Detroit Lions: Giorgio Tavecchio

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions will look a little different this week when their kickers step on the field.

For the first time this preseason, punter Sam Martin will likely handle some of the kickoff duties as he competes to hold on to that job along with his already-secure status as the team’s punter. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Tuesday he has liked how both field goal kicking candidates – Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese – have handled that spot as well.

The bigger wrinkle is how he’s going to handle Tavecchio and Freese during the game. In the first two games, Freese has been the kicker for the first half and Tavecchio the second half. Now, he is going to a rotational system for Friday’s game against Jacksonville.

One player will take one kick. The next player will take the next kick and so on and so forth.

“It’s one that, there’s some fairness there so it gives both guys an opportunity to kick in a portion of the game that’s similar,” Caldwell said. “We just think we can do a little bit better job evaluating if we do it that way.”

Tavecchio, through practices and games has appeared to be the more consistent kicker than Freese, but Freese also hit a 55-yard field goal against Oakland on Friday, an opportunity Tavecchio has not been given.

When asked if the kicking decision will be made by the deadline for the first round of cuts on Tuesday, Caldwell was non-committal.

“It’s day by day, it really is,” Caldwell said. “It’s hard. Those guys have been kicking well in practice and besides one or two here that they might have missed, the competition has been good.

“Good for both, but it’s been difficult for us to sort out.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It has been one of the closer competitions throughout camp. It may not get the attention of the fanbase even like the backup quarterback spot does, but no more competition will play a more critical role in the Detroit Lions' success this season than the one between Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio.

Whichever kicker ends up being kept on the 53-man roster, it'll be his first time kicking for a NFL team in the regular season. And thus far, it has been somewhat equal. Tavecchio has been more consistent on a day-to-day basis, but hasn't received the game opportunities Freese has.

Freese, meanwhile, missed an extra point Friday but made a 55-yard field goal against the Oakland Raiders, so he showed he could make a long kick in a game. Games versus practice, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, won't have different weights.

"There's no percentage associated with it," Caldwell said. "It's all taken into account. It really is. You just don't have enough time, particularly at their particular spot. You don't get into situations where they kick an inordinate amount in a ball game, the two of them, to make a difference. You can't orchestrate that, necessarily.

"But in practice time we try to do different things to try and give them an opportunity to compete against one another. So we try to take every single thing into account."

Something that could have been a key was who was working with starting holder Sam Martin, but Caldwell said Saturday that it was decided early on the two holders -- Martin and Drew Butler -- would stay with one kicker throughout camp. This meant Freese, who entered camp as the front runner, was with Martin and Tavecchio with Butler.

All along, Caldwell said results and not draft status would be the major determining factor, so it'll be interesting to see what happens whenever the Lions make a decision, be it this week or when final cuts are due following the preseason finale.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:
The Detroit Lions will play their second preseason game Friday night at Oakland (10 ET), and while we covered certain issues to pay attention to earlier today, there are a bunch of players to pay somewhat close attention to during the late night west coast matchup.

For all of them, a good or bad performance can mean making the team or the practice squad. Here's a primer of who I'll be focusing on (from my couch, since I won't be in Oakland, but we can chat on Twitter):

1. RB George Winn: He's made some big plays during practice and in the preseason opener. Mentioned him in the earlier preview as well, but this could be his best chance to make a strong roster push. Theo Riddick should receive some of the carries that Winn might have otherwise seen since he missed most of the first preseason game, but Winn will get a long look. At this point, he's putting together an audition tape for the practice squad and trying to unseat Mikel Leshoure. The big thing to pay attention to with Winn -- special teams. If he pops up on a first-team special teams unit, that could be a major sign for him.

2. S Jerome Couplin: The Osprey was one of the most focused-on undrafted free agents because of his wingspan and nickname. Then he went out and made some big hits during the preseason opener and has been continually popping up in practice. The Lions are clearly taking a strong look at him, as they played him with the second team defense all week. If he makes a play or two Friday night, he may start to receive real roster consideration instead of a likely practice squad spot.

