Herm Edwards on Cunningham, Maualuga
Former Kansas City Chiefs coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards made an interesting point today when talking about new defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and what the Lions will do in the draft.
Edwards, who worked with Cunningham last year, noted Cunningham's distaste for playing too many rookies, something Cunningham acknowledged when he was introduced back in January.
Bud Carson told me in 1982, I was looking at a rookie player and he asked me why I was looking at him and I said because he's a good player, Cunningham said then. He said if you start a rookie you're going to get fired and we started three of them (in Kansas City) and had as many as four of five of them playing throughout the year.
I don't care who you get me, I'm going to coach him. I'm going to make him play whether he likes it or not. That's my approach. But reality says that you can't teach experience so you have to be aware of all those things.
Said Edwards in a teleconference Tuesday: Gun was in this same situation with me last year when we blew the team up basically and started all rookies. I think he learned from that experience where he's now getting some veteran guys and doesn't feel like he's got to start seven rookies on defense, which we had to do last year in Kansas City."
I'm not suggesting the Lions won't or shouldn't draft defense. Quite the opposite. They need linebackers, tackles and defensive backs, and need to find contributors at each position this weekend. But I wrote before, too, that the Lions can't go into the draft expecting to find five new starters on defense, not for this year anyway.
If they draft Matt Stafford No. 1 overall as expected, they can get a starter middle linebacker at 20 and a starter at defensive tackle at 33 (or vice versa), but if they take a safety at the top of third round I wouldn't count on that player beating out Daniel Bullocks or Gerald Alexander. Maybe in time, maybe by the end of the year, but probably not in September given Cunningham's history.
One other tidbit from the ESPN teleconference today, Edwards had high praise for USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, a candidate to go to the Lions with the 20th pick.
I think you like what he brings to the table, Edwards said. He's a very aggressive linebacker. He can run and hit. He's got good temperament, he's playing from a school historically that has had a lot of linebackers come in the league. He's a very explosive tackler. He makes a lot of big hits, but then he misses some, too.
I think he's a big-time hitter, can play in coverage. I think he's still learning, I think he's still a little immature at times, but nothing bad. I think he's going to be a good player. He's got all the intangibles, got good eyes, reads the quarterback well. He can make big plays in pass coverage. He made some big plays in his career.
It's interesting that Edwards, a defensive coach and former defensive back, said Maualuga will be fine in pass coverage, where some analysts knock his ability.
I think he can play in coverage, Edwards said. I just think that he's showed it in the past. He's had some mistakes on play-action, which all linebackers do when you're aggressive and you play to the ball. Play-action always gets those guys, but I think he's got some talent and he's tough, he shows up and he plays hard.