Detroit Lions: Rashean Mathis

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Cassius Vaughn learned the art from his father, and as any good father is wont to do, he passed it along to his progeny as well.

The art, of course, is talking. How to do it, how to speak what’s on your mind as a way to motivate yourself, make yourself laugh and also, potentially, get under the skin of opponents. One of the underrated things Vaughn brings to the Detroit Lions cornerback corps is his gift of gabbing. To anyone. About anything.

“I was raised like that,” Vaughn said. “My dad talked trash. I talk trash. My son talks trash. Even my little girl talks trash. It’s just a family thing.

Vaughn
 “She’ll tell everybody she’s the best in the world, no matter what. She’s five-years-old, and I teach her like that. It’s all about having confidence and bringing yourself to a point that no matter the circumstances, you believe in yourself more than anybody else believes in you.”

Vaughn insists he never crosses a line with his talking and that it is done as much to motivate himself as it is to rankle the receivers he faces. But ask his teammates and there’s a combination of eye rolls, laughter and mutual admiration for how much Vaughn talks.

Since he signed with Detroit in the offseason to compete for a depth corner spot -- one he’s close to winning -- he’s been jabbering to whoever would listen. After a pass breakup? He talks. After an interception? You better believe he’ll start chattering.

“He talks his way, a lot of people like to do that, they talk their way into feeling good,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “He’s one of those guys. When he’s talking, you know it’s a good day for him.”

Vaughn said he started talking trash in preschool, before he started playing football and before he turned into a NFL cornerback in his fifth season. There is a difference between the way Vaughn talks and some of his contemporaries.

For instance, Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan will occasionally research an opposing receiver before a game, looking for any way to have a mental edge on an opponent during a game. Vaughn does no research.

Anything he says or does is off the top of his head in the moment, mostly because it isn’t necessarily meant to be directed at an opponent. That said, the lifelong training in his particular art form has served him well when receivers start jawing at him.

It has led to some of his better lines.

“Somebody told me they was better than me,” Vaughn said. “And I told them I sleep better than you live.

“No research. Just straight up off the top of my head, however I feel at the moment. That’s how it’s going in. Now that I’m a little bit older, never scared to get beat because I’m able to come back and make the same plays. That comes from the trash talking.”

It led to some bonds with receivers as well. When Golden Tate, another Lions free agent signing, arrived in town, he and Vaughn became friends quickly. They both grew up in Tennessee -- Vaughn in Memphis, Tate from Nashville -- and they both have been known to talk on occasion.

“We both talk trash to each other,” Tate said. “It’s nothing ever vicious or anything.”

That’s what Vaughn prefers. Go at him with words. Try to make a play on him. He’s going to do the same to you. Have some fun. Line up and then do it again.

“I just like to enjoy myself,” Vaughn said. “More of the trash talk is to enjoy myself and have fun with the game because it’s at the end of the day a kid game and you have to enjoy it.”

Vaughn clearly does. As he said, “it’s a family thing.” One he’s more than willing to pass along.
DETROIT -- When the Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell, one of the biggest things preached was how he was going to cut down on penalties and errors, long an issue for the team under former coach Jim Schwartz.

Yet three games into Caldwell’s tenure with Detroit -- and, to be fair, this wasn't a game that counted -- penalties can once again be considered a worry with the Lions.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesNdamukong Suh's unnecessary roughness on Chad Henne was one of 15 penalties committed by the Detroit Lions on Friday.
If this were considered a dress rehearsal, consider the Lions in need of at least one major revision. Detroit committed 15 penalties for 131 yards Friday night against Jacksonville, racking up more yards in miscues than they did passing against the Jaguars.

And it left Caldwell obviously concerned, especially considering how focused he has been on accountability.

“This game is not a perfect game, obviously,” Caldwell said. “But it is an issue, like I said. We can take about three or so. If you get beyond that, it’s an issue. No, we haven't seen a rash of 15 in a practice, but we've certainly seen some. But within our normal limits.”

