Detroit Lions: Rob Sims

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 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 offensive prediction are in parentheses.


Projected starter: Matthew Stafford (no change)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Dan Orlovsky; Kellen Moore; James Franklin (no changes)

Thoughts: Stafford remains Detroit’s starter and barring injury, that won’t change. Orlovsky will be the No. 2 quarterback – and that probably isn’t changing, either. The main battle in camp will be between Moore and Franklin for the No. 3 spot, if the Lions take a third quarterback. Franklin took no snaps in the spring, but Lions head coach Jim Caldwell indicated he’ll see live game action in the preseason.

Roster locks: Stafford; Orlovsky (add Orlovsky)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Stafford, Orlovsky, Franklin (practice squad) (Franklin from 53-man to practice squad)


Projected starter(s): Reggie Bush/Joique Bell

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller.

Thoughts: Bush and Bell aren’t going anywhere. Riddick was one of the stars of the spring and looks like he’ll end up having a role in the offense beyond special teams this season. Leshoure missed part of spring workouts, so it is tough to say where his role will be this season, if he has one. But Detroit has its first three running backs pretty set right now unless it makes a free-agent move at the position.

Roster locks: Bush, Bell, Riddick (add Riddick)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Bush, Bell, Riddick, Leshoure (no changes)


Projected starter: Jed Collins.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Montell Owens, Chad Abram.

Thoughts: This is a tough position to pick. Collins is the clear favorite heading into camp, although Owens’ spot on the roster could depend how Detroit feels about the rest of its teams units. If there is comfort there from other spots, Owens might be out of a job. If not, the Lions might keep him along with Collins because Owens can be a running back as well. Abram is probably headed toward the practice squad.

Roster locks: None. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Collins, Owens, Abram (practice squad) (add Owens to 53-man, move Abram to practice squad)


Projected starters: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Jeremy Ross, Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, TJ Jones, Corey Fuller, Naaman Roosevelt, Patrick Edwards, Cody Wilson, Andrew Peacock.

Thoughts: This was the spring of Jeremy Ross. He will make the roster at least as the team’s returner but probably showed enough during the spring to at least enter training camp with a good shot at being the team’s third or fourth receiver. Another surprise was Broyles, who if he can stay healthy could end up making a contribution in the fall. He isn’t a roster lock yet, but will certainly get some opportunities. The competition for the third (or fourth) outside receiver will be one to watch in the fall.

Roster locks: Johnson, Tate, Ross (add Ross)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Johnson, Tate, Ross, Durham, Broyles, Jones, Fuller (practice squad). (Add Broyles to roster from PUP, move Fuller from roster to practice squad.)


Projected starters: Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew.

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Joseph Fauria, Jordan Thompson, Jacob Maxwell.

Thoughts: Moving Michael Williams to tackle all but assured Fauria a roster spot in the fall. It also means Detroit is probably going to carry only three tight ends on the roster unless either Thompson or Maxwell makes a massive move during training camp. The other thing benefiting Fauria is Ebron’s struggles with catching the ball at times.

Roster locks: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. (Add Fauria)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria. (Minus Williams)


Projected starters: Riley Reiff (LT); LaAdrian Waddle (RT).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Corey Hilliard, Cornelius Lucas, Michael Williams, J.B. Shugarts, Bryce Quigley.

Thoughts: This position seems fairly settled other than the No. 4 tackle spot. Reiff and Waddle aren’t going anywhere and Hilliard will likely push Waddle for a starting spot. As of now, Lucas has the inside shot on the fourth tackle position.

Roster locks: Reiff, Waddle (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Reiff, Waddle, Hilliard, Lucas.


Projected starters: Rob Sims (LG); Larry Warford (RG).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Rodney Austin, Travis Swanson, Alex Bullard, D.J. Morrell.

Thoughts: Warford is not going anywhere and Rodney Austin had a good enough spring that both he and Swanson might make the roster as swing backups that could end up as starters by 2015 to replace Sims and Dominic Raiola. As long as Sims is healthy, he’ll make this team and start as well. The interesting question might be a practice squad candidate out of this group.

Roster locks: Warford (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Warford, Sims, Austin, Bullard (practice squad)


Projected starter: Dominic Raiola

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Swanson, Austin, Darren Keyton, Bullard.

Thoughts: Raiola is the starter here. Austin and Swanson will eventually compete for the starter’s role. Pretty cut and dry here.

Roster locks: Raiola, Swanson. (no changes)

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Raiola, Swanson.
The Detroit Lions are officially in their final break before training camp starts up at the end of July, but that doesn't mean questions about the team are going to stop.

With minicamp over, if anything, some small answers are starting to emerge about the 2014 roster. We touch on that and more in this week's Mailbag.

To ask a question for the Mailbag -- which will also take a summer hiatus at some point -- email or use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter.

@mikerothstein: As of now, I wouldn't expect any big surprises. Three positions are set barring injury -- Riley Reiff at left tackle, Dominic Raiola at center and Larry Warford at right guard. Left guard should still belong to Rob Sims as long as he is able to play, although the reps Rodney Austin received in the spring could help him push to make it a competition early in camp. Right tackle is the only place really up for grabs. LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard both started games last season and split first team reps there in the spring. My feeling is Waddle ends up winning the job, but this battle will end up going down to the last preseason game. Don't expect many surprises as far as who makes the 53-man roster, either.

@mikerothstein: Already been answered. Chris Houston was released Friday.

@mikerothstein: Are there receivers available? Sure there are. The question is all about dollars and sense for the Lions here. They need to either restructure contracts or re-sign Ndamukong Suh to open enough money for the Eric Ebron rookie deal. They'll also need to leave some money as a cushion due to injuries or perhaps a defensive back. Considering Ebron can play on the outside as a receiver, don't know if the need is truly there. Detroit has Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Ebron and even Jeremy Ross who can play on the outside. The Lions will likely have Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Naaman Roosevelt and Corey Fuller to play on the outside, too. Can they find someone on the open market better than one of those guys? Maybe, but probably not at a price that would be logical. For your question, Danario Alexander would probably be the most attractive option, but he is a major, major injury risk. 

Joe from Parts Unknown asks The Lions surely have a lot of talent but the NFC is loaded and it seems they don't have a great shot to make the playoffs this year. If they were in another division or even in the AFC, do you think they'd have a better chance to win a division or make the playoffs? Thanks!


