Detroit Lions: Corey Hilliard

The Film Don't Lie: Lions

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
11:00
AM ET
A weekly look at what the Detroit Lions must fix:

The Lions invested a lot of money in their offense over the past three seasons, but if they can’t keep quarterback Matthew Stafford upright and not running for his life, none of that will matter. The Lions, who face Minnesota on Sunday, have to do a better job of protecting Stafford. He's been sacked 17 times in five games.

The Lions are 31st in the league in sacks per dropback at 8.3 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information, after being second in the NFL last season at 3.6 percent. While injuries to LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard appeared to be part of the issue at first, it looks like the problem is bigger than any one player. A bigger potential concern is the Lions were beaten soundly by a Bills defense that rarely blitzed, sending five or more rushers only 10.3 percent of the time.

One way the Lions can fix this is to have Stafford get rid of the ball faster. He’s holding on to the ball for 2.48 seconds before the pass, a fraction slower than last season. However, in the NFL, a fraction of a second can make all the difference.

There’s also this: In the past two weeks, Detroit has faced two of the NFL’s top pass rushes -- including that of the Jets, which is ranked No. 1 in the league. Facing a more middle-of-the-road group in Minnesota might help start building some confidence to fix what ails the Lions' line right now.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After coming close to returning to the Detroit Lions a week ago, right tackle LaAdrian Waddle said if things go well this week in practice, he'll be back in the lineup Sunday against Buffalo.

Waddle
Waddle said the decision will come based on this week of practice. He almost played against the New York Jets on Sunday, but on Friday a mutual decision between trainers, coaches and Waddle kept him out for one more game.

"I was close last week," Waddle said. "So we're going to go through practice this week and if everything's good, we'll be ready to go."

Waddle, who beat out Corey Hilliard for the starting job during training camp, injured his right calf during the Lions' first series of the season on "Monday Night Football" against the Giants. He hasn't played since and returned to practice last week for the first time.

He said he has been walking fine and made progress every day in practice last week, but he was still getting a feel of "pushing on people" and the force of the impact on the calf. So the decision was made to rest him for one more week so there would be less of a chance of re-injury that could potentially keep him out for a longer period of time.

In his place, the Lions have rotated Garrett Reynolds and Cornelius Lucas at right tackle the past three games. Reynolds has started every game, but Lucas has played a varying number of snaps each week.

And with the Lions playing well, Waddle felt he could make sure he was fully healthy before he re-entered the lineup.

"The guys that have been in there have been doing a pretty good job and they've been battling so that plays into it, too," Waddle said. "So be on the safe side and looking ahead to the rest of the season.

"I want to get in and get back and play from when I play to the rest of the season. I don't want to get in there and get hurt again. We just erred on the side of waiting just because of that."

Now, Waddle might not have to wait much longer.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In researching this game, there was nothing that stood out on either side that screamed extreme mismatch. Detroit's secondary is a question and even though Kelvin Benjamin looked good in his debut (six catches, 92 yards), he is still a rookie so consistency could be an issue. If Cam Newton plays, both offenses should be able to score in bunches and both defensive lines have enough star quality to put pressure on the quarterbacks. It feels like a fairly even matchup and since Newton didn't play in the opener, it is tough to even judge numbers. Provided Newton is healthy and sharp, his scrambling ability could be the small enough difference.

Another concern developing through the week has been Detroit's issue at right tackle, where Corey Hilliard is out for the season and LaAdrian Waddle is highly unlikely to play. This leaves the Lions with either rookie Cornelius Lucas or just-signed veteran Garrett Reynolds starting at right tackle potentially opposite Greg Hardy. Considering Carolina's strong front seven, this does not bode well for the Lions' run game and their chances in general.

Other than the right tackle issue, these teams feel pretty equal. When teams are equal, I usually give the edge typically goes to the home team, and that's what I'm doing here. Pick: Carolina 31, Detroit 28
When the Detroit Lions placed cornerback Bill Bentley on injured reserve Tuesday afternoon, it seemed pretty logical the team would go after a cornerback or safety to replace him in the defensive backfield.

