Sunday, November 23, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 34-9 loss to the Patriots

Thoughts halftime Lions, Patriots

- Matthew Stafford is going to get scorched by his many detractors in this town if this game remains this way, but Joe Fauria and Corey Fuller have dropped certain TD passes, and Tom Brady is lighting up the Lions' vaunted defense. Also, the Lions' offensive line has been brutal. Stafford has actually played relatively well so far. So had Golden Tate.
- More of Theo Riddick catching passes out of the backfield would be a good thing for the Lions.
- This week, the Lions aren't targeting Calvin Johnson enough. How about some balance between Megatron and Tate?
- If Fauria wants to play more, then make some plays. It was a nice play call by Joe Lombardi. It was a terrific pass by Stafford. It was a huge drop in the end zone by Fauria. The Lions cannot afford to trade field goals for touchdowns with the Patriots. That much is obvious.
- My issue isn't just that Danny Amendola returned a kickoff 81 yards, but that he was able to do so. Sam Martin needs to get touchbacks. Period. Even outside, Even against the wind.
- Matt Prater of 2014 is David Akers of 2013, only he kicks right-footed instead of left-footed.

My column. Loss to Maryland validates need for Michigan to move on Brady Hoke:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Patriots

- The Lions' offensive line was struggling to begin with, but without left tackle Riley Reiff  it is a disaster. In some ways, he is the Lions' most underrated player. We're seeing why today.
- Where was the rub routes and bubble screens to Golden Tate last week? Obviously, the Lions learned from some of their mistakes offensively last week. They need to think more along those lines from this point forward. They got away from those plays too early after their first drive, which netted a field goal.
- Maybe the Patriots' offense had been reading too many of its press clippings lately. A dumb penalty. An ill-advised play call in which they left Ndanukong Suh unblocked. A dropped pass by Rob Gronkowski. It took awhile for the Patriots' offense to get going, but once it did, it was very impressive. Tom Brady is not going to be stopped.
- The Lions need to find a way to possess the ball. The more the Patriots' offense is off the field, the better for the Lions.

My column. Loss to Maryland only validates Michigan's need to move on from Brady Hoke:

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My thoughts and column on Michigan's loss to Maryland and where the football program should go from here

Thoughts halftime Maryland, Michigan

- This game is indicative of everything that is wrong with Big Ten football. These aren't great defenses. These are bad offenses. Is there ever a game Devin Gardner doesn't turn the ball over the worst possible ways imagined?

Jim Hackett
- The notion Brady Hoke is actually coaching for his job at the end of this season is ridiculous for most Michigan fans, who have already moved on from Hoke emotionally. But it does seem possible in lieu of what interim athletic director Jim Hackett said in a news conference before this game. It was interesting how Hoke pulled out the fake punt on the Wolverines' first possession (fullback Joe Kerridge rambled 50-plus yards after taking the snap as the upback). It does lead to wondering, however, where such creativity has been all season. Oh, and it was telling how the Wolverines settled for a field goal anyway, one that went through the uprights despite being partially blocked.
- I'd be shocked if Maryland's William Likely doesn't have an impact in the NFL someday. He is as productive and gifted as any cornerback in the country.
- Without standout  wide receiver Stefon Diggs, Maryland's offense is a classic Big Ten variety. Quarterback C.J. Brown is a good runner, but not great. And he isn't much of a pocket passer, and the Terrapins offense looks like something from the mid-1970s. In that regard, Maryland fits the Big Ten perfectly.

My column. If the Lions are really different, then beat Tom Brady and the Patriots:

My column. Why Jonas Gray is anything but an overnight sensation:

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 14-6 loss to Arizona Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Lions, Cardinals

The Lions are hanging around again. Could it be time for another Captain Comeback routine? If so, it is getting a little old. It's one thing to be a game manager, but another to play it too close to the vest. The Lions offense has badly lacked imagination today. This is not one of Matthew Stafford's better games so far. He has all his weapons with him.
- The Lions' defense is so much better this season for a lot of reasons, not the least of it is the safety play. Glover Quin is a top-notch player, but so is James Ihedigbo. He is a far better player than I could have imagined. It was very good news for the Lions when he returned to the field after staying down for awhile with a shoulder injury. He should have held onto the potential interception, though.
- Ziggy Ansah is another Lions' player who has come to play today, but where is Suh? This would be a good time for him to impose his will on the game.

