NFC North: Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford ranked No. 71

August, 20, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The ESPN #NFLRank project continues to roll on, and the second Detroit Lions player has made an appearance.

Reggie Bush popped up on Monday at No. 98 among offensive players. Now his quarterback, Matthew Stafford, has shown up on the list.

Stafford was ranked as the No. 71 offensive player in the league in a poll of 90 ESPN writers and analysts.

This is actually a big jump for Stafford, which is somewhat surprising considering the second half of his 2013 season, when he threw as many touchdowns as interceptions (13). Stafford was ranked No. 94 in last year's poll.

He is also considered the No. 4 quarterback in fantasy entering the season and is expected to put up big numbers in new coordinator Joe Lombardi's offense.

So far, as written about Tuesday, Stafford has looked extremely sharp this preseason.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions took in their final day of open-to-the-media preparation for their third preseason game against Jacksonville on Friday.
  • Safety DeJon Gomes was in attendance Wednesday but continued to sit out of practice as he recovers from an injury suffered against Oakland last Friday. He was absent from the viewing portion of practice Tuesday.
  • Receiver TJ Jones remains on the PUP list, so he is at practice but not practicing.
  • Otherwise, the Lions remain remarkably healthy so far this preseason.
  • One other note: Reggie Bush, according to a press release, is donating $2,500 per touchdown he scores this season to a Boys & Girls Club.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions are already preparing to unleash wide receiver Calvin Johnson on Friday for the first time this preseason.

Now, another player might be joining him.

Ansah
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Wednesday that he is hopeful defensive end Ezekiel Ansah will also make his preseason debut against Jacksonville at home on Friday night.

Ansah was activated from the PUP list last week and was immediately ruled out for last week’s game at Oakland. Now, he’s played a little bit more and is closer to being on the field.

"He’s responded well. We got him in a little bit more scrimmage plays in practice," Caldwell said. "We increased him on a daily basis. Hopefully, we’ll check with the doctors to see after today’s practice where he is, and hopefully he’ll be able to get some snaps."

Ansah missed spring workouts and the beginning of training camp as he recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. He practiced for the first time last Tuesday night.

When Ansah does return to the lineup, he is expected to play the open defensive end position in coordinator Teryl Austin’s new scheme. Ansah was a surprise as a pass-rusher during his rookie season for Detroit, when he led all first-year players with eight sacks.

Expect him to fill a similar role this season with the Lions.

"We’ve only had him back for a week or so but when you look at him, he’s extremely talented. Explosive. Big. Fast," Austin said. "So for him, it’s just going to be a matter of technique, continuing to work on his technique, because he’s still pretty young as a football player, but work on his technique and knowing how to apply that to offensive tackles and the guy that he’s going to attack and being able to use that in a game.

"But he has a chance to be an outstanding rusher."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Matthew Stafford doesn't believe he is any faster than a season ago. Didn't think he made any physical improvements, either. Doesn't think he is "any more jacked," either.

The sixth-year Detroit Lions quarterback is the same as he was physically. It is everywhere else, possibly, where the former No. 1 pick has changed.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
AP Photo/Paul SancyaQB Matthew Stafford has worked hard this offseason to understand the Detroit Lions' offense under new head coach Jim Caldwell.
Off the field, he became engaged to his longtime girlfriend, Kelly Hall. On the field, he also possibly engaged a bit more, having to learn a new offense and new terminology for the second time in his professional career.

It was that engagement on the field that caught new coach Jim Caldwell's attention almost immediately.

"He left this spring with I think a real solid understanding of what we're doing from an offensive standpoint," Caldwell said. "He came back this fall further ahead than when he left. That tells me that he studied.

"That he obviously dedicated himself to getting better and he's moving at a pretty rapid pace in terms of doing a lot of the nuances that come along with operating this particular offense."

It is this offense that gave some of the Lions some issues early on, from the longer terminology insisted upon by new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi to the change in routes run from certain positions and how many yards a certain route is supposed to be run.

Add in a new receiver -- Golden Tate -- and a first-round rookie tight end in Eric Ebron and there are timing issues to secure as well.

