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Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 Lions Cap Status through August 31st

Transaction Log Updated through August 31st

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Lions Cornerbacks Overmatched?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Detroit's starting cornerbacks Philip Buchanon and Anthony Henry will not play today. In itself, that isn't much of a concern. They would probably both play if this was the regular season, but they are nicked up and no reason to risk aggravating anything. The Lions know what they can do.

On the other hand though, this may be a sign of things to come.

We all know that the corners are a weak spot on the team. I am fairly certain that the play will be better than last year, simply because it can't be worse, but this group of corners - particularly after Buchanon and Henry - may really limit Gunther Cunningham's options of what kinds of defenses he can run. Gunther has promised the Lions' fans an aggressive blitz-happy defense that puts a lot of pressure on opposing offenses. This can only be effective if the coordinator is comfortable putting his corners on an island, and that can only happen if they can be counted on to hold coverage for a few seconds. It is somewhat questionable whether Buchanon and Henry can be counted on for this. It is definitely doubtful that their backups can.

While there are no definitive statistics that measure the quality of a secondary, you can determine their relative worth with a glance through the numbers. Last year Detroit finished dead last in yards per attempt at 7.9, with the next worse a full half yard better and league average 6.2. Detroit finished dead last with 4 interceptions. Only four teams had fewer than 10 and the league average was 14.5. Detroit allowed a practically unfathomable opposing quarterback rating of 110. By way of comparison, only five quarterbacks in NFL history have had full season ratings as high as Detroit allowed its average opponent.

I'm not exactly sure how relevant the statistics are. Detroit will be starting at least three new players in its secondary, with the only possible holdover being safety Kalvin Pearson. By the time the season begins it is very possible that Pearson will be the only returning player in the defensive backfield. Last year's problems were both awful starters compounded by awful backups. Detroit had no good young players in the secondary, and the entire unit needed to be rebuilt.

And while this year will be different, it may still be ugly.

Detroit's #1 corner (presumably) is Buchanon who only left Tampa Bay because he would no longer start there. He came to Detroit because it is one of the few places where he would.


Henry was part of one of the other defensive backfields that had fewer than 10 interceptions last year, and at this point in his career would probably make a better safety than a corner but there isn't anyone behind him who is even close to pushing him inside.

Double yikes.

In a way, today's game might be good for Lion Fan because with Peyton Manning throwing the ball around the field against the Eric Kings and Ramzee Robinsons of the world we will be a little more grounded on what this season has to offer. Buchanon or Henry will inevitably miss time throughout the year, but even with them we might experience some ugly flashbacks. I expect Cunningham will be forced to deploy the Tampa 2 with soft zones as a way of disguising inadequate cornerback play. Gunther might be prevented from putting either safety in the box very often and opposing running games might gash Detroit in the way with which we are already so familiar.

I hate to be so pessimistic, but it is hard to find the light at the end of this defense's tunnel. Not this year. But the nice thing about the glass-half-empty approach is that the Lions will have ample opportunity to prove me wrong.

Feel free to disagree with me Here, in The Den

Gunther goes off on defenders "turning down" tackles

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Detroit Lions defense, 2008-style, will apparently not be tolerated.

Graham Couch of the Kalamazoo Gazette reports at that new Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham was furious after looking at the film of the preseason loss last week to the Cleveland Browns.

"There's not going to be any excuses," Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said Wednesday minutes after the Lions wrapped up training camp, at least officially. "I can't tolerate it, and I won't. They're either going to tackle, or they're not going to play on this team."

Cunningham was particularly upset about what he perceived as a lack of "want-to" from Lions defenders during an 81-yard run by the Cleveland Browns' James Davis on Saturday.

"I'm flat pissed off, if you want to know the truth," Cunningham said, fuming more and more as he thought about it. "I don't tolerate that. I cannot tolerate turning down a tackle. We had four guys on that play last week turn it down, not miss it, turn it down, in my opinion."

Cunningham said he "exploded" at his defense while reviewing film of the game.

Cornerback Ramzee Robinson was the first to miss Davis, followed by safety LaMarcus Hicks and two other unidentified players.

"What's it like?" Robinson said of being the subject of one of Cunningham's tirades. "I can't put it into words. Just know you want to go to the bathroom right before it happens and come back when it's over.

"No player likes to be called out and be the center of attention on a bad mistake."

This may help explain the play on which Lions rookie S Louis Delmas clocked RB Aveion Cason and started a rather large altercation at practice the other day -- that was the first practice for the defense after Cunningham's blow-up.

Here's hoping Cunningham follows through on his threat to not keep players who are timid when it comes to tackling. It seemed to be a pervasive problem during last year's run to 0-16. At a minimum, it's good to see Gun showing emotion about it, and sharing his feelings with Lions fans.

Last year's head coach Rod Marinelli would refuse to acknowledge stuff like this, would calmly say he'd have to check the film before discussing it, and then would never follow up with the public on his feelings or what he was going to do about it.

They're talking about it in The Den!

Lions liking their jumbo RB package

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The clunker in Cleveland had a few bright spots -- at least for Lions coaches.

Coach Jim Schwartz and others were pleased with a power-run package featuring FBs Terrelle Smith and Jerome Felton that gave the Browns trouble, Carlos Monarrez reports at

The success of the big boys against the Browns' 3-4 defense bodes well for the regular season, as the Lions play seven teams that primarily run a 3-4, Monarrez writes:

"I think it's going to be productive package for us," coach Jim Schwartz said Tuesday.

Schwartz explained that the gaps in a 3-4 defense push defenders to the side, forcing them to tackle at an angle.

"And when guys are making side tackles, you need north-south running backs that can run through arm tackles, real strong guys like that," he said. "And I think that package fits us real well in that circumstance.

"We really haven't broken it out in any short-yardage situations, but it's available to use there. We could use it in a lot of different plays: goal-line, short-yardage and also some attitude-type plays."

But Brian VanOchten at apparently sees it differently. He calls a short-yardage back "a glaring need" for the Lions, and suggests they re-sign former Lion and Michigan Stater T.J. Duckett, who was just cut by the Seahawks.

My take? It's difficult to assess the Lions' running game in its totality because Maurice Morris, who will play a major role behind emerging Kevin Smith, has been injured. Anything the running game can do to take pressure off "asked to do everything" WR Calvin Johnson -- and maybe a rookie starting QB, Matthew Stafford -- is a big, big plus.

Discuss in The Den!

Brown Struggling In Pass Protection

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Killer discusses Brown's struggles picking up pass protection;

In the drill, running backs have to step up and brace themselves for a blitzing linebacker attacking at full speed.

It's a tough drill to begin with, but the 205-pound Brown is at a big disadvantage, not just in terms of size, but in strength, too.

but this really should be no surprise. College running backs aren't asked to pass block much, particularly out of the I-formation that is so common, and Brown is no exception. NFLdraftscout notes that he was not known as a blocker at TCU. He was Texas Christian's second leading receiver last year despite missing several games, and was more likely to run a route on third down than to stay in. So now he has to learn pass blocking, but not only does he have to learn it, he has to learn it against NFL-caliber competition.

So many Den-izens wonder why Cason is still on the roster, and while it won't be surprising to see him cut prior to the season, this is precisely why. He is a complete back, even while not being great in any one area. As long as he can block, catch, and kick cover he will be in demand - at least to the extent that he'll get ample reps in August, and a phone call in October.

Interested? Discuss it Here, in The Den.

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Tackling, secondary big concerns -- sound familiar?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two snippets I found interesting from Detroit News football writer John Niyo's column today:

Special teams is an area of emphasis with the new coaching staff. But that was hardly apparent Saturday.

Josh Cribbs is arguably the NFL's best return man, but he made it look way too easy in the first quarter against the Lions, who are missing a couple of key coverage men in Cody Spencer (injured reserve) and Casey FitzSimmons (ankle). Cribbs' 95-yard touchdown return of the opening kickoff was called back because of a late holding penalty. But there were no flags on his 84-yard punt return for a score, just lots of missed tackles.

"There's no reason to start the game the way we did on special teams," Schwartz said. "It's a work in progress, but were going to find out who can tackle and who can't. That's going to be a major criteria for making this team."

Stan Kwan's return unit wasn't much better, averaging 18.6 yards on kickoffs. And that's a growing concern, with Aveion Cason perhaps getting too many reps and neither rookie Derrick Williams nor Aaron Brown distinguishing himself. When you have too many returners, Schwartz noted the other day, that means you don't have any.

A lot of us have been scratching our heads about why Cason is getting so much time as a returner. Maybe that's a reflection of the coaching staff's lack of confidence in Derrick Williams or Aaron Brown in that department. And that ain't good. Hey, let a rookie take kicks out to the 18 yard line rather than a veteran, I say. At least there's a potential for upside with the rooks.