In Detroit’s first two games, the Lions had 16 penalties for 106 yards -- still more than Caldwell would like, but somewhat manageable considering it is the preseason and starters were barely playing. Then Friday came and went, and 15 penalties later, there was no way Caldwell was going to be happy.

And it showed.

He was fine with picking up a 13-12 win over Jacksonville, but those penalties cropped up again and again. There were the personal fouls, including one from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on quarterback Chad Henne, mental errors and almost everything else in between.

“I’m concerned about it, yes,” Caldwell said. “Absolutely. Fifteen is way too many.”

Actually, the Lions committed 16 penalties, but one of the five holding calls they were whistled for was declined. Detroit was also flagged for offsides twice and once each for an illegal block, roughing the passer, offensive pass interference, a false start, illegal contact, intentional grounding, unnecessary roughness, illegal use of the hands, and a facemask.

Penalties and how often officials have been throwing flags have been mentioned as an issue throughout the league during the preseason, however, players don't seem completely concerned about it yet. But it is certainly something to keep an eye on for the Lions, considering their history of committing these types of gaffes.

In some ways, after all, this is a tuneup for officials as well as players.

“We definitely have to cut them down, but this preseason is like any other preseason that’s ever been in the league with penalties,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “We have to take that into account, that we're not the only team. Almost every team in the league is getting penalized like this.

“We have to see the things that we can correct, the self-made penalties. The nonaggressive penalties, as we call them. We have to correct those, because 15 penalties, you can't win like that in the regular season, and we know that.”

That’s something Caldwell will likely preach to his players over the next two weeks. An effort that resulted in a one-point win in August likely would produce a loss in September, October, November or December.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Rashean Mathis figured this day might eventually come. When Jacksonville released him following the 2012 season and he had to leave home to continue his NFL career, there was always the chance he would face his former team.

That happens Friday.

It is, though, a little bit easier for Mathis than he might have initially thought. It’s a preseason game. It is in Detroit instead of Jacksonville, where he makes his offseason home. Also, the majority of the Jaguars roster has flipped since the 2012 season, including the coaching staff and general manager.

Even the owner, Shahid Khan, was only in his first season during Mathis’ last with Jacksonville.

“As of now, it feels like another game,” Mathis said. “I thought about it a little but the emotions are not there. Come game time, I might feel something a little different, but right now, it feels like another football game.”

There was a point, though, where Mathis thought he might be in Jacksonville for the entirety of his career. He grew up in the city. He played 10 years with the Jaguars, including a 2006 Pro Bowl appearance.

And as he reached past his first contract with the team, sure, he thought he may play for his hometown squad until he retired.

“Especially later in my career, definitely,” Mathis said. “Approaching Year 8, Year 9, I thought that. But I always knew it was a possibility (I’d be released). And I knew I was a minority, I wasn’t the majority.

“Not too many people stayed on one team for 10 years. I knew it was a possibility.”

When Jacksonville released Mathis, he said he wasn’t angry or mad. He understood the situation. New coach. New management. Questions about his health. His age. The team’s play overall.

He had lived this situation before and survived to stay in Jacksonville then, but not after 2012.

This is how Mathis ended up in Detroit, first signing with the Lions during training camp last season. Then he proved he was still healthy and could still contribute, becoming Detroit’s top cornerback for the majority of the 2013 season.

Now he enters 2014 as a starter again, in a position for the 33-year-old to start the last portion of his career against a familiar team in a situation where his family and friends can watch him on TV -- some, perhaps, for the first time since he left Florida.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:

QOTW: First football memory

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

Previous Questions of the Week.

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

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

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

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




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




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




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




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




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




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

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

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

Reporter: Did you do anything as a running back?

