NFL Nation: Corey Williams

The Oakland Raiders are reportedly visiting with more defensive players.

Oakland signed three defensive players Wednesday. However, these two players are different because they are over 30.

Oakland is visiting with Cincinnati cornerback Terence Newman and Detroit defensive tackle Corey Williams.

Newman, 34, has a long, nice career, including a solid season in 2012. There are a lot of cornerbacks on the market, and Newman should come cheap. He is not near the top of the list, but he likely would have been Oakland’s best cornerback last season. The Raiders are in need of two starting cornerbacks.

Williams’ production has slipped. He was a solid player earlier in his career with Green Bay where Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was. If Williams, 32, is signed, he’d probably be a cheaper version of Tommy Kelly. He is expected to be cut by Detroit.

Lions commence defensive overhaul

February, 5, 2013
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I updated our earlier post to confirm that the Detroit Lions had released their third player in two days, this time the highly respected defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. That makes three players cut -- Vanden Bosch, Stephen Peterman and Titus Young -- and about $8.45 million in salary cap space recouped over the past two days.

Young's departure leaves the Lions thin at receiver, as we noted Monday. (The St. Louis Rams claimed Young on waivers Tuesday). The Lions will have some decisions to make at offensive line after Peterman's release, and now the same is true at defensive line. It's quite possible that defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be the only opening-week 2012 starter who will return in 2013. That fits a theme general manager Martin Mayhew sounded shortly after the season: The Lions defense is likely headed for a significant personnel overhaul.

Vanden Bosch has already been released, and fellow defensive end Cliff Avril is a pending free agent who seems unlikely to get another year as the Lions' franchise player. Veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams is also a pending free agent, and the emergence of Nick Fairley in 2012 probably means Williams will move on as well.

So who will start alongside Suh and Fairley in 2013? A promotion could be in store for Willie Young, a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 who didn't have a sack in 2012 but managed 19 quarterback hurries in a relatively low 259 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus (PFF). That's a hurry rate of 7.4 percent. For context, consider that Avril's rate for 38 hurries in 821 snaps worked out to 4.6 percent.

There is a big difference between being a situational pass-rusher, as Young as been for the past two seasons, and a starter. But even if the Lions focus on defensive end in the draft, they're not likely to find two new starters in the same draft at the same position. Young, a pending restricted free agent, should get every opportunity to fill one of those roles.
We noted earlier that Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew admitted he was wrong to count on tailback Jahvid Best to play this season. But that was just one of several acknowledgments and candid comments Mayhew made during an interview session with local reporters, and his most striking comments implied a major and immediate overhaul of the Lions' defense.

Much of the Lions' defensive nucleus is made up of pending free agents, and you wonder how many Mayhew wants to bring back after reading some of Mayhew's quotes. He admitted it's "quite possible" he misjudged the defense's talent level entering the season, and said it needs more playmakers.

[+] EnlargeChris Houston
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsCornerback Chris Houston, right, is among the pending free agents on a Detroit Lions defense that delivered few big plays this season.
"We need good players," Mayhew said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "It doesn't really matter how we get them from my standpoint. But we need good players, and we need impact players, especially on the back end on the defense.

"We need guys that can impact the game," he added. "We've got a lot of guys that are good guys. They line up right, they know what their job is, but they don't impact the game. We need interceptors. We need guys that sack the quarterback. We need guys that cause fumbles, guys that make plays on third down. Those are the kind of guys that can change the game for us."

What's amazing is that even the most amateur observers have been questioning the Lions' secondary for years. It's true that safety Louis Delmas is a difference-maker when healthy, but for the most part it appears Mayhew went into the season counting on players to do things they had never or rarely done before.

Who did Mayhew expect to be his interceptors? Cornerback Chris Houston had five in 2011, but has never had more than two in any of his other five NFL seasons. Cornerback Jacob Lacey had five interceptions in three previous seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Safety Amari Spievey had five in two previous seasons. Cornerback Bill Bentley was a rookie, and thus his production was impossible to project.

Mayhew said the only defensive player who improved from 2011 was defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a warning shot for everyone who is eligible for free agency and a few others as well. (I assume he skipped over defensive tackle Nick Fairley, because he was injured for most of last season.)

