Thursday: Exhibition Season Closes

Rod Marinelli (Getty Images)

Detroit closes its exhibition contest at Buffalo. We have links to new articles and more inside.


Discuss Camp: The Den Message Board

Thursday, August 28 // 5:20 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

This blog will close in the next couple of days (we're assuming after Sunday's final cuts), and it's been an interesting journey. Feel free to follow camp from the beginning to see how the 2008 Detroit Lions were formed, and use the story tree to the right for photos, feature stories and more.

We have two more articles posted, including one on Detroit's weaknesses from 2007 (defense and the running game) and how the team is remedying those ills, and the Season Primer, including a unit-by-unit analysis and 2008 final prediction.

During the course of the regular season, RoarReport.com will have practice coverage, pre-game and post-game coverage, along with feature articles by salary capologist George Ketchman (see his latest: Who Can, Cannot Join Lions Practice Sqaud) and our own fantasy football writer Mike Mady (Latest: Fantasy Football 101).

Keep it here for Lions football in 2008. And remember to share your predictions, thoughts on the regular season, and more with other fans in our interactive message board.

Tuesday, August 26 // 2:27 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Two out of five isn't bad, eh?

The Detroit Lions dumped five from their active roster on Tuesday, reaching the league's requisite of 75 (from 80) by August 26. The players released include defensive end Claude Harriott, defensive back Stephen Howell, center Carroll Madison, linebacker Tyrone Pruitt and kicker Dave Rayner. We predicted Rayner and Pruitt in yesterday's blog.

Harriott had a solid enough camp, but the 6-3, 260-pound defensive end was evidently caught up in a numbers game. He spent last year on the practice squad, and (correction forthcoming) he is not eligible to rejoin the practice squad.

Howell and Madison were long-shots from the beginning, and more camp fodder than anything else. It's unlikely either will gain practice squad consideration.

Pruitt, however, just might.

A linebacker, Pruitt (5-11, 220) came to Detroit as an undrafted free-agent , but was a standout at Boston College. He had virtually no chance at the linebacker position in Detroit, where it's rife with tough, experienced and political competition. The Lions liked Pruitt's athleticism, however, and he should earn a practice squad slot after he clears waivers.

Rayner may not be on the open market long. After an impressive preseason, including four field goals against Cleveland, Rayner should have job opportunities at some point in the season if not right away.

Monday, August 25 // 8:01 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Briefly: Stop us when this sounds familiar: An article on Detroit's running game. Anyway, there's a new RoarReport.com camp notebook, rife with information and comments, including a feature article on the run game in Detroit -- and how, despite incremental improvement -- head coach Rod Marinelli still isn't content. [More]

Onto the blog ...

Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli said many things following Monday's camp session. But one thing he said that might reverberate through a small portion of the current roster is tomorrow's cuts. The Lions have 80 players on the current "active" roster and five must pack their bags and find jobs elsewhere by tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Next week, they must chop 22, although it's likely that a handful will crack the team's practice squad which is named immediately thereafter.

Those who we don't expect back include:
Ron Bellemy (WR) - He wasn't overly impressive against Cleveland, and competition for the fifth receiver position is starting to tighten. Bellemy is the odd-man out between John Standeford, DeVale Ellis and Brandon Middleton.

Clark Harris (TE) - Recently signed as a camp "body," and with the pending return of Dan Campbell (hamstring), the retention of Harris would only cause another player to miss their realistic opportunity to make the team.

Dave Rayner (PK) - Jason Hanson should be ready for Thursday's contest against Buffalo, eliminating the need for another kicker. The good news is that the former Michigan State kicker -- with four field goals against Cleveland -- probably put enough on tape to warrant a look from another NFL team.

Kiwaukee Thomas (CB) - Lost in a numbers game and never stood out. With steep competition at cornerback, it will allow the team to evaluate the position more distinctly in the following days.

Tyrone Pruitt (LB) - Yet another position full of competition and Pruitt is an afterthought. Expect him to find a place on the practice squad.

Other Notes from Monday's Camp:

  • With Buffalo directly around the corner (and the season just two weeks away), it's unlikely that the Lions will play any of it's starters. And if they do, it will be for one series. Essentially, Thursday's contest will serve as a "last chance" for bubble players to prove themselves. Marinelli, however, kept his interest in team development paramount.
    "I want to stop the run. It's important to me," said Marinelli. "And then the tackling is important. I want to continue to work on the run game; that's important. Reduce our penalties, reduce sacks. That's really important. And the effort's got to be good. The punting, I want to make sure we're punting the ball well. And reliable protection. That's important. Field Goal team reliable protection. I'm really looking toward that. I want to keep improving our kickoff team."
  • The media interest in Drew Henson's signing (see: things we didn't cover) is only relevant to coverage of the team in this regard: Henson was a hero at the University of Michigan, and while that will certainly promote all kinds of whimsical thoughts to followers of the Maize and Blue, it has little to no impact on the regular season. Henson is a band-aid until the other Drew (you might remember him, he played for those fellas in Green and White) -- the more successful Drew -- returns sometime in late September to early October. The moment Stanton returns, Henson will again be looking for work. We're sorry. We just felt you had to hear it from ... someone. Still, it didn't stop the media from amusing Marinelli on Monday, who caught flack from some radio stations for leaving Henson benched.

    "Well we're going to see how much (of the playbook) he can absorb, but I think he's got a chance (to play Thursday)," said Marinelli. "You'd like to see him a little bit, and we've got to be ready to go. If something happens or something, you never know. He's got to be ready. He got some looks out here today."

    Marinelli said the team has watered down the offense so that Henson can at least grasp the basics, referring to Henson's personal playbook as "chop suey." He did compliment Henson, however, saying: "He's got a good arm. He's got a powerful arm." Begin printing your 'Henson '08' signs now!

Sunday, August 24 // 4:45 a.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

A 3-0 preseason might not warrant post-season chatter (or even the occasional pat-on-the-back from national sports media) but the Detroit Lions will take it.

Saturday's 26-6 drubbing of a shorthanded Cleveland Browns team was impressive from several standpoints, but perhaps most notably, it's the consistency at which the team his hitting all cylinders.

Against Cleveland, Detroit controlled time of possession (32:35 to 27:25), converted more first downs (18 to 15), had better third-down efficiency (40% to 27%) and tallied more total yards (386 to 250) for the third consecutive week. Simply put, they dominated the entire contest -- again.

(Note: There should be a regular reminder in this blog that this is, indeed, the preseason -- or at least a petition that these wins be counted towards the regular season tally mark. It's only fair.)

The most impressive statistic again regards the running game. The Lions averaged 4.3 yards per carry (3.6 last week, and 2.4 in week one), highlighted by a 35-yard touchdown gallop by rookie Kevin Smith, who if he hadn't already, has now beaten Tatum Bell (4 carries, 9 yards) so far into the depth chart that people wonder if Bell will even have a job by next week. Brian Calhoun rose from the dead to lead all rushers with 61 yards on nine carries, including a 40-yarder.

