Live From Lions Camp - Allen Park, Mi
Photos courtesy of Jeff Moore. You can see the rest on our facebook page.
Coming into the season, the Detroit Lions have nowhere to go but up. It has been an exciting off-season for Lions fans, improving on paper on both sides of the ball. The Lions used the #2 overall pick on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, and solidified the defensive line by signing veteran Kyle Vanden Bosch, a former staple in the Titans defense under now Lions head coach Jim Schwartz.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions moved up in the draft to select RB Jahvid Best out of Cal, a highlight reel waiting to happen -- a highlight reel that keeps Jim Schwartz up late at night.
The Lions also signed WR Nate Burleson and traded for TE Tony Scheffler, hoping to take some of the attention away from the Lions #1 weapon, Calvin Johnson. Last season Johnson routinely saw tripple coverage, with defenses giving no respect (and rightfully so) to Bryant Johnson and Dennis Northcutt.
The biggest indicator of how the Lions season will go will be the development of 2nd year QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford and the Lions offense should take a huge step forward in his second season. Stafford isn't likely ready to lead your fantasy team to a championship just yet. However, the more action he sees, the better he is going to be in the very near future.
The Detroit Lions and HC Jim Schwartz have opened up practices at their Allen Park facility to the fans. On Thursday about 500 or so of the Detroit faithful showed up to watch the new additions to their team. The Lions players each picked kids out of the crowd before practice and ran with them onto the field with the kids holding their helmets. After getting on the field, players break up into their position groups to stretch out and run position drills.
Stafford looked very accurate in practice, hitting Calvin Johnson in stride several times in 7-on-7 drills, and also finding a rhythm with Mr. Irrelevant, Tim Toone who is hoping to make the roster as a special teamer.
Assuming Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford can stay healthy in 2010, Calvin has a good chance to put up some big numbers. The WR-QB duo has a full year of playing together and Calvin will enjoy playing opposite a WR in Nate Burleson to take away some of the defensive pressure.
Kevin Smith was in attendance, but not practicing. Smith is coming off of off-season knee surgery. Smith's absence made room for rookie RB Jahvid Best to impress, catching several passes from Stafford -- something that could become a common scene this season in Detroit -- as well as taking the majority of the handoffs. Best will have his first chance to shine in game action Saturday against the Steelers.
Brandon Pettigrew, also recovering from a knee, did not practice in the Thursday afternoon session. Pettigrew was progressing nicely as a rookie before missing the final 5 games due to the knee. This year however, Pettigrew's fantasy production will be capped due to the Lions offseason trade for pass-catching TE Tony Scheffler. Scheffler and Pettigrew will be hard pressed to justify a starting spot on a fantasy roster unless one of them goes down.
#2 overall pick Ndamukong Suh missed the first five days of Lions camp, getting his rookie contract sorted out, but now that he's in camp and weighing in at 305, Suh looks physically like a man among boys. We overheard a spectator commenting that Suh looked as if he was wearing a big set of shoulder pads, when he infact wasn't wearing any at all.
Suh feels like he has caught up from the missed time. "I feel like I'm progressing all the time. There are always things I can learn at any point in time. Whether it's working on my technique, getting off the ball and so forth. Now it's more fine tuning that and getting into the details of the type of defense that we want," Suh said after practice Thursday.
Lions safety and IDP 2DB Louis Delmas is again being held out of practice, after going through drills on Wednesday. The Lions say that Delmas is on schedule, and will be good to go by the season opener. The Lions need the playmaking ability that Delmas brings, as Detroit's only bright spot in a secondary the Lions hope will benefit from an improved pass rush.