The free agent list includes defensive linemen Cliff Avril, Corey Williams, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson. Linebackers Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy are on it, as are Houston, Delmas, Lacey and Spievey. Given Mayhew's comments, you would think that many of them will be looking for work elsewhere this spring.

Of course, Mayhew's search for "playmakers" is no different than what every other team is looking for. He won't find playmakers at every position, but in 2012, the Lions were pretty thin across the board. Most fans directed their ire at the Lions' inconsistent offense, but it rarely got help from the defense. The Lions recovered the NFL's sixth-fewest fumbles (six), had only 11 interceptions (No. 23) and ranked No. 22 in sacks per opposing dropback (5.6), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Again, I appreciate Mayhew's honesty. There is not much to criticize here that he did not already acknowledge. The Lions stood pat last offseason and paid for it. That doesn't appear to be a possibility in 2013.

Louis Delmas might be ready to play

November, 20, 2012
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Tuesday was a day off for three NFC North teams. For the Detroit Lions, however, it was the equivalent of a Thursday and Friday practice as they prepare for their Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Houston Texans.

We will get injury designations on Wednesday, but it sure appears that the Lions won't have Jeff Backus at left tackle for the first time since the final week of the 2000 season. Backus didn't practice Tuesday because of a hamstring injury, and it appears that rookie Riley Reiff will take his place Thursday. Coach Jim Schwartz said that "nothing's been ruled yet," but it would appear that Backus would have to make significant progress over the next 48 hours to have a chance to play.

Meanwhile, safety Louis Delmas (knee) and defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) both returned to practice. There appears to be a decent chance, at least, of Delmas returning. He has played only three games this season because of a knee injury first suffered in training camp, and Schwartz referred to him Tuesday as "literally the heart and soul of our defense."

We'll update you Wednesday when the final injury report is released.

NFC North Friday injury report

November, 16, 2012
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Let's take a quick look inside the Friday injury report:

Chicago Bears: Because they play Monday, the Bears won't provide game designations until Saturday. But we already know that quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion) is out of Monday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers. Defensive end Shea McClellin (concussion) also is out. It appears, meanwhile, that receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) is ready to return. Jeffery had full participation in Friday's practice.

Detroit Lions: The Lions ruled out defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) and safety Amari Spievey (concussion) for Sunday's game against Green Bay Packers. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) is listed as doubtful and not expected to play. Cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) and receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) are questionable, but both are expected to play.

Green Bay Packers: Tight end Andrew Quarless (knee) was ruled out, along with three players we already knew about: Receiver Greg Jennings (abdomen), defensive back Charles Woodson (collarbone) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring). Cornerback Sam Shields (shin) is questionable, but the chances of him playing don't appear great. Linebacker Terrell Manning (shoulder) is questionable, but all other players should be available.

NFC North Wednesday practice report

November, 14, 2012
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Let's take a quick roundup of a newsy Wednesday in the NFC North:

Chicago Bears: The Bears didn't practice so there was no injury report. We've already noted that coach Lovie Smith said quarterback Jay Cutler (concussion) is improving. According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has passed his concussion tests this week and is on track to play against the Bears on Monday night. Meanwhile, place-kicker Robbie Gould issued an apology for the comments he made Monday night about the playing surface at Soldier Field. Gould said he spoke "prior to having a full understanding" of the issues involved. It should be noted, however, that the Chicago Tribune reported Soldier Field will be re-sodded this week.

Detroit Lions: Missing practice Wednesday were safeties Louis Delmas (knee), Erik Coleman (eye) and Amari Spievey (concussion); along with defensive end Cliff Avril (back/concussion), cornerback Chris Houston (ankle), defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) and receiver Calvin Johnson (knee). Meanwhile, the Elias Sports Bureau awarded defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh a sack on a play when he touched Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder after he tripped over an offensive lineman's foot. That adds to what coach Jim Schwartz said was one of Suh's best-ever games.

Green Bay Packers: The Packers ruled out linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) from Sunday's game against the Lions. The same goes for receiver Greg Jennings (abdomen) and cornerback Charles Woodson (collarbone). Defensive end Mike Neal (ankle) also did not practice. Fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) was limited.