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




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




Cornerback Cassius Vaughn: "My first year in little league in Memphis. I played for the North Memphis Chiefs. I was a D-end, six years old. D-end. I got a little faster, played a little quarterback. I just liked running the ball so I kind of migrated to the offensive side and it went from there. Full-tackle. Helmet, shoulder pads, all of that. We were out there tackling, man. Running real plays."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Rashean Mathis signed with the Detroit Lions last season, he was looking for a job and a way to extend a career he believed had been cut somewhat short in Jacksonville, the only place he had played in the NFL.

When he arrived in Detroit, though, he ended up becoming so much more.

Mathis
By the third game of last season, Mathis was in the starting lineup for the Lions. By the end of the year, he was the team’s top cornerback and had proved to himself he was still healthy enough and good enough to play in the NFL.

It took a little while in the offseason, but eventually Mathis returned to Detroit under new coach Jim Caldwell, where he remained a starter in the defensive backfield and also continued his almost equally-important role as mentor.

“He was one of those guys that every week you played against him, you had to know where he was because he was very, very good in his craft,” Caldwell said. “He’d intercept the ball and create problems for you in the run game. Along with length, as well as intelligence, he was a tough guy to deal with and I’ve come to appreciate him even more, now that I’m on the same team.

“He’s smart, a consummate professional in every single facet. He works hard, he studies, he teaches the young guys, sets a great pace for them, he’s always up for practice and meetings, he’s a first class competitor. I mean you name it, this guy is a quality individual.”

That has never been in question with Mathis, who spent last season tutoring then-rookie Darius Slay, whose job Mathis had taken. That could have been an acrimonious situation, except Mathis had become such a mentor for Slay early on that it eliminated any possible tension between the old veteran and the young rookie.

Now, they are the Lions’ two starting cornerbacks, having to work together to make sure Detroit doesn’t allow big plays this season.
The Detroit Lions are halfway through their preseason schedule and players are starting to emerge either as surprise candidates for roster spots or surprisingly on the roster bubble.

The Lions gained some game evidence against Cleveland and even more against Oakland last Friday as first cuts loom in less than a week.

Here are some players that stood out -- positively or negatively -- on defense against the Raiders:

Defensive end George Johnson: Really good effort. Able to sidestep linemen pretty well. A little bit slow coming off the line and doesn’t have great speed, but his size makes up for that. On his first pressure, Matt Schaub danced away from him, but fight into Stephen Tulloch. He definitely pushed the pocket when he was able to rush in passing situations. Xavier Proctor was credited with a second half sack, but it was Johnson who really made the play -- and probably should have been credited for the sack, too. On the following play, he almost had another big play but was held.

Defensive end Larry Webster: Did well coming off the edge. Didn’t always get to the quarterback, but caused pressure enough to make a difference -- including the pressure that injured Derek Carr. He was in a pretty good position over and over, although it didn’t seem like he used a variety of moves. He basically appeared to rely on his instinct and speed and win the battle.

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley: Watched him intently. Was pushed off the line really easily pretty often. Even on the Ihedigbo interception, where he was dictating his matchup with the offensive lineman, he didn’t create too much pressure and the lineman still had good position on him. Was handled by the offensive linemen in one-on-one coverage on a lot of plays, although he did draw double teams on occasion.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy: Thought he was much more active Friday night. Was good in coverage -- handling a wide receiver -- and also took some good rush lanes against Oakland’s passers. He received a ton of snaps and is really in a split situation right now with Ashlee Palmer.

Linebacker Stephen Tulloch: Smart blitzer. Both times he was sent early, he got pressure -- once with DeAndre Levy and once with Johnson. If the Lions use him more in that role than in prior years, then he should end up having a good season. He seems to have good instincts from the second level to reach the quarterback.

Cornerback Rashean Mathis: Pretty decent night for him. Gave up some passes, but had a really strong pass breakup in the second quarter and also broke up the pass that led to a James Ihedigbo interception. He really looks like the Lions’ top cornerback right now. Mathis had a bad holding call against James Jones, though.

