Detroit Lions: Don Carey

If Kellen Moore were trying to make a case to Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Caldwell for inclusion on the team’s 53-man roster, he certainly did it Thursday night.

Moore, who played the majority of the Lions’ 23-0 victory over Buffalo in the preseason finale, managed the game well and moved the ball down the field with relative ease. Yes, Moore continued to play with and against extreme backups, many of whom will not be on the Bills roster in 48 hours, but he did what he could with what he was given.

That included going 17-of-28 for 172 yards and two touchdowns. One of his touchdown passes, a 25-yarder to Corey Fuller, was threaded perfectly between defenders.

His status will be one of many calls for Lions coaches and Mayhew.

Here are some other thoughts from the Lions' preseason finale:
  • Left guard Garrett Reynolds blocked impressively on the first drive, sealing a pocket well for Dan Orlovsky. His candidacy hasn’t been discussed much as winning a job on the 53-man roster, but that he earned the start in the final preseason game over Rodney Austin, a young player who could use the reps, could be significant. On his second series, he got upfield blocking fairly well.
  • Wide receiver Ryan Broyles ended up as the punt returner after Jeremy Ross. Beyond the fact that Broyles' Achilles injury opened the door for Ross to return punts last season, that is a sign the team is trying to see what Broyles can give Detroit on special teams as it figures out whether to keep him on the roster. It was really interesting to see Broyles, who is in a tight receiver competition with Kevin Ogletree, Kris Durham and Fuller, on the field late in the fourth quarter with a bunch of players who won’t be on rosters by Monday.
  • Nate Freese was tabbed the team’s kicker earlier in the week. He responded by nailing a 53-yarder right down the middle in the first half and another 53-yarder in the second half Thursday night. He has rebounded well from his struggles early in camp and appears to have become a good option for Detroit.
  • Isa Abdul-Quddus probably locked up a roster spot Thursday night. He was around the ball consistently, intercepted another pass and was active on special teams. Add in both James Ihedigbo and Don Carey not traveling to Buffalo -- Carey’s been hurt -- and Abdul-Quddus should be safe this weekend. Jerome Couplin, who lined up with Abdul-Quddus a lot Thursday night, is on the bubble and could be one of two undrafted free agents with a legitimate chance to be on the 53-man roster along with tackle Cornelius Lucas. Lucas is in a fight with Michael Williams for the fourth tackle spot.
  • The Lions should be pretty happy. Unless something comes out about Ihedigbo and an injury, Detroit got out of the preseason with only injuries to Kyle Van Noy and Carey among potential major contributors. The Lions should be pleased to be so healthy.
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:

 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.

 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. -- Jim Caldwell said the Detroit Lions are still evaluating the abdominal injury suffered by rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy.

Meanwhile, the second-round draft pick has missed his second straight practice.

"I'm not certain yet. He's still under evaluation. He's still got to see the doctors," Caldwell said prior to Monday's practice. "Doctor is going to tell him to go to a specialist to take a look at it and we'll make a determination at that point in time where he is."

Van Noy was one of three Lions players not practicing Monday, joining safety Don Carey (hamstring) and running back Reggie Bush. Both TJ Jones and DeJon Gomes were in attendance as well, but Jones is on the PUP list and Gomes is on season-ending injured reserve.

Running back Montell Owens, who suffered a head injury Friday night against Jacksonville, returned to practice on Monday.

