Detroit Lions: No Shutdown Corner, They Need an Offensive Line

Seattle Lion FanAnalyst IIDecember 5, 2010

His time is over at Left Tackle
His time is over at Left TackleChristian Petersen/Getty Images

Once again, Lions fans are reduced to seeing just what high draft pick they are going to get in 2011.

And once again, there is going to be a strong cry to improve the defense, most notably the secondary.  There will be demands to get a shutdown corner as now everyone is looking for a cornerback with Revis' capabilities.

I say you folks that want that are crazy.

What the Lions really need to do is create an offensive line that will keep quarterbacks on the field.

Let's take a look at a Lions past whipping boy, Jon Kitna, who is currently with the Dallas Cowboys.  There were a lot of people in Detroit that were happy to see him go, me included, but not for the reasons most did.

I have watched Kitna since is days with the Seattle Seahawks, and while I appreciated his toughness and leadership capabilities, he wasn't a quarterback that a team could lay their hat on.

While Kitna was with the Lions, he had a lot of personal success, being the first Lions QB to throw for over 4,000 yards in consecutive seasons.  He is currently listed seventh on the Lions all-time yards passing with 9,037...and he was with the Lions for only three years.

However, his two most "productive" seasons with the Lions were 2006 and 2007 in which he threw for 8,276 yards.  In that same time frame, Kitna was sacked 114 times, intercepted 42 times and had 28 fumbles, 15 of which he lost.

This year Kitna is leading the Cowboys in a late-season resurgence.  His TD to INT ratio is still lousy, with 10 TDs and eight picks.  But, in the last six games, he has been sacked only 12 times. 

The reason?  He is finally getting some protection and making plays.  How often was Kitna running for his life while he was with the Lions?  How many hits did he take that caused all those fumbles? How many times did he have to rush his throws only to be intercepted?  Far too often.

I am not going to delve into which players the Lions should go after in the draft or free agency.  But I will say that the offensive line has to be the top priority for 2011.

Think about this: Since 2006, the Detroit Lions' leaky sieve of an offensive line has given up 232 sacks. Let that sink in for a moment.

Upgrading the offensive line is key to a team's success. It sustains drives to keep the defense off the field.  It gives your quarterback confidence that he isn't going to take too many massive hits that may drive him from the game.  It opens holes for running backs to run for long gainers.

I ask you, if the Lions get a shutdown corner or a pass-rushing linebacker, how will upgrading either of those positions help protect the quarterback?

Perhaps the most telling example of what a good offensive line can do was the Thanksgiving Day game against the Patriots.

The Lions offense was sustaining drives and scoring. The defense was playing like a rabid dog, getting at least three big hits on Tom Brady.

But the Pats made adjustments on their defense that the Lions offensive line couldn't handle. The Pats also saw something that made corner back Alphonso Smith vulnerable.

In that second half, the Lions defense got tired.  A good offensive line will mitigate that...the Lions could have, should have won that game.  They were leading 17-10 at the half. 

The Lions needed to sustain drives to eat time off the clock...and a good offensive line is key to that.

It has been acknowledged by many that the O-line does need addressing, but there are bigger needs, or that we can upgrade with later picks or via free agency.  How's that working so far?

The line needs to be addressed and right now.  Not with late picks or castoff free-agent signings.  If they use the draft, it has to be with their top picks.  If they go free agency, the have to pull a Vanden Bosch maneuver and be in the top prospect's driveway when the free agent season begins.

The offensive line has always, in Detroit, been an area that was going to be fixed later...but if not now, when?

Stafford is the franchise quarterback.  He's getting paid $71 million dollars...wouldn't protecting that investment be a top priority?