Jeff Okudah as a player that will have a bounce-back season. Highly regarded Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn also has faith in Okudah who will be entering his second NFL season.

This is not a finger point at former Detroit Lions coaches! This is just a look at part of what went so wrong during that era of Lions football and how there could be hope with the new Lions coaching staff.

Day two of the 2021 NFL Draft showed the Detroit Lions new front office gets it

The Detroit Lions media and fan base are getting an up close look at just what made Lions General Manager Brad Holmes so valuable to the Los Angeles Rams. Holmes helped build the Rams into an NFC contender through a very good eye for talent and understanding how he wanted the Rams to look. The Detroit Lions are in a full rebuild and Holmes and the rest of the Lions front office have wasted no time in adding some key pieces for the teams future.

As of right now the Detroit Lions have a top five draft, this only after day 2 of the NFL Draft. When was the last time that happened you asked? 1988. Unless you live under a shoe you already know the Detroit Lions drafted offensive tackle Penei Sewell in the first round. A generational talent.

SEATTLE, WA – NOVEMBER 29: Washington Huskies defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (95) walks up to the line of scrimmage before a play in the 112th Apple Cup between the Washington Huskies and the Washington State Cougars on Friday, November 29, 2019 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, WA. (Photo by Christopher Mast/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Day two saw Brad Holmes and the rest of the Lions front office adding even more teeth (pun and no pun intended) to the rebuilding Lions roster. With the second round draft pick Brad Holmes and the Lions selected defensive linemen  Levi Onwuzurike from the Washington Huskies. In the third round another defensive lineman from N. C. State Alim McNeill also in the third round cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu out of the University of Syracuse.

No skilled players draft in the first 3 rounds by the Lions. I am speechless. In a good way. Meaning that Brad Holmes and Co. are building the Detroit roster the proper way. Lions fans on social media for the most part are happy with the draft thus far. Some are not.

TALLAHASSEE, FL – OCTOBER 26: Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu #23 of the Syracuse Orange during the game against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on October 26, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Seminoles defeated the Orange 35 to 17. (Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)

To the fans that are not happy with the Lions draft through round 3, I say this. In a rebuild it is far more important to build the nucleus of the roster than it is to add skill players. Games are one and lost in the trenches. If the offensive line is doing their job then it will generate success. If the defensive line is doing their job it will give the linebackers and secondary a chance to shine thus generating more success.

The Detroit Lions will not win many games in 2021. That is alright. Brad Homes is setting the organization to win in a year or two from now. With a draft like this fans should be excited for the future.