Cornerback Drayton Florence: Yes, he was a late signing, but the only thing of note he has done in his first week-plus with the Lions was get burned deep on a double move by Greg Little. The only reason he still has a shot here -- and it probably isn’t a big one -- is neither Chris Greenwood nor Jonte Green has established themselves either.

Cornerback Jonte Green: He was picked on mercilessly by Derek Carr and Matt McGloin. Even when he didn’t give up the reception, he was beaten on a play -- including on a deep route where Carr overthrew Greg Little. If it was a more accurate pass, Little had a touchdown. Green also picked up a defensive holding call on the final drive. On the final drive, McGloin went at Green at least five times. Green was also in the general area of McGloin’s touchdown pass (although that wasn’t his fault since it appeared to be zone coverage and there were multiple players around).
Question of the Week is a weekly feature here where we take a cross-section of opinions from Detroit Lions players and coaches (and sometimes opponents) about a singular topic. Most of the time, they have nothing to do with football. Have a suggestion for a question? Email michael.rothstein@espn.com.

Last season's Questions of the Week.

This season: 10 years from now; Exciting offseason activities; Rookie nerves.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Days during training camp can be long and tough. Players are away from their families, their friends. The only people they sometimes see are their teammates, their coaches and the media.

In this vein, I ended up curious about one thing: Who, exactly, makes these players laugh the most?

When some asked whether I meant on the team, I just responded with 'in life, who is the person who makes you laugh the most' and they could answer however they wanted. Somewhat surprisingly, most stuck with people close to them. These are their answers:

Cornerback Rashean Mathis: "My son (Rashean Jr.). It’s just amazing. It’s a wonderful creation, to see his own personality. You have mothers and you have fathers with their personalities, but to see a little kid grow up and develop his own personality and learn something new each week, it’s amazing. Recently, what has he done. I’m trying to see. I’ve been in camp the last couple weeks.

"One thing, it makes me laugh and makes me proud. I video record him all the time. So I swing my golf club in the house all the time. He has a golf club and to see him ... I’ll get golf balls for him ... so to see him swing the golf club and he finishes, he makes sure he finishes on his toes like he really knows what he’s doing and he waits for me to look for approval. It’s funny. It’s awesome to see, but it’s funny at the same time. He’s 2."



Wide receiver Ryan Broyles: "My wife (Mary Beth). You just never know what you get out of her. We have a one-on-one conversation and she can be so funny, but she really thrives when she’s around other people. She really catches me off-guard with some of the things she says. She has no sensor at all."



Offensive lineman Travis Swanson: "That’s a tricky one. ... As far as people that just make me laugh, all the O-line guys that I’ve been around. All the guys here are hilarious. All my O-line buddies back in college were hysterical. There’s one guy back in college. His name is Austin Beck. He was kind of a guy that if you needed any laugh whatsoever, you could go to him. He wouldn’t even know that he would do it. He would just do something. He thought he was the best dancer in the world, but he was the worst dancer in the world. So any time, obviously there was music playing in the locker room and stuff, he would kind of get it in his head and it was entertaining to watch."



Tight end Eric Ebron: "Who makes me laugh? My nephew (Legend Jackson). He does crazy stuff. Just different, man. He reminds me of me, that’s what makes me laugh. He’s hyper. He’s crazy. He just five (on Monday)."



Defensive lineman Larry Webster: "The whole D-line makes me laugh. (In your life?) My family. My friends. We’re always joking around about something. It’s basically everybody. I’m always laughing."



Wide receiver Golden Tate: "Jeremy Ross makes me laugh. (In your life?) Anyone with a good personality. I’m pretty easy to make laugh. I like the witty comments that if you don’t get a certain reference, you won’t get the joke. Like an inside joke with movies and things like that."



Offensive lineman Alex Bullard: "There’s a lot of people that make me laugh, but the person that makes me laugh the most is my best friend (Justin Cash) back home. We’ve known each other for so long and we have our inside jokes. When you’ve been best friends with somebody, you have non-verbal communication that’s funny. We laugh at the same things."



