NFL Team Report - Detroit Lions - INSIDE SLANT
The Detroit Lions accomplished a lot of positive things in their 40-9 exhibition romp over the New England Patriots on Thursday.
The defensive line showed its dominating capabilities, forcing four turnovers in the first quarter and harassing Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throughout the first half. The first team offense finally moved the ball, even without receiver Calvin Johnson, and produced its first touchdown of the preseason. Running back Reggie Bush took a screen pass 67 yards and had 103 yards receiving overall. The special teams were vastly improved from the previous week.
So there were a lot of gold stars to be handed out, but the mood of the team and especially head coach Jim Schwartz was darkened by the re-emergence of an old problem - on-field discipline.
The Lions took three personal foul penalties in the first half.
Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, after the Lions recovered a fumble, blocked a Patriots player to the ground well after the whistle. Instead of starting the drive on the 20 yard line, they started at their own 5.
Later, defensive tackle C.J. Mosley did the same thing after another recovered fumble. This time the 15 yards took the Lions from the Pats' 5 back to the 20. Detroit ended up not scoring on that opportunity.
The third and final straw came in the second quarter when the Lions had the Pats pinned inside their own 10. Defensive end Willie Young pressured Brady, forced an incompletion that would have set up a third-and-10, but was flagged for taunting Brady after the play.
That was the last play of the night for Young.
"He wasn't thrown out of the game," Schwartz said, "but he didn't play the rest of the game. We didn't want any more personal fouls. We'd had enough after two."
It's a sensitive topic around here. The Lions earned the reputation as an undisciplined team two years ago for several high-profile incidents, including Ndamukong Suh's stomping of a Packers lineman on Thanksgiving. They were among the leaders in after-the-whistle penalties that year.
But last season, they seemed to get the problem under control as they had relatively few after-the-whistle incidents. Suh, for example, didn't have a single personal foul penalty in 2012.
So to see a relapse now isn't what the coaches are looking for.
"Willie, at halftime, he addressed the defense and he said, I apologize, stupid mistake," receiver Nate Burleson said. "It's one of those things where, for us, it's going to get exaggerated and magnified when it happens because of our history. That's what everybody has to realize. If you make a mistake and you're a Detroit Lion, whether it's on or off the field, people are going to bring it up.
"I think that's what he was more frustrated about, because he doesn't want to keep that image rolling. Everybody already thinks of us as the bad guys and gangsters with jerseys on. So when you make bonehead penalties, people are going to automatically assume that we're that old team and we're far from it."
The Lions have had six personal foul penalties through three exhibition games.
"We're Lions; at some point in time, once you release, open that cage up, release that Lion out of that cage, he's going to get aggressive," said safety Louis Delmas. "We teach our D-linemen and we teach our whole secondary and our whole defensive unit to go out there and go after the ball and don't stop until the whistle blows.
"Unfortunately sometimes that happens. We can get a little bit too over-aggressive, but try to contain them and hold them back, definitely not."
Suh, who is emerging as a leader on the defense, doesn't think much has to be said about the penalties.
"It's a Catch-22," he said. "You mention it and you talk about it, but you don't harp on it. We're grown men. We understand the mistakes we make and we want to be able to grow from those. You make them aware of it and I think every last one of the defensive linemen understands.
"We pride ourselves on playing tough, but there's a limit. We respect that limit and we are always going to respect that limit."
NFL Team Report - Detroit Lions - NOTES, QUOTES
--Safety Louis Delmas (knee) played the first series Thursday, a total of 12 snaps.
"Delmas played really well, too," coach Jim Schwartz said. "He gave us a spark when he's in there. He was feeling good in the pregame warmups and we needed to test that out."
Delmas, who had practiced once, not counting pre-game workouts, in two weeks, had a tackle for loss and recovered a fumble.
"Great is an understatement to how it really felt," he said. "It just feels good. It was a breath of fresh air to physically be out there with my teammates."
With Delmas starting, the Lions had their starting secondary intact for the first time this preseason - Chris Houston and rookie Darius Slay at cornerback, Delmas and Glover Quin at safety. Second-year Bill Bentley started at the nickel, but he's being challenged by veterans Rashean Mathis and Ron Bartell.
--Defensive end Jason Jones had two sacks and recovered a fumble against the Patriots, providing a positive example of why the Lions changed their rush technique this season. Jones, as well as rookie Ziggy Ansah and veteran Israel Idonije, are bigger, longer and stronger than the ends the Lions deployed the last two years.
Where Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson and Kyle Vanden Bosch almost exclusively rushed wide around the pocket, Jones and Ansah can rush inside and collapse the pocket. It's making life a lot more enjoyable for tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
"I told JJ and Israel (Idonije), those guys are doing a helluva job just collapsing the pocket," Suh said. "When JJ got that second sack, I had a double team. And it was beautiful. I got to watch him make a play because I was pushing two guys back and he was right in my line of vision."