While the defensive front seven's inability to get consistent pressure on the QBs or stop big running plays is already looking problematic, Niyo notes that the secondary may be the team's weakest link.

Five Browns wide receivers had catches of 20 yards or more Saturday night. Two came on the opening drive against starting cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, but the depth behind them is a real worry, especially with Keith Smith (groin) still on the sideline.

"Our corners need to get up and challenge guys," Schwartz said. "We need to find out who will have the confidence to get up and challenge rather than playing cautious."

They also need to find another safety who can stop the run alongside rookie Louis Delmas. Kalvin Pearson had trouble again in run support Saturday, and LaMarcus Hicks didn't fare any better replacing him. It was the same against Atlanta in the exhibition opener. Marquand Manuel, who has a calf injury, should get a shot to start when he's healthy.

Noticing a theme to Schwartz's comments? Get up there and tackle. Challenge. Don't play tentative. Be decisive and make plays.

I refuse to get visions in my head of Bobby Ross saying "I don't coach that!" or Rod Marinelli saying "Put it on me."

Discuss in The Den!

Atlanta football writer: Matt Ryan ruined it for everybody

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has taken an interest in the Lions this year, with former Georgia Bulldog Matthew Stafford the Lions' franchise savior in waiting. sports columnist Jeff Schultz has joined a growing chorus saying the Lions should not start the season with Stafford under center.

The problem with Matt Ryan is he has ruined it for everybody else. Ryan had an off-the-charts first season with the Falcons and so now every team and fan base with a No. 1 draft pick at quarterback thinks, “Our rookie quarterback can be off the charts, too!”

If the Detroit Lions make that mistake, they’re going to screw up Matthew Stafford. And it’s not as if this franchise hasn’t wrecked quarterbacks before.

Ah, yes; the old "did the Lions ruin Joey Harrington, or did Joey simply not make the most of ample opportunities to play?" debate. It's been going on in The Den for years. A definitive answer is elusive on that one.

But back to the QB debate at hand. Schultz notes that Ryan's and the Falcons' situation was significantly different than Stafford's and the Lions'. Atlanta didn't have as good of a veteran option at QB (Chris Redman) as the Lions do (Daunte Culpepper).

I would add to that the Falcons' defense was among the worst in the NFL the year before Ryan's arrival (29th), but the Lions are coming off one of the worst defensive performances in NFL history last year. And the way the inept Cleveland Browns offense shredded them Saturday was an ugly flashback.

Writes Schultz:
(Stafford) has shown he’s not ready to step into NFL starting job yet. He has struggled with his feel in the pocket and anticipating defense adjustments, and it’s certainly way too early to assess leadership abilities. All three were knocks on him before the draft. Two exhibitions (one start) hardly define a career. I still believe Stafford will be a successful NFL quarterback. But the Lions would be making a mistake to rush him.

It's easy to careen from Stafford's good performances and say, "He's ready to start now," to saying after the struggles "Keep him on the bench for now." I'm of the opinion that Head Coach Jim Schwartz and Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan haven't made the call yet, and will wait to see what they see at least through this weekend's game with the Colts.

Consistency is a difficult thing to ask for from a rookie for whom it's all so new -- unless you're Matt Ryan. But who is most consistent will decide who starts under center for the Lions in Week 1.

Discuss in The Den!

The milk-carton WR corps -- time to worry?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

No Calvin Johnson. No Bryant Johnson. No Dennis Northcutt. No Brandon Pettigrew.

This is becoming an issue.

Though I've criticized rookie QB Matthew Stafford's performance against the Browns, to be fair, it's difficult to impossible to judge the passing game when your top FOUR targets are out, and have been out for weeks now.

This will absolutely affect the offense early in the season, and probably lead to losses in the early part of the year, if it continues.

Sure, Calvin will be Calvin. But there will be no cohesion to the passing attack because they've had so little time together on the field.

None of the injuries is said to be so serious that any of the four is expected to miss a large amount of time. And yet it's been week after week without the group working together on the practice or playing field.

If this extends on into the third preseason game against the Colts game, it's time to get real worried.

They're talking about it in The Den!

Put The Nooses Away

Put the hemlock tea bags back up. Unload the 12 gauge. It wasn't that bad. Really.

Okay, so it was pretty bad, but if you maintain a comfortably pessimistic philosophy regarding the Lions, then it is actually pretty easy to find some of the bright spots in an otherwise uninspiring and borderline disastrous game. Drew Sharp, the only local writer I know of who is more cynical than me regarding the Lions wrote

It looks like they're already in regular-season form.

This is exactly why the Lions are certifiably nuts should quarterbacking savior du jour Matthew Stafford start when the March to 0-32 begins in earnest in New Orleans on Sept. 13. It's counterproductive exposing a rookie quarterback to a team apparently still hell-bent on creating as insurmountable an early obstacle as possible.
in an otherwise rambling column. He also wrote
If attitudes are indeed changing and Schwartz is indeed the right messenger, he should quickly make it clear that these Lions remain too fundamentally weak defensively to needlessly risk sentencing the future face of this franchise to the football gallows.
and while I agree, I fail to understand how this is surprising to anyone. Detroit's biggest flaw in 2009 was the defense, and not biggest by a little, but rather biggest by a lot. Despite multiple quarterback injuries, the Lions demonstrated a modestly decent offense last year with Calvin Johnson and Kevin Smith leading a reasonable two-way threat. It wasn't remotely good enough to overcome an awful defense, nor was it good enough to lead the way to any kind of contention even with a defense approaching average. It just wasn't the reason that Detroit went winless.

And over the winter Detroit followed their pattern of the last 8 seasons to fix the defense, they brought in a number of veteran free agents while waiting til the middle rounds to focus on their defensive holes. It is entirely predictable that their 2009 defense will resemble their 2008 defense. I expect it will be better, but nowhere near good.
So if we go into this whole thing accepting that it will be another long year, it is much easier to enjoy the small victories, knowing that the big ones aren't coming.

Stafford Okay, he didn't play well. Not even a little. But better for the faithful to see it now, then to have unrealistic expectations build throughout the preseason. The pressure for Detroit to play the kid is officially off and the Lions can go into the season with Stafford on a natural developmental trajectory, rather than a forced one that is more likely to end in disaster.

Jerome Felton He really played well, coming in with Culpepper midway through the 2nd quarter and immediately getting three consecutive runs for a first down. After an up-and-down rookie year exclusively at fullback I think we can hope that Felton may be able to fill a bigger role as part of a two-headed tandem that may really wear down opposing defenses.

Culpepper For the second consecutive week he looked very comfortable running the Lion offense. He showed great patience and good mobility in the backfield to stretch out plays. He was effective at waiting for plays to open and then throwing very catchable balls.

DeAndre Levy He whiffed on one of the Cribbs returns but otherwise was very effective, making plays all over the field including a great open-field tackle on special teams.

Jordan Dizon Is starting to really come on after a washed-out rookie season.

Sammy Lee Hill After an underwhelming first game, Hill seemed to consistently get a good push inside. He didn't show up on the stat sheet but he spent much of his time in Cleveland's backfield disrupting things.

Nick Harris Just killed it, averaging 50 yards over his 7 punts. Unfortunately the 22 yard average on returns ruined his net average, but that speaks more the quality of the two return teams and Josh Cribbs, rather than to Harris. He wasn't kicking line drives.

So see? There you go, a nice handful of positive takeaways from last night's game and that was only on one viewing. So forget the sleeping pills, don't lock yourself in the garage with the car idling. It's another day and the Lions are pretty much the same as they were two days ago.