Cornerback Cassius Vaughn: "My wife (Monica). She’s just silly, man. I’ve been with her for so long. ... She’s like my best friend, my everything. She funny. She knows how to make me laugh and keep my mind right. (What does she do?) Anything. You have a bond with somebody for so long, all the mushy stuff go out the door and it’s just we have a good time together and we love that. That’s just how my house is. We have a good time, secure, have a good time making each other laugh and enjoy each other."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Since the start of the offseason and really, continuously for the last decade, the Detroit Lions have been searching for a way to solidify their secondary.

They’ve tried mid-round draft picks coupled with free agent signings, with some minimal success, for the most part.

It worked for Detroit last season, when the Lions signed Rashean Mathis in the middle of training camp. The veteran made the roster and ended up as one of the team’s starters, along with Chris Houston, for the majority of the season.

Florence
Now general manager Martin Mayhew is at it again, hoping he can pull off the same veteran trick for the second straight season. The Lions signed veteran corner Drayton Florence on Thursday. The 33-year-old played one season in Carolina and was an occasional starter.

This is Florence’s second stint with the Lions -- he played eight games during the 2012 season under former coach Jim Schwartz.

This time, this is a signal that the Lions at least have some concern about the depth on the back end of their cornerback chart. Starters Darius Slay and Mathis are locks to make the roster. So, too, is rookie fourth-rounder Nevin Lawson, who is likely a backup cornerback and nickelback this season. Bill Bentley, last season’s starting nickelback, also will likely make the team.

Depending on whether or not the Lions keep five or six cornerbacks, Florence is likely competing with Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood for one or two roster spots. Vaughn and Green have had good moments during training camp; Greenwood has struggled throughout most of it.

If Florence shows he can still play at age 33 – somewhat ancient by standards of cornerbacks – he could end up stealing a spot from one of those guys. Florence also joins Mathis, 33, as the oldest members of the secondary and the defense and second-oldest on the Lions roster in general, behind veteran center Dominic Raiola, who is 35.

Typically, cornerbacks don’t stick this late in their careers, but considering Florence’s experience and skill, he’ll have a shot to make an impact if he shows he can still play. Florence has not been a full-time starter, though, since the 2011 season, when he started all 16 games for Buffalo, making 50 tackles and intercepting three passes.

It will be interesting to see how Detroit uses Florence.

Lions Camp Report: Day 6

August, 2, 2014
Aug 2
3:00
PM ET
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.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – He watched the draft in May, even though he knew the chances of him actually hearing anyone call the name “Mohammed Seisay, defensive back, Nebraska,” was minimal at best. He had some friends who he knew would end up selected, so he wanted to support them.

And how many times can you watch the draft and even have the remote chance of your name being called anyway. Around the seventh round, though, his phone began to ring and he began to relax a little bit more.

“So I knew I had hope,” Seisay said. “And that I’d be able to put a jersey on again. I kind of knew around the seventh round. I knew I wasn’t going to get drafted, but I just wanted an opportunity to showcase.”

Seisay chose the Detroit Lions over other teams pursuing him because he saw the depth chart at cornerback and nickelback and didn’t see many of players with many years of experience. Add to it a new coaching staff where every player is learning the playbook simultaneously and it became an advantageous situation.

Then there was the interest level. Seisay said the Lions showed the most interest and also offered him a $5,000 signing bonus. It might not sound like a lot, but it is a decent signing bonus for an undrafted free agent.

It also gave Seisay what he wanted: A chance. Through the first week, Seisay has made some plays, catching the attention of teammates and coaches. He has run some plays with the second unit at both cornerback and nickel, although he knows the only chance he makes Detroit’s roster is on special teams.

Special teams is where Seisay made the most impact at Nebraska and his bio from the Huskers’ website leads with him being “one of the Huskers’ top special-teams performers,” especially because he played mostly nickel and dime at Nebraska.

