NFL Nation: George Winn


DETROIT -- A week ago, Jonte Green was picked on by Oakland during the Raiders’ game-winning drive. On Friday, he didn’t see any time until the fourth quarter against Jacksonville.

In his short work Friday, the cornerback battling for a spot on the roster ended up with a big play. Green picked off a Ricky Stanzi pass on the Jaguars’ second-to-last drive to secure a 13-12 win for Detroit -- its third straight game decided by a single point.

Here are some other thoughts from the Lions’ third preseason game:
  • Tahir Whitehead received the surprise start over Ashlee Palmer at strongside linebacker Friday night and took advantage. The third-year pro from Temple had four tackles in the first two series and ended up around the ball the entire game. Already likely on the roster due to his special-teams skills, he has been trying to make a push to show he can be an NFL linebacker, too. He took a step toward that against the Jaguars.
  • George Johnson received valuable chances while Ezekiel Ansah was injured. Now that Ansah is back, at least in a limited role, Johnson is still making as many plays as possible. Johnson sacked Chad Henne in the first half and had at least one more really strong pressure. He is also consistently on the Lions’ nickel pass-rush unit at defensive end. Seeing him play this much with the first group bodes well for his chances to make the roster. He also showed up on special-teams units throughout the game, so he can be versatile there, too.
  • Quarterback Matthew Stafford was 10-of-16 for 98 yards and an interception. He was really good on some throws but fell into the old habit of forcing the ball to Calvin Johnson on others -- including the pass he had intercepted. Stafford moved well in the pocket though, and did well to evade Jacksonville's rush.
  • The Lions should be pleased with their pass rush against Jacksonville. Johnson and Devin Taylor picked up sacks and there were numerous other quarterback pressures -- including a roughing-the-passer call on Ndamukong Suh that earned a flag. That some of the pressure came from linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Bill Bentley is another sign of the type of blitzing the Lions are going to do this season.
  • Hello, penalties. The Lions brought in Jim Caldwell to instill discipline and cut down on penalties. The Lions failed there Friday, committing 15 penalties for 131 yards -- not the statement a team preaching discipline wanted to make. Detroit had 16 penalties for 106 yards in the first two games combined.
  • It was not a good night for George Winn. He saw some running back reps with the first team, but also committed his second fumble of the preseason. For a player trying to make the roster as the last running back, that won’t help his cause. His competition, Mikel Leshoure, didn’t do a ton but did have a 30-yard run in the fourth quarter. Leshoure then fumbled on the next play.

W2W4: Detroit Lions

August, 22, 2014
Aug 22
12:00
PM ET
The Detroit Lions (1-1) and Jacksonville Jaguars (1-1) continue their preseason on Friday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

1.How much will Calvin Johnson and Ezekiel Ansah play: The wide receiver will make his season debut against Jacksonville after coach Jim Caldwell held him out of the first two preseason games as a prudent decision to rest his star. Johnson has been itching to play and should see a decent amount of snaps Friday with the starters as he figures out his role in Joe Lombardi’s new offense. Don’t expect to see him out there as much as some other starters, though, since he already has chemistry with Matthew Stafford, and this will be to just get him moving a bit for the first time this season. Ansah’s situation is a little bit different. If he’s healthy enough to be cleared for the game, he’ll end up being used a little bit but probably won’t see a full workload as he still gets himself into shape from offseason shoulder surgery. Detroit’s goal here would be to give them enough to get a taste of action and then shelve them for the regular season.

2.Which receivers work in with the first group the most: One of the tightest competitions in camp has been at receiver, where the Lions have depth and some hard decisions to make after Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Seeing how much Kevin Ogletree, Kris Durham, Ryan Broyles, Corey Fuller and Jeremy Ross work into the receiver rotation with Stafford could give an indication as to which receivers are in line for the other roster spots. Ross will make the team as a returner, but the other four players are probably fighting for two-to-three spots. A big game with the first unit could make a difference in a really tight battle.

3.Will the kicking battle end and what undrafted free agents show up early on special teams? Caldwell was cagey when asked when the Lions would decide on a kicker, but the team is now going to alternate Giorgio Tavecchio and Nate Freese on Friday instead of alternating them by halves. This is probably a good sign for Tavecchio, who has been the more consistent kicker during camp. If he has a good showing Friday, he may pull one of the upsets of camp and beat out a draft pick in Freese. Other than that, it will be important to watch which undrafted rookies might remain on first-team specialists units -- particularly George Winn and Jerome Couplin. If they keep showing up, they may also pull upsets for roster spots, however unlikely that may still seem.

W2W4: Detroit Lions

August, 15, 2014
Aug 15
12:00
PM ET
The Detroit Lions (1-0) and Oakland Raiders (0-1) continue their preseason Friday night in Oakland, California.

1. Nick Fairley's status: The fourth-year defensive tackle has turned into the major storyline of Lions’ camp in the past week after a lackluster opening game against Cleveland and then an apparent demotion to the second-team defense during practice this week. There are a lot of concerns surrounding Fairley, who has had issues with his weight during his time with the Lions. After showing up in the spring and in training camp in good shape and at a good playing weight, Detroit coach Jim Caldwell said he is again trying to find a comfortable playing weight. That can’t be a good sign for Fairley, who has an immense amount of potential but has been inconsistent throughout his career. That inconsistency led Detroit to decline his fifth-year option this offseason, making this a contract year. Watching where he lines up and how many snaps he plays Friday will be interesting.