Stafford has apparently handled it all comfortably both in practice -- where he had an interception-less streak lasting almost two weeks -- and in his first real action, where he was 9 of 10 passing with his lone incompletion dropped by Reggie Bush.

"For me, the biggest challenge this offseason was trying to get the mastery of the playbook, the new system we have coming in," Stafford said. "So that's what I spent most of my time and effort on and with that comes new drops and new reads and things like that.

"I don't know if there's one thing that stands out to me. Just being an overall better player."

That had to happen, though, because Stafford realized from the day he stepped into the Lions facility in 2009 as the No. 1 overall pick the franchise would largely succeed or fail based on his play.

He looked at the commonalities among playoff teams and one of the things he noticed was the proficiency of the quarterbacks who made runs to conference championship games and Super Bowls. He understood he would have to attain a certain level in order to provide that for the Lions.

He said Tuesday he has always held himself to similar standards -- and his measure of that is the points the Lions score and how few turnovers he ends up responsible for. Those were numbers Detroit -- and Stafford -- struggled with in the latter half of 2013, when Stafford threw 13 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and had the No. 31 passer rating in the NFL over his final eight games.

His interpretation of high level -- something he clearly didn't achieve last season -- remains constant.

"It's tough to put numbers on it," Stafford said. "You just want to go out there and make good throws, make good decisions, limit turnovers, make sure we're in the right play every time if you can and with the team, that's the biggest thing."

If he does that, then he should have a season closer to 2011, when he was considered one of the brighter young quarterbacks in the NFL. Stafford may still be young from an age standpoint at 26, but he is also entering the prime of his career.

Six seasons in and the Lions shouldn't see the same movie from Stafford as they did last season. After the supposed improvements his new coaches made, they should see a sleeker, sharper version. The early results have indicated this as well.

"He's worked at it extremely hard," Caldwell said. "Often times you'll find guys will look for an excuse why they weren't as effective in certain phases. Hey we got a new system, it's real tough, learning curve is a little difficult. He's made none of those.

"He came out, he's worked, he's functioned and he's gotten better as a result of that and I look forward to him just keep improving."

Reggie Bush ranked No. 98

August, 18, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Over the next two weeks, we here at ESPN are rolling out our top 100 rankings for both offensive and defensive players in the NFL.

An introduction to the entire project can be seen here by colleague Greg Garber. Essentially, 90 people within ESPN (including myself) rated a massive number of players on a 0-to-10 scale, the higher the number given meaning the better the player.

On Monday, we named the Nos. 100-91 players on both offense and defense and only one Detroit Lions player appeared -- running back Reggie Bush. He was not ranked in the top 100 last season.

Bush checks in at No. 98 overall on offense and that's probably a pretty fair number. He has game-breaking potential both as a rusher and catching screens, something the Lions saw often last season when he broke big plays.

But he has had his issues -- particularly with fumbles and dropped passes.

His role in the Detroit offense should be intriguing, as he can line up in the backfield, the slot and even outside on certain plays -- all in an effort to put him in the best space possible.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Four Detroit Lions players have yet to play this preseason.

Only one, though, has been held out of both the Cleveland and Oakland games due to precaution. And barring anything changing, that will not be the case Friday night against Jacksonville. Wide receiver Calvin Johnson should play.

Johnson
“We plan to get him some work this week, and that’s today I’m telling you that,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “Toward the end of the week, something adjusts and we have to adjust here and there, it could be that with a number of different guys.

“But we plan to get him some work this week.”

The third game of the preseason is typically when teams give their starters a bunch of work, sometimes playing them into the second half. Caldwell wouldn’t indicate how long he plans on playing Detroit’s first unit Friday night and whether he’ll play certain players more than others within that grouping.

When asked specifically about Johnson, Caldwell did say “that’s a possibility, sure,” about whether Johnson would play less than some of the other starters. Johnson had two offseason surgeries, one on his finger and one on his knee. He told ESPN.com last week that he now has a protective splint for his fingers, which have suffered injuries the past two seasons.