3. QB Kellen Moore: He put together a strong first performance but he'll need to do it more consistently to have a real shot. Frankly, he'll also need current No. 2 quarterback Dan Orlovsky to continue to struggle as well. But with a good opening game, Moore at least put himself in some conversation for a backup quarterback position on the team. If he gets some actual time with the No. 2 offense, that'll signal the Lions may be looking at it, too.

4. WR Kevin Ogletree: He has been really strong during camp, but had a bad drop in the opener against Cleveland. He should make the roster, although having a good performance against the Raiders wouldn't be a bad thing for him to put on film just to solidify what Detroit's coaches are seeing in practice.

5. WR Ryan Broyles: Like Moore and Winn, he had a good first game and appeared to have no setbacks from his Achilles injury last season. If he's healthy, he should make the roster. If he wants to do more than that, though, another good game would certainly help him here -- especially if he wants to try and push Ogletree for the No. 3 position.

6. DT Caraun Reid: The rookie from Princeton played well in his debut, making two plays in the backfield and showing he can handle the NFL. If he builds on this -- and there is little reason to think he won't -- he could end up being a larger part of the defensive tackle rotation than initially thought. Reid's spot on the team is safe.

7.CB Chris Greenwood: If the Lions keep six cornerbacks, the final spot will be a likely competition between Jonte Green, Drayton Florence and Greenwood. Green appeared to have the initial inside path to this spot -- and then he barely played in the preseason opener. Florence remains an intriguing candidate, but hasn't played much yet. Watch the snaps here, as Greenwood might end up pushing himself into the spot. A real outside candidate would be Mohammed Seisay, but he is probably a bit too raw for a roster spot just yet.

8.Kickers: I'll put Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio in the same spot here since they are two guys competing for one job. Freese appears to have the edge right now, although Tavecchio has been more consistent in practice. At this point, Tavecchio needs to continue to hit all his opportunities and probably needs Freese to miss a few to have a shot, but he has proven himself as a NFL kicker during this camp.

9. DT Nick Fairley: How many snaps will he get? How will he play in those snaps? Fairley is the most intriguing player on the Lions right now because of what occurred in practice last week. In what is expected to be limited snaps, will a motivated Fairley show up?

10. DE Larry Webster: Like Reid, Webster made a few plays in his debut. If he continues to do that, he could end up being a rotational factor this fall instead of being a pure developmental project for the Lions. His size, speed and build could turn him into a freakish defensive end once he figures everything out. Between him, Devin Taylor and Ezekiel Ansah, that could three high-caliber ends in a season or two.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- They all surrounded the Detroit Lions kickers, yelling, screaming and trying to be a general distraction and overall nuisance.

And yet, that was the point Wednesday afternoon when Lions coach Jim Caldwell wanted his other players to do this to try and distract kicking candidates Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio. This, after all, is what the kickers will face during road games this fall, so why not try to see what they can handle in a simulated situation during training camp?

"To have a competition, a little pressure, something a little different, out of the ordinary," Caldwell said. "We went a little overboard to make sure he can focus. At the end, there are some long, long field goals now."

When Tavecchio was asked the name of the drill, he didn't know, so he called it what it appeared to be: "Chaos."

The pressure combined with the distance led both Freese and Tavecchio to have less-than-perfect days during that situation. Tavecchio went 3 of 5 during the period, hitting from 36, 45 and 54 yards while missing from 62 and 67. Freese, meanwhile, went 2 of 5, connecting from 45 and 54 yards and missing from the other three distances.

"They were pretty far field goals," Freese said. "So I try to play the wind a little bit and sometimes it's a little difficult."

Freese said during the period, he didn't hear exactly what players were saying to him or if they were making faces at him. Other than Wednesday, Freese has calmed down considerably since the beginning of camp, when he struggled to make field goals almost daily.

He made both of his attempts during Saturday night's preseason opener against Cleveland and has consistently remained with the first group throughout camp. Part of the newfound consistency comes from having more familiarity with his holder, Sam Martin, and snapper, Don Muhlbach.

"We've been getting in a good rhythm, getting our times down," Freese said. "Getting our op[erational] times down and good."

