NFC North: 2014 Lions training camp

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.
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."
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.

Lions Camp Report: Day 15

August, 16, 2014
Aug 16
7:00
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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
7:15
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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
12:10
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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."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Ryan Broyles has had an NFL career full of one thing: waiting.

The third-year receiver waited to get healthy, first from an ACL torn in college, then the other during his rookie season with the Detroit Lions and then a third time when he ruptured his Achilles tendon against Dallas last season.

The way he viewed it, others were waiting, too. Like the general manager who drafted him, Martin Mayhew. And the coaching staff he initially played under, led by Jim Schwartz, and even the one that inherited him, led by Jim Caldwell.

Broyles
All these people were waiting and saw none of the production expected out of a second-round pick.

“In a sense, yeah,” Broyles said Monday night. “If you come out with an ACL, the first year I came in I wasn’t really practicing during the preseason and (they were) holding me out of games here and there. Second year around, same type of deal. Inactive the first couple of games or whatever it is, and I’m fortunate enough that they still believed in me.

“This time around, I feel a lot healthier at this point, and I’m going to continue to gain confidence. I haven’t had a full preseason yet since I’ve been here. I haven’t been pain-free since I’ve been here.”

He entered his third NFL training camp buried on the roster, running with mostly second- and third-team players who likely will not be on an NFL roster a month from now. He understood why, too. He needed to prove himself again, needed to prove he was healthy and still had something left in legs that had been battered and bruised both at Oklahoma and in the NFL. He needed to show the 30 catches for 395 yards and two touchdowns he has in his career are likely less than a season of fully healthy work for him instead of two years of output.

Stepping on the field, even though it was a preseason game, was important Saturday night for that reason. He is, as he said, the healthiest he has been since being drafted by Detroit. It is why he said that for a moment Saturday he thought to himself, “Wow, I’m still wearing this NFL jersey right now.”

Although he didn’t play with the starters, he caught three passes for 27 yards.

Broyles isn’t completely back yet. The explosion he wants and needs is still eluding him, but that’s expected from his prior ACL tears.

Saturday was a much-needed step. His initial roster standing didn’t bother him. Neither do people who wonder whether or not he’ll be able to return to his old form that made him an attractive NFL prospect to begin with.

It’s been that way for years, including his most recent rehabilitation process in Texas.

“I really don’t pay attention to what’s going on around me. It’s really myself. It’s a battle within myself and how I feel,” Broyles said. “There are days where you’re like, ‘Dang, am I ever going to make it back?’ You know what I mean?

“I’ve been through it all, so I’m just really blessed to feel as good as I am right now. But this is just a start.”

The flashes from Broyles have been more frequent, too, from his ability to cut and run upfield against Cleveland to a catch he made in practice Monday night, where he leaped in the air to grab a high pass from Dan Orlovsky.

Those are signs the explosiveness he covets is close to possibly returning and the chances of a finally healthy full season are in range.

Despite his newfound health, Broyles still has to wait a little longer -- although he has control of it this time. As he bides his time for the explosiveness to return, he can push his way back up the depth chart and ensure a roster spot.

Those people he viewed as waiting for him aren’t any more. Schwartz is in Buffalo. Mayhew is here, but the new coaching staff has no ties to him, no allegiance to him. And he knows that. Yet the new coaches appear impressed.

“I have not seen him where he’s inhibited at all,” Caldwell said. “He’s been able to run, catch, explode, jump. You saw him here in practice, even. He can get up, but he’s feeling comfortable with it. He’s doing a lot of good things.”

Good things are important for Broyles because they signify one thing: All that waiting is almost done.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It all came at Joseph Fauria really fast last season, from training camp, where he was trying to find his way onto the Detroit Lions roster as an undrafted free agent, to learning a different way to play the position he excelled at during his college career at UCLA.

That’s part of the conundrum of playing tight end in a spread-type offense in college, where the tight end is essentially a larger wide receiver and not playing with his hand down or next to the offensive line. Blocking? It's essentially not required in that kind of offense. So while Fauria was trying to make the Lions in 2013, he also knew he had to learn something fairly foreign to him through no fault of his own.

Fauria
Fauria
In the NFL, blocking was going to be a requirement.

Fauria realized this early on as he began the season on the roster but the clear backup to Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Then Scheffler suffered another concussion and was eventually released, while Fauria became a legitimate threat in the red zone, using his 6-foot-7 size and reliable hands to make a rookie impact.

Except Fauria, even then, stressed he wanted more. He knew his key to longevity in the NFL and to seeing more than red-zone snaps was to run his routes crisper and focus more on the part of the game he didn’t have to worry as much about before: his blocking.

This was his offseason focus -- and so far, so good for the second-year tight end.

“(I’m) a tremendous amount more comfortable, just because I’m not going from standing up the whole year in college to now just putting my hand down the whole time,” Fauria said. “Now I’m mixing it up a little bit, have a year under my belt and I know what to do as a pro.”

Yes, that includes blocking -- which Fauria handled well, opening up holes for backs to run through. Pro Football Focus gave him a positive grade on his run blocking, which the site said he did for 11 plays. He knows, though, his blocking will have to be consistent for him to be on the field more this season, especially with rookie Eric Ebron vying for some of his snaps.

But Fauria has shown throughout the first two weeks that he has improved at his perceived weakness -- blocking -- and still provides the reliable hands and large target he did during his rookie season.

Through a few weeks, though, Fauria looks like a more complete player than he was a season ago, and that should be expected. Unlike last season, he has less theoretical off-field stuff to worry about, so he can concentrate on what he needs to do to stay on the field during the entirety of games.

