Charlie Sanders thinks Caldwell is calmer

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
9:45
AM ET
WEST BLOOMFIELD, Mich. -- Charlie Sanders has been a part of some of the most successful Detroit Lions teams in the franchise's modern history. While it is not exactly a glowing barometer considering the franchise's failings over the past 40 years, the Hall of Fame tight end does know what talent looks like.

And he thinks the Lions did not do much to upgrade their talent from 2013 to 2014 -- but that they didn't necessarily need to.

[+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
Carlos Osorio/AP PhotoLions cornerback Bill Bentley says coach Jim Caldwell "makes you not want to make a mistake."
"The talent was always there," Sanders said Monday before the "Have A Heart Save A Life" golf outing for charity he runs. "This team hasn't really improved, talent-wise, as much as people would like to think. The talent was there last year.

"When you look at it and look at it on paper and say where have we really, really made that giant step, all we've done is created a different problem with the tight end. But talent-wise, we've always had the talent."

The difference this season will be coaching, Sanders said. He echoed Monday what many others have said about first-year Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell since the team hired him in January. He's an honest man who is going to exude calmness, control and consistency consistently as players deal with him.

From what Sanders has already seen, the way Caldwell coaches has put the onus of the team's success back on the players instead of having a coach -- or a coaching situation -- add more angst to an already pressure-filled situation each season.

The players have felt this as well. It is only May in a period of the year where almost everything is about development and learning instead of on-field results, but there is a different vibe around the Lions with Caldwell.

He is able to get his message across without yelling or screaming or even raising his voice. He does his correcting in private, with only the team around.

"He makes you not want to make a mistake," cornerback Bill Bentley said. "Because when you make a mistake, he puts you on the board in front of everybody and you don't want to be on that board in front of everybody. You know what I'm saying.

"That'd be embarrassing. You don't want that, you don't want to be embarrassed."

The players, for now at least, appear to appreciate Caldwell's style throughout his dealings with the players. They see the calm and that he never really changes no matter the situation.

That can lead to the same soothing influence on players, something Sanders already saw.

"There's no panic and stress and confusion and things like that," Sanders said. "For once, it puts all the pressure back on the player in that they want to assume responsibility of going out and performing without, quote, adding that pressure, that added pressure on them.

"A lot of the success of where the Lions go from here on out is solely resting on the shoulders of the players and not on the coach because the coach is just letting them do what they do best."

One area the Lions did upgrade was at tight end, where the team drafted Eric Ebron in the first round. The pick was questioned by many -- including in this space -- because the Lions seemed to be in decent shape at tight end.

Perhaps Sanders clued in part of what Detroit is actually going to do with Ebron, though. He sees him more as a receiver than a true tight end. This comes a year after Sanders told reporters then-tight end Michael Williams would eventually become an offensive tackle. That move happened before the start of organized team activities.

Sanders didn't have as bold of a prediction about Ebron.

"In a sense, people say he's a tight end. He's just a big wideout," Sanders said. "(Brandon) Pettigrew is a tight end. There's a difference.

"I don't have any predictions other than that I think he's going to create some matchup problems, and I think it's a situation where the Lions are going to benefit from it."

How much they benefit could end up being on both the players and the coaches.

Michael Rothstein | email

ESPN Detroit Lions reporter

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