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Welcome to the ice age. The search for the no namers begins: Three (or four…or five) that could help the Detroit Lions next year

The future?

The future?

As we hit the new year and everybody tries to better themselves, Detroit fans are just trying to survive.

A Jay Cutler scramble with about three minutes left last Sunday ended any semi-meaningful action for the Lions until September. The Tigers don’t start their first preseason game for four months. In a weird spacetime continuum, a 22-year-old, 1987-88 version of Steve Yzerman is your most relevant Red Wing in 2013. The Pistons? Well, we don’t talk about them any more.

Once the last drips of news are wrung from these college bowl games, we’ll officially enter a dark age of Detroit sports, one where absolutely nothing is going on.

In some ways it’s already started. One of the big news items this week? Jim Schwartz might coach the senior bowl. Maybe. But only if they serve coconut shrimp.

Until pitchers and catchers report and we have a new crop of James Mungro Memorial Award sponsored by (well, currently no one) recruits to sort through, the only thing we can do is look to the future. Luckily, the other HUGE Lions news this week dealt with that.

Twelve players were signed to “Futures” contracts. The deals are basically a provision to be able to sign players who aren’t on the active roster as you head into next year. The strange thing is a couple of them may actually be able to help.

The signed futures players:

  • Devin Moore, RB
  • Dominique Curry, WR
  • Lance Long, WR
  • Troy Burrell, WR
  • Patrick Edwards, WR
  • Terrence Austin, WR
  • Chastin West, WR
  • Rodney Austin, OG
  • Carmen Messina, LB
  • Ross Weaver, CB
  • Conroy Black, CB
  • Lionel Smith, CB

A number of the players we saw in the training camp last year. Curry is big and slow and terrible. Long is small and semifast but can’t really do anything well. He is white though, so if the team needs their mandatory white receiver when Kris Durham leaves for greener pastures (or the slaughter house) Long has a chance. The word on Edwards last season was that he was a burner. He turned out to run slightly faster than average.

As much as I am an advocate for keeping every available body possible in the secondary, Ross Weaver isn’t going to do much. I’m sure he’s a great guy, and I feel bad saying this so I’ll preface it a little.

From an NFL standpoint, he’s awful.

Now with Carmen Messina, the Lions may have something. He made it through two weeks on the JMMA Watchlist last year and probably had a shot at the award had Jacques McClendon not been named Jacques McClendon.

His problem was two-fold: 1.) The Lions had a lot of linebackers they had already committed to and 2.) He wasn’t very good on special teams. At 6-foot-2 and 245 pounds with some speed, he has some good physical tools. Somebody can teach him how to run in a straight line and take a proper angle.

As for the guys that weren’t a part of the Lions in the preseason: keep Lionel Smith and Conroy Black. And I’m not just saying that because they’re named Lionel and Conroy. Smith was an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M for Dallas before coming to Detroit. I don’t know much about him, but he’s a cornerback.

Conroy Black was a rookie out of Utah this season and signed to the Lions practice squad in September. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at his pro day. He’s Jamaican. Pro Football Weekly called him a “raw, developmental man-cover corner” who possesses speed. His name is fun to say: Conroy Black. Go ahead, try it.

I’ll wait.

His skill set sounds so similar to another guy the Lions had, one who had never played zone coverage in college, one who I had slated to not do anything at but ended up playing in 15 games and starting five of them: Jonte Green.

Conroy Black is your next Jonte Green. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

I do know if we see Conroy Black starting next year, it’s probably a bad thing.

Devin Moore is a tiny little running back (5-foot-9, 200 pounds) who is already a four-year veteran of the league. He’s either the next Joique Bell or one of the other thousands of players who will flame out without ever having made it. Smart money is on the latter.

Of the other three wide receivers, the one with the best chance to do something is Terrance Austin. He played five games in Washington and was even in the running to be a return man for a while. Stefan Logan’s time is up as the return man. Austin will have an opportunity to win the position.

Then there’s Rodney Austin, the offensive guard with a surprising large online presence. Pride of Detroit did a scouting report on him when the Lions first signed him, including a snippet from SI.com labeling him as a good pass blocker who is quick and ” easily gets out to the second level” with weaknesses in decision making and strength.

Pro Football Weekly also has a scouting report on him, saying he’s “very strong” and “packs a punch on contact” is a smart player. HOWEVA PFW says he has “Limited blocking range” and could be a better pass blocker.

To recap:

SI.com strengths: Agility, pass protection

Pro Football Weekly Weaknesses: Agility, pass protection

Pro Football Weekly Strengths: strength, intelligence

SI.com weaknesses: strength, intelligence

Could he help? I don’t know. We still have nine months to figure that out.

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