Calhoun's name had become synonymous with "and the other running back who won't make the team" until Saturday. Now he's back in the mix.

But the Lions again rushed the ball more than they threw it (30 carries, 129 yards), and considering the level of talent at the receiver position -- even John Standeford is beginning to make us blush -- it is becoming apparent that Rod Marinelli and offensive coordinator Jim Colletto are not kidding about the team's new approach.

(Somewhere in San Francisco, Mike Martz's ego is whithering. At least he has J.T. O'Sullivan to make him feel better ...)

Defensively, Detroit didn't have to contend with Cleveland's big three in Jamaal Lewis, Braylon Edwards or quarterback Derek Anderson. Instead, they were given a steady dose of former Notre Dame standout Brady Quinn, who was stymied, harassed, and otherwise given no chance of establishing rhythm by Detroit's defense. By the end of his day (sometime in the third quarter), Quinn's sideline look resembled his miserable draft day glum. Quinn completed just 14 of 24 passes, and although he wasn't sacked, he was hit considerably.

It wasn't much better for his replacement, Ken Dorsey (13 of 22, 94 yards), who only pushed the Browns past midfield once without the help of a Detroit penalty.

Although Michigan fans didn't get to witness the revival of Drew Henson's football career (and they shouldn't hold their collective breath), Detroit's third exhibition contest was another success. While the starting offensive line certainly has its question marks (and has for the better part of a decade), it nonetheless is giving the offense its opportunities both passing and running. Even the team's defensive front had impressive moments. Thursday's contest against Buffalo will demonstrate whether or not those question marks should become a concern. Regardless, the Lions are playing solid football from kick-off until the final whistle blows, which isn't common among many NFL teams. The "team" concept of playing well usually gives way to individual performances in any exhibition season. But Detroit's units throughout the contest (four penalties compared to Cleveland's eight)  was admirable. That stamp can be attributed to Marinelli, who demands that every snap -- regardless of importance -- is met with unwavering responsibility.

It's only the exhibition season, but Marinelli's troops are falling in line -- and seem ready for September.

Friday, August 22 // 1:09 p.m. (EST)  [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Briefly: We have a new George Ketchman salary cap article posted from late Thursday. It's an excellent piece outlining where the Lions will likely sit financially once the regular season begins. Also, Rod Marinelli answers (kind of) former Brown Leigh Bodden's precarious depth chart position.

Onto the blog ...

Maybe he was jinxed.

Drew Stanton, the second-year quarterback who has left a wake behind him after an impressive last two weeks of training camp (including the torching of Cincinnati's defense last Sunday), likely won't be wearing headphones and a jersey until the team's October 5 contest against Chicago. Stanton banged his throwing hand against a teammates' helmet in Thursday's afternoon practice, and currently has the hand in a cast.

An MRI late Thursday revealed no damage to the hand, but the Lions will keep the hand secure until early September. Although some media reports have speculated that it will be examined yet again at that date (which is likely), the Lions didn't comment on it as of this posting (prior to Friday's press briefing). Either way, Stanton -- still third on the team's depth chart at QB -- wasn't going to play much anyway. He could return to regular workouts in late-September if the cast is lifted, but likely won't be active until that first game in October.

Stanton's injury won't affect the team's preparation heading into Saturday's contest with Cleveland. In fact, head coach Rod Marinelli said Thursday that he expects his starters to have extended minutes anyway -- and that includes quarterback Jon Kitna.

"We haven't put an exact (play) count on it," said Marinelli. "We haven't said that they're going to play a half. All I will say is that they played about 12 plays the first game. We increased it to about 18 plays the second game. It will be more in this game... but it's going to be much more than what they played in the first two."

Marinelli said wasn't concerned about potential injuries to his starters.

"You can't live life like that. I could walk outside, get hit by a car and get injured," he said. "Injuries unfortunately do happen and we're not thinking that, or hoping that, obviously. Guys are going to go out and play hard and play fast and hopefully that doesn't happen."

Lions' offensive coordinator Jim Colletto was more specific -- and cautious -- about how much time his offensive unit would play. Colletto said they'll "probably play 20," but would not leave the starters in for the entire first half.

"We're going to play the first group a little more, but injuries are such a significant part in these preseason games we can't afford to get anybody hurt," he said. "We're going to take a gamble and play a little bit more."

Quick Notes & Quotes:

Colletto admitted that there is a ton of competition at the 5th receiver spot. While Devale Ellis had a heads up on the competition through the first two weeks of camp, Brandon Middleton and little-known Jon Standeford have stood out in the preseason.

"Receiver: the fifth position; there's a lot going on the line. I know some guys will start and then others are battling to find out who they're going to be," he said.

Added Colletto on Standeford: "He's done a good job. Being an old Purdue guy, I have an allegiance to Purdue guys, but no, he's done real well. He's a good blocker and he's run routes well and he's played well in the games." Colletto previously coached at Purdue.

Quote to Note:
Colletto on rookie running back Kevin Smith: "Kevin's doing a good job. He made a real nice run the other night and those are the kind of runs you're looking for. He's real good in pass protection. He's smart. He doesn't get intimidated by the atmosphere and that's good in itself."

Wednesday, August 20 // 6:18 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli and staff are using this week's practice sessions (helmets and shoulder pads) to "simulate" the practice routine of the regular season. The team believes it helps the veterans transition into regular season mode more quickly, while allowing newcomers to adapt to what's expected of them once the season begins in September.

And although Wednesday's practice seemed to have a little more detail involved in preparation of Sunday's contest against Cleveland, Marinelli claimed it was business as usual.

"We add up a little bit more, but we do that each week. We go through maybe just a little bit more, but what I don't want to get caught up is that I want to make sure this team is improving on what we do," he said. "That's more important. Our tempo, our pace, our tackling - all those things, because once you start these cards and you start looking at opponents, it can take your edge off. And I'm still looking at ourselves in training camp mode."

The Lions continued to put emphasis on the running game during the session, with Tatum Bell and Kevin Smith each taking reps with the first-team. Although the team improved upon its run game in last Sunday's win (2.4 to 3.6 yards per carry), some in the media questioned whether or not Marinelli was discouraged by the lack of big runs and big numbers.

"We had some nice cuts on the backside last week that I was really pleased with," said Marinelli. "One of those runs that popped was off the cut-blocking. And just daily keep pushing. The biggest thing would be getting all those guys together for a full game and doing it. But we just get out here and keep working at it, keep the pads on and just keep driving and fighting right now, and I think that's the most important thing. But I think the most important thing is our commitment to it, that we're going to stay with it."

Marinelli added that it's up to his offensive line to ultimately set the pace.

