NFL Nation: Jim Caldwell

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson can speak comfortably and fluidly about most topics.

Ask him about quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and he'll go on and on about his arm strength, play-making ability and even their friendship.

Ask him about running back Eddie Lacy, and he'll marvel at his ability to break tackles.

[+] EnlargeJordy Nelson
AP Photo/Mike RoemerAaron Rodgers is targeting Packers receiver Jordy Nelson at a record rate.
Ask him about the Packers' history, and he'll recite championship seasons and players from the past.

But as everyone saw Sunday, after he caught nine passes for a career-high 209 yards in the win over the New York Jets, Nelson's tone tends to change when it comes time to talk about himself. That was evident when he stepped to the podium in the Lambeau Field auditorium for the first time in his seven-year career and said: "I'm going to hate this, so go ahead [with questions]."

If Nelson keeps catching passes and piling up yards at a league-leading rate, he had better get used to the attention. Nelson leads the NFL in receiving yards (292), 45 ahead of Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson, and is tied with New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham for the league lead in catches (18).

"It's just awkward being up there," Nelson said Wednesday back in the friendly surroundings of the Packers' locker room. "It singles you out."

The only person Nelson wants to do that is his quarterback.

"You do care about your quarterback and what he thinks," Nelson said. "It's taken a lot of years to get to that point, a lot of reps, a lot of meetings, a lot of conversations. And the biggest thing there to take is that he has confidence in me and trust in me."

According to ESPN Stats & Information, no NFL receiver has been targeted on a higher percentage of their routes through two games than Nelson, who has seen the ball 42.3 percent of the time he has gone out for a pass. For his part, Nelson does not think he will continue to be targeted at this pace, an average of 15 times per game. Rodgers, however, might have other ideas.

"I think we've found ourselves targeting him more and realizing that there's a lot of good things happen when the ball's thrown his way," Rodgers said this week on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show.

That, perhaps more than anything else, has caught the attention of others.

"You better know where he is," said Lions coach Jim Caldwell, whose team is preparing to face Nelson on Sunday. "He's no different than a couple guys that we have on our team. I would assume that you better know where Calvin Johnson is, because without question he's a great talent. So we know where he is, and we're certainly looking at all of our options."

Despite signing a four-year, $39 million contract extension in July that made him one of the league's top-10 highest-paid receivers, Nelson has remained relatively anonymous. He's never made All-Pro or a Pro Bowl, accolades he said he has never given a second thought.

If you don't believe him, you should hear him try to pronounce the word accolades.

"You'll take wins and playoff wins and Super Bowls over that any day," Nelson said. "All the accolations will come at the end. Again, we are two games into this. We are a long ways away from any of that."


"Whatever that word is," Nelson said. "Just make sure you type it correctly when you write it."

The Film Don't Lie: Lions

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Detroit Lions must fix:

Other than one drive in the second half against New York in the opener, the Lions’ running game has struggled the first two weeks of the season. Joique Bell and Reggie Bush each have fewer than 100 yards rushing this season. Bell has 87 yards on 25 carries. Bush has 41 yards on 15 carries. Neither has gained more than 12 yards on a single run.

Despite Bell playing more snaps and having more carries, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the team’s starting running back is as listed on the depth chart, which means Bush. Caldwell said they will be balancing both backs, but right now, the Lions would be happy to get consistent production from either one of them.

The Lions are hosting a Packers team that has the second-worst run defense in the league, allowing 176.5 yards per game.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 24-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.

What it means: Before Sunday's game started, this looked like a good opportunity for the Lions to take advantage of a team minus some big players with Greg Hardy and DeAngelo Williams out for Carolina. It didn't matter for Detroit anyway. The Lions had costly turnovers (two lost fumbles and a Matthew Stafford interception while forcing the ball to Calvin Johnson) and special teams issues with missed field goals. It turned into a massive opportunity lost for the Lions, who all too often reverted to the 2013 form that saw them struggle in big games and be wholly ineffective on offense against good defenses.