Interesting question. Let's start with the NFC. The Lions would not do well in the NFC West with San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona all lurking there (assuming they'd replace St. Louis). The NFC South could be manageable, but New Orleans is a step above the Lions. The NFC East would be a good landing spot. The Giants are beatable. Dallas, on paper, seems very ordinary. Washington has a new coach. Philadelphia would be the biggest challenger there, but the Lions could hang with the Eagles. In the NFL in general, the NFC East might be the best spot. The AFC East still has New England. The AFC South has Indianapolis and the AFC North has Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore. For this season, the AFC West has some guy named Peyton Manning and the Broncos, along with Kansas City and San Diego. So to sum up, the Lions' best shots would be the NFC East or AFC South.

Cannon from Decatur, Georgia, asks why won't Detroit take the time to reinforce their secondary? Last season they suffered tremendously in the back field.

They did reinforce their secondary -- kind of. They replace Louis Delmas with James Ihedigbo, who is clearly a safer, more reliable option. They did add Cassius Vaughn in free agency and while he isn't going to end up as a starter, he could provide decent depth if he makes the 53-man roster. Plus, they re-signed Rashean Mathis, who could end up starting again. I've been one of the biggest supporters of adding to the secondary, however, after watching OTAs and minicamp I'm much more impressed than I expected to be with Detroit's secondary. Whether that says more about the Lions' offense of their defense is up for debate. Depending what happens with Houston, it wouldn't stun me if Detroit did add another secondary piece at either corner or safety, but not yet.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions offseason officially began around 1 p.m. on Thursday afternoon, when Jim Caldwell finished his final media obligation of the spring and the players all shuttled off to begin a six-week break.

When they reconvene, things will become much more serious at the Lions’ facility to start training camp and prepare for the 2014 season. But there were some things to learn throughout the time Detroit spent here in the spring, both from an installation perspective and from who might actually see an increased role come the fall.

Here are some thoughts on the final day of minicamp -- and of the offseason program as a whole.
  • Ross
    Jeremy Ross had the most impressive minicamp/organized team activities session of any player -- at least from what the media was able to see. He established himself as the team’s returner and spent enough time on the first team that he is going to have a role in the offense as well this fall. Yes, Golden Tate's absence had something to do with the amount of snaps Ross saw, but his speed and size make him attractive as a player who can be used in the slot and on the outside.
  • The player of the final day of minicamp might have been Joseph Fauria. The tight end caught multiple touchdown passes in team drills and used his size well in the red zone. Some of the touchdowns were over undrafted free agents, but he needed to have a good camp and he did that.
  • Conversely, Eric Ebron had what seemed to be a rough indoctrination to the NFL. He struggled with dropped passes throughout OTAs and mandatory minicamp, including two drops on the final day of practice. Drops were an issue for him at North Carolina, so to see him continue this trend during his first few weeks as a professional should be at least a little bit concerning to the Lions. That said, it is still early and he is clearly still learning everything, so it could be an issue of just overthinking on routes and not letting instincts take over. This will be a situation worth monitoring during training camp.
  • Waddle
    Right tackle is going to be a competition, and it could last all the way through the end of camp. LaAdrian Waddle and Corey Hilliard essentially split first-team snaps throughout the spring practices, and Caldwell did not give an indication one player or another was going to win the job anytime soon. Tough to see Cornelius Lucas winning the job, but the undrafted free agent could end up playing his way into the conversation at some point. His size alone makes him attractive. This will be the spot to watch on the line in camp. If Rob Sims doesn’t come into camp healthy, left guard could be a spot to pay attention to as well.
  • The defense looked a lot better than the offense Thursday -- a day after the offense looked incredibly sharp. There were not a lot of big plays on the defense, but the secondary broke up a lot of passes throughout the morning session. Seeing something like this is fine by Caldwell, because he almost expected the offense and defense to rotate having good practices. Makes it more competitive that way. The defense was particularly stout in the two-minute offense, where it held the offense to three-and-out on two straight possessions.
  • Giorgio Tavecchio rebounded from his rough Tuesday practice to make all of his kicks Thursday. Nate Freese didn’t fare as well, missing at least one field goal attempt and almost missing an extra point. Caldwell seemed fine with how both kickers have performed thus far in the spring, and it sounds like both will enter camp with a shot at the job.
  • One player who saw no action during the entire spring was James Franklin, the undrafted free agent quarterback from Missouri. He took no snaps at quarterback during team drills in any practice open to the media. Why? Just not enough reps. It will be interesting to see how he does in July and August, because it sounds like a lot of his snaps will actually come in preseason games from the way Caldwell spoke.
  • Spent some time watching Nick Fairley on Thursday since it will be the last time we see him until training camp. The weight loss really is staggering. He looks much more explosive than he was at any point last season, and he’s just moving a lot better. He is still bigger than Ndamukong Suh, but he looks like he can keep up with him more.
  • It will be interesting to see where Devin Taylor fits into the defense. He will definitely have a role, but he couldn’t compete much at the closed end position because he spent a lot of time with the first group at open end since Ezekiel Ansah did not practice. Taylor could play either spot and even some on the inside. He’s going to see more snaps in 2014 than he did in 2013 -- that’s a fairly confident prediction right now.
  • The defensive aggression will fit the secondary well. They were making plays on the ball and being smart about their reads and coverage. This is without the ability to really bump receivers at the line or press receivers at all. When they are able to do that, the Lions will likely become even more aggressive. Much different than a season ago.
  • Attendance report from practice: Not there at all: Stephen Tulloch, T.J. Jones, Chris Houston. There but not participating: Tate, Mikel Leshoure, Joique Bell, Ansah, Kevin Ogletree.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – There is now one day left.

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

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

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


[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions have used the offseason to add weapons to their offense for starting QB Matthew Stafford.
Projected starter: Matthew Stafford

Backups (in projected depth-chart order for now): Dan Orlovsky; Kellen Moore; James Franklin.

Thoughts: This is one of the most stable positions on the roster. The Lions have an entrenched starter in Stafford who the entire focus of offseason building appeared to be around. Orlovsky is a capable backup who has some starting experience. The third quarterback will come down to Moore or Franklin. That decision will depend on whether the team feels there is reason to continue to invest in Moore for a third season.

Roster locks: Stafford.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Stafford, Orlovsky, Franklin (practice squad)


Projected starter: Reggie Bush/Joique Bell

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Theo Riddick, Mikel Leshoure, Steven Miller

Thoughts: Like quarterback, there is some stability at this position. Bush and Bell are locked up for a decent stretch and they were an effective tandem last season. They should be even more so this season as they will likely get less carries but more touches with short passes. Riddick, as long as he can still be an effective special teams player, should also have a roster spot. Leshoure is an interesting situation because if Detroit emulates New Orleans, it will need more than two main backs.

