Saturday, March 8, 2008

Detroit Lions Take Step in Right Direction, Sign Cornerback Brian Kelly

The Detroit Lions took a step in the right direction on Saturday, as both ESPN and reported that the team had reached a three year deal with veteran cornerback Brian Kelly. Kelly, a longtime mainstay in the Tampa Bay secondary, became another in a lengthening list of former Bucs to join up with their former head coach Rod Marinelli this off-season. Already safetys Dwight Smith and Kalvin Pearson and defensive tackle Chuck Darby have joined the Lions, and Kelly is a key addition.

One of the weakest parts of the Lions defense the past, well, forever, has been their secondary. And after trading away Dre Bly before last season, and cutting Fernando Bryant this off-season, it was looking like another lost year for the Lions secondary. But after acquiring a young ballhawk of a cornerback in Leigh Bodden in the Shaun Rogers trade, and signing veterans like Smith, Pearson, and now Kelly, who have extensive experience not just with the Lions defensive scheme but with the Lions defensive coaching staff, it's a net plus for the Lions. The team is now stacked at defensive back, with five quality safetys (although veteran Kenoy Kennedy likely won't be with the team next season), two new starting corners (Bodden and Kelly) and decent nickel and dime backs (the team re-signed both Keith Smith and Travis Fisher, and the underachieving but still learning Stanley Wilson will be back). That's a step in the right direction.

Now I know that this post has a different sound and a more upbeat feel to it as compared to yesterday's post criticizing the Lions free agent moves thus far this off-season but Kelly is a big addition at a key area of need. Since that post we also signed defensive tackle Chuck Darby, who while not nearly as talented as Shaun Rogers, brings a work ethic far superior to anything Rogers brought to the table. That's not to say I'm now thrilled with the Lions off-season, because I'm not. We still need a running back and an offensive tackle, and it looks more and more as if one of those two positions will be filled in the first round of the draft, something I wish wouldn't happen because of our past draft history and are desperate needs on defense. We still need at least one defensive end, a middle linebacker, at least one outsider linebacker, and probably another defensive tackle for good measure. This team still has a lot of holes, and needs a lot of improvement. But I always get sucked in to being bullish on the Lions chances.

As much as I love to complain about their coaching staff and their personnel moves, I'm an optimist at heart when it comes to the Lions, which I realize, given their history, is beyond silly. I always end up seeing the positive in the Lions moves, and see big things in their future. I feel that way today with how we've solidified our secondary and turned one of the biggest weaknesses on the team into one of the biggest strengths. There's a long way to go, but at least for one weekend day, it was a good day at Ford Field.

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