Stock watch: Rising -- Eric Ebron. The rookie tight end had his first career catch in the first half and caught three of his five targets for 38 yards. Rising -- Stephen Tulloch. The linebacker was everywhere Sunday with 10 tackles, including three for loss and a sack in which he had a wide-open shot at Cam Newton and wrapped him up athletically. Falling -- Nate Freese. I'll expand on this more below, but the rookie kicker is having some big problems so far this season. He missed two more field goals Sunday, bringing his misses on the year to three. Falling -- Nevin Lawson. The rookie corner suffered a foot injury that knocked him out of the game, but even before that, the Lions were at least experimenting with other players as Cassius Vaughn played some nickel in the first half.

Kicking issues: When the Lions decided to keep Freese as their kicker despite the fact Giorgio Tavecchio had the better training camp, one of the questions asked was how comfortable they felt with a rookie this season. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he was good at the time, but he shouldn't be any more. Freese missed two 49-yard field goal attempts against Carolina, his second and third misses of the two-game season. Right now, the Lions have to at least think about investigating other kicking options.

Game ball: The Lions' defensive line as a whole. While a lot of attention was always going to be paid to Ndamukong Suh, the entirety of the line did a good job pressuring Newton. While the defense sacked him four times, the defensive line received credit for three of those sacks, including two from C.J. Mosley. They also had five tackles for loss as a unit. That is the type of performance Detroit needs from its line on a weekly basis.

What's next: The Lions play their first division game of the season on Sunday, facing rival Green Bay at Ford Field.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions spent all offseason and even into training camp hunting for cornerbacks to complement starters Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis.

Now, they’ll have to look even more.

Starting slot corner Bill Bentley tore his ACL Monday night in the first half of the Lions' 35-14 win against the New York Giants after playing three snaps, ending his season and leaving the team, for now, with only four healthy cornerbacks and seven healthy defensive backs overall. The Lions officially put Bentley on injured reserve Tuesday.

His injury leaves the Lions with Slay and Mathis, Cassius Vaughn and rookie Nevin Lawson, who replaced Bentley on Monday, as their cornerbacks. This has been a lingering issue for Detroit, which initially signed Drayton Florence in hopes he could provide depth before cutting him during camp.

Then the team cut its own developmental corners, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood, before the initial 53-man roster was set. After keeping only five corners, the team worked out multiple players at the position last week, including former All-Pro Champ Bailey.

It is possible one of those workout players could sign with Detroit soon.

As whomever the Lions sign gets up to speed and potentially playing shape, Detroit could have some major secondary issues as it prepares to face Carolina and Green Bay the next two weeks. Safeties James Ihedigbo and Don Carey missed the season-opener and are not guarantees to play against the Panthers Sunday.

But Lions coach Jim Caldwell believes in what the team has behind its starters -- evidenced by keeping undrafted rookie safety Jerome Couplin on the roster and inserting Lawson to replace Bentley.

“The young guys that we have in position that are backing up those spots are very capable," Caldwell said. "I think anybody that you see that's on our 53 and even on our practice squad, at least in my 14 years in this league, that typically all 63 guys that you have on your active roster and also on your practice squad, at some point, they help you."

Another potential option for the Lions -- although it would be a dangerous one considering the lack of experience or depth -- is to promote Mohammed Seisay to the active roster to bring the team back to five cornerbacks. He has potential but is still very raw at the position. He did work some in the slot during camp, though, along with playing on the outside.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Jim Caldwell made his stance clear Tuesday afternoon.

When it comes to domestic violence, he has no patience or tolerance for it at all -- especially when it comes to the Detroit Lions.

“Our policy has always been the same and always will be the same in that regard,” Caldwell said. “We do have a zero tolerance policy. One of the things we want to make certain is that we do things the right way and that’s key. That’s how we act on and off the field, how we represent this organization, how we represent the Ford family and how we represent the National Football League.

“We don’t believe there is any place for domestic violence.”

This is unsurprising coming from a head coach who consistently preaches accountability to his team in every facet of their lives, both within football and outside of it.

When asked specifically about Ray Rice, whom he coached last season in Baltimore, Caldwell said he felt the Ravens did what they needed to do in releasing the running back.

“I think they obviously had the appropriate response once they did see it,” Caldwell said. “This is one of those things I knew Ray from a football standpoint, he was a quality guy, worked extremely hard.