Reynolds
They still might? But they'll have to release a player to do so.

The team instead signed offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds Wednesday morning, according to ESPN colleague Adam Caplan. Reynolds had been with Detroit in training camp and had played well enough to potentially earn a roster spot over fellow interior lineman Rodney Austin.

Instead, the team cut both, choosing to go lighter on the interior line, and re-signed Austin to the practice squad. Now, with injuries settling in, the team decided to bring back Reynolds, who offers enough flexibility to play both guard and tackle for the Lions.

This could be especially important this week as right tackle LaAdrian Waddle left the game with a calf injury and did not return, and his replacement, Corey Hilliard, was seen limping around the Lions' locker room after Monday night's win over the Giants.

Reynolds has experience, too, having started 23 games for Atlanta over five seasons.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
DETROIT – Matthew Stafford wasn’t expecting to run.

Yet on Monday night against the New York Giants, facing a third-and-goal, Stafford looked more mobile than he ever has. The preparation for what turned into a 5-yard touchdown run for Stafford -- the longest touchdown run of his career -- began well before the season started.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford's 5-yard touchdown run was a product of his offseason conditioning and mobility work.
“I work out with Stafford sometimes in the offseason,” receiver Calvin Johnson said. “And he’s been doing a lot of footwork drills and you see it paying off.”

It might have paid off the most on a play Stafford made in the third quarter, when his intelligence combined with an overextended pocket forced him to take off and make a play.

The Lions were lined up with Stafford in the shotgun, Joique Bell next to him and Calvin Johnson alone on the right side. On the left, the Lions had Golden Tate on the outside, Jeremy Ross in the slot and Joseph Fauria standing up as a tight end close to the line of scrimmage.

The way the play was designed, Stafford was initially supposed to throw to the left. Nothing was open. Then he looked at Johnson, who was doubled on the play. Meanwhile, Stafford’s pocket was pushed a little bit more when Giants defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka ran past right tackle Corey Hilliard before Hilliard knocked him to the ground. This slightly shifted the pocket and gave Stafford a larger hole to run through.

As the pocket shifted, Tate was cutting across the field waving his hands slightly to try and get Stafford’s attention. Stafford, still looking somewhat upfield, appeared to commit to the run at the 10-yard line.

“They did a great job of covering us up on that,” Stafford said. “They kind of had a population issue over there to the left where we were trying to get the ball, and Calvin was doubled as well, so our offensive line again did a great job of giving me some lanes to step up.

“[I] Stepped up and decided to take off.”

This is where Stafford made the entire play. Seeing Tate covered and linebacker Jacquain Williams waiting around the goal line, Stafford gave a slight head fake like he was looking toward throwing to Tate. Williams looked to the right for a split second, appearing to throw off his timing.

It was a perfect sell by Stafford to give himself a chance to get close to the goal line. He knew it still wasn’t a guarantee he’s score, though.

“Knew I probably didn’t have the jets to get there but if I sold him enough, I could maybe cut back,” Stafford said.

He joked later the cut back is “about my only move,” but the final move resulting in the touchdown was more instinct than anything planned, no matter how much he works on his footwork.

That’s what happened when he reached the 2-yard line. Stafford, Williams, Tate and Giants safety Stevie Brown all converged just right of the hashmark. Stafford timed his cut back perfectly, knocking Williams slightly off balance for the wrap tackle while taking Brown out of the play with the move.

Stafford looked like he wanted to dive into the end zone, but Giants linebacker Jon Beason was standing just inside the goal line ready for one last shot at the play. Instead of diving, Stafford tucked the ball and almost jumped in the end zone, scoring to give the Lions a 27-7 lead after the extra point.

“He’s confident in his feet,” Johnson said. “The footwork drills that we do, he runs well. He’s running better than he has in the past. He’s going to be smart.