Caldwell was less certain about playing defensive end Ezekiel Ansah this week as Ansah continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. The Lions removed him from the PUP list last week but sat him against Oakland as he tries to get up to speed.

“The medical staff will look at it,” Caldwell said. “Even though he’s off of PUP, we’re going to bring him along according to what he can handle from a physical standpoint, and so we’ll get a sense of that.

“He’s doing a little bit more today in practice, and he’ll do a little bit more tomorrow and see what happens come game day.”

The other Detroit players to not play in a preseason game this year are rookie wide receiver TJ Jones and rookie quarterback James Franklin. Jones remains on the team’s PUP list as he recovers from surgery. Franklin is the team’s fourth quarterback and has not taken many meaningful snaps in practice, either.
Examining the Detroit Lions' roster. There have been some changes to last week's projection.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Orlovsky all but sealed up the No. 2 quarterback job with his play Saturday night at Oakland, where he looked much more comfortable handling Joe Lombardi's offense. The only question here is what the Lions do with Kellen Moore, but right now there are too many other close position battles to justify three quarterbacks. James Franklin, meanwhile, is still awaiting his first NFL snap.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

The big change here is the elimination of Mikel Leshoure, the one-time second-round pick who is in the final year of his contract. Yes, the Lions will eat some dead money by cutting Leshoure, but he has shown nothing thus far during practice or games to warrant keeping him other than extreme insurance. At this point, George Winn might be the better option -- and I considered adding him to the roster, but not yet. He and Chad Abram are ideal practice squad candidates. Remember, too, that Owens is one of the better special teams players in the league and can offer flexibility as a fourth running back and second fullback. Versatility is key here.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

This doesn't change yet, although if anything, Broyles is moving himself closer to being the fourth lock of the receiving corps along with Johnson, Tate and Ross, the returner. However, Broyles, Durham, Ogletree and Corey Fuller are still locked in a battle for, realistically, two spots. Fuller also continues to move up the chart each week and he's close. Andrew Peacock remains a good practice squad candidate.

TIGHT END (3)

All three will make the roster. Nothing is changing here barring injury.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Like last week, nothing is changing for now, but the play of the reserve interior linemen Saturday night left more questions than confidence in Rodney Austin and Travis Swanson if called upon. I'm not reading too much into converted tight end Michael Williams playing over Cornelius Lucas with the second team just yet, although if Williams does keep pushing, the loser of that battle could end up on the practice squad. I still maintain Alex Bullard remains a practice squad candidate despite less than a handful of snaps Saturday.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

Johnson continues to impress during games and gets a lot of first-team run during practice as well, so he takes over the roster spot in place of Darryl Tapp, who still could easily make the roster. It is entirely possible the Lions keep 10 defensive linemen on talent and experience alone and if that happens, Tapp and Johnson both make the team. But if the Lions go with nine, Johnson has pushed ahead of Tapp -- for now.

LINEBACKER (6)

Last week, I mentioned five linebackers being set and if they kept a sixth, Travis Lewis would be the guy because of special teams. Well, right now, Lewis has a spot on this roster projection only because of special teams. He continues to be on every unit and around the ball consistently. The last two or three spots on this roster are going to be interesting between Lewis, Tapp/Johnson, Winn and one or two of the safeties mentioned below.

CORNERBACK (6)

This continues to be the toughest group to project. Lawson, were he not a rookie and a fourth-round pick, would likely not be on this roster -- but he should make the final cut despite not doing much this preseason. It feels like four of the corners -- Slay, Mathis, Bentley and Vaughn -- are pretty set as well. That leaves potentially one spot among uninspiring candidates. Jonte Green started camp strong, but ran with the third team Saturday and was picked on by Derek Carr and Matt McGloin. Drayton Florence was a veteran signing and hasn't shown much so far. That leaves Greenwood, who has been decent enough to warrant a roster spot. This position is one where next week's cuts around the league could force a roster shift here if any decent corners come available.