The Morning After: Lions Headlines


  • John Niyo of the Detroit News, who is quickly becoming one of our favorite writers, shared this gem: "Daunte Culpepper certainly didn't light up the scoreboard Saturday. But on a night when mistakes were commonplace for the Lions, the veteran quarterback didn't throw any footballs to the wrong team for the second straight game."
  • The Freep's Nicholas Cotsonika blogged his thoughts on the loss, and unlike many in the media (see below), attempted to subdue any overreaction. It is, after all, just the preseason. Yet Costonika couldn't help himself, unraveling the evidently pent-up frustration towards Detroit Lions football: "It doesn’t matter if most of the coaching staff is new. It doesn’t matter that more than half of the players had nothing to do with last season. If you watched Saturday night’s exhibition, you saw the same stuff you saw last year – and the seven years before that. (I don’t know if I can type “31-97” anymore, either.)"
  • It didn't take long for Drew Sharp to jump back into his typical, narcissistic role, titling his column "Lions in midseason form." While Sharp continues to laugh at his own mundane humor (we picture him leaning back into a leather recliner, taking a puff from his cigar, and cackling like a superhero villain as he finishes each column), he did offer somewhat of a reasonable stance: "This is exactly why the Lions are certifiably nuts should quarterbacking savior du jour Matthew Stafford start when the March to 0-32 begins in earnest in New Orleans on Sept. 13. It's counterproductive exposing a rookie quarterback to a team apparently still hell-bent on creating as insurmountable an early obstacle as possible. Nothing's gained subjecting Stafford to scoreboard deficits requiring him to do more than what's logically possible for a rookie quarterback."
  •'s Tom Kowalski made note of Matthew Stafford's 5-of-13 performance (see: QB rating of 14.6), but certainly didn't harp on it. Writes Kowalski: "The Lions have had the worst-ranked defense in the NFL for the past two seasons, and they had their issues in the first half. Six Browns receivers had a catch of 20 yards or more, and both Cleveland running backs had at least one run of 11 yards or more."
  • The Grand Rapids Press believes that Stafford hurt his chances of obtaining full-time starter chances. Said the Press' Brian VanOchten, "In a game where Stafford had the perfect opportunity to end the debate, he did nothing but let Culpepper re-enter the picture and perhaps move to the forefront.
  • The Associated Press had the objective report, including interviews from Derek Anderson, Eric Mangini and Matthew Stafford. The pregame fight between Lion teammates Dewayne White and Carson Butler also didn't go unnoticed. "I've never seen that before," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "Obviously, that's something that shouldn't happen and it's something that will be addressed. Actually, it already has been addressed.'' - Detroit News post-game story

A View From the Other Side: Browns-Lions Locker Room NotesA nice little compilation of notes from our friends at the Orange and Brown Report

THE FANS (from The Den Message Board)

  • The Den user onlyTSS, a floater from our Georgia web site, tried to make everyone feel better about Matthew Stafford's performance by referencing an event that happened during Stafford's freshman year as a Bulldog: "At one point in his freshmen year we were 6-4 and we had an embarrassing loss to kentucky. The very next week we had to play At Auburn who was ranked #4 in the country at the time. All the sudden something clicked with stafford in that game and he was a different QB. We beat Auburn 37-15 and we finished the season with wins over two more ranked teams. It will click one game with stafford and you will see a great QB. It clicked in college in his 9th game as a starter. What NFL game it will click with stafford, I dont know but i do know it will click one game and yall will get a big smile going because he is a rare QB. Dont give up on stafford."
  • KryptonianQuarterback attended the away contest, making several observations, but seemed to strike gold with this one: "3. Our WR's still can't catch the ball or get open without a guy like Calvin as a deep threat. It was painfully obvious the defense was content to sit on all shorts routes, never fearing anything going deep. It wasn't until Dane Looker got in there that they seemed to develope SOME sort of rythym." Share YOUR opinion in The Den Message Board, a community of Lions fans

SI's Banks rates Daunte among top second-string QBs

Friday, August 21, 2009

I'm not sure Daunte Culpepper would consider it a compliment, given that he's still trying to earn the first-string job.

But's Don Banks has C-Pep ranked the third-best backup QB in the league, in an evaluation of all 32 teams. Only Oakland's Jeff Garcia (who many believe will supplant JaMarcus Russell) and Michael Vick in Philly are rated higher.

Says Banks about Culpepper:

It's entirely possible, and maybe even likely that Culpepper could wind up beating out Matthew Stafford and starting for the first month of the season or so in Detroit. But at some point this year, the Lions are going to be tossing the keys to the No. 1 overall pick and that means Culpepper will be headed for backup-dom. Having shed 30 pounds this offseason and gained some of the mobility back that he hasn't had since his 2005 knee injury, Culpepper looks good again and is an easy top-five choice when it comes to No. 2's.

After years of struggling with a revolving door and crushing disappointments at QB, it's weird to think of it as a solid, no-worries position in Detroit. I'm not sure we're there yet, but it's fun to imagine.

Discuss in The Den!

Battle for guard spots crowded, competitive

Thursday, August 20, 2009

While the competition for starting quarterback is getting most of the hype, an even bigger battle is going on with the Lions' offensive guard positions, according to this Associated Press report (which I presume is by Larry Lage).

The Lions have turned over half their roster from last season, and OG was clearly an area they targeted for change. The most recent newcomers are Milford Brown, who started four of the six games in which he played at Jacksonville last season; and Terrance Metcalf, an eight-year veteran who spent his first seven seasons in Chicago before being released in March.

They join another newcomer, Daniel Loper, who came over from Tennessee, where he was a back-up. Incumbent Stephen Peterman is trying to hold onto his spot, and third-year OG Manny Ramirez, who had three starts in four games played last season, seems to be coming on.

Also in the mix is 10-year veteran Jon Jansen, who came over from the Redskins. Jansen has started his entire career as a right offensive tackle, and will likely be a back-up there this season. But he's also been getting practice time at guard and even center. Jansen in the article is quoted as saying he prefers to play tackle, but will go wherever it takes to get playing time on Sundays.

From the A.P. article: Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said the line probably will look the same when Saturday's second preseason game begins in Cleveland, but hinted that five men are competing for just four spots.

"We've got ideas of our rotation, I think it will be pretty similar to the way we did it last week," he said. "We're really about two-deep, anyway, so we're trying to maintain that for the game."

Similarly to the defensive secondary, Lions fans are hoping that when it comes to offensive guard, new equals better.

Talk about it in The Den!

DeAndre Levy Steps Up

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

and he needs to. With the injury to Cody Spencer, Detroit has no buffer, and that means that Levy and Jordan Dizon are going to be the only line of defense when it comes to rotating in, covering for one of the starters, or providing quality special teams play.

A week after Gunther Cunningham praised and damned him in a single sentence, Levy responded by being a leading playmaker in the exhibition win against the Falcons. With Spencer out for the year, Levy is now picking up reps at MLB and will probably be the primary backup to Foote.

"DeAndre's done a nice job of being physical in camp and doing the physical things," Schwartz said. "His biggest challenge, just like all rookies: being good with the scheme. And not just being good with the scheme in the meeting room or out here in practice, but when that real stuff starts happening and the other team's a different color, all of a sudden it becomes a little bit harder to try to get through. But that's his challenge and it probably will accelerate him a little bit."

Said Levy: "The biggest thing is I've got to focus my eyes and train my eyes to see the whole picture. That's one thing that Larry Foote does really well that I look to and try to put in my game."

Katie Koerner at provides some choice quotes from Levy on the promotion.
“It’s a good experience because it helps you learn the defense better, and kind of makes you more sure on your plays because you are forced to learn both the linebacker positions. You know where everybody is supposed to be, and with a lot of the shifts and adjustments on the line it can only help your game as a player.” “JP (Julian Peterson) and (Larry) Foote, they both kind of help the young guys out. They have been around and in the league a while and played a lot of good football. They kind of give you tips here and there about where your eyes should be and how to prepare and go about things the right way at practice and in game situations.”

“I always feel like I need to work on something. Right now, I think the biggest thing that I’m trying to get better on is my eyes and my vision. Coach Gun (Gunther Cunningham) is a big guy on that and you know you have to see the whole picture and the whole thing because one misstep can put you out of the loop. It felt good to get the first game out of the way and see what it was like, but I am waiting for the real season to kick in and for all the energy and excitement to really get going."

Discuss it Here, in The Den

Rosenberg: Marinelli Left "Good Base"

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Michael Rosenberg of the Free Press believes that despite the Lions' 0-16 record of '08 that Rod Marinelli's legacy will be a good base to build on. A good base of players? No, not that, but rather a good culture of players who fought hard in adversity.

he made the Lions better in one important sense: He changed the culture.

The 2008 Lions seemed to like each other. They played hard. They did not seem especially bitter toward the head coach or management. They cared more about winning than about their own stats. (link)

Considering that Schwartz and Mayhew are currently in the process of turning over more than half the final roster, and more than half of the starters from the beginning of last season, I fail to see how Marinelli established a good culture. To me, that was no more than a group of harmonious losers.

Lions lose their security blanket

Lions fans everywhere will be stunned to read Graham Couch of the Kalamazoo Gazette’s latest headline: kicker Jason Hanson has elected to undergo ‘minor surgery’ on his knee.  According to coach Jim Schwartz, the decision was made in order to prevent the pain from lingering all season, and he should be back on the field “pretty quickly”.  Camp kicker Swayze Waters was re-signed to carry the Lions through the preseason—but not, it’s hoped, once the bullets go live.

For 17 years, the Washington State product has been the rock of the Lions’ roster: elite production year in, year out.  Other kickers have scored more points; partially because they played with a more productive offense. Other kickers have had higher career accuracy numbers, but over shorter careers, and with far fewer extremely long field goal attempts.  Jason Hanson has rarely been thought of as being the best kicker in the NFL in any given season--yet over the duration of his career, it’s extremely hard to find one who’s consistently been among the best for nearly as long.