“But this transcends football. This is beyond football. This is in the personal realm which is a realm that certainly I didn’t know. But nevertheless, I do think they acted appropriately. I think John [Harbaugh] spoke last night for the team and I think his answers probably would certainly be a lot more appropriate than mine.”
DETROIT -- Matthew Stafford saw the rusher coming and with a quick move, he made New York Giants defensive tackle Damontre Moore miss him entirely.

Then he looked up the field, saw Calvin Johnson and 67 yards later, the Lions had their first touchdown of the season. And Stafford, whose play was one of the biggest questions entering 2014 for Detroit, started to answer exactly how comfortable he felt in the Lions offense.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioMatthew Stafford completed 22 of 32 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for another score in the Lions' season-opening victory.
One game in -- the answer is pretty darned comfortable with it.

Stafford completed 22 of 32 passes for 346 yards with two touchdowns throwing, one touchdown rushing and perhaps more important than anything else, no interceptions.

"I'm just trying to be as smart as I possibly can," Stafford said. "Our defense was playing outstanding tonight. They were getting us the ball back and stopping New York. I knew if we just played smart, still aggressive without question by making some big plays by throwing the ball down the field, but with how our defense was playing, that was going to be a recipe for success."

Playing smart has always been a question with Stafford, who looked brilliant at times and erratic at others during 2013. There was none of that against the Giants during Detroit's 35-14 win on "Monday Night Football." Actually, it might have been the best game of Stafford's career, now in its sixth season.

His QBR was 97.5, the highest rating of his career and the highest rating of any quarterback in the first week of the season. Undeniably, Stafford appeared more comfortable in the offense. He was making the right reads. He was checking down to running back Reggie Bush when he needed to. He wasn't forcing passes, an issue in 2013.

"He really took control of where we were going with protections and in the run game," center Dominic Raiola said. "He did a nice job of just taking control and just being that general on the field that we want him to be. He did a great job."

He did the type of job expected of a former No. 1 pick and a quarterback paid to be the man running the franchise on the field. He played confident. He played steady. He played like the Lions are going to need him to all season long.

DETROIT -- Golden Tate's eyes widened and it had nothing to do with his matchup against the New York Giants.

The Giants were doing something almost unfathomable -- something that led Calvin Johnson to the second-best receiving game in NFL history last season. For stretches of Monday night's 35-14 Lions win, the Giants chose to single-cover Johnson.

Big, big mistake.

"That was really surprising," Tate said. "I can't believe you would ever leave CJ open. Ever. But they did a bunch of times, and we capitalized on it. If they do that, that's what we have to do. Consistently."

The Giants’ game plan was to entrust cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to single-cover Johnson, similar to what Dallas tried to do last season with Brandon Carr when Johnson had 329 yards receiving. That strategy failed an NFC East opponent again.

It started early, when Matthew Stafford evaded Damontre Moore in the backfield and saw Johnson open with no defender within 20 yards of him. Rodgers-Cromartie and Stevie Brown appeared to misidentify the coverage on the play. That 67-yard touchdown started Johnson's seven-catch, 164-yard, two-touchdown night. He didn't remember the last time he was that open.

Johnson's 98 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter were both career bests for an opening quarter.

"There were some opportunities there where we had some single coverage," Johnson said. "It wasn't all the time. But there were some opportunities."

Johnson noticed the single coverage. The Lions also saw the Giants' safeties cheating down in Cover 2 on intermediate routes. By doing that, Johnson and Tate were able to get behind the defense for big plays.

"After looking at some of the clips and some of the pictures and stuff, we definitely seen the safeties starting to get a little nosy," receiver Jeremy Ross said. "So we were able to get on top of them."

No one more than Johnson. On one such play, he caught his 22nd touchdown reception on a pass of more than 15 yards since 2010, the most in the NFL in that span. He has 123 catches and 3,359 yards on deep passes since 2010, also the best in the NFL over that period.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson
AP Photo/Rick OsentoskiCalvin Johnson burned New York for 164 yards and two touchdowns on seven receptions.
It's part of what makes him such a significant deep threat.

Part of why Johnson was able to break free so often is how the team has treated him, both in the offseason and again in the opener on Monday night. The Lions played him in only one of four preseason games. They held him out of an early scrimmage. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi also indicated multiple times throughout the preseason he wouldn't play Johnson every play, in an effort to keep him fresh.