“He knows we need him out there so he isn’t going to do anything crazy.”
DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 35-14 victory.
  • Prior to the game, the Lions honored their late owner, William Clay Ford Sr., with a speech from actor Jeff Daniels, a video and the signing of "Anchors Aweigh." After the game and the Lions' win, Martha Ford, the wife of the late Ford Sr., and their children all emerged with game balls given to them by coach Jim Caldwell. He said he did it to "honor Mr. Ford and his passing."
  • Hilliard
    Corey Hilliard stepped into the lineup at right tackle after the first series, when starter LaAdrian Waddle went down with a calf injury. It felt like déjà vu to Hilliard: Last season he lost a tight battle to Jason Fox at right tackle and then Fox went down in the opener, giving Hilliard a shot. "It's scary how weird that is," Hilliard said. He was also limping in the locker room after the game, but said he's "all right," and that he just twisted himself.
  • Typically after wins, the Lions have had music blaring in the locker room to celebrate. Not Monday night with Caldwell. "New day," Lions center Dominic Raiola said as to why the team didn't have the massive speakers and music going after their win over the Giants.
Welcome, finally, to the regular season.

Though the Detroit Lions are among the last teams to actually kick off the season Monday night against the New York Giants, they start everything Monday, when the team returns to practice this afternoon as a 53-man roster for the first time (not including the 10 practice squad players).

There are some issues to get through, though, between this morning and a week from now, when the season actually starts.
  • Who is the right tackle? This is the lone starting position not finalized yet, as LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard continue to compete at the position. Might find out as early as Monday who won the competition, but both have shown they can play. The Lions can drag this out a few more days because both players lined up next to right guard Larry Warford last season during games, but for continuity's sake, it is better to handle this earlier than later.
  • What to do with Kyle Van Noy? The prevailiing thought is Van Noy is headed for injured reserve with a designation to return. This will give Van Noy time to heal from his core muscle surgery last week and won't take up a roster spot early in the season. If Van Noy heads to IR on Tuesday, don't be surprised if the Lions bring back a veteran they already had in camp or go after one recently released.
  • That said, who is the SAM linebacker? Van Noy probably wasn't starting the opener yet anyway. He just wasn't ready yet. Tahir Whitehead appears to have won this competition -- after not even starting the preseason playing at SAM full-time. Now, he has emerged as one of the team's top three linebackers. It will be either him or Ashlee Palmer when the team goes into a 4-3 on Monday night.
  • What about Champ Bailey? He is the big name on the free agent wire now and general manager Martin Mayhew has not shied away from going after veteran cornerbacks in the past (Rashean Mathis, Drayton Florence) if he thinks it will help his team. The question is if Bailey has anything left at age 36. He only played in five games last season. He also missed about three weeks of training camp dealing with a foot injury. Is he worth bringing in for a workout? Possibly.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:
The Detroit Lions aren’t going to play their entrenched starters very long against Buffalo, but for many of the guys who are not Calvin Johnson or Matthew Stafford or Reggie Bush or DeAndre Levy or Ndamukong Suh, this is one last chance to hold on to a job.

Or to earn a spot on the roster.

So here are some position competitions you should be watching -- and I’ll be watching -- in the preseason finale:

Waddle
 
Hilliard
 Corey Hilliard vs. LaAdrian Waddle: The only full-time starting job that’s still up for grabs, watch who starts tonight. Even if Detroit’s starters don’t play, it’s logical to think both Hilliard and Waddle will see the field as one final audition for Jim Caldwell and the offensive line coaches. If Hilliard lines up with the first group again, that might be a sign he’s won the job since he did so last week as well. Who wins here is still somewhat of a toss-up, but if I had to pick, I’d say Hilliard.

Ashlee Palmer vs. Tahir Whitehead vs. Kyle Van Noy: The other semi-starter spot open is still a three-man race and likely won’t resolve itself until the season starts since Van Noy has an abdominal injury. This is a semi-starter spot because the Lions will play enough nickel that Bill Bentley might end up starting half the games and play half the time anyway. As of now, it looks like Whitehead might surprise and win this spot after his performance against Jacksonville and how he's played in camp. If he does well against Buffalo, he may lock the job up to start the season. All three will make the roster, though.