If the Lions are without Hanson for even one game, they’ll be without one of their best weapons, and without their only “security blanket”.  No one else on the roster has the kind of unimpeachable reputation for clutch performance that Hanson has; when he comes out, everyone knows it means points on the board.  On a team that’s trying to overcome a well-deserved reputation for being unable to get it done late, conspicuously missing one of the NFL’s most cold-blooded closers certainly won’t help the confidence of the players, coaches, or fans.

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Schwartz, Mayhew try to tamp down the Aaron Brown hype

Monday, August 17, 2009

This is kind of funny.

From A.P. football writer Larry Lage:

Brown showed he has enough talent to make plays in the NFL with a 32-yard run for a touchdown and a 45-yard reception for a TD, helping Detroit beat the Atlanta Falcons in an exhibition game.

But two days later, coach Jim Schwartz was quick to put the breaks on the Brown-related hype.

"Let's not put him in the Hall of Fame yet for what he did in the preseason," Schwartz said. "But he did show some speed, he showed some exciting ability, but long way to go."

Brown's breakout game was flawed by three mental mistakes, each of which led to penalties.

He was off the line instead of on it in a punt formation, ruining Detroit's chance to pin the Falcons to their 3. He went the wrong way on a screen, leading to intentional grounding. He put his hand on the ground to set up a backflip in the end zone, and the celebration cost the team 15 yards.

Brown said he and running backs coach Sam Gash have been focusing on trying to get him ready for the nonphysical parts of the game.

"Plays only last 4 seconds on average, but they move so fast," Brown said. "You have to think faster. That's what I'm trying to do."


What did general manager Martin Mayhew think of his debut?

"Who?" Mayhew joked.

Seriously, though, Mayhew was pleased.

"He did well," Mayhew said. "He made some mistakes that have to be cleaned up, but we thought he performed pretty well."

I get the sense that they realize they have to keep this kid grounded and focused but that they realize they may have happened on a special talent.

Discuss in The Den!

Sports Illustrated's Peter King Gives Stafford Some Love

Now that CNNSi's Peter King has officially been assimilated as of this morning, perhaps the national media (we're talking to you, ESPN) will drag themselves away from Mark Sanchez's bedroom closet and into Matthew Stafford's corner.

Writes King:

"Let me be the first to say how absurd it is to answer the question I got later in the day at Detroit Metro Airport, at the gate of my flight to Indianapolis: "Hey Peter, have we got the right guy with Stafford?'' Here's what I said, and what I believe: Stafford's got an A-minus NFL arm right now. The only quarterback I'm sure who has a better one is Jay Cutler."
... although, there is something refreshing about flying under the radar, and out of ESPN's painfully embarrassing east-coast and Dallas Cowboys-emblazoned cross hairs.

Linehan brings in a Looker he's familiar with

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Lions have signed former Rams WR Dane Looker. The unrestricted free-agent was let go in the offseason in a youth movement, but was popular in St. Louis.

The move reunites the 33-year-old Looker with former Rams coach Scott Linehan, now the Lions offensive coordinator.

In The Den they're already speculating that this could be bad news for WR Keary Colbert, who had three glaring drops in Saturday's preseason game.

The Falcon perspective on Saturday's game

It's always an interesting exercise to see how a Lions opponent views things following a game, and what insights that can provide on our team. Atlanta Journal-Constitution football writer D. Orlando Ledbetter blogged about "10 things we learned from the Lions game." Ledbetter called the Falcons' 27-26 loss "shocking," apparently forgetting how the Lions dominate the preseason.

Follow the link to read them all, but here are a few I picked out for their relevance to the Lions:

"1. The Falcons front-seven — with two new linebackers and a new nose tackle — has to improve against the run. Perhaps they are just working out the kinks and getting used to each other." Glad they noticed, as we did, a very successful ground game throughout for Detroit on Saturday -- 191 yards and a 5.5 average. Admittedly that was helped by some QB scrambles, but hey, that's part of the game.

"4. Running back Michael “The Burner” Turner’s legs looked pretty fresh on that 40-yard touchdown run." Uh, yeah. That was an awful little flashback to last year, with Lions "tacklers" flailing in futility. An inexcusable big play that should not have been.

"6. Right guard Harvey Dahl is still a beast. He worked out poor rookie Sammie Lee Hill in those first two series. Hill is trying to make the jump from SIAC school Stillman. (Morehouse and Clark Atlanta’s conference.)" I don't know how much credit should go to Dahl. No spin here -- Hill did not look good, and was pretty well manhandled his entire time in the game. Those expecting significant contributions from a guy who played for something called Stillman last year may need to be patient. And the D-line may need some more additions before they start playing for real.

"9. Thomas Brown was a little rusty on kickoff returns. He seem to be running into tacklers." Conversely, you could say the Lions' kick coverage looked pretty good Saturday.

"10. Defensive end Jamaal Anderson needs to stay on his feet to stop getting so easily taken out of plays." Good job Gosder Cherilus neutralizing a solid defensive end in the league. Discuss in The Den!

Monday's Headlines: Lions To Go 3-13?

  • Regardless of how realistic it may (or may not be) many probably won't be happy with Lions beat writer Tom Kowalski's season prediction. Killer's prognosication? 3-13.

    "it doesn't mean the Detroit Lions are destined to be losers forever," writes Kowalski. "In fact, I think the Lions are doing most things the right way and they're smartly building their team."

    C'mon, Tom, give 'em some more love. Also from mlive: Culpepper gave Stafford some love, stating "He's a talented player and he's going to be really good in this league for a long time." But that doesn't mean he's ready to offer his job to the rookie, either.

  • The Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei offered his outsider take on the new Detroit Lions in a recent feature for the newspaper.

    "That checklist, were it to exist, might be longer than Santa's gift list. The Lions of 2008, should you need reminding, were the first team in NFL history to finish with an 0-16 record. Their defense allowed 6,470 yards, second highest ever."

    Concluded Pompei, "So while the Lions can't promise they will be an elite team in 2009, they can promise they will be a different one."

  • The Free Press' Drew Sharp didn't offer a prediction, and one also didn't surface during his interview with Bill Ford Jr., son of owner William Clay Ford. Despite Saturday's 27-26 win, Ford Jr. was more cautious than excited.

    "Ford told me during our short, impromptu conversation that he's happy with what he has seen from the coaching staff, and he believes there's a noticeable upgrade in the quality of player talent. But he tempered all optimism with the realization that any future success will require time and patience."

  • Other than the love showered upon Matthew Stafford, Detroit didn't do a bad job with clock management, either, as pointed out by the Detroit News' John Niyo in an article from this morning.

    "Schwartz has made situational drills a focal point of camp, frequently ending sessions with live clock-management scenarios. As if on cue, the Lions had chances to run a 2-minute drill at the end of both halves."

  • Former Lions receiver Roy Williams injured his wrist during a recent Cowboy practice, according to the Associated Press.

    "The Cowboys said X-rays were negative and that Williams, expected to be the team's No. 1 receiver after the departure of Terrell Owens, is day to day. The Cowboys have one practice session Monday."

Discuss these topics and more in The Den Message Board!

Lions Players "Tweet" About Preseason Performance

Some recent Lions Tweets ...

  • WR Keary Colbert was likely responding to his multi-drop outing against Atlanta with the following "tweet," published soon after Saturday's 27-26 win.

    "Gotta rebound like Dennis Rodman... That's life. Football is one of life's best teachers.." - kearycolbert

  • RDE Cliff Avril saw extensive action against the Falcons, but didn't necessarily produce. The Lions registered zero sacks against Atlanta, and Avril never got his hand on a Falcons quarterback.

    "thanks still somethings to clean up but we all felt good bout the win," he tweeted in his response to another user. Username: cliffavril.

  • Safety Stuart Schweigert registered three tackles and assisted on another during the win. But his strong play wasn't lost on anyone -- least of all himself.

    "I also got 4 wrap ups today. But whose counting, eh?" remarked the Twitter newbie, who has also been begging Colbert for some Twitter "followers." (Colbert has 2,463 to Schweigert's meager 82).

    Follow us, Stu. We'll help.

Discuss the Lions Preseason in The Den Message Board!

Killer: Linehan already making his presence felt

New Lions Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan had a very solid performance in Saturday's preseason win over the Falcons, according to's Tom Kowalski.

Linehan's sharp coaching particularly manifested itself on screen plays in which the Lions gouged the Falcons for big yardage.

There were several occasions where Linehan smartly called screens into the teeth of an Atlanta blitz - the perfect defense to operate the screen. The Lions got a couple of big gainers out of that, including a 34-yarder to Allen Ervin.

Just as importantly, though, the Lions looked very good in the execution of the play. In recent years, the Lions were a terrible screen team because they always gave it away too early. By the quarterback's third drop step, everybody in the stadium knew what was coming. The Lions now sell the play much better and everybody's in on the act, including the quarterback, running back and offensive linemen.