Lombardi held true to that Monday night, as there were multiple plays in which Johnson watched from the sideline with different personnel on the field.

"That plays a part in me feeling fresher throughout the game," Johnson said. "We have a lot of weapons. Like I say, tight ends, receivers, running backs -- everybody gets a chance to eat."

On Monday night, no one ate as much as Johnson, who once again showed why he is the best receiver in the NFL.
DETROIT -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Detroit Lions' 35-14 victory.
  • Prior to the game, the Lions honored their late owner, William Clay Ford Sr., with a speech from actor Jeff Daniels, a video and the signing of "Anchors Aweigh." After the game and the Lions' win, Martha Ford, the wife of the late Ford Sr., and their children all emerged with game balls given to them by coach Jim Caldwell. He said he did it to "honor Mr. Ford and his passing."
  • Hilliard
    Corey Hilliard stepped into the lineup at right tackle after the first series, when starter LaAdrian Waddle went down with a calf injury. It felt like déjà vu to Hilliard: Last season he lost a tight battle to Jason Fox at right tackle and then Fox went down in the opener, giving Hilliard a shot. "It's scary how weird that is," Hilliard said. He was also limping in the locker room after the game, but said he's "all right," and that he just twisted himself.
  • Typically after wins, the Lions have had music blaring in the locker room to celebrate. Not Monday night with Caldwell. "New day," Lions center Dominic Raiola said as to why the team didn't have the massive speakers and music going after their win over the Giants.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Soon after Eric Ebron was drafted by the Detroit Lions in May, he looked at the schedule and knew his first-ever game might mean a little bit more to him than even he initially thought.

Yes, his residence is listed as North Carolina and he went to school at the University of North Carolina. And, yes, the Lions head to Carolina in Week 2 for Ebron’s first road game. But Monday night against the New York Giants will be special to him for many reasons.

[+] EnlargeEric Ebron
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsLions tight end Eric Ebron on Monday faces the Giants, the team he grew up rooting for.
Ebron thought if the Lions didn’t take him at No. 10 in May, the Giants might have selected him two picks later. Then there’s this: Ebron was born in New Jersey. His father still lives there. He grew up rooting for former tight end Jeremy Shockey, his favorite Giants player.

His family? Giants fans. So the Ebron contingent in Detroit on Monday night will be pulling for their progeny on the field while also watching the team they’ve all come accustomed to rooting for.

“All my family will be there that loves the Giants,” Ebron said. “Other than that, there’s not really any pressure. It’s just another team, another obstacle and just hopefully we win.”

For the Lions to win, they’ll need Ebron to continue the ascent he has made through the final parts of Detroit’s preseason.

Things in Detroit started shaky for Ebron. Some fans were not pleased with the pick, viewing Ebron as a luxury choice on offense when the team’s defense had holes in need of repair. Then Ebron, who had to essentially learn three different roles in the Detroit offense, struggled during spring workouts and early in training camp with assignments and catching the ball.

He was thinking too much, as rookies tend to do early on in their careers. But Ebron eventually settled down and settled into his role in the Lions offense, which remains somewhat in question but consists of him lining up all over Detroit’s various formations.

“He has grown within the system,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He is really diligent. He’s one of those guys who has a lot of pride and really works at it. He does not like to make mistakes, does not take it lightly.

“He studies and he’s gotten a real good grasp of the system at this point. Is he where he’s going to be five games from now? No, but I think you’ll continue to see him improve and I think he’s ready for it as well.”

Growth has been rapid for Ebron throughout his career. He started high school as a basketball player. By the middle of high school, he turned to football and earned a scholarship from North Carolina before he played in a high school game. As he picked up the game then, the first things he learned to stress are things he still focuses on now.

They were things that briefly abandoned him as he began his Lions career, but have already returned.

“First thing I believed in was catching the damned ball. That’s what I do,” Ebron said. “That’s one of the first things you believe in. Other than that, just after the catch, if you can always make one guy miss or break a tackle, you’re destined for big things.

“That’s what makes Calvin Johnson so good. You know, he doesn’t only catch the ball, he breaks the tackle and sprints 90 some-odd yards. Just what makes great athletes even better.”

