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Matty’s Monday Morning Mailbag: QB controversy?

August 24, 2009

Every Monday, I’ll take a minute to respond to you — Lions’ Nation — answering questions, and offering my predictions and insight surrounding the team’s 2009 campaign. Here’s this week’s installment of Matty’s Monday Morning Mailbag.

Over the course of the past week, watching the team’s daily grind during training camp has helped answer a lot of my questions, but not everyone’s had the same opportunity to analyze the program.

  • How safe is Chris James’ starting spot considering how frequently Bill Picatagi entered games last season? Isn’t that a little odd?

The simple answer to that question is Chris James’ performance over the past few years has secured his role as the team’s primary passing option. I know it sounds crazy, but the Lions plan to use a “quaterback-by-committee” approach, and it should be dangerous for opposing defenses. Hear me out.

I skimmed through the head coach Eric Hamilton’s answer to the same question, posed during the conference’s first-ever media conference call (full story). Among other inquiries, Hamilton was asked to comment “on the battle for the TCNJ starting quarterback job.” In his words, the team has an interesting “situation” at the position that leads him to believe the two will split duty periodically throughout the year, each player running packages in the offense that most suit their strengths.

“Last season, we kid of had a 1 and a 1a quarterback and, for different reasons, they both played,” he said about last fall’s dynamic at the position. “Going into camp, Chris James is our quarterback, but our 1a guy, a guy who can play, who has played and who will play is Bill Picatagi, and we’re happy and excited about both of them.”

In my opinion, the conference handled the press release pretty irresponsibly. Despite the notion of an imminent battle for a number one job — that a first-glance impression of the conversation suggests — the coaching staff has figured out how to capitalize on each player’s strengths and accentuate them during different in-game scenarios. Though the ever-increasing physicality of college-level defenses requires a number of positions to function as committees, it’s rare to see at the quarterback position. It’s also rare that you see two guys in the same uniform as talented as James and Pic.

  • Aside from the starting 22, what players were you most impressed with during camp? Anybody that we should keep an eye out for?

Though he didn’t seem too comfortable in his new role as defensive tackle, Ken Amponsa’s a guy who I’ve seen play about a hundred positions for the Lions’ thus far. He’s already worked out with the linebackers, and I heard defensive assistants joke about offensive coordinator Bobby Acosta’s greedy efforts to grab Amponsa from the other side of the ball. He’s not to tall, standing at about 5’9 or so, but the nicknames he’s earned over the course of training camp include “Kimbo Slice” and “The Night Train”– both of which are pretty fitting. The guy’s biceps are about the size of my waist. His struggles at DT were likely a result of being unfamiliar with the position’s play-to-play assignments, but I was impressed with the push he was able to generate against the offense’s guards and tackles. I’ll see where they’ve got him playing today, but — considering the lack of depth they’ve got on the D-line — I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make an impact this season.

  • You hear all kinds of stories in the NFL about fights in training camp between the offense and the defense. Have you seen any good ones?

Unfortunately, I’ve only seen a few, brief scuffles. If you talk to the players, though, they’ll tell you that guys have been going at it for the duration of the week. My impression of the isolated incidents in training camp thus far have adhered pretty closely to the time-old cartoon depiction of a parent breaking up two siblings, by lifting both off the ground by the backs of their collars. Each gets a swift kick in the ass and it’s forgotten. Granted, if it happened off the field it would be assault, but “fighting” really misrepresents what’s actually going on. Players are tired, sore, and sick of football after only a few days in pads. It’s kind of like walking into a room in a house that no one’s standing in and screaming your lungs out.

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That’s it for this week’s edition of 4M. To see your questions answered, fill out the form below:

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