Usually players like that rarely end up on NFL rosters, but Seisay did enough on special teams to gain some attention. His height-and-weight combination – 6-foot-2, 206 pounds – helped, too.

“He is one of those guys that has got natural pop. Certainly he’s got toughness. He’s got length and one of those guys he shows up rather quickly,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “As soon as we put the shoulder pads on, he started to show up a little bit more than he did in shorts. A lot of times, that’s when you find out.

“That’s why you have to wait until you get in pads because some guys once they get the pads on, it appears that they play faster certainly because they can add some physicality to it. He’s one of those.”

Seisay still has long odds to make the roster as several corners with more experience are in front of him – not including starters Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay. But there is a bit of a jumble there after the starters and likely nickelback Bill Bentley and rookie Nevin Lawson. Those four are very likely on the roster.

Beyond them, though, there could be a spot or two up for grabs. Seisay could put himself in position for it, or at the very least a spot on the practice squad.

And he believes there are three ways he can make enough of an impression to do it – even if he would have to beat out players with more experience, such as Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood.

“Got reps at corner, got reps at nickel,” Seisay said. “Wanted to come here and make sure I am versatile and that they could put me at corner or nickel. I got three ways of making the team.

“So that’s a better chance of making it than having one position, you know.”

Lions Camp Report: Day 1

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
8:30
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The most important and interesting item to come out of the first day of Lions training camp had nothing to do with anything the team did on the field. Instead, it had everything to do with Detroit's decision to table contract talks with Ndamukong Suh until after the season. The Lions said they decided to do this to make sure the focus remained solely on the season ahead, but they also took attention away from the first day of training camp with an off-the-field issue. At least for Detroit, it can avoid daily questions about it from now on.
  • Rookie linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a bit of a rough day. He injured his thumb during the first half of practice, ending the second round pick's participation in the first training camp practice of his career. He didn't seem too bothered by it, though. “I should be out there (Tuesday),” Van Noy said. Lions coach Jim Caldwell seemed a bit less optimistic, saying “we'll see how he goes the rest of the week.” Caldwell said the team wouldn't be able to determine the extent of the injury until Tuesday.
  • The Lions' secondary had a pretty decent first day in 11-on-11 work. Both Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis broke up passes intended for receiver Golden Tate, and the secondary covered well enough on other plays in the full-team periods to force Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to have to throw dump-off passes to running backs Joique Bell and Reggie Bush instead. It's only one day and they are not in pads yet, but a decent sign for a Lions secondary that needs to put together a few good days early.
  • One of two Lions players who did not practice -- as expected -- was defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. Caldwell said Sunday he did not have a timetable for his return. Ansah spent most of Monday's practice off on the side chatting with folks. When asked about his return, he said he had no idea when he would come back. Another defensive end, Kalonji Kashama, was released by the team Monday.
  • In the battle for receivers not named Tate or Calvin Johnson, both Kris Durham and Kevin Ogletree had nice catches Monday. Ogletree had an impressive catch over the middle -- although he probably would have been drilled by a defensive back had it been a real game. Durham made a nice catch running an out on the sideline as well. In what is expected to be an extremely tight battle, plays like that are going to be noticed every practice.
  • This will be worth paying attention to throughout the first week: Corey Hilliard took snaps at right tackle ahead of LaAdrian Waddle during 11-on-11 periods Monday. Hilliard is more of a veteran than Waddle and Waddle is still expected to win the job, but an interesting small side note on the first day.
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.

Position: Cornerback

[+] EnlargeDarius Slay
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiThis will be a critical year for Darius Slay as the Lions look to shore up their cornerback position.
Starter: Darius Slay, Rashean Mathis

Depth (in training camp): Bill Bentley, Cassius Vaughn, Chris Greenwood, Jonte Green, Nevin Lawson, Aaron Hester, Mohammed Seisay

Likely roster spots: 5-6.

