Calvin Johnson breaks down the Lions’ secondary

Posted by Chrissie Wywrot on August 2, 2013 – 7:50 pm

Ron Bartell“I always go against the starting two corners, Chris Houston and Ron Bartell, and they’re bigger backs. Both Chris and Bartell are real strong. You have to use all your techniques in order to get off the line with those guys.

“They also have experience, which makes a lot of difference — it is everything in the NFL. The more experience you have, the better your instincts are … and at cornerback, instincts are everything.

“Looking at our young guys, Chris Greenwood is finally getting to see the field. He doesn’t have as much experience with us on the field as he might want, but he’s being physical out there so that will play out better for him.

“Bentley, he’s got a little game experience. If he just stays healthy, he’s going to be all right — he’s going to be a playmaker for us. And with Jonte, we just need him to stay healthy and be a little more physical out there and he’ll be all right.

“The rookie, Slay, he’s got the tools. He’s got the speed, he can catch the ball, and he can make plays on the ball. He’s an all-around good corner but he’s still raw. For him, the biggest thing is getting experience from us in training camp and preseason.

“Having a veteran like Quin out there is also going to help out a lot. Its like when we had Delmas out there last year. When you got Delmas out there, everybody is comfortable, everybody knows what to do. I think we can get the same thing out of Quin.”

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Posted in Calvin Johnson Blog | 14 Comments »

Slay: “I’ve been on the field two days now, and it feels good to get moving.”

Posted by Tara Altman on June 4, 2013 – 3:51 pm

Darius Slay

CB Darius Slay

“I’ve been on the field two days now, and it feels good to get moving. I feel comfortable right now and I’m blessed to be out there, so I’m just having a good time. I’m feeling real good physically, I’m just waiting for coach Schwartz to give me the go call, so I can go for the whole time, but I guess they’re going to be patient and wait. It is a little bit difficult to be held back, but it’s for my safety and I understand that.

“Chris (Houston) is continuing to coach me up. The first day that I got a little more activity in he talked to me about the coverage and what I should do here, depending on what happens there, etc., so he helped me a lot – him and Ron (Bartell).

“Next week is mini-camp, I’m just taking it one day at a time. Like I said, I’m just ready for the go call, but I’m looking forward to next week. I’m ready. I’m ready to participate in everything we do, go at it and get better.”

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Posted in Darius Slay Blog | 9 Comments »

Make no mistake, Detroit Lions got better Wednesday

Posted by ttwentyman on March 13, 2013 – 6:52 pm

The Lions had themselves quite a day Wednesday. They ended up going 4-for-4 on their top free-agent targets.

Reggie Bush, Glover Quin and Jason Jones are the newest Lions, and Chris Houston has been their No. 1 priority to re-sign among their own unrestricted free agents. The Lions designated all four players as a must-have and they got their men.

–Bush immediately makes the Lions offense more explosive and allows them to now focus more attention on building up their defense.

–Quin might have been the best safety available on the market and the player the Lions specifically targeted for his all-around skills as a former cornerback.

–Jones is Detroit-born and has been looking for more of an opportunity to start and showcase his multi-dimensional rushing skills at defensive end.

–Houston became the team’s No. 1 cornerback last year and has steadily improved his game every year in Detroit. He’s a worker and professional.

“Well, it’s obviously saying that they want to be a winner,” Jones said of the Lions’ signings Wednesday.

“You know, obviously last season wasn’t what they wanted after going to the playoffs. So, they want to win. The teams that want to win, they do things to win. So, they’ve brought in guys that are proven and guys that can help.

“So, our job is to come in and fit in with the team and do our job to contribute and try to get us over the hump.”

All four players are 28 years old or younger, durable and playing in their prime.

“I’m not so much worried about records or what happened last year,” Bush said.

“Every year is a new year. What happened last year has no bearing on what’s going to happen in this season. That’s the way we have to approach it. We have to approach it as a new year and learn from the mistakes of last year, but at the same time figuring out a way to get better.”

Make no mistake, the Lions got better Wednesday.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 23 Comments »

As expected, no franchise tag handed out by Detroit Lions

Posted by ttwentyman on March 5, 2013 – 10:54 am

The franchise tag deadline has come and gone and to no one’s surprise, the Detroit Lions passed on franchising any of their would-be free agents.

General manager Martin Mayhew told local reporters twice this offseason that he didn’t plan on using the tag. He was true to his word.