There will eventually be a decision made between Freese and Tavecchio -- and as long as Freese is working with the first unit consistently, that is probably a good sign for him -- but until then, Caldwell said he is going to find different ways to challenge them.

Wednesday, by having the rest of the team involved, was just one of them.

"We all have the same goal in mind and they enjoy getting into it because they understand what we're trying to get accomplished," Caldwell said. "They know the result of that and whoever is going to come out of the competition is going to help us win, so I think all of that helps you."
DETROIT -- Giorgio Tavecchio had to remain focused, even if he saw his teammates turn the ball over in the red zone late Saturday night.

The Detroit Lions' kicker knew there was still a chance, even if he hadn't attempted a field goal or extra point against Cleveland to that point -- something that could be viewed as a detriment when you're competing for a job. Still, Tavecchio knew there was a chance.

Then the Lions' defense forced Cleveland to punt. And Kellen Moore found Corey Fuller in the end zone for a touchdown. All of a sudden, Tavecchio was needed on the field, one long extra point away from a win.

"How the game goes is out of my control," Tavecchio said. "I made it a point to tell myself, I think it was at 2 minutes, 41 seconds left, there was a change of possession so I said, 'You know what, stay focused. You owe it to yourself, to your teammates for all the hard work you put in.'

"Stay focused for the next 2 minutes, 41 seconds and then you can relax because it had been kind of an up-and-down rollercoaster because you get in range and then you get out of range. You're just kind of sitting there waiting, about to pull the trigger and it doesn't work out like you planned."

Not quite, but it still gave Tavecchio a shot to show he can kick in a game and make a kick under pressure -- as he did with the 33-yard extra point to give the Lions a 13-12 win against the Browns.

Tavecchio is in an interesting spot now. Nate Freese, the rookie he is competing with, has settled down after a rough start to training camp and made two field goals Saturday as the No. 1 kicker. And for a while, through no fault of his own, it looked like he wouldn't get a chance to make any counterargument in the competition.

Then Detroit scored and Tavecchio, theoretically, won the game.

"I feel very fortunate to have that last chance to put the little chocolate sprinkles on top of the tiramisu," Tavecchio said. "And the last point of the game. Cherry on top for apple pie. For tiramisu, you have to do a little chocolate shavings on top."

Whatever the topping, Tavecchio is glad he got his chance to perform.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
DETROIT -- Kellen Moore doesn't have a Detroit Lions' roster spot locked up, but he might have made a good first impression on his new coaches.

The third-year player from Boise State, who has been the No. 3 quarterback on the team since his rookie year, led a game-winning drive completed with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Corey Fuller with a little over a minute left Saturday night to give Detroit a 13-12 win over the Cleveland Browns.

While it will help Moore's case for a spot -- it was a perfect throw -- it might aid Fuller even more. Fuller beat his defender perfectly on the play and caught the ball in stride.

Fuller is in the midst of an intense competition at receiver and was the only player to score a touchdown.

Here are some other thoughts on the Lions' first preseason game of the year:
  • It is only one game and the offense is obviously condensed, but the Lions have to hope Matthew Stafford stays healthy this season. Dan Orlovsky was average in his return to Detroit. He often settled for the checkdown, ended up on the run or waiting too long to make decisions. It would be interesting to know what his instructions were in the game. His passes also often looked off-target, even on shorter screens. Orlovsky was 12-of-23 for 89 yards and was sacked once.
  • Montell Owens had a nice game for the Lions as he competes with Jed Collins and, theoretically, Mikel Leshoure, for a roster spot. While he didn't receive a carry, he had an excellent block pickup in the third quarter to buy Orlovsky time. In the first half, he had a massive special teams hit in kick coverage. He knows their way to a spot is through special teams and Owens is quite good at that facet of the game.
  • The Lions appeared to use some 4-4 on defense. Not enough for it to be a base package, but enough for it to be noticed. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin and players have mentioned the multiplicity of the defense often and that appears to be an early wrinkle unveiled.
  • Drops again were a little bit of an issue on the first few series of the game while starters and key reserves were in there. On the flip of that, receiver Ryan Broyles looked fairly healthy in his first action since his Achilles injury last season. He caught three passes for 27 yards and made it through the game healthy. He's been pretty buried on the depth chart so far this summer and has to continue to have strong performances like Saturday to have a shot at a roster spot.
  • Kicking data: Nate Freese made both of his field goals in the first half, although both were somewhat chip shots -- 33 and 37 yards. Meanwhile, Giorgio Tavecchio made the game-winning extra point. Freese and Tavecchio also handled kickoffs as the Lions try to keep Sam Martin's leg as fresh as possible for the season.