What to expect in camp: This will be one of the most intense battles in training camp, from a starting slot all the way through the end of the roster and even the practice squad. The main reason for this is other than veteran Mathis, none of the cornerbacks on the roster have proven anything with consistency.

Slay will slide into a starter's role in his second season with the club, but his rookie season had the predictable unpredictability. Throughout spring workouts, Slay consistently appeared as a cornerback capable of going through the necessary maturity from his rookie season. Some of that had to do with hints received from his work with Rod Woodson during the offseason.

Beyond Slay and Mathis is a bunch of questions. Bentley should end up as the team's nickel back, although he'll likely be pushed there by safety Don Carey and the rookie Lawson. Expect him to hold on to the job, though, as he is the most confident he has ever been in the pros.

The other outside corners are a major question. Assuming Bentley and Lawson end up at nickel, there will be a couple spots for Vaughn, Greenwood, Green, Hester or undrafted rookie Seisay.

This is where the real competition will come. Vaughn looked the best of the group during the spring, but the team has invested more in Green and Greenwood and they are at the point in their careers where something has to be more consistent for them.

Don't expect all three to make the team, but figure at least one or two of them will end up on the roster. Pay particular attention to this during camp as it would not be surprising to see at least one of them end up in a critical situation in 2014.

What Detroit needs to see: Growth from everyone other than Mathis. The Lions know what they are getting in the veteran, who should have at least one more season of playing at a consistent, decent level.

With pads on and the ability to press, the Lions need to see steps from the other players, though. Both Bentley and Slay have insisted at various points this spring that defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's new defense fits their style of play better -- but they have to prove that now.

If the Lions don't see proper progression from these players, this will be a major, major concern for 2014 and will only call into more question the decisions made by general manager Martin Mayhew to focus more on offense during free agency and early in the draft instead of bolstering the biggest positional question mark on the roster.

The best possible situation for Detroit here is one or two of the cornerbacks behind Slay and Mathis play so well during camp they are no-brainers to keep on the roster, and the four of them can have more reps than everyone else. The other potential good situation for the Lions is that players like Green -- who put himself on a roster bubble after the spring -- to play so well he forces tough decisions for the staff to make on cutdown day in August.

The worst situation is similar to that -- that decisions are tough to make, but mostly because the team is picking from the best of a very mediocre lot of players. Considering the experience levels of the players competing, any of these possibilities could happen.

Don't be surprised if the team signs a veteran here at some point as well, much like they did with Mathis a season ago.

Camp preview: Detroit Lions

July, 17, 2014
Jul 17
10:00
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NFL Nation's Michael Rothstein examines the three biggest issues facing the Detroit Lions heading into training camp:

Offensive knowledge: The Lions looked better over the final two weeks of spring workouts than they did during the first few weeks, when the offense and quarterback Matthew Stafford looked completely out of rhythm. However, there is still a lot of learning and adjusting to go, including the re-entry of receiver Golden Tate and running back Joique Bell into the offense after they sat out part (Tate) or all (Bell) of the spring with injury. By the time training camp begins, the terminology for the new Detroit offense should be down. It'll be the implementation and the repetition of it that likely will still need some work, this time against a defense that eventually will be allowed to bump, press and blitz. The key here, as it always is lately when it comes to Detroit, will be Stafford and his comfort level with the new offense. Most of the players remain the same for him -- but making sure the routes and terminology are correct is going to be one of the most important things for the Lions as they prepare for the season.