“We’re not going to franchise anybody,” Mayhew said. “It doesn’t make sense for us right now.”

Last year, the Lions placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril, which paid him $10.6 million in 2012. The team would have had to pay the young defensive end upwards of $12.7 million, or 120 percent of last year’s salary, if they wished to tag him again.

Two other potential franchise tag candidates for the Lions would have been safety Louis Delmas ($6.91 million) and cornerback Chris Houston ($10.85), but it simply didn’t make sense financially for the Lions.

Eight teams did place the franchise tag on a player prior to Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline:

Buffalo Bills — Safety Jairus Byrd.
Chicago Bears – Defensive tackle Henry Melton
Cincinnati Bengals – Defensive end Michael Johnson
Dallas Cowboys — Linebacker Anthony Spencer
Denver Broncos – Offensive tackle Ryan Clady
Indianapolis Colts — Punter Pat McAfee
Kansas City Chiefs – Offensive tackle Branden Albert
Miami Dolphins – Defensive tackle Randy Starks

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 2 Comments »

Would Dunta Robinson or John Abraham fit with Lions?

Posted by ttwentyman on March 1, 2013 – 11:06 am

The Atlanta Falcons got some salary off their books Friday with the release of running back Michael Turner, cornerback Dunta Robinson and defensive end John Abraham.

Almost immediately, my Twitter account started to erupt with the questions about all three of these players and a possible future with the Lions.

The two names from that list that could fit the most within some of the Lions’ immediate needs are Abraham and Robinson.

Robinson, 30, was scheduled to make $8 million in base salary in 2013.  He started all 16 games for the Falcons last year with 80 tackles, one interception, eight passes defended and 1.5 sacks.

The nine-year veteran has been a starter dating back to his rookie season in 2004 with the Texans.

He’d be an expensive option for the Lions, who would probably prefer to keep veteran free agent Chris Houston instead. Interestingly, Houston was traded to the Lions in 2010 when the Falcons signed Robinson.

If anything, it doesn’t hurt having another veteran cornerback to flood the market. The more talent available, the lower the asking prices get.

Abraham, 34, was slated to make $4.25 in base salary this upcoming season. He’s closer to the end of his career and would only be a stopgap for the Lions, but the 13-year veteran isn’t showing any signs of his age. He had 10 sacks in 2012 and has a combined 32.5 over the last three seasons.

The Lions will have a need for a veteran edge rusher if Cliff Avril leaves via free agency. The team has already parted ways with veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch.

If anything else, the free agent market just got a little more talented.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 18 Comments »

Chris Houston recipient of the Lem Barney Defensive Player of the Year Award

Posted by ttwentyman on January 17, 2013 – 1:01 pm

Chris Houston is a much different player than the one that arrived via trade with the Falcons before the 2010 season.

His ball skills have significantly improved, his understanding of offenses and what opponents are trying to do is enhanced and he’s a much more relaxed and confident cornerback.

Over the past three seasons, Houston has established himself as the clear-cut No. 1 corner on the roster and is one of its most valuable free agents this offseason. He led the defense with 11 passes defended (the only player with more than 10) and was tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (2) and interceptions (2), which has earned him the Lem Barney Award as the team’s most valuable defensive player, as voted on by the players.

“You know, he’s a couple of words – accountable, available, reliable. He’s all of those,” Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said of Houston at the end of the season. “He’s a competitor and he shows up. He loves his teammates.”

For the first time in his career, Houston shadowed the opponents’ best receiver from week-to-week, which is something head coach Jim Schwartz and Cunningham had never trusted any cornerback to do since arriving in 2009.

Houston’s importance on the field can be calculated in his statistics, but what he means to young cornerbacks Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green is immeasurable.

“I don’t even know how to explain how important Chris Houston has been to me,” Bentley said earlier this season. “Chris has been one of the best veterans I’ve been around. He took me underneath his wings, helped me, and tells me when I’m doing things wrong. He’s like a big brother to me. He helps me on the field, off the field, in the film room, he just keeps me on my toes and he’s just trying to get me ready.”

Houston is likely to be a hot commodity on the free agent market and he’s a player the Lions can ill afford to lose.

The Lem Barney Award is given in honor of Lem Barney, one of the premier defensive backs in the history of football. As a rookie, Barney intercepted 10 passes — returning three for touchdowns — and was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.

