Detroit Lions: Five things to watch in preseason game vs. Giants

Unclear how much starters will play

ALLEN PARK >> Matt Patricia will coach his first game at Ford Field when the Lions host the New York Giants at 7 p.m. on Friday.

The Lions coach is geeked even though it’s a preseason contest.

Under that bushy beard, Patricia has a plan as the next few weeks develop to find the best players for each position. The quest continues in the second preseason game.

He wants to see improvement from the Week 1 loss at the Oakland Raiders.

“Trying to keep a basic game plan from that standpoint and just trying to increase the level of execution, see if we can improve from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said on Thursday before the walk-through with the Giants.

“We’ll add a couple new things that we maybe didn’t look at last week just to take a look at them on the field and see how that goes. But, for us, it’s just going to be that constant improvement. The overall operation—hopefully that goes off better than it did last week, and then the on-field performance, too,’’ Patricia said.

Five things to look for in Friday’s contest:

1. Matthew Stafford did not play a snap last week and may not get on the field on Friday either. Patricia was non-committal when asked if his quarterback will play.  “Everybody’s going to be ready to go,’’ Patricia said. While Stafford will most likely get in at least one preseason game, remember he has gotten valuable experience from joint practices the last two weeks with the Raiders and the Giants.

2. Patricia also would not say how long the starters will remain in the game. It depends on the flow and, of course, different position groups will see more time than others.

3. Against the Raiders, Ameer Abdullah got the bulk of the work at running back in the first half, while Kerryon Johnson opened eyes in the second half. Theo Riddick and Dwayne Washington did not play at all. So who will get the most carries against the Giants? Tough to tell. Abdullah again had many carries with the ones at camp this week. LeGarrette Blount may get a carry or two along with Zach Zenner.

4. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah did not play last week, but has practiced all this week. His tendency toward injury, could keep him on the sideline on Friday. Once the season starts, he may play on the inside along with his typical spot outside. “I think he’s obviously a tremendous player and causes some different issues across the board. So, getting an advantage or getting an opportunity to look at him in some of those different alignments, I think, is good for us. I don’t really know what it’s going to shape out to be when we get to the regular season,’’ Patricia said. “But, from a standpoint of just giving him some different ways to pressure an offense or put the offense under duress, is always a good thing for us. So, he’s long, he’s a really long guy, he’s very strong, and he has a real good quickness about him, too. Which, when you can match him up against different offensive linemen across the board, you can get some advantages there.”

5. Cornerback Darius Slay had a few match-ups in the joint practices this week with Giants’ superstar receiver Odell Beckham Jr. But don’t expect to see them match up in the game.  Beckham is not expected to play on Friday night, according to the New York Post. Beckham, who said he’s feeling good, is coming off a fractured left ankle that occurred in October forcing him to miss the rest of the season. If Friday’s game mattered he would be on the field, but no need to push it.

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Detroit Lions camp: Frank Ragnow not anchored at left guard – at least for now

Every change on O-line in practice is scripted

ALLEN PARK >> Graham Glasgow was back at practice on Wednesday, after going down with a knee injury on Tuesday.

However, the Lions center didn’t take all the reps at center. Rookie Frank Ragnow was snapping the ball to Matthew Stafford during team drills toward the end of Wednesday’s session with the New York Giants.

Here’s the thing, no matter what happened to Glasgow, that role at center might have been planned for Ragnow who started at center as a junior and senior at Arkansas.

“All those guys on the offensive line know multiple positions, and however we do it in practice, we’re going to try to get everybody a certain amount of reps,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Wednesday.

The coach said practice is scripted.

“We’re not really in the mode where we’re just calling against each other blindly. And (Tuesday) was a scripted practice where there might be particular plays that we want guys to see in certain positions, so that affects where they get lined up,’’ Patricia said.

During camp and since he was drafted, Ragnow has taken most of his reps at left guard. It’s expected that’s where he’ll start when the season gets under way.

“So, there’s a little bit more to it than just kind of throwing guys in there and throwing them around in a certain set. So, again, let’s just say hypothetically Frank was at a guard position and I wanted to see one of his pulls, and see how he went and attacked the edge, maybe on a particular run play or a particular protection against an individual player that the Giants have – you weigh the value of moving the guy to a different position or leave him where he is and get the valued rep that you need to evaluate and see him do. So, a lot of that goes into that decision there,’’ Patricia said.

When GM Bob Quinn drafted Ragnow in the first round, it was expected that he would start at center. But it appears that Glasgow, who started a few games at center in 2017, has won that spot.