"I've always believed, especially in the offensive line position, that it's more 'want to' and attitude," he said. "You know, want to. And it's developing that personality whatever it takes. Once we are able to establish that, and then our passing game, our quarterback's not going to get hit, the defense has got to go in there and they have to dig in. I want third down to be manageable. I want third-and-threes to -fours. Those are manageable for third downs, and then we're in pretty good shape at that point. The ball can come out quicker."

An opening day starting running back still hasn't been named, although the consensus among the media and coaching staff is that Bell will still get the nod at Atlanta on September 7. However, Marinelli did make an interesting remark on Wednesday with regard to the possibility of Bell playing a role on special teams -- possibly as a return man. Marinelli admitted that Bell could find himself with a special teams role.

"Everybody does. Every guy has a role (with special teams)," said Marinelli. "All your runners have roles; the whole defense just about does. Certain guys we don't, but each guy has to know it. The guys - you suit up 46 game day, every guy's got to know the position."

Quick notes: PK Jason Hanson, SS Daniel Bullocks, and WR Shaun McDonald will each participate in Sunday's contest. TE Dan Campbell will miss another preseason contest, although he's likely to play briefly against Buffalo on Thursday.

Marinelli said "nothing" was different about the team's defensive line without Shaun Rogers. Rogers, who anchored Detroit's defensive line since 2000, will play against his former team on Sunday as a member of the Browns. "Everything's the same. We're just plugging other people in."

"All I'm going to say, he was a force. When he's on, he's a force. The biggest thing, like I said the other day, is give up an opportunity to make a play in this defense. And when you're supposed to make it, you have to make it. You can make plays in this defense if you're hustling and you're on your feet and playing your gaps."

Sunday, August 17 // 10:52 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Exhibition games aren't supposed to gauge how a team will perform during the regular season ... but we won't blame you if Sunday's 27-10 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals provides at least a glimmer of hope in 2008. Between Calvin Johnson's Pro Bowl-ready performance, Kevin Smith's 16-yard rip off run, and Drew Stanton's reminder that the second half of a preseason game is worth paying attention to, the only thing holding back unbridled optimism is the team's history.

Here's a glance at some telling statistics ...

  • Detroit bettered their AFC North foe in 3rd down completion percentage (43, 33)
  • Won time-of-possession for the second straight week, 30:45 to 29:15
  • They also rushed for more first downs, and more yards (112 yards on 31 carries)

The latter is significant because for the second week in a row, the Lions didn't give up on the run, averaging an improved 3.6 yards per carry (2.4 last week). The inability to run the ball was paramount in practice, as Detroit's coaching staff bombarded the starting unit with a rigorous week prior to Sunday's contest. The Lions entire aim in 2008 is to become a run-oriented football team, come hell or high water, and they're establishing that during the preseason.

Other stats from Sunday's win:

Kevin Smith - 4 carries, 19 yards (4.8) - Ripped of a beautiful 16 yard run. The Lions didn't convert on the series, but the interesting news? Smith started over Tatum Bell ... and was more productive than Bell's showing against the New York Giants.

Drew Stanton - 2 of 2, 58 yards - 10 yard touchdown run, 1 50 yard TD pass - He's demonstrating the same playmaking ability that made him a second-round pick out of Michigan State two years ago. Dan Orlovsky can feel the heat.

Jon Standeford - 4 catches, 85 yards (21.3 average) - An outstanding camp and strong preseason has all but guaranteed him a spot on the practice squad. But is he pushing Devale Ellis for a roster spot? Possibly ...

Andre Fluellen - 1 sack, 1 forced fumble - Another strong preseason performance from this rookie defensive tackle.

Cliff Avril - 1 sack - We finally saw that speed (in the box score, at least) that Marinelli and his coaching staff have been salivating over.

Brian Kelly - 1 interception - A nice comeback after last week's well-publicized whiff on Giants' running back Brandon Jacobs. Kelly blanketed Chad Johnson on one play, and came back the next play to pick off Carson Palmer.

Friday, August 15 // 5:00 p.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

The Detroit Lions continue to prepare for Sunday's contest against the Cincinnati Bengals, and practiced on Friday in helmets and shoulder pads. Rod Marinelli told the media following the practice that the team will play its starting offensive linemen -- largely unimpressive in last weeks win over the New York Giants -- extensively in effort to have the unit better prepared for the regular season.

"I think so, just because of the numbers we're at, just where we're at number-wise," Marinelli said.

Added Marinelli of the running game struggles, "All I'm going to tell you is this: we'll call it and we're going to keep working at it. Every game, we want more, we've just got to lining it up and pushing it."

Marinelli also confirmed that defensive starters Ernie Sims and Cory Redding will play on Sunday. Offensive guard Edwin Mulialo will also return to the action.

Besides the contest, Marinelli talked glowlingly of the linebacker battle. With roster cuts looming, two players -- Leon Joe and Buster Davis -- are battling for a roster spot. Davis might have an inside edge, with Joe making the most of his exhibition performance.

"He's just progressing along," said Marinell of Davis. "This is where the (preseason) games help us right now. We just keep pushing what we're doing in practice. We have three really physical days, so now you want to see guys that can take that physicalness and those details and put it into a preseason game."

Davis is going to see ample time at both strong side and middle linebacker against the Bengals. Marinelli is hoping that Joe also makes the most of his time.

"You know what? In that first game, he really tackled well. He hustled, tackled - he had six tackles in the game or something like that. (He's) a very physical guy. Very physical. So we'll keep working."

Quick Note: Joe and Davis aren't the only ones turning heads. Rookie Jordon Dizon is hot on the heels of starting MLB Paris Lenon. Dizon has showed tremendous flash in the past few days of training camp, and the team's coaching staff is impressed with his ability to lead the defense while demonstrating great poise and instincts as a rookie.

"Yeah, he's instinctively just learning," said Marinelli of Dizon. "He'll make some really nice splash plays, he's got that ability. So, this guy's going to help us."

Tuesday, August 12 // 12:11 a.m. (EST)    [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Briefly: TSX provided us with a couple of nice articles, loaded with some great quotes and notes. Read them here: Camp Blitz: CJ is Good, Run Game Isn't, and another on Dan Orlovsky's contract year situation.

The big news from Monday's camp session was that Detroit's camp session has been given the all-clear. Safety Daniel Bullocks, TE Dan Campbell and WR Shaun McDonald were each removed from the list, and practiced with the team in its two practice sessions (they wore full pads in the morning, but shedded the equipment for shorts and helmets in the afternoon). None will suit up for the team's next exhibition act against Cincinnati on Sunday, however.

Detroit's coaching staff evidently took note of the team's struggle to run against New York, spending an inordinate amount of time dedicated to the running game. Lions' rookie Kevin Smith again practiced with the first-team.

"I think one, the only way you're going to get better at it is committing to it and doing it," said Marinelli after practice. "You might be running into a rock a few times, but you've just got to keep working at it. I think when you just stay with something and you have a belief to it, it's going to get better and better. But the defense has got to prepare for it. When they know that we're going to be stubborn enough to go after it and do it, then they've got to respect it."