--Undrafted rookie tight end Joseph Fauria is making it almost impossible for the Lions to cut him. At 6-7, he is a match-up nightmare, as he displayed Thursday. He played 36 snaps, some with the first-team offense, and caught three passes for 44 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown.
He gives the offense a dimension similar to what Tony Scheffler provides. Scheffler made a diving catch for a touchdown Thursday, but again, he seems out of sync with quarterback Matthew Stafford. He was targeted five times and only caught the one pass. That's not to say the Lions would release or trade Scheffler to keep Fauria. That would be risky, going with such an inexperienced player in such a vital role.
The decision to keep Fauria got a little easier, though, because rookie seventh-round pick Michael Williams broke his hand Thursday and will be out for an extended period.
--Safety Tyrell Johnson has been one of the more anonymous players on the 90-man roster, but he is making a loud case to make the squad. He's in his sixth season, spending four with the Vikings and playing in four games with the Lions last season.
On Thursday he played 18 special teams snaps, including the gunner position on the kickoff team. That much special teams work is always a good indication the guy is in the plans. He also played 30 snaps on defense.
With the uncertainty of Louis Delmas's left knee and with John Wendling being a special teams leader, the Lions are going to keep at least five safeties. Delmas, Glover Quin and Don Carey are the primary players. Martavius Neloms and Amari Spievey are probably on the outside looking in right now, which would leave Johnson and veteran Chris Hope battling for the last spot. Hope played 36 snaps on defense Thursday but none on special teams.
There is one wrinkle, though. Newly-acquired Rashean Mathis is getting reps at safety, as well as at nickel. The Lions could knock off two spots - the extra safety and corner - with one player.
--Rookie Larry Warford has apparently won the starting right guard position. That may start five rookies -- Warford, LaAdrian Waddle at right tackle, Darius Slay at cornerback, Ziggy Ansah at defensive end and Sam Martin punter.
--Martin, the team's fifth-round pick, has been impressive. He boomed a 61-yard punt Thursday, knocking it out of bounds at the 1.
"That's a three-point punt right there," coach Jim Schwartz said.
Indeed, the field-flipping punt led to a field goal for the Lions. Martin has also handled the kickoffs, and done so with aplomb. While kicking them to the back of the end zone, he has posted hang times of 4.39. Veteran David Akers, who only does field goals now, said even when he was in his early 20s, the best hang time he could manage on kickoffs was 3.9.
--Veteran Ashlee Palmer has won the starting left outside linebacker spot for now. He will have to stave off a late challenge from Rocky McIntosh, the former Redskin who the Lions signed last week.
--The Lions got a head start on the Aug. 27 cut date by releasing five players on Friday: receiver Chaz Schilens, cornerbacks Domonique Johnson and Ross Weaver, offensive lineman Derek Hardman and defensive tackle John Drew. Receiver Mike Thomas was released last week.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're not going to be super excited. It's a good win, you never discount a win in the NFL whether it's preseason, inseason or postseason. But honestly, it's just a practice game. It's just a glorified scrimmage because it doesn't get us a win towards the playoffs. Plus, it wasn't a perfect game. There's good we can take from it and stuff we can learn from this." --Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh after the Lions beat the Patriots 40-9.
NFL Team Report - Detroit Lions - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: The fight for the starting right tackle spot has taken a surprising turn. It had been a two-man battle between Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard, but neither took firm hold of the position. That opened the door for a third contestant - undrafted rookie LaAdrian Waddle. Waddle, who is 6-6 and 321 pounds, took 45 snaps against the Patriots, most with the first offense. "
He's a guy that's super talented," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "Frankly, it kind of bewilders me how he didn't get drafted. You look at him and he looks the part and he plays the part. I was happy for him. He's been playing well in camp. He's a talented guy and you want to keep getting looks at him."
BIGGEST QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED: The original question was, who is going to be the third receiver, the flanker opposite Calvin Johnson? Now the question may be, who is going to be the second receiver?
The truthful, though not technically accurate, answer is running back Reggie Bush. Bush may be featured in the passing game more than any other receiver not named Johnson. He had a team-high five catches for 103 yards against the Patriots.
Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are going to share the slot receiver position, which makes them technically the No. 2 receivers. But both are coming off knee surgeries and haven't been productive thus far in camp. And most likely, the person who will end up on the opposite flank from Johnson isn't on the roster yet.
The team has released two contenders already, Mike Thomas and Chaz Schilens. Those who remain have scuffled including Patrick Edwards, to whom the team has given the most first team reps. Matt Willis, Kris Durham and developmental rookie Corey Fuller have not done enough to seize the position.
--WR Calvin Johnson was expected to return to practice this week after sitting out his second straight exhibition game Thursday. He is bothered by a knee bruise. He went through pre-game warmups but pulled himself out after feeling some discomfort while running a route.
--TE Michael Williams, rookie and seventh-round pick, suffered a broken hand against the Patriots. He is expected to go on IR, though it is unclear whether that will be short-term IR or not.
--CB Ross Weaver was waived-injured. He had been out all camp with a leg injury.