A good screen game is fundamental to running or passing the ball. And it was something last year's team seemed to never get right (along with many other things).

I think Tom K. is right: The crispness and deceptiveness the Lions showed on the screen plays is a sign of good coaching, and players and coaches having a clue and a plan, doing things with a purpose. It was one of several small but good signs from preseason Game 1.

Share your thoughts in The Den!

Run, Forrest!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

On September 7 of '08 Michael Turner rushed for 220 yards in Matt Ryan's NFL debut, and Jerrious Norwood tacked on another 93. As a team, the Falcons rushed for 318 yards to the Lions' 70. Flash forward to August 15 '09, and we see something that Lion fans haven't seen in a very long time. A team that runs. And runs. And runs.

A lot (deservedly) has been made of Stafford's impressive debut. Culpepper's surprising nimbleness and playmaking qualities have also earned praise. So far though, there hasn't been a lot of discussion of the running game.

Detroit rushed 35 times for 191 yards. Stanton's bootleg was the key play that set up the game-winning field goal. Aaron Brown went to warp speed for his 32 yard touchdown run. Matt Stafford dragged a defender five yards for a first down. It was exciting to see and it is a dimension of the game that Detroit hasn't had since the days of Bobby Ross, excepting a few weeks with Kevin Jones.

I'm not exactly sure how excited to be about this, other than to know the commitment is there. Detroit's main backs, Aveion Cason and Allen Ervin combined for 47 yards on 17 carries, and while we know that they won't be getting the carries during the regular season - if either are even on the team - the holes that they attacked are the same holes that Smith and Morris will have to find. Barring a specialty package, Stanton's runs will be limited to running the microphone to call in plays to whichever quarterback the Lions ultimately choose. Brown's run, while exciting, was not one that will be available much during the regular season. He hit the edge quickly, but did it against rookie defenders who don't know their assignments as well as they should, and who also aren't as experienced at reading the flow of the play as well as veterans are. More often than not, Lance Briggs or Atari Bigby will be there to string the play out and limit the gain.

On the other hand, we did see a real commitment to the run. Not a hopeless effort like we've seen so many times in the last few years, but rather from a team clawing back from a deficit and getting positive yards to put the quarterback in a position to be able to make plays. Counting Culpepper's two scrambles, they ran 7 times in their first 10 plays to set up Hanson's field goal. The runs had a real purpose too, setting up the pass. They ran twice for a first down and then a screen to Kevin Smith for 11. They ran again and then took a shot at the end zone, forcing a defensive penalty and another first down. They ran twice more for short gains and then sucked in the defenders on a screen play that went for 16 more.

28 of Detroit's 35 yards came with the team behind. After Atlanta's last touchdown, Detroit came back in Stanton's first series and got the score back with six consecutive running plays, three by Ervin, one by Stanton, and the last two by Brown, including his 32 yard score. It was only in Detroit's last two possessions, running the two minute drill that the Lions abandoned the run.

After the game Jim Schwartz told Tony Ortiz that the Stanton bootleg at the end was not a called play, but rather a recognition by Stanton as the linebackers swarmed to the sidelines and the whole middle of the field parted. Culpepper's short runs and Stafford's bootleg did not appear to be designed either, but it is clear from their games that both like to run and get hit. Culpepper gained an extra yard on his drive by initiating contact and carrying the play forward. Stafford told Ortiz that getting hit is a part of the game that he enjoys, that it helps to bring things into focus.

I'm nowhere close to calling this a new paradigm. Detroit also rushed 35 times in last year's exhibition opener against the Giants. It is probably the nature of exhibition, particularly the first game, to just get out there and bang a little and then get the game over with. Even so, we saw some purpose to the running game yesterday that has been missing from the Lion arsenal for years.

Agree? Disagree? Have something to say? Discuss it Here, in The Den.

Observations from Saturday's win

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Lions' preseason winning streak continues! We all learned last year how meaningless preseason victories can be. Still, there were encouraging signs in the Lions' last-second, 27-26 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday, and Den members are buzzing about them:

Matthew Stafford: The top pick in the draft gave a microcosm of what Lions fans can probably expect the entire season: Very solid throws made possible by a very strong arm; a veteran-like poise and calmness in the pocket -- and the occasional boneheaded rookie mistake like the pick-six. Overall, though, Stafford looked very good and left fans wanting more.

Daunte Culpepper: The veteran QB who's trying to hold off Stafford didn't look shabby himself. He's clearly in better shape and more mobile than last year.

The O-Line: Again, lessons learned from last preseason say don't put too much stock in August results. But the Lions' offensive line gave up no sacks to an Atlanta team that made the playoffs last year. In fact, the quarterbacks didn't even seem hurried all that much. And the line seemed to enjoy being able to tee off and do some power run-blocking, with three different Lions backs -- Kevin Smith, Allen Ervin and Aaron Brown having some success.

Aaron Brown: It was a coming-out party for the Lions sixth-round draft choice out of TCU. Brown staked a very strong claim for third RB, and looks like he will be a small, speedy, change-of-pace from Smith and Maurice Morris. Brown also showed receiving ability out of the backfield, and already looks far better than the guy the Lions tried to give this kind of role for years, Brian Calhoun. Lions coaches have said they want Brown to learn to run between the tackles, but he showed talent that certainly can't be ignored. Stop the presses -- have the Lions finally gotten a player from Day 2 of the draft??

On a less positive note ... The Defense: They gave up one of those awful, long, breaking-weak-arm-tackles TDs to Michael Turner that instantly took Lions fans back to last year. They generated no sacks or turnovers. Still, the defensive backs didn't look ridiculous in pass defense (hey, after last season, that's progress). Anthony Henry and Chris Roberson in particular came to play.

A very intriguing start. Can't wait to see more of Stafford and Brown -- and to see how Stafford does with Calvin and Bryant Johnson and Brandon Pettigrew catching the ball instead of Keary Colbert dropping it.

Mayhew discusses what he's looking for in Preaseason Game 1

Good little Q-and-A with's Nick Cotsonika and Lions GM Martin Mayhew, heading into Saturday's first preseason game.

Key points from Mayhew:
* He wants to see if players who've looked good in practice -- including rookie QB Matthew Stafford -- can translate it into a game situation.

* Injuries and the Lions' lack of depth have left some positions in sigificant flux, but it's a great opportunity for some young, unproven guys trying to make the team.

*Mayhew is happy with the addition of DT Shaun Smith, but the loss of DE Jared DeVries for the season is going to really hurt. "We're still sorting those guys out," Mayhew said of the D-line.

*Mayhew expects third-round draft choice WR Derrick Williams to contribute in the return game.

Read the full interview above, and talk about it in The Den!

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

2009 Lions Cap Status through August 15th

Transaction Log Updated through August 15th

Shaun Smith Player Cost Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

Rookie Receivers Getting Extended Look

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press points out that with the injuries to the Johnsons, Dennis Northcutt, and John Standeford Detroit has had to rely heavily on the rookies and longshots to fill out all of the practice reps. Phil Zaroo tends to do a nice job providing the play-by-play from practice, and reviewing it we see a lot of names that were - for the most part - unfamiliar to Lions fans prior to this summer. Gronko, Williams, Butler, Gronko, Fowler, Sippio, Gronko (I think Phil likes writing "Gronko"), and so on. No Calvin Johnson, no Brandon Pettigrew, and only an occasional Kevin Smith mention on a draw or flair.

There's some upside to this. The coaching staff is really getting an opportunity to evaluate these guys and will have an outstanding feel for whether they have NFL potential or not. The extended reps will directly impact which of these guys gets offered spots on the practice squad, or possibly makes the roster. Furthermore, their learning curve is accelerated. Where we might normally expect slow improvement and slow whittling down of the group as preseason progresses, the added reps will allow the coaches to make more accurate evaluations earlier in preseason and will give the team more flexibility with their roster moves.

The downside of course, is that the quarterbacks are not building synchronicity with the receivers who have locked up roster spots. I'm not sure how important this is, particularly since Bryant Johnson is working his way back and Calvin Johnson has already built a relationship with Culpepper and started one with Stafford. Provided that these guys can get back to full contributions in practice soon there should be no lingering impact from their time lost.

From Pasche's article:

Coach Jim Schwartz has gone through the same drill at the tight end position, which has been hit by injuries, too. “It happened at tight end, because of the injuries, we had (Dan) Gronkowski who was able to get some more reps. And those (receivers) have gotten quite a few,” Schwartz said with emphasis on the word quite. “They’ve had to tough it out. I think in the two-minute yesterday, you saw Kenneth Harris made some really good plays. They’ve all stepped up in individual ways. It’s given them great opportunities really. They’re going to have to take advantage of them on Saturday,” the coach added.

