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News » Lions still lack game-changing safety

Lions still lack game-changing safety

Lions still lack game-changing safety
ALLEN PARK -- If the Detroit Lions are going to take a legitimate step toward being a good defensive team, they will have to find a playmaking, game-changing safety.

It's not a coincidence that the league's best defensive clubs also have a dynamic player at that position, whether it's Troy Polamalu (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens), Bob Sanders (Indianapolis Colts) or Brian Dawkins (Philadelphia Eagles/Denver Broncos).

In today's NFL, a good defense becomes even better when it has a versatile player in the secondary who can step up and play the run, blitz the quarterback, play man-to-man and also roam the field in search of interceptions and bone-jarring hits.

The problem is, those type of players are hard to find, and if you don't have one, the scale tips in favor of the offense.

quot;Offensive coordinators are really good at exploiting matchups,quot; Lions coach Jim Schwartz said.

quot;The old days of the in-the-box strong safety are gone. Because it's easy for offensive coordinators to identify that guy and if he's a liability in coverage, they can take advantage of him.

quot;You see a lot more three-wide receiver sets, which either means a linebacker or safety is going to be covering one of those wide receivers if you don't go to nickel. It puts more (focus) on multi-dimensional players and I think that's where you're seeing some of those guys.quot;

While the Lions must address more pressing needs at middle linebacker, defensive tackle and defensive end, Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew said the team would not bypass value if it's available. One player who will be on Detroit's radar is Western Michigan's Louis Delmas, regarded as the best pure safety in the draft, which begins at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Delmas has all the tools of the top safeties in the league, although he'll have to play at play at a consistently high level to match their achievements. If the Lions can't improve the safety position this year, it's something that will remain on their agenda until it's addressed.

The Lions will be in the market for an upgrade at safety because a couple recent free agents, Kenoy Kennedy and Dwight Smith, didn't work out, and recent second-round picks Daniel Bullocks and Gerald Alexander have been inconsistent.

What separates the good safeties from the great ones is an ability to make plays in every facet of the game, including blitzing the quarterback and forcing bad throws or getting sacks.

quot;If he's a blitzer, that's a true bonus right there,quot; said Schwartz, the former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator who had a solid pair of safeties in Chris Hope and Michael Griffin. quot;The key you want and where we were with that group was that we had multi-dimensional players. We weren't pigeon-holed as coaches, and I think that's our goal here. We don't want to be pigeon-holed as a coaching staff and say 'Hey, this is the only thing this player can do.' quot;

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 24, 2009

Gilbert Gardner Name: Gilbert Gardner
Position: LB
Age: 26
Experience: 5 years
College: Purdue
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