Roster locks: Bush, Bell

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Bush, Bell, Riddick, Leshoure


Projected starter: Jed Collins

Backups (in projected depth-order): Montell Owens, Chad Abram

Thoughts: The Lions, crazy as it sounds, might keep two fullbacks on the roster -- mostly for special teams. They will certainly keep one, and Collins seems like a front-runner because he is less expensive and already understands the likely playbook. Plus, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi knows him and clearly trusts him to bring him in. Owens’ hybrid abilities make him intriguing, and Abram was a special teams dynamo at Florida State.

Roster locks: None

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


Projected starters: Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Kevin Ogletree, Jeremy Ross, TJ Jones, Naaman Roosevelt, Corey Fuller, Patrick Edwards, Andrew Peacock.

Thoughts: There are a lot of players here for not many available spots. Working on the assumption Johnson and Tate are going nowhere and Ross takes up a place as a return man, that might leave 2-3 spots for the rest. How the receivers shake out could be one of the most interesting battles of OTAs, minicamp and training camp. This is also a position where the Lions could go grab an unexpected free agent.

Roster locks: Johnson, Tate

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Johnson, Tate, Ross, Durham, Jones, Broyles (PUP), Fuller
(practice squad), Peacock (practice squad).


Projected starters: Eric Ebron, Brandon Pettigrew

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Joseph Fauria, Michael Williams, Jacob Maxwell, Jordan Thompson

Thoughts: There might be a lot of tight ends in camp, but when you look at experience, that number thins out a lot. Ebron and Pettigrew are the likely unquestioned starters and should end up on the field at least 75 percent of the time each by midseason. Fauria is the biggest question here, the decision will be based on how much he has improved in the offseason. Anyone else who makes the roster is on special teams.

Roster locks: Pettigrew, Ebron

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Ebron, Pettigrew, Fauria, Williams.


Projected starters: Riley Reiff (LT); LaAdrian Waddle (RT)

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Corey Hilliard, J.B. Shugarts, Cornelius Lucas

Thoughts: This is a tricky position right now. There is not a ton of depth here, but Hilliard could present an interesting case if it ends up being a close battle for either the starting right tackle slot or depth. Lucas could end up being Waddle-like in how he surprises people throughout camp. As long as Waddle builds on last season, though, he should end up as the starter.

Roster locks: Reiff, Waddle

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Reiff, Waddle, Hilliard, Lucas.


Projected starters: Rob Sims (LG); Larry Warford (RG).

Backups (in projected depth-chart order): Rodney Austin, Darren Keyton, Alex Bullard, D.J. Morrell.

Thoughts: Didn’t put third-round pick Travis Swanson at guard, because he’s going to project as the backup to Dominic Raiola at center. Warford is set, and barring someone showing very well over the next month, so is Sims. After that, it's murky. The Lions clearly liked Austin enough to keep him around last season when Tennessee tried to take him off the practice squad. Bullard is intriguing because he can play all five offensive line slots.

Roster locks: Warford.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Warford, Sims, Austin, Bullard (practice squad).


Starter: Dominic Raiola.

Backups: Travis Swanson.

Thoughts: Raiola should end up being the starter here this season. He will groom Swanson to take over in either 2015 or 2016, depending on Raiola’s play in 2014.

Roster locks: Raiola, Swanson.

If picking the roster today, these guys would be on it: Raiola, Swanson.
Of all the position groupings we've already looked at in terms of salary-cap numbers and percentages, the way the Lions have handled the offensive line has been the most intriguing.

Using the time frame from 2010, the Lions have actually spent less in the past two seasons on the offensive line than they did in the three before that and it is very easy to argue that the Lions' offensive line in 2013 -- and, theoretically, 2014 -- will be better than what the team was paying for from 2010 to 2012.


A combination of retirements (Jeff Backus) and high-priced contracts coming due and not being renewed (Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman) left Detroit with a lot of cheaper, younger linemen. They also, thus far, have turned out to be better.

[+] EnlargeLarry Warford
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsCounting just $714,250 against the cap this season, guard Larry Warford is a bargain for the Lions.
Should the Lions continue to hold on to last year's rookie offensive line class of Larry Warford and LaAdrian Waddle, the amount of money the team spends on the line will once again rise. If you're looking for a reason why Detroit could be good in 2014, it could start here, where the team is not yet paying a lot of money for talent on the line, meaning they could spend more on skill position players and on defense.

A reminder, numbers are from ESPN Stats & Information and in years other than 2014, these numbers reflect the end-of-season roster.

Prior cap studies: Running back; Wide Receiver; Tight end

Total numbers: $12,322,683 (cap value); 18.96 percent (offensive cap percentage); 8.90 percent (total cap percentage); $9,631,700 (cash value).

By players:

  • Rob Sims: $3,775 million (cap value); 5.81 percent (offensive cap); 2.73 percent (total cap).
  • Riley Reiff: $2,180,100 (cap value); 3.35 percent (offensive cap); 1.57 percent (total cap).
  • Corey Hilliard: $1.9 million (cap value); 2.92 percent (offensive cap); 1.37 percent (total cap).
  • Dominic Raiola: $1.5 million (cap value); 2.31 percent (offensive cap); 1.08 percent (total cap).
  • Larry Warford: $714,250 (cap value); 1.10 percent (offensive cap); .52 percent (total cap).
  • LaAdrian Waddle: $498,333 (cap value); .77 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Rodney Austin: $495,000 (cap value); .76 percent (offensive cap); .36 percent (total cap).
  • Darren Keyton: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • J.B. Shugarts: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
  • Sherman Carter: $420,000 (cap value); .65 percent (offensive cap); .30 percent (total cap).
Total numbers: $13,221,451 (cap value); 22.32 percent (offensive cap); 12.63 (total cap); $10,147,468 (cash value).

By players:

  • Sims: $3.425 million (cap value); 5.78 percent (offensive cap); 3.27 percent (total cap).
  • Raiola: $3,012,500 (cap value); 5.09 percent (offensive cap); 2.88 percent (total cap).
  • Reiff: $1,816,750 (cap value); 3.07 percent (offensive cap); 1.74 percent (total cap).
  • Jason Fox: $1.323 million (cap value); 2.23 percent (offensive cap); 1.26 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $980,000 (cap value); 1.65 percent (offensive cap); .94 percent (total cap).
  • Leroy Harris: $937,500 (cap value); 1.58 percent (offensive cap); .90 percent (total cap).
  • Dylan Gandy: $620,000 (cap value); 1.05 percent (offensive cap); .59 percent (total cap).
  • Warford: $579,250 (cap value); .98 percent (offensive cap); .55 percent (total cap).
  • Waddle: $408,333 (cap value); .69 percent (offensive cap); .39 percent (total cap).
  • Austin: $119,118 (cap value); .20 percent (offensive cap); .11 percent (total cap).
Total numbers: $22,771,263 (cap value); 36.65 percent (offensive cap); 18.88 percent (total cap); $22,005,660 (cash value).