The wide receivers: Touched on this earlier in W2W4, but this is the most wide open competition left on the roster and really, anything can still happen. This is one spot where a strong performance against Buffalo could be a deciding factor. There are four real candidates here for two or three slots: Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles and Corey Fuller. All were with the Lions last season and if Detroit keeps Durham, Ogletree and Broyles, it’s possible all could be on the team again if Fuller ends up on the practice squad.

Kellen Moore vs. Empty: Moore needs a big game Thursday night and even then, it isn’t a guarantee that would be enough to keep him on the roster. The main competition for him will be depth at other positions, including receiver, running back, corner, linebacker and safety. If Detroit feels good at all those spots, there may be room for Moore on the 53-man roster. If not, the Lions may avoid keeping three quarterbacks, but a huge game from him could make the Lions contemplate the decision hard.

George Winn vs. Mikel Leshoure vs. None: Winn has had the more impressive preseason and might have locked himself up a roster spot if not for two fumbles in three games. Leshoure has alternated between glimpses of the runs a second-round pick should make and a bunch of indecisive cutting with nothing to show for it. Winn gives Detroit something on special teams as well, which helps his case. There’s also a chance Detroit keeps neither.

Montell Owens vs. Jed Collins vs. Emil Igwenagu: The Lions claimed Igwenagu this week off waivers, and Caldwell seemed like he wanted to give him a real opportunity Thursday night. If he shows enough, it’s possible he could push Owens or Collins out of a roster spot. His signing also could affect the Winn/Leshoure/None competition because Igwenagu’s ability to play fullback and tight end could lead Detroit to keeping two of Owens/Collins/Igwenagu for roster flexibility.

Williams
Williams
 Michael Williams vs. Cornelius Lucas: At the start of camp, the fourth tackle spot looked like Lucas’ to lose. Yet the past two weeks, Williams has been the fourth tackle in the game and has shown he can play both right and left tackle as he continues to learn the position after converting from tight end. Line coach Jeremiah Washburn is also really high on Williams’ potential. Pay attention to who comes in first and who plays the longest here. Remember, last season, Waddle went from fourth tackle to starter in half a season.

Jerome Couplin vs. Isa Abdul-Quddus vs. Don Carey vs. Travis Lewis vs. Chris Greenwood: They play different positions (Couplin, Abdul-Quddus and Carey are safeties, Lewis is a linebacker, and Greenwood is a cornerback), but they could be fighting for one or two spots on defense. This could come down to roster makeup and special teams ability. All of them possess special teams gifts, but watch who might be on the first unit and who gets snaps there because that and injuries could determine jobs.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are a little over a week away from the season-opener against the New York Giants, and one starting position remains largely unsettled: right tackle.

Hilliard
 
Waddle
 Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle have been competing at the position throughout the preseason. During training camp, they were rotating with the first team every other day. Coach Jim Caldwell was not ready to name a starter at the spot yet, although Hilliard played with the first unit throughout the first half of Friday's preseason game against Jacksonville.

"The guys have been battling for it and doing a great job," Caldwell said. "We haven't named one as of yet and we have a while before our first game. Guys are doing a tremendous job, I think, working and challenging one another, and we'll get a chance to see how they end up."

Earlier this preseason, both Hilliard and Waddle seemed confident they could fit in well with the rest of the offensive line -- in part because they both already had. Both started games at the position for Detroit last season and played well while they were in there.

It is that same reason that Caldwell appears to have confidence in either guy, even if both have struggled at points during the preseason.

"There is a comfort level with them because they both are performers," Caldwell said. "They do a nice job. They perform extremely well. It is a very, very close competition so I think at this point, we would feel very, very good regardless of which one ends up winning that particular job."