SAFETY (4)

Sticking with these four for now, although this number could easily jump to five by next week. Isa Abdul-Quddus and Jerome Couplin ran with the second team last week as Carey and Gomes were part of the third team; however, that may have been to get a stronger look at both players. In many ways, Carey, Gomes and Abdul-Quddus are interchangeable as far as their skill sets, which makes it an intriguing call. By that, I mean all four players are backup safeties who would have heavy special-teams roles. Their safety spots are a bit more defined, with Carey able to play both spots (and corner), while Abdul-Quddus is a free safety and Gomes is a strong safety. Couplin is fascinating, and if he continues an upward trajectory he could steal a roster slot from another position group. In my opinion, he would be the biggest reason to keep five safeties. Otherwise, he very well may end up on the practice squad.

SPECIALISTS (3)
Nate Freese made a 55-yard field goal, but missed an extra point. Meanwhile, Tavecchio continues his consistent run through camp and if the Lions truly make this result-based, Tavecchio has looked much more confident and stronger. I'm not reading too much into Tavecchio being with holder Drew Butler, who isn't making the team. Asked Caldwell about that and he said they assigned a holder to each kicker and are sticking with it. Freese is still in the competition, though.

Lions Camp Report: Day 15

August, 16, 2014
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The Lions ended their camp Saturday afternoon with a practice that lasted a little less than one hour with no pads at all and a lot of players in baseball caps catching passes -- including specialists Sam Martin and Don Muhlbach. Why would Lions coach Jim Caldwell bring the players out there less than 12 hours after they returned from a West Coast trip to Oakland?
    “The practice was kind of to break a sweat and often times guys find out they have an injury that they didn’t know about,” Caldwell said. “So we run them a little bit, loosen it up a little and go through our corrections and get them off the field to get them some rest tomorrow and get back at it at Monday.”
  • Once Monday hits, the Lions will go into their regular practice mode, which also means practices are also no longer fully open to reporters. He also did this Saturday practice to give players an idea of how days go with evaluation and film.
  • The biggest topic again was defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who seemed more jovial Saturday than he was at any point last week. That’s probably a good sign for him and Caldwell indicated he felt he had improved during Friday night’s game against Oakland.
  • Detroit did have a transaction Saturday, signing linebacker Shamari Benton out of Central Michigan and releasing linebacker Justin Jackson from Wake Forest. Benton had 111 tackles, including 10.5 tackles for loss, last season for the Chippewas. He also had four sacks and an interception. He apparently trained at a gym in suburban Detroit co-owned by Tony Scheffler and Ndamukong Suh. He was so new, the Lions didn't even have a jersey for him at practice Saturday.
  • Caldwell also appeared to be pleased with backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, saying he “demonstrated that [Friday] night, but we still have two more games to go.” Orlovsky was markedly better than he was in the preseason opener, when he was outplayed by No. 3 quarterback Kellen Moore. He appeared to regain his hold on the backup spot with his performance Friday night. Part of the backup quarterback’s job, Caldwell said, is to be a collaborator with starting quarterback Matthew Stafford, quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi.
  • Asked three of the Lions players who attended Notre Dame (there are five in all as Alex Bullard and Joseph Fauria started at the school and transferred to Tennessee and UCLA, respectively) about the academic investigation at their alma mater. TJ Jones said he knew little about it and wanted to hear more details. Theo Riddick declined to comment, but said he would speak with Notre Dame if the school reached out. Golden Tate, who did not play under current coach Brian Kelly, declined to comment.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jim Caldwell wasn’t ready to comment on defensive tackle Nick Fairley in the moments following the Detroit Lions preseason loss to the Oakland Raiders on Friday night.

After watching the game on film, he felt Fairley played better -- although he wouldn’t say better than what or when.

Fairley
“Yeah, he played better,” Caldwell said. “He worked in and we’ll see how he goes this week. So we continue to evaluate. It’s not just a one-time evaluation, obviously, it’s not just one game.

“It’s got to be a habit for all of our guys. Everybody operates at a standard that we think is a championship level standard and that’s what we’re looking for in every phase.”

