NFC North: Detroit Lions

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 was considered a dress rehearsal, consider the Lions in need of at least one major revision. Detroit committed 15 penalties for 131 yards on 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, and 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 has 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 tune-up 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 non-aggressive 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."
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.

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