My column. How to fix Michigan football:

My column. Under no circumstances do the Big Ten and Ohio State belong in the first College Football Playoff:

Thoughts halftime Lions, Cardinals

- Turnovers are the great equalizer. Without them, the Lions are getting crushed in this game. As is, they may setup for another comeback.
- It was an inexcusable drop by Calvin Johnson. A waste of a brilliant play by Matthew Stafford, who did a tremendous job of escaping the rush. It was remindful of late last season when Megatron's drops were so costly.
- The Lions need to step up the tempo of their offense. In the NFL, they call it playing fast. The Lions have been too slow getting in and out of the huddle. There is little zip. They have to come up with some quick-hitting plays to make the Cardinals pay for their aggressiveness. It might be wise to mix in the no-huddle offense more.
- The Lions' vaunted front four has been decidedly mediocre so far today. They aren't helping out the secondary at all. Drew Stanton has had plenty of time to throw the ball. His turnover issues have been strictly self-inflicted.
- The more of Joique Bell, the better for the Lions. He has emerged as a very good NFL running back, as long as he keeps hanging on the ball, which had been the problem. Bell has become the definition of hard-running back.
- That was a garbage pass interference call on Eric Ebron. Antonio Cromartie was equally responsible for the contact on that play. It would have been a key first down.

My column. How to fix Michigan football:

My column. Under no circumstances do the Big Ten and Ohio State belong in the first College Football Playoff:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Lions, Cardinals

- The Lions' defense looks terrible today. It points out the issue of getting ahead of yourself about this team. But having said that, the Lions, while not as good they appeared to the many people jumping on their bandwagon after the win over the Dolphins, aren't as bad they have appeared so far today.
- The underrated aspect about the Cardinals, which we've seen already today, is the diversity of their weapons. They can turn to many different directions to gash a defense. But they are all in the passing game. They simply don't run the ball that well. There could be a point in this game the Lions take advantage of it because the Cardinals don't exactly have the type of team that can run out the clock. Also, Drew Stanton, as good as he looks so far, is prone to interceptions. He thrown nearly as many interceptions as touchdown passes in his career. Game is not over yet.
- Does every field goal attempt by the Lions have to be an adventure? It's good Matt Prater made a 50-yard field goal. but....
- The biggest myth about the Lions is they are more disciplined. Way too many penalties.

My column. How to fix Michigan football:

My column. Under no circumstances do the Big Ten and Ohio State belong in the first College Football Playoff:

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Why I think the trade for Anthony Gose is a good one for the Tigers

Anthony Gose
The trade the Tigers made late Wednesday night for center fielder Anthony Gose was a good one. He is a plus center fielder defensively and an outstanding base runner. Gose is a left-handed hitter ,who has been a weak stick in the MLB so far, but there is room to grow. He is barely 24. It's a start in the right direction for the Tigers to improve defensively in the outfield. I don't see him as a 4-
A player, but a legitimate major leaguer.
Travis was named as the Tigers' top prospect earlier in the day by Baseball America, but that is a bit  of a reach. Stephen Moya should have been No. 1. He is a second baseman, despite the Tigers' recent moving him to center field. He is undersized in regard to height, but does have an upside, which includes surprising power.
Gose is not much older than Travis. Less than a half year. He is far more MLB ready and probably has a higher ceiling.

My column. Why re-signing Victor Martinez looks better than actually is for the Detroit Tigers:

My column. If it appears too good for the Lions, it probably is:

Sunday, November 09, 2014

My thoughts and column on the Lions' 20-16 victory over Miami Sunday

Thoughts after 3 quarters Dolphins, Lions

- Come on. Can't the Lions come up with a better kicker than Matt Prater? My gosh. Three strikes and you're out. That soccer shot by Prater into the middle of Dolphins' line was an epic football moment, and for all the wrong reasons. It's the type of play that not only changes the course of games, but seasons. The Lions are really going to have to fight that moment off today and perhaps the rest of the season if they don't recover today.
Ziggy Ansah
- Ah, if only the Lions had drafted Chandler Cantanzaro with the seventh-round pick they wasted on Nate Freese in the last NFL Draft. Cantanzaro, an undrafted free agent from Clemson, is on track to be the NFC's Pro Bowl kicker after signing with Arizona.
- This is by far the best game Ndamukong Suh has played in a long time. He has been very active, and definitely is impacting the game by collapsing the center of the pocket. The Dolphins have struggled running the ball, as well. Suh has been instrumental in that aspect, too.
- The strip by Ziggy Ansah, causing a fumble early in the second half, was another example of how Ansah is more than just an edge pass rusher. He is a solid all-around football player, who is stout at the point of attack and very instinctive defending the run.
- Great first-down reception by Calvin Johnson. Just wondering why Matthew Stafford feels compelled to throw to him in double coverage, and why Golden Tate hasn't been targeted more in this game. Finally they went to Tate on last play of third quarter.

