The message from the top could not have been clearer.
General manager Bob Quinn wants the Detroit Lions to be tougher and more physical.
That’s a big part of what we learned from Quinn’s press conference Saturday night after the draft had ended. Plainly, Quinn did not like the Lions style of play he saw in his first two seasons with Jim Caldwell as head coach.
What Quinn did in the draft was a continuation of what he did in the offseason – starting with the hiring of Matt Patricia as head coach and the free agents he signed – to change the team’s makeup.
Among the things we learned from Quinn that disappointed him was the team’s overall style of play and its inability to succeed in a handful of critical areas on a weekly basis.
His press conference Saturday sounded almost like a tutorial on how he thinks a team should be built, with the following comments on areas he wants improved:
The team’s physicality: “I think it was lacking.”
Drafting players to change it: Quinn started that in free agency, and it continued in the draft.
“We looked at it long and hard – guys finishing plays,” he said of this year’s draft class. “Look at highlight tapes. It shows that now. That’s something we talked about when Matt (Patricia) and his staff came in.
“What do we want the team to look like? We want a big, strong, tough, physical team in the trenches. It was an emphasis. So far, so good.”
Winning key battles: “NFL games come down to about five plays or less every week. Most of those plays are short yardage, goal line, third down, red areas, special teams.
“If you can win the majority of those four or five plays, you have a better chance to win. All those critical situations like goal line – we can’t run the ball a half yard. That bothers me. I took it on myself to implement some changes of what we want to work on, what we want to look at.”
Running game: It has been a weakness for most of this decade, and it hit a low this year by ranking last in the league in rushing yards and yards per attempt.
The effort to improve it started in free agency and continued in the draft. Power back LeGarrette Blount was signed as a free agent.
In the draft, Quinn took center/guard Frank Ragnow of Arkansas in the first round, running back Kerryon Johnson of Auburn in the second – with a trade up to get him – and tackle Tyrell Crosby of Oregon in the fifth round.
“We added some offensive linemen,” Quinn said. “We added a running back in free agency, and we added a running back in the draft. We’ll have a very physical training camp. We’ll see how it comes together.
“I think the pieces are there. Now it’s up to all of us in the building to make sure these guys compete at a high level.”
On drafting a fullback: Fullback Nick Bawden of San Diego State was drafted in the seventh round. The Lions did not use one last year.
There is no guarantee that Bawden will make the roster, but Quinn alluded to toughness in describing Bawden’s potential value.
“Just some of the conversations we’ve had in the offseason since Matt’s gotten here, with some of the new staff members,” Quinn said. “Just something we kind of wanted to add to the mix to kind of give our offense a little bit more of I’d say a physical presence.
“We wanted to add a fullback this offseason, and he was a good value at that pick.”