Interested? Have something to say? Discuss it Here, in The Den

Louis Delmas' off-the-field hardships

Lions rookie S Louis Delmas had already beaten the odds before donning the Honolulu blue and silver, before he was drafted, and before he became a standout at Western Michigan.

Associated Press football writer Larry Lage provides a glimpse of the hard times Delmas had to overcome growing up.

"Detroit Lions safety Louis Delmas says he tries his best to forget about his childhood, including seeing his drug-dealing parents for the last time about a dozen years ago," Lage writes.

Delmas recounted to Lage being handcuffed as a child in Sarasota, Fla., "and taken to a police station where he saw his parents for the last time before they were deported to Haiti." Delmas credits the people who were positive influences in his life in Florida and Kalamazoo for getting him where he is today.

Lage's story is very short and leaves you wanting to know more. A.P. sometimes does that in advance of a longer story coming out later in the day. I'll keep an eye out for one.

Talk about it in The Den.

Lions safety depth chart muddied even further

As reported by John Niyo of the Detroit News on his Twitter feed, the Lions have signed free agent safety Calvin Lowry.  The 5’-11”, 200-pound Lowry was drafted by the Titans fourth round of the 2006 draft.  Head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham are familiar with Lowry’s ability; the former Nittany Lion saw action in every game during his first two seasons—including 11 starts in 2007.  Still, he couldn’t crack the Titans’ roster for 2008, and the Broncos acquired him off waivers.  The Broncos released him late in the 2008 season to make a roster space for an injured Patrick Hillis’ replacement. He was picked up by the Jaguars, but recently released.

With Daniel Bullocks’s injury, the Lions were down one safety.  But, between rookie Louis Delmas, veteran Marquand Manuel, holdovers Kalvin Pearson and Stuart Schweigart, and rumors of CB Anthony Henry getting reps at safety, it doesn’t seem as though replacing Bullocks—who is not yet on IR—would be a high priority.  However, Pearson is considered a pure strong-side safety, and that limits his utility in the symmetrical Schwartz/Cunningham defense.  Lowry has started at both free and strong safety in the past, giving him greater versatility.

If Pearson’s role will be situational and/or special teams, and Henry stays at corner, then Lowry, Manuel, and Schweigart are probably competing for one starting spot and one—possibly two—reserve spots.  Notably, Den poster “shine8” predicted this signing the moment Lowry was released by the Jaguars.

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Lions add huge offensive lineman, safety

The Detroit Lions have signed offensive guard Milford Brown and safety Calvin Lowry.

They released defensive tackle John Gill and tight end Jake Nordin to make room for the new players on the roster.

The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Brown, who turns 29 on Saturday, played six games last season for Jacksonville, starting four. The former Florida State standout originally was drafted by the Texans in the sixth round of the supplemental draft in 2002 and has played with St. Louis, Arizona and Houston.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Lowry was selected by Tennessee in the fourth round of the 2006 draft out of Penn State. The 26-year-old also played in Denver.

Coach Jim Schwartz wasn't kidding around when he said he wanted to get bigger. And the Lowry signing is a recognition of some depth issues in the secondary, particularly with Daniel Bullocks' having trouble bouncing back from his knee injury.

They're talking about it in The Den!

Football Outsiders takes a long look at the Lions

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Phil Zaroo over at scored an impressive audio interview with Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders.  For those not familiar with their work, the guys over at FO have made waves over the past few years with the way they view and analyze football statistics.  Anyone who’s ever lost a fantasy football game because their QB kneeled out the clock a few times, and therefore gained a few negative rushing yards, knows that the typical metrics of football success—total yardage, sliced in a variety of ways—don’t accurately represent the true effectiveness of plays or players.

Barnwell, and his associates, have developed a system of measuring “value”—essentially, giving context to every yard gained and point scored—what down and distance was it, what team was it against, what was the score, what was the time in the game—and, by comparing the results to the league average in similar situations, they mathematically deriving the team’s effectiveness in terms of value (‘value over average”)  It’s an approach often compared to Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane’s “Moneyball” scouting method.

Lions fans won’t be surprised to know that according to FO’s analysis, the 2008 Lions defense wasn’t as bad as the scoreboard suggested—it was much, much worse.  The 2008 Lions defensive value over average was the worst they’ve ever measured—and it isn’t close, either.  Lions fans WILL be suprised, however, to know that the Lions were actually ranked ninth in short-yardage situations, and Barnwell suggests in the interview that Dominic Raiola is fighting an unfair perception that he can’t push the pile, and that the total lack of ability or consistency on either side of him throughout his career is more to blame.

Barnwell also delves into the differences between Rod Marinelli and Jim Schwartz (who has been a contributor/consultant to FO in the past), the Lions’ revamped linebacking unit, their projection of the Lions' win total and—of course—the quarterback debate.  It’s a great listen.

Discuss it here, in The Den!

Drew Stanton: Alive and Well

Just two years ago, Drew Stanton was the home-grown potential savior of the Detroit Lions franchise. The former Michigan State standout, waiting in the wings.

Now, it seems, he's more like the Star Trek extra; everyone wonders whether or not he'll survive through the opening credits, but doesn't necessarily care.

Yesterday (or Monday, for you sporadic readers), Stanton showed signs of life: updating his blog and refusing to mention at all his deathgrip on relevancy. Aptly titled "Football is Fun Again," he generalized his camp experience and had a few encouraging remarks about the new football staff.

"This year is my year to prove myself, and I take that approach every day I step foot on the practice field. I go out with the mindset of completing every pass and learning every single day. There are times I might not be the one taking the actual repetition, but I am getting that rep mentally."

Added Stanton later: "At this level it is truly a chess match, and I feel as if we have all the tools on our team to win every match we are in ... I honestly believe we have many more pieces around here than in my two years past, so the reason for optimism is there and real. It all starts with Coach Schwartz, ... . He values our time, which is tremendous, and gets us off our feet when needed."

But Stanton's diminished significance is due primarily to the position he plays, rather than his actual play. He has had a strong training camp while the focus has centered around the battle between Daunte Culpepper and super rookie Matthew Stafford.


New Shaun at DT says Old Shaun at DT would like to return

Remember those rumors that former Lions DT Shaun Rogers wanted to return to Motown? Tom Kowalski at reports that they're true, according to Rogers' former Cleveland Browns teammate and new Lions DT Shaun Smith.

"That's my best friend and he wishes he could come back here now. He misses it," Smith said after the Lions' morning workout. "You've been somewhere your whole career and you have some good times and you see the talent they're bringing in - (Larry) Foote, (Julian) Peterson and (Phillip) Buchanon - the defense is better now. They've got some quality veterans who can play and there are some young guys with potential.

"He said the people in the building were good and the people in the locker room were good. Just happy to be in the NFC and play ball. It's fun playing in the NFC."

Lions fans remember Rogers as the team's best defensive player in recent seasons. They also, however, remember a player who sometimes had attitude issues, who seemed to take plays off and took whole series off on the sidelines, huffing and puffing. Still, in balance, memories of a Pro Bowl-calibre player outweigh the negatives.

There's not much likelihood of the prodigal son returning, however. Rogers is settling in with the Browns. Still, it's nice to hear of players wanting to come, or come back, to Detroit -- particularly when they're citing an improved defensive corps as one of the attractions.

Talk about it in The Den!

Lions to "shut down" Bullocks

Lions S Daniel Bullocks just can't seem to shake his injury troubles.

Tom Kowalski at reports that what Lions Coach Jim Schwartz had to say about Bullocks wasn't really specific, but wasn't really good, either:

"We're going to shut him down for a little while and then sort of take it slow again with an eye toward with getting him back on the field," Schwartz said. "He's not day-to-day, he's a little bit longer than that, but I'd like to get him back on the field sooner rather than later."

Since a major right knee injury in a preseason game in 2007, Bullocks has had trouble with the knee, Killer reports.

Schwartz is not planning to move on without Bullocks at this point, but acknowledged that "every day he misses, he's missing things and he's getting a little bit farther behind," according to Killer's article.

Obviously you hope for the best for Bullocks, but unfortunately, there's nothing to indicate more rest in the preseason is going to help his knee. This has been going on for years now. Marquand Manuel, Stuart Schweigert or Kalvin Pearson will likely need to step up on the other side of Louis Delmas.

Discuss in The Den.

Update: DeVries out for year with achilles tendon injury

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Detroit Lions' worst fears were confirmed as veteran defensive end Jared DeVries suffered a season-ending injury to his Achilles's tendon today at practice, Tom Kowalski at reports.

Denizen Wildcat67, looking for a silver lining, likes the idea of DeWayne White at left defensive end, Cliff Avril getting more snaps at right defensive end, and Ikaika Alama-Francis getting more snaps in general.