By players:

  • Raiola: $5,417,460 (cap value); 8.69 percent (offensive cap); 4.49 percent (total cap).
  • Gosder Cherilus: $3,969,960 (cap value); 6.37 percent (offensive cap); 3.29 percent (total cap).
  • Stephen Peterman: $3,282,960 (cap value); 5.27 percent (offensive cap); 2.72 (total cap).
  • Sims: $3,079,960 (cap value); 4.94 percent (offensive cap); 2.55 percent (total cap).
  • Jeff Backus: $2,354,340 (cap value); 3.78 percent (offensive cap); 1.95 percent (total cap).
  • Reiff: $1,453,400 (cap value); 2.33 percent (offensive cap); 1.21 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $1,264,960 (cap value); 2.03 percent (offensive cap); 1.05 percent (total cap).
  • Gandy: $1,004,960 (cap value); 1.61 percent (offensive cap); .83 percent (total cap).
  • Fox: $655,263 (cap value); 1.05 percent (offensive cap); .54 percent (total cap).
  • Bill Nagy: $288,000 (cap value); .46 percent (offensive cap); .24 percent (total cap).
Total numbers: $21,474,971 (cap value); 33.93 percent (offensive cap); 18.35 percent (total cap); $21,234,967 (cash value).

By players:

  • Backus: $6,723,178 (cap value); 10.62 percent (offensive cap); 5.75 percent (total cap).
  • Raiola: $4,412,500 (cap value); 6.97 percent (offensive cap); 3.77 percent (total cap).
  • Peterman: $3.028 million (cap value); 4.78 percent (offensive cap); 2.59 percent (total cap).
  • Sims: $2.725 million (cap value); 4.31 percent (offensive cap); 2.33 percent (total cap).
  • Cherilus: $2.145 million (cap value); 3.39 percent (offensive cap); 1.83 percent (total cap).
  • Gandy: $835,000 (cap value); 1.32 percent (offensive cap); .71 percent (total cap).
  • Fox: $560,302 (cap value); .89 percent (offensive cap); .48 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $525,000 (cap value); .83 percent (offensive cap); .45 percent (total cap).
  • Johnny Culbreath: $273,933 (cap value); .43 percent (offensive cap); .23 percent (total cap).
  • Leonard Davis: $247,058 (cap value); .39 percent (offensive cap); .21 percent (total cap).

Total numbers: $24,318,624 (cap value); 33.36 percent (offensive cap); 21.30 percent (total cap); $24,570,553 (cash value).

By players:

  • Backus: $8,773,176 (cap value); 12.03 percent (offensive cap); 7.68 percent (total cap).
  • Cherilus: $4,585 million (cap value); 6.29 percent (offensive cap); 4.02 percent (total cap).
  • Raiola: $3,412,500 (cap value); 4.68 percent (offensive cap); 2.99 percent (total cap).
  • Peterman: $2.528 million (cap value); 3.47 percent (offensive cap); 2.21 percent (total cap).
  • Sims: $2.376 million (cap value); 3.26 percent (offensive cap); 2.08 percent (total cap).
  • Gandy: $1.176 million (cap value); 1.61 percent (offensive cap); 1.03 percent (total cap).
  • Hilliard: $545,000 (cap value); .75 percent (offensive cap); .48 percent (total cap).
  • Fox: $430,302 (cap value); .59 percent (offensive cap); .38 percent (total cap).
  • Trevor Canfield: $225,000 (cap value); .31 percent (offensive cap); .20 percent (total cap).
  • Donald Thomas: $139,411 (cap value); .19 percent (offensive cap); .12 percent (total cap).
  • Tony Ugoh: $128,235 (cap value); .18 percent (offensive cap); .11 percent (total cap).
Every day we’ll take a look at one of the Detroit Lions heading for free agency, what he has meant to the team before and a prognosis on whether or not he’ll be back with the club in 2014.

To view the entire series to date, click this link.

Free agent to be: Leroy Harris

Position: Offensive guard

Age: 29

Years in the league: 7

What he made last season: $937,500 (cap number); $1,050,000 (cash value); $800,000 (base salary); $225,000 (signing bonus); $25,000 (roster bonus).

What he did last season: Harris played in one game last season -- the season finale -- and was otherwise inactive for the majority of the season. He was brought in to be a reserve guard and possibly push -- or win -- the starting right guard spot that eventually went to rookie Larry Warford. The third-round pick from Kentucky played every snap last season and Dylan Gandy was his backup, so Harris really didn’t have a role on game day with the Lions.

His potential market value: Some team might have interest in him as a free agent past the first tier of players. He spent the first six years of his career with Tennessee and was a starter for the Titans in 2010 and 2011. So there could be some value there for him when he heads to free agency, but he won’t be someone who will be signed immediately.

Will he fit the Lions still: Not much. The team barely used him last season and released him earlier this month. Detroit feels confident with what it has as its starting guards -- Warford and Rob Sims -- and also have a reserve guard in Rodney Austin that they want to give a shot to. They might look into bringing in a cheap veteran as well, but it won’t be Harris.

What happens: Harris will be in an NFL camp next season, but it will be somewhere other than with the Lions. He is a recent free agent and a released veteran, so he can sign anywhere. Where that is will remain a question for a little while, probably through next week.
Recruiting has been deemed a completely inexact proposition seemingly forever. Guys who are highly rated don’t pan out. Guys who were walk-ons turn into NFL players and, sometimes, stars.

So as teams across the country sign players Wednesday, here’s a look back at where the Detroit Lions were ranked when they were high school seniors. For rankings from 2006 forward, the rankings used are ESPN’s rankings. From 2002 to 2006, we used the rankings.

In some cases, no rankings were available. If something is not denoted as coming from another site, it is ESPN’s ranking from that year.

What you’ll see is most of Detroit’s players were not highly-rated players coming out of high school. Some had no ranking at all. Just goes to show how blue chip recruits in high school don’t always turn into top-level college or NFL players.

