Foote is a hard player for me to get a handle on as a pro, and even harder to project into the Lions line-up, given the conflicting information on their needs/his skill set/his perception of said set. My view of the ceiling on this signing is competency from the player, and the stabilization of the LB unit. Even though my expectations fall on the low end, I still think is a very good signing.
I loved Larry at M and like to check up on him as a pro, and get to see him play often with the Steelers’ national games. Foote never distinguished himself at Pittsburgh, and I’ve always gotten the sense (esp from their page at insiders.com) that the Steelers have perpetually sought his replacement. On the other hand, he was the starting inside backer for 2 superbowl teams, and the Steelers never got him out of the starting line up.
One of the few non-benign comments Schwartz has made since coming to the Lions is that he wants a “thumper” in the middle backer spot who can take on guards and knock runners back or sideways. Not only does Foote not fit that description IMO, the rumored reason for his wanting out of the ‘burg is that he was sick of being used as a “two down player.”
Assuming the Lions play a 4-3, when they Lions go to the extra defensive back, who leaves the field between Foote, Peterson and Sims?
I’m a big fan of a healthy DeWayne White as an all around defensive end. Other than White, Avril is the only other (nominal) defensive lineman who can (allegedly) pressure the QB. The only way I see Larry playing on passing downs if the Lions play a 3-4 in those circumstances or if Peterson puts his hand on the ground as a DE. Given that part of Peterson’s success as a pass rusher is bringing him from different places, and Avril is our undersized pass-rushing DE, I don’t see that happening.
Going to a 3-4, or a I guess it would be more of a 3-3-5, on 3rd and passing would be intriguing. Our interior guys in that scenario probably aren’t getting much done, not like they are anyway, but you could get home with different combinations of LB blitzes. Peterson is a given, Foote was an excellent up-the-middle blitzer in college, Sims speed gives him potential off the edge, and Avril could be used as an OLB.
The strangest thing to me about Larry’s pro career to me is that he made his name in college as a tackle-for-loss machine. Crable was often compared with Foote, but if memory serves, Foote almost always lined up as the middle backer. He wasn’t moved around and brought off the edge pre-snap. He had such a natural ability to time snaps and get through the line, where he put ball carriers on the ground
I thought the Steelers with their blitzing LB tradition was an ideal place for Foote. But that never happened. Perhaps it was tougher for him to get through the line in a 3-4, or perhaps he couldn’t translate that skill to the NFL. It will be very interesting to see if the Lions will run a 4-3, and try to rediscover that part of his game. Because if that doesn’t happen, he’s probably just keeping another seat warm.
All this doesn’t mean I don’t like the signing because I do. One of the little secrets about the Lions, esp overlooked in the whole “Look how stupid they were to over pay Stafford” lazy and parroted analysis, is that the Lions have a very good cap situation. Until they can start building some identity on offense or defense (and maybe win a couple games along the way) no mid-high level free agents will sniff the place unless you go way overboard financially, in which case that contract mixed with crappy-no-hope-team turns that FA into lazy piece of locker room dividing waste. They need to do what they’ve done this off season. ID decent players, sign them to reasonable short term contracts, and hope they can give you at least a couple passable seasons while younger ‘talent’ is brought in through the draft and can mature. Put yourself in a position where going into year 3, a couple high impact draftees and FAs will push you into the playoffs.
Larry is a consciences, veteran, professional football player. He may not make a lot of impact plays, but he hung around with the Steelers and collected two super bowl rings as a starter because he could be solid and execute his assignments on the field. That combo makes him a giant, flashing, neon role model on this squad. It will be a bonus if he and Peterson can police the attitudes and morale on defense to slow some the snowball effects we saw in virtually every sunday last year.