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Lions still playing catch-up with elites like Green Bay

April 26, 2012
By STEVE BROWNLEE - Journal Sports Staff ( , The Mining Journal

Now I know how Punxsutawney Phil feels when they rouse him from his winter's sleep on Groundhog Day in February.

Your Armchair Quarterback had been hibernating nicely since the second week of February right after the Super Bowl, thank you very much.

Now they get me up just to do one lousy column about the NFL draft that starts tonight in New York.

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That annoying sports editor guy at The Mining Journal, what's his name ... Mike Millins ... uh, Mark Jellens ... no, no, I got it, Matt Wellens, blows that gosh-darn air horn right in my ear while I was snuggling up with my favorite teddy bear on the Armchair QB recliner. It may be generic, but it sure is comfortable.

Just as a form of protest, I refuse to predict which players any team will pick, though I'm pretty sure the Detroit Lions will take a wide receiver with their No. 2 overall pick. Oh wait, that was seven or eight years when Matt Millen was general manager. Excuse me, was pretending to be general manager.

After doing a little reading on the subject, here's a few thoughts, in particular about the Lions and Green Bay Packers:

Well, now I'm surprised they're even having a draft this year. I'm sure there's nothing else the national media cares about other than Tebow.

And Fairley really was a catch, creating probably the most feared D-line in the league with him, Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch. But it cost the rest of the defense, not to mention certain parts of its high-octane offense.

That was proven in the second half of last season, when the Lions gave up 27 points or more seven times in eight games. They could've used a win in that final game when Packers backup QB Matt Flynn essentially wrote his free-agent ticket out of Green Bay in a 45-41 game that put the Pack at 15-1.

I don't mind the 45-28 loss at New Orleans in the playoffs. Heck, 0-1 there still sounds better than 0-0, which the Lions were in playoff games from 2000 to 2010.

Now I'm reading that Detroit GM Martin Mayhew, infinitely better than Millen, insists he'll take the best player available when the Lions draft tonight at No. 23. That's fine, because as long as you've got feelers out for good free agents at safety, cornerback, linebacker, offensive lineman AND running back, feel free to pick a d-lineman or a wide receiver with the first pick.

Otherwise, I will tell you so in this column next season, maybe a whole bunch of times, if your team regresses to its Millen-esque form.

We all know what a house of cards the defense was built on, however, with the home loss to the New York Giants in the first playoff game, even if it was a loss to the Super Bowl champs. I've had fans of the Green and Gold tell me that the loss of one or two defenders last year made all the difference from the previous year when the defense was pretty stout.

So look at it this way - as long as GM Ted Thompson feels secure with his offense, the Pack should aggressively work to move up in the first round to get that key player who will cure all that ails the defense.

Is it an outside linebacker to pair with Clay Matthews, or maybe a defensive lineman to shore up the 30th-ranked team in sacks? Give up whatever you have to to get him. Trade your first-, second-, fourth- and fifth-round picks to move up from No. 28 to No. 12 or No. 16 if you feel assured he'll be there.

I know those lower picks can produce stars in the future, but on a team where so many positions are strong, those low picks may not even make the 53-man roster out of training camp.

Go for the gusto, strike while the iron's hot - I don't think any team has a hotter iron than Green Bay.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.



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