2. Will Calvin Johnson play at all? At some point this preseason, the star wide receiver will take some preseason snaps with Matthew Stafford and the first unit. The question is whether it is this week in Oakland or next week against Jacksonville at home. Johnson shouldn’t need much work in the preseason as he has looked exceedingly sharp during training camp, making difficult catches with ease. There’s always a question of putting him out there and risking injury, but Caldwell made it sound like everyone will play a little bit during the preseason, so this might be the week Johnson makes a cameo.

3. Can George Winn and others make roster pushes? There are a few players who have played well enough to at least be considered surprises for roster spots after the first few weeks of camp. Winn, who has displayed a lot of power running during practices and the preseason opener, would be one. Jerome Couplin, the undrafted free-agent safety, has also been receiving a longer look during practices and lined up with the second unit this week. Same with veteran safety Isa Abdul-Quddus, who had a good preseason opener. Abdul-Quddus was always on the roster bubble, but Winn and Couplin have made up significant room and at this point should be at worst heavy practice-squad candidates. In addition to those three, the Lions would likely want to see receiver Ryan Broyles have a second straight consistent game as he continues to come back from an Achilles injury. There’s also the backup quarterback situation. While Dan Orlovsky still has a hold on the No. 2 position, another strong performance from No. 3 Kellen Moore could push this into somewhat of a competition.

Lions Camp Report: Day 14

August, 13, 2014
Aug 13
7:15
PM ET
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 7

August, 4, 2014
Aug 4
4:30
PM ET
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Detroit Lions training camp:
  • The Lions seem to be reaching a point where they just want to face anybody else. Monday morning’s practice appeared particularly physical and while there were no fights and only one real injury concern -- Darius Slay’s neck will be fine -- it led to some big collisions. Perhaps the biggest one came from running back George Winn, who flattened rookie safety Jerome Couplin in the open field. It was the second straight practice where Winn leveled a defensive player on a run.

“You can see he’s a physical guy as well,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “We’re looking forward to seeing what he does.”

Winn was a player the Lions brought in just before training camp.
  • The play of the day came from, who else, Calvin Johnson. Returning to practice after sitting out Saturday’s scrimmage, Johnson leaped over a defensive player while trying to catch a pass from Matthew Stafford. Johnson easily came down with the ball, gained his footing for a second and went on from there. This reminded me of something his college coach, Chan Gailey, said to me last year. By the second season, he almost took for granted those plays by Johnson because they were almost a daily practice occurrence. And you wonder why Johnson is considered a nightmare for opposing defensive backs to cover.
  • The kicking competition continues to tighten. While Nate Freese continues to appear to have a slight hold on the job, he might not for much longer. Freese missed two field goals (3 of 5 overall) Monday morning while Giorgio Tavecchio made all five of his. While Freese has struggled since camp opened, Tavecchio has only missed one field goal by my count -- on the first day of practice. Caldwell said after practice he’ll use data to make the kicking decision, and Tavecchio is piling some strong data right now to win the gig.
  • Overall, this was a very strong day for the defense, especially during the running period. The running backs had very few holes to run through – especially so once the starters took a breather. It was similar during some passing plays, with either Stafford having to take off on the run or, in one case, C.J. Mosley busting through the line to touch-sack backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky.
  • When Slay went out, the Lions kind of offered up a little bit of the depth chart at cornerback – one of the tightest competitions out there. With Slay out, the Lions went to Cassius Vaughn on the outside next. So it would seem like the cornerback tiers right now are Slay and Rashean Mathis as starters, Bill Bentley and Vaughn as the top reserves and then Jonte Green, Nevin Lawson and Chris Greenwood behind them. It may be in that order, although Lawson will end up with a roster spot since he also plays nickel. It’ll be interesting to see how this shakes out Saturday in the preseason opener.
  • One noticeable thing during practices -- and I'll have a little more on this either tonight or Tuesday morning -- but the Lions haven't been stretching and warming up in a designated period during camp. That, apparently, is by design as Caldwell is trusting his players to take care of themselves on their own. So far, with only two minor injury scares, it appears to be working.

The Lions are back at practice Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. with an open practice.

McFadden still a practice no-show

October, 3, 2013
10/03/13
3:47
PM ET
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders running back Darren McFadden was not seen at the start of practice Thursday, the second consecutive day he was not on the field after suffering a strained right hamstring on Sunday.

Also, center Stefen Wisniewski, who sprained his right knee against Washington, was an observer. Because backup center Andre Gurode continued to work at left guard, and Lamar Mady was at center during the media window, it would seem the Raiders anticipate Wisniewski playing. Otherwise, they would not disrupt two positions.

While we’re reading silver and black tea leaves, the Raiders signing a running back to the practice squad this week in George Winn could signal they don’t expect McFadden back anytime soon.

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