This post covers the offense. The next post will cover the defense and specialists. Running backs:
  • Reggie Bush (2003): No. 1 running back per; No. 2 overall player per Signed with USC.
  • Joique Bell (2005): Not listed anywhere among the Rivals rankings for the 2005 class. Signed with Wayne State.
  • Theo Riddick (2009): No. 48 athlete; No. 65 in his region (the Northeast). Signed with Notre Dame.
  • Mikel Leshoure (2008): Not ranked at all by the ESPN rankings. No. 28 running back by Signed with Illinois.
  • Montell Owens (2002): No information on his recruitment was available. Signed with Maine.
  • Steven Miller (2009): Not rated in 2009 out of high school when he signed with Nassau Community College. Not rated in 2011 when he signed with Appalachian State.
Wide Receivers:
  • Calvin Johnson (2004): No. 6 wide receiver by and No. 37 overall player. (If you’re curious, Early Doucet was the No. 1 receiver in his class according to Rivals.) Signed with Georgia Tech.
  • Nate Burleson (2000): Can’t find a ranking for Burleson from 2000, but here’s an interesting story about his recruitment from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Signed with Nevada.
  • Kris Durham (2006): No. 66 receiver. No. 200 player in his region. Signed with Georgia.
  • Kevin Ogletree (2005): No. 59 wide receiver according to Signed with Virginia.
  • Jeremy Ross (2006): No. 174 wide receiver. Signed with Cal.
  • Micheal Spurlock (2001): Nothing available from a rankings or story perspective. Signed with Mississippi.
  • Ryan Broyles (2007): Rated as the No. 58 wide receiver in his class. Signed with Oklahoma.
  • Cody Wilson (2009): Not rated in 2009. Signed with Central Michigan.
  • Corey Fuller (2008): Not rated by either service. Signed with Kansas on a track scholarship. Transferred to Virginia Tech for football. Was an indoor All-American in track in high school.
  • Patrick Edwards (2007): Not rated by either service. Was a walk-on at Houston.
Tight ends:
  • Brandon Pettigrew (2004): Was not ranked by with a number. A two-star recruit by Rivals. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Joseph Fauria (2008): No. 15 tight end. Signed with Notre Dame (eventually transferred to UCLA).
  • Michael Williams (2008): No. 26 tight end and No. 20 player in Alabama. Signed with Alabama.
  • Matt Veldman (2007): Not rated by ESPN or by Rivals. Signed with North Dakota State.
  • Dorin Dickerson (2006): No. 11 wide receiver in his class and No. 74 prospect overall.
Offensive linemen:
  • Dominic Raiola (1997): No available recruiting rankings, but he was the first player from Hawaii to accept a scholarship to Nebraska, according to the Nebraska website.
  • Rob Sims (2002): No. 20 offensive guard according to Signed with Ohio State.
  • Riley Reiff (2008): Rated as the No. 84 defensive end. Signed with Iowa.
  • Larry Warford (2009): Rated as the No. 51 offensive guard. Signed with Kentucky.
  • Corey Hilliard (2003): Not rated by number as an offensive tackle in his class by Rated as a two-star recruit. Signed with Oklahoma State.
  • Jason Fox (2006): Rated as the No. 22 tight end. Signed with Miami (Fla.).
  • Leroy Harris (2002): Rated as the No. 42 defensive tackle by Signed with N.C. State.
  • Rodney Austin (2007): Not rated by or Rivals in his class. Signed with Elon.
  • Dylan Gandy (2000): Not rated by any service I could find, but here’s an interesting story from when he was drafted with some backstory of how he ended up at Texas Tech.
  • LaAdrian Waddle (2009): Rated as the No. 19 offensive tackle in his class and the No. 43 player in the Midlands. Signed with Texas Tech.
A coach has been hired. A staff is being filled out. The Detroit Lions' offseason and planning for the 2014 season is officially here.

To start that process, we will look at each position group over the next two weeks, analyze what worked and what didn’t before projecting what could happen between now and training camp in 2014, which is only a mere seven or so months away.

Today the series continues with wide receivers.

Previous positions: Quarterbacks; Running backs; Wide receivers; Tight ends; Offensive tackles.

2014 free agents: Dylan Gandy; Dominic Raiola

The good: There’s a lot to like here for Detroit. Larry Warford was possibly the steal of the draft in the third round in 2013. He played every snap this season and became one of the best right guards in the league. He didn’t allow a sack -- one of 11 guards to accomplish that. Rob Sims allowed only one sack this season according to Pro Football Focus. Dominic Raiola had arguably the best season of his career. He didn’t allow a sack and graded out as the second-best center in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. He was one of eight centers, according to PFF, to not allow a sack this season.

The bad: According to PFF, Sims graded out negatively for the season in run blocking, but the Lions did have a 1,000-yard rusher in Reggie Bush and a 650-yard season from Joique Bell. That is about the only negative you can say about the interior of Detroit’s offensive line this season. Warford and Raiola were particularly strong and Raiola might have played his way into extending his career with the Lions.

The money (using 2014 cap numbers from Roster Management System): Sims is entering the final year of his deal and is slated to make $3.775 million against the cap, the highest of any returning lineman. Leroy Harris, who played in one game this season, is slated to make $2,062,500 against the cap entering the final season of his deal. Detroit’s other two returning guards, Warford and Rodney Austin, are on the cheap and their first deals. Warford is slated to make $714,250 against the cap and Austin $495,000.

What Caldwell might favor: At guard, it is tough to say what Caldwell truly favors from a body type, although he does seem to favor having one guard who is taller -- more like a tackle -- than a shorter guard. That said, it is tough to see the Lions moving on from Sims or Warford this season, so any shaping of the line will be done from depth. At center, he appears to like bigger centers as Jeff Saturday was 6-foot-2, 295 and Gino Gradkowski was 6-foot-3, 300 pounds.

Potential cuts: Harris is likely a clear restructure-or-go case. He won’t beat out Sims or Warford for the starting guard spots and Austin has potential as a backup. If the Lions bring back Gandy -- and he has some familiarity with Caldwell from their shared time in Indianapolis -- there isn’t much reason for keeping Harris around when he didn’t play a season ago at the money he is slated to be making.

Draft priority: Expect the Lions to draft a center somewhere in the middle rounds in May -- perhaps a little higher if Detroit chooses to move on from Raiola. Gabe Ikard, from Oklahoma, is an intriguing prospect. Bryan Stork is the Rimington Trophy winner and could be an interesting choice as well.

Numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information and Roster Management System.
Each week during the season, we'll chat with a different Detroit Lions player or coach for a look at their lives on and off the field in a feature called "Ten(ish) Questions With ..."