“We can put Frank anywhere, which is great. We can move him to center, guard, tackle, or put any of those guys all the way across the board. And again, it’s so early in the stage of what we’re trying to do from all positions that these guys are still going to play multiple positions and get a lot of reps,’’ Patricia said.

“And there are going to be guys that are playing positions this week that will play completely different positions next week just to get another evaluation. The good thing is that we have quite a few more weeks here before we get to the regular season, so we have a timeline of how we have to evaluate all those guys,’’ the coach added.

Thursday will be the third and final practice against the Giants at the Lions’ facility. Detroit is coming off two practices at the Oakland Raiders last week.

Going against different competition in camp should especially benefit Ragnow and all the young guys.

“I think it’s the biggest thing for the young guys to see—the increase of what the competition looks like on game day. And for us to have these practices where they can kind of see it a little bit more and get a little bit more experience with that helps every bit,’’ Patricia said. “I would also say that the more we can get on tape of competitive reps against different people, different teams, our own guys, we can coach and teach off of that. And that’s the most important thing, where we can—not just a, call it a walk through or tempered down sort of mentality—where we’re actually teaching live or coaching off of live reps. I think that’s where we make our biggest improvements.”

Thursday’s practice at 9 a.m. is open to the public.

The Lions and Giants play a preseason game at 7 p.m. on Friday at Ford Field.

Detroit Lions camp: Ex-Giant Devon Kennard faces former team

Lions linebacker played 4 seasons with Giants

ALLEN PARK >> Devon Kennard had a different outlook on Tuesday when the Detroit Lions held their first joint practice with the New York Giants.

The Lions linebacker played in 52 games over the last four seasons for the Giants, before signing with the Lions as a free agent.

He’s been impressive in training camp so far. That continued on Tuesday against his former teammates.

“It’s been fun, there’s always a competitive nature and that’s what it was today. Going against guys I’m pretty familiar with, but we’re out here working, trying to beat each other and that’s how it should be,’’ Kennard said.

The Lions will play the Giants in the home preseason opener at 7 p.m. on Friday at Ford Field. Prior to that they will practice against the Giants at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday and 9 a.m. on Thursday. Both are open to fans. Last week Detroit held joint practices against the Oakland Raiders before the preseason opener for each team.

Five thoughts from Kennard:

— He likes the joint practices in back-to-back weeks. “It’s something you can continue to build, there’s nothing like live game action, the intensity of the game and stuff. To be able to have that experience and roll it into another joint practice was good for me personally and good for the team overall,’’ Kennard said.

— Facing the Raiders and Giants offenses in practice should also help the Lions’ defense. “I think it’s pivotal. You get different formations, every team does things a little differently,’’ Kennard said. “As a defensive guy you get to see how you’re going to adjust to different things the offense does. I think it’s good preparation for the season.’’

— The Lions lost 16-10 to the Raiders on Friday with the defensive pass rush and ability to stop the run standing out as areas that need to improve. “I think we did some things well, we have high expectations and we want to play at a higher level and we want to continue to get better,’’ Kennard said.

— Coach Matt Patricia’s impact on the defense has been immediate. “He demands a lot from us, he demands excellence. He’s never satisfied,’’ Kennard said. “If we think we have a good day he’s always pushing us, showing us ways we need and should get better. I think it’s making everybody’s awareness and everybody’s intensity raise every day.’’

— Kennard used a multitude of cliches in answering a question about the team’s physicality and toughness. It’s like the words were coming out of Patricia’s mouth. “We have an opportunity but we have to show it every day. We have to be consistent, that’s what we’re working to build,’’ Kennard said. “We’re still on camp mode. Everyday we’re trying to grind it out. There’s no light at the end of the tunnel, we’re grinding it out, day in and day out.

Detroit Lions to offer reduced concession prices at Ford Field

Package options an option to keep costs down

ALLEN PARK >> The Lions will reduce some concession prices for games at Ford Field this season, starting on Friday night for the preseason home opener against the New York Giants.

Power hour locations will be expanded to more locations. For the first hour after the gates open, the Lions will offer $2 hot dogs, $2 sold, $3 beer and $3 cocktails.

“The first two games are night games so we’re opening up an extra hour early so there will be two hours of very reduced pricing. Then we have strategically place around the building these new silver savings packages which are 20-50 percent of what the price would have been last year,’’ team president Rod Wood said on Tuesday. “We’re trying to adapt what we can do in the building, and still get people in and out of the stands and back to their seats rooting the team on.”

