It has been one of the most dramatic changes this season. Detroit was in the bottom third of the league in offensive pace under former coordinator Joe Lombardi, because he wanted to shuffle in personnel and packages at a dizzying rate.
Now, though, Detroit has been in the no-huddle 62 percent of their plays during the preseason. That's up from just 7 percent in the regular season last year.
"I think if you do it right -- if you do it well in general -- it's a more efficient way to go about your business," Cooter said. "Now does that mean we're always playing extremely fast? Absolutely not. But it also doesn't mean we never do that. We like to have all the options at our disposal. Sometimes we play fast, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we're in the huddle, out of the huddle."
The Lions’ offense really took off after Jim Bob Cooter took over as the play-caller, but that probably had more to do with the strength of schedule than anything he did. The Lions played Minnesota twice, Arizona, Seattle, Kansas City and Denver in their first eight games, and the schedule was significantly softer after the Week 9 bye. Still, Stafford was the #4 QB over the final eight weeks, averaging 21.5 points per game. The loss of Calvin Johnson will sting, but if Cooter’s influence is real, then Stafford could push for QB1 numbers if things break his way. Playing at a faster pace should only help, assuming the offense can move the ball effectively and stay on the field.
Even if he lost that battle, he was expected to make the team. He even got $250,000 of his contract guaranteed.
Instead, he didn't even make it to the first round of cuts.
The Lions informed Ridley on Thursday morning that he has been released.
Eric Ebron missed more than two weeks with an ankle injury.
Then he came back. For a day.
And now he's gone again, with no word on what's up or when he'll return.
The Detroit Lions tight end missed a second straight day of work Thursday, and coach Jim Caldwell sidestepped questions about whether he had suffered a setback in his return from an ankle injury.
Ebron caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns last season and finished as the #13 TE in PPR formats, though he was actually worse under then-interim and now-official offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter. He averaged 13.0 FP (PPR) through the first seven weeks, and 7.3 FP once Cooter was promoted. With Calvin Johnson gone, there are a lot of moving parts in Detroit, so this doesn't mean that Ebron won't produce similar (or better) numbers in his third season, provided he can get healthy. This injury situation doesn't seem to be trending the right way.
The Detroit Lions are halfway through the preseason, which means there’s less than two weeks remaining before the roster has to be trimmed to its initial 53 on Sept. 3.
There are plenty of tough decisions on the horizon for general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell, which was one of Quinn’s main objectives when taking over in January. Who makes the cut at running back is one of those tough decisions.
Caldwell has entered the regular season with four running backs and a fullback on the roster in each of the last two seasons. That means four players – Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, George Winn and Stevan Ridley – are fighting for what will likely be two roster spots. Zenner and Washington have played more consistently and made more plays throughout training camp and the first two preseason games. The story added Washington has made the most splash plays, with a combo of power and speed. The team's RB3 would have some fantasy potential should something happen to Abdullah or Riddick.
Ebron was not spotted doing much during the limited viewing period of individual drills at the team's practice facility, but it is another step in the right direction for the tight end. He was spotted jogging to the Jugs machine and then catching passes on it last week.
A source told ESPN Insider Adam Caplan on Tuesday morning that Ebron will play Week 1 against Indianapolis. His return to practice Tuesday would be another strong indicator of that, the story said. Ebron is slated to be Detroit's top tight end this fall. He had been having a strong camp leading up to the injury. Now entering his third season, he called this year a "make it or break it" year for him. He caught 47 passes for 537 yards and five touchdowns in 14 games last season.
The Bengals lined up rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd in a variety of ways during practice and while he has yet to catch an NFL regular-season pass the Bengals can celebrate Boyd’s ascension into the derby to start opposite A.J. Green in New Jersey on Sept. 11.
“A lot of guys are in that category,” said wide receivers coach James Urban as the staff continues to respond to the off-season departures of the nearly combined 1,000 yards and 100 catches accumulated by Sanu and Marvin Jones last season.
But with seven-year veteran Brandon LaFell returning to practice this week with a damaged ligament in his hand after a 10-day absence, Boyd is the unquestioned leader in the clubhouse as they get set to gauge LaFell in Sunday’s dress rehearsal in Jacksonville.
“We have to see how he transitions through,” said offensive coordinator Ken Zampese.
Also making a push is one of the best stories of the year in James Wright. Wright, the 2014 seventh-rounder from LSU, is coming back from a 21-month layoff as he tries to rebound from the most dangerous of procedures, a micro fracture knee surgery.
The Lions haven't scored much with their starting offense on the field, but they have moved the ball.
But Golden Tate is not concerned.
"I think we can be special," Tate said.
They put together a 12-play drive on their lone series in the preseason opener against Pittsburgh, before a Taylor Decker breakdown led to a sack-fumble. Then they went 10 plays and 79 yards to open against Cincinnati, before Tate dropped a would-be touchdown in the end zone.
QB Matthew Stafford has a 70.6-percent completion percentage, which is actually ahead of the pace he set in the second half of last season, and 171 yards through the air. He has not thrown an interception, though he does have two-sack fumbles.
Detroit has been without TE Eric Ebron and RB Ameer Abdullah as well, which isn't helping their production. Stafford's favorite target continues to be WR Marvin Jones, who leads Detroit with 81 receiving yards on five catches. That includes a 32-yard toe-dragger along the sideline last week, which helped set up a field goal. We've heard a lot about how Jones has been Stafford's go-to WR so far in camp and it's holding true in preseason games.
But it looks like both players -- so critical to the Detroit Lions this season -- are nearing a return.
Tate was seen running on the side during practice Sunday afternoon, while Ebron jogged off the field following practice and then took some balls from the JUGS machine.
