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NFC North a two-team race between Lions and Packers

Posted by ttwentyman on January 31, 2012 – 4:49 pm

All wins count the same in the NFL (I stole that one from Lions head coach Jim Schwartz), but winning the division is the easiest route to postseason success.

Former Lions coach Steve Mariucci, who’s now an analyst for the NFL Network, thinks the NFC North will be a two-team race between the Lions and the Packers over the next few seasons.

“I don’t see the Vikings being a factor for a while,” he said. “I don’t see the Bears really being a factor. I believe it’s a two-horse race over there with the Packers and the Lions.

“You have to build your team around winning your division. When you have a team like the Packers, that likes to spread you out with all of those weapons, you have to be able to match-up with the Packers. That means more cover guys. More corners. And I think that’s where (the Lions) will go in the draft – (offensive) tackle, corners and maybe another linebacker.”

Mariucci, who had Joey Harrington at quarterback when he coached the team, said the Lions have their most important piece in place to compete for a long time in quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“Matthew Stafford is exactly what that organization needs,” he said. “The players rally around him because he’s a tough guy. He’s a confident kid.

“He’s got the baseball hat on backwards and he doesn’t care about all the other stuff. He just wants to play football and he has a very, very bright future. They are surrounding him now with talent and a pretty darn good defense and they’ll be right in it.”

Mariucci likes some of the current pieces the Lions have in place, but insists that some holes have to be filled before they’re on the same playing field as the Packers.

“I think Ndamukong Suh is pretty darn good,” he said. “They added some linebackers and I like their safety (Louis) Delmas, he’s a pretty good player.  I like (Kyle) Vanden Bosch and (Cliff) Avril and Corey Williams isn’t bad.

“If they are going to need help, to me, their front seven isn’t the priority that needs help. I think it’s their secondary. They also have to decide what to do with (left tackle) Jeff Backus, he’s getting a little older. He’s been good over the years, but they have to secure a left tackle for the future and a couple corners.”


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 4 Comments »

Patriots receiver Matthew Slater gets Super Bowl advice from father Jackie

Posted by ttwentyman on January 30, 2012 – 9:33 pm

Matthew Slater wears a lot of hats for the Patriots. He’s a receiver, safety and special team’s captain for the AFC Champions.

He’s a very different player than his father, Jackie Slater, who played offensive tackle for the Rams for 20 seasons.

The elder Slater played in Super Bowl XIV in 1979, which Matthew says he’s seen plenty of times on tape.

“The first time I might have been five or six and the last time might have been a couple years ago. We’ve watched it quite a few times,” Matthew said Sunday from Indianapolis, where he is getting reading to play in his first Super Bowl.

“I’ve (been) getting the play-by-play synopsis over and over ever since I was a youngster. It meant a lot to him. This opportunity means a lot to me and him, too.”

Matthew earned his first Pro Bowl this season as a special teams performer. The selection makes the Slater’s one of five active father-son families selected to at least one Pro Bowl apiece. Jackie made seven Pro Bowls during his career.

Matthew has leaned on his father’s Super Bowl experience to help him in his own experience this year.

“He told me just do everything I can to prepare myself for the game on Sunday so that I can live with no regrets,” Matthew said. “Realizing that this opportunity is not guaranteed to me in my career again, so just do everything I can to take advantage of the opportunity and maximize it, so at the end of the day, I have no regrets at all.”

The Rams lost that Super Bowl to the Steelers in 1979. Matthew said whenever they talk about it, Jackie has to remind his son how close he was with the Rams leading in the fourth quarter of that game.

Winning Sunday might give Jackie a small piece of the victory he never got to experience as a player and that would be alright by Matthew.


Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 1 Comment »

Suh to defend his play and his reputation

Posted by ttwentyman on January 30, 2012 – 12:35 pm

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh continues his media assault on Tuesday when he sits down with ESPN’s Hannah Storm on “SportsCenter Special: NFL Face to Face with Hannah Storm” at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.

Suh will take Storm on a tour of the Nebraska weight-room facility that he funded with a $2.6 million gift before the Lions drafted him in 2010.

SportsCenter ran a snippet of the interview on Monday.

