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News » Questions linger for Lions

Questions linger for Lions

Questions linger for Lions
ALLEN PARK -- The Detroit Lions have spent a lot of resources on acquiring defensive linemen the past several years through the draft or free agency. Now, they have a roster full of players who do not fit the new system.

The Lions worked on getting smaller, faster linemen under former coach Rod Marinelli, who preached the Tampa Two scheme. When new coach Jim Schwartz arrived, his first message for the defense was to get bigger and stronger.

As the Lions head into Saturday's draft, the defensive line will be addressed at some point, but the problem for Schwartz is he is not sure what he needs. Because linemen cannot be judged until they get in pads, Schwartz does not know how many of Detroit's Tampa Two linemen can make the adjustment to the new scheme.

Schwartz phrased the problem in terms of a question: "Is that all he is, or is that what he was coached to do?"

"That question comes up all the time," said Schwartz, adding he tried to find answers during the team's recent minicamp. "I think this was important for us as we look and say, 'Hey, we're asking him to do something else -- can he actually do that? Is it in his body? We've asked guys to gain weight, and we've seen good progress, and some are really responding well to it."

But gaining weight is not the same as producing in a different scheme, and Schwartz will not have a firm idea of what his players can do until training camp opens in late July.

"When you're talking about defensive tackles, when you're talking about linebackers, fullbacks and things like that, I mean how can you evaluate a fullback unless he's got a pair of shoulder pads on? I think it's the same thing with defensive tackles," Schwartz said. "We do have to reserve a little bit of judgment right there until July."

The problem: The Lions are drafting this weekend. While Detroit certainly could upgrade at defensive end, defensive tackle is where the Lions will look to add a player or two.

The Lions should be able to get pretty good pass pressure from the outside with Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson, defensive end Dewayne White and last year's third-round pick Cliff Avril. Schwartz is expected to use Avril in more of a hybrid role on passing downs, using him more as an outside linebacker than defensive end.

In the middle, Detroit is not sure what it has in second-year players Andre Fluellen and Landon Cohen, who were drafted for the Tampa Two. The Lions acquired veteran Grady Jackson for a run-stuffing role, but they need to find a replacement for the departed Cory Redding at tackle.

Detroit has a few possibilities when selecting at No. 20 and No. 33 on the first day of the draft.

Mississippi's Peria Jerry, USC's Fili Moala and Evander "Ziggy" Hood are talented and could be available at that portion of the draft. Moala might be the most complete player, while Jerry is strong against the run. Hood is excellent physical skills and can develop as a run-stopper and pass rusher.

The Lions, who had the worst defense in the NFL the past two seasons, need to fortify the interior of their line. Last year, they gave up an NFL-worst 172 rushing yards per game. Schwartz said they cannot be successful with numbers like that.

"It's difficult because, even if your offense is extremely high powered -- like the Indianapolis Colts, who can score 35 points a game if they weren't able to control the run game -- it keeps the offense off the field," Schwartz said. "I think that falls into the mantra we've had from the very beginning, and that's to build this team to run (the ball) and to stop the run. It's a lot easier said than done, though."

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 22, 2009

Dovonte Edwards Name: Dovonte Edwards
Position: CB
Age: 25
Experience: 4 years
College: North Carolina State
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