At 6-2, Are the Detroit Lions For Real or Another Heart Break in Motown

By Barry Federovitch

For the Chris Murray Report

Their best receiver, who incidentally happens to be the best on the planet, is still sideline by injury and has registered a pedestrian 22 catches at the season’s midway point.

The Detroit Lions are 6-2 so far this season and are in first place in the NFC North.

The Detroit Lions are 6-2 so far this season and are in first place in the NFC North.

At one point last week they were so thin at defensive tackle that they had to give extensive play to rookie fifth-round draft choice Caraun Reid, he of Princeton.

The running game is still putrid and the quarterback still makes too many mistakes, but at 6-2 one can’t help but get excited by the Detroit Lions, surprising sole owners of first place in the NFC North.

Oh, we’ve seen this act before in Detroit. One need look back only a year to the Lions having a golden opportunity to steal an injury-ravaged division, a chance they squandered with authority down the stretch to the Packers and Bears.

But this isn’t the Jim Schwartz Era anymore. After a season of almost dead average defense, the Lions (and not the Seahawks or Niners or any of those more highly touted teams out west) have allowed the fewest points in the league (under 16 per game) under Jim Caldwell and that alone is enough to take notice.

Detroit has also find a nice more-than-complementary piece in Golden Tate, who could be on his way to the Pro Bowl with 55 catches for 800 yards, a total rapidly approaching what he achieved in a full season last year in Seattle. Team him with a healthy Calvin Johnson and the Lions have to wonder if they have the best wideout tandem in the league.

But getting back to that defense: it brings the heat (23 sacks), shuts down the run (four rushing touchdowns allowed all season), but still occasionally bends as illustrated by a 21-0 halftime deficit against the underachieving Falcons last week in London.

The difference between this year and last? To this point the Lions are resilient, grinding out the close ones, going 3-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less, including wins by a combined total of three points against New Orleans and Atlanta the last two weeks.

This last one had all the makings of a 2013 redux when Detroit’s primary Achilles heal popped up in the final moments as Matt Prater missed a 43-yard attempt. But maybe the football gods have decided that this is Detroit’s year; a delay-of-game penalty gave Prater a second chance from 48, which he cashed in to give the Lions the surreal win.

Note that there hasn’t been very much of this out of the Motor City in our collective memory; the Lions have made the playoffs only once since 1999 and haven’t won a playoff game since 1991. Their last playoff win before that was 1983 and they haven’t won an NFL title since 1957, enough to make the Kansas City Royals look like a dynasty.

Under Stafford, the top pick overall in 2009, the news has been more bad than good (he owns a career 30-39 record) with plenty of false hope and underachievement. Looking ahead at a schedule that includes road games at Arizona, New England and Green Bay, it is still easy to imagine the Lions surrendering the division lead and maybe not making the playoffs at all.

But the Lions’ depth may not allow that to happen; seven defenders already have multiple sacks and Stafford his playing his best since 2011, when the Lions won 10 games and last made the playoffs.

That mark was achieved in spite of the defense allowing 30 points or more six times, a mark no one has achieved this year against Detroit. But then Motor City fans are used to holding their breath.

When you haven’t won in 57 years, that is the rule and not the exception.

Don’t Look for the Eagles to Trade Jackson Anytime Soon

By Chris Murray

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson wants to renegotiate his contract his five-year, $48 million contract with the Eagles.

Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson wants to renegotiate his contract his five-year, $48 million contract with the Eagles.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—For all the talk during this free agency signing period about the Philadelphia Eagles wanting to maintain their chemistry, the question to be asked when it comes to team’s shopping of wide receiver DeSean Jackson is, can there be addition by subtraction?

According to media reports, the Eagles are listening to offers for Jackson, who wants to renegotiate his five-year, $48-million contract. The former Cal star said last January that he was deserving of a new deal.

You remember the last hotshot Eagles wide receiver who wanted to renegotiate his contract, right? It was some guy named Terrell Owens and we all know what happened with that. Not only did the Eagles not budge in that situation, but they also eventually showed Owens, and his agent Drew Rosenhaus, the door.

Maybe Jackson should talk to T.O.and his former agent Rosenhaus about that one.

But that said, Jackson is coming off a career year where he caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards and nine touchdowns. He fit Chip Kelly’s offense quite well, especially in the vertical passing game.

But one thing that you have to understand about the NFL is that every player, even the superstars, is expendable if you can find a good deal.  General managers like the Eagles’ Howie Roseman will tell you is that his office gets calls about players all the time.

As good as Jackson has been over the years with the Eagles, he is not above being replaced. No one is going to confuse him with Megatron (the Detroit Lions’ Calvin Johnson), or is going to mention him in the same breath as the Larry Fitzgeralds, and Andre Johnsons of the world. Jackson is not the best route runner in the world and struggles at times against press coverage.

In fact, in the Eagles’ playoff game against the New Orleans Saints, Jackson was held in check by Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis before he left the game with an injury. Jackson caught just three passes for 53 yards.

But at the same time, if you’re going to get rid of Jackson, you’d better get somebody who is ready to start at wide receiver right now either through free agency or the draft.

The current free agent pool is slim at wide receiver right now. The most notable guy out there now is Dallas Cowboys free agent Miles Austin, who was battling injuries all last season and hasn’t really lived up to the promise of a few years back.

The best wide receiver in the draft is Clemson star Sammy Watkins, who is projected to be a high first-round pick.  If you’re going to unload Jackson, you might want to make a deal to be able to draft Watkins, who caught 101 passes last season and had a monster 16-catch effort against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

Another possibility is Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans. The six-foot-five, 223-pound receiver runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and has the potential with his size and hands to be a nightmare for opposing defenses in red-zone situations. He caught 65 passes for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Eagles would probably have to trade up in the draft to get Evans as well and Jackson would probably be part of that deal.

But you know what? It ain’t gonna happen.

According to most reports that I’ve seen, Jackson’s $10.5 million annual salary is the thing that’s making teams a little squeamish about pulling the trigger on a trade for the 27-year-old wide receiver. The New York Jets, New England Patriots and the San Francisco have reportedly made calls, but nothing really serious.

So Jackson’s probably staying put for the time being.

The Eagles have to hope that Jackson’s grumbling over his contract doesn’t escalate to the point to where he’s a distraction. Trading him only makes sense if you’re going to get something of equal or greater value. Since no one in the league is trying to do that.

If I were advising him, I would tell Jackson to chill and concentrate on improving upon last season and then seeing what can be worked out.  More importantly, I’d advise him to avoid trying to “negotiate” with the Eagles in the media by griping about it constantly….

‘Cuz that’s a battle you ain’t gonna win….

Just ask your boy T.O…..