“I would never hurt somebody because why would I want somebody to hurt me,” Suh said when asked about players’ accusations that he’s a dirty player and tries to hurt people. “Taking someone’s livelihood away and their opportunity to fend for their family and grow, for someone to say that, it’s kind of outrageous.”

Storm then asked Suh about suggestions that he may need anger management classes.

“It’s funny to me,” Suh said. “Like I said, I don’t have issues. (I’m not) beating up people in bars. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I think people try to make their own opinion and I think it’s a storyline. It’s a great storyline.

“I understood this year that a lot of people seeing me as a dirty player is a good storyline to have and that’s what it is to me. It’s kind of comical to me to keep saying something and really don’t have any substance behind it.”


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 18 Comments »

Stanton’s HS Football Coach, John Herrington, finalist for Don Shula NFL HS Coach of the Year

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on January 30, 2012 – 11:55 am

Quarterback Drew Stanton‘s high school football coach – John Herrington of Farmington Hills High School – is one of three finalists for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award.

This award honors exemplary high school football coaches who display the integrity, achievement, and leadership demonstrated by the winningest coach in NFL history, Don Shula.  The coaches are active or retired high school football coaches and were nominated by NFL teams and players for their character and integrity, inspirational leadership, commitment to the community and on-field success.

This year’s finalists and the NFL teams and players who nominated them are:

Each finalist receives a $2,500 cash award and a $5,000 grant for their high school football programs. The national Shula Award winner will receive a $10,000 cash award and a $15,000 grant for his high school football program. The winner also will be invited to Super Bowl XLVI where he will be recognized at a press conference.

See Tom Leyden’s interview with Herrington at WXYZ.com!


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All assistant coaches are signed for Lions

Posted by ttwentyman on January 27, 2012 – 4:45 pm

The Lions have confirmed the signing of all of their assistant coaches for the 2012 season.

Defensive backs coach Tim Walton and receivers coach Shawn Jefferson were the last to sign on the dotted line.

Walton interviewed with the Rams for their assistant defensive coordinator position last week, but ultimately decided to rejoin the Lions.

The Lions announced the signing of coordinators Gunther Cunningham (defense), Scott Linehan (offense) and Danny Crossman (special teams) earlier this month.

“I think we have a good group of coaches mixed with experience and younger guys, some former players, some guys that never played, but I like that dynamic and I like the consistency,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the season. “We were consistent from a preparation standpoint, from a game plan standpoint, from week-to-week.”

The Lions coaching staff has remained one of the most consistent since Schwartz took over in 2009.


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 9 Comments »

Stafford and Raiola named to USA TODAY All-Joe Team

Posted by ttwentyman on January 27, 2012 – 1:12 pm

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford isn’t an All-Pro, but he can be proud of the fact that he’s an All-Joe.

Stafford was named to the USA TODAY All-Joe Team on Friday.

The All-Joe team was created in 1992 by longtime USA Today NFL writer Larry Weisman as a tribute to Joe Phillips, a 14-year defensive lineman who did yeoman’s work for the Chiefs that season. His effort in the trenches didn’t lead to much glory. USA Today has honored the unsung Joes of the NFL ever since. Only players who have never been named to the Pro Bowl during their careers are eligible.

That may mean this turns out to be Stafford’s one-and-only nomination.

The last time the All-Joe team selected a player who passed for more than 5,000 yards and 40 TDs was never,” the paper wrote of Stafford. “Despite posting such numbers and leading Detroit into postseason for the first time this century, Stafford could not snap the Lions’ 40-year streak of failing to send a quarterback to the Pro Bowl. But he’ll fix that soon enough.”

Center Dominic Raiola, who played in his first playoffs this season after 11 years in the league, was also named to the team.

“Consider this a lifetime achievement award for a fiery team captain who endured so many losses in his first 10 seasons before enjoying his first postseason trip,” the paper wrote of Raiola.