My column. What MSU lacks as national football power exposed by J.T. Barrett and Ohio State:

My column. Stafford, Suh, Megatron at the crossroad or disappointment and greatness:

Thoughts halftime Dolphins, Lions

Brent Grimes made a terrific play with the diving, one-hand interception in the end zone. However, the ball was underthrown by Lions' QB Matthew Stafford. With a little more trajectory, and aimed more for the far corner of the end zone instead of front, and Calvin Johnson would have had his second TD of this game. He had Grimes beat by a half-step and was in perfect position as a 6-5 receiver going against a 5-10 cornerback.
Grimes vs. Johnson

- Enough fake punts. Come on. The worst time thing to do is turn around and do it again. A punt return unit is going to be most on high alert after it was burned. The second fake allowed the Dolphins to essentially flip the field. A good punt there, and the Lions' defense, which was playing especially well at the time, would have had the Dolphins pinned deep in their own end. Instead, it gave Miami much-welcomed breathing room. The Lions got the interception there by James Ihedigbo, but the outcome will usually turn out worse in that circumstance.
- I know Joique Bell has had trouble handing onto the ball sometimes, but he easily the Lions' most effective pure runner these days. He is very difficult to bring down, and I do wonder what he would do with 15-to-20 carries per game.
- How about Ndamukong Suh just tackles Miami QB Ryan Tannehill there rather than grab his facemask. It was bad judgment, and very costly for the Lions. Suh put himself into position to make a play, and not only didn't make it, but made took a costly penalty in the process.

My column. What MSU lacks as national football power exposed by J.T. Barrett and Ohio State:

My column. Stafford, Suh, Megatron at the crossroad or disappointment and greatness:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Dolphins, Lions

- The Lions defense looks terrific so far. Finally, some real actual plays made by Ndamukong Suh, who played brilliantly on the Lions' first two series this afternoon. That is exactly how he played as a rookie, and has seldom since. Ziggy Ansah looks refreshed and quick after the bye week. Dolphins' QB Ryan Tannehill hasn't had much chance this afternoon, even though he has excellent mobility.
Calvin Johnson
- I have no idea why, with it third down deep in the red zone, the Lions decided to run the football. It would have seemed like the ideal time to throw the football, especially since it appeared Calvin Johnson was single-covered by Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan. At least Matt Prater made the field goal. Everybody was holding their breath. though. But the Lions more than made for it, with the deep touchdown pass to Megatron on the next series. We haven't seen that much from him the last calendar year. Perhaps he is finally healthy.
-There was much anticipation for the return of Johnson today, but Reggie Bush had more immediate impact until he went down with another injury. Bush's lateral quickness was outstanding before he was injured. There is little question whether he is still a still a top running back in the NFL, if he can stay healthy. That's becoming more of an "if" lately.
- Loved the fake punt, not only the timing of the play, but its concept. It was very well designed, and obviously took advantage of hole in the Dolphins' punt return scheme.

My column. What MSU lacks as national football power exposed by J.T. Barrett and Ohio State:

My column. Stafford, Suh, Megatron at the crossroad or disappointment and greatness:

My thoughts and column on MSU's 49-37 loss to Ohio State Saturday night

My column. What MSU lacks as national football power exposed by J.T. Barrett and Ohio State:

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Thoughts halftime Ohio State, MSU

The Spartans' defense loves to crowd the line of scrimmage and get in the face of the opposing offense. Their safeties are only 10 yards from the line on most plays. Most college defenses are 15-to-20. There have been few teams the last two years remotely capable of burning MSU's defense by using the Spartans' aggressiveness against them. QB J.T. Barnett and the Buckeyes are tonight, though. Complaints? Not really. That was an outstanding first half of football. Very entertaining. But the Spartans better tackle better and drop back more into coverage or they will continue to get carved up. And they will hear strong criticism about how their vaunted defense is vastly overrated.
- Another NFL caliber throw by MSU QB Connor Cook came during the second quarter. With Adolphus Washington, a 6-4, 295-pound former 5-star recruit defensive tackle, who will likely play in the NFL himself, bearing down on him, Cook gunned a 14-yard strike to tight end Josiah Price. It was 2nd and 15 at the time. Cook snuck for a first-down on the next play. He also ran for a key first down on third and short later in the drive. Then he moved the pile near the goal line on another run. He was good the second half of last season, but Cook is even better this year. 
Jeremy Langford
- Jeremy Langford gets most of the ink among the Spartans' running backs, and deservedly so, but there isn't much dropoff, if any, when Delton Williams gets the ball. He is a solid and hard runner.
- The missed field goal by MSU inexcusable and a killer.
- One of the reasons Ohio State struggled last year in the Big Ten Championship Game vs. MSU is because their wide receivers struggled. That was particularly true of Devin Smith, who had a terrible game. The Spartans' secondary was very physical against him, and he didn't respond well. He looks like a completely different player tonight. And that big play by wide receiver Michael Thomas was not an aberration. He is a sophomore, who was redshirted last season, and has probably been the most improved player year-to-year in Ohio State's program. He is OSU's leading receiver, in fact.

