Of the eight players the Lions drafted this year, three picks – DE Ziggy Ansah, G Larry Warford and TE Michael Williams – were coached by the Lions at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama in January.
Being able to spend a week with those players, seeing how they practiced, prepared in the meeting room and what type of men they were off the field, turned out to be invaluable for Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and Co.
“I really can’t explain it,” Mayhew said. “I can just tell you, the last time that we went down there (the Lions coached the North team at the Senior Bowl in 2009), we came back and went through this entire process. At the end of it, there just weren’t a whole lot of guys that were on our team that really appealed to us.
“This time, we went through the same exact process, had a different roster of guys and it was littered with guys that really appealed to us. So, I can’t really explain it. But we felt so much better about this class of guys than we did the last class.”
The fact that the Lions coached the South team this time around could have had something to do with it, Mayhew admitted.
“There may be something to that,” he said with a laugh. “I don’t know, that South team is usually pretty stacked.
“There were guys that we looked at and we were like, ‘Oh, we’d draft him and we’ll draft him and him,’ that’s how it went. There were just a bunch of guys we really liked.”
Thursday night, after selecting Ansah with the No. 5 overall pick, Mayhew said he might not of made the pick if the Lions hadn’t spent that week with him.
“I think if we didn’t have the opportunity to coach him at the Senior Bowl, that would have been a bigger issue,” Mayhew said of Ansah only having played football since 2010.
“But we had the opportunity to work with him and teach him and we saw the way that he could learn, how quickly he picks things up and we saw the impact that he had in the game so we felt very comfortable with him.”
Tags: Larry Warford, Martin Mayhew, Michael Williams, Ziggy Ansah
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 13 Comments »
In a not so subtle way, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz suggested Friday that new guard Larry Warford is a very large man.
“I mean, he’s not going to be on the men of the Lions calendar,” Schwartz said when referring to Warford’s 335-pound frame. “I don’t know if we’d sell very many of them, but he’s made to play guard in the NFL.
“I don’t want to make light of it… but he’s a big, thick, powerful man and he’s made to play in there. He can be good setting our pocket.”
Warford is a big man and that’s exactly what the Lions need in the interior of their offensive line.
Starting left guard Rob Sims made it a point last year to add as much as 20 pounds to help him be more powerful. Sims joked that he would make stops at Burger King for Whoppers before practice to help him gain the weight.
Warford, on the other hand, has a pretty good base to work with. He says it’s all about properly managing that base.
“It’s more my body composition I’ve been trying to work on,” he told reporters in a conference call Friday. “Just changing the way my body is shaped helps me play a lot more and be more explosive. It will take a lot of wear off my body in the long run. It’s not the specific weight, it’s just the way my body is formed.”
The form Warford’s been sporting the last four years has been working out pretty well for him. He’s started 37-of-47 games at Kentucky, earning All-SEC accolades all four seasons. In three seasons starting at right guard, he led all SEC interior blockers with an 88.47 percent grade for blocking consistency.
Still, Warford says he’s been working hard this offseason with former Pro Bowl center LeCharles Bentley to change his diet and help shape his body to be more durable and dominant.
“I worked with him up until the Combine and every day that I was there he completely changed around my diet and then (we worked on) offensive line development,” Warford said. “All we did was lifting and getting my body right. It was a lot of extreme work and I’ve benefited a lot from it.”
The Lions are expecting Warford to come in and compete right away for their vacant right guard spot, but he said he’s just worried about getting better every day.
“I don’t want to talk about me starting,” he said. “I just want to come in and compete as hard as I can, keep working and hopefully learn from the best there about playing in the NFL.”
Tags: Jim Schwartz, Larry Warford
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 7 Comments »
The big boys ruled the night Thursday.
The most talent and depth of any position heading into the draft was along the offensive line. That fact was cemented early Thursday when six of the first 11 picks were offensive linemen.
This is the first time in NFL Draft history that four offensive lineman have been taken within the first seven picks.
With the draft devoid of high-end skill players who can change a franchise, the big men ruled the day as the safest picks in the draft.
Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson – the consensus top three tackles available – went No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 overall, respectively.
Fisher was taken first overall, becoming the fourth offensive lineman drafted first overall, joining Ron Yary (1968), Orlando Pace (1997) and Jake Long (2008).
Wide receiver Tavon Austin was the first skill player taken with the eighth pick overall by the Rams. It’s the latest that the first “skill” player has gone off the board since 1991 when former Detroit Lions Herman Moore was selected 10th overall.
One of those top three tackles would have certainly been in the mix for the Lions had they fallen to No. 5. Instead, the Lions chose to select athletic defense end Ziggy Ansah at another position of need.