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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »

Schwartz says there are many Pro Bowls in Stafford’s future

Posted by ttwentyman on January 26, 2012 – 8:56 pm

The NFL’s biggest stars are gathered in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl but Lions head coach Jim Schwartz can’t help but feel one player is missing: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

“I made one of my five-minute trips on the treadmill today and I had the TV on and I saw the Pro Bowl from Hawaii. I was a little bit disappointed for him and for us that (after) the great year he had, and all the things he did, he’s here at a Pistons game rather than being at the Pro Bowl,” Schwartz said in an interview on 97.1 Thursday night when host Bob Wojnowski informed Schwartz that Stafford was at the Pistons vs. Heat game at the Palace of Auburn Hills Wednesday night.

“But there’s going to be a lot of (Pro Bowls) in his future.”

Schwartz then pointed out an interesting fact about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is playing in his fifth Super Bowl next weekend.

“Matt is 23 years old, getting ready to turn 24 in a couple months, and Tom Brady, when he turned 24, had never completed a pass in the NFL,” Schwartz said.

“It gives you a little perspective about what Matt has ahead of him and what the Lions have ahead of them. He’s 23 and he’s experienced an awful lot.”


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The experts have spoken on the top draft prospects

Posted by ttwentyman on January 26, 2012 – 12:45 pm

There are still three months to go until April’s NFL Draft, but the experts are in full swing with their analysis.

Wes Bunting of the National Football Post released his top five prospects from the Senior Bowl via Twitter on Wednesday:

1). North Carolina DE Quinton Coples: “Makes it look easy, combo size, power, length and quicks are “plus.”

2.). Ohio State OT Mike Adams: “Has an NFL LT build, good feet, gets hands on you its over.”

3). North Alabama CB Janoris Jenkins: “Toughest guy to separate from all week, fluid, “plus” closing speed.”

4). Alabama DE Courtney Upshaw: “Impressive strength on contact, can turn speed into power off edge.”

5). South Carolina DE Melvin Ingram: “Thick, compact, can reach QB in a number of ways, sudden, versatile.”

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock put out his list of the top five prospects from each position heading into the draft.

The one surprise from Mayock’s list is that he has Iowa’s Riley Rieff rated ahead of USC’s Matt Kalil as the best offensive tackle available. Most have Kalil as the best tackle prospect.

Here are the best, according to Mayock:

Quarterback

1. Andrew Luck, Stanford

2. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

3. Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M

4 and 5 not specified.

Running Back

1. Trent Richardson, Alabama

2. David Wilson, Virginia Tech

3. Lamar Miller, Miami (FL)

4. Doug Martin, Boise State

5. LaMichael James, Oregon

Wide Receiver

1. Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State

2. Michael Floyd, Notre Dame

3. Kendall Wright, Baylor

4. Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina

5. Chris Givens, Wake Forest

Tight End

1. Dwayne Allen, Clemson

2. Coby Fleener, Stanford

3. Orson Charles, Georgia

4. Ladarius Green, Louisiana-Lafayette

5. Michael Egnew, Missouri

Tackle

1. Riley Reiff, Iowa

2. Matt Kalil, USC

3. Jonathan Martin, Stanford

4. Mike Adams, Ohio State

T-5. James Brown, Troy

T-5. Zebrie Sanders, Florida State

Interior Offensive Lineman

1. David DeCastro, Stanford

2. Peter Konz, Wisconsin

3. Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin

4. Cordy Glenn, Georgia

5. Kelechi Osemele, Iowa State

Defensive End

1. Quinton Coples, North Carolina

2. Melvin Ingram, South Carolina

3. Whitney Mercilus, Illinois

4. Nick Perry, USC

T-5. Chandler Jones, Syracuse

T-5. Andre Branch, Clemson

Defensive Tackle

1. Devon Still, Penn State

2. Jerel Worthy, Michigan State

3. Michael Brockers, LSU

4. Brandon Thompson, Clemson

T-5. Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State

T-5. Dontari Poe, Memphis

Linebacker

1. Courtney Upshaw, Alabama

2. Luke Kuechly, Boston College

3. Dont’a Hightower, Alabama

4. Zach Brown, North Carolina

5. Vontaze Burfict, Arizona State

Cornerback

1. Morris Claiborne, LSU

2. Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama

3. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

4. Leonard Johnson, Iowa State

5. Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama

Safety

1. Mark Barron, Alabama

2. Harrison Smith, Notre Dame

3. George Iloka, Boise State

4. Markelle Martin, Oklahoma State

T-5. Janzen Jackson, McNeese State

T-5. Antonio Allen, South Carolina

There’s still a lot that can happen at the combine in Indianapolis next month and during individual workouts around college campuses, but the experts have their lists and we’ll start to see if the team’s agree.


