NFC North: Blake Clingan

Detroit Lions cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2013
Most significant move: There were no surprises for the Detroit Lions and, really, there were few big decisions. We noted earlier that the team decided to preserve a roster spot for No. 3 quarterback Kellen Moore, so the most significant move they did make was placing rookie tight end Michael Williams on injured reserve. The Lions had substantial plans for Williams this season as the third tight end in the jumbo package that lineman Riley Reiff filled last season. They also hoped to develop his receiving skills as veterans Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler enter contract years. Williams had surgery last week to repair a hand injury, and though coach Jim Schwartz said the team had no long-term injuries, Williams is in fact lost for the season. (NFL teams can't start placing players on short-term injured reserve until next week.) As a result, rookie Joseph Fauria -- a much better receiver but less of a blocker than Williams -- is on the 53-man roster with Pettigrew and Scheffler.

The dominoes: The Lions apparently chose veteran Michael Spurlock as their kick returner, necessitating the release of rookie Steven Miller, who could return on the practice squad. Spurlock is also a receiver, and for the now he is one of six on the roster, presumably because of Ryan Broyles' sore knees. The release of veteran Matt Willis means Kris Durham is the sixth receiver. You wonder if the Lions would change directions soon in that regard. The Lions sifted through their big group of veteran defensive backups by tapping Rashean Mathis as a swing cornerback/safety and Rocky McIntosh as a backup linebacker while releasing the rest. John Wendling and Don Carey are the backup safeties for now.

What's next: According to multiple reports, the Lions will place running back Montell Owens on short-term injured reserve. That can't happen until next week, so for now he is part of the 53-man roster. He must miss at least six weeks of the regular season. You would think the Lions will bring back a number of the players they cut Saturday for their practice squad, and it's worth remembering that they are No. 5 in priority for NFL waiver claims. Sunday could be a busy day.

List of players cut: WR: Corey Fuller, Matt Willis. RB: Steven Miller, Shaun Chapas. OL: Rodney Austin, Kevin Haslam, Darren Keyton, Jake Scott. DL: Andre Fluellen, Ogemdi Nwagbuo, Xavier Proctor, Jimmy Sadler-McQueen. LB: Brandon Hepburn, Jon Morgan (waived/injured) Chris White. CB: Ron Bartell, Chris Greenwood. S: Amari Spievey, Tyrell Johnson, Martavius Neloms (waived/injured) P: Blake Clingan.
Expectations rise for any specialist deemed talented enough to be drafted, and so there has been plenty of interest this summer in how the new punters in Minnesota (Jeff Locke) and Detroit (Sam Martin) are doing in training camp. Both were selected in the fifth round of the April draft, Locke at No. 155 overall and Martin at No. 165, and both are the heavy favorites to win the job this season.

At the moment, in fact, Locke is the only punter in Vikings camp. Martin is competing against Blake Clingan, who hasn't kicked in a game since the 2010 college football season. And both Locke and Martin are already wowing crowds with the raw distance on some of their kicks.

Monday, Locke booted one punt 65 yards in the air during team drills, according to Mark Craig of the Star Tribune. Another punt took a favorable roll and wound up 90 yards from the original line of scrimmage.

Martin, meanwhile, drilled a punt 71 yards last week, according to Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News. It's also possible that Martin will wind up as the Lions' kickoff man as well if coaches want to protect the leg of veteran place-kicker David Akers. Locke can kick off if needed, but Vikings place-kicker Blair Walsh was one of the NFL's best in that category last season.

As you know, the Detroit Lions signed punter Blake Clingan after a specialists tryout at their Allen Park practice facility this week. Clingan hasn't kicked competitively since 2010 and paid his own way to the event, but as it turns out, he wasn't the only participant with an interesting story.

As Bernie Wilson of the Associated Press reports, the Lions also worked out Norwegian place-kicker Havard Rugland, who rose to fame last year by posting a four-minute YouTube video of trick kicks that's pretty incredible. Rugland is headed to an American kicking camp to refine his skills after the Lions declined to sign him, but because it's Friday morning and we're going to be hashing through a ton of dense free agency news in the coming days, I thought I would pass along Rugland's via the ABC News video embedded in this post.

Rugland nicknamed his video "Kickalicious."

According to Wilson, the Lions also worked out place-kicker Justin Medlock. We still don't have a clear indication if veteran Jason Hanson, a pending free agent, will return.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

The Chicago Bears have bid farewell to their former nickelback, D.J. Moore, whom they apparently won't re-sign as a free agent. Now, the player who took over that position last season is expected to test his value in free agency before making a decision on his 2013 team.

Jeff Dickerson of reports the Bears want to re-sign cornerback Kelvin Hayden, a pending free agent. But Hayden, Dickerson reports, "is expected to explore other options in free agency before coming to any final decision, according to a league source."

If Hayden signs elsewhere, the Bears would have to acquire a nickelback during the offseason. Cornerback Zack Bowman is also a pending free agent.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Let's go ahead and continue Tuesday's unintended theme of specialists and take a closer look at the Detroit Lions' situation, one they attempted to get ahead with an impromptu series of tryouts at their practice facility.

According to multiple reports, the Lions signed free agent punter Blake Clingan after Tuesday's workout, one of several punters and place-kickers they're likely to evaluate between now and the start of the season. Nick Harris, who finished last season with the Lions, is not likely to be back, and as we discussed in Tuesday's SportsNation chat, place-kicker Jason Hanson is a pending free agent and might retire.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz said recently that Hanson has been seen around the facility, a sign that he might return for 2013. But the Lions almost certainly will have turnover at one of their specialist positions, if not both, in the coming year.

Note: According to Tim Twentyman of the Lions' web site, Clingan hasn't punted for a professional team since leaving Central Florida in 2010.