Lions Camp Report: Day 14

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • Nick Fairley Watch – Day 3: The defensive tackle remained with the second unit throughout practice Wednesday, potentially signifying he won’t be used as a starter Friday night in Oakland. C.J. Mosley again ran with the first group and continued to play well alongside usual starter Ndamukong Suh. There were also points – much as in previous days – when Jason Jones moved from end inside to tackle with the first group. Still don’t expect things to stay this way permanently – Fairley is too talented to not be a starter at some point – but there is absolutely a message being sent here with each day Fairley doesn’t line up with the starters. He also, as he has done Monday and Tuesday, declined to talk with the media after practice to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, Mosley continues to go about his business every day during practice.
  • The other defensive lineman of note, Ezekiel Ansah, practiced again Wednesday but remains limited as he works his way into the rotation. At this point, Ansah is participating in everything other than team and heavy-contact portions of practice, but that should be expected. “His progression is going to be gradual. It’s not like you come off [the physically unable to perform list] and go right to work and get banged around in here,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “This game is a bit too strenuous for that. We’re going to bring him along and make certain he gets enough work, and as soon as doctors say he is able to go full-speed, all-out, we’re going to turn him loose.”
  • Another interesting caveat of the past two days has been at safety. James Ihedigbo and Glover Quin are running with the starters, but behind them, the pairing of Jerome Couplin and Isa Abdul-Quddus has been playing consistently with the No. 2 group, and Don Carey and DeJon Gomes have been with the No. 3 unit. More than likely, this is to give Couplin and Abdul-Quddus, both of whom were brought in during the offseason, a longer look as cut days start to loom. Abdul-Quddus played more snaps than any other defensive player Saturday night and had an interception. Couplin has been among the more impressive undrafted rookie free agents and has already gained the reputation as a player who can hit. He has rebounded well since being flattened by George Winn in practice a little under a week ago.
  • Speaking of Winn, if you’re looking for a complete surprise to make the roster, he is gaining some steam to do it. He briefly saw time as a blocker on what appeared to be the first-team kick return unit Wednesday and continues to run at a strong, hard pace. Other than his fumble against the Browns on Saturday, he has had a real strong camp and while he still has a lot of players to pass, he is at least giving himself a shot.
  • The most interesting hit of the day came during a team period, when safety James Ihedigbo stepped up on a route over the middle and broke up a pass intended for Kris Durham, timing the hit perfectly and sending Durham to the ground. Ihedigbo has been one of the harder hitters during camp and that is part of why the Lions brought him in to replace Louis Delmas in the offseason.
  • Lions vice chairman Bill Ford Jr. was at practice Wednesday. The team ownership, between Bill Ford Jr. and his mother, Martha Ford, have been at practice often during camp but have not spoken publicly with the media yet.
  • Caldwell took the ALS challenge laid down for him by Golden Tate after practice Wednesday. The video lives here.
  • The Lions are off Thursday to travel to Oakland, where they play the Raiders on Friday night. The Lions next practice Saturday in Allen Park, Michigan. It will be a closed practice.

Lions Camp Report: Day 12

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The biggest news of the day, as covered here earlier, is Nick Fairley appearing to run with the second team. Fairley wouldn't talk about it. Jim Caldwell said it wasn't necessarily the second team -- although any defensive unit without Ndamukong Suh is likely not the first group -- and Fairley's replacement, C.J. Mosley, was pretty buttoned up in his answers. The one obvious thing was Fairley did not appear happy after practice. Considering how much attention was paid to him during the offseason and the team did not pick up his contract, this has to be at least a mildly discouraging sign for the Lions and something worth monitoring. Also worth monitoring -- Fairley's weight. He doesn't look quite as svelte as he did during the spring. The Lions are going to need him to be successful this season, there is not much question about that.
  • In non-Fairley news, Detroit added music to its practice Monday afternoon to help prepare for crowd noise as the Lions head to Oakland for their second preseason game Friday. There wasn't a ton of it -- three songs including what sounded like “Planet Rock,” the 1982 classic by Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force. Caldwell said the players are allowed to submit playlists for practice with one caveat: No profanity. “Obviously it creates some distraction for you. We were trying to do the same thing basically with the music,” Caldwell said. “One day here we had a Motown session. We have different music to try and accomplish the same thing. What we're trying to do is simulate crowd noise so they can't hear. They have to communicate a lot louder with one another. If it happens to be something that they like, they tend to catch the rhythm of it. But some things, obviously, I'm not quite certain what songs they were.”
  • Matthew Stafford's interception-free streak during training camp ended with a thud of the hands Monday afternoon, as a ball from Stafford tipped off the hands of Brandon Pettigrew and right into the waiting arms of cornerback Bill Bentley, who might have had a pick-six had the Lions been wearing pads. The play was immediately followed up by another interception, this one from Dan Orlovsky that tipped off a leaping receiver's hands.
  • Ryan Broyles had the offensive play of the day, jumping in the air to catch a ball thrown by Orlovsky. It showed just how much better Broyles feels now than a season ago, when he was still rehabilitating his torn ACL. Talked with Broyles a bit after practice about his mindset and where he is right now, so look for that Tuesday.
  • There were some new faces missing from Lions' practice Monday. Larry Warford was not at practice at all -- and MLive reported it is an illness. I did not spot Ezekiel Ansah at practice. He may have been there, but the media's angle during indoor practices cuts off part of the closer sideline. He remains on the active PUP list. TJ Jones also remains on the active PUP list. Don Carey missed practice as well. When asked why he was out he said, “Everything's everything, baby. I'll talk to y'all later.”
  • Actor Jeff Daniels showed up at practice Monday.
  • The Lions return to practice Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. ET for a practice closed to the public but open to invited guests.

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.
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

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."
Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing the Detroit Lions entering training camp, which begins at the end of July. A reminder – unless a player is an entrenched starter, so much of what will happen over the next month or so will be entirely fluid as players attempt to make an NFL roster.

[+] EnlargeZach Sudfeld, Glover Quin
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsSafety Glover Quin should provide stability for the Lions' secondary.
Position: Safety

Starter: SS – James Ihedigbo; FS – Glover Quin

Depth (in training camp): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin, Gabe Lynn.