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Lions OT Johnny Culbreath arrested for marijuana possession

Posted by ttwentyman on January 25, 2012 – 2:06 pm

Detroit Lions rookie offensive tackle Johnny Culbreath was arrested on a drug possession charge in a South Carolina motel room Monday, according to the Orangeburg County, S.C., sheriff’s department.

Culbreath, a seventh-round pick in last year’s draft, was charged with simple possession of marijuana after officers responded to a complaint of drug use Monday morning at the Country Inn.

According to the Times and Democrat, Culbreath appeared in front of county magistrate Richard Murray later Monday and paid a $412 fine.

The Lions, in a statement, said, “We are aware of the very disappointing reports involving Johnny Culbreath. This matter has been referred to the National Football League. Further comments will be made when appropriate.”

According to the report, Culbreath was arrested shortly after 10 a.m. Monday when he left his hotel room and an officer “smelled a strong odor of what appeared to be marijuana.”

When an officer entered the room, Culbreath was caught on video surveillance placing an object in a table drawer in a hallway. When Culbreath was asked what he placed in the table, he told the officer “two blunts,” according to the report.

Culbreath is now subject to penalty under the league’s personal conduct policy.


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Evaluations continue for Lions at Senior Bowl

Posted by ttwentyman on January 24, 2012 – 6:28 pm

Lions president Tom Lewand told me today that the team is getting a lot done down at the Senior Bowl. The Lions have been busy interviewing prospects and are doing a lot of off-the-field work as well as evaluating players on the practice field.

Here are a few tidbits from some of the national draft writers on how Day 2 of  Senior Bowl practices went.

–Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline wrote that the most impressive players to come out of the morning practice on Tuesday was Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin and UConn defensive tackle Kendall Reyes.

“(They) were both impossible to stop and set up shop behind the line of scrimmage,” Pauline wrote on sportsillustrated.com.

–The National Football Post’s Wes Bunting remains impressed with Ohio State offensive tackle Mike Adams.

“What’s so impressive about Adams is the way he easily moves his 330-pound frame around the field,” Bunting wrote. “Even this morning, when asked to block in motion, Adams quickly gets out to the second level and is able to adjust and block linebackers thanks to his agility.”

NFL.com’s Pat Kirwan had this to say about Adams:

“Adams passes the eyeball test for certain and has the feet to be a fine left tackle,” he wrote. “He clearly demonstrated an ability to roll off the line of scrimmage and run block at the line of scrimmage or at the linebacker level in the 9-on-7 drills. Simply stated, he likes to finish a defender in the run game.

“His pass blocking has some issues when it comes to having the punch to neutralize a rusher. He is patient and disciplined enough to not go chasing a wide defender but he is inconsistent in re-routing a rusher. Adams often has his arms fully extended with little pop, which in turn causes some waist bending. It is all correctable and he is a fine athlete.”

–Bunting wasn’t as impressed with cornerbacks Alfonzo Dennard (Nebraska) or Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama), two players who the Lions could be interested in at pick No. 23.

“He allows his cushion to be eaten up far too much in his drop and lacks much of a burst/second gear when asked to turn and run,” Bunting wrote of Dennard.

As for Jenkins: “Jenkins looks rusty,” Bunting tweeted Tuesday. “Letting receivers get too far into his cushion, allowing receivers behind him.”

All of this is a matter of opinion and perception, though. There were others who thought Jenkins showed well, Tuesday.

“Jenkins has looked good,” Pauline wrote. “He’s fast, easily stays downfield with opponents and, despite playing at a low level of competition last year, looks as though his ball skills have improved. Scouts have to be thinking first round for Jenkins after his performance.”

In the end, the only evaluation that really matters will be those of Lewand, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew, coach Jim Schwartz and the rest of their staffs.


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