Lions to start rookie CB Jonte Green

October, 22, 2012
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CHICAGO -- The Soldier Field grounds crew began removing a protective tarp here at about 6:30 p.m., two hours before kickoff between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. It hasn't rained since early afternoon in downtown Chicago, so for the moment the field is dry.

Let's review some relevant pregame news from the Lions' perspective:

Lions-Bears: Saturday injury report

October, 20, 2012
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We have the final injury report for Monday night's game at Soldier Field, and it indicates that one of the contestants will be thin at cornerback. The details:

Chicago Bears: Receiver Alshon Jeffery (hand) had already been ruled out of this game, and otherwise the Bears are healthy. The only player whose availability is in question is safety Sherrick McManis (hip). Receiver Devin Hester (quadriceps) and linebacker Blake Costanzo (thumb) are probable.

Detroit Lions: Cornerback Jacob Lacey (concussion) was ruled out and cornerback Bill Bentley (shoulder) is doubtful, which likely means the Lions' top three cornerbacks Monday night will be Chris Houston, rookie Jonte Green and the just-resigned Alphonso Smith. On paper, that's not a great matchup. We'll see if the Lions' front four can protect the secondary with a strong pass rush. The only other player whose availability is in question is defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee), who didn't practice Saturday and is listed as questionable. There is some hope he will be able to play a role Monday night, however.

Lions: Houston down, Ryan Broyles up

September, 16, 2012
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SAN FRANCISCO -- As we expected, the Detroit Lions won't have either starting cornerback available for Sunday night's matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.

Cornerbacks Chris Houston (ankle) and Bill Bentley (concussion) were both deactivated and won't be in uniform. The Lions announced Drayton Florence and Jacob Lacey as their replacements, and it's expected that Kevin Barnes and Jonte Green will be on the field when the Lions need extra defensive backs.

On the other hand, Lions receiver Ryan Broyles will be in uniform after being deactivated for last week's game against the St. Louis Rams. As we discussed last week, the Lions had significant success against the 49ers last season on passes between the numbers. Broyles thrives on inside passes and could be a valuable weapon against the 49ers' defense.

Finally, defensive tackle Corey Williams is in the starting lineup even though he missed practice all week because of a knee injury.
Greetings from NFC North blog headquarters, where I've returned for a 24-hour pit stop before continuing our Week 2 adventure. Remember, I'll be at Candlestick Park on Sunday night for the Detroit Lions' matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. While we have a moment, let's get inside a truncated Friday injury report that suggests the Lions will be without their two starting cornerbacks this weekend.

Detroit Lions: Cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) was a limited participant in practice for a third consecutive day, but was listed as doubtful on the injury report. I was assuming Houston would play in some role Sunday night after a two-week layoff, but that might not be the case. Fellow starter Bill Bentley (concussion) was ruled out, so the Lions might be left to rely on some combination of Jacob Lacey, Drayton Florence, Jonte Green and Kevin Barnes against the 49ers. If that's the case, all four of the Lions' starting defensive backs Sunday will be players who opened training either on another roster or as backups. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Corey Williams (knee) did not practice and is questionable, as is backup defensive end Lawrence Jackson.

Minnesota Vikings: Linebacker Marvin Mitchell (ankle) and receiver Jarius Wright (ankle) are questionable. All other players will be available for Sunday's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

Detroit Lions cut-down analysis

August, 31, 2012
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Click here for the complete list of Detroit Lions roster moves.

Most significant move: The Lions showed their commitment to fixing the secondary by keeping four new cornerbacks -- Kevin Barnes, Jacob Lacey and draft choices Bill Bentley and Jonte Green. They left themselves thin at safety, though. The Lions retained five safeties from last year -- Louis Delmas, Amari Spievey, Erik Coleman, John Wendling and Ricardo Silva -- but not adding a new safety is a little surprising considering the knee problems Delmas has dealt with. At corner, though, the Lions have a nice mixture of veterans and youth. Lacey is at least a solid third corner, Barnes came over from the Redskins in a trade, and Chris Houston is a solid starter. The Lions released Alphonso Smith, Justin Miller and Ross Weaver, who fell behind in the cornerback race.

