Breakfast with Tim and Mike: No one expected this from the Lions

Posted Nov 25, 2012

Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara discuss the disappointment of the Lions' season after a loss to Houston on Thanksgiving.

Maybe it's the holiday blahs, but when the Lions were 4-4, did you ever foresee a three-game losing streak that would take them out of the playoff race?

Mike: Absolutely not, but they've done just enough to lose and not enough to win in three straight games. First at Minnesota, then at home against Green Bay and Houston, there were plays to be made that would have won games, but the Lions didn't make them.

Everyone took a turn - offense not cashing in, defense caving in when it was crunch time in all three games, and then the blunder by Coach Jim Schwartz on Thanksgiving Day with an illegal challenge.

On Black Friday, the Lions already are tapped out.

Tim: No way did anyone see this coming. It's been disappointing to say the least. I think the most frustrating part about these last three games is that it hasn't been just one thing. If it had been, maybe it would be easier for fans to take and coaches to fix.

It's been a collection of turnovers, dropped passes, failing to get a stop on defense a crucial moments, a bad punt here, a missed tackle there and one case of the head coach letting his emotions get the better of him. All that has added up to 4-7.

I have to admit - and I'm probably not the only one - I really thought this team would be closer to 7-4 at this point in the season before it began.

The record doesn't lie, though.

The Lions are a 4-7 team, so what's next?

Mike: The goal should be to play every game to win, starting with the next one against the Colts. But within that framework, the plan should be to look forward to next season.

There aren't many areas to do that. Just about every player on the roster has gotten a good look because of injuries, but there are some players that need to be given a closer look.

Willie Young hasn't taken a step up at defensive end. I'd extend his playing time, to see if he fits in the plans for next year.

Jason Fox was active for the first time Thursday. He should get some time on the offensive line. He has barely played in three seasons as a Lion. No way do the coaches know what they have in him.

Rookie linebacker Travis Lewis should be worked in on the defense, at least in spot play.

And I'd take a long look at the return game, to see if there is a better alternative on the roster to Stefan Logan.

Tim: I'd have no problem getting some younger players some more reps, but not at the detriment of tying to win the football game. That should still be the main goal every week.

I'd like to see Mike Thomas return a punt or two. I think you're right about getting some of the young linebackers in the mix, too.

We'll learn a lot abut the character of this team over the next five weeks. Guys will be playing for contracts and the Lions will be evaluating which way they want to go with a few players. This season has turned into a five-week audition for a lot of guys.

Which of their free agents should be the Lions' No. 1 priority to re-sign?

Mike: Assuming money and salary-cap ramifications aren't an issue - and they are an issue, of course - I look up front first, to Cliff Avril on defense and Gosder Cherilus on offense, along with safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Chris Houston.

Avril and Cherilus are five-year starters, from the 2008 draft, and good players. Delmas could be the leader of the defense if he stays healthy. I'd shut him down for the rest of this year. He has played only four games and had to leave two early because of a knee injury. Getting him healthy is a priority.

Houston is the Lions' best and most competitive cornerback. Losing him would further weaken a position that's been a rebuilding area for a long time.

Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy are starting linebackers, and nobody is waiting in the wings to move up and take their spots. It would be hard to lose either one, but choices have to be made.

Tim: The salary cap will be a big issue and the Lions are going to have to make some tough calls. I keep thinking back to my offseason conversation with Bill Ford last offseason when when he said their comes a time to pay your stars and play your young players. The Lions might be reaching that time.

As far as free agency goes, Houston and Avril should be priorities No. 1 and No. 2, with Delmas close behind.

What would this secondary look like without Houston? It's a scary thought, really, due to all the injuries. He's their best player in a position of weakness.

The Lions drafted three players this year to be the future at the position, but I'd contend that they really only know what they have in Jonte Green. Bill Bentley and Chris Greenwood are still a mystery because of the injuries.

The Lions need Chris Houston.

The Lions also have to address the defensive end position this offseason. Avril and Lawrence Jackson are free agents and Kyle Vanden Bosch is 34.

That potentially could leave the Lions with Willie Young (restricted free agent) and Ronnell Lewis on the outside. Young hasn't taken the big step forward everyone anticipated he would and Lewis has either been inactive or ineffective as he's still trying to find his way as a rookie.

Avril wants big money but that's the going rate for a talented young rusher. The Lions can't afford to weaken a position of strength - their defensive line - heading into next season.

We'll end it on this: what would you like to see over the last five games that would make you feel good about this team heading into next season, despite the disappointment of their record?

Mike: Just to be flip - well, not really - I wish they could play all five games next week. One each, Monday through Friday, just to end the misery.

This has been such a disappointing and emotionally draining season for everyone involved. Not saying they won't continue to play hard, but these players are as frustrated as any team I've covered.

This season can't end soon enough.

Tim: It's been a long season, no doubt.

I saw quarterback Matthew Stafford pat center Dominic Raiola on the back in the locker room after the game and tell him that it will all pay off. Not sure if he meant the next five games, next season or somewhere further down the line.

The only problem with that is that most people thought the hardships were behind the Lions and they were starting to turn the corner.

The worst thing about this season is that people are now starting to second-guess that assumption.