Marinelli's most profound statement came later during his press briefing. Even though Detroit flexed its aerial muscle against the Giants on its opening drive, dominating last year's Super Bowl winning defense via the passing game, Marinelli is insistent on the Lions becoming a run-first team.

"I think it identifies who you're trying to become," he said. "This game is still about being physical. There's nothing to me more demoralizing on defense than struggling to stop the run. Because there's nothing you can do.

"Now late in the fourth quarter, that's when the body blows come. It's like a boxing match. When guys go 15 rounds, the body blows start coming; the body punches, the body punches. That's when you can weaken an opponent. Now we've got a long ways to go before we're there, being a body puncher. We're just jabbing right now. That's the mindset and we're going to stay with it."

Saturday, August 9 // 9:58 p.m. (EST)    [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Camp updates in a sec, but let's brief you on a few things first ...

The blog took a break as the Lions did before and following Thursday's win 13-10 over the New York Giants. We had a handful of post-game articles, including the self-explanatory "Another Look: The Good, Bad and Ugly" and "Game Tape: Players That Stood Out."  The highly anticipated article, however, was Part 2 of the first-issue "Roster Projection." This time around Detroit's defense and special teams is projected, with in-depth analysis peppering the article. Check it out here (Part One - Offense).

Don't forget to also read George Ketchman's latest salary cap column. Learn how Detroit's salary cap is affected as the season approaches (8/9), and many more cap-related items.

From Saturday's Camp:

In their 16th training camp session, the Lions played outside in just helmets and shorts. Naturally, most of the interest was still related to Thursday's win. The biggest concern, at least in the media, has been Detroit's offensive line, which struggled against the Giants defensive line. One player in particular, starting right guard Stephen Peterman, has caught the brunt of the criticism. Marinelli was more concerned with the group's execution.

"No, here's the thing: as I watched the running game, (our pads) were high," he said. That's the part I want to see. It's the pad level, man, it's getting the push, and you just have to knock people off the ball. It wasn't a lot of mental errors. There were a couple of times when we had an assignment error where we didn't block the right guy, but mostly we just wouldn't know who to block. It was just about executing each and every down, you have to get on."

Overall, the Lions ran the ball 35 times for 84 yards (a meager 2.4 yards per carry), but starter Tatum Bell managed just eight yards on his seven carries -- to no fault of his own.

"The thing is, in this league if it was easy, everybody would run the ball," explained Marinelli. "It's just not easy, and you've got to go work."

So Gosder wasn't that bad afterall?

Marinelli didn't seem to think so. Although he was responsible for half of Detroit's penalties in the game, the first-round pick drew some praise from his head coach on Saturday.

"You know what, Gos played pretty well. He really did," said Marinelli. "He had the one holding penalty, and the one offside that wasn't all him on that - I'll leave it at that. But he really showed some energy off the ball. I mean, he knocked some people off the ball. He did a nice job. First time out of the block was good." Marinelli had more comments on his rookies from Saturday's practice in this article posted today on RoarReport.com.

Brian Kelly's missed tackle

Perhaps Detroit's worst defensive play from its starters was when the Giants' Brandon Jacobs jogged for a 27 yard gain in the first quarter. The individual at fault? Veteran Brian Kelly, who bought Jacobs' stutter-step move, missed the tackle, and Jacobs turned it into a big-gainer. Kelly is considered Detroit's most sound defensive technician, and a key recruit in the team's off-season. He's also in his 10th year at a position dominated by athletic youth.

"No, it's not a good tackle," said Marinelli. "He's got to shoot (Jacobs) inside. If you miss him, miss him inside and that's where your pursuit is. Once that ball crosses your face, now you're chasing. But if you miss - before you shoot your gun you go at the outside leg and if you miss it, it goes into the pursuit and now you keep a play like that down to five yards instead of 27 yards."

Marinelli, who worked with Kelly in Tampa Bay, wasn't worried about his ability to tackle.

"No. He's a good tackler," he said. "That part of it - the Cover 2 - we got to our landmarks well. It was just a real good start. They're just starting to really understand where they're supposed to be and how they're supposed to get there."

Quote to Note: "You know what really was a real positive - the run fits were excellent.We fit - everything was fit extremely well. It was really good. Guys overlapping, three up the field on the bounce, got the overlaps, the pirates were good - guys were fitting the run extremely well." -- Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli on what he was pleased with in Detroit's 13-10 win..

Off The PUP: The Lions believe that the three remaining PUP players -- TE Dan Campbell, WR Shaun McDonald, and SS Daniel Bullocks -- could return by early next week. Campbell and McDonald will be back in pads by Monday, while Bullocks will be arriving closer to the middle of the week.

Quick Note: The Lions dumped kicker Eddie Johnson in favor of former Spartan Dave Rayner. Rayner will fill in for Jason Hanson, who will take at least a week to recover from a strained thigh suffered on Thursdsay. They also inked tackle Damion Cook after waiving guard Nick Jones, and brought aboard cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas after waiving Stanley Wilson (injury).

Wednesday, August 6 // 4:05 p.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Briefly: If you didn't catch it, check out our Lions Roster Projection, 2008 (First Issue), posted early this morning.

The Detroit Lions wrapped up preparations for Thursday's exhibition opener against the New York Giants. Game time is slated for 7 p.m. at Ford Field.

As indicated by Marinelli after Wednesday's practice session (the team held just one afternoon stanza, practicing only in shorts), two defensive starters will be held out. More notes below:

  • Out: Ernie Sims (knee), Cory Redding (hamstring), Langston Moore (shoulder), Edwin Mulitalo (elbow). PUP players Shaun McDonald, Daniel Bullocks and Dan Campbell will also be in street clothes.
  • Marinelli said that linebacker Buster Davis (concussion) has been "cleared to play."
  • Expect the rookies to play at least a half's worth of football, including running back Kevin Smith. The Lions will start with Tatum Bell in the backfield, but Smith, OT Gosder Cherilus, and defensive linemen Andre Fluellen and Cliff Avril will see significant minutes. "I'm going to get a lot of work in with the guys," said Marinelli. "I expect them to play quite a bit."
  • Starters Jon Kitna, Calvin Johnson, Roy Williams, Mike Furrey and Bell will play no more than two series.
  • Backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky will play the remainder of the first half and part of the third quarter, while Drew Stanton will glean mop-up duty.

Marinelli on Thursday's game: "Like I've said each year to you guys, first thing is: I want to win every snap. Just that mentality as we go in and that each guy is developing. But then the other thing I really want is: the things that we've emphasized from Day 1 in camp, from offseason, I want to see it show up on tape. And I'm talking about turnover-takeover ratio. I don't care if it's the fourth (quarter); I don't care who's in there. We've emphasized it; I want to see that. The penalties, I want to see them lower. I want to see those five offense lineman, I want to see them as five pistons coming off together. I want to see that emphasis we've been putting on the run game. Will it be perfect? I don't know. But I want to see that emphasis show up on tape. I want to see the defense really slamming the run. I mean, gaps, knowing exactly - we fitted the heck out of it. I mean, we've been fitting here for - we might be the All-World Team in terms of walkthroughs. But we're fitting and fitting, so I want to see that show up. And then I don't want any weak links in tackling. And then I want to see the coverage units in our punt and our kickoff teams."