Previous Ten(ish) Questions With...: RB Theo Riddick; DE Devin Taylor; TE Joseph Fauria; LB Tahir Whitehead; CB Darius Slay; QB Shaun Hill; WR Kevin Ogletree; C Dominic Raiola; WR Kris Durham; DT Justin Bannan; TE Brandon Pettigrew

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Since Rob Sims arrived in Detroit from Seattle, he has become a stalwart on the offensive line next to center Dominic Raiola. Combined, the two are the veterans of a Lions offensive line that has protected Matthew Stafford well throughout the season.

When Sims isn’t trying to protect Stafford and open holes for Detroit’s running backs, he is either spending time with his family or cooking for them and others.

We caught up with Sims to chat about his grilling prowess for this week’s Q&A.

[+] EnlargeRob Sims
Scott Boehm/AP PhotoWhen not on the football field, Detroit Lions guard Rob Sims enjoys spending time with his family and grilling out.
What’s your favorite football memory?

Rob Sims: Any time? I’d say winning the national championship in college (at Ohio State). That was big, you know. I was a true freshman. I was able to start in that game and it really defined my career collegiately, you know. I’d say that.

Defined your career as a freshman?

Sims: It put me on the map, you know what I mean. Put me on the map.

How do you feel about this guy (Rodney Austin was peering over the shoulders)?

Sims: It’s one day at a time.

What’s your favorite thing to do away from football, when you’re not playing?

Sims: Just chilling with my kids. I’ve got two young kids that are starting to come to the age where they sit down with me to watch a movie. I don’t have to run around with them. That’s a lot of fun right now. I love basketball, have season tickets for the Pistons.

Why'd you get tickets for the Pistons?

Sims: We make our home here. We are here. So us being here, with the Pistons, we feel it’s important to support other teams and we try to come to Tigers games and stuff like that.

So when you’re watching movies with your kids, is it the same movie over and over?

Sims: Oh man. Yeah. It goes in cycles. It started off with "Wreck It Ralph," when "Wreck It Ralph" came out, we were all about "Wreck It Ralph." I’m trying to get (Mikaella) to the next, "Despicable Me 2" but she doesn’t want to go from "Despicable Me 1." She kind of runs the show. I’m like, ‘Hey, do you want to watch this?’ She’d say, ‘Yeah, Daddy.’ Then, we end up watching whatever. She’ll change two or three times.

Does she understand the movies or is it, oh, cool, cartoons?

Sims: I don’t think she understands some of the little jokes they make that are adult jokes, obviously, but she’ll be running around singing the songs all the time and then my little boy, he'll be sitting there ooh and ahh over the colors.

Besides hanging out with your kids, what do you do, what’s your hobby?

Sims: I like to grill a lot. Like smoke different food. Cook, stuff like that I do a lot of.

Are you any good?

Sims: Pretty good. I think Dylan Gandy’s better, but I’m a close second.

So what’s your go-to?

Sims: The guys will come over and we’ll make ribs. We’ll do chicken wings. Me and Dylan have done like a pulled pork before. We’ve never done a brisket together. I’ve done a brisket and it’s not very good. But he’s better at it.

When did you start grilling?

Sims: My dad was real big into it. Growing up, my uncles, it was kind of a pastime of ours, rain, sleet or snow, we were always out there doing it.

Before your dad passed away, did he kind of teach you everything or did you pick it up later?

Sims: He taught me a lot of that stuff. They always had me doing a lot of that stuff, always telling me I need to get my license. It was a big joke they always had. We had fun with it.

How old were you when you first grilled?

Sims: I had to be young. Had to be early teens, you know. 13, 14 years old.

So what was your grill job as a kid?

Sims: Runner. Yeah, like, go run inside and get me this sauce. Or go inside and get me this seasoning.

What is your specialty?

Sims: My ribs are pretty good.

How do you do it?

Sims: I smoke them for an hour and a half at a low temperature, wrap them in foil and then put them back on for about an hour until they get really tender. Then I usually boil my sauce and let them sit in the sauce for a little bit and boil.

Do you make your own sauce?

Sims: No, I use some different stuff. There’s some stuff out right now, it’s called Barlow’s. It’s really good barbeque sauce.

How’d you find it?

Sims: Just being in a specialty market. Had some time to do some stuff and I ran into the guy and tasted it. Actually had the guy come to my house and cook for us one time. It was kind of cool. The guy who makes the sauce. He’s a Michigan guy.
Question of the Week is a feature where we ask different Detroit Lions the same question on various topics -- some funny, some issue-based, some football-related and some completely off the wall. To suggest a potential question for QOTW, email or make the suggestion on Twitter @mikerothstein

Previous QOTW: Pregame meal; Favorite Holiday; Historical figure; Free year’s supply of; Why you wear your number; Best Halloween costume; TV character; Super Hero alter ego; Cake...or Steak?; Entrance music; Nicknamed jerseys.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- For every NFL player, there will come a time where playing football will no longer be an option. Be it talent or age or just the end of a career, eventually, every player must transition into something else.

But what if football were never an option -- at least on the professional level. What would some Detroit Lions have done then?

We caught up with some Lions to ask them for this week’s Question of the Week.

LB Rocky McIntosh: I’d be a FBI agent. That’s my dream, man. Oh yeah. Just have that power and authority and be secretive and do a lot of things like that.

Reporter: Are you going to do that when you’re done?

McIntosh: I interned down there and go visit those guys all the time and shoot with them and things like that, but probably not.

[+] EnlargeWillie Young
AP Photo/John CordesIf football hadn't been an option, Lions defensive end Willie Young might have tried his hand at building custom fishing rods.
DE Willie Young: Take one guess? Right now I would be home in my buddy’s garage, Ryan Chance, and we would be building custom rods right now and shipping them out and getting ready to go catch some sailfish.

Reporter: That’d be pretty cool and I know you want to get into fishing. Are you building rods now?

Young: I’m going to get into that process with my buddy when I get back, man. He’s building right now and he’s built a few rods for me. He actually built the rod I have on my Twitter page, that one blue one, he made that rod for me. I’ve got my name on it, got the Lions logo on it, blue, silver and grey, I think it is. That’s definitely what I’ll be doing. When I get back home, just start doing that. I guess some time I’m going to set up a class to go get my captain’s license so I can start a small charter thing. Get a couple buddies to come down and, you know, just have a good time.

QB Kellen Moore: If football is not the option, then I probably wouldn’t be coaching. If I could be coaching, then I’d do that. If not, then I’d be a teacher.

Reporter: What would you teach?

Moore: I don’t know. Math or PE. Some sort of fun thing in school. History. I don’t know.

LG Rob Sims: Probably something in the car industry. Growing up, my uncle owned a couple car dealerships when I was younger. That’s what I want to do when I’m done playing. I’d probably be working towards that in some way.