He played in seven Pro Bowls, earning All-Pro honors three times. Barney played in 140 games, missing just 14, and totaled 56 interceptions. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 4 Comments »

Sammie Hill ruled out for Sunday; Brandon Pettigrew doubtful

Posted by ttwentyman on December 28, 2012 – 5:00 pm

Tight end Brandon Pettigrew returned to the practice field in a limited capacity Friday, but is listed as doubtful to play Sunday on the team’s Friday injury report.

Pettigrew hasn’t played since Dec. 9 when he injured an ankle in the first quarter at Green Bay.

If Pettigrew doesn’t play Sunday vs. Chicago, he’ll finish the season with 57 catches for 556 yards and three touchdowns. Those are the lowest totals in each category since his rookie season when he played only 11 games because of a torn ACL.

Tight ends Tony Scheffler, Will Heller and Shaun Chapas will continue to fill in for Pettigrew if he can’t go.

The team has already ruled out defensive tackle Sammie Hill for Sunday because of an injured toe. Hill hasn’t practiced all week because of the injury. With Hill out, the Lions will play only one (Ndamukong Suh) of their original four defensive tackles they began the season with. Corey Williams and Nick Fairley are on injured reserve and Hill’s season is now over, too.

Andre Fluellen and Ogemdi Nwagbuo will join Suh in the defensive tackle rotation.

Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (hamstring/hip) are listed as questionable. Houston was listed with a hamstring injury on Thursday’s report; the hip is a new development.

Safety Don Carey (knee), receiver Calvin Johnson (knee/ankle) and running back Kevin Smith (thumb) are all listed as probable.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 1 Comment »

Delmas returns to practice; Pettigrew and Fairley still out

Posted by ttwentyman on December 13, 2012 – 1:07 pm

The Lions got three-fourths of their starting secondary back on the practice field Thursday as they continued preparations for Sunday’s game in Arizona.

Cornerbacks Chris Houston (ankle) and Jacob Lacey (foot/Achilles) and safety Louis Delmas (knee) returned to the portion of practice open to the media.

Delmas hasn’t played since Indianapolis because of that sore left knee, and has missed eight games total this year.

It’s no surprise all three players are eager to play Sunday. The Cardinals have the league’s 32nd-ranked offense and the No. 28 passing offense (190.9 ypg).

The Lions were still without tight end Brandon Pettigrew (ankle) and defensive tackle Nick Fairley (shoulder), who both missed their second consecutive day of practice. Both players left Sunday’s game in Green Bay and did not return.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 2 Comments »

Lions without five starters at practice

Posted by ttwentyman on December 12, 2012 – 1:06 pm

The Lions were without five starters at practice today – four on defense – as they get ready to face the Cardinals in Arizona Sunday.

The team was without cornerbacks Chris Houston and Jacob Lacey, safety Louis Delmas, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and tight end Brandon Pettigrew for the portion of practice open to the media.

Pettigrew left Sunday’s game in Green Bay early in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return.

Fairley left in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury and didn’t return.

Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said during his Monday press conference that both players were being evaluated on Monday and they would be monitored this week.

Houston and Lacey have been dealing with ankle and foot injuries for the past few weeks.

Delmas missed the Packers game – his eighth missed game this season – with that sore left knee that’s been bothering him all year.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | 6 Comments »

Williams, Fairley, Delmas and others questionable for Sunday

Posted by ttwentyman on December 7, 2012 – 5:00 pm

The Lions could potentially have their full compliment of players available to them Sunday in Green Bay.

The team’s Friday injury report is out and no player has been ruled out or are doubtful for Sunday.

Defensive tackle Corey Williams is probably the biggest question mark having missed all three practices this week with a knee injury. He’s officially listed as questionable. The knee has bothered Williams since September, and he’s missed a total of five games this year with the injury.

He only practiced once last week and still played against the Colts.

Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (non injury related, rest) missed practice Friday. Delmas is listed as questionable. Vanden Bosch will play.

Joining Williams and Delmas as questionable are: tackle Jeff Backus (hamstring), defensive tackle Nick Fairley (quad), cornerback Chris Houston (ankle), and cornerback Jacob Lacey (foot/Achilles).

Tackle Gosder Cherilus (knees), defensive end Lawrence Jackson (concussion), receiver Kassim Osgood (finger) and linebacker Ashlee Palmer (thumb) are probable.

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Posted in Lions Insider Tim Twentyman | No Comments »