Wednesday, August 6 // 1:34 a.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

After two weeks of training camp, the Detroit Lions are finally preparing for a real game -- and although it might not count, it certainly holds in the balance the fate of several roster hopefuls. Before I launch RoarReport.com's official "Unofficial Roster Projection: 2008," (I couldn't think of a better title at 1:34 in the morning), here are a few quotes from head coach Rod Marinelli following Tuesday's practice session, in which several veterans rested while those in positional battles continued to duke it out. Marinelli had the players in helmets and pads again after a light weekend. He traditionally forces the team to be physical prior to exhibition games to ready his troops.

Defensive end Cory Redding (groin) is the big name among those who will miss Thursday's exhibition opener against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Not-so-surprisingly, guard Edwin Mulitalo will miss the game despite being lifted from the PUP list, along with defensive tackle Langston Moore (shoulder). Moore has had an impressive training camp, so the coaching staff is disappointed they won't see him in action -- especially considering he's fighting for a roster spot. But Redding, who has missed the last several days of practice, is being held out as a precautionary move.

"We’re going to hold him – we just don’t want to mess with it," said Marinelli on Tuesday.

It's a wait-and-see on Buster Davis (concussion), but two likely defensive starters, linebacker Ernie Sims and cornerback Brian Kelly, could see the field. Sims had stated previously that he would not play after missing the last week of practice with a knee bruise, but Marinelli, well, 'reinterpreted' his thoughts.

"No, Ernie’s not out; it’s still day-to-day with him," commented Marinelli. "We’ll wait and see. Healthwise, he’s doing fine."

Marinelli did, however, issue a challenge -- or maybe an expectation -- of his offensive line. Although the line seemed to 'struggle' during its Black and Blue scrimmage on Saturday, they also used a watered-down version of coordinator Jim Colletto's zone blocking offense. The team will be less restricted on Thursday, and Marinelli expects production.

"I think Jim might have a couple things left (to install), but right now we have to go out and just see if we can get a few runs and see if we can execute," he said. "We should know who to block. My grandson might be able to know who to block by now. We’ve done this stuff every day a million times."

Rookies Gosder Cherilus and Kevin Smith will likely get reps with the first-team against New York, but their onfield time would be "limited" according to Marinelli.

    Quick Note: The Lions aren't completely naive to their quarterback situation. Jon Kitna, who has easily been the most impressive Lion in Allen Park (he has transitioned with apparent ease from Mike Martz's complex system to the more vanilla schemes orchestrated by Colletto), is 35. And it's no secret that the team's line continues to be a work in progress. But after the brief struggle displayed by reserves Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton, it has become obvious that Orlovsky -- now in his fourth year -- is the solid No. 2. That isn't a knock on Stanton, who has improved, as much as it's a testament to Orlovsky's improvement and comfort with the offense.

"He’s going out every day and just keeps getting better," said Marinelli on Tuesday, after Orlovsky practiced sparingly with the first-team. "I want him to go all out and he’s got to keep going."

    Briefly: Count Rod Marinelli as a fan of the New York Giants and head coach Tom Coughlin. After the Giants shocked the seemingly flawless New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, Marinelli believed it was a display of team cohesiveness and hard work -- not necessarily talent -- that paid the ultimate dividend.

    "It’s a great model for this league," he said. "I don’t know if they had all the talent of anybody in the league, but they play good team football. They play good defense, they got up the field, they ran the ball, the quarterback, when it counted the last seven or eight games, didn’t turn it over. They had few penalties and they won. And they’re very physical, an extremely physical football team. I thought that was just an awesome job of coaching football."

    And now, without further adieu, the RoarReport.com official "Unofficial Lions Roster Projection: 2008" This is part one (and, for the sake of allowing myself multiple revisions, "Issue One"), projecting and evaluating the offense based on observations from training camp in Allen Park. On Thursday, prior to kick-off, we'll have a defensive projection. [Read It!]

Monday, August 4 // 3:23 p.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Where did we go? Well, Detroit had Sunday off. So we took a day of rest also. Anyway, to catch you up, we have two recent articles provided by TSX, including an all-new camp blitz, which has several training camp news, notes, position battles including a few sporadic moments from Saturday's Black & Blue Fan Day.

And, shockingly, Bill Ford Jr. wants to win in Detroit (him and his father, owner William Clay Ford, have been waiting long enough).

Quick Notes:
Briefly, mlive.com is reporting that Teddy Lehman has been placed on the IR/minor list with a hamstring pull early Monday. He could return during the course of the regular season, but is also free to sign with another NFL team. Detroit inked safety-turned-linebacker Darnell Bing, previously with the San Francisco 49ers. Buster Davis will now fill the outside linebacker position behind starter Alex Lewis; Davis was struggling at middle linebacker.

Saturday, August 2 // 2:53 a.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

    It didn't take long for rookie running back Kevin Smith to make a splash. As noted in a story written following Friday's practice, Smith's first-team repetitions continue to grow. Here's an excerpt:

    "Smith has commented already that Detroit's zone blocking scheme, implemented in 2008, is similar to what he ran at the collegiate level. It also happens to be the same strategy that Bell excelled under as a member of the Denver Broncos. And with a resurgent Brian Calhoun (like Smith, a former third-round pick himself), Smith is being handed nothing. In training camp, reps with the first-team offense are akin to a badge of honor."

    Quick Notes:

  • In something that has become a tradition, the Lions will host the "Black and Blue" scrimmage on Saturday(this year it will be hosted in Allen Park at the team's headquarters instead of Ford Field). In something that has also become a tradition, Marinelli shrugged off suggestions that it can be used as an indicator to where the team is:
         "It's just another practice," said Marinelli. It's just, today we had situations, we had a little bit of red zone, and we had a run drill and then we finished with goal line, yesterday, finished with the two minute drill. But it's all put together, and what it is, is kind of a rehearsal to start the preseason. But I want the fundamentals."
     
  • As the preseason draws closer, as does the typical cutdown dates. And with that comes the dismissal of players as the Lions will be forced to systematically trim the team down to 53 active players. In yesterday's update, I wrote that Buster Davis could face the chopping block. Cornerback Dovonte Edwards could be another. Edwards has turned in an impressive camp thus far, but with eight cornerbacks in camp and several making strong showings (a good thing for the Lions, not necessarily a good thing for Edwards), he might be a camp casualty. Edwards, with three years under his belt, joined the Lions late in 2007 and was active for five games.
         "He's improved, he really has," said Marinelli. "He's had a good off season, and he played for us last year. He's an active guy, he's right in the mix; it's deep over there right now, he's right in the mix."
     
