COMMENTARY | It is said, "those who can, do; those who can't, criticize those who can." When it comes to playing and running a team in the National Football League, I am definitely in group #2. I can't play -- I'm too slow to be a cornerback or wide receiver, and too skinny to be a lineman (now that I think about it, I may have missed my calling to be a kicker). And I can't run an NFL team (well, my Detroit Lions won numerous Super Bowls in Madden '11... does that count?). So, I get to sit back in trendy coffee shops that have iPads as cash registers and criticize those who can do these things. And I enjoy every minute of it.
Today, let's check out some of the more recent news out of D-Town -- coaching changes. We have some new faces, and some old faces in new places.
Curtis Modkins, running back coach/run game coordinator. Modkins comes to Detroit from the Buffalo Bills, where he developed the likes of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. Over the 3 years that he was there, the Bills averaged the 4th best rushing average in the NFL (detroitlions.com).
The stats on Modkins are encouraging, and it was necessary for the Lions to put resources into their run game, which even a casual observer could tell you was lacking in 2012. The run game results should have been better with a running back like Mikel Leshoure, who seems to be a more well-rounded back than the Lions have had in a while. Hopefully leadership will get someone to fill Jahvid Best's shoes to compliment Leshoure with some lightning speed and big play ability, but even if they don't, expect improvement in the Lions' run game in 2013 with Modkins at the helm.
Bobby Johnson, tight end coach. Johnson comes from Jacksonville most recently, though he did also serve on the same staff as Modkins for a period of time in Buffalo.
Johnson is fairly unproven in the NFL, his first year in the league being 2010. The Lions have serious talent at the tight end position that needs a bit of a push to be among the elite in the NFL. Time will tell if this was the right move.
Old faces, new places
Tim Lappano, wide receiver coach. Lappano steps over from coaching the tight ends. He has achieved success coaching Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, and now the Lions have asked to him to fill the wide receiver coach vacancy.
Lappano coming into this position should be an easy transition -- already knowing the offense and having a rapport with the guys -- but what happened with Shawn Jefferson, the previous wide receivers coach? He had immense success coaching Calvin Johnson, and he leaves the team immediately after Megatron breaks the NFL single season receiving record? Based on his own statements, Calvin seems to look up to Jefferson a great deal. A guy can't help but wonder what happened. There were reports of Jefferson screaming at Scott Linehan to bench Titus Young after Young and Jefferson clashed over something during a game this season. Hopefully this isn't an indication of what might have happened behind the scenes -- 'cause from what we know about Titus, it's not hard to believe that he may have deserved to be benched (but that is a topic for another time). It is possible the Lions made a mistake with this change.
Jeremiah Washburn, offensive line coach. Washburn gets a promotion from assistant offensive line coach, where he helped the line to the 4th lowest sacks per pass play in the league over the last 3 years. The results have not been the same when it comes to the run, however. In 2012, the line only created 4 run plays for 20 yards or more.
Though the offensive line has done well with pass-blocking, Washburn has to make improvements in the run-blocking department. The Lions had an uncomfortably poor year handing the ball off. Based on my own observation, they had an incredible number of run plays that seemed to just crumble from the start and give the running back nowhere to go. Washburn needs to come in with a new approach and really light a fire under these guys.
The Detroit Lions still have to fill the special teams coordinator vacancy left by Danny Crossman. Any change in this position should been seen as a positive by Lions fans after the poor special teams performance this season.
Ryan Marcus is a sportswriter covering the Detroit Lions. With degrees in Management and Finance, he also writes about finance.
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