Some other notes from Caldwell's 10 minutes with the media:
  • DeJon Gomes went on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. Caldwell would not say whether or not Gomes will need surgery on the shoulder and declined to give any other details.
  • Caldwell said Reggie Bush has sat out the past two days of practice due to "rest."
  • If the Lions keep just two quarterbacks on the roster, they have plans for an emergency quarterback. Caldwell declined to name any of the players who could possibly fill that role. He said Detroit would make it known if the Lions ever needed to reach that point.
For the majority of Detroit's starters, the next time they'll see the field is on Monday Night Football next month. Their preseason work is over, and their roster spots secure.

Against Jacksonville, a lot of those starters got enough time to actually show where they are as well. Here are some thoughts on some of the Lions' players on offense against the Jaguars.

Stafford
Stafford
 Quarterback Matthew Stafford: Had an interception where he stared down Calvin Johnson and didn’t see the defensive end dropping in coverage. Also had a defensive drop on a pass forced to Johnson. A defensive drop, at least from what I’m calling it, is a pass that should have been intercepted only to have a defender drop it. After the interception on the forced throw staredown, he looked a lot more comfortable in the pocket and in making decisions.

Running back Reggie Bush: Good speed, good understanding and hit the hole well. On his long run that was called back due to a Brandon Pettigrew hold, he probably wouldn’t have gotten there without that hold. On Bush’s 86-yard touchdown run, he had major help from blockers to create the hole -- more on this below -- but his speed was extremely impressive, and the Lions have to be happy to see he still has that.

Running back Mikel Leshoure: Had more decisiveness and push than in the previous two preseason games and actually ran fairly well when he got his shot with the starters. Still doesn’t feel like he’ll make the 53-man roster, but he had his best film of the preseason. His fumble in the second half didn’t help his roster chance, though.

Running back George Winn: Showed up on first-team special teams again and continued to run hard when he was given opportunities, but fumbling has to be a concern, and it could keep him off the 53-man roster. Ball security has always been a paramount quality for Jim Caldwell, and two fumbles in three preseason games has to raise eyebrows a bit. If I’m Winn and I don’t make this team, I’m looking heavily at those two fumbles because he’s done everything else well.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson: Was in the slot a decent amount during his snaps and looked fine when he was running his routes. Needed to get on the field just to test everything in a game setting. Stafford tried to force throws to him, but Johnson looked like his typical self.

Wide receiver Ryan Broyles: He didn’t play with the starters at all from what I saw, but once again he found open spaces and made catches when he received his opportunity. It’s a tough position grouping at wide receiver, but this is the closest Broyles has looked to his college self, when he was an attractive prospect before three straight season-ending injuries. If he stays healthy, he could end up making some impact this season.

Right tackle Corey Hilliard: There were times it appeared he got beat by the end, but he also sealed quite well to open up holes for Bush and Joique Bell. His block inside helped spring Bush for his 86-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Blocks from Eric Ebron, who appeared to take on two guys well and Kevin Ogletree on the outside gave Bush the hole, but Hilliard started it with the good push inside on the end.
DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions will be without one defensive starter and a key defensive reserve Friday night against Jacksonville.

Safety James Ihedigbo and linebacker Kyle Van Noy will be sitting out against the Jaguars along with rookie wide receiver TJ Jones.

More interesting, though, might be some of the starter replacements. Isa Abdul-Quddus will start at safety in place of Ihedigbo instead of Don Carey, perhaps signifying Abdul-Quddus' move up the depth chart. Tahir Whitehead is starting at Sam linebacker in place of Ashlee Palmer in another surprising move.

Corey Hilliard will be at right tackle over LaAdrian Waddle, perhaps a sign that the vet could end up winning that job. Also, Devin Taylor will start at defensive end in place of Ezekiel Ansah. Ansah is active and is expected to play, but will likely be limited in his snaps.

