Intensity was a major reason the Lions drafted safety Louis Delmas with the first pick of the second round this year. Delmas' nickname at Western Michigan was "The Missile." But the Lions need their missile aimed in the right direction.
In training camp, Delmas nailed two teammates with big hits, sparking a scuffle the second time. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham couldn't hide his excitement, but coach Jim Schwartz told Delmas to be smart.
In the season opener Sunday at New Orleans, Delmas took two 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but he also returned a fumble 65 yards for a touchdown and made some solid hits.
"I think you saw the whole gamut with Delmas," Schwartz said.
The first penalty came after tight end Jeremy Shockey scored a touchdown in the second quarter. As Shockey celebrated, Delmas slapped the ball out of his hand.
"I let the game hype get to me," Delmas said.
Shockey laughed about it.
"I initially thought it was my own teammate messing with me," Shockey said. "I'm sure he'll be getting a letter from the NFL."
Schwartz called that "dumb football" and had a talk with Delmas.
"I said, 'When a player makes a touchdown, no matter what he wants to do with the ball, he's earned that right,' " Schwartz said. "You don't want him to dance, you don't want him to show you up, whatever, stop him from making a touchdown. That's an easy solution.' "
Not long after the first penalty, the Lions threw an interception, and Delmas ran into an official coming onto the field, drawing another flag.
"He's sprinting on the field and runs into an official," Schwartz said. "Is it smart? Is it exuberant? Yes. No. It's all those things."
In the third quarter, Delmas scooped up a fumble and scored that 65-yard touchdown, cutting the Lions' deficit to 38-27. They couldn't capitalize and lost, 45-27.
Delmas also had six solo tackles.
"He's an exciting player," Schwartz said. "He picks up a fumble and scores a touchdown. He made a couple big hits in the game. He was consistent tackling. I think he had one missed tackle. But he was consistent in tackling.
"All those things are part of his package. He needs to grow. He needs to work. He needs to continue to learn from his experiences. It was his first game ever in the National Football League."
QB Matthew Stafford struggled in his NFL debut Sunday at New Orleans, going 16-for-37 for 205 yards with three interceptions. He was erratic, but he and coach Jim Schwartz dismissed accuracy concerns. Stafford said he had to develop chemistry with his receivers.
RB Kevin Smith said Sunday's game was probably the worst performance of his career. He averaged a career-low 1.3 yards per carry, with 20 yards on 15 carries. He said he was too tentative and needed to be much more productive. He did score a four-yard rushing touchdown and catch seven passes for 52 yards.
TE Brandon Pettigrew, a first-round pick, did not have a pass thrown to him. Schwartz said he was open at times and the Lions needed to get him more involved, but the Lions were throwing downfield often because they were behind.
WR Calvin Johnson caught three passes for 90 yards, but he could have put up much bigger numbers. Stafford targeted him 13 times. He probably should have had a 67-yard touchdown, but it was only a 64-yard reception because he was ruled out at the 3.
WR Bryant Johnson was solid but unspectacular, catching four passes for 45 yards. The Lions need him to come through when opponents double Calvin Johnson.
DT Grady Jackson said he played about 30 snaps, a significant amount considering the 36-year-old veteran is listed at 345 pounds and has knee issues. Schwartz said he was pleased with him.
CB Anthony Henry led the Lions with 11 tackles, not necessarily a good sign, because Drew Brees was completing passes in his vicinity. But he also had an interception and two pass break-ups.
DT Landon Cohen didn't have a bad game, even though the run defense struggled. He had a tackle for a loss and forced a fumble.
K Jason Hanson handled all the kicking duties, coming off knee surgery. The question really was whether he would handle kickoffs. He didn't seem to have his full power.
P Nick Harris' first punt traveled only 28 yards, giving the Saints a short field they used to take a 14-0 lead. But he also had two punts downed inside the 20 with no touchbacks.