W2W4: Detroit Lions

August, 9, 2014
Aug 9
The Detroit Lions (0-0) and Cleveland Browns (0-0) open their preseason Saturday night at Ford Field. The game is televised nationally on NFL Network.

1. Jim Caldwell’s debut: The Lions’ coach is in his second go-round as the leader of an NFL franchise and his third as a head coach of a major program (if you include his stint at Wake Forest). It’s only the preseason, but Caldwell has preached accountability, with an emphasis on efficiency and limiting mistakes, essentially from the day he was hired. This is the first opportunity to see whether that message is pushing through, or if the same issues the Lions had in the past with penalties and miscues continue. So far, everyone has said all the right things when it comes to Caldwell and his coaching staff, but this is the first time they face another team. This should give a very small window into how he coaches.

2. What will the offense look like? Secondary to the debut of Caldwell is the introduction of coordinator Joe Lombardi, who will be calling offenses in the NFL for the first time. The Lions focused on adding offensive pieces during the offseason, including Golden Tate and Eric Ebron. While it is unlikely those two will play much -- if at all, in Ebron’s case -- this will give Lions fans a chance to see what the team could look like this season. Expect a lot more personnel packages featuring two tight ends, the return of the fullback in at least part of the offense, and a combination of short passes with long shots down the field. What does Caldwell want to see out of it? “Efficiency,” he said.

3. Field goals: Yes, this is an odd thing to watch for, but the Lions need to get a grasp on who their kicker will be at some point, and this will be the first time Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese will perform with the taller uprights at Ford Field. This is one of the closest competitions on the roster when it comes to a starting spot. Caldwell said earlier this week that production, results and “data” will be a big factor in determining who wins the job.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The two times Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese step onto the Ford Field turf this week, the goal posts they are trying to kick into will look different.

The first time they kick there, on Wednesday night, the posts will be the same height as last season, just painted highlighter green as part of a Detroit Lions promotion. Then, the more important change happens.

Between Wednesday night and Saturday night, the Lions will install the NFL’s new mandated goal posts, up from the old height of 30 feet to the new, 35-foot height. It might not sound like much, but Saturday night will also be the first time the Detroit Lions kickers will line up with the new posts in the new height.

The Lions have been practicing thus far this season with the older, smaller goal posts at their practice facility.

“The only challenge is seeing if the ball is close to pulling wide left or wide right, it’s tough to tell because we tend to hit it higher up than the uprights,” Tavecchio said. “But beyond that, if you back up, sometimes it looks like it’s a smaller target because it is technically smaller than what you’d face in a game.”

Tavecchio, who is in a close competition with Freese to handle the Lions’ field goal duties, said he didn’t think lining up with the taller uprights during games will make much of a difference how he kicks the ball.

The biggest difference, he said, is “they look a little bit more present in your depth of vision.” So if anything, that might be able to help. Tavecchio said he spent part of the offseason in Berkeley, California, training with taller uprights to help understand the difference.

If anything, the goal posts should help officials judge whether or not a field goal is good, because often the ball sails well over them. That should present the biggest change.

“It definitely will matter,” holder/punter Sam Martin said. “Right now you kick a ball over the uprights, it’s considered good and they are going to be higher now. One that might be good right now might ding off the post and not be good.

“It can definitely be a factor.”

To train, Tavecchio seemed less concerned with the height of the upright as much as the width. To help his accuracy -- he already possesses a strong leg -- he worked with narrower uprights. It is something he initially picked up during training camp with the San Francisco 49ers two seasons ago and carried into his own training now.