Likely roster spots: 4.

What to expect in camp: For a position in the secondary, there is surprising stability at safety for the Lions along with some flexibility if and when injuries occur. Glover Quin will be the team’s free safety and one of the defense’s leaders. If necessary, the Lions could slide him over as well. James Ihedigbo, who the team brought in during the offseason to replace Louis Delmas, is a reliable, stable option as the starter opposite Quin.

Behind the two of them is where it becomes a little bit more interesting. Don Carey, who signed a three-year deal in the offseason, is the likely third safety and should provide some depth at nickel. He could theoretically back up both spots and will be a major factor in special teams.

Isa Abdul-Quddus and DeJon Gomes, while playing different safety spots, might be competing for one roster slot. Both have good special-teams skills, and this should be one of the more competitive battles in camp. The better special-teams player might end up as the one who makes the roster. There’s also a chance, depending on how the rest of the roster develops, both end up squeezing onto the squad but it will be difficult.

The undrafted rookies, specifically the extremely athletic Jerome Couplin, could end up with a practice squad spot if they show enough during camp, but neither are real threats at this point of making the 53-man roster.

What Detroit needs to see: It knows what it has in Quin, who played well despite an injury last season. The Lions also need a good chemistry to develop between Quin and Iheidgbo – similar to what Quin and Delmas had a season ago. There was a comfort with both of them until Delmas’ play started to slip in the second half of the season.

After that, the Lions need to see a competence with the backups – that shouldn’t be an issue because all have some level of experience starting games in the secondary in the past – and strong special-teams performances from all three. For a position group in the secondary with so many questions, safety might have one of the more talented roster groups from starters to backups on the roster.

The other key here is how the two starters mesh with the cornerbacks as the corner-safety tandem is just as important as the relationship between the two starting safeties. Detroit needs to see that grow throughout the preseason, especially since corner is the biggest question on the defense and might be the biggest overall concern on the roster.
The offseason workouts have concluded and with players and coaches about six weeks away from the start of training camp, one last rest and individualized training period will commence.

After a month of workouts, though, there have been some players who have made cases for potential roster spots in the fall and others who did not help themselves nearly as much.

Just like the start of the spring workouts, here is a look at the Detroit defensive and special teams depth chart -- along with a post-minicamp guess at the 53-man roster that could end up being the Lions' team in the fall. Remember, a lot can change between now and then.

Changes from our May defensive prediction are in parentheses. The offensive roster prediction lives here.


Starters: Ezekiel Ansah (open); Jason Jones (closed)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Larry Webster, George Johnson, Kalonji Kashama.

Thoughts: Ansah didn’t practice this spring but he is a starter and should have a good year. Jones started to look healthier and will likely be pushed by Taylor throughout camp. Taylor may end up winning the job. Tapp is a good veteran and Webster is raw. Really raw.

Roster locks: Ansah, Jones, Taylor. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Tapp, Webster. (Webster up from practice squad)


Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley.

Backups: C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Xavier Proctor, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Greg Hickman.

Thoughts: The Lions cut a lot of marginal veteran weight here during the spring and really somewhat set their defensive tackle depth chart. Suh and Fairley, at least in the spring, look like they could be the dominant pairing the Lions wanted the past few seasons. Both Jones and Taylor can play inside, so that gives the Lions flexibility.

Roster locks: Suh, Fairley, Mosley (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Suh, Fairley, Mosley, Reid, Proctor (practice squad) (Add Proctor to practice squad)


Starters: DeAndre Levy (weak side); Stephen Tulloch (middle); Kyle Van Noy (strong side)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Cory Greenwood, Brandon Hepburn, Justin Jackson.

Thoughts: The starters are pretty set here with the two veterans and the rookie, Van Noy. Palmer will end up playing his way onto the team, but watch for Whitehead here. He is a potential candidate to push for playing time or at least be a stable backup in the middle. The last spot here could be between Stanford and Lewis for a mainly special-teams spot. In this version, I cut both Stanford and Lewis in favor of a sixth cornerback, but could easily see that changing by the time the next roster projection is done before camp.

Roster locks: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Palmer, Whitehead, Hepburn (practice squad). (Jackson off practice squad, Palmer to the 53-man roster).


Starters: Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis (Chris Houston off team).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Chris Greenwood, Nevin Lawson, Jonte Green, Aaron Hester, Mohammed Seisay.

Thoughts: The release of Houston opens up this competition and a roster spot for another cornerback, potentially. Slay and Mathis are likely starters here with everyone else fighting for time and, other than Lawson, a roster spot. It’ll be one of the toughest battles of camp. This was one of the toughest cuts I had to make.

Roster locks: Slay, Mathis, Lawson. (Add Mathis, subtract Houston)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Slay, Mathis, Bentley, Vaughn, Lawson, Greenwood, Seisay (practice squad). (Houston, Green off; Seisay on practice squad).