What's up at corner: Chris Houston is gone. Darius Slay, barring injury, will almost certainly be a starter in his second year with the Lions. So, too, will Rashean Mathis, who spent almost all of the spring as the cornerback opposite Slay. The question is who ends up behind them. While looking at backups might seem an odd issue for camp, the Lions have been struggling at corner for years now, and having depth there is going to be a key. Bill Bentley will likely end up in the slot -- although expect him to be pushed at least a little by safety Don Carey and rookie Nevin Lawson. The outside cornerback roles, though, will be interesting to see. Cassius Vaughn had a good spring, and the veteran could end up earning a roster spot with a strong summer. Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood both enter their third seasons with the club and could be fighting for one roster spot between the two of them, especially if the Lions choose to keep Vaughn. This is also an area for which Detroit could end up trying to find a veteran upgrade through the free-agent wire, much like the team did with Mathis a season ago. A signing during camp, he turned into the leader of the Lions' cornerbacks and the team's top performer at the position by midseason.

The kicker: For almost two decades, this was not a problem position for the Lions. Jason Hanson showed up to camp. Jason Hanson kicked the ball. Jason Hanson won the job. Simple. Done. Last season, the Lions went with veteran David Akers, a situation that didn't work out. Now, the Lions are hunting for a player they hope will have the same consistency and longevity of Hanson, who retired after the 2012 season. Nate Freese, on whom the team spent a seventh-round pick, and Giorgio Tavecchio, a former Cal kicker who has bounced around training camps the past two years, are the candidates. Tavecchio has the stronger leg. Freese is likely the more accurate kicker and, due to having a draft pick invested, would appear to be the favorite. However, Detroit understands the importance of having a strong kicker. Justin Tucker made six field goals against the Lions last season to help crush their playoff hopes. That was just the latest example of a strong kicker hurting the Lions. So figuring out which player gives the team the best shot will be an underrated -- but vital -- portion of camp.
The Detroit Lions' offseason is already a week old and the team made one somewhat surprising move in releasing cornerback Chris Houston a year after signing him to a $25 million contract.

What else is there to potentially look for before training camp starts in late July? A few things pop up as possibilities between now and then.

Suh
The Suh situation: Whenever team president Tom Lewand has discussed Ndamukong Suh's contract situation, he has pointed to when the Lions signed Matthew Stafford to an extension a year ago. It took until the summer. Well, summer has begun so it would seem to fit when Detroit is hoping to extend its defensive star. If this doesn't happen over the next month or so, it is legitimately time for the Lions to wonder if an extension will happen at all.

A veteran signing: Yes, cornerback Brandon Flowers is on the market, as are a multitude of veteran wide receivers. These seem to be the two areas of need for the Lions at this point and general manager Martin Mayhew has shown in the past he is comfortable making veteran moves to improve his roster whenever necessary. Look at the Rashean Mathis signing from last year. So don't be surprised if there is a little bit of a roster shift between now and training camp. Another player to watch here could be defensive tackle Derek Landri, whom the team brought in earlier this spring.

Warford
Improvement of Larry Warford: Warford told me he is heading to work with his offensive line guru, LeCharles Bentley, for a portion of June and July. It was during this same time frame last year when Warford made the jump into being the player who started every game and played every snap for Detroit in his rookie season. In talking with Warford this spring, he's still not completely happy with his game, so he's headed to Bentley for a tune-up and some tweaks for his second season.

Accountability and the unexpected: Without fail, during every offseason around the NFL, something happens. Before the players left, new head coach Jim Caldwell preached accountability both on the field and off of it. This will be their longest time away from the team until next offseason, so whether his message stuck will be displayed here.

Cool traveling on Twitter and Instagram: This is the time of year where players often take some of their more exotic vacations. Reggie Bush -- it's for a sponsorship thing, it seems -- has been in Australia most of this week. DeAndre Levy is likely headed somewhere interesting as well and he already spent part of that offseason out of the country. Then there's Suh, who will be on television again in an episode of "American Muscle" on July 16 on the Discovery Channel. (It was already filmed with former Michigan strength coach Mike Barwis at Barwis' training facility in suburban Detroit.)
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.

DEFENSIVE END:

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)

DEFENSIVE TACKLE:

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)

LINEBACKER:

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).

CORNERBACK:

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).

SAFETY:

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)

KICKER:

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.

PUNTER:

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.

LONG-SNAPPER:

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.

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