Detroit Lions: Calvin Johnson

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Four Detroit Lions players have yet to play this preseason.

Only one, though, has been held out of both the Cleveland and Oakland games due to precaution. And barring anything changing, that will not be the case Friday night against Jacksonville. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson should play.

“We plan to get him some work this week, and that’s today I’m telling you that,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Toward the end of the week, something adjusts and we have to adjust here and there, it could be that with a number of different guys.

“But we plan to get him some work this week.”

The third game of the preseason is typically when teams give their starters a bunch of work, sometimes playing them into the second half. Caldwell wouldn’t indicate how long he plans on playing Detroit’s first unit Friday night and whether he’ll play certain players more than others within that grouping.

When asked specifically about Johnson, Caldwell did say “that’s a possibility, sure,” about whether Johnson would play less than some of the other starters. Johnson had two offseason surgeries, one on his finger and one on his knee. He told last week that he now has a protective splint for his fingers, which have suffered injuries the past two seasons.

Caldwell was less certain about playing defensive end Ezekiel Ansah this week as Ansah continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. The Lions removed him from the PUP list last week but sat him against Oakland as he tries to get up to speed.

“The medical staff will look at it,” Caldwell said. “Even though he’s off of PUP, we’re going to bring him along according to what he can handle from a physical standpoint, and so we’ll get a sense of that.

“He’s doing a little bit more today in practice, and he’ll do a little bit more tomorrow and see what happens come game day.”

The other Detroit players to not play in a preseason game this year are rookie wide receiver TJ Jones and rookie quarterback James Franklin. Jones remains on the team’s PUP list as he recovers from surgery. Franklin is the team’s fourth quarterback and has not taken many meaningful snaps in practice, either.
Earlier this week, Jim Caldwell said not to read too much into C.J. Mosley playing with the Detroit Lions' first team defense in place of Nick Fairley.

Each day, though, it becomes more difficult to do.

Mosley is starting in place of Fairley on Friday night in Oakland, the team announced. George Johnson will also start in place of Jason Jones at defensive end. Jones has worked both on the inside and outside during training camp.

Mosley's start merely confirms what has been seen in practice this week: Fairley consistently playing with the second unit and Mosley lining up next to Ndamukong Suh. It'll be interesting to watch when and how long Fairley plays against the Oakland Raiders. At the very least, it is beyond obvious Fairley is not in favor with the coaches at this point.

Three players aren't going to play at all Friday: Receiver Calvin Johnson, defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and receiver TJ Jones. Ansah was ruled out by Caldwell earlier this week. Jones remains on the active physically unable to perform list. Johnson is sitting out to rest him as there is little reason to risk the team's best player to injury.

It would not be surprising to see Johnson play a little bit next Friday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, though, when the starters will likely go deeper into the game than last week against the Cleveland Browns or tonight against the Oakland Raiders.

In Johnson's place, Kris Durham will get the start.

W2W4: Detroit Lions

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
The Detroit Lions (1-0) and Oakland Raiders (0-1) continue their preseason Friday night in Oakland, California.

1. Nick Fairley's status: The fourth-year defensive tackle has turned into the major storyline of Lions’ camp in the past week after a lackluster opening game against Cleveland and then an apparent demotion to the second-team defense during practice this week. There are a lot of concerns surrounding Fairley, who has had issues with his weight during his time with the Lions. After showing up in the spring and in training camp in good shape and at a good playing weight, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said he is again trying to find a comfortable playing weight. That can’t be a good sign for Fairley, who has an immense amount of potential but has been inconsistent throughout his career. That inconsistency led Detroit to decline his fifth-year option this offseason, making this a contract year. Watching where he lines up and how many snaps he plays Friday will be interesting.

2. Will Calvin Johnson play at all? At some point this preseason, the star wide receiver will take some preseason snaps with Matthew Stafford and the first unit. The question is whether it is this week in Oakland or next week against Jacksonville at home. Johnson shouldn’t need much work in the preseason as he has looked exceedingly sharp during training camp, making difficult catches with ease. There’s always a question of putting him out there and risking injury, but Caldwell made it sound like everyone will play a little bit during the preseason, so this might be the week Johnson makes a cameo.