Silver savings packages include a hot dog, soda and chips for $10 or hot dog, beer and chips for $12. Also, multiple locations at Ford Field will serve $5 beer. Silver savings can be found on each concourse and club designated by a football piggy bank icon.

“I’m very pleased with how it came out and hopefully the fans will appreciate it, it’s another way of listening to them and trying to do the best we can to maximize the fan experience,’’ Wood said.

The Atlanta Falcons reduced concession prices last season, sparking an evaluation of how to make that happen at Ford Field.

Lions training camp: Five things to look for in workouts with the Giants

Joint practices set for Tuesday-Thursday

With one preseason game out of the way, the Lions move on with four days of training camp this week. Three of those sessions will be held with the New York Giants, the Lions’ opponent for their preseason game on Friday night at Ford Field.

The Lions lost at the Oakland Raiders, 16-10, late on Friday. A few rookies stood out, a few veterans did not play and no one apparently was seriously injured. So actually it was a win-win-win situation.

Here are five things to look for this week:

1. The Lions’ practices against the Giants on Wednesday and Thursday at 9 a.m. are open to fans. Tuesday’s joint session is for season ticket holders only. If you’ve never been to Lions training camp, it’s a great opportunity to see what the team goes through each day in practice. The intensity level should pick up with the Giants in town. Of course, there’s face painting, games for kids and food trucks for adults. (I’d highly recommend ice cream from the Treat Dreams truck which makes occasional visits.)

2. Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson provided the highlights in Oakland and looked every bit like Bob Quinn got a deal by drafting him in the second round. However, pump the brakes a bit. “He’s got a long way to go. I was excited to see him have a couple big plays and show off some of his is natural ability, but from an overall standpoint, we’ve a long way to go there,’’ coach Matt Patricia said during a conference call on Saturday night.

3. Matthew Stafford, Theo Riddick and T.J. Lang did not play on Friday. All are veterans who are locks to make the team. Makes sense that Patricia didn’t want them to get injured when the benefit to them would be so small. However, running back Dwayne Washington was also sidelined. As far as we know he is not injured and he certainly needs to have good showings in preseason games to lock up a spot on the 53-man roster. Patricia was not exactly crystal clear when asked about Washington’s absence in a conference call on Saturday night: “The guys that were out that played, played. And the ones that didn’t, did not.’’ Got that? Ameer Abdullah had a good showing with four carries for 16 yards including a one-yard touchdown run. “I think with Ameer, (we saw) some pretty good short space quickness and some opportunity to kind of get some penetration into the defense too, which was really good,’’ Patricia said.

4. Going against the Giants during practice should give the Lions more of a chance to work on their pass rush which was a weak point against the Raiders. Ziggy Ansah, who is back at practice, did not play but that was not the only problem. It’s too early to panic. These guys are still learning, but it’s certainly an area that needs attention. Patricia agrees. “It doesn’t really matter what we’re running from a scheme standpoint, we want to still see the fundamentals and the basics of what we’re trying to do,’’ the coach said after the game. “So, whether it’s the run game or the pass game, we have to do both of those with good technique up front. And we’ll go back and take a look at that and we’ll coach it up, and obviously try to improve it all the way across the board. I’d say both sides really have to be better.”

5. Generally Patricia does not heap too much praise on any of his players. The coach is more down the middle. But he seems to love the coverage play of linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. “I think Jalen, really through training camp, has had an outstanding training camp. He does a lot for us, not only defensively, but also special teams wise. He had a really good game (Friday)night as far as that is concerned and just continues to improve. Got a long way to go, some of those situations where you may have seen him in the coverage part of it with the running backs. It’s just something that in those situations with the clock, the time, and the two-minute part of it, maybe was just circumstantial there. I think he’s trying to get better and I think he’s trying to improve,’’ Patricia said. “We obviously in some of those cases got to have some different run fits and different pass coverages that we have in that we just have to tighten up some of our techniques and things like that.”

EXTRA POINT: First-round pick Frank Ragnow proved he’s the real deal.

Kerryon Johnson impressive in Lions’ loss to Raiders; plus 5 other thoughts

Rookies step up in Matt Patricia’s debut

Kerryon Johnson was a hit in his Lions debut.

Detroit lost 16-10 to the Oakland Raiders in the preseason opener, but the score really didn’t mean much. The rookies made plays and it appears the Lions didn’t sustain any serious injuries in Matt Patricia’s debut.

Johnson, the rookie running back, lit up the third quarter. He ran, he cut, he leaped. When it was over he had seven carries for 34 yards (4.9 yards per carry). Johnson also had four catches for 33 yards.

