Tim and Mike: Analyzing where the Lions rank on pre-camp polls

Posted Jul 18, 2013

Tim Twentyman and Mike O'Hara take a look and where the Lions have ranked in pre-camp polls and whether it indicates anything significant

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush was named No. 2 on a most versatile players list.

The lull before the storm – the start of Lions training camp – is filled mostly with words and polls. Many polls question whether the Lions will be strong contenders in the NFC North. At his annual passing camp, Peyton Manning had high praise for Matthew Stafford. And one writer had Reggie Bush near the top of his list of the NFL's most versatile players.

How much do the polls mean, and what should they mean to the Lions?

Mike: They're somewhere between meaningless and meaningful in both instances. It's not surprising that most pre-camp rankings have the Lions in the 20s. It's based on last season's 4-12 record. However, it should be remembered that a lot of last year's pre-camp polls picked the Vikings for last place. They went 10-6 and made the playoffs.

Last year I thought the Lions' talent level was better than their 4-12 record showed. The only impact the ranking should have is making them want to prove the rankings and last year's record were a fluke. Even without the rankings, they should want to be better. I'm sure they do.

Tim: Rankings are fun to talk about, but as Mike pointed out above with the Vikings, they're meaningless at this time of year. We know so little about these teams before training camp begins and the pads come on. It's really just a conversation piece.

I'll tell you this, though, I've talked to a number of Lions players that love the fact that they're being overlooked. The team didn't deal with expectations very well in 2012, and they feel it's refreshing they can fly under the radar like they did before the 2011 season, when they were the team that surprised everyone.

Stafford is now paid like a top-six quarterback. Will his 2013 season fit the pay, like Manning might suggest?

Mike: The analysis of where he fits on the pay scale is fair. It goes with the territory, based on the pay rate for quarterbacks in this era. It's also misleading, though. Stafford has been making big money since he signed as a rookie in 2009, so it's not like he'll feel like he suddenly got rich and the pressure is off.

I don't think Stafford ever has thought about the money in terms of motivation to perform. If he plays efficiently – and I think he will – the numbers will take care of themselves.

It also will revalidate the comment Manning once made about Stafford. When asked if there was ever a college QB who worked at his passing academy who had "obvious" special talent, his answer was Stafford.

The talent is there. So is the work ethic, commitment and leadership. If Stafford plays consistently – and I expect he will – the production and stats will take care of themselves.

However, there was on surprise in an ESPN rating of the top 10 receiving groups in the league. The Lions weren't in it.

What does that say about the passing game?

Tim: Not enough for anyone to get himself or herself in a tizzy.

Nate Burleson played six games last year before suffering a broken leg vs. Chicago. If he had finished the season, he was on pace for a 50-plus-catch season, which would have been his fourth straight.

Ryan Broyles wasn't 100 percent until Week 4 and then suffered an ACL tear Week 13 vs. the Colts. The week prior, vs. Houston, Broyles had six catches for 126 yards.

The Lions weren't included on that on that list because Burleson and Broyles didn't show enough last season to warrant inclusion on it.

A healthy Broyles and Burleson is a nice pairing with Calvin Johnson, and list or not, that's a nice group. Broyles is on my list of breakout performers in 2013.

A national writer recently named Bush the second-most versatile player in the NFC. Is he right? Should he have been No. 1?

Mike: It's hard to argue that he should have been higher or lower, considering this top four: 1. Packers WR Randall Cobb; 2. Bush; 3. Saints RB Darren Sproles; 4. Seahawks WR Percy Harvin.

That's a good group. I wouldn't argue against any of them being No. 1, especially Harvin, for what he did with the Vikings before going to the Seahawks.

Bush gives the Lions a versatile back who upgrades the position by a considerable margin. Isn't that more important than any list?

Tim: It certainly is. His impact isn't only going to be felt in the run game, which should be more explosive with him back there, but also in the passing game.

It's simple, really: teams didn't respect the Lions' run game last year as they led the NFL in the number of times they saw six-man defensive boxes or fewer (855). Bush is a player defensive coordinators have to plan for in a number of different ways -- just like everyone on that list.

I think the writer got it right and my list would probably be exactly the same.

We'd be remiss if we didn't sneak a training camp question in here. Camp is only a week away. Name one thing (only one, Mike) you're most looking forward to seeing on Day 1.

Mike: One thing? Is it OK to make it 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and so on?

If it's one thing, then I'd say the entire pool of first-year Lions. That includes the draft picks, a handful of the undrafted free agents and cornerback Chris Greenwood, a fifth-round draft pick in 2012 who missed all of his rookie season because of an injury sustained in the offseason workouts.

I want to see how much the young players can contribute in 2013, and what their potential means in terms of development in future seasons.

That's a lot of players, but it's one thing.

How about you? And in three words or less.

Tim: First-team reps.

Didn't think I could do it, did you? There's expected to be a lot of competition for starting spots and roster spots this year and it'll be interesting to see how the coaches break up the reps and who gets the first crack with the first team.