3. Can George Winn and others make roster pushes? There are a few players who have played well enough to at least be considered surprises for roster spots after the first few weeks of camp. Winn, who has displayed a lot of power running during practices and the preseason opener, would be one. Jerome Couplin, the undrafted free-agent safety, has also been receiving a longer look during practices and lined up with the second unit this week. Same with veteran safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who had a good preseason opener. Abdul-Quddus was always on the roster bubble, but Winn and Couplin have made up significant room and at this point should be at worst heavy practice-squad candidates. In addition to those three, the Lions would likely want to see receiver Ryan Broyles have a second straight consistent game as he continues to come back from an Achilles injury. There’s also the backup quarterback situation. While Dan Orlovsky still has a hold on the No. 2 position, another strong performance from No. 3 Kellen Moore could push this into somewhat of a competition.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The latest practice of the Detroit Lions' season had just ended and underneath the lights, with a camera filming, Golden Tate was one of the last players to linger on the field.

He stood there waiting, knowing what was coming. The splash over his head and on his back, ice water dumped all on him to help promote awareness for ALS. This started because he was one of the latest celebrities nominated to take the challenge by his college roommate, former Notre Dame golfer Dustin Zhang.

Tate, who was involved with charity work during his time in Seattle, obviously accepted, leading to his dousing and then posted it to his Instagram account.

"It's a great way to raise awareness," Tate said. "It's something that gets everyone interacting into it. If you choose not to accept for whatever reason, we expect you to donate some money for research.

"It's a way for the world to get involved and I think it's kind of cool. Something different."

Tate said the freezing water was initially shocking, but then refreshing after practice. And Tate is not the first Lions player to do this as Kevin Ogletree and Reggie Bush took a variation of the challenge by leaping into the team's cold tub earlier in the day.

As is the pass-it-on tradition of this challenge, Tate dropped the challenge to some new people: Lions coach Jim Caldwell, Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, Seattle wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and Elise Pollard. As the challenge goes, they have 24 hours to complete the task or donate money.

And Tate is hoping Caldwell takes the challenge and then nominates general manager Martin Mayhew, team president Tom Lewand and even members of the Lions press corps.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:
The NFL season is approaching and as always, Las Vegas is trying to tempt everyone with some interesting odds and futures bets.

Some of them include the Detroit Lions, courtesy of Bovada.

Bovada has quarterback Matthew Stafford as fourth on the odds chart to lead the NFL in passing yards during the 2014 season at 15/2 -- behind just Drew Brees (11/4), Peyton Manning (11/4) and Aaron Rodgers (7/1). He is just ahead of Tom Brady (12/1), Matt Ryan (16/1) and Andrew Luck (18/1).

Reggie Bush and Joique Bell are both longshots to lead the NFL in rushing yards -- each sitting at 100/1. Frankly, consideirng the history of both players and the way the Lions offense will run, taking either one of those odds would not be intelligent.

Meanwhile, Calvin Johnson has the best odds to lead the NFL in receiving yards at 13/5. Behind him are Dez Bryant (15/2), Julio Jones (8/1) and Demaryius Thomas (8/1). Golden Tate also makes an appearance on the odds chart, but at 100/1.

Bovada even offers a special wager on the Lions, offering 15/1 odds on Johnson leading the NFL in receiving and the Lions winning the NFC North.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- During the spring, Matthew Stafford admitted there was a lot to pick up in the new offensive system, only the second one he’s had to digest in the NFL.

Through two weeks of training camp, though, Stafford has not shown many issues. Anything positive that happens for the Detroit Lions this season will start with the improvement of Stafford, who needed to show better decision-making and efficiency in practice and in games.

So far, not bad. He has not thrown an interception during any serious team or seven-on-seven periods in the first two weeks of training camp.

“I’m being coached differently,” Stafford said. “Our drops are different. Our reads are different. Our plays are totally different. It was kind of nice to scrap everything and start from the new way they wanted me to do it.

“I tried to embrace myself in that as hard as I possibly can and it’s been fun.”