Onward and upward: Defensive end Everette Brown and defensive tackle Andre Fluellen had decent camps and could be picked up by other teams. Brown was particularly solid as a pass-rusher during the preseason. Still, it was going to be hard for Brown to crack the top four at defensive end with Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young ahead of him. Brown’s only hope was beating out fourth-round choice Ronnell Young, but the Lions wisely made a commitment to their draft board by keeping seven draft choices.

What next: The Lions need to start thinking about locking up some of their defensive starters. Avril, Corey Williams, Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, Houston and Delmas are unrestricted free agents. Spievey is a restricted free agent. That won’t be easy. The Lions have less than $2.5 million of cap room, so they might be able to get only one deal done. They can’t do a long-term deal with Avril because they come to an agreement by July 15. Franchise players have to settle for the one-year deal after that date. The Lions may have to put the franchise tag on Delmas after the season and then get a long-term deal done with Avril in February.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In an unusual moment Wednesday morning, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz called his team into a huddle near the far end of a practice field. The previous 75 minutes had produced one too many false starts and encroachment penalties, and it appeared Schwartz had had enough.

Officials called 146 penalties on the Lions last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and opponents accepted 128 -- the third-highest total in the NFL. By the looks of it, at least, Schwartz has made the issue a significant emphasis in training camp. Spectators and reporters couldn't hear what he said during that mid-practice huddle, but it was unlikely he was discussing the lunch menu in the Lions' cafeteria.

"It's definitely been an emphasis," cornerback Chris Houston said. "Coach has been more on guys if they jump offsides or make dumb penalties. He's much more aware of that. If you do have penalties, you're going to get it. He's going to yell at you."

There are no drills that can minimize the kind of penalties Houston is referring to. Coaches have to ensure players know the rules and then create accountability when they don't or can't follow them. Wednesday, it appeared the Lions removed right tackle Gosder Cherilus from team drills after he had a false start.

You could argue that pre-snap penalties can be a function of the physical drain of training camp, but as Schwartz noted, the Lions had just returned from a day off Tuesday.

"[W]e weren't at our best [Wednesday]," Schwartz said. "We need to be better, particularly after a day off. There are days off that are built into our schedule now with the new CBA and things like that. When we take advantage of a day off, we don't need it to bleed over into the next day. We've got to make sure that doesn’t happen."

The chart shows the Lions' most penalized individuals last season. Seven of tight end Brandon Pettigrew's 11 penalties were false starts. Defensive end Cliff Avril was called for five offside penalties/neutral zone infractions. Left tackle Jeff Backus had three false starts and seven of defensive tackle Corey Williams' eight penalties came before the snap.

Coaches generally consider those type of penalties preventable, as opposed to illegal blocks on special teams that seem more open to interpretation from officials. To borrow a cliché from professional sports, you can only control what you can control, and the Lions are focused on controlling that large section of mistakes that went unchecked last season.

As we discussed Wednesday, one apparently lackluster practice doesn't make a big impact on me in the context of a three-week training camp. What was more notable to me was the Lions' recognition and the steps they are taking to minimize the issue.

"The next step for us is being disciplined with the penalties," Houston said, "and not making bonehead mistakes. If we can do that, take some of those penalties down, those after-the-play penalties, and if we can do all of that and play within the lines, we'll be OK."
Bill Polian's list of 10 pivotal players in the NFL this season Insider includes Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley. You'll need an Insider subscription to see the entire file, but here is what Polian wrote about Fairley:
Fairley could be the missing piece in making the Detroit defense dominant. If the big Auburn alum can reach his potential, a trio of him, Ndamukong Suh and the emerging Corey Williams could make the Lions' D-line extremely hard to handle up the middle and wreak havoc on the pocket (which will help an improving secondary).

Fairley
I still think the Lions need more from the running back position to be legitimate title contenders, but if Fairley steps up, an already improved defense will be taken to another level.

The most interesting part of the choice is that Polian didn't bother suggesting that one of the Lions' defensive backs needs to step it up, whether it's safety Amari Spievey or cornerback Aaron Berry or anyone else who might play a prominent role in improving the team's pass defense. Polian instead focused on the impact of strengthening what is already one of the NFL's more dominant defensive fronts.