All of this helps both his aim and his depth of vision. Tavecchio said he also uses kicking at various visual targets as a way to both break up the monotony of kicking between the uprights and to embrace ways to help with his accuracy.

The taller uprights may or may not help with that.

“I don’t know if it is better or not,” Tavecchio said of the taller uprights. “In the past I’ve used narrower uprights, which have proven to be a really useful training tool because it is the whole concept of make sure you aim small, miss small.

“Use the arena-size uprights and then when you use the full-size uprights, it looks like you’re kicking onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.”

Starting Saturday, it will be a depth and field of vision that has just a little bit more texture to it.

Lions Camp Report: Day 8

August, 5, 2014
Aug 5
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • One of the more interesting things to come out of camp on Tuesday was watching Lions running back Reggie Bush running routes with the receivers and tight ends during part of the individual period instead of working with the running backs. This shouldn’t be too stunning, though, considering how Bush has been used in the past and how the Lions could use him this season. Bush ran 51 routes out of the slot last season and 37 routes while lined up out wide. Expect more of that this season if the Saints’ offense is any indication. Last season, Darren Sproles ran 93 routes out of the slot and 27 lined up out wide. If Bush is thrown into that role -- and it would be likely he would be -- then it would not be surprising to see him used in the slot fairly often. It also adds up because one of the things stressed by this coaching staff from running backs is running precise routes.
  • It was another good day for the Lions kickers. Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese appeared to make all of their field goal attempts Tuesday, although it was somewhat difficult to tell without officials signaling in the end zone. Wednesday could be an interesting test for both of them since it will be their first time kicking inside Ford Field, where they will also be Saturday night for the preseason opener against Cleveland.
  • Ezekiel Ansah worked some more Tuesday as he continues to slowly move closer to being removed from the active PUP list and actually being able to practice with his teammates. He did individual work on the side for another practice, and Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated “he’s progressing well.”

    “They keep ramping up his activity,” Caldwell said. ‘He hasn’t had setbacks so we feel good about where he is.”

    He is one of three players who sat out practice Tuesday along with receiver TJ Jones, who is still on the active PUP list, and offensive tackle Michael Williams, who has missed five straight practices due to injury.
  • Alex Bullard was somewhat surprising Tuesday during practice. He worked with the first team during a red zone period at left guard, spelling Rob Sims. The Lions have appeared to be careful with the reps for both Sims and center Dominic Raiola throughout the early portion of camp. Raiola did not do much work Tuesday, either, being replaced by Travis Swanson. Caldwell said he will give veterans days off from time to time to give them some rest during a long training camp to ensure health during the season. That said, Bullard looked decent during his run with the top unit. He’s still a longshot to make the roster at this point, but he offers interesting position flexibility since he worked at all five offensive line positions during his time at Notre Dame and Tennessee.
  • Cornerback Jonte Green put together another good practice, especially in one-on-one drills, registering a pass breakup. Considering the questions at the bottom of the depth chart at cornerback, Green could be putting himself in position to secure a roster spot at some point.
  • The Lions practice again Wednesday night at Ford Field at 7:30 p.m. The practice is open to the public.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell needs to shelve his feelings this month, as difficult as it may be and as unrealistic as it may seem. Players and coaches are bonding and developing relationships throughout training camp, with the understanding of how the NFL business works.

Almost half of the players on the Detroit Lions right now won’t be here in a month as the cruel portion of training camp slowly works its way to the forefront. And at one spot -- kicker --, Caldwell can’t let his feelings get in the way when he's judging whether to keep seventh-round draft pick Nate Freese or free-agent signee Giorgio Tavecchio.

 “I talked to the guys [Sunday] night a little bit, is that we all get feelings but feelings don’t count in this game for the most part,” Caldwell said Monday. “You like data. You like hard, firm data. You like to challenge them in a number of different situations so you really get a good feel for what he’s capable of doing.

“But we’re looking at results, more so than anything. That’s the thing I think is extremely important.”