Coach Jim Caldwell has declined to address either player's status, but it seems both are not in danger of missing the season opener on Sept. 11 against the Colts, the story said. Tate's injury never really seemed major. Ebron's injury, though, provided Detroit with more of a scare when he had to be carted off the field during Detroit's mock game at Ford Field on Aug. 6, the story added.
For the first time since training camp started back in late July, Abdullah was out at practice without his “no contact” red jersey on.
“It feels right,” he said afterward. “It feels natural.”
The story went on to say Saturday’s practice was a walkthrough in shorts and no helmets, and head coach Jim Caldwell wouldn’t confirm that Abdullah’s contact restrictions would be lifted this week, but the second-year running does appear to be trending in the right direction after joining his offensive teammates in their blue jerseys for the first time since training camp began. Abdullah said he’d even like to play in Saturday’s third preseason game in Baltimore, if allowed.
It illustrated two things.
First, Stafford has complete comfort in Jones at this point. He likely doesn't make that throw to many other receivers on the roster and it showed just how good Jones' awareness and hands are. He put his hands up at the last possible second -- good trackers of the ball do that -- to throw off the defensive back and make the catch.
Second, the window Stafford threw the ball into was minuscule, even by NFL standards. The only way that pass was going to be completed was if he threw it in a small spot just over Lawson's shoulder. He did. It was complete. It was a heck of a play -- whether or not it counted.
It was a continuation of what has become a strong rapport between Stafford and Jones, the story said. This isn't the first we've heard about this chemistry, and it appears Jones could be the top WR target, passing Golden Tate who many assumed would take that role over from Calvin Johnson. The author went on to say he "can't think of a day when Jones had a bad day of practice."
Gradkowski, who is entering his 10th NFL season, suffered the injury in the preseason opener against the Detroit Lions.
The Steelers could place Gradkowski, 33, on injured reserve for the second straight year or wait out the injury. Gradkowski missed all of 2015 with shoulder and hand/finger injuries. This offseason, he re-signed with the team on a one-year deal.
Monday, August 15, 2016, 7:56am
Tight end Andrew Quarless won’t be able to play the first two games of the season because of a suspension, but that didn’t stop him from landing a job in Detroit.
The Lions announced Monday that they have signed the former Packer to their 90-man roster. Quarless was suspended under the league’s Personal Conduct Policy as a result of a July 2015 arrest for firing a gun in public, which Lions General Manager Bob Quinn addressed in a statement accompanying the news of his addition
He finished with seven carries for a team-high 24 yards, which doesn't sound like much, and even he says he has a lot to work on.
Breaking a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter, against guys who are going to be selling cars in a month, is not the same as grinding out a 12-yarder against the Steelers' starting defense (minus a couple regulars).
Ameer Abdullah is still working his way back from a shoulder injury, so Zenner was used as Detroit's No. 1 rusher in this game. Theo Riddick started and had four carries, but as the story pointed out, perhaps most revealing is Stevan Ridley had no carries until the second half. With Riddick more of a pass-catcher, the competition for backup to Abdullah seems to be between Zenner and Ridley.
Golden Tate is expected to play a big role in the Lions offense this season, but it is prized free-agent acquisition Marvin Jones who looks like the club's top wideout. And in recent days, it hasn't been all that close.
On Tuesday, quarterback Matthew Stafford got his first chance to work against a foreign defense, and he went to Jones repeatedly, targeting him with seven of his 14 passes during team drills at a joint practice with the Steelers.
Jones caught six of those passes. No one else had more than two.
"Yeah, I think so," Stafford said, when asked if he were developing a chemistry with Jones. "There's a ton of work to be done between now and the season opener. That's what these days are for."
Jones has been Stafford's favorite target throughout most of camp, with Tate, Anquan Boldin and tight end Eric Ebron also earning a lot of looks. But Ebron is hurt right now, and Tate is battling an uncharacteristic bout of dropsies.
Jones has averaged 3.6 receptions for 48 yards and 0.44 TD in his last 32 games. The 6’2” receiver has been especially good at catching touchdowns (14 in his last 32 games), so he'll be asked to pick up the slack in Detroit after Calvin Johnson's retirement. Used inconsistently in Cincinnati, he should see plenty of work with the Lions, though we expect he'll play second-fiddle to Golden Tate in terms of total targets. Jones’ FP/T (1.03) was average last year, but it was an elite 1.64 FP/T in 2013, when he scored 10 times. If he sees 120 targets at his 2015 FP/T, it would yield 123.6 FP, which are solid WR3 numbers in standard formats. He has upside from there if his TD rate regresses toward his 2013 levels. Given this buzz, his ADP is likely to climb into the 6th or 7th round after hovering in the 8th for most of the offseason. We're generally leery of receivers who change teams in free agency, unless they're getting a promotion, which seems to be the case here.
Cole Wick was running a lot with the Lions starting offense on Monday, while Eric Ebron sat out with a sore right ankle. Along with blocking specialist Matthew Mulligan, a nine-year journeyman, they are now the team's top healthy tight ends.
And unless Ebron makes a speedy return, that could be the rotation when Detroit opens the preseason on Friday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I'm hoping to get a little more experience, as far as the speed of the game at this level and in the NFL," Wick said of the prospective opportunity. "That's one thing I'm really looking forward to."
Wick has changed a lot of minds since he signed after the draft, particularly with his hands, the story said. He was one of three players to catch a touchdown pass Saturday in the mock game at Ford Field, and hauled in another difficult ball Monday morning. It looks like Ebron could be OK after we saw reports he was walking without crutches or a boot, but the Lions gave no other information today. In the meantime, it looks like Wick could benefit at the position seeing lots of reps.
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