  • The same applies to receiver Devale Ellis. With six other receivers not named Calvin, Roy or Mike Furrey biding for one of what will likely be three or less receiving positions (the other belonging to injured Shaun McDonald), Ellis' training camp exploits (he's easily been the most impressive receiver ... not named Calvin, Roy or Mike Furrey) better translate in the preseason.

    "The preseason will tell," said Marinelli. "We'll get him in there; he's going to get his opportunities. He's got some return ability too, he's got some juice."

Friday, August 1 // 1:50 p.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

  • Either our Dominic Raiola article made waves, or the Detroit Lions were a bit shook-up after Raiola's ankle injury two days ago (we're betting on the latter). Either way, the Lions signed two centers on Thursday, including 14-year veteran Andy McCollum. He has started 155 games (7 post-season) in his career, spending the past nine-seasons with the St. Louis Rams. They also added Nick Jones, another center, who went undrafted in 2007. Jones floated between the Giants and Seahawks, but was ultimately released this past June by Seattle. The two will fight for a roster position behind Raiola. Detroit released G Matt Butler and T Chris Patrick to make room for the two centers.
     
  • It took a while, but Lions' quarterbacks Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton are finally starting to mesh. Stanton's throws have been more crisp and smooth in recent days, while Orlovsky's footwork -- something he has struggled with since joining the league in 2005 -- has shown dramatic improvement thus far into training camp. Orlovsky seems more comfortable in the pocket, but also is more nimble.
    ""He's getting better and better, I think, and he's getting the ball out pretty quick," said Marinelli of Orlovsky on Thursday. "He's doing a good job. He's moving around. He's getting better. (Quarterbacks coach) Scot's (Loeffler) done a really nice job."

  • With the drafting of rookie Jordon Dizon, the Lions are fielding 11 linebackers at training camp -- but little more than half will actually make the team. This puts second-year linebacker Buster Davis in a precarious situation. Davis, who played opposite Ernie Sims at Florida State, has been impressive in training camp, but might not make the team simply as a result of a numbers game. When asked about that possibility, Marinelli on Thursday, didn't exactly give Davis a resounding endorsement.
    "We just have to define who those best guys are, and then once we get them there we just have to put them in positions," said Marinelli. "Some guys have to be position-flexible. Play a couple things (and) learn it. But he's physical. He's a good linebacker."
    One thing holding back Davis is that the Lions feel he isn't quite capable of moving to the middle linebacker spot if need be. While players such as Teddy Lehman and even Dizon can step in for starter Paris Lenon, it remains a slot where Davis struggles.

     
  • Injury Update:
    Veteran cornerback Brian Kelly left yesterday's practice with a knee injury. Kelly has been penciled into start opposite corner Leigh Bodden, and has had a light camp compared to the rest of the team. Marinelli didn't seem too concerned with Kelly's injury.

    "Yeah, he's going to be fine. They took him out for a day - knee. You have to be aware of them."

    Linebacker Ernie Sims still hasn't returned to the field, but he will by early next week. Sims has worked with the team's trainers to respond to a deep knee bruise suffered over the weekend on a tackle.
    "I think he's coming along fine. It's just a bone bruise, and it's more as pain permits right now - can't wait to get him back."
     
  • S Daniel Bullocks, TE Dan Campbell, WR Shaun McDonald and G Edwin Mulitalo still man Detroit's Physically Unable To Perform list. However, the team anticipates the return of Bullocks before the middle of August.

    "Everything that we have talked with (team trainer) Dean (Kleinschmidt) (about), we feel that he's going to be ready to go, and we're just trying to, just day by day, we try to expand him every day just to see if all of a sudden that knee blows up," said Marinelli on Thursday. "We're waiting for it and they keep pushing it, and it's been good so far. You know what it is on PUP; if you make a mistake and take him off at the wrong time - it's devastating."

Wednesday, July 30 // 5:43 p.m. (EST)   [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

    Quite the response we've received after this morning's article on center Dominic Raiola. Raiola, who missed a Lions practice for the first time in eight years due to injury, is the glue that holds the team together.

  • In The News:
    Tom Kowalski of Booth Newspapers had a great article this morning on Calvin Johnson, whom has already struck fear into the hearts of teammates in the defensive backfield during training camp. "Theres something about when the balls in the air, the cat has that extra gear," cornerback Ramzee Robinson told Kowalski. "When you line up against him, youve got to jump on your horse -- and then some."
  • Also, retiring beat writer Mike O'Hara, a former contributor at RoarReport.com, wrote a nice piece on the team's conditioning entering 2008. "The Lions have had no serious injuries to front-line players. Wednesday marked the seventh day of training camp, and the team remains in good health," wrote O'Hara.
  • O'Hara had a brief on another camp event, which was covered extensively by the Free Press's Nicholas Cotsonika, in which rookie fullback Jerome Felton took on linebacker Buster Davis, knocking the linebacker -- and his helmet -- to the turf.

Tuesday, July 29 // 2:22 p.m. (EST)  [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

Cliff Avril has easily been Detroit's most impressive rookie thus far into training camp. While many of the first-year players are battling for a starting slot (and in some cases, a job), Avril has locked down his status as a situational pass-rush specialist.

In a follow-up to yesterday's NFC North update, we decided to take it one step further and involve our individual NFC North publishers, and gather their respective and unique takes on their team's training camp. Click here for the breakdown that you won't see anywhere else.

    Quick Notes: Both reserve quarterbacks Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton continue to look rusty, although Stanton has showed progress in the last two days of training camp. On Sunday and Monday, Stanton's ability to throw on the run -- something he did frequently at Michigan State -- along with his accuracy jumped up a bit. It is a common thought amongst both the coaching staff, front office and media that Stanton is essentially a rookie in 2008. After missing last season with a knee injury, he also wasn't helped by offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who looked to 'reset' Stanton's mechanics that he honed as a Spartan.

    Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli said he would wait until the preseason before determining the depth chart behind starter Jon Kitna.

   "It's probably way too early to say that right now," said Marinelli on Monday. "I think once we get to our preseason games. We go in there and we go pass under pressure with blitzes in. But they have to figure that out. We're giving them all those situations and eventually you got to put it all together."

    Injury Report: Lions' linebacker Ernie Sims will miss the next several days of practice as a precaution regarding an injury to his knee. Sims' MRI results came back negative, meaning no damage was suffered.

Monday, July 28 // 3:27 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

We pumped out a small collection of articles today and added a reference table (see: Roar Report - inside allen park) so that you won't miss anything covered by RoarReport.com during training camp. Today's most in-depth read was our Camp Blitz, a heavily detailed look at Detroit's training camp after the weekend. Everything is covered, including Jon Kitna's new groove, CJ's bad back habit (referenced below), camp battles, a rookie update and more.