That Stafford has shown this already -- along with strong rapport with receivers Golden Tate and Kevin Ogletree to go with Calvin Johnson -- is a massive positive for the Lions as they search for offensive efficiency.

Both Stafford and his offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, understand that pressure is on Stafford every play in practice. So far, he’s handled it.

“That’s the quarterback position,” Lombardi said. “All of the pressure is always going to be on him [Stafford]. Like all competitive people, and he’s a highly competitive guy, they put more pressure on themselves than anyone else does.

“It’s fair.”

It also needs to continue as Stafford continues to learn the offense.

Three reasons for optimism:

  • [+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
    AP Photo/Carlos OsorioPlayers are buying into new coach Jim Caldwell's focus on efficiency.
    This team appears to truly believe in Jim Caldwell, at least for now. Yes, it is easy to speak positively of a new regime before a regular-season game has been played, but the players are buying into his focus on efficiency. From his elimination of stretching periods in practice to his promise that he’ll treat every player equally, the Lions have been appreciative of Caldwell's approach compared to the previous regime under Jim Schwartz. Accountability has been a big focus for Caldwell, and so far it has worked.
  • Megatron. It might sound simplistic, but if this team has a healthy Johnson, that is a massive reason for optimism because of what he is able to do to opposing defenses. Johnson has looked impressive through the first two weeks of camp, making jaw-dropping plays essentially every day. This is typical for Johnson, who has been doing that since his freshman year at Georgia Tech in 2004. But Johnson looks healed from his offseason knee and finger surgeries, and the Lions are being smart with his repetitions during practice. As long as Johnson is healthy, Detroit can feel good about its passing game.
  • Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have been dominant. Both entered camp in great shape and are playing for future contracts this season. If the Lions receive first-round efforts from both Suh (expected) and Fairley (questionable) in 2014, Detroit could have the dominant defensive front it has sought since it drafted them in back-to-back first rounds.
Three reasons for pessimism:

  • If Stafford gets hurt, the Lions are in major trouble. Yes, many teams can say that about their starting quarterback, but in previous years Shaun Hill gave Detroit a level of confidence that it could remain competitive if Stafford were to go down. So far, No. 2 quarterback Dan Orlovsky has looked somewhat rough both in practice and in one preseason game. Kellen Moore showed some flashes of potential in the preseason opener, but he was mostly facing players who won’t make Cleveland’s 53-man roster. More than any other season, Stafford’s health is of supreme importance right now.
  • [+] EnlargeDetroit's Matthew Stafford
    Leon Halip/Getty ImagesA lot of the Lions' success in 2014 will depend on how well Matthew Stafford picks up the new offense and if he can stay healthy.
    The secondary is still questionable. The Lions are set with their starters here, but the depth is still up in the air at both cornerback and safety. Beyond Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay -- and even with them -- the Lions have no sure things at cornerback and in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, that is not good for Detroit. Safety appears to be a little stronger both in starters (Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo) and also depth (Don Carey, DeJon Gomes, Isa Abdul-Quddus) but lacks a top-end playmaker.
  • The offense has still looked a little shaky. Stafford has practiced well, especially with Johnson, but the defense has looked stronger than the offense on multiple occasions. There is still a large learning curve, but considering what the Lions have put into their offense in the offseason, that might not bode well for a team trying to score points in bunches. Part of the issue might come from Detroit’s multiplicity offensively, with players lining up in different spots on almost every play. Early on the defense has looked stronger.
Observation Deck:

  • Detroit has stayed mostly healthy through the first two weeks of camp. Part of that might have to do with the way Detroit has practiced this summer -- short, efficient, smart splitting of reps and days off for veterans. So far, Caldwell has taken care of his players.
  • Eric Ebron is coming along. He had a rough first week of camp, dropping passes and looking lost at times. Since then, the first-round pick has been much better both with ball security and route running. He has probably the most challenging camp of any player on the team as he’s a rookie and lining up in four different spots within the Lions offense. He is making progress.
  • The kicking situation has the potential to be a mess and, at best, an untested situation. Neither Nate Freese nor Giorgio Tavecchio has kicked in a regular-season game. Freese is a rookie and Tavecchio has been cut the past two camps. Both have looked decent-to-good in practice thus far, but it’ll be interesting to see how much the Lions trust an inexperienced kicker the first time the game is on the line. Punter Sam Martin has been impeccable at camp, though, and looks to have improved from his strong rookie performance.
DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions are not going to risk their star on Saturday night.