Starters: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin, Gabe Lynn.

Thoughts: The Lions are good with their top three safeties in Quin, Ihedigbo and Carey. Carey can play both nickel and corner in an emergency, which makes him imminently valuable for the Lions. Abdul-Quddus and Gomes might be competing for one roster spot and that should be an intense battle throughout camp. Between these two was the last cut I made. Initially had both making the roster until the end.

Roster locks: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey, Abdul-Quddus, Couplin (practice squad)


Starter: Nate Freese

Backup: Giorgio Tavecchio

Thoughts: Still Freese's job to lose, but this might be a tougher competition than anticipated. Tavecchio has the stronger leg and if he can add consistency, he’ll win the gig. Otherwise, it’s Freese’s. Right now, it’s a toss-up.

Roster locks: None.

If picking the roster today, this guy would be on it: Freese.


Starter: Sam Martin

Backups: None.

Thoughts: None. It’s Martin.

Roster locks: Martin.

If picking the roster today, this guy would be on it: Martin.


Starter: Don Muhlbach.

Backups: Jordan Thompson.

Thoughts: None. Barring injury, Muhlbach will be the team’s long-snapper.

Roster locks: Muhlbach.

If picking the roster today, this guy would be on it: Muhlbach.
Part of the reason the Detroit Lions essentially ignored addressing the secondary in the 2014 draft was because of the faith general manager Martin Mayhew had in the potential of his young cornerbacks.

That trust is sure to be tested now.

The Lions have released their top cornerback, Chris Houston, after an inconsistent 2013 and offseason surgery for a toe that just wouldn't heal. Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis would now likely be the team's opening day starters at cornerback and the move increases the pressure on an untested group of players.

Bill Bentley has experience in the slot and is probably best suited there instead of on the outside. Jonte Green started games the past two seasons when players went down to injury, but has not been consistent. Chris Greenwood can't stay healthy and has minimal experience. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, but was used to primarily used to provide depth at cornerback in Indianapolis.

The one pick the Lions did use on the secondary, corner Nevin Lawson in the fourth round, should have been more of a developmental selection.

At least one of those players will need to be counted on this fall. The early guess would be Vaughn, who has some experience and had moments where he looked extremely sharp in the spring. He likely won't be a starter, but he at least feels like part of the reason the team could have felt comfortable releasing Houston without even seeing him in training camp.

Now, unless the Lions sign a cornerback before camp, they will have to use this group to forge a cornerback corps. It is a unit with some talent, but short on experience. In a division with receivers like Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, that is not the type of situation you want to have.

Yet this is where Detroit is in the middle of June.

Something like this -- and Detroit had to have an inkling of concern here considering Houston did not play well in 2013 and had surgery -- was part of why it was so confusing how the Lions handled the secondary in the draft. Yes, Justin Gilbert was off the board when Detroit picked, but the team wasted little time before drafting tight end Eric Ebron, who the team opened up money to sign by cutting Houston.

They didn't seem to consider either selecting or trying to trade down to nab cornerbacks Kyle Fuller, Darqueze Dennard or even Jason Verrett from TCU or Bradley Roby from Ohio State. Or the team could have drafted Ha Ha Clinton-Dix from Alabama or Calvin Pryor from Louisville at safety and moved Don Carey, the team's third safety, to cornerback -- a position he previously played.

After Ebron, the team went with an interior lineman, Travis Swanson, in the third round and traded their fourth round pick to move up for Kyle Van Noy. The move possibly cost them one of the litany of defensive backs who went off the board before the team took Lawson with a supplemental pick in the fourth round.

Any of those first three picks could have been used on a secondary player that could have helped.

Of course all of this is hindsight now. Yet the Lions knew this possibility existed because of Houston's past few months. And that possibility became reality Friday -- even if it was somewhat predictable after Houston was excused from mandatory minicamp.

It leaves Detroit either hunting on the free agent wire or sticking with what they have – a group of young cornerbacks that could end up deciding Mayhew's future.

This is a sequence -- between the draft strategy, how's Houston's injury and eventual release was handled -- that should be used to judge Mayhew if Detroit struggles this season.

Mayhew put his faith with a group of young cornerbacks early. With Houston gone, Mayhew will now need them to prove he was right all along.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

The Detroit Lions finished up the second day of their mandatory minicamp Wednesday and it was probably the most balanced day the team has had during their sessions. After the first two weeks of open practices where the defense was dominant and the last couple of practices where the offense has been better, neither group seemed to take over the practice.