My column. A frank look at what the second half of the season means for Stafford, Suh and even Megatron:

My column: MSU vs. Ohio State about Spartans writing a new course in history:

Thoughts after 1st quarter Ohio State, MSU

Each team has explosive athletes offensively, and we've already seen that. Most people talk about MSU wide receiver Tony Lippett, and with good reason, but Keith Mumphety has made a lot of big plays down through the years, including two really big ones on the Spartans' first scoring drive tonight. The throw by Connor Cook on Mumphery's 44-yard reception was superior, though. It's the type of thing that could make him a first-round draft pick. Conversely, Ohio State sends waves of athletes at you. Ezekiel Elliot is the Buckeyes' leading rusher, and his capabilities when given the ball in space are obvious.

Keith Mumphery
- State's best chance to win this game is the same as a defensive-oriented team in basketball. They need to control the tempo of play. That means having sustain drives and wearing out Ohio State. The Buckeyes can match MSU athletically, but don't play with the same degree of physicality.- There is a surprising number of people at this game wearing scarlet rather than green. It's stunning, really. Actually, the most I've seen for an opposing team at Spartan Stadium.
- One thing that really sticks out about J.T. Barrett is his ability to run a quarterback draw. He is a 225-pound kid, and has knack for not only picking his way through defenses, but he is physical runner, who shrugs off arm tackles while still retaining his speed running downhill. He is also a better passer than Braxton Miller. He has a quicker release and snaps of his shorter timing throws much more decisively and on target than Miller.

My column. A frank look at what the second half of the season means for Stafford, Suh and even Megatron:

My column: MSU vs. Ohio State about Spartans writing a new course in history:

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Gold Glove Awards say a lot about the Royals and, unfortunately, the Tigers

There are several elements to baseball. I believe pitching is by far the most important. That hardly puts me in a club of one. It is conventional wisdom.
But top pitching is greatly diminished if it is not backed by respectable defense. And top fielding can make a pitching staff much better, turning mediocre into good, and good to great.
It was constantly mentioned - and justifiably so - how much better Kansas City's bullpen was than the Tigers in 2014. However, the Royals' starting rotation was also better than the Tigers, a 3.60 ERA compared to 3.89 for Detroit. Part of this is the home ball parks. Kansas City presents a pitcher's delight, but both rotations had a 1.27 WHIP and the Tigers' starters missed a lot more bats and had better numbers across the board. What does that tell you? The Royals were much, much better defensively.
The Gold Glove Awards were announced this week. The Royals had three winners for the second straight year - left fielder Alex Gordon, catcher Salvador Perez and first baseman Eric Hosmer.
Gordon is a brilliant defender, whose defensive metrics are off the chart. If I had an MVP vote, he'd be second on my ballot behind only Mike Trout. Perez is easily the best defensive catcher in the American League. The Royals are way better than the Tigers up and down the lineup with the exception of second base, and it's not like KC's  Omar Infante is a stiff with the glove.
The Orioles, who swept the Tigers in the ALDS, also had three Gold Glove Award winners - shortstop J.J. Hardy, center fielder Adam Jones and right fielder Nick Markakis.
Alex Gordon: A weapon with his glove
After the Tigers traded center fielder Austin Jackson, they became particularly dreadful defensively. Only catcher Alex Avila and second baseman Ian Kinsler (he had by his best season defensively metrically) can reasonably be considered above average defensively. The left side of the infield was a disaster defensively, especially third baseman Nick Castellanos, whose lack of side-to-side range is stunning. The idea Andrew Romine is an above average defender is based more on wishful thinking than reality. He is a Triple-A defender. The outfield when Rajai Davis moved to center to replace Jackson was particularly vulnerable. Torii Hunter performed better offensively the second half, but his range defensively was a big issue throughout.
There is this groundswell for the Tigers to re-sign Victor Martinez regardless the cost. Martinez is not one of the best players in MLB - he is one of the best hitters. Now that's meaningful, but it should not be ignored he contributes nothing defensively. The last time the Tigers reached the World Series, it was the year VMart missed entirely (2012).
The Tigers haven't had a Gold Glove winner since Placido Polanco in 2009. Until they get better defensively, they won't get better overall.
That's the bottom line.

My Column: Stafford, Suh, Megatron, Detroit Lions at the crossroad of greatness and disappointment:

My column. MSU vs. Ohio State about the Spartans offering a new course in history:

My column. Unsolicited advice for Dave Dombrowski about how to fix the Tigers: