NFC North: Detroit Lions

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In Reggie Bush's first career game with the Detroit Lions, one play stands out more than most. It’s a play he often seems to excel in: The screen.

Bush in the opening game last season took a sliver of an opening created by Detroit’s offensive line on a screen 77 yards for a touchdown, signifying Detroit’s screen game might be a bit improved with its new running back.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Lions will look to Reggie Bush to roll up big gains on screen passes this season.
It stayed that way the entire season.

“Let me tell you what makes a good screen game. The guys carrying the ball. Let’s be real, now,” offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said. “We became a better screen game a couple years ago when Reggie Bush and Joique Bell started touching the ball and now Theo Riddick and Mikel Leshoure and now the receivers that we have.

“That’s really what makes you have a good screen game.”

According to Pro Football Focus, no Lions player graded negatively on screen blocking last season. Five players -- center Dominic Raiola, left guard Rob Sims, right guard Larry Warford and wide receivers Calvin Johnson and Kris Durham – had season grades at plus-1 or higher, including a plus-4 rating for Raiola.

The Lions ran screens 67 times last season according to ESPN Stats & Information, completing 52 of those passes. While the 77.6 completion percentage isn’t great, Detroit gained 525 yards on screens last season, good enough for third in the NFL.

The Lions averaged 7.84 yards per screen and scored three touchdowns using them last season. The yards per screen, total yards, attempts, passer rating and touchdowns were all Top 5 in the league last season.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford's screen numbers would have been higher, too, except the Lions led the league with five dropped screens and were the only team to fumble twice on screen passes, losing one.

Last season’s overall success, though, is part of the reason why the Lions appear unconcerned about the team’s screens this preseason. While the Lions had a perfectly set up screen go for 36 yards with Riddick against Oakland, there have been other screens that have been blown up pretty easily.

Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said he didn’t have enough data to dissect Detroit’s screens yet or any concern about them yet -- it is the preseason -- but he was trying to run some different screens than what the Lions and Saints did last season. He is happy with the backs Detroit has running the screens and the linemen he has up front as well.

The screen is a boom-or-bust play and takes timing among the linemen, backs and quarterback, so perfecting the screen takes more time than most other offensive plays.

“It’s nothing we’re pulling our hair out about or having a crisis about,” right tackle Corey Hilliard said. “But we are working on it.”

There are simply a lot of moving linemen up the field and players syncing up, so it takes time. The offensive linemen have to figure out how to release on the defensive linemen and learn their aiming points to set up the blocks and the hole on each screen. Then there is timing it with the pass and the running back’s cut.

Instead of merely pass protection or opening a rushing lane for the back, there is precision from all 11 players. The Lions calling them at all in the preseason has been a help.

“The way we coach it, it’s like an odd-man rush in hockey,” Washburn said. “It’s not going to look the same any time and it’s one man knowing what the next man’s job is and it’s also knowing what the concept of the screen is and also what the concept of the defense is.

“Yeah, screens take reps. You just have to rep them. It’s awesome that we’ve been calling screens in preseason. Whether they’ve been pretty or not, there are coaching points on each one that we can use once we get to the season.”

Once Detroit reaches the season-opener against the New York Giants, it figures to have its screen game worked out much like the Lions did in last season’s opener.

While the coordinator has changed, Washburn remains. He is coaching screens to the linemen the same as last season. Once they have all the steps and alignments down, then it goes to what linemen like to do best -- hit and block.

“We just have to outhustle them,” Raiola said. “For screens, once you get it started, then it turns into a match of wills and hustle and finishing the play.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Golden Tate chose to sign with the Detroit Lions during free agency, part of the appeal to the wide receiver was the offense laid out to him.

After spending the first four years of his career in Seattle, where the Seahawks ran the ball just as much as they threw it -- including 155 more runs than passes during the last three seasons after the team acquired Marshawn Lynch -- he has now moved to an offense that likes to throw.

[+] EnlargeGolden Tate
Duane Burleson/AP PhotoVeteran wide receiver Golden Tate is anxious to see how his first season with the Lions will play out.
And potentially throw a lot.

This is why, when Tate says he believes he can better his 64 receptions and 898 yards from last season, it is a plausible thought even though he moved from being the No. 1 receiver in Seattle to the No. 2 receiver in Detroit.

"I think my numbers can be way better in this offense naturally how it's set up," Tate said. "I was coming from, you gotta think I was in the toughest division with the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals, defensively, with a run-heavy offense and now I'm going to a pass-happy offense where I'm on the same team as the best player in the league, one of the best players in the league who is going to draw a lot of attention, a lot of double coverage, which is going to leave me with a lot of single coverage with a lot of No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks.

"So mentally I think I should be able to excel and do very well here."

The player Tate is referring to is Calvin Johnson, who should still draw the majority of a defense's attention even with the additions of Tate and tight end Eric Ebron along with running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell and tight ends Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew.

Those are a lot of players for Matthew Stafford to choose between on a given play, so while Tate might not receive as many looks as he did in Seattle, he should see much more favorable coverage.

If Tate wants to eclipse those numbers, he might have to do it on fewer than the 98 targets he had last season. He did say, as many players will, he would sacrifice individual stats if Detroit can finally win.

"My goals are just to be better than I was last year," Tate said. "I think every year I just want to be better than I was last year. Just a little bit better. Coach (Jim) Caldwell does a great job of using, we just want to be six inches better, that's what I want to do. I want to help this team win.

"If my numbers aren't as great and we have 11 wins and go to the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs, I'm happy with that. I want this team to win. I think we definitely have what it takes to win and it's time to win now."

Caldwell, though, has no interest in making any predictions about statistics -- or about wins. He passed on commenting about season projections and when told of Tate's thought that he could put up bigger numbers in this offense, he downplayed that as well.

"You don't know. It could be game-to-game," Caldwell said. "You often see within schemes, in particular those, we'll run the ball as well, you'll see certain schemes and how they decide to attack you, one game one guy might catch six balls and the next game he might get two. One game a guy might get 12 and the next game he might get none.

"Just kind of depends on the situation so it would be tough for me to predict that."

One prediction will be easy enough -- Johnson will still see a lot of attention and if offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is able to do it correctly, that should open up chances for everyone else on the offense.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A few hours after Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said his running back, Reggie Bush, had missed the past two days of practice due to "rest," Bush eliminated any doubt about his status.

Bush
Bush
Bush returned to practice Tuesday with the Lions, leaving the team with just three players not practicing: Don Carey (hamstring), linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal) and defensive end Jason Jones.

It is likely this was just a veteran's day of rest for Jones, who was in the locker room prior to practice.

Some other nuggets from the short media practice viewing:
  • Both of Detroit's waiver claims from Monday -- Emil Igwenagu and Michael Egnew -- were at practice. Egnew is wearing No. 49 and working with the tight ends. Igwenagu is wearing No. 44 and working with the running backs. How cruel is the NFL world sometimes? Jacob Maxwell, who was cut Tuesday, wore No. 49 on Monday and Chad Abram, who was cut Monday, wore No. 44.
  • Linebacker Shamari Benton continues to not have a nameplate with his No. 44 jersey (on defense). Considering he was signed over a week ago, typically the Lions have been pretty good about making sure names are on jerseys.
  • Tight end Brandon Pettigrew had guests from the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit at practice on Tuesday.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Cassius Vaughn learned the art from his father, and as any good father is wont to do, he passed it along to his progeny as well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has led to some of his better lines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaughn clearly does. As he said, “it’s a family thing.” One he’s more than willing to pass along.
This was always going to be a long journey for Giorgio Tavecchio. The moment the Detroit Lions drafted Nate Freese in the seventh round in May, it put even more pressure on Tavecchio to be perfect.

[+] EnlargeGiorgio Tavecchio
Rick Osentoski/AP PhotoLions kicker Giorgio Tavecchio misses a field-goal attempt against the Jaguars in the second half of their preseason game on Aug. 22.
He was close, yet not quite close enough to push Freese out of the top spot. Throughout training camp, Lions coach Jim Caldwell called it a close competition and that it would be based on results, not on draft status.

Then came Monday's cut, and for the majority of camp, Tavecchio had been the more consistent kicker with the strongest leg. He started camp much more consistent than Freese and continued to be so throughout the open portion of practices.

Rarely did Tavecchio miss, although his most high-profile one came late Friday night on a 51-yard field goal attempt at Ford Field with the Lions holding a one-point lead.

Was that the difference? Tough to say, as Caldwell continually stuck to his close competition statement whenever the kicking game was brought up. The miss certainly didn't help Tavecchio, though, especially after Freese made a 55-yarder at Oakland the week before.

Of course, Freese was given more opportunities in games than Tavecchio. Freese worked with first-team holder Sam Martin all camp -- Caldwell said not to read into that -- and was the first kicker out in every circumstance.

That, to me, does not make for a close competition.

Caldwell wanted to change things in the third preseason game, saying the kickers would alternate attempts throughout the game. Except the Lions didn't do much on offense. They scored two touchdowns -- Freese took the extra point on one, the Lions went for two on the other -- and Tavecchio's only attempt was again late in a preseason game with backups playing.

This was Tavecchio's third straight training camp on the wrong side of the cut line -- first in San Francisco, where he lost out to David Akers, and then in Green Bay, where he challenged Mason Crosby.

If he proved anything in this camp, it is that he is good enough to be an NFL kicker. He just needs to find an opportunity to actually make a roster -- and the Lions appeared to be his best chance yet.

At least until Monday, when he faced the harsh reality of the NFL business once again.
Most significant move: By cutting kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, the Lions ended their kicking competition by settling on rookie Nate Freese from Boston College. Detroit coach Jim Caldwell continually called this a tight competition. However, Freese always worked with the first team and was the first kicker out in all three preseason games. Tavecchio had the more consistent camp of the two players, but Detroit invested a seventh-round draft pick in Freese. He may be Detroit’s kicker for now and could end up as its kicker throughout the season, but another miss or two and the team might want to consider the free-agent wire, including recently released Jay Feely from Arizona.

Defensive backfield getting settled: Detroit released corners Jonte Green and Aaron Hester and sent safety DeJon Gomes to injured reserve on Monday, giving some clarity to their secondary. Green was a somewhat surprising cut since it seemed like the team might at least keep him around until Saturday’s final cuts, but Chris Greenwood clearly beat him out. The questions in the secondary is now how many corners and safeties the team takes and whether it looks at a sixth corner (likely Greenwood) or a fifth safety (either Isa Abdul-Quddus or Jerome Couplin). Those will be two situations to watch Thursday night.

What’s next: The Lions will probably search the waiver wire for secondary help, maybe take a look at a receiver or kicking options. Otherwise, they play Buffalo on Thursday and make final cuts Saturday.

Lions moves: Cut CB Jonte Green, CB Aaron Hester, FB Chad Abram, K Giorgio Tavecchio, P Drew Butler, QB James Franklin, OG Alex Bullard, OL A.J. Dalton, DT Gregory Hickman, RB Steven Miller, DE Kris Redding and WR Conner Vernon. Moved S DeJon Gomes to injured reserve. Moved WR TJ Jones to PUP/reserve.
Examining the Detroit Lions' roster. There have been some changes to last week's projection.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
This feels pretty set at this point. Kellen Moore will get one more chance to impress coaches Thursday against Buffalo, but he isn't supplanting Orlovsky. James Franklin might not make it past Tuesday's cuts and if he does, he should finally see a snap Thursday. Moore is a practice squad candidate now.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Sticking with five here for now, with Chad Abram and George Winn as likely practice squad candidates. Owens' head injury could be a concern and if that happens, either Abram, Winn or Mikel Leshoure could end up on the 53-man roster. At this point, the rating of those players would be Winn, Leshoure, then Abram as far as 53-man candidates.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

No changes here, but it's close. At this point, Johnson, Tate and Ross are locks. Durham and Broyles also have the feel of guys who will end up on the roster. Ogletree has run with the first unit all camp, so he still receives the nod over Corey Fuller, who once again could end up on the practice squad. Andrew Peacock remains a good practice-squad candidate as well, especially if Fuller ends up on the 53-man roster.

TIGHT END (3)

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

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

One change here. Michael Williams has played with the second unit the past two weeks over Cornelius Lucas and has been working at both right and left tackle. He also has performed well in those circumstances, and coaches have noticed. That he could also end up as an emergency fourth tight end -- he is still making the transition to tackle from the position -- gives him the edge right now over Lucas, who the Lions might try to slip through onto the practice squad. I don't feel completely confident in that right now as it feels like somewhat of a coin-flip spot. If Lucas makes the team over Williams, Williams becomes almost a lock for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

These are probably the nine the Lions go with, especially since Johnson continues to shine in games. He also has played some special teams, so he has value there. Darryl Tapp feels like the odd man out in this scenario, but there is a chance Detroit could keep 10 since Tapp could play as a stand-up linebacker if need be.

LINEBACKER (6)

Van Noy's abdominal injury should be a concern at this point and might end up opening up a roster spot if it ends up being serious. The only player in question here is Lewis, but he continues to make special teams plays and is a core special teamer. That's his role on this team. If Van Noy's injury ends up being serious, it's unsure whether another linebacker takes his spot. It could open a spot for one of the running backs, a defensive lineman, or a safety.

CORNERBACK (5)

This is bold, but right now the Lions could keep only five cornerback -- especially since both Don Carey and Glover Quin can play cornerback in a pinch if needed. Both have done so in their NFL careers. This opens up a spot at safety, where the Lions have more depth and more special teams depth. It's entirely possible Detroit keeps Chris Greenwood or Jonte Green, though. If Mohammed Seisay makes it past Tuesday's cuts, he's a likely practice-squad candidate. This is a definite waiver-wire position to watch as well for Detroit when cuts are made.

SAFETY (5)

Other than Quin and Ihedigbo, not much is certain with this group. That Abdul-Quddus received the start and played pretty well Friday night bodes well for his roster chances. Carey is a core special teams player and, as mentioned above, gives the Lions corner/safety flexibility. Couplin has a real chance to make the roster since he can play special teams and is a long, rangy safety who can hit. He has also seen extensive time during the preseason. Right now the odd player out is DeJon Gomes, who hurt his neck against Oakland and has not practiced since. He is a good special teams player so if he doesn't practice this week, he could end up on IR or reserve IR -- although Van Noy's situation could change that, too.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Martin and Muhlbach remain set. After a week with Giorgio Tavecchio, his missed 51-yard field goal might have really hurt his chances. That's how close the competition has been between Freese and Tavecchio. If he is still on the roster Wednesday, that is actually a better sign for him than Freese. This is another position to watch the waiver wire on, especially if Arizona releases veteran Jay Feely or Kansas City cuts vet Ryan Succop.
The Detroit Lions have started to trim their roster.

Rookie wide receiver TJ Jones, who has been on the team's active PUP list while recovering from shoulder surgery in the offseason, has been moved to the physically unable to perform reserve list. This means he won't be available to practice for six weeks and then the Lions will have five weeks to decide whether to allow him to practice. If they do not -- or they do not activate him to the 53-man roster after he starts practicing -- he'll be on the PUP list the entire season.

Detroit also began its first round of roster cuts Saturday following Friday night's game against Jacksonville. The team started the day at 89 players and released OG Alex Bullard, OL A.J. Dalton, DT Gregory Hickman, RB Steven Miller, DE Kris Redding and WR Conner Vernon.

Of those players, only Miller had been with the team last season and he was on the practice squad. Redding and Vernon were brought in earlier during training camp and the rest of the cuts signed soon after May's draft. Dalton had been given a $2,500 signing bonus and Bullard a $500 signing bonus to come to Detroit as undrafted free agents.

This brings Detroit to 83 players. The Lions need to be at 75 players by 4 p.m. on Tuesday. None of the players the Lions released Saturday were expected to make the roster and of those, only Bullard appeared to be a practice squad candidate at any point.

 
DETROIT -- When the Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell, one of the biggest things preached was how he was going to cut down on penalties and errors, long an issue for the team under former coach Jim Schwartz.

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

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

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

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

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

And it showed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s something Caldwell will likely preach to his players over the next two weeks. An effort that resulted in a one-point win in August likely would produce a loss in September, October, November or December.
DETROIT -- The Detroit Lions will be without one defensive starter and a key defensive reserve Friday night against Jacksonville.

Safety James Ihedigbo and linebacker Kyle Van Noy will be sitting out against the Jaguars along with rookie wide receiver TJ Jones.

More interesting, though, might be some of the starter replacements. Isa Abdul-Quddus will start at safety in place of Ihedigbo instead of Don Carey, perhaps signifying Abdul-Quddus' move up the depth chart. Tahir Whitehead is starting at Sam linebacker in place of Ashlee Palmer in another surprising move.

Corey Hilliard will be at right tackle over LaAdrian Waddle, perhaps a sign that the vet could end up winning that job. Also, Devin Taylor will start at defensive end in place of Ezekiel Ansah. Ansah is active and is expected to play, but will likely be limited in his snaps.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Michael Williams is trying to think less. It might sound odd as he is in the midst of transitioning from tight end to offensive tackle, but understand his logic.

He was a processor at Alabama, needing to understand everything he saw and then making calls and decisions off those reads. As he moved to tackle, he discovered he no longer had to make the calls.

He still had to recognize the actual calls so he could understand and adjust his assignment, but the decisions no longer rested with him.

[+] EnlargeMichael Williams
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsMichael Williams, drafted as a tight end in 2013, is "going to play tackle in the NFL," according to Detroit Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn.
"I’ve always been a player to actually think about stuff while I’m doing it," Williams said. "But I think I have to retool my mind to just go."

So far, he has. Williams initially made the position switch prior to spring workouts to elongate his career, now in its second season with the Detroit Lions. He saw more long-term stability at tackle, didn’t mind the blocking much to begin with and had a body that could add weight while not losing his speed.

Even with the weight gain, his footwork has apparently remained. While he is still in his infancy of playing offensive line, the way he made the move impressed his coaches with his movement and ability to take contact.

"That one is unique in itself," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "Offensive linemen and defensive linemen, I think you have to go through a psychological metamorphosis to go in there and play from where you’ve been previously, particularly if you were outside those particular areas.

"This guy has done it and he’s done a nice job within it and he’s getting better every week."

Whether that progression continues in Detroit might depend a lot on what happens over the next two weeks. Williams missed almost a week of the preseason because of injury, yet when he returned, he ended up as a second-team tackle against Oakland last Friday.

He had a positive grade from Pro Football Focus against the Raiders, including one of the highest pass-protection grades on the team.

The transition has been hardest in protecting Detroit’s quarterbacks. Run blocking as a tight end is similar to run blocking as an offensive lineman. But on pass plays before, he would be running routes, not staying in trying to keep defensive ends from annihilating his quarterback.

Pass protection movements are less instinctual than mauling an opponent against the run. It requires more balance and leverage, which has been tricky.

"Anyone can kick back and do it and make it look good," Williams said. "But when you get to the top of that set and you have a 300-pound man rushing you, you kind of have to have some kind of balance to punch him, so as long as you are doing that and have balance at the top of your sets, you’re doing pretty good.

"It just takes a while to get that, and I’m trying to get it."

It is something that takes linemen years to master, and Williams is trying to accelerate the process enough to have a chance at a roster spot. With the balance and pass-protection movements, he is still "50-50 on that," when it comes to how natural it is.

This is expected and why, if Williams does not make the roster and clears waivers, he could be a strong candidate for a spot on the Lions' practice squad to see if he can continue to develop as a tackle.

"He’s going to play tackle in the NFL. He is, at some point. I don’t know when, but he will," Lions offensive line coach Jeremiah Washburn said. "There’s just not a lot of tackles out there with his kind of speed and balance.

"He’s going to continue to get technique and Bobby Johnson has been working with him a lot, with his pass-pro technique. I’m excited to see what happens to him."

Where that happens is the question.
As part of our NFL Confidential survey, players were asked who among their peers would they least like to end up in a fight with.

Considering a season ago, Ndamukong Suh was named the most feared player in the NFL for what he does on the field, that the Detroit Lions defensive tackle is now the players guys in the league would not like to fight is of little surprise.

Suh
Suh received 18 percent of the vote from 82 players polled, followed by Houston defensive end J.J. Watt, with 11. They were the only two players to receive more than 10 percent of the vote.

If you think about it, though, would anyone really want to fight Suh? That has nothing to do with his demeanor, either. He is a physical specimen at 6-foot-4 and around 300 pounds. By itself, that's intimidating. Then realize most of that is finely tuned muscle, including massive arms and a torso that if he was able to get a punch around on you, there probably wouldn't be a second one.

He also trains relentlessly and works to add muscle and cut body fat -- he is not someone even professional boxers would probably really want to get in a ring with.

Never mind if you don't have any fighting experience.

 

 

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."

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