That might be a good sign for the Lions that the offense is catching up to the defense even if both sides of the ball were without key contributors. Here are some thoughts, notes and observations from the day.
  • A decent amount of players missed practice Wednesday. Wide receiver TJ Jones, cornerback Chris Houston and linebacker Stephen Tulloch were not spotted at practice. Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder), guard Rob Sims, wide receiver Golden Tate (shoulder), wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, running back Mikel Leshoure and running back Joique Bell (knee) all sat out practice. Ansah, Tate and Bell were expected. Sims has missed team drills all offseason, as had Glover Quin, who only worked in individual drills Wednesday.
  • Jason Jones appears to be slowly moving back to health. He seemed more active Wednesday than he has during past open practices, including working some with the first unit. He is still coming back from a ruptured patella tendon suffered last season, but he will be a contender for the closed defensive end spot in the fall opposite Ansah on the defensive line.
  • Player of the practice: For the second straight day, it is Calvin Johnson. Any question about Johnson’s health are now gone. He was once again the best player on the field and caught everything around him. He appears to be completely over his injuries and has his timing with Matthew Stafford down once again. He beat any cornerback the Lions lined up against him during 1-on-1 periods and on one play leapt over DeAndre Levy to catch a pass that he ended up running in for a touchdown.
  • During those 1-on-1 drills between defensive backs and receivers, the receivers clearly won the day. They had at least six completions to start the drill, including Kris Durham reaching out to make a difficult catch in front of Darius Slay. Corey Fuller also beat Aaron Hester on a post route that was pretty impressive.
  • Sequence of the day: Two impressive plays in a row. First, safety James Ihedigbo jumped a route from Stafford to Brandon Pettigrew to break up the pass. It was a great break on the ball by Ihedigbo. Stafford followed it up, though, with a perfectly threaded ball to Patrick Edwards into a small window over safety Don Carey. It was the best throw Stafford made on the day.
  • Carey is starting to really emerge as the probable third safety, although this is not unexpected. He once again filled in for Quin during team drills and has been a decent presence back there. In the secondary, Jonte Green is the one player who doesn’t seem to be getting as many reps as one might think.
  • As they did Tuesday, Rodney Austin and rookie Travis Swanson both took first-team reps at guard and center. While Austin worked some at center Tuesday, Swanson was there Wednesday. In some ways, this is a test from Jim Caldwell to see if both of them can play both guard and center, something imperative for a reserve interior lineman. With Sims out, Austin has spent the majority of spring working with the first team at left guard.
  • This is getting repetitive, but Theo Riddick continues to be impressive. He seems a little faster than last season and might have improved more than anyone else on the roster from last season. He is putting himself in position to have a real role in this offense this season after being primarily a backup in 2013.
  • Written about Eric Ebron’s drops here a bit, so worth noting when he makes the type of catch the Lions drafted him for. He extended on what looked like a poorly thrown ball to stretch in front of safety Isa Abdul-Quddus to make the grab before hitting the ground. It is one of the best catches he has made in the open practice setting this spring.
  • With Tulloch not in attendance, Tahir Whitehead took a lot of the first-team snaps at linebacker next to Levy. He was pretty active there. While he is primarily a special-teams standout – he’ll end up having a roster spot because of his special-teams play – that the Lions staff inserted him there behind Tulloch would appear to indicate he is having a pretty good spring. After practice, Caldwell cited how Whitehead controls the movement of other players in that space as one of the reasons they like him behind Tulloch.
  • Really good day for Sam Martin. The second-year punter had some help with the wind, but he crushed almost all of his punts. It is tough to see yard lines because of how the Lions’ outdoor practice fields are set up, but he said after practice one of his punts went over 80 yards and had a few go at least 70 yards. He said his shortest on the day was 63 yards. Strong day for him.
Our live chat Tuesday took a predictable turn -- a ton of great questions and just not enough time to answer all of them.

So as is becoming tradition here on the Detroit Lions page, I’ll answer some more queries I didn’t quite get to Tuesday. If your question still hasn’t been answered, shoot me an email at or tweet with the hashtag #LionsMailbag for use in this weekend’s mailbag.

Now on to your questions, starting with Calvin Johnson.

Nathan (Boca Raton): What do you see Calvin (Johnson)'s future and production with the Lions over the remainder of his contract?

This is one of the most important questions facing the Lions over the next three-to-four seasons. Johnson played in fewer games, had fewer targets, yards and receptions than any season since 2010. Part of that had to do with injuries, though, as he missed two games in the 2013 season. While a lot of the moves the Lions have made in the offseason have been focused on improving Stafford, the secondary reason could be prolonging the career of Johnson.

The 6-foot-5 receiver receives a ton of attention from opposing defenses and takes a ton of hits because of it. If Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and the emergence of a third receiver can take some pressure and pounding off of Johnson’s body, that could stretch the productive portion of his career. While I hate to predict a player’s decline I’d say Johnson, who turns 29 in September, will have two more exceptional seasons and then start to fall off a little bit. The bigger question will be is if it is a dramatic drop-off like Shaun Alexander or a slower decline into his mid-30s. My guess is he ends up playing for another five or so seasons, give or take.

