The Detroit Lions finally achieved some of the success seemingly predicted annually for them over the past couple of years. But the NFC North isnt standing still and the Lions wont stand still addressing needs.
Detroit should look at middle linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver, in that order, according to a breakdown by ProFootballFocus.com. Not sure wideout would be at in the top three of most lists, given Nate Burleson and Titus Young supporting Calvin Johnson, but the number of drops by Burleson and Young were part of the thinking.
Teams dont typically go hard after middle linebackers in either the draft or free agency. The reason MLB is on the list is the uncertainty over Stephen Tulloch, a highly rated every down linebacker who is a free agent. But the Lions dont sound like they intend to let Tulloch walk without a contest.
Stephens a guy that fit our system very well, said defense-based Detroit coach Jim Schwartz. Hes young, hes tremendously durable, hes tremendously productive and I think he can be a big part of what were doing in Detroit. I think that our linebackers were much improved last year. We still have a lot of work to do on defense but guys like Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch made a big difference on our defense.
Cornerback is always a concern in a division that has Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers and his corps. Chris Houston and Eric Wright didnt hurt the Lions terribly but neither is rated a top corner and PFF mentions Tim Jennings as a reasonably priced option, although that assumes the Bears wouldnt have him back at the right price, and theyve got more money to spend than do the Lions.
Unstated were any concerns over the age of left tackle Jeff Backus, turning 35, a fixture since he arrived in 2001, or center Dominic Raiola, who was selected a round after Backus. Offensive lineman can play well into their 30s but protecting Matthew Stafford is a franchise priority.
At the point where Kevin White’s 2016 season ended with a broken leg just four games into his de facto “rookie season,” the wide receiver was leading the Bears in receptions. Informal indications are that White already is making an impression in that direction.
White was in attendance at Tuesday’s OTA but it was Monday when he gave new Bears quarterback Mike Glennon a glimpse of the possibilities the Bears saw when they made White the No. 7 pick of the 2015 draft.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting to know Kevin on the field and off the field,” Glennon said on Tuesday. “He works his butt off. And he made some really good plays [Monday] that got me excited and the rest of the team. He’s really eager to learn. I know he’s eager to get back out on that field. Him along with a lot of other receivers, I think, have a chip on their shoulder to prove that it’s a good receiving corps.”
The Bears have never pushed White to accelerate any surgery or planned rehab program and they clearly are not doing it now. White’s 2015 season never got past a stress fracture suffered in pre-camp work, and the organization opted for a conservative approach rather than surgery until an operation was unavoidable.
At this point of White’s third offseason, the approach remains controlled, less interested in any given OTA day than in a phased return pointed toward training camp and ultimately the 2017 season.
“We’re just trying to make sure we get guys ready for camp, and even more precisely, for game one against Atlanta,” said coach John Fox. “So we’re going to do anything necessary to make that done.
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