--DT John Drew was waived-injured. He only practiced once after he was signed last week. His injury was not specified.
--LB Cory Greenwood was waived-injured after suffering a neck injury.
--S Glover Quin suffered a hip-pointer during the game Thursday but is expected to return to practice this week.
--RB Montell Owens suffered a right knee injury Thursday and was still being evaluated.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--P Nick Harris (not tendered as UFA).
--RB James Harrison (not tendered as UFA).
--TE Will Heller (not tendered as UFA).
--CB Pat Lee (not tendered as UFA).
--KR Stefan Logan (not tendered as UFA).
--RB Kevin Smith (not tendered as UFA).
--DT Corey Williams (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all picks signed)
--DE Ziggy Ansah (1/5): $18,594,502/4 yrs, all guaranteed/$11,903,272 SB (no offset).
--CB Darius Slay (2/36): $5,289,302/4 yrs, $2,226,764 SB/$3,127,187 guaranteed/$150,000 report bonus 2014/$100,000 report bonus 2015-16.
--G Larry Warford (3/65): $3,075,000/4 yrs, $697,000 SB.
--DE Devin Taylor (4/132): $2,460,584/4 yrs, $300,584 SB.
--P Sam Martin (5/165): $2,320,300/4 yrs, $160,300 SB.
--WR Corey Fuller (6/171): $2,283,100/4 yrs, $123,100 SB.
--RB Theo Riddick (6/199): $2,251,000/4 yrs, $91,000 SB.
--TE Michael Williams (7/211): $2,225,148/4 yrs, $65,148 SB.
--LB Brandon Hepburn (7/245): $2,205,896/4 yrs, $45,896 SB.
--RB Joique Bell: ERFA; terms unknown.
--S Don Carey: Potential RFA; $630,000/1 yr.
--FB Shaun Chapas: ERFA; terms unknown.
--S Louis Delmas: UFA; $7.715M/2 yrs, $1M SB.
--WR Kris Durham: ERFA; terms unknown.
--OT Jason Fox: RFA tendered at 1.323M with fourth-round pick as compensation); terms unknown.
--G/C Dylan Gandy: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--T Corey Hilliard: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Chris Houston: UFA; $25M/5 yrs, $6.5M SB.
--OLB DeAndre Levy: Potential UFA; $9.75M/3 yrs, $3M SB.
--LS Don Muhlbach: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Ashlee Palmer: Potential UFA; $3.25M/2 yrs.
--S Amari Spievey: Not tendered as RFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Willie Young: RFA tendered at $2.023M with second-round pick as compensation); $1.5M/1 yr, $300,000 SB.
--K David Akers: FA 49ers; $1.005M/1 yr, $65,000 SB/$100,000 guaranteed.
--DT Justin Bannan: Not tendered as UFA by Broncos; terms unknown.
--RB Reggie Bush: UFA Dolphins; $16M/4 yrs, $4M SB.
--G/C Leroy Harris: Not tendered as UFA by Titans; terms unknown.
--T Kevin Haslam: FA Patriots; terms unknown.
--DE Israel Idonije: Not tendered as UFA by Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Jason Jones: UFA Seahawks; $9.5M/3 yrs, $2.5M SB.
--WR Lance Long: FA; terms unknown.
--CB Rashean Mathis: Not tendered as UFA By Jaguars; terms unknown.
--LB Rocky McIntosh: Not tendered as UFA by Rams; terms unknown.
--DT C.J. Mosley: FA Jaguars; $1.2M/2 yrs.
--RB Montell Owens: FA Jaguars; $2.5M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB.
--S Glover Quin: UFA Texans; $23.5M/5 yrs, $5.25M SB.
--G Jake Scott: Not tendered as UFA by Eagles; terms unknown.
--WR/KR Micheal Spurlock: Not tendered as UFA by Chargers; terms unknown.
--LB Chris White (trade Bills).
--WR Matt Willis: Not tendered as UFA by Broncos; terms unknown.
--DE Cliff Avril: UFA Seahawks; $13M/2 yrs, $11M guaranteed.
--T Jeff Backus (retired).
--RB Jahvid Best (released).
--T Gosder Cherilus: UFA Colts; $35M/5 yrs, $10M SB/$16.5M guaranteed.
--LB Justin Durant: UFA Cowboys; $2.365M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--CB Drayton Florence: UFA Panthers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DT Andre Fluellen: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--PK Jason Hanson: UFA; retired.
--DT Sammie Lee Hill: UFA Titans; $11.4M/3 yrs, $4M guaranteed.
--DE Lawrence Jackson: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.
--CB Jacob Lacey: UFA Vikings; terms unknown.
--G Bill Nagy (released (failed physical).
--WR Kassim Osgood: Not tendered as UFA/49ers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--G Stephen Peterman (released).
--S Ricardo Silva (released).
--WR Mike Thomas (released).
--DE Kyle Vanden Bosch (released).
--WR Titus Young (released).