Colin (mountoursville): About fantasy -- Megatron first pick?

No. Then again, I wouldn’t take a wide receiver in the first round ever. Actually think Johnson’s numbers could dip a bit because of what was mentioned in the prior question. The Lions could move things around a little more, so his value in a PPR league could lessen a little. He should still be the first receiver off the board in my opinion, but I’m looking at quarterback first and then quarterback second.

The one league I participate in fully, though, is weird. In a 16-team league, we start two quarterbacks, three running backs, four wide receivers, two tight ends, two kickers and two defenses. It forces you to know essentially the whole league. This aided me greatly before I started covering the NFL, actually. But quarterbacks are a premium. It’s a quarterback-driven NFL, so start there if you can get an elite one. I’d draft Matthew Stafford over Calvin Johnson.

James (England) What do the Lions need to achieve to look back on 2014 as a successful season?

Easy, James. The Lions need to make the playoffs in 2014 for this season to be successful. If the team somehow wins the NFC North and gets a home playoff game, they need to win that first playoff game, too -- especially if it is in the wild-card round. This team has been constructed to win now and they hired Jim Caldwell to both develop Stafford and also accomplish that. If the playoffs -- or at the very least a winning record -- isn’t established in the first year, I don’t think it will be considered a success.

BigJShaky (Champaign, IL) Should we be worried about Glover Quin's health? He is arguably the most important player in our secondary and seems to be a bit banged up.

Not yet. It is June and players sit out for many reasons. He’s been practicing on a limited basis, so it all feels pretty precautionary. If there was any concern, they would hold him out of spring workouts because there is no doubt he is the most important player in the secondary. He might be the most critical player on the entire defense because of his experience and consistency in the back end. If he isn’t practicing fully come training camp, then there is reason to be at least a little bit worried. Until then, breathe easy over in Illinois, sir, and get ready to watch some football and John Groce's brand of college basketball in the winter.

Frederick (Detroit, MI): Special teams: How are punt and kickoff coverage teams shaping up and will we use our giant Des to go after more blocked kicks. Suh seems to be the only lineman I recall having blocked kicks.

Multi-part answer here, Frederick. While rookie Caraun Reid hasn’t played an NFL down yet, he has a penchant for blocking kicks. He blocked seven of them in college, which if you think about it is all sorts of freaky and impressive in itself. My guess is he ends up on both punt block and field goal block units just based off that alone. As far as the structure of the coverage units, that won’t shake itself out until the preseason at least. Last year’s top gunners -- Jeremy Ross and Don Carey -- both return this season. That said, if Ross takes more of a role in the offense, it could be difficult to keep him as a four-corps special teams player as well. Maybe Isa Abdul-Quddus or DeJon Gomes can slide in there. But this won’t be settled until the preseason.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions finished the first day of their mandatory minicamp on Tuesday. While the most important thing for the Lions was no new significant injuries to speak of, there were some points that stood out throughout the session.