Calvin Johnson has been deemed inactive by the team for the preseason opener against Cleveland. He is one of three Lions who have been ruled out, joining defensive end Ezekiel Ansah and wide receiver TJ Jones, who are on the active PUP list.

Starting for Johnson will be receiver Kris Durham, who inherited a starting spot last season after an injury to Nate Burleson, who is in town now with the Browns.

Devin Taylor, who is also competing for the starting spot at closed defensive end with Jason Jones, will start at open defensive end.


Lions Camp Report: Day 11

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • Kind of a weird practice for the Lions on Friday as it was a hybrid of what Jim Caldwell said he tries to accomplish on Fridays and Saturdays. So the length was a bit longer than a typical walk-through, but players weren't in pads, there was no hitting and most things were done at a speed much slower than what anyone will see Saturday night. This is all pretty typical and a sign that actual football is close to happening for the 2014 season in Detroit. It was also the first practice of the season not open to either season-ticket holders or some portion of the general fan base, so an overall quiet morning of work.
  • The better news for Detroit is the return of Eric Ebron and Calvin Johnson to practice Friday. Since Johnson missed Thursday as an excused absence, it wasn't too surprising to see him back on the field Friday. Ebron's return to the walk-through gives a little larger window to his potential debut Saturday night, but it'll still be a tricky call for Caldwell on how much to use him, depending on what his undisclosed injury was. Unlike a veteran such as Johnson, Ebron could use the work to familiarize himself with the offense and the pace of the NFL as a rookie. Joique Bell missed Friday's practice for "personal reasons," per Caldwell.
  • An area of concern for Detroit at this point might be Ezekiel Ansah. It would be stunning if Ansah played Saturday night considering he is still on the active physically unable to perform list, and days of practice to get him up to speed both physically and mentally with the new defensive scheme are starting to dwindle. The positive for Ansah is he keeps working on the side with athletic trainers and appears to be moving well when he does this, but until he is medically cleared and practices for a few days with his teammates, it's unclear how far behind he may be. He is a critical part of Detroit's defense this fall as he is expected to occupy the open defensive end spot that will have many pass rushing responsibilities. It is where Ansah thrived his rookie season, but at some point the Lions need to see him on the field.
  • Caldwell discussed the backup quarterback situation earlier this week and it sounds like there are no minds made up on the No. 3 quarterback slot -- or whether the Lions will carry three quarterbacks at all. At this point, if the team kept three on the 53-man roster, that third quarterback would almost definitely be Kellen Moore, but unless things change drastically, he won't be the No. 2 quarterback. James Franklin is still a major question mark, but from the limited amount he has shown, he is a long way from contributing to an NFL team. At this point, his best shot of sticking would be if the Lions kept two quarterbacks (Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky) and keeping him as a major developmental project on the practice squad. It'll be interesting to see what happens during preseason games, though, where he should get some snaps.
  • The Lions don't practice again until Monday -- playing Cleveland in the preseason opener Saturday before an off day Sunday.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Two of the Detroit Lions' biggest targets returned to practice Friday morning, but it is unclear if either will actually play a snap Saturday night (7:30 ET) against Cleveland.

Calvin Johnson returned from an excused absence Thursday. Eric Ebron missed practice Wednesday and Thursday with an undisclosed injury. Considering the Lions' were essentially just doing walk-through-type motions Friday, there was little harm in either player being out there.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell, though, continued to be coy whether either would play against the Browns. He was like that for all of his players, including how long the starters might end up being on the field.

"It depends, you know. We talk about it in a couple different ways," Caldwell said. "We talk about it in both regards actually because you can't tell. If the opposition gets the ball and they have an eight-minute drive and you’re only going to play a group the first quarter, you’ve got to re-think it. There’s just it kind of depends. We have our parameters set."