QOTW: First football memory

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
5:30
PM ET
Question of the Week is a weekly feature here where we take a cross-section of opinions from Detroit Lions players and coaches (and sometimes opponents) about a singular topic. Most of the time, they have nothing to do with football. Have a suggestion for a question? Email: michael.rothstein@espn.com.

Previous Questions of the Week.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- We all remember the first time we did something we loved, whether it was playing a sport, reading a book or participating in a hobby.

For the Lions, the first football memory can be an important one. In some cases, it can teach a lesson. In others, it brings laughter of memories when everything about the game was innocent and new.

So the question for this week: What is your first football memory?

Wide receiver Jeremy Ross: "When I played for the San Francisco Seahawks, Pop Warner. Caught a touchdown. I think I ran probably a 12-yard hook route. Caught it with my body like boom, spun to my left. I got a real good memory. I was nine years old."




Wide receiver Kris Durham: "First one playing, when I was 7, there was an 8-,9- and 10-year-old league and my uncle was one of the coaches. He would let me come, it was almost like a redshirt year, he would let me come and practice with them. He would let me go out there and I would have to take my licks, my bumps and bruises and he’d get me out there. He got me out there and practiced with the whole team and got my own jersey. It was the Cowboys. Just the Cowboys. In Calhoun, Georgia."




Offensive guard Rodney Austin: "Just remember going to my big cousin’s football games when I was little and playing with all the other kids who were too small to be out there or too young to be out there and just begging my mom to put me on the team and just letting me go. The next year, I was out there. I was five or six years old in St. Louis. I was one of the bigger kids. I ended up starting to play before they really allowed starting to let kids play. I was so big that I was six and I was starting on the seven-eight year old team. It was pretty awesome."




Right tackle Corey Hilliard: "I’m from New Orleans, so it would have to be something with the Saints. Probably my dad just yelling at the TV. That might not be true. In ’92 the Saints actually went to the playoffs. They actually had a good year that year. I was seven or six. That’s probably the earliest memory I have of the Saints. I was big into kicking things, so I liked the punter, Tommy Barnhardt. Pat Swilling, Rickey Jackson, those guys. Bobby Hebert, those guys, too."




Quarterback Dan Orlovsky: "Probably the first football memory that sticks in my head is my dad just teaching me the game. I originated in flag football and one of the first memories that sticks out, I was playing quarterback in flag football. I threw it and I think I was eight, someone smacked my arm and I remember tearing up and my dad kind of taking me behind a car and talking to me about it. Kind of verbalizing expressing toughness and how there was a big difference between being hurt and being injured. In that moment, changing my view on what it was to be tough and how it was to be tough for your teammates. Mainly just my dad teaching me."




Cornerback Rashean Mathis: "When I was younger and my grandmother wouldn’t let me play football because she said I was too small. That was the first thing I have. The other memory that sticks out the most, I was in the 10th grade and my brother was in the 12th grade and he was the star of the football team. He told me that I should quit because I wasn’t taking football seriously. That triggered something in me and I started taking football seriously after that."




Right guard Larry Warford: "I was playing flag football as a running back. I used to be a running back. Then I got meningitis and I couldn’t play anymore. Real talk. I got spinal meningitis and couldn’t play anymore. I was in second grade, I think. It was crazy."

Reporter: You know you can die from that, right?

Warford: "Yeah, I learned that in 2008. I didn’t know how serious it was until I was 16 or 17. I was talking to my uncle about it and he said, 'You know you can die from that, right?' I was like ‘What?’ "

Reporter: Did you do anything as a running back?

Warford: "I had a 70-yard touchdown run called back because I stiff-armed a little kid. I didn’t know you couldn’t do that. I straight bodied that kid. After that, I got meningitis. I only played like two games of the six-game season."




Offensive tackle Michael Williams: "My very first touchdown. I actually played running back and my mom missed the previous game so I came back and I knew she missed the game so I told her that I scored. I didn’t score, though. It was just a joke. So she comes to the next game and in my mind, I’m like, I have to score. So I scored. That was how it went. I was seven. The Pickens County Tornadoes."