Ebron isn’t comparing himself to Johnson. He’s a long way from that. But Johnson was part of why the Lions drafted Ebron. The hope is his presence, his ability to be another big target, might give Johnson enough room to do what Ebron described on an even more frequent basis.

So what can the Lions expect from Ebron? He isn’t saying just yet. He is waiting to show it with a bunch of his family and friends watching from the stands.

“We’ll see,” Ebron said. “On Monday night.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- George Johnson may have been sick of the silence, but on the last Saturday of August, it was all he could hope for.

Too often over the past year, the silence led to heartache and the crushing realization that once again, no one was interested. This time, though, silence meant progress. Silence meant a job. Silence meant one more chance in the NFL.

Then the 4 p.m. deadline for roster cuts passed. The phone call he and his wife, Rebecca, loathed never came.

[+] EnlargeGeorge Johnson
AP Photo/Ben MargotLions defensive end George Johnson is making the most of what he figures is his last shot in the NFL.
“Me and my wife actually cried,” Johnson said. “We never thought we would get to this point. We never thought we would see the day again when I would be on an NFL roster again.”

When Johnson showed up as a late free agent signing in Detroit on April 22, he figured to be roster fodder for the Lions as the team waited for Ezekiel Ansah to recover from offseason shoulder surgery. It is why when free agency started a month earlier and his phone didn’t ring, he thought it might all be over.

He had been out of work since Minnesota released him on Oct. 9, 2013. Then, he figured his phone would ring immediately and his agent would tell him his next destination. Yet all that came was silence.

Money ran low. He could train all he wanted, but if no team showed interest, there was nowhere to go. He investigated jobs in construction and perhaps as a nightclub bouncer, his college education at Rutgers of little use at the time.

Johnson never thought he’d be there so soon -- out of the NFL, the world of football moving on without him.

“I thought I was going to get a call during those times but I never got a call so I thought, eh, it’s over,” Johnson said. “It’s not going to happen.”

He called his agent, Brian Levy, and told him he wanted to retire. He had Rebecca and two children, Olivia, 5, and George, 2, to care for. He had seven tackles in four seasons with Tampa Bay and Minnesota. He had some sort of NFL career after being undrafted out of Rutgers.

Levy told Johnson he would get one more shot and he would thrive. Johnson figured it was his agent doing what he was paid for -- picking up his client during a low period. That’s all.

Then the Lions called. The shot Levy said would come did. Johnson joined the Lions after spring workouts started, on a team with young defensive ends in Ansah and Devin Taylor, an established pro in Jason Jones and a higher-priority free agent in Darryl Tapp. Then the Lions drafted a defensive end, Larry Webster, in the fourth round. The room on the roster shrunk more.

Yet the Lions liked Johnson. Detroit’s first-year head coach, Jim Caldwell, praised Johnson’s explosiveness and rush skills. He had a wry smile when he talked about him during training camp.

Still, Johnson didn’t know if his shot was real. Until it was. With Ansah out, the Lions moved Johnson to the first team during spring workouts.

“Completely shocked me,” Johnson said. “Usually teams don’t move people around during OTAs. They just keep it steady. But to move me up during OTAs, it actually showed something, that they really wanted to look at me and trusted me to do something.

“It was shocking but at the same time, I had to be humble and say thanks for the opportunity and keep working as I was.”

Johnson and his wife knew this was his last shot. Had that phone rang the last Saturday in August, thanking him for his work and asking his playbook, he was giving the Lions back more than their defensive scheme.

He was handing in his pro career.

“That was the thought, that I was going to be done,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of heartache and pain in this game and Rebecca got tired of seeing me so upset and I got tired of putting my family to the back.

“So I thought if I don’t make it, it was a great opportunity, it was a lot of fun, but…”

Johnson’s voiced trailed off. He didn’t need to finish. The phone never rang. Johnson showed that sometimes last shots, long shots, can end up paying off.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- In some ways, the freedom has always been there for Matthew Stafford. He is an NFL quarterback and as such, will always have some flexibility to change what he sees.

Now, though, he might have more freedom than ever to make adjustments on the fly before a snap in the new Detroit Lions offense.