Reporter: So selling cars? Like you’re the guy on the floor?

Sims: If I wasn’t playing football, I would be starting off selling cars, I would assume. And then eventually be an owner of some sort.

P Sam Martin: I obviously couldn’t have done it right out of college but I did a big project on franchising and you’ve got to have serious capital for that, which I couldn’t do. But I would have worked somehow towards being able to franchise. The ultimate goal.

Reporter: What would you have franchised?

Martin: One of the ones I looked into was Jimmy John’s. Jimmy John’s in a good one. Chik-Fil-A is a good one. But I really don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. I’m actually trying to figure out my life right now for when it’s time to make that decision.
Question of the Week is a feature where we ask different Detroit Lions the same question on various topics -- some funny, some issue-based, some football-related and some completely off the wall. To suggest a potential question for QOTW, email or make the suggestion on Twitter @mikerothstein

Previous QOTW: Favorite holiday; Historical figure; Free year's supply of; Why you wear your number; Best Halloween costume; TV character; Super hero alter ego; Cake...or Steak?; Entrance music; Nicknamed jerseys.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Food is often a popular topic among players. Meals are important, from what they put into their bodies throughout the week to having foods named after them at local restaurants.

And when they go on the road, what do they eat?

We spoke with some Detroit Lions players about what their pregame or night before the game meal was for this edition of Question of the Week.

C Dominic Raiola: Night before, burger. I call those free calories because we burn them off anyway. Pregame, chicken breast, an egg white omelet, that’s about it.

Reporter: Always done that?

Raiola: I used to eat steaks before games. Filets. But I started eating chicken breast. I don’t know. I think I did it one week and we kept winning. I’m superstitious like that.

WR Nate Burleson: I eat pretty much the same thing. It’s usually just a light breakfast. We’ll go with some eggs and bacon. Little bit of potatoes to hold me down. But really, I like being hungry at halftime.

Reporter: Why?

Burleson: When I’m full, I don’t feel like I’m fast. So that way I always eat a big meal after the game. Starving.

RB Theo Riddick: I don’t really have one. Night before I probably won’t eat that much and the day of, I won’t even eat. It all depends.

Reporter: Why?

Riddick: Just something I’ve always did since I was a kid. Just, I don’t know. It’s weird.

Reporter: You’d think you want energy.

Riddick: Yeah, I mean, it doesn’t affect me in any sense. I’m not really a morning person, don’t really eat breakfast.

S Glover Quin: Nah, I don’t do anything specific. I just eat. Not a real big eater before games. I don’t really eat that much.

RB Reggie Bush: I really don’t have one. Maybe steak and mashed potatoes. Night before.

Reporter: Same thing every time?

Bush: Usually varies. Depends on the hotel and how good the food is. Sometimes, they have bad food.

WR Kris Durham: Night before, always go with the spaghetti and like grilled chicken and some vegetables, whether it is broccoli or whatever.

Reporter: Always done that?

Durham: Yeah, in a similar way. It’s kind of the go-to for every football team. Kind of always the same general stuff.

LB Stephen Tulloch: Pasta. Always been.

Reporter: Anything specific?

Tulloch: Nah, man. Just eat pasta and meat sauce, brother.

Reporter: Start that in college?

Tulloch: High school man. Pre-game meal. Stuck with it all the way through. Be consistent.

LG Rob Sims: Usually a nice cheeseburger. We eat pasta away usually. Before it’s usually pancakes or waffles, something like that.

Returner Micheal Spurlock: I don’t have specific. Pretty much every meal across the board is going to be pasta, some type of steak or chicken. Pregame meal, our games are early so I have an omelet, a little spaghetti and broccoli and that’s about it.

Reporter: Omelet and spaghetti? How does your stomach feel after that?

Spurlock: My stomach is fine. Yeah. You have the omelet for breakfast and you need the carbs so you go from there. I don’t think it’s nothing specific you have. Just keep routine and go from there.

P Sam Martin: Night before it’s different, whatever they have. In the morning I’ll have steak and eggs there. They have that option, so I do two fried eggs and a steak. It’s a tiny steak. Maybe like a 6 ounce steak. I normally don’t even eat it all. I don’t have much of an appetite in the mornings. I’ll always get that plate. Sometimes I won’t eat any of it. I will eat some fruit, though.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A year ago, things were a bit different with the Detroit Lions. The team was losing. People weren’t happy. The Lions looked like a team headed toward the bottom of the NFL.

“Last year it was kind of like position groups with their position groups,” left guard Rob Sims said. “That’s, any time you’re losing, that’s what it looks like. Stick to your guns, never pointing fingers, but maybe we didn’t associate with everybody like we should've.”

Now you look in the Detroit locker room today and players are, for the most part, happy. Position groups intermingle. The team appears to genuinely get along.

You have a wide receiver, Kevin Ogletree, rooming with a defensive back, Louis Delmas. You have players congregating at events outside of the Lions facility. There’s a different attitude around the team now, and if you think that doesn’t have something to do with their play -- and that the play doesn't have something to do with their attitude -- you’d be wrong.

There’s a chemistry within this Detroit team now, a comfort with one another that has helped on Sundays.

“The real change came in the offseason, when everyone got back here,” backup quarterback Shaun Hill said. “You could tell there was a different mentality around. The leaders were really stepping up and came in with a new focus.

“There’s a lot of things. One was just attention to detail in the offseason program and everybody came with the intentions of working hard and then, aside from that, there was kind of a high priority put on coming together and being a cohesive team, just coming together and being a better team.”

This new mentality began in April, when Detroit returned for its organized team activities and started to slowly prepare for this season. In those first few days, the returning Lions were able to sense that something was changing.

Some of it might have had to do with the changes in the on-field personnel -- Reggie Bush and others were brought in -- and some of it had to do with understanding what happened in 2012, from players who were distractions to chemistry that did not exist.

“Overall demeanor,” safety Don Carey said. “You could tell everyone still had that 4-12 season in the back of their head and we didn’t want that to happen again. So guys worked really hard this offseason, and you could see it from the first time they stepped on the field.”

Then there is the maturity. The free agents the Lions brought in were veterans of either multiple teams or multiple years in the league. Bush, Rashean Mathis and C.J. Mosley all are good presences in the locker room. And the players who were there before all grew up a bit, both in knowing their roles and in understanding what it takes to be a pro.

“There was a lot said about guys not being a distraction and getting into trouble,” Hill said. “And to this point, we’ve held up that end of it. I think that would fall into the maturity category.”