“More so not worrying about doing the numbers game, if I’m going to make the team or if I’m going to do this or if I’m going to do this dance of if I’m going to be able to stretch before practice because I don’t know the schedule because I’m a rookie,” Fauria said. “All those things kind of were messing my brain up a little bit because it was my first year in the NFL.

“Now I’m a veteran and I know what to expect and it just comes with me doing my job.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- During the spring, Matthew Stafford admitted there was a lot to pick up in the new offensive system, only the second one he’s had to digest in the NFL.

Through two weeks of training camp, though, Stafford has not shown many issues. Anything positive that happens for the Detroit Lions this season will start with the improvement of Stafford, who needed to show better decision-making and efficiency in practice and in games.

So far, not bad. He has not thrown an interception during any serious team or seven-on-seven periods in the first two weeks of training camp.

“I’m being coached differently,” Stafford said. “Our drops are different. Our reads are different. Our plays are totally different. It was kind of nice to scrap everything and start from the new way they wanted me to do it.

“I tried to embrace myself in that as hard as I possibly can and it’s been fun.”

That Stafford has shown this already -- along with strong rapport with receivers Golden Tate and Kevin Ogletree to go with Calvin Johnson -- is a massive positive for the Lions as they search for offensive efficiency.

Both Stafford and his offensive coordinator, Joe Lombardi, understand that pressure is on Stafford every play in practice. So far, he’s handled it.

“That’s the quarterback position,” Lombardi said. “All of the pressure is always going to be on him [Stafford]. Like all competitive people, and he’s a highly competitive guy, they put more pressure on themselves than anyone else does.

“It’s fair.”

It also needs to continue as Stafford continues to learn the offense.

Three reasons for optimism:

  • [+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
    AP Photo/Carlos OsorioPlayers are buying into new coach Jim Caldwell's focus on efficiency.
    This team appears to truly believe in Jim Caldwell, at least for now. Yes, it is easy to speak positively of a new regime before a regular-season game has been played, but the players are buying into his focus on efficiency. From his elimination of stretching periods in practice to his promise that he’ll treat every player equally, the Lions have been appreciative of Caldwell's approach compared to the previous regime under Jim Schwartz. Accountability has been a big focus for Caldwell, and so far it has worked.
  • Megatron. It might sound simplistic, but if this team has a healthy Johnson, that is a massive reason for optimism because of what he is able to do to opposing defenses. Johnson has looked impressive through the first two weeks of camp, making jaw-dropping plays essentially every day. This is typical for Johnson, who has been doing that since his freshman year at Georgia Tech in 2004. But Johnson looks healed from his offseason knee and finger surgeries, and the Lions are being smart with his repetitions during practice. As long as Johnson is healthy, Detroit can feel good about its passing game.
  • Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley have been dominant. Both entered camp in great shape and are playing for future contracts this season. If the Lions receive first-round efforts from both Suh (expected) and Fairley (questionable) in 2014, Detroit could have the dominant defensive front it has sought since it drafted them in back-to-back first rounds.
Three reasons for pessimism:

  • If Stafford gets hurt, the Lions are in major trouble. Yes, many teams can say that about their starting quarterback, but in previous years Shaun Hill gave Detroit a level of confidence that it could remain competitive if Stafford were to go down. So far, No. 2 quarterback Dan Orlovsky has looked somewhat rough both in practice and in one preseason game. Kellen Moore showed some flashes of potential in the preseason opener, but he was mostly facing players who won’t make Cleveland’s 53-man roster. More than any other season, Stafford’s health is of supreme importance right now.
  • [+] EnlargeDetroit's Matthew Stafford
    Leon Halip/Getty ImagesA lot of the Lions' success in 2014 will depend on how well Matthew Stafford picks up the new offense and if he can stay healthy.
    The secondary is still questionable. The Lions are set with their starters here, but the depth is still up in the air at both cornerback and safety. Beyond Rashean Mathis and Darius Slay -- and even with them -- the Lions have no sure things at cornerback and in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler, that is not good for Detroit. Safety appears to be a little stronger both in starters (Glover Quin, James Ihedigbo) and also depth (Don Carey, DeJon Gomes, Isa Abdul-Quddus) but lacks a top-end playmaker.
  • The offense has still looked a little shaky. Stafford has practiced well, especially with Johnson, but the defense has looked stronger than the offense on multiple occasions. There is still a large learning curve, but considering what the Lions have put into their offense in the offseason, that might not bode well for a team trying to score points in bunches. Part of the issue might come from Detroit’s multiplicity offensively, with players lining up in different spots on almost every play. Early on the defense has looked stronger.
Observation Deck:

  • Detroit has stayed mostly healthy through the first two weeks of camp. Part of that might have to do with the way Detroit has practiced this summer -- short, efficient, smart splitting of reps and days off for veterans. So far, Caldwell has taken care of his players.
  • Eric Ebron is coming along. He had a rough first week of camp, dropping passes and looking lost at times. Since then, the first-round pick has been much better both with ball security and route running. He has probably the most challenging camp of any player on the team as he’s a rookie and lining up in four different spots within the Lions offense. He is making progress.
  • The kicking situation has the potential to be a mess and, at best, an untested situation. Neither Nate Freese nor Giorgio Tavecchio has kicked in a regular-season game. Freese is a rookie and Tavecchio has been cut the past two camps. Both have looked decent-to-good in practice thus far, but it’ll be interesting to see how much the Lions trust an inexperienced kicker the first time the game is on the line. Punter Sam Martin has been impeccable at camp, though, and looks to have improved from his strong rookie performance.

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