When it comes to kickers specifically, data could be close to everything. And if the Lions go by data, then Tavecchio should be leading the competition to become Detroit’s new kicker, not Nate Freese.

In public practices -- where pressure is theoretically the highest so far considering there is a live audience -- Tavecchio has shown both the stronger leg and more consistency, making almost all of his kicks over the first week of practice. Meanwhile, Freese has struggled, including getting a kick blocked at Wayne State last week and missing two field goals on Monday.

Caldwell explained more goes into the kicking competition than merely the numbers. He is viewing how the kickers handle pressure and how they are in meeting rooms with special teams coaches John Bonamego and Evan Rothstein.

That pressure will rise on Saturday night, when Freese and Tavecchio theoretically will attempt field goals in the preseason opener against Cleveland. That should give Caldwell even more data to go on, as he and the coaching staff try to take emotions and feelings out of what could be a tough decision between two young players.

Caldwell said Freese’s status as a draft pick shouldn’t play much into their decision. Considering Freese was a seventh-rounder, there isn’t as much invested in him from a guaranteed money or value standpoint as there was in Sam Martin, last season’s fifth-round pick as a punter who turned into a value selection for Martin Mayhew.

“It’s never one of those situations where we strictly look at because a guy was drafted or not drafted and how you judge him,” Caldwell said. “The guy’s an outstanding player? He’s going to play. Here’s something I think everybody realizes.

“Coaches are in the business of winning. If we don’t win, there’s a problem. Nothing good ever happens if you don’t win, right? So what we’re going to try and do is get the best player out there playing for us to give us the best chance to win. We don’t care where he came from, who he is. We’re just looking for results, and that’s what counts.”

Every one of Tavecchio's and Freese’s kicks over the next few weeks will be counted, charted, weighed and measured to figure out who will be Detroit’s kicker in the fall.

Lions Camp Report: Day 7

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

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

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

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

Lions Camp Report: Day 6

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The Lions had a scrimmage Saturday during their yearly family day, dividing the roster into the first-team offense and second-team defense on one side and the second-team offense and first-team defense on the other. The first-team offense and defense had all the typical players save Calvin Johnson, who did not practice Saturday. That wasn’t surprising considering the Lions’ focus on keeping their star as fresh as possible. In their daily switch, LaAdrian Waddle lined up with the first team at right tackle and Corey Hilliard with the second team, but that competition between two players who will make the roster continues. Defensively, Tahir Whitehead received a lot of time at linebacker spelling Stephen Tulloch.
  • Big day for Eric Ebron, who caught a really long pass from Matthew Stafford and appeared to be more confident on the field than he has at any point this camp. It’s still going to be a learning process for him for a bit and there will certainly be mistakes, but Saturday was encouraging. Lions coach Jim Caldwell also seemed comfortable with Ebron’s progress as he learns the multitude of spots he is expected to line up at this fall. Ebron’s play was one of the highlights for the Lions’ offense of the scrimmage considering his issues with drops.
  • The Lions had some issues snapping the ball when Dominic Raiola was not part of the scrimmage. Both Darren Keyton – playing with the first group – and Travis Swanson had bad snaps to quarterbacks, causing issues. In Swanson’s case, it led to a fumble recovery for a touchdown by rookie Larry Webster, one of the better plays the defensive end has made during camp. While Swanson is still expected to be the backup center when everything shakes out a month from now, those issues amplified the importance of Raiola and his presence again this season.
  • Detroit’s cornerback situation behind Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis could get interesting. Jonte Green had his best day of camp thus far, breaking up two passes intended for receiver Ryan Broyles, who has not run with the first team much this camp. Chris Greenwood struggled again Saturday as well as those two potentially compete for one roster spot. Slay, Mathis, Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson and probably Cassius Vaughn appear to be ahead of both Green and Greenwood on the depth chart – although Lawson is going to mostly play nickel. Still a long way to go in this competition with not much settled in the first week.
  • Another good day for Detroit’s kickers as Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio made all their field goals attempted during the scrimmage, including a 50-yarder from Tavecchio that sailed through the uprights with ease. Unlike last season, when David Akers won the kicking job fairly easily, this season it seems like this could go on for a while. A wrinkle here could be something Caldwell said Saturday – that the team would consider using punter Sam Martin on extremely long field goal attempts. He compared it to his situation in Indianapolis, where Caldwell considered using punter Pat McAfee on long field goals. McAfee never attempted a field goal in a game, though. So something to consider as this competition progresses -- especially as Martin has an extremely impressive camp punting.

