Five Lions that have to step it up and roar in 2007


Make no mistake about it the 2007 Lions come into the year not only with a wealth of expectations from an emotionally drained fan base, but more importantly they also come in carrying the load of their own.


Every Lion I have spoken with this off-season is full of excitement for this team.  Now I can already hear some of you people that couldn’t be positive if your life depended on it, saying what else are they going to say?  Well let me tell you that it hasn’t always been positive and frankly as late as last season the majority was not positive with expectations as far as wins and loses.


This season is hugely different and more then just attitude, I have seen it with my own eyes in the practices.  One former Lion (emphasis on former) told me before the start of last season “I know I am ready.  I think that Coach has the right idea but we have lost for so long, that I just don’t know about here.  I know what I do, it is the others I don’t know about.”  The only reason I am not using his name is because it was said over a meal as friends and not during an interview.  That attitude however was not the exception with the Lions in the past it was the rule.  He is no longer a Lion and neither are many others that either didn’t fit the scheme or the attitude that was needed.


Anyways, lack of production is no longer and excuse and here are five Lions that have no excuses not to roar in 2007.  Here is the list:


 

  1. Jeff Backus.  Backus signed a multi-year and multi-million dollar deal last season as the Lions left tackle and had a terrible season.  I questioned at the time the Lions investing so much in him and last season may have proved my concerns as legit.  I don’t want to hear any excuses as to why he was the Lions biggest disappointment last season; the point was that he was.  He not only didn’t earn his paycheck but his mental mistakes were completely unacceptable.  Kitna got grief for his fumbles but some were directly related to Jeff’s mental lapses and don’t even get me started on the sacks that Jeff gave up.  The Lions had faith in him and paid him the big jack, this season he has to earn it.  The Lions cannot get to .500 or better with a less then mediocre left tackle.  Last season he was not even close to one of the best (yet got paid among the top five) and that simply can’t happen.  I like Jeff personally and he has the skills, but this is about wins and loses and he has to step up. 
  2. Kalimba Edwards.  I was the harshest critic of the Lions last season when they essentially met an absolutely ridiculous offer from the Browns for Kalimba.  He did absolutely nothing last season to earn that check in its entirety.  He does have flashes of brilliance but he isn’t getting paid to have flashes.  He got paid big money to demonstrate consistency and that simply hasn’t happened.  This defense has to have a huge presence at both DE spots and this is his season.  The Lions need Kalimba to step up and get it done.  I would love for him to prove me wrong but until he can demonstrate it on the field, I have my doubts.  I do know that Marinelli is completely sold on him so that gives me some hope but I guess I have to see him bring it for an entire season.  Make no mistake he has the goods.  The kid has talent, but I question his desire to being great.  There is a string of guys that had the size and skill but not the fire and the want to.  I would love for him to step up and prove Marinelli’s faith in him as legit.  I for one would think that Marinelli’s faith in him would inspire him to show people his coach was right.  We shall see.
  3. Teddy Lehman.  Let me just say that there are no issues with Teddy’s heart or his physical abilities.  The issues rest in his being able to be healthy.  Remember people that this is a report on who needs to have a big year.  This is not a list on the under achievers.  Teddy had a terrible injury and it was not his fault.  Prior to coming to the Lions when he was a great LB at OU he didn’t have issues with injury like he has had here.  I have seen him on multiple occasions this off-season work and he looks great.  Let’s face it people, Teddy was a stud his rookie season and he seems to be back to that form.  He came into the NFL as a fast MLB who was smart and agile.  I have watched him closely and have seen nothing to make me feel that he won’t be back to that level.  My point here is simple.  The Lions will have Paris at the #1 on the depth chart but if Teddy is healthy, I don’t see him not taking that spot in training camp and holding it.  The Lions were so sold that Lehman was 100% healthy that they didn’t go after any free agents, or make a trade for anyone.  The Lions can’t be successful in 2007 without a solid presence from the Mike Linebacker (middle) and if healthy the Lions have no reason not to think he will deliver.
  4. Fernando Bryant.  Fernando has been a huge disappointment since the Lions signed him as a much-heralded free agent.  Sadly like Lehman, the injury bug that had avoided him prior to being a Lion, bit when he arrived in Allen Park.  Bryant has the skills and to be honest when the Lions signed him, many people thought he was better suited to the Tampa Two (their present defensive scheme) then the system the Lions ran at the time.  Fernando has been a beast in his rehab and I understand why he gets so much criticism although I feel much of it comes from people that either aren’t informed enough to actually make the effort to learn about the specifics of his situation or simply haven’t watched the film to see that he is a very skilled CB when healthy.  All signs point to him being completely healthy and the Lions have no concerns with him on the outside playing their scheme.  I for one have seen him and watched an immense amount of film when he was healthy and if he is well, I think he is set for a breakout year.  One thing is certain, the Lions have a lot of faith in him being recovered and Joe Barry likes what Fernando brings.  For the Lions to have the year that they and the fans want, he has to roar in 2007.
  5. Shaun Rogers.  He is the biggest question mark on this squad.  He has the talent and the skills to be great, even a Hall of Famer.  Shaun should be talked about around the NFL with the reverence not seen for a Lion since Barry.  The sad thing is that Barry may not have had the size but he had the heart.  Shaun has the size but not the heart.  He lacks motivation and who knows what will happen?  The Lions got rid of Bell and Hall, who last season were less then stellar encouragement for Rogers but what is next?  I don’t understand how someone with Hall of Fame skills can be happy taking off plays and even games.  Everyone looks at last season when he had an incredible game against the Seahawks but then disappeared, literally and figuratively.  Shaun’s nickname is Big Baby and sadly he has too many times acted like it.  I am in no way being disrespectful to Shaun; I admit that he can be the most dominant defensive tackle in the NFL.  I also know that those skills combined with the money that the Lions are paying him mean that he has to produce for a complete season.  No plays off, and no games off.  If Shaun Rogers doesn’t make the Pro Bowl the Lions will not make the playoffs.  Shaun can be great, we will see if he wants to be great.


Now before you send me the emails asking me about some others, we all know that it takes a team to make the playoffs and to right a ship that to be frank has wandered for way too long.  I acknowledge that.  I also know that among the returning vets, there are several that have to step up.  I also know that these five are the most critical.