Fairley had one tackle against the Raiders working with both the first and second teams behind C.J. Mosley. Caldwell said any evaluation of Fairley will go beyond just his work on the field either in games or in practice.

It will encompass everything -- something he hinted at earlier this week when he said Fairley is trying to find a comfortable weight. What that weight is remains unknown, and Fairley again declined to talk with the media on Saturday, offering his typical “not today.”

“When we are evaluating, we look at everything,” Caldwell said. “Things on the field, off the field, meeting rooms, weight room, those are all part of obviously getting yourself in the best possible position to play and play well. So yes, we do look at every single thing.”
Nick Fairley recorded one tackle Friday night but the defensive tackle who lost his starting spot was otherwise somewhat ineffective against the Oakland Raiders.

Fairley
And after the game, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell was not ready to assess his performance.

“I’m not going to comment on his performance tonight because I have to look at the film and see, “Caldwell told reporters after a 27-26 loss to the Raiders. “Where he plays down in the trenches is very difficult to tell exactly. The reason why is because of the fact that we thought C.J. [Mosley]was playing better.

“We put C.J. in place and we’ll see how Nick played and make another comparison and see where we go next week, but that was the reason why.”

Mosley responded well. He had three tackles, more than any other defensive lineman, and he plugged the middle of the defensive line well along with Ndamukong Suh.

Meanwhile, Fairley ended up being pushed off the ball often during his time against the Raiders facing mostly their first unit.

As for the future, it is unclear how the Lions will proceed from here out as Detroit preps for Jacksonville next Friday. One thing is certain, though: Fairley won’t get any special treatment.

“There’s a certain standard that we’re looking for,” Caldwell said, “and everybody’s got to measure up and him included.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- He has been in this league a while now and knows the messages that can be sent and the motivational tactics that can be used. So C.J. Mosley doesn’t really get affected by the ins and outs of training camp or practice weeks.

He’s 10 years into a career as a defensive tackle and his mantra is simple: They tell him to go in, he plays. They don’t, he doesn’t. Everything else is ancillary.

So his somewhat sudden promotion to the Lions' starting defense this week in practice in place of Nick Fairley hasn’t really changed him. He just keeps on doing what he’s always done.

[+] EnlargeC. J. Mosley
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesBeing thrust into the starting lineup hasn't changed C.J. Mosley's approach.
“It hasn’t been any different for me,” Mosley said. “My approach has been the same. It’s my 1oth year so nothing is going to happen in this business that’s going to shock me. I’ve seen pretty much everything you could see out of this.”

What he is seeing now is the Detroit Lions trying to motivate Fairley, the talented but inconsistent defensive tackle, into finally reaching his potential. It had appeared the team had finally figured out a way to really push him when it declined his fifth-year option during the offseason, placing him in a contract year.

Fairley showed up during the spring under 300 pounds and then came to training camp an acceptable 305 pounds. Three weeks later, Fairley’s weight appears to be an issue again and his play has once again become inconsistent. Fairley has yet to play 16 games in a season. He had a career-high six sacks last season, but three of them came in two games against Minnesota.

Here enters Mosley, the consistent veteran with a strong work ethic and a player the Lions know will provide strong effort every play, even if he doesn’t possess some of the natural gifts Fairley has.

The former sixth-round pick knows not to read too much into anything. He’s the definition of an NFL journeyman. The Lions are his fifth NFL team. He’s played in 114 games, made 162 tackles and notched 11.5 sacks in that career.

Mosley has performed well this camp. He has been a presence plugging the middle during practice and while he didn’t make any plays during the preseason opener against Cleveland on Saturday, he knows there is another opportunity Friday night at Oakland. He’ll probably see a good amount of snaps.

“I feel good,” Mosley said. “I’ve got a great bunch of core guys with me. Our coaches are freaking awesome. They make practice interesting every day. It can get quite repetitive but they make practice interesting every day and it’s always competitive.

“For guys that love competing, that’s what we live for.”

Mosley has proved that. So has his fellow defensive tackle, Ndamukong Suh, who is one of toughest competitors on the Lions. It also appears to be the message the Lions are sending to Fairley with this potentially temporary demotion.

Compete, or possibly lose your spot. Heading toward the start of a contract season in a few weeks, the Lions are hoping this is what pushes Fairley to finally reach his potential. Otherwise, Mosley will be his consistent self and play his way into a larger role.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It started in Houston, shortly after James Ihedigbo signed with the Detroit Lions during free agency. His new safety-mate, Glover Quin, also lived in town during the offseason. So the idea was hatched.

Quin and Ihedigbo decided as a way to learn about each other and to start to build the chemistry needed between safeties before they arrived in Michigan, they would work out together. So each day this offseason, Quin and Ihedigbo showed up at Nine Innovations, a gym in Houston, to train together.

[+] EnlargeJames Ihedigbo
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioThe Lions say that safety James Ihedigbo has used his communication skills to help boost the secondary.
This lessened the getting-to-know-you period and also put both players in a habitat they were innately comfortable with: Where they actually live. Immediately, the players saw a significant bond. They both have children. They both have similar approaches to how they study the game.

And through that, the bond began to grow.

“It helps a lot because I get to see how he works, he gets to see how I work, we get to encourage each other, push each other,” Quin said. “We get to work together and you can build chemistry doing that just by learning how he works, him learning how I work. Learning what he likes to do, him learning what I like to do.

“Just little things like that. You can get a lot done just hanging out with each other every single day.”

Quin learned Ihedigbo likes to cook, although he said he hasn’t had one of Ihedigbo’s meals just yet. He also would ask the occasional football question, not about new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, but about the scheme they were going to end up running.

Austin wasn’t calling the defensive schemes in Baltimore, but he was Ihedigbo’s position coach so he had more understanding of what Detroit might run than other players. And part of the reason Iheidgbo ended up with the Lions at all was the trust Austin has in him. Knowing him and how he would likely mesh with Quin was a big factor in Austin’s pursuit of Ihedigbo.

“You have two high-character veterans, so they know for us to play well, they have to play well,” Austin said. “They have to communicate and they have to be problem-solvers in the back. They’ve done that with the young guys and it helps.

“What that’ll do is cut down on big plays, cut down on breakout runs, all those different things.”

They are able to do that with the chemistry they’ve built -- and a similarity between them their teammates have seen. Last season, Quin and Louis Delmas were exceedingly different, both in personality and in style of play.

Delmas was the extremely aggressive playmaker who relied heavily on instinct and would be prone to sometimes pushing too hard. He was also loud and boisterous -- in many ways the emotional heart of the defense. Quin was the more studious player who offered a consistency and always appeared to be in the correct place at the correct time.

Ihedigbo, in many ways, is like Quin. Having two players who are similar could offer more flexibility -- something paramount at almost every position in Austin’s defense. Both Ihedigbo and Quin can play closer to the line of scrimmage if necessary, giving the Lions options both in disguising defensive backfield coverage, safety blitzes and run support.

“They work great because it’s a bond, more of a sense,” cornerback Darius Slay said. “They’ve been there just communicating before practice, working with each other. They are more likely to get a bond with each other outside of football.

“…You could tell when [Ihedigbo] came into meetings. He came in and said things like, you know, we’re young here and we’ve got to communicate [with] film study and everything.”

It’s an influence Austin and the safeties hope percolates throughout the defensive backfield. The Lions' secondary has been one of the bigger questions of the offseason and other than Ihedigbo, the Lions did not add much to bolster it.

So a lot should be expected of the safety pairing in both making plays and educating the rest of the secondary.

“We fit great,” Ihedigbo said. “We think alike. We can play off each other. Really have that good chemistry.”

Detroit is counting on it.