The Lions will take Sunday off before practicing again Monday at 8:30 a.m.

Lions Camp Report: Day 5

August, 1, 2014
Aug 1
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • Rough day for the first-team offense during a two-minute drill situation. Defensive ends George Johnson and Darryl Tapp -- neither of whom is expected to be a first-team defender this season -- had touch sacks of Matthew Stafford. Stafford and the offense also went three-and-out on one possession with the quarterback being forced to throw away multiple passes when no one was open. Not surprisingly, Ndamukong Suh was also causing havoc up the middle. The second team fared better, scoring a touchdown and having Giorgio Tavecchio also make a 41-yard field goal to close practice. Jim Caldwell didn't seem too concerned, though, with any of the issues the first-team offense was having.
  • Why not? Well, the first-team offense still has Calvin Johnson, who made two exceptional catches Friday to show why he is the top receiver in the game. He grabbed a touchdown in 7-on-7 after the play was whistled dead, but the way he plucked it was exceptional. There was another play in which a Stafford pass looked like it was headed nowhere, then Johnson came out of his break, dove perfectly on the low ball and caught the ball in front of Chris Greenwood in 11-on-11. It was one of those plays that no defensive back can do anything about. And that has nothing to do with Greenwood, as other cornerbacks will attest to.
  • This was perhaps the best day for Detroit's kicking competitors thus far. Combined, Nate Freese and Tavecchio went 11-for-11, including Tavecchio's 41-yarder to end practice in a two-minute situation. Both also made field goals from 53 yards during a special teams section of practice. Meanwhile, Sam Martin is having a great camp punting. He continually boots punts of more than 65 yards and appears stronger than his rookie season already.
  • Among the defenders who stood out was rangy cornerback Mohammed Seisay. The Nebraska product, whom I wrote about more in depth here, is still a longshot to make the roster. However, with uncertainty in the final one or two cornerback spots, a strong camp could make him a consideration. He read a pass to tight end Eric Ebron perfectly during one-on-ones and broke the play up well. He wasn't the only defensive back to grab attention, as Darius Slay continued to have a strong camp, including a good pass breakup in the one-on-one session.
  • Mentioned Kevin Ogletree on Thursday and he put together another good practice, but Corey Fuller is starting to catch some notice as well among wide receivers. He caught a long pass in the two-minute drill from Dan Orlovsky after easily beating Greenwood. He also had nice catches during the receiver-vs.-defensive back session on both Nevin Lawson and Cassius Vaughn. He is a much more confident player than he was a season ago and looks like a completely different one -– an assessment he said he agreed with following practice.
  • The Lions return to practice at 10:30 a.m. Saturday for their final day of the first week before taking Sunday off. Like Friday, Saturday is expected to be a fully-padded practice.