Calvin Johnson's back looks fine. He made a catch one morning similar to the one that hurt him last year at Philadelphia, leaping for a long ball down the left sideline, catching it in the air and falling on his back. This time, Johnson hopped right up. But the concern is that if he keeps doing that he might get hurt again. "He won't quit on a play," coach Rod Marinelli said. "That's a good thing. ... I'm very conscious talking to him all the time. You've got to just be smart."

Marinelli added , "At times we will get them up high, because he's going to go out and rebound most people. When you get up, you got both hands on the ball, it's not like rebounding a basketball you got feet under you... sometimes we just put it up. When we get some single coverage, we got to put it up - let's go make a play."
[MORE]

NFC North Notes:

Minnesota Vikings
- VikingUpdate.com

 

 

Green Bay Packers - PackerReport.com

  • Aaron Rodgers is saying all the right things in Green Bay. On the field, Packers coach' Mike McCarthy said Rodgers had a “very good” first practice. He exhibited superb arm strength and mobility, and seemed comfortable during the blitz period while his rookie backups showed happy feet.
  • Mike McCarthy sounded off on any QB competition thoughts: "Aaron Rodgers is the starting quarterback for the Green Bay Packers," McCarthy said Saturday. "That has been stated over and over again. I hope we can finally understand that. We're 100 percent committed to Aaron."
  • The Green Bay Packers' front office seemed open to the idea of Brett Favre returning, the players were vocal about it.
  • Featured back Ryan Grant was a long shot to be on the field for the first practice day of training camp July 28. Grant is an exclusive-rights free agent, but he refused to sign the Packers' one-year tender of $370,000.
  • Camp Battle: Brandon Jackson vs. DeShawn Wynn for No. 2 RB -- With featured back Ryan Grant possibly a notable absentee without a contract for the start of practice July 28, second-year players Jackson and Wynn stand to benefit the first few days with the extra work they'll get running with the No. 1 unit. Jackson had the lion's share of reps in camp last year, before Grant arrived on the scene and later emerged as a dynamic back.

Chicago Bears - BearReport.com

  • Cornerback Charles Tillman has high hopes for the defense, but the health of the unit will determine how close it comes to his expectations. Last season, Vasher – Tillman's running mate on the corner – missed 12 games with a torn groin muscle, and the injury bug inflicted major damage on the defensive line.

    "With the two of us healthy," Tillman began, "well, with everyone healthy, not just Nate and I, with our whole defense healthy, I think the sky's the limit for us."

    The Bears had a top-five defense in 2006 but slumped badly last season. Most of the same players are around, but Tillman says the current group has to make its mark all over again.

    "I just think we need to create our own identity and stop living in 2006," he said. "It's 2008 now, so we have to establish our own identity again." …

  • Rex Grossman (who has surged ahead of Kyle Orton in the past few days of Bears camp) was running the first-team offense again Sunday, and he was pretty solid overall by completing 18 of 29 passes from start to finish: 9 of 12 in 7-on-7, and then 9 of 17 during 11-on-11. Grossman was involved in the highlight of the day, hitting Devin Hester – Mr. Miyagi is apparently the newest member of the training staff – on a fly pattern deep down the right sideline despite tight coverage from Charles Tillman.
  • More on Hester: A much wealthier and healthier Devin Hester joined his teammates on the field Sunday afternoon for the first time in training camp, just hours after agreeing to a four-year contract extension that contains $15 million in guaranteed money and could be worth up to $40 million if he reaches pass-catching incentives – and at least $30 million otherwise.
  • Rookie running back Matt Forte showed above average speed and quickness after taking a screen pass for big yardage in Saturday's night's practice during 11-on-11 drills.
  • The late signing of veteran free agent Kevin Jones added a former 1,000-yard rusher to the landscape, although he's not 100 percent yet and isn't expected to come off the PUP list for a while.

Sunday, July 27 //  10:01 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

As we mentioned earlier, the Detroit Lions had their first onfield skirmish, leading Marinelli to the quotable post-practice line: "Lack of self control."

And while Marinelli did, indeed, lambast his players for their actions (and the fact that there were fans in attendance didn't help the situation), head coaches like to see passion in their players, even if it involves some pushing, shoving, and trash-talking. That was evident in Marinelli's glowing remark regarding the matchup between the accused, Dewayne White and offensive tackle Jeff Backus. The two have been putting on perhaps the camp's most fierce onfield battle.

"It's great," admitted Marinelli. "We have great matchups all across the board. Our receivers and our DB's, those are great matchups. It's intense and when you play a little bit more bone-on-bone football, I call it man-on-man, execution, it's about executing. It's about execution, every snap, and it's about discipline, it's about fundamentals. Once you lose your emotions sometimes your fundamentals, you lose that. So just focusing in on your energy and on the details."

  • Quick Notes: Marinelli also admitted that he was given a bit of a scare when linebacker Ernie Sims hobbled away after landing on his knee in the morning session. "Yeah, for any player. But he's fine, I think he's fine, so we'll be okay." Sims returned to practice immediately, but underwent further tests during the afternoon session.
  • Reggie Ball was placed on the injured reserve with a knee injury suffered on the first day of training camp. He has already been replaced by former Grand Valley State standout Eric Fowler, who inked a one-year deal. While Fowler's credits at the DII level are impressive, he is little more than camp fodder and isn't likely to make a run to land a roster spot.
  • WR Shaun McDonald, TE Dan Campbell, SS Daniel Bullocks, and G Edwin Mulitalo remain on the PUP (Physically Unable To Perform) list. Each is making tremendous strides to return, according to Marinelli, and should all be off the PUP by mid-August.
  • Although the competition ensues at the running back spot, the runners are being graded on not just their running pedigree, but their ability to block as well. With the team still likely to take full advantage of its elite core of receivers, it is going to rely heavily upon its backfield to give quarterback Jon Kitna more time in the pocket. Detroit struggled mightily with picking up blitzes in 2007, a trend Marinell and co. are looking to curb early in 2008.
    "We get 15 minutes of live blitz every day out of them, so we got people coming down their chin," said Marinelli. "It's not just the protection part, it's who to block. That's as much as anything: who to block, and how to block. That's something we come along with; we're giving them a lot of stuff."
    Rookie running back Kevin Smith has been surprisingly formidable with his blocking skills, but is still (and not surprisingly) behind veteran Tatum Bell in technique.

Sunday, July 27 // 6:00 p.m. (EST)  [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

The Lions welcomed back linebacker Teddy Lehman to the team this weekend. A former third-round pick in 2004, Lehman signed with Tampa Bay as an unrestricted free-agent during the off-season (Detroit never made an offer), but the Buccaneers dumped the former Oklahoma standout without seeing him in action. Lehman was en route to Atlanta before the Lions expressed an interest, cancelling his visit and heading to the motor city.