"In this offense, they put a lot on the quarterback, which is great," Stafford said. "You like to have a lot of control at the line of scrimmage and things of that nature. But it’s a challenge, no question.

[+] EnlargeMatthew Stafford
George Gojkovich/Getty ImagesMatthew Stafford completed 21 of 30 passes this preseason for two touchdowns and one interception.
"Coming in the first year in an offense and try and operate at a high level. But the guys have done a great job picking up this system. Mental errors are going down and down and down. Trying to make sure we’re in the right spots, running the right routes and executing at a high level."

Most important among those cutting down on mental errors has to be Stafford this season, especially if the Lions are going to give him more responsibility than before. Besides limiting mistakes after the play begins, he must now make sure he doesn’t check Detroit into a poor play based on a read he makes.

So far, though, it sounds like he has been pretty good at avoiding that.

In a small sample size, Stafford completed 21 of 30 passes this preseason for two touchdowns and one interception. The interception was on a forced pass to Calvin Johnson during the third preseason game in a situation where it appeared the Lions were doing as much as possible to have Johnson pick up some work in his only limited appearance during the preseason.

Other than that, Stafford made smart reads most of the time and threw the ball into the proper spots. He also got a handle on what he was doing pre-snap with the new offense.

"It’s great to see coach allows him to sometimes put him in position to make a call, to call a play and then put us in the best position he feels he can put us in," Johnson said. "That’s pretty awesome to see, because that’s some stuff that you see Peyton Manning do all the time at the line, check out of something into a totally different play that wasn’t in the play call that coach may have called in.

"That’s pretty cool to see and gives the whole team confidence."

Handing Stafford more control of the offense makes sense considering who is influencing the offense. Jim Caldwell and quarterbacks coach Jim Bob Cooter both worked extensively with Manning, who calls a lot of plays at the line. Lombardi, the offensive coordinator, worked with Drew Brees in New Orleans and Brees is one of the game’s best and most cerebral quarterbacks.

So both entrusting and expecting Stafford to handle this comes from their past as much as what they think of his skills in the present.

"He had some (freedom), certainly last year they even expanded the things he did pre-snap," Lombardi said. "So maybe a little bit different emphasis of the things that he is in control of.

"But he is very comfortable, I think, with making decisions at the line of scrimmage. He’s done that in the past and he continues to have some of that flexibility."

How much? The Lions will answer that starting Monday night.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions still have a week to go until they open the season against the New York Giants, but they have slowly begun preparing for the team that knocked them out of playoff contention last season.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said practices Monday and Tuesday would be more focused on improving things they need to work on instead of game-planning, but that they might sneak some things into preparation as well.

Here's other things from Monday's open portion of practice:
  • Safeties James Ihedigbo (undisclosed) and Don Carey (hamstring) sat out practice along with linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal). All three were out there and Van Noy appeared to be moving OK for having had core muscle surgery less than a week ago.
  • Nick Fairley took some reps with Ndamukong Suh during position drills, but so did C.J. Mosley. Mosley started the last two preseason games at tackle. Fairley is listed as first on the depth chart.
  • Also at practice but not participating was wide receiver TJ Jones, who is on the PUP list.
  • New numbers: Mohammed Seisay is now wearing No. 39, Jerome Couplin is No. 24 and George Johnson is No. 93.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Monday afternoon, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he would not speak on who some of his starters were until the team released a depth chart.

The Lions have done that, and potentially revealed some opening-game starters. This, however, remains an unofficial depth chart that the Lions media relations staff puts together, not one given out by the coaching staff.

Here are some of the notable things:
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- When Golden Tate chose to sign with the Detroit Lions during free agency, part of the appeal to the wide receiver was the offense laid out to him.

After spending the first four years of his career in Seattle, where the Seahawks ran the ball just as much as they threw it -- including 155 more runs than passes during the last three seasons after the team acquired Marshawn Lynch -- he has now moved to an offense that likes to throw.

[+] EnlargeGolden Tate
Duane Burleson/AP PhotoVeteran wide receiver Golden Tate is anxious to see how his first season with the Lions will play out.
And potentially throw a lot.

This is why, when Tate says he believes he can better his 64 receptions and 898 yards from last season, it is a plausible thought even though he moved from being the No. 1 receiver in Seattle to the No. 2 receiver in Detroit.