“We have a long way to go,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said when asked after the Ansah pick if he’s content with the offensive line. “We drafted Riley Reiff last year. We have a lot of confidence in Riley. Riley played a game for us, started a game for us last year and did a good job there. He looks better this year than he did last year.
“You know, we have other young players across the front line and we still got a lot of Draft to go.”
Currently, just eight players make up the Lions’ offensive line.
In all, nine offensive lineman were drafted in the first 32 picks (five tackles, three guards and a center).
Only one quarterback (EJ Manuel) was taken in the first round and no running back was taken in the first round for the first time since 1963.
It’s easy to see where the value is lining up in this draft and the Lions could in the mix to pick up an offensive lineman of their own in the second or third rounds on Friday.
A couple names to consider at tackle would be Menelik Watson (Florida State) and Terron Armstead (Arkansas –Pine Bluff).
A number of good guard and center prospects remain on the board in Larry Warford (Kentucky), Brian Winters (Kent State), Brian Schwenke (California) and Barrett Jones (Alabama).
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 15 Comments »
If Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper hear their names called in the first five picks of the NFL Draft Thursday night, it’ll be the first time an interior offensive lineman has been summoned to the podium for his snap shot with the commissioner since 1985, when the Philadelphia Eagles selected Bill Fralic second-overall.
Taking a guard high in the draft isn’t a sexy pick for the fans or the franchise. A guard doesn’t sell a whole lot of new season tickets.
In a draft devoid of elite talent at the top. In a draft that has a lot of question marks surrounding a number of top picks. Could 2013 be the year of the guard once again?
“I think if you go back and look five, six years ago with the way the rookie contracts were structured, I mean, the idea of taking a guard that high just made no sense at all,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said last week.
“But the slot that we’re in right now is probably a $19-20 million over the first four years type of deal, which I don’t think is unreasonable for a guard, for a good guard.”
That last part is significant – for a good guard. Warmack and Cooper are head and shoulders above the rest of the group at their position and some Mock drafts have both players going in the top 10.
Mayhew personally supervised Cooper’s pro day in North Carolina last month and Warmack was one of the team’s 30 allotted pre-draft visits.
Could the Lions be thinking guard in the first round?
It makes sense from the standpoint that the biggest hole on the line right now is the right guard spot left vacant by the release of Stephen Peterman. Warmack and Cooper are also safe picks in a draft filled with lots of question marks.
Ideally, if the Lions were thinking guard, they’d like to trade back a few spots, pick up an extra pick, and then maybe select one of the guards.
But let me lay this scenario on you. Let’s say Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, Dee Milliner and the highest rated pass rusher they have on their board – all players who could also fill a need for the Lions – are gone. Is it too much of a leap to take a guard projected to be a 10-year starter on the interior of the offensive line?
I don’t think it is. If there’s any year it makes sense, it might be this one.
It’s just one of the many draft day scenarios to consider.
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 9 Comments »
Detroit Lions reserve defensive end Ronnell Lewis was arrested this past Saturday on three misdemeanor charges after an altercation at a bar in Norman, Okla., reports Jake Trotter of ESPN Sooner Nation.
“We are aware of the incident involving Ronnell Lewis,” the Lions said in a statement. “We are in the process of gathering more information and have no further comment at this time.”
Lewis, 22, got into the altercation early Saturday morning at Logan’s on the Corner, located in Norman’s Campus Corner entertainment district.
Lewis was tasered by an officer when the fight spilled outside the bar and he refused officers orders to stop fighting.
Police booked Lewis on complaints of disturbing the peace, public intoxication and interfering with official procedure.
Lewis was a fourth-round draft pick by the Lions last year. He appeared in eight games, mostly on special teams, with two tackles.
Last month, safety Amari Spievey was arrested in Connecticut following a dispute with his girlfriend. Spievey was charged with assault, misdemeanor risk of injury to a child and misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Spievey entered a family counseling program and all charges are expected to be dropped.
Tags: Ronnell Lewis
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 23 Comments »
There are just two men left standing for the Madden NFL 25 Cover Vote and fans have to ask themselves one question: Are they “old school” or “new school.”
The answer will likely decide whether Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders or current Vikings running back Adrian Peterson wins the fan voting, which will be announced Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.
One million votes were cast for the semifinals, 50,000 more than last year’s vote totals for the semifinals, according to ESPN. Over 38 million votes cast overall.
It almost seems fitting that one of the NFL’s all-time dynamic running backs in Sanders will square off against today’s most prolific runner in Peterson. It also puts two bitter NFC North rivals — Lions and Vikings — against one another.
Sanders defeated fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Rice by a narrow 52 percent of the vote in the semifinals.
“Thanks to all the dedicated fans out there voting for the Madden Cover,” Sanders tweeted after the semifinals. “I’ve read through most of the tweets, and am honored and humbled.”