Look, it’s early and he wasn’t going against the Raiders’ starting defense. However, he wasn’t playing behind the Lions starting offensive line either.

However, there can be no denying this kid has vision, he can run it up the gut, he has burst and breakaway speed. Oh, and a good stiff-arm move. It all adds up to scamperability.

PHOTO COURTESY OF DETROIT LIONS

Much was expected of Johnson. He didn’t wilt under pressure, instead he blossomed.

Other impressions:

1. The defense has some work to do. They not only had trouble stopping the Raiders on the run, but also the pass rush was anemic. Defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who returned to practice this week, didn’t play. Ansah’s return will be welcomed but this situation needs attention. Kerry Hyder, in his first game back after missing all of last season, looked solid which is a good sign. This isn’t a surprise since he’s had a good camp. Remember he had eight sacks to lead the team in 2018. The Raiders finished with 148 rushing yards. It would have been more but Marshawn Lynch had a 60-yard run called back due to a holding penalty.

2. Love that Matt Patricia sat Matthew Stafford and T.J. Lang. No reason to risk injury to either one especially since they were playing on a baseball field. Matt Cassel got the start with Jake Rudock mopping up. Although Cassel was brought back in with two minutes remaining to get in a little work on the two-minute offense. If the Lions just keep two quarterbacks, the 39-year-old Cassel has positioned himself to be the backup.

3. Rookie Frank Ragnow at left guard was impressive, especially in pass protection. He should be, he’s a first-round pick. Still, it was his first game. He did his job. Thought the line would be better at opening up lanes for the run. Put that on Jim Bob Cooter’s to-do list.

4. Miles Killebrew, playing at linebacker, recovered a fumble at the Detroit 7-yard line in the third quarter. Just because they moved him from safety to linebacker does not mean they do not believe in him. But he has to prove that he can handle the position. We know he’s a beast on special teams.

5. It’s going to be a battle at running back to find a spot on the 53-man roster. Kerryon Johnson is a lock, but there’s going to be an odd man out. That makes Ameer Abdullah’s good showing key. He had four runs for 16 yards and a touchdown. LeGarrette Blount carried five times for 21 yards in his first game wearing a Lions jersey.

Detroit Lions hold scrimmage in eighth day of training camp

LB Darnell Sankey’s interception stands out

ALLEN PARK >> In the Detroit Lions’  first scrimmage of training camp on Saturday, the standout play came courtesy of linebacker Darnell Sankey.

After cornerback Teez Tabor tipped the ball which was thrown by Matt Cassel and intended for Kerryon Johnson, Sankey positioned  himself to catch it for the interception and run it back.

“We were in one of our fronts, I seen the ball tipped in the air, amazing play by the cornerback, seen the ball, hopefully I grabbed it,’’ Sankey said. “We practice that a lot — especially as linebackers — go up, get the ball and try to take it home for the team,’’ said Sankey who was whistled down short of the goal line.

The scrimmage gave the team a chance to put together everything they have learned from coach Matt Patricia and his staff in the first eight days.

Patricia talked to the media minutes prior to Saturday morning’s practice and wouldn’t tip his hat whether there would be a scrimmage. It all became clear when the public address announcer made his presence known.

“There’s a scrimmage element in every practice, which is great. We do different periods against each other from a team aspect and work on different points of emphasis. I would say we’re getting more into the mode of down and distance, so it’s first, second, and third down kind of consecutively from that standpoint. Which is great, because you can transition from the different modes,’’ Patricia said.

It was a big day for Sankey, who was undrafted in 2016 out of Sacramento State and has made his way to six other NFL teams mostly in short stints on their practice squads.

“We’re a week and a half into camp so we’re learning how to play, how to mold and learning the defense, the offense, everything goes to the team,’’ Sankey said. “It establishes a brotherhood as well we’re hitting but at the end of the day it’s all love, we’re all teammates.’’

Sankey signed on July 26, the day before camp started. So he’s got plenty to learn about the Lions defense.

“The first and foremost thing is learning the playbook, that’s the main thing, learning how the scheme goes, learning the team, learning different types of checks and calls and fronts, learning the coaches and how the Detroit Lions play,’’ Sankey said. “And obviously showcasing your skills and show them what you can do.’’

Sankey faces tough competition to make the 53-man roster. He’s had a few plays that pop during camp but none bigger than Saturday’s interception.

It doesn’t mean he’ll make the team, but he may have improved his chances.