"I think my numbers can be way better in this offense naturally how it's set up," Tate said. "I was coming from, you gotta think I was in the toughest division with the 49ers, Rams and Cardinals, defensively, with a run-heavy offense and now I'm going to a pass-happy offense where I'm on the same team as the best player in the league, one of the best players in the league who is going to draw a lot of attention, a lot of double coverage, which is going to leave me with a lot of single coverage with a lot of No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks.

"So mentally I think I should be able to excel and do very well here."

The player Tate is referring to is Calvin Johnson, who should still draw the majority of a defense's attention even with the additions of Tate and tight end Eric Ebron along with running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell and tight ends Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew.

Those are a lot of players for Matthew Stafford to choose between on a given play, so while Tate might not receive as many looks as he did in Seattle, he should see much more favorable coverage.

If Tate wants to eclipse those numbers, he might have to do it on fewer than the 98 targets he had last season. He did say, as many players will, he would sacrifice individual stats if Detroit can finally win.

"My goals are just to be better than I was last year," Tate said. "I think every year I just want to be better than I was last year. Just a little bit better. Coach (Jim) Caldwell does a great job of using, we just want to be six inches better, that's what I want to do. I want to help this team win.

"If my numbers aren't as great and we have 11 wins and go to the playoffs and go deep into the playoffs, I'm happy with that. I want this team to win. I think we definitely have what it takes to win and it's time to win now."

Caldwell, though, has no interest in making any predictions about statistics -- or about wins. He passed on commenting about season projections and when told of Tate's thought that he could put up bigger numbers in this offense, he downplayed that as well.

"You don't know. It could be game-to-game," Caldwell said. "You often see within schemes, in particular those, we'll run the ball as well, you'll see certain schemes and how they decide to attack you, one game one guy might catch six balls and the next game he might get two. One game a guy might get 12 and the next game he might get none.

"Just kind of depends on the situation so it would be tough for me to predict that."

One prediction will be easy enough -- Johnson will still see a lot of attention and if offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is able to do it correctly, that should open up chances for everyone else on the offense.
This was always going to be a long journey for Giorgio Tavecchio. The moment the Detroit Lions drafted Nate Freese in the seventh round in May, it put even more pressure on Tavecchio to be perfect.

[+] EnlargeGiorgio Tavecchio
Rick Osentoski/AP PhotoLions kicker Giorgio Tavecchio misses a field-goal attempt against the Jaguars in the second half of their preseason game on Aug. 22.
He was close, yet not quite close enough to push Freese out of the top spot. Throughout training camp, Lions coach Jim Caldwell called it a close competition and that it would be based on results, not on draft status.

Then came Monday's cut, and for the majority of camp, Tavecchio had been the more consistent kicker with the strongest leg. He started camp much more consistent than Freese and continued to be so throughout the open portion of practices.

Rarely did Tavecchio miss, although his most high-profile one came late Friday night on a 51-yard field goal attempt at Ford Field with the Lions holding a one-point lead.

Was that the difference? Tough to say, as Caldwell continually stuck to his close competition statement whenever the kicking game was brought up. The miss certainly didn't help Tavecchio, though, especially after Freese made a 55-yarder at Oakland the week before.

Of course, Freese was given more opportunities in games than Tavecchio. Freese worked with first-team holder Sam Martin all camp -- Caldwell said not to read into that -- and was the first kicker out in every circumstance.

That, to me, does not make for a close competition.

Caldwell wanted to change things in the third preseason game, saying the kickers would alternate attempts throughout the game. Except the Lions didn't do much on offense. They scored two touchdowns -- Freese took the extra point on one, the Lions went for two on the other -- and Tavecchio's only attempt was again late in a preseason game with backups playing.

This was Tavecchio's third straight training camp on the wrong side of the cut line -- first in San Francisco, where he lost out to David Akers, and then in Green Bay, where he challenged Mason Crosby.

If he proved anything in this camp, it is that he is good enough to be an NFL kicker. He just needs to find an opportunity to actually make a roster -- and the Lions appeared to be his best chance yet.

At least until Monday, when he faced the harsh reality of the NFL business once again.




Thursday, 9/18
Sunday, 9/21
Monday, 9/22