For the first time this spring, most of them will focus positively on the offense.
  • This was probably the most balanced open practice Detroit has had this offseason. The offense looked the smoothest it has been during May and June, including one 11-on-11 period when Matthew Stafford completed every pass he threw. For the past few weeks, the offensive players have said it would take time for the timing of the offensive routes to show through. For the first time this spring, it did during an open practice. There were points during last week’s OTA that it looked better, but the Lions had all of their main offensive pieces except for Golden Tate and Joique Bell this practice.
  • Johnson
    The play of the day was easily something Lions fans have seen over and over again throughout the past five seasons with the Lions. Stafford threw a 50-plus yard pass to Calvin Johnson that resulted in a touchdown during 11-on-11 drills. It was the perfectly thrown ball that has happened often between the two over the years. Johnson beat two defenders -- cornerback Bill Bentley and safety Isa Abdul-Quddus -- on the play.
  • Play of the Day, Part II: This wasn’t quite as impressive as the all-too-typical Johnson play, but Corey Fuller made a nice sideline grab on a pass from Dan Orlovsky. He had to jump to make the play and corralled the ball while apparently getting both feet down. It was a play a pro wide receiver would make, and Fuller has been spending most of the spring trying to prove he is that.
  • The player of the day was Johnson. The All-Pro wide receiver looked like his normal self for the first time all spring. He caught essentially everything that was thrown to him throughout the day, ran crisp routes and crushed pretty much all of the Lions defensive backs when he was matched up with them. He was a big part of why the offense looked better than it has all spring.
  • Jeremy Ross is going to get some playing time at receiver this fall. Sure, Tate was not at practice, but Ross took advantage of yet another opportunity and integrated himself into the offense once again. Lions coach Jim Caldwell also seemed pleased with Ross, who spent the offseason working specifically on pelvic movement, flexibility and cutting to improve his route-running. It seems to have paid dividends thus far. Ryan Broyles got some run with the first team as well.
  • Following on Ross’ emergence, the same could be said for running back Theo Riddick. The second-year pro out of Notre Dame received a good chunk of first-team reps. Some of those will go to Bell when he returns for training camp, but Riddick has an easy running style and appears to be much more confident than he did last season. He was used sparingly then, but sometimes in key situations. This season, he appears set up for an expanded role if he is prepared for it.
  • Not surprising, but Don Carey is the leader for the third safety spot. He filled in for Glover Quin when he sat out parts of team drills and is going to end up being an all-purpose defensive back for the Lions this season. He can play either safety spot and also drop down and play nickel as well. His versatility and special teams play was part of why the Lions signed him to an extension this offseason.
  • I’ll have more on this later this week, but Rodney Austin has spent more time working at center. He did some work there with the first unit on Tuesday and said after practice it is an area he spent a little bit more time on this offseason. He knows being able to play guard and center effectively is a key for securing a roster spot. Also lining up with the first group at times -- at guard -- was third-round pick Travis Swanson.
  • A rough day for Giorgio Tavecchio in the kicking battle. He missed a couple of field goals, including shanking one after hitting his foot on the ground before he made contact with the ball. After practice, he told me his performance Tuesday was "devastating."
  • Lions not participating in practice: Tate, Bell (knee), defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder). Cornerback Chris Houston (toe) was not in attendance. Neither was receiver T.J. Jones (undisclosed). Both, Caldwell said, were excused absences. Houston has not been around the team all spring after having toe surgery. Rob Sims, Dominic Raiola and Quin all also sat out various portions of practice. Talking to Raiola after practice, he seemed fine. Among those returning to practice are linebacker Kyle Van Noy, receiver Kris Durham and tight end Joseph Fauria.
The Detroit Lions are just a few short days away from the beginning of their true offseason as spring workouts hit their final week with the three-day mandatory minicamp.

It has been a fairly quiet offseason for the Lions, who have had almost perfect attendance throughout their organized team activities, and that’s something they’ll likely take as they learn a new offense and new defense.

The only major things of note have been Ndamukong Suh's contract situation (still unresolved) and how fast the offense is picking things up compared to the defense (it’s coming along).

So what will we watch for over the final three practices of the offseason? Here are five things.

1. Who sits out: Some players will likely not participate due to precautionary measures, but it’ll be interesting to see who does not participate in the mandatory three-day minicamp. Since the club has about six weeks off after the minicamp, players might be more willing to give it a partial run or participate on a limited basis for their last team workouts until training camp.

Among the players to watch here would be running back Joique Bell, who participated in the Stephen Tulloch charity softball game this weekend, along with defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Golden Tate. Tate also sat out last week with a sore shoulder, but appeared to be fine Saturday.

2. Offensive progression: The last week of OTAs showed an offense starting to pick things up, even with offensive pieces Kris Durham, Joseph Fauria, Bell and Tate missing all or part of the team’s open practice. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi didn’t appear to be too concerned with the progression when he talked earlier this spring since he knows this is a learning process. That said, the Lions would probably want to have at least one of three practices where they push ahead of the Detroit defense as a mini confidence boost heading into training camp.

3.Position battles: Nothing will be won over the next three days, but players can place themselves in more advantageous positions heading into training camp with a good week. Among the ones to watch: Right tackle (LaAdrian Waddle vs. Corey Hilliard); SAM linebacker (Ashlee Palmer vs. Van Noy); closed defensive end (Jason Jones vs. Devin Taylor); backup quarterback (Dan Orlovsky vs. Kellen Moore); cornerback (multiple candidates) and wide receiver behind Calvin Johnson and Tate (multiple candidates).

The one other battle to watch is at kicker, where seventh-round pick Nate Freese is battling with Giorgio Tavecchio. Due to the Lions using a pick on Freese -- even if it is a seventh-rounder -- Tavecchio is going to have to be markedly better than Freese to win the job. From the limited amount we've seen, Tavecchio appears to have the stronger leg.

4. Theo Riddick's role: While it might be tough to gauge from a set of preseason practices, Riddick is setting himself up to be one of the team’s breakout performers in 2014. Either that, or the second-year pro out of Notre Dame would end up for Detroit as another of a lengthy list across the NFL of preseason hype players who don’t pan out.

Considering how he was used a season ago and his productivity in a very, very limited role in Scott Linehan’s offense, there is reason to believe he’ll fare better in an expanded role. He should end up as the No. 3 back in an offense that will spread the carries and running back receptions around over the course of a season. How much could he improve? Reggie Bush called him a more natural runner coming out of college than Bush was. That could bode well for his future.