So when you look at the Lions, at 6-3 and leading the NFC North, understand that for all the talent on the outside, it starts inside their locker room, where there is a greater sense of comfort than there was 12 months ago.
It was not Detroit’s prettiest game on offense or defense Sunday, but the Lions are in first place in the NFC North after Week 10 following a 21-19 win over the Bears.

Not surprisingly, the Detroit defensive line and wide receiver Calvin Johnson were two of the main focal points of this week’s behind the numbers, taking a peek at some of the biggest reasons the Lions beat Chicago.

Some numbers in this post were culled from ESPN Stats & Information. Follow Stats & Information on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo

3 -- Road wins this season for Detroit -- only the third time the Lions have done that in the past decade.

11 -- Quarterback hits on Chicago’s quarterbacks Sunday, all by the Lions defensive linemen.

4 -- Hits each by defensive tackles Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh.

1 -- Target for receiver Kris Durham, his fewest targets this season. It did, however, result in a Lions touchdown.

17 -- Targets for Calvin Johnson according to the official game book on Sunday -- his most of the season.

63 -- Receiving touchdowns for Johnson, most in Detroit history.

567 -- Receiving yards for Johnson the past three games, third most in a three-game stretch in NFL history behind Charley Hennigan (612 yards for the Oilers in 1961) and Chad Johnson (573 for the Bengals in 2006).

8,740 -- Career yards in his first 100 games -- second-most in NFL history behind Lance Alworth (9,019).

47 -- Percentage of Lions’ receiving touchdowns Johnson has this season -- tied for third in the league with Chicago’s Brandon Marshall behind San Francisco’s Vernon Davis and Oakland’s Denarius Moore.

5 -- Interceptions this season for linebacker DeAndre Levy, tied for the NFL lead.

10 -- Lions who played every offensive or defensive snap Sunday (Dominic Raiola, Rob Sims, Riley Reiff, Larry Warford and Matthew Stafford on offense and Stephen Tulloch, Glover Quin, Louis Delmas, Rashean Mathis and Levy on defense).
Question of the Week is a new feature where we ask different Lions the same question on various topics -- some funny, some issue-based, some football-related and some completely off the wall. To suggest a potential question for QOTW, email or make the suggestion on Twitter @mikerothstein

Previous QOTW: Nicknamed jerseys; Super hero alter ego; Entrance music; TV character; Cake ... or Steak; Halloween costume

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Numbers with athletes have always been a point of contention. In the pros, guys will pay money just to wear a certain number. In colleges, it can be part of a recruiting pitch.

For others, it means nothing.

[+] EnlargeStafford and Bush
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesSome Lions players have an emotional attachment to their jersey numbers. Others just took what was available, and some haven't gotten used to new digits.
For the Question of the Week, we asked different Detroit Lions why they wear the numbers they wear.

LG Rob Sims (No. 67): Well, no. I was kind of wearing 77 and that was kind of a thing for my pops, who wore 79, 78 and that was like my only number. When he passed away, I decided to go, I knew I needed to change and just went a different route.

Reporter: So you changed it when your dad passed?

Sims: Yeah, when my dad passed and I got in the league, I changed my number. I just knew I needed a fresh start and I needed to not hang on to that kind of stuff and all that. I never told nobody that because it was something like, 'Hey, I'm changing it up.' It was nothing like emotional about it or anything like that.

Reporter: Was it emotions, though?

Sims: When my dad passed, very. But I think it was me being like, OK, on my own. Change stuff up. That's kind of why I did it. Guys do it for different reasons.

QB Matthew Stafford (No. 9): They didn't have 7. [John] Elway was kind of the guy I liked watching growing up and I wore 7 when I was young and I was in high school and then I wore it in college. Tried to wear it here, but they don't have it. You can't wear 7 here, it's Dutch Clark.

RG Larry Warford (No. 75): They gave it to me. I didn't get to choose it, they were like, here, here's 75.

Reporter: What about college?

Warford: I was 67 since my freshman year of high school. I was 67 all the way through college and all the way through high school and then I got here and 67 was [taken] and [in a sad voice] 'I have to change, I don't know who I am anymore.'

Reporter: Some guys are really particular.

Warford: It's part of your identity. You feel like you own it, like that's who I am, I'm 67. I'm 75 now, but when it gets taken away from you, it's like 'This doesn't feel like me.' It takes some time, but it's cool. It's cool to start over new. 75, going to make it my own now.

Reporter: Why 67?

Warford: It was given to me when I was young and I was like, my freshman year, they had it and I'll make this my own and I felt comfortable with it and I just wanted to keep it through my whole career.

Reporter: Reggie (Bush) said sometimes he still signs 22 because he's not used to 21. Was that an issue?

Warford: Yeah, I did that a couple times. I signed something, it'd be a Lions thing and I'd be like Larry Warford, Sixty-sev..., oh, here you go. It's just habit. Like, oh, 6-7. I broke into the 7-5 now, 6-7 doesn't come up anymore. It's cool, though.

WR Kris Durham (No. 18): It's what they gave me. I wore 16 in college and wore it in college but Titus was here when I got here so they gave me 18, which was great. If I had to pick a number in the NFL, I'd pick 16 because it was what I wore in college.

Reporter: Why 16?

Durham: It's what they gave me in college. It kind of grew on me. But I like 18 a lot, I like 17, 18 or 19. My birthday's the 17th. I've always liked even numbers but my cousin wore 19 in high school so I would wear 19.

RB Reggie Bush (No. 21): That was the next best number that was available. I was going to try and stick with 22 but that's obviously retired and Mikel [Leshoure] had 25. They told me 21 is available and I've always loved 21. Deion Sanders has worn it, a lot of great players have worn 21.

WR Kevin Ogletree (No. 11): That was my basketball number. I haven't worn a low number like that since my freshman year in high school. I wore it in freshman year of football. You know, when you get to pick your number and there's not that many and you've got a couple that look cool and 11 was the coolest to me. Those 1's, right. It's definitely different because I'm used to 85. I was born August 5th so that kind of worked out.

TE Joseph Fauria (No. 80): Nah, I was single dig at UCLA. I had two choices and 80 would be nice, a good tight end number and kind of reminiscent of college, just add a zero. And I think it's fun to say 'Ocho-Zero,' it's funny. That's it. Spanglish. Eighty-one was my grandfather's number, but it's kind of taken by somebody important.

DT C.J. Mosley (No. 99): Originally Warren Sapp. Warren Sapp was my favorite player growing up.

Reporter: You say originally. Has that changed?

Mosley: It's like the end of the line. 1 through 99, 99 is the last guy so it's the end of the line. My mentality is whatever it is, it's going to stop at 99. That's kind of with it. But Warren Sapp, that's my guy.