While Johnson and Ebron returned to practice, running back Joique Bell was absent with what Caldwell said was a non-injury excused absence for "personal reasons."

No matter who plays and who doesn't, it would be surprising to see any Lions starter on the field for more than a couple of offensive or defensive series during the preseason opener.

As for what fans could see offensively from Detroit, expect a lot of different formations and personnel packages.

"Pretty versatile offense but efficiency is the thing that we’re looking for, putting points on the board," Caldwell said.

Lions Camp Report: Day 10

August, 7, 2014
Aug 7
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • With receiver Calvin Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron -- two of Detroit's biggest offensive pieces both physically and in terms of usage -- not practicing Thursday, there were more opportunities for others to try and stand out during practice. Joseph Fauria, who has been used with the first team often during the first two weeks of camp, saw a significant uptick in reps and appeared to fare fairly well. Fauria is going to make the team, but he needs to prove in this camp he has taken a step from last season, where he was primarily used in the red zone. If Ebron doesn't play Saturday, he'll have a large opportunity to do so before likely giving way to Jordan Thompson and Andrew Maxwell later in the game. Johnson, meanwhile, had an excused absence. With Johnson not at practice, Kris Durham appeared to receive more first-team reps than normal.
  • Speaking of Maxwell, the essentially unknown tight end had the play of practice in a rep with quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford fired the ball to Maxwell and it hit off of him. Then, it bounced off of safety Glover Quin and somehow right back into the hands of Maxwell, who made the catch and kept on running. It looked like one of those plays you'd see on an NFL Films highlight reel for years if it happened in a game instead of a preseason practice.
  • DeJon Gomes is making a strong push to win the fourth safety spot behind starters Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo and third safety/special teams leader Don Carey. Gomes has consistently backed up Ihedigbo, including when the starter briefly left practice after being kicked in the leg. Gomes has also shown up a lot on the first-team special teams units, which is critical for any depth player trying to make a roster.
  • As part of the veterans-getting-rest plan mentioned multiple times earlier in the week, rookie offensive lineman Travis Swanson has received a lot of time with the first-team offense, either at left guard spelling Rob Sims or at center, replacing Dominic Raiola. While there is no indication Sims or Raiola have anything to worry about when it comes to their jobs, this sort of experience can only provide value to Swanson both this season and down the road, when he eventually becomes a starter. Don't be surprised to see a lot of him Saturday night, perhaps in multiple positions.
  • The Ford family made another appearance at practice Thursday afternoon. While this is my first training camp covering the Lions, veteran reporter Dave Birkett noted the family has been out at camp more often than in the past few seasons. Of course, the team sort of changed ownership in the offseason after the death of William Clay Ford Sr. His wife, Martha, now is the owner of the team and she was at practice.
  • Darren Keyton missed another practice Thursday, as did Ezekiel Ansah, who continued doing side work. Also missing practice -- and not being in attendance at all -- was linebacker Cory Greenwood. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday night that Greenwood has an excused absence. Both Ansah and receiver TJ Jones remain on the active PUP list.
  • The Lions have their final practice before the preseason opener at 8:30 a.m. Friday in Allen Park. It is not open to the public.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- While tight end Eric Ebron sat out practice for the second straight day and Ezekiel Ansah continued to work his way back from the active physically unable to perform list, another high-profile name was missing from practice altogether.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson missed Thursday afternoon's Detroit Lions practice with what coach Jim Caldwell called an excused absence.

Caldwell said he expects Johnson to be available for Saturday's preseason opener against Cleveland, but wouldn't commit to actually playing him against the Browns.

The first-year Lions coach said he has made some determinations on whether or not certain players will participate in Saturday's game, but he would not indicate which players won't play.

"We've talked about some situations and we are considering some and the positions I'm not going to name because I know the follow-up question, but nevertheless," Caldwell said. "We're looking at it and we'll wait until we get a little bit closer to game time to see how it shakes out.

"Every day is a little bit different. We had a couple guys get a little banged up so we'll go in and reassess ourselves and see where we are."