Cornerback Cassius Vaughn: "My first year in little league in Memphis. I played for the North Memphis Chiefs. I was a D-end, six years old. D-end. I got a little faster, played a little quarterback. I just liked running the ball so I kind of migrated to the offensive side and it went from there. Full-tackle. Helmet, shoulder pads, all of that. We were out there tackling, man. Running real plays."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The competition is different now than a season ago in almost every facet for Detroit Lions players Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle.

To start, there is no third person involved, as Jason Fox was in 2013 when he won the right tackle gig out of training camp. He's in Miami now after another injury-plagued season, leaving Hilliard and Waddle by themselves to compete for the starting right tackle position.

Hilliard
Waddle
It is one of the more even situations in training camp. Hilliard has more experience, but both started games a season ago and Waddle turned into one of the better undrafted free-agent rookie finds of 2013. Neither one of them is really competing for a roster spot, either. Not with a lack of experienced depth behind them, so the confidence both will end up on the 53-man roster is fairly high.

So the focus and level of anxiety is just a little bit different.

“It's more kind of just trying to solidify that spot, you know what I mean,” Waddle said. “You just have to have that mentality and go into it like that.”

The Lions’ coaching staff has fostered that, in part, by alternating Hilliard and Waddle with the first team offensive line by the day. Every other lineman, except for when the staff gives Rob Sims or Dominic Raiola some veteran's rest, has his spot essentially secured.

Then there is the right end of the line, which is completely wide open as the Lions enter their first preseason game Saturday against Cleveland. It is a competition that will likely continue throughout training camp and barring injury, gives the Lions option through the regular season as well.

Both players recognize the opportunity that exists. In Hilliard's case, he can lock up a starting job in the final year of his contract and in Waddle's case, he can increase his hold on the gig for the present and future.

But there is no animosity between the two. There doesn't need to be since both figure to have jobs this fall.

“We’re both good players. They trust both of us to put us in a position where one of us is going to play and the best man’s going to win,” Hilliard said. “That’s just the way it is.

“There are no layers to it or oh my god, psych-out, or what do I do to win the job. You go out, play to the best of your ability and then whoever wins the job wins it.”
Question of the Week is a weekly feature here where we take a cross-section of opinions from Detroit Lions players and coaches (and sometimes opponents) about a singular topic. Most of the time, they have nothing to do with football. Have a suggestion for a question? Email michael.rothstein@espn.com.

Last season's Questions of the Week.

This season: Rookie nerves; Exciting offseason activities.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Most football players understand their careers are going to be short. Time playing professional football is finite for everyone -- and for most, the time in the NFL ends up being a short but notable blip on the entirety of their lives.

In two weeks, some of the players on the Lions could be out of football for good and in 10 years, most of Detroit's current players won't be in the league anymore. That begged this question somewhat early this season: Where do you see yourself in 10 years? What will you be doing?

Here, as always, are answers from Lions players:

Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree: "July 31, 2024? I'd be 36 and 360 days. Maybe on the other side of these shoulder pads, maybe I'm interviewing one of these lucky guys, like you, man. You never know, man. I don't have a 10-year plan. I have more of a five-year one. But 10 years sounds like far from now. Hopefully I'm on some golf course hitting some good balls."



Cornerback Mohammed Seisay: "I see myself retiring. Hopefully just coaching, perhaps. Enjoying life. Living on the west coast, that beautiful weather. That's my idea."



Safety James Ihedigbo: "Wow, that's tough. Working in commercial real estate in Houston as a real estate investor. I have a passion for it. I really like it. I live in Houston. It's a city that's growing."

Reporter: How'd you get into that?

Ihedigbo: "Just a mutual friend and I really liked it. Really liked how the business works. All of that."



Cornerback Darius Slay: "I see myself, man, just being the best I can be. Reaching my potential and make sure giving it my all. And be the best father I can possibly be."

Right tackle LaAdrian Waddle: "Hopefully still playing. That's the plan. I would like to be still playing."

