Postcard from camp: Lions
In Allen Park, Mich., about 20 minutes west of downtown Detroit and Ford Field, the regular season home of the Lions. Keeping with that synergy, the Lions' practice facility, which opened for business in 2000, is just a stone's throw away from the Ford Motor Company's corporate headquarters. For this particular practice the Lions welcomed a busload of police officers from Detroit -- a nice, if somewhat ironic, gesture following an offseason that saw several Detroit players run afoul of the law. More than a few Lions, including veterans Jeff Backus and Nate Burleson, took time out after practice to sign autographs for and take pictures with some of Detroit's finest.
Rookie third-round pick Bill Bentley drew the start opposite Chris Houston in Detroit's preseason opener. He picked off one pass and nearly had a pick-6 on another play, but all in all, Schwartz was harsh in his criticism after that game -- "It's too inconsistent play for a cornerback ... I don't think that's a good day at all for what he can do."
Bentley was still with the first team at practice, until he allowed Stefan Logan to turn the corner for a big run, prompting Jacob Lacey to take his spot on the field and one coach to scream "Wake the f--k up!" in Bentley's direction. Lacey and Alphonso Smith are Detroit's other current options for the starting CB job, with another rookie, Jonte Green, working to learn his role. This is an issue that could linger throughout the regular season (again) for Detroit.
"He's an important part of our plans," Schwartz said of Young. It was not hard to see why on this day, as Young turned Bentley inside-out on more than one occasion. The Lions have no shortage of three-receiver sets, so Young, Burleson and Johnson will all see the field together frequently. Detroit would also like to better utilize athletic tight end Tony Scheffler, who tied Young for the second-most TDs on the team last season (6).
While the Lions will have no problem filling out their two-deep depth chart, including at running back despite the continued absences of Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, there is a fierce fight on to make the 53-man roster cut. Possible casualties of that ongoing battle include rookie QB Kellen Moore, defensive end Everette Brown (who performed well in Detroit's preseason opener), rookie linebacker Travis Lewis, fan-favorite WR Lance Long and several others.
Making things even more trying are the Lions' injuries, which could force them to carry extra bodies at running back and safety, specifically. Leshoure's two-game suspension to start the year and a potential Nick Fairley suspension could delay a couple of tough calls -- suspended players do not count against a team's 53-man limit. Still, some talented players are going to wind up with walking papers.
Both Young and Jackson saw extended minutes vs. Cleveland with Vanden Bosch and Avril sitting out, and Young may have been Detroit's best player in the game. He consistently provided pressure in the backfield and forced a fumble by Browns QB Brandon Weeden in the first quarter. Vanden Bosch's rising age and injury concerns, plus the real possibility that Avril will walk as a free agent after this season, means that Young might be the future for Detroit at defensive end ... and maybe the present, too.
Things start off gently enough with a visit from the rebuilding Rams. After that, however, the real fun begins as Detroit makes a Week 2 trip to San Francisco for a Sunday night affair. The NFC North plays the NFC West and AFC South as its cross-divisional foes this year -- manageable, both. The kicker: Detroit closes with two at home, including a Week 17 game against Chicago that could be for a playoff spot.