Among the players who got nicked a little bit Thursday was safety James Ihedigbo, who said another player collided into the back of his right calf. He said after practice "I'll be fine" and expected to practice Friday.
DETROIT -- When the Detroit Lions head into some of their team periods each day, the construction of the offensive line looks a little bit different than it will when the team kicks off the season in September.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been adamant about finding his veterans some rest, whether it is sitting Calvin Johnson for a practice Saturday or on a line that played together last season, giving center Dominic Raiola and left guard Rob Sims some rest.

Raiola took a rare day off this week and Sims has consistently sat out part of practice. The veteran, who is coming off a knee injury last season and is in a contract year, said he doesn’t mind not participating in everything because he sees the long-term benefit.

"Just to keep me fresh, give me a chance to recuperate and stuff like that," Sims said. "Make sure I’m ready for the season, you know. Nothing to be alarmed about or anything like that. Just giving me some time at this point in my career."

That could include preseason games. Caldwell would not say Wednesday night how much he plans on playing veterans, including Johnson, in the preseason opener against Cleveland on Saturday night, but that he would be "prudent" in his decision-making.

Considering how he is handling veterans thus far in camp -- especially ones coming off injuries like Johnson and Sims -- it would seem likely they would not see too much action in a meaningless game.

"I plan on playing," Sims said. "I don’t know how many reps they are going to give me, but I plan on doing everything and I’m just excited to get back out there with the guys full-go."

One of the byproducts of sitting Sims has been giving the coaching staff and front office chances to evaluate younger players with the first team. Specifically at left guard, Detroit has rotated in Rodney Austin and rookies Travis Swanson and Alex Bullard with the first unit from time to time during team drills.

Swanson has also worked as center as the Lions drafted him to eventually replace Raiola. Austin is in his third season and is fighting for a job as a backup interior lineman and also trying to prove himself as a potential replacement for Sims.

Bullard is somewhat of a surprise as an undrafted rookie, but he is a player who can play all five spots on the offensive line and could be an ideal practice squad candidate because of it.

"We’ve got a good blueprint that we put in place and they did a really good job in following it," Sims said. "Rodney’s come a long way in the three years he’s been here, and it just bodes well not only for this year with the offensive line, but down the line in the future.

"I’ve always said at the end of the day, I wanted to leave something impressionable here, so I think that’s what we’re doing."
DETROIT -- Once again, the Lions have a roster spot open. The bigger question is what to do with it.

Detroit’s claiming of former first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin didn’t quite work out as the team waived the wide receiver Wednesday after he failed a physical. While the Lions didn’t rule out looking at him again once he gets healthy, it does give them some options to make an immediate move to the roster.

And Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn’t give much indication what the team plans on doing with it, only saying there are a couple of positions where the Lions need more depth.

“That’s always a big thing,” Caldwell said. “How much wear and tear a position is taking on, we have to consider those things. If it gets thin, we certainly have to bolster it to make sure we have enough guys to go in to keep us from having to maybe put a little bit more heavy lifting on one of the guys that we certainly know are going to play for us quite a bit.”

For much of the late offseason and beginning of camp, the Lions appeared focused on adding to their receiver corps, first with Reese Wiggins (now released) and then with Quintin Payton and for a day, Baldwin.

Caldwell wouldn’t say the team is still in the market for a receiver behind Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate and, theoretically, Kevin Ogletree, but the moves Detroit has made suggest that.

“We have a good nucleus of guys,” Caldwell said. “But what we do with that spot depends on our needs and we just have to make certain that we stay vigilant.”

Receiver is certainly one spot that will get a look. Among the others might be cornerback and tight end. Cornerback has been an issue when it comes to talent since the end of last season and the Lions have not made many moves there. Tight end might be the thinnest position on the roster right now, and Eric Ebron sat out Wednesday night’s practice for undisclosed reasons, leaving the team with four tight ends for at least one night.

Those might be two spots other than receiver to look at as the Lions make a decision on where they want to go to get back up to 90 players.
In the NFL, there's a theory that if a player has talent, a coach and franchise will take a chance on him.

