The Detroit Lions made moves over the weekend, signing veteran defenders Rocky McIntosh, Justin Bannan and Rashean Mathis, players who to most teams would represent simple roster filler in late August prior to the regular season.
To the Lions, though, these signings could mean much more. Bannan, McIntosh and Mathis all have a chance to play important roles for Detroit in 2013. McIntosh is an outside linebacker who can fill in for Ashlee Palmer or Tahir Whitehead if they struggle and definitely moonlight on special teams, given he played a major role for St. Louis there last season. Bannan won't play a major role, but his leadership and run stopping ability will be excellent in a reserve play. Mathis, meanwhile, could emerge and play big minutes at corner.
While nobody should count on any of these players to make a huge difference in the end, it's clear what the Lions are thinking by signing them late in the game. They needed to find some veteran leadership on the defensive side of the ball, which was badly torched in the season's second preseason game in Cleveland. Adding established veterans at needy spots helps bridge the gap between unseasoned players and rookies. Contributors like that often make the difference between teams eventually finding the playoffs or not.
While Marc Sessler of NFL.com was quick to label the signings uninspiring, what is inspiring is the fact that Martin Mayhew is remaining aggressive, even as the offseason begins to reach its eventual end. Forever, the Lions would struggle to find the right mix of players prior to seasons. Matt Millen would rarely try to shake things up along the way, especially after his team had just been embarrassed on the field in the preseason or early in the year.
Mayhew's commitment to change all year long should be commended. Will McIntosh, Bannan and Mathis make the difference between making the playoffs and not in 2013? That remains to be seen, but each have taken plenty of NFL snaps, meaning they're capable of being valuable insurance policies and helping out in 2013, especially at spots where Detroit had their share of issues in 2012.
While it's not wise to expect any of these signings to make huge impacts right off the bat, credit Mayhew again for trying to find the right formula to win in 2013. It's not that Detroit is desperate to win this season, but rather, determined to find the right combination of talent to help things look improved on the field.
How will it end up working? That's what's yet to be seen.
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