Martin Mayhew will no doubt be looking for help. Fortunately it's early enough to find some.

Join the conversation here in The Den.

Former Browns DL Shaun Smith Visits Detroit; DeVries hurt

Looking to shore up a questionable defensive line, the Detroit Lions invited recently cut Browns' defensive lineman Shaun Smith for a physical on Monday.

Smith, who also played nose tackle for the Browns, clashed with the new coaching staff in Cleveland over his attitude and work ethic. He also reportedly punched quarterback Brady Quinn during a weight-room altercation last December. lists Smith at 6-2, 275 pounds. An undrafted free-agent, he's been a bit of an NFL journeyman since joining the league in 2003, spending time in five different NFL cities including New Orleans, Cincinnati, and recently Cleveland. He accrued 48 tackles and two sacks in 2007, his most successful year in the league. The Lions still have an interest in veteran defensive end Kevin Carter, who was recently spurned by the New England Patriots for the Raiders' Derrick Burgess. Need across the defensive line becomes even more prevalent after Jared DeVries was reportedly carted off the field during Monday's practice session.

WR an unsettled -- and unsettling -- lot for Lions

And you thought you could just chew your nails over the lines and defensive backs.

As Grand Rapids Press Lions writer Brian VanOchten notes, despite Matt Millen's attention there year after year, other than All-World Calvin Johnson, wide receiver remains the position most lacking depth for the Lions.

There's Calvin and newcomers Dennis Northcutt and Bryant Johnson, who still hasn't played after he fought the golf cart and the golf cart won. There's last year's free-agent pick-up Keary Colbert too. After Calvin that's a "less-than-enthralling group, to be sure," VanOchten writes.

The others vying for a job are even less impressive -- Demir Boldin, Adam Jennings, Bobby Sippio, John Standeford, Derrick Williams, Eric Fowler and Kenneth Harris. Williams, a third-round pick, hasn't exactly set the world on fire.

Maybe someone will emerge in the preseason games -- but don't count on it. It wasn't just the jumble of mediocre QBs throwing to Calvin that made his numbers amazing last year. Megatron had no complement at WR pulling attention away from him. The second-leading receiver on the team last year, the departed Shaun McDonald, had 1,000 fewer yards than Calvin.

The best hope for making things better, it seems, is if Brandon Pettigrew emerges as a reliable receiving threat down the middle of the field.

Discuss in The Den!

Gunther Making Noise

Sunday, August 9, 2009

It is sheer pleasure to see Gunther Cunningham and Jim Schwartz so involved with the media, and in Schwartz's case in particular so articulate and such a strong promoter of the team. Cunningham is a little different, while also a quote machine he doesn't hold much back and isn't afraid to either praise or call a player out, as we witnessed a few days ago with DeAndre Levy.

When Detroit hired Cunningham there were whispers, reported by Pro Football Weekly that he was done. That "The last time he got anything done, Derrick Thomas was coming off the edges ... he's lost his edge as a coordinator." While that report was alarming the story was yet to be written, and so far the story is all good. The players seem to be enthusiastic about his system, and they seem to love d-line coach Bob Karmelowicz's teaching, which is somewhat odd because that was Marinelli's wheelhouse.

Anyhow, this has been a rich week for Gunther articles and quotes. In the Oakland Press blog Matthew Mowery shared this

We're heading down the road on the packages. Jimmy (head coach Jim Schwartz) says the other day, 'Gun, you've got every coverage in football.' And, in some respects ... yeah, we are experimenting with what fits us the best, but we have a multitude of defenses in, both up front, and in the secondary, and we must have 40 blitzes in already.

"We're still not good enough in blitzes," Cunningham said. "I'm not used to guys coming slow. When we send them, they have to get there, and we're going to have to have a little attitude adjustment meeting after this practice. They're going to hear it, loud and clear.

"When you put pads on, you find out the real men. There's lots of frauds around. You know, the coaches are, too. They talk a good game, then you watch them coach, and they don't do it. Players do the same thing. And sometimes, the guys you don't expect to be the real tough guys they show up, and you go, 'My god, was I wrong on this guy.'

There's an intensity and level of demand that wasn't present under Marinelli. With Rod it was 'we'll keep the shovels sharp, we'll keep trying, we'll work more', and while those are nice sentiments they don't compel urgency like Gunther does.

The Oakland Press blog was written on 8/6. On 8/7 Tara Ryan shared another Cunningham quote at

“I think we are starting to get that attitude adjustment; we had a couple of good one-on-ones with the secondary yesterday; Ramzee Robinson hit one guy under the chin, drove him to the sideline and dumped him on his back. I haven’t seen that since I was coaching in the 90’s and I made a big deal about it last night. We are going to be that kind of team; we are going to be aggressive, so we have to practice aggressive.”
Also on Friday John Niyo reported another quote
general manager Martin Mayhew asked him to watch 75 plays of a player the Lions are considering."He asked me, 'How'd you like him?' " Cunningham said. "I said, 'I've seen a lot better, and you wasted a lot of my time.' But that's my job, and you've got to look."
I guess Cunningham doesn't care who it is, he'll say it like it is.

Agree? Disagree? Have something to say about it? Discuss it Here, in The Den

Mortensen On The Lions

In which he says nothing. One wonders why they wasted the gasoline.

Killer: Stafford will win starting job over Culpepper

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Before even the first preseason game,'s Tom Kowalski believes the quarterback competition between Daunte Culpepper and Matthew Stafford has been won by the rookie.

For now, Culpepper has the No. 1 spot, but he's not going to have it for long.

Unfortunately for Culpepper, he hasn't done anything to lose the job except that he's competing with the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Stafford isn't perfect, and he's going to make plenty of mistakes as he develops, but the first overall pick in the draft is showing he's the real deal.

The Lions aren't saying anything like this publicly, simply because there's nothing to be gained in doing so at this point, according to Killer.
But trust me, when the scouts and coaches watch the practice tape every night, they're grinning from ear to ear.

It's not just Stafford's rocket arm or overall athleticism, which is impressive, but it's his decision-making, quick release, knowledge of the offense, leadership and his overall presence.

And away we go!

They're talking about it in The Den.

Lions Uncaged! (Airing on FOX 2 Detroit @ 2pm)

Today at noon, the Detroit Lions will be opening the doors of Ford Field for the first time of their 2009 campaign. This event is hosted by SVS Vision Optical; SVS Vision Optical Centers around the metro-Detroit area have been handing out tickets to the event for free since Wednesday (7/29/09), however all fans, with or without tickets will be admitted (the tickets offer 30% off any single pair of glasses at local SVS Vision Optical Centers).

The event is set to begin this afternoon (8/8/09), at 12:00pm. To begin the event, some Lions team members will take part in an autograph session which also starts at noon, and will sign autographs until approximately 12:45. Selected team members will be taking part in the autograph session and will be located at various parts throughout Ford Field; pictures of the players will be allowed, however, pictures with the players and personalized autographs will not be allowed during today's event, attempting to allow more fans to meet their favorite player.

The Lions are then scheduled to take the field afternoon practice around 1:00pm for their afternoon practice, open to all who attend the event. Today's open practice currently does not have a scheduled ending time. Expect the Lions to practice/showcase the play of some of the new members of the team, as well as some of the more popular players.

As a side-note, ESPN's SportCenter host and news correspondent Chris Mortensen may be another attraction this afternoon. Currently, Mortensen is hosting a show "Mort goes to Camp", which is somewhat of an NFL Training Camp Diary show featuring Mortensen at various NFL training camps, interviewing team personnel and reporting team progress during ESPN's show "NFL Live". For those attending, don't be surprised if you see an ESPN tour bus along with Mortensen and his entourage ESPN personnel and camera's.

Today's events, if anything, should provide some much needed excitement for Lions fans after a long off-season (and an even longer 2008 regular season!). Today's events will also be televised on FOX 2 (or WDIV Detroit) starting at 2:00pm and is scheduled to run for 60 minutes. So if you can't make it to Ford Field, tune it to Fox 2 to catch some of today's events. Also, on Monday afternoon, tune your TV to ESPN's NFL Live (airing at 4:00pm) to get some further info and analysis from both Mortensen and the ESPN panel as they give the team a pre-season grade as well as more insight as to what Lions fans can expect from the new look Lions during the 2009 season.

Rookie RB Aaron Brown showing flashes -- but why he may be practice squad-bound

Friday, August 7, 2009

Practice attendees liked what they saw during 11-on-11 drills at Lions practice Thursday, when rookie RB Aaron Brown "sprinted up the middle, juked a defender and sprinted free for a long touchdown," Amelia Rayno reports at

Brown, a sixth-round draft pick out of TCU, has speed to impress, but says he's trying to fight a perception that all he can do is bounce it outside. "The one thing that he has is the raw skill that God only gives a select few -- he has good speed, good hips and he's a good receiver out of the backfield," running backs coach Sam Gash said.