Lions Camp Report: Day 14

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

Lions Camp Report: Day 13

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp.
  • The news of the day arrived before practice, when defensive end Ezekiel Ansah was pulled off the PUP list and returned to practice on a limited basis Tuesday evening. He didn’t fully participate and was not expected to, but he looked fairly strong during individual drills, pushing the sled with some gusto. He appeared happy to be back as well, and he’ll be eased into this since the Lions have a few weeks before their first regular-season game against the New York Giants. He’ll likely get some work during a preseason game, but it won’t be Friday as he’s already been ruled out. Right guard Larry Warford, who missed practice Monday, also returned Tuesday.
  • The other major defensive line storyline revolved around defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who played with the second unit for the second consecutive practice. Ndamukong Suh and C.J. Mosley took the first-team reps at tackle throughout the practice, including during 11-on-11 periods. When Mosley wasn’t in, Jason Jones moved inside to take some reps at tackle. Fairley worked with Andre Fluellen and Jimmy Saddler-McQueen on the second unit a bunch Tuesday night and didn’t look all that impressive. In one-on-one drills with offensive linemen, he was blocked well once by Rodney Austin, but Fairley annihilated Austin the next time the two faced each other.
  • Mosley, meanwhile, looked good with the first unit. He plugged the middle of the line well and didn’t lose any rushers when they came near him. In all, the first-team defensive line had another really strong performance against the first-team offensive line. Suh continues to look like his dominant self and Devin Taylor is getting better coming off the edge. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when Ansah returns to full strength and Taylor is truly competing with Jones for the closed end starting spot.
  • Continuing with the defensive line theme here, Larry Webster had the hit of the practice, running right through Michael Williams to end the one-on-one drills. Webster said after that he just “worked one of my moves, converted speed to power.” It was enough to completely flatten Williams, who is transitioning from tight end to offensive tackle during this camp.
  • The night practice was Jim Caldwell’s idea as part of trying to prepare his players for all situations, including potential night games like the one Detroit will play Friday at Oakland. He also did it because there is always the possibility the team could end up having a flexed game at some point during the season.

    “It’s very, very important to get your team as many opportunities as you can to get ready for challenges that they may face and this is the time to do it, during training camp,” Caldwell said. “We don’t have the luxury during the regular season, we usually practice at a set time and typically not at night, so this is a time where you can adjust your schedule, move it around quite a bit. It’s not the normal routine, so it makes them adjust. I like the fact that they have to adjust.”
  • More on this Wednesday morning, but Golden Tate participated in the ALS ice bucket challenge after practice. He also said the Lions offense received Shinola watches for beating the defense in a team bowling competition Monday night, but didn’t know who footed the bill for it.
  • The Lions return to practice Wednesday at 2 p.m., the final practice open to the public this season.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ezekiel Ansah had been waiting months for this, and even though the second-year defensive end didn't fully participate in practice Tuesday, he had pads and a helmet on and even went through individual drills.

Ansah
Considering he had only been activated from the physically unable to perform list hours earlier, it's a step for Ansah, who has steadfastly declined to speak to the media after he had shoulder surgery, missed spring workouts and the first two weeks of camp.

"Just as long as you've been waiting to talk to me, I've always been waiting just as much to get back on the field," Ansah said.

He won't fully return just yet, as Lions coach Jim Caldwell ruled Ansah out of Friday's preseason game against Oakland. But he is able to play with his teammates again and line up next to them, giving Detroit a fully healthy defense for the first time this training camp.

Other than Monday, when he was not spotted at Lions practice, he has been at every Detroit practice, listening and watching what Devin Taylor and George Johnson have been doing in his place, trying to learn mentally what he couldn't do physically.

His return to the actual field, though, began in a defensive meeting room, where he said he was asked to stand up and introduce himself again like a rookie because he had been out for so long. During his actual rookie season he led all first-year players with eight sacks.

Caldwell said Tuesday that Ansah's role won't shift too much from last season, so what he has to learn shouldn't be as big an adjustment as some other players who have had to sit out. Still, there is the anticipation that it will take time for him to pick things up.

For Detroit to be successful this fall, the Lions need Ansah to be at least as productive as he was last season, when he took advantage of open lanes created by the attention given to tackle Ndamukong Suh. Ansah, though, wouldn't share any goals that he may have coming off his first season.

"Nothing special," Ansah said. "Just work hard and just get better every day."

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