That appears to be in line with the Lions' philosophy when you look at how they've focused their roster building in recent years. Over the past three years, they've committed big money to sign defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and retain defensive end Cliff Avril. They've used the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to select Suh, and the No. 12 overall pick brought them Fairley.

On the other hand, the Lions did use the No. 33 overall pick of the 2009 draft to select safety Louis Delmas. But for the most part, they have cobbled together the secondary with second-tier moves (and players), knowing it would be protected by a more-talented defensive line. It stands to reason that Fairley's emergence in 2012 would only enhance that approach.

Earlier: The Lions have high expectations for Fairley now that he is recovered from a foot injury he originally suffered last summer, despite a recent marijuana charge.
Outside linebacker Keith Rivers, who was traded today to the New York Giants for a fifth-round pick, wasn't the only disappointment in the Bengals' 2008 draft class.

Cincinnati failed to find a long-term impact player out of its 10 picks that year. Rivers, the ninth overall pick in the 2008 draft, finished with the most starts in this class with 33, and the only players that remain with the team are two backups: defensive tackle Pat Sims (third round), and offensive tackle Anthony Collins (fourth round).

Wide receiver Jerome Simpson (second round) produced a career-high 50 catches last season as the team's No. 2 wide receiver, but he now faces 15 days in a Kentucky jail after pleading guilty to a drug charge. The Bengals haven't ruled out bringing him back.

Wide receiver Andre Caldwell (third round) showed promise in 2009 when he made a career-best 51 catches. But he followed that up with a combined 61 receptions the past two seasons. Caldwell signed this offseason with the Denver Broncos.

There were two players -- defensive tackle Jason Shirley (fifth round) and safety Corey Lynch (sixth round) -- who played a handful of games for Cincinnati before going elsewhere for reserve roles. Shirley played last season for Carolina, and Lynch was with Tampa Bay.

The last three players taken in the Bengals' 2008 draft -- tight end Matt Sherry (sixth), defensive end Angelo Craig (seventh) and wide receiver Mario Urritia (seventh) -- never played a regular-season game for Cincinnati and are out of the league.

In comparison, the Ravens drafted quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Ray Rice that season, and the Pittsburgh Steelers selected running back Rashard Mendenhall. Even the Browns, who had limited picks after trading for Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams, got underrated defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin in the sixth round.

Flynn Dilemma: Not feeling it

February, 25, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS — It's been fun discussing the idea of the Green Bay Packers using their franchise tag on quarterback Matt Flynn, especially after they signed tight end Jermichael Finley without using the tag on him.

Flynn
Flynn
The opportunity technically will exist until the March 5 deadline, and general manager Ted Thompson refused to rule out the possibility Friday. But I'm totally on board with this post from Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. It continues to be much more likely that Flynn will depart via free agency rather than be tagged as a franchise player and ultimately traded.

Thompson has been involved in with several instances of trading a franchised player, from receiver Joey Galloway when he worked for the Seattle Seahawks in 2000 to former Packers defensive tackle Corey Williams in 2008. But those instances were different. Galloway had been a holdout, and the Packers weren't willing to meet Williams' financial demands for a long-term contract.

Flynn is a longtime backup who projects as a backup for the Packers in 2012 but a possible starter elsewhere. Franchising him would violate the spirit of the NFL's franchise rules, and a source told Wilde: "[The Packers] don't do business that way."

As we've discussed, the Packers would realize a minimal gain and face significant risk if they franchised Flynn. They figure to receive a third-round compensatory pick in 2013 if he departs via free agency, while a trade could bring them a second-round pick.

The Packers would temporarily have to clear $14 million in salary cap space, and they would have to feel confident about their trade prospects will navigating NFL tampering rules that prohibit trade discussions during this time period. Otherwise, they would risk having Flynn stuck on their roster at a salary some $6 million higher than starter Aaron Rodgers.

We've learned our lesson about assuming the Packers' plans and likely path this offseason. Few of us thought a Finley agreement would come early enough to make the Flynn/franchise discussion even a remote possibility. But based on all the evidence, that's all it is: Remote.

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