Right tackle Corey Hilliard: "Ooh, man. Might be having a hip replacement or knee replacement. [Joking]. Hopefully I have some type of business going on. Hopefully I have a job and let's see in about 10 years, my daughter will be about 15 so hopefully I'm going to a lot of her games or whatever she's into. My son will be 12 so hopefully I'll be with what he's doing."

Safety Glover Quin: "Haaa, definitely not playing football. Oh man, I don't know, man. This time of year, I might be on vacation this time of year just because I can. Ten years from now I might be at the Olympics or something this time of year. Definitely not playing football. I'm enjoying my life."

Safety Don Carey: "Oh bro, somewhere pastoring or teaching some Bible study or doing some missionary work out some place. Raising my kids, be that guy. Have a couple businesses, employing at least 60 people by that time. Hopefully, I'm that guy."

Fullback Jed Collins:: "Well, in the offseason I've been getting my certification in financial planning so getting released early on you realize you always have to set up a Plan B. So something in the financial industry, use my accounting background. Use that certification when I need it. Hopefully 10 years down the road I'm enjoying a few children with my life and looking back on my glory years with a smile."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Dominic Raiola has been through all of this, the constructing and deconstructing of an offensive line around him. He has seen it throughout his decade-plus with the Detroit Lions.

All around the center, the names, faces and skills have changed. Yet he remains. So when he speaks up in the room of offensive linemen and challenges his peers who watched him have one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, there is some gravitas there.

“My question to the guys was, ‘Is that really us? Who are you? Are you going to be the same group?'“ Raiola said. “Because now if we fall off any, we’re going to hear it so we have to keep our level of play up there or better.

[+] EnlargeDominic Raiola
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsDominic Raiola is pushing his linemates to be even better in 2014.
“We don’t want to be the group that holds this team back. We want to be steady and opening holes, protecting the quarterback. We’re good with hanging in the back and nothing being said about us. We’re good with that.”

They were good with it last season, too, when the Lions allowed the second-fewest sacks in the NFL (23) and gave Detroit’s running backs enough room to average 4.03 yards a carry. While that number was below the league average last season, it did not account for the Lions’ newfound screen game with Reggie Bush, where the slightest opening by Rob Sims, Larry Warford or Raiola resulted in a large gain.

Those short passes that turned into big plays are where the running backs noticed the strength of the line -- something Bush saw during last preseason. In that game, he watched Warford crush a New England linebacker, one of the loudest hits he said he heard all of 2013.

But those plays need to be more than just in passing. They need to be as consistent as they were a season ago.

“it was a great thing he did for the O-line. You know, one of the biggest things as an offensive line coming off a big year is can you replicate it and he wants to challenge us to confirm that validity that we were a great offensive line,” Warford said. “He doesn’t want us, as far as all the praise coming from the media and the coaches, he doesn’t want that getting into our heads.

“So he’s basically, what he’s asking through that is are we getting complacent with ourselves and challenging us to perform better is very key in our development.”

That focus has been apparent throughout the early portion of camp, even if the offensive line has allowed blown-dead whistle sacks occasionally throughout the first week of practice. This is, after all, a group with just one first-round draft pick among its top eight guys -- left tackle Riley Reiff.

Raiola was a second round pick in 2001 -- and has had to fight the past few years to have the Lions continue to bring him back as he hits his mid-30s. Warford was a third round pick. Sims went in the fourth round. Corey Hilliard was a sixth-round pick. LaAdrian Waddle and Rodney Austin were undrafted. Travis Swanson is a rookie.

The Lions’ offensive line has been in a prove-it stage for the majority of their careers, so they aren’t extremely concerned about a dip in production now that there have been accolades given to them.

That was the message Raiola was sending, and the one the Lions’ offensive line is attempting to turn into their own throughout the year.

“The point is, nobody wants to be a one-hit wonder,” Hilliard said. “So we had one good year? So what? The great ones do it year after year. That’s what we’re trying to do.”

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