5. Secondary play: So far, the Lions have been strong in the back end during the offseason. The safeties have been paired well and Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis have been pretty strong at cornerback. It’ll be interesting to watch the group, where everyone beyond Slay, Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo is fighting for a spot or a role, over a three-day period.

Cassius Vaughn and Bill Bentley have shown flashes of improvement at corner, as have Don Carey and Isa Abdul-Quddus at safety. Doing something in one practice compared to a three-day period, though, could give an idea on real progress and consistency. Those are four guys to watch this week.
The true workout portion of the Detroit Lions' offseason activities begins Friday with the start of rookie minicamp, followed by OTAs and then the mandatory minicamp in June.

Before that officially begins, here's a look at the Lions' depth chart -- along with a first shot at what the 53-man roster could look like come fall. And please remember, a lot can change between now and then.


Starters: Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones

Backups (in projected order of depth for now): Devin Taylor, Darryl Tapp, Kourtnei Brown, George Johnson, Larry Webster.

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiCornerback will be a position to watch in the upcoming year, including keeping tabs on Lions' second-year player Darius Slay.
Thoughts: Ansah is a lock and has the potential to break out in his second season after a good rookie year. After that, the position is unsettled. Jones is coming off a season-ending knee injury. Taylor played well in spurts last season, but not consistently. Webster is raw. Tapp and Brown are likely competing for the fourth spot.

Roster locks: Ansah, Jones, Taylor.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ansah, Jones, Taylor, Tapp, Webster (practice squad).


Starters: Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley

Backups (in projected order of depth for now): C.J. Mosley, Caraun Reid, Andre Fluellen, Corvey Irvin, Vaughn Martin, Jimmy Saddler-McQueen, Xavier Proctor.

Thoughts: Suh and Fairley are entering the final year of their contracts, but are one of the more dominant duos in the league when Fairley decides to play well. Reid could be the steal of the draft for the Lions, and Mosley provides good depth and leadership. Everyone else is likely fighting for a roster spot at best.

Roster locks: Suh, Fairley, Mosley.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Suh, Fairley, Mosley, Reid.


Starters: DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch, Kyle Van Noy.

Backups (in projected order of depth): Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford, Brandon Hepburn, Justin Jackson.

Thoughts: The starters are locks at this point. Levy, if he takes another step, could turn into a dominant linebacker. Tulloch is one of the defensive leaders, and Martin Mayhew already said Van Noy could end up starting right away. The depth is still questionable, but Whitehead is a good player who at least can be strong on special teams.

Roster locks: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Levy, Tulloch, Van Noy, Whitehead, Stanford, Hepburn (practice squad), Jackson (practice squad).


Starters: Chris Houston, Darius Slay.

Backups (in projected order of depth): Rashean Mathis, Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green, Chris Greenwood, Aaron Hester, Nevin Lawson, Mohammed Seisay, Gabe Lynn.

Thoughts: This was one of the positions that appeared to be in need of help in the draft and the Lions didn't really address it. This is a massive year for Bentley, Green and Greenwood, as well as an important development year for Slay. Other than Matthew Stafford, the level of success Detroit has this season might depend on how these players end up improving or not. It could end up being the most competitive battle in camp. The toughest decision I had on this roster was between Bentley and Greenwood, but went with Bentley. Cornerback is going to be a position to watch over the next four months.

Roster locks: Houston, Slay, Lawson.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Houston, Slay, Mathis, Vaughn, Green, Bentley, Lawson.


Starters: Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo

Backups (in projected order of depth): Don Carey, Isa Abdul-Quddus, DeJon Gomes, Jerome Couplin.

Thoughts: Quin and Ihedigbo are set, and Carey can be a serviceable backup at safety and also play down at nickel. Abdul-Quddus is a special teams player the Lions targeted early. Watch for Couplin. He may be more intriguing than some of Detroit's draft picks.

Roster locks: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Quin, Ihedigbo, Carey, Abdul-Quddus, Couplin (practice squad).


Starter: Nate Freese

Backups (in projected order of depth): Giorgio Tavecchio

Thoughts: This is Freese's job to lose as the team used a draft pick -- albeit a seventh-rounder -- on him. If Tavecchio outkicks him, he could steal the job.

Roster locks: None

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Freese


Starter: Sam Martin

Backups: None.

Thoughts: Martin's the guy.

Roster locks: Martin

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Martin.


Starter: Don Muhlbach

Backups (in projected order of depth): Jordan Thompson

Thoughts: Muhlbach is one of the best in the league here. With a rookie kicker, he's not going anywhere. What could be intriguing is if the team keeps Thompson on the practice squad as the snapper of the future.

Roster locks: Muhlbach.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Muhlbach.