Peterson dispatched of Texans running back Arian Foster in the semifinals, receiving 64 percent of the votes.
If Sanders wins, it will be the first time a single team would have a player on the cover of Madden in back-to-back years. Calvin Johnson was featured on the cover of last year’s game.
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 9 Comments »
The Lions held a pre-draft workout for area prospects at their Allen Park training facility Wednesday morning.
NFL rules stipulate that only players who attended high school and/or college in the Detroit area are eligible to participate.
Last year, the Lions drafted cornerback Chris Greenwood of Albion in the fifth round as a result of the workout. Wayne State’s Troy Burrell, who also participated, was signed to the practice squad.
The workout featured two prominent figures on the University of Michigan defense last year – linebacker Kenny Demens (Oak Park) and defensive tackle Will Campbell (Detroit).
Demens registered three consecutive 80-tackle performances in the middle of the Wolverines’ defense to go along with 12.5 tackles for loss over than span.
Campbell, a converted offensive tackle, appeared in 51 consecutive games, making 11 starts at defensive tackle in 2012. He recorded 44 tackles and a sack last season.
Also working out was Michigan State guard Chris McDonald, who played in 43 career games, including 39 starts at right guard.
Here is the full list of participants:
Michael Atkinson, DT, Boise State (Windsor, ON)
Freddie Bishop, DE, Western Michigan (Inkster)
Matt Boyd, FB, Eastern Michigan (Detroit)
Will Campbell, DT, Michigan (Detroit)
Kenny Demens, LB, Michigan (Oak Park)
Jack Griffin, PK, Florida International (Grosse Pointe Park)
Chris McDonald, G, Michigan State (Sterling Heights)
Tim Hogue, HB, Saginaw Valley State (Inkster)
Damond Smith, CB, South Alabama (Inkster)
Mitchell White, CB, Michigan State (Livonia)
Myles White, WR, Louisiana Tech (Livonia)
Luke Wilson, TE, Rice, (LaSalle, ON)
Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan (Rochester Hills)
George Winn, HB, Cincinnati (Southfield)
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »
The Lions have a new kicker and he’s “Kickalicious.”
The team signed Norwegian kicking sensation Havard Rugland to a contract Thursday to compete for their kicking job left vacant by Jason Hanson’s retirement. Rugland’s deal is reportedly for three years and $1.485 million with no bonus or guaranteed money.
Rugland will compete with newly signed David Akers for the job. Both players are left-footed, which should make it easy on the holders this offseason.
Rugland is trying to parlay his incredible trick-shot video — which he called “Kickalicious” — into a job kicking for an NFL team.
The Lions brought Rugland in for a tryout last month but did not sign him at the time.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said at the NFL League Meetings last month that the team first learned about him from the internet video and through league channels.
Rugland is 6-foot-2 1/2 and 240 pounds and became familiar with the sport only a couple years ago. He has been training with former NFL kicker Michael Husted in San Diego since November of 2012 and has followed the career former NFL kicker and native Norwegian Jan Stenerud, one of only three kickers currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
He’s also reportedly had workouts for the Browns and Jets before signing with the Lions.
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 53 Comments »
Detroit Lions safety Amari Spievey had his court date regarding charges of third degree assault, risk of injury to a child and disorderly conduct in Middletown, Conn., pushed back to June 28, according to the Middletown News.
Meanwhile, Spievey was granted a request to participate in a family violence education program “out of state” (presumably in Michigan), which should let him take part in the Lions’ offseason training program that begins next week.
If he successfully completes his counseling sessions by June 28, all charges against him will be dismissed, according to the report.
Spievey was charged following a dispute over child support with his girlfriend and the mother of his child Lisamarie Santos on March 27. Santos was also charged on two counts.
Tags: Amari Spievey
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 3 Comments »
Barry Sanders has been out of football nearly 15 years, but his popularity hasn’t waned much.
The Detroit Lions Hall of Fame running back is one step closer to representing the team on the cover of the Madden video game series.
Sanders received 57 percent of the vote vs. Joe Montana to move on in the bracket-style tournament determined by fans voting.
“Wow! I didn’t think I would beat Montana on the #Madden25 vote. Thanks to all the fans! I’m coming for you @Jerry Rice,” Sanders wrote on Twitter.
Sanders now faces Montana’s former favorite target, Jerry Rice, in one semifinal. The other semifinal features Vikings running back Adrian Peterson vs. Texans running back Arian Foster.
Thus far, Sanders has defeated Ron Rivera, Marcus Allen, Ray Lewis and Montana.
The winner will be determined April 24, the night before the NFL draft.
Tags: Barry Sanders
Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 2 Comments »