Detroit Lions could make some changes entering the playoffs


ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell wouldn't tip what the Detroit Lions might be planning Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but from the way he spoke Thursday -- there could be some personnel changes coming.

Caldwell said there could be one or two different players on special teams this week -- a place where running back Theo Riddick was one of their best blockers last season and Golden Tate has been a dynamic punt returner in the past.

When asked specifically about Tate, Caldwell said "everything's considered."

Tate, who is Detroit's leading receiver with 99 catches and 1,331 yards, had two seasons in the past where he returned punts. Last season in Seattle, he had 51 punt returns for 585 yards. In his rookie season in 2010, he returned 16 punts for 202 yards for the Seahawks. His yardage last season was second in the NFL and his return average of 11.47 yards was 20th in the league.

Lions punt returner Jeremy Ross is averaging 8.88 yards per punt return this season.

This is no guarantee the Lions will make a switch to use Tate on some returns or reinsert Riddick into the kick return blocking scheme, but Caldwell at least acknowledged that in the playoffs they could change some things.

Caldwell would not say if some of those changes would include playing Tate and Calvin Johnson even more in games than they have during the regular season. Early in the year, offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said he would be watching the snaps of both Johnson and running back Reggie Bush throughout the season in an attempt to keep them as healthy as possible.

According to Pro Football Focus, Tate has played 940 of a possible 1,111 snaps this season for the Lions. Johnson, who missed three games with an injury and was limited in two other games, has played in 705 snaps this season.

The Lions have the No. 19 offense in the NFL this season at 340.8 yards per game.

"I think you obviously consider a lot of different things when you get to the playoffs for a number of different reasons," Caldwell said. "You may see a guy or two different in terms of our special teams and things of that nature, but it does change."

How much? Caldwell wasn't going to say that.