The signing of Lehman forced Detroit to dump linebacker Alfred Fincher, but likely won't suppress the team's interest in veteran LB Takeo Spikes, who continues to float on the team's radar. That potential signing might become even more pertinent after LB Ernie Sims came up lame after landing awkwardly on his knee during the team's morning practice session on Sunday. It was the second straight day that Sims has hobbled off the field, but he returned to the action just a few plays later. The Lions will run further tests on Sims' knee to see if any damage occurred.

Although the Lions made an offer to Spikes and his agent nearly a week ago, the 11-year veteran will evidently take his time deciding where he wants to play (i.e. a veteran player attempting to avoid training camp isn't exactly a novel concept).

The team experienced its first fist fight of the summer on Sunday. According to a Detroit News report, offensive tackle Jeff Backus and defensive end Dewayne White got into two alteractions, and were eventually seperated by teammates.

Although it's an open battle to who will play back-up to Jon Kitna, consider Dan Orlovsky the current leader ... but not by much. Both second-year player Drew Stanton and Orlovsky have both looked rusty in their repetitions (Kitna continues to impress those in attendance), but offensive coordinator Jim Colletto stated late Saturday that Orlovsky has a head-up on the former Michigan State standout.

Saturday, July 26 // 12:38 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

The Detroit Lions may have lost defensive tackle Shaun Rogers, who anchored the team's defense for the better part of a decade (we know, we know: with his frequent trips between the field and sideline for 'oxygen'), but don't think that has swayed Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli into worrying about his defensive front.

Marinelli and company will use a rotation in Rogers' spot beside UT Cory Redding, and Marinell is excited about the progress.

Defensive linemen Shaun Cody (who is four-years into his two-year plan), former Buccaneer Chuck Darby and rookie Andre Fluellen are splitting reps at the heart of the line. And although none have the physical talents of the mammoth Rogers, they have already brought a noticeable energy up front.

"This is a group that's got really good speed and good conditioning, good endurance right now," said Marinelli. "So hopefully we can just get eight guys rolling right through there and be able to get the heat."

Marinell is counting on Redding to be the biggest part of that.

" ... I see him just taking off, especially from the season he had two years ago," said Marinelli. "Last year he played hard. I'll never doubt that. He just has to get more credentials."

Quick Notes:

  • A 35-year old quarterback rolling out of the pocket? The Lions think Jon Kitna is up to it.
    With their new zone blocking package, the Lions will be rolling Kitna frequently during the regular season, where they believe he has the athleticism to hit his targets on the run. Kitna has some mobility, and the Lions would like to limit his number of sacks. Keeping him on the move is one way they are looking to accomplish that goal.
    "You can see what we're doing with the boots.  We're running the ball and forcing that," said Marinelli. "That seventh and eighth man in the box, you can take care of with that boot. That's a way for him to get outside and the young guys to get outside.  It gives him a chance to control and move the pocket a little bit."
  • Everyone seems excited about the size of Ikaika Alama-Francis, who is challenging veteran Jared DeVries for snaps at the left defensive spot. But Alama-Francis' weight of 280 hasn't changed since he was drafted last year. Alama-Francis is 6'5, 280-pounds with very little body fat. Chances are, he'll always "appear" to be a large athlete.
  • Leigh Bodden celebrated his new, $27 million contract (extended thru 2013) by ripping a Dan Orlovsky pass and returning it for a touchdown. Interestingly, former defensive tackle Shaun Rogers -- who was traded for Bodden in the off-season -- did the same thing during yesterday's Browns' practice.
    Said Marinelli of Bodden, "I just think he is kind of what we thought. He was a heck of a player coming out of Cleveland now, and I just think everybody's starting to understand who he is."
  • Rookie running back Kevin Smith was leveled by hard-hitting linebacker Ernie Sims on Friday. Sims, however, hurt himself later in the afternoon on a similar play. Marinelli shrugged off Sims' potential injury.  "We're just ... taking it day-by-day, still going to be smart with him. He's fine," said Marinelli. "We just want to make sure. This guy, man, he likes football.
  • Former Lions' linebacker Teddy Lehman was cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after just two practices. Lehman was a former second-round pick of president Matt Millen.

Friday, July 25  //  4:10 p.m. (EST) [Talk Camp In The Den Message Board!]

  • Quick Note: The Lions have agreed on a four-year deal with second-round pick Jordon Dizon. Dizon missed the first day and a half of camp, but will report late Friday to join the team at the Allen Park headquarters. / 4:10 p.m (EST)
    (For a complete salary cap update, sans Dizon's signing, read George Ketchman's latest cap blog)

The Detroit Lions wrapped up their first official day of training camp on Thursday. One of the more notable changes in this year's group revolves around the offense, and in particular, the running game -- i.e., it's going to be used, which is a dramatic change from former coordinator Mike Martz. With a loaded backfield, the Lions stable includes rookie Kevin Smith, Tatum Bell, Brian Calhoun, Aveion Cason and Artose Pinner.

Detroit's new zone running scheme, which will be based on the zone blocking platform (this will include traps and counters), favor both Smith and Bell's upfield yet shifty capabilities. Already many feel that Smith's adjustment will be seamless.

"My first impression is that he's in shape," said Marinelli. "He's a guy that's hard, he works out; it means everything to him. This guy just loves and is consumed with this game. He'll work, he studies and he stays on things... I think he's got some high goals for himself. He's just got to put it on tape."

Lions quarterback Jon Kitna is willing to give the run a chance. Last season, Detroit's offensive became one-dimensional on a regular basis, forcing the aging Kitna to rely upon his arm and making the team's defense spend a considerable amount of time on the field. Under Martz, Kitna was sacked a league-high 114 times in the past two seasons alone.

"It’s a great philosophy to have, and I think Coach Martz kind of gets a bum rap that way," said Kitna. "But we’re going to have more emphasis on it and we’re going to be more committed to it and I’m excited to see how it plays out. I think it’ll help everybody."

Marinelli was also happy with Bell, whom the team had a minor spat with during free-agency. Bell wanted to leave Detroit after being left on the sideline by Martz. The two sides eventually made amends (Martz's dismissal carrying significant weight), and Bell has been impressive through the off-season programs and in the first two days of camp.

"I've said this before: I really respected how he handled last year and what he went through," said Marinelli. "He was a pro all the way. This system that we're in right now is what he was used to in Denver. I think he's got a great opportunity. He's in tremendous shape. He's lean and he's fast. He's really got great speed. We just have to be smart with him and work. We're counting on him."

Added Marinelli, "I think it's going to be a good group (of runners)," said Marinelli. "It's a quietly good group. Not much to say about it - just jam it in there and go run and break some tackles."

The Lions coach said that although Smith and Bell are starring, he wouldn't be surprised if it turned into a running back-by-committee once the preseason ends.

"We've got some good runners here that are under the radar a bit. Somebody's going to step up. It's not going to be one guy, it's going to be two, maybe three guys, that will help us carry this load."

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