That tends to indicate Brown could make it as a change-of-pace pass-catcher out of the backfield, a role Lions fans kept waiting and waiting for Brian Calhoun to take.

But a quote from the article by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan gives me a hint that Brown may be beaten out by perennial hanger-on Aveion Cason for the third RB spot behind Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris. (bolding mine)

"You see the speed -- that's the first thing you see that flashes," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

"But he's gotta work on his game, both inside and outside the tackles in the run game. Just like all rookies, (he needs to) become a guy that is reliable in pass protection.

"And once you get there, then you can be that guy you utilize for the passing game and the running game trying to create plays. But he's a guy that shows up out here as far as pure speed. Its legitimate, and he's a guy that can take it to the house."

Ah yes, pass protection. Something the Lions have struggled with for years. And with virtually the same underperforming offensive line coming back this year, they'll most definitely need backs experienced at pass protecting to guard billion-dollar-baby Matthew Stafford (or as one blogger described Stafford and his contract to my amusement, "the gross domestic product of Guam.")

Even if you believe Daunte Culpepper will start most of the year, he's a veteran with a history of some serious injuries, who doesn't move as well as he used to. Yet more evidence that pass protection will be critical.

The Lions will have a choice for their third RB -- go with flash, receiving ability and big-play potential in Brown, or a more reliable pass blocker who can do enough of everything to always stick around in Cason. My guess is that they'll go with the latter and that Brown is practice squad bound.

If Brown wants to save himself a roster spot, he needs to wow coaches with holding off big defenders, too.

Talk about it in The Den!

Rave reviews for Stafford continue to pour in

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A no-look pass?

Rookie QB Matthew Stafford apparently threw one in practice recently, faking out both LB Julian Peterson and the pass's intended recipient, Calvin Johnson, Yahoo! Sports' Michael Silver reports.

Lions officials and players are having increasing difficulty remaining cautious and measured when talking about Stafford and his immediate prospects:
* Peterson - "As rookies go, he’s way ahead of the curve."
* Calvin - "He doesn’t even look like a rookie. He picked up the playbook very quick; he’s a smart kid. He looks very, very comfortable out there."
* Head Coach Jim Schwartz - "There is no debating that everything about him has been very, very impressive."

There is nothing to be gained by anointing Stafford the starter -- Schwartz wants everybody competing -- HARD -- for their spot in the lineup, and there are four preseason games to come on which to additionally measure the players.

But the thing is, Stafford is competing hard. He's playing and acting like he wants to start Game 1. He's showing things that indicate he's not just the Lions' best option at QB, but may be something special even looking from a league-wide view.

Better hone those clipboard-holding skills, C-Pep.

UPDATE: Finding these similar old quotes about Joey Harrington from around the time he was drafted gave me a much-needed dose of perspective.

The bottom line is, Stafford's looking good; he needs to keep it up in preseason game situations and the starting spot could be his through simply earning it.

They're talking about it in The Den!

The jumble at CB -- and who's that with the Fords?

Detroit News football writer John Niyo reports its become a sad rite of spring for the Lions in recent years -- the annual roster purge of the team's secondary.

After an historically bad performance last year, the Lions are at it again. The top four cornerbacks on last year's roster are gone, and only two of the eight in camp -- Keith Smith and Ramzee Robinson -- have been with the team longer than 10 months, Niyo writes.

Coach Jim Schwartz admits he has "a stew" at CB -- a mix of young and veteran with backgrounds in a lot of different schemes. (Feeling confident about the secondary's improvement this year yet?)

Still, things are beginning to take shape. The starting CBs look like they will be Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, and Eric King, who was with Schwartz in Tennessee the past three years, has been making plays in practice and may be tightening his hold on a nickel back spot.

As an odds-and-ends aside at the end of his article, Niyo notes that Wednesday's practice was attended by owner William Clay Ford, vice chairman Bill Ford Jr., and former Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi.

What's that all about? No explanation. Is Accorsi a buddy of the Fords? If that's the case, where was he during the Matt Millen era, when we needed him?

Talk about it in The Den!

Salary Cap Forum Updated - PREMIUM

2009 Lions Cap Status through August 6th

Transaction Log Updated through August 6th

Sammie Lee Hill Player Cost

Derrick Williams Player Cost

Louis Delmas Player Cost

Brandon Pettigrew Player Cost

Cap Adjustments

Follow Detroit's salary cap with expert George Ketchman here. (Requires premium membership to

Calvin Johnson Teaches The Fade Route

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

(Special thanks to Wildcat67 in The Den for bringing the below video to our attention)

OK, so fans aren't coaches for a reason. But if you have a 6'5, freak-of-nature wide receiver in your goal-line package, anyone with the capability of breathing without choking on the oxygen could offer this suggestion: the fade route.

Unfortunately, Detroit's coaching staff the last two years didn't see the benefit of using Calvin Johnson's 47.5 vertical inch leap very often. Then again, 0-16 doesn't happen by mistake, either.

Regardless, Calvin excited a few folks in the message board with this YouTube video, where he explains -- rather, teaches -- the fade route.

A sign of things to come? We hope.

Dropsies Continue To Plague Lions

Because practice is open to several fans (today being open to a swarming general public) many have been able to report their own observations from Detroit's training camp in Allen Park.

And although they aren't necessarily of a professional degree, there are certainly some consistencies among the quasi-reports. Among them? Detroit's receivers have a tough time holding onto passes.

According to The Den user Sandman7773, the Lions receivers -- Calvin Johnson included -- dropped passes on Wednesday. And a lot of them.

"Calvin dropped a lot of passes today," he wrote, correctly noting that Johnson had experienced a hand injury earlier in the day. "A lot of dropped passes today."

Minus Bryant Johnson, who continues to miss time with a non-football injury, and two tight ends (Brandon Pettigrew, Casey FitzSimmons) the Lions have played musical chairs with the receiving game during the camp. Despite his troubles on Wednesday, Calvin Johnson, trade acquisition Dennis Northcutt, and Keary Colbert have been the most consistent pass catchers in camp.

Share your thoughts and Lions camp perspectives in The Den Message Board

Delmas, Others, Miss Wednesday's Practice

The Detroit Lions held out several players from Wednesday morning's practice session, including rookie safety Louis Delmas, according to mlive's Tom Kowalski.

Delmas had swelling in his knee following Tuesday's afternoon practice. The injury isn't considered serious, and he will be listed as day-to-day. The same applies to receiver Calvin Johnson (right hand), who told Kowalski "I'm fine, it's not bothering me. Fellow safety and possible starter Daniel Bullocks (knee), tight ends Brandon Pettigrew (thigh) and Casey FitzSimmons (ankle), DT Grady Jackson, and RB Maurice Morris (leg) also missed practice, according to Kowalski. The Lions don't anticipate any of the players missing much practice time. Most of the moves were for precautionary reasons.

Discuss Lions training camp, and your thoughts on the 2009 season, in The Den message board.

Lions Preseason Blog Buzz

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

With the credentialed media folks gathered in Allen Park, I thought I’d take a moment to point out some of the great work being done by our fellow bloggers:

  • DetFan1979, who some of you may know from his Blogspot blog, has a new blog up, Roar of the Lions.  He visited training camp, and posted an outstanding diary of his visit.  He got a lot of good looks at the offensive and defensive lines, as well as a great view of some linebacker drills.   He wraps it up with a touching story about his small daughter and Charlie Sanders.  Great stuff.
  • This one’s not for the faint of heart—or pure of mind!—but Neil at Armchair Linebacker wrote a brilliant piece that, in all its profane, Gonzo glory, completely captures everything that it means to be a Lions fan.
  • For an outside perspective, Steelers blog Steelers N’At is working their way through a 32-team preseason preview.  They just posted their Lions breakdown—and while their predicted final record (2-14) won’t make most Lions fans swoon, they definitely did their homework, and made solid observations.  It’s a good look into what other teams’ fans think of the changes made by the new Lions brass.
  • Yardbarker’s doing a series called the “Juggernaut Index”, a look at every team’s offense in terms of overall fantasy football potential.  The Lions, in their estimation, rank at a position that doesn’t start with a “3”!  Predictable praise for Megatron is mixed in with some surprisingly nuanced, in-depth work.  It’s a nice read.
  • Finally, DrewsLions over at Pride of Detroit put up a nice piece trying to cover both extremes of the 2009 Lions: first bathing them in a warm, optimistic glow, then casting a deathly pallor over them, then giving you an honest piece of his own mind.

Of course, stay tuned here at the Blue Blog for all of the very latest news, insight, and analysis—and hit the jump to The Den to discuss it all with the largest Lions community around!