This has to be what the Detroit Lions were thinking by claiming former first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin off of waivers Monday afternoon. The Lions will be Baldwin's third team since being taken with the No. 26 pick in the 2011 draft by Kansas City.

Baldwin was mostly unproductive with the Chiefs, was traded to San Francisco and was ineffective there as well, catching three passes all of last season before being cut Sunday. The Lions saw him on the waiver wire and made the claim, clearly hoping to rehabilitate a career that had a lot of promise when he left Pittsburgh after the 2010 season to enter the draft.

He's an impressive looking athlete who hasn’t been able to match the production he was drafted to provide.

The Lions are always on the search for tall wide receivers, hoping the work ethic and professionalism Calvin Johnson provides can potentially rub off on one of them. In Baldwin, they have a receiver who has a similar build to Johnson at 6-foot-4, 230 pounds.

His college career showed there was talent to match that frame. If the Lions are able to find the right way to motivate Baldwin, then he could end up being a steal who could sneak in and swipe a roster spot away from one of the players competing for those roles now: Kevin Ogletree, Kris Durham, Corey Fuller, Ryan Broyles and Jeremy Ross.

If not, then it might have still been worth a shot despite the data presented about his prior production in Kansas City and San Francisco. For a back end of the roster player, it can’t hurt to take a peek and see if they can change the path of Baldwin’s career.

As long as there is talent and someone who at least minimally believes, a player will get a chance in the NFL. Whether this is the spot where Baldwin flourishes or if it is another opportunity that eventually falls away will all depend on the next few weeks.

Lions Camp Report: Day 7

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The Lions seem to be reaching a point where they just want to face anybody else. Monday morning’s practice appeared particularly physical and while there were no fights and only one real injury concern -- Darius Slay’s neck will be fine -- it led to some big collisions. Perhaps the biggest one came from running back George Winn, who flattened rookie safety Jerome Couplin in the open field. It was the second straight practice where Winn leveled a defensive player on a run.

“You can see he’s a physical guy as well,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what he does.”

Winn was a player the Lions brought in just before training camp.
  • The play of the day came from, who else, Calvin Johnson. Returning to practice after sitting out Saturday’s scrimmage, Johnson leaped over a defensive player while trying to catch a pass from Matthew Stafford. Johnson easily came down with the ball, gained his footing for a second and went on from there. This reminded me of something his college coach, Chan Gailey, said to me last year. By the second season, he almost took for granted those plays by Johnson because they were almost a daily practice occurrence. And you wonder why Johnson is considered a nightmare for opposing defensive backs to cover.
  • The kicking competition continues to tighten. While Nate Freese continues to appear to have a slight hold on the job, he might not for much longer. Freese missed two field goals (3 of 5 overall) Monday morning while Giorgio Tavecchio made all five of his. While Freese has struggled since camp opened, Tavecchio has only missed one field goal by my count -- on the first day of practice. Caldwell said after practice he’ll use data to make the kicking decision, and Tavecchio is piling some strong data right now to win the gig.
  • Overall, this was a very strong day for the defense, especially during the running period. The running backs had very few holes to run through – especially so once the starters took a breather. It was similar during some passing plays, with either Stafford having to take off on the run or, in one case, C.J. Mosley busting through the line to touch-sack backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
  • When Slay went out, the Lions kind of offered up a little bit of the depth chart at cornerback – one of the tightest competitions out there. With Slay out, the Lions went to Cassius Vaughn on the outside next. So it would seem like the cornerback tiers right now are Slay and Rashean Mathis as starters, Bill Bentley and Vaughn as the top reserves and then Jonte Green, Nevin Lawson and Chris Greenwood behind them. It may be in that order, although Lawson will end up with a roster spot since he also plays nickel. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out Saturday in the preseason opener.
  • One noticeable thing during practices -- and I'll have a little more on this either tonight or Tuesday morning -- but the Lions haven't been stretching and warming up in a designated period during camp. That, apparently, is by design as Caldwell is trusting his players to take care of themselves on their own. So far, with only two minor injury scares, it appears to be working.

The Lions are back at practice Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. with an open practice.