Lions Camp Report: Day 3

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
DETROIT -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • George Johnson, a defensive end who played with Tampa Bay and Minnesota before coming to the Lions, spent time with the first team for the second straight day. He has a long way to go to make the roster for multiple reasons, however. The Lions are without the likely starter at his spot, Ezekiel Ansah, as he remains on the PUP list recovering from shoulder surgery. Another potential open defensive end, Devin Taylor, is competing for the starting closed defensive end spot.
  • The Lions were in shoulder pads for the first time during camp and it led to a little more physical play. Brandon Pettigrew was actually tackled by Jason Jones in a period of 11-on-11 and Mikel Leshoure was hit by DeAndre Levy after catching a pass.
  • In the daily kicking battle, Giorgio Tavecchio made all five of his field goal attempts. Nate Freese made four of five after having his first attempt from 30 yards blocked. On Tuesday, both Freese and Tavecchio missed 49-yard field goals to end practice. On Wednesday, Tavecchio made his practice-ending kick, while Freese missed his again. After practice, Freese could not explain what happened on the block and said he is still working on timing with holder Sam Martin and long snapper Don Muhlbach, but that they are close. On his missed field goal to end practice, Freese said it was his fault he missed the kick and the operation was good.
  • Both Reggie Bush and Jeremy Ross had nice plays in various times. Ross had an impressive one-handed catch during skeleton drills that would have been a difficult touchdown. Bush, meanwhile, made a play in 11-on-11 and then made a nasty cut on linebacker Tahir Whitehead for what would have been a large gain if the team was in full pads and tackling. The play of the day might have gone to Golden Tate, who converted a 3rd-and-4 play with a well-thrown slant pass over the middle from Stafford. Then he had the defense chase him all over the field.
  • Another day, another drop for Lions rookie tight end Eric Ebron. To be fair, this play was a little bit more difficult than a garden variety play, as he had to turn around to make the catch. But the pass hit Ebron squarely in the hands on a deep route along the sideline with DeJon Gomes in coverage and it is a play Ebron would be expected to make in a game during the season. For as many good plays and highlight reel plays Ebron has the capability of making, seeing him drop routine-or-close-to-it passes should be a concern even if it is early in camp. He is still learning the offense, but at some point it should be instinct as well. Ebron did rebound later in practice with a difficult catch on a short route for a touchdown.

Lions Camp Report: Day 2

July, 29, 2014
Jul 29
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • One of the players making a big early impression in a position of competition is wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Tucked in a tight battle with Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Jeremy Ross and Corey Fuller for receiving spots behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, Ogletree has spent time with the top unit both days as the No. 3 receiver. This comes on top of offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi singling him out during the spring as someone who impressed him. Ogletree has speed as well as the ability to make catches both over the middle and the sideline. Johnson, meanwhile, called Ogletree “smooth” when discussing him Tuesday.
  • An interesting thing occurred during individual periods Tuesday. Instead of working on their own, the Lions split their tight ends up between the offensive line and with the pass-catching receivers and running backs catching passes. So Brandon Pettigrew, for instance, was working with the line blocking while Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron were catching passes. This, Pettigrew said, was different than how the Lions operated under former coach Jim Schwartz.“We rotate and go down there during periods,” Pettigrew said. “We have five guys here, why not split it up and have some guys down there and some guys down here.” Pettigrew sees this as not only helping his blocking fundamentals, but an aid to Ebron and Fauria as well.
  • It’s early, but the kicking situation is going to be something to watch. Detroit hasn’t done many pressure field-goal situations over the first two days, but the Lions did have both Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio attempt a 49-yard field goal under pressure in the final moments of practice. It did not end well and went counter to their supposed strengths. Freese had the distance but missed wide left. Tavecchio was right on line -- but about a yard or so short. It’s only one day, but this is going to be a major thing to pay attention to throughout the next few weeks.
  • It would appear the Lions are going to give both Corey Hilliard and LaAdrian Waddle an equal shot at right tackle. Hilliard worked with the first team during the first practice Monday and Waddle received the first-team snaps Tuesday. We’ll have more on the offensive line Wednesday, but this appears to be the one true spot up for grabs on what is otherwise a fairly strong front five.
  • The Lions have managed to have fairly short practices the first two days, wrapping up in well under two hours. Some of it might come from the team still practicing without pads, but Lions safety Glover Quin explained the reason for the shorter practices is kind of simple: The team has plays they want to run through and things they need to accomplish. If they limit mistakes and run through the plays at a good pace, they finish quicker. It’s a long way from the marathon practices of the past, although practices should get longer once the team goes into pads.
  • Ownership made its first public appearance at camp Tuesday as Martha Ford, the wife of the late William Clay Ford Sr., attended practice. Ford gained controlling interest in the team after her husband’s death in the offseason. Also visiting practice Tuesday were some of Michigan State’s football coaches, although head coach Mark Dantonio was not spotted, as he was in Chicago for Big Ten media days.