Detroit Lions camp: Kenny Wiggins on O-line competition, facing Mike Daniels

 ALLEN PARK — Guard Kenny Wiggins, for one, is happy to have Mike Daniels as a newcomer on the Detroit Lions roster.

The Lions announced on Saturday that they have signed the veteran Pro Bowl defensive end who was released by the Green Bay Packers before camp.

Wiggins, who is battling for a starting role at guard, vividly remembers the first time he faced Daniels.

“My third start ever at Green Bay when I was with the Chargers. He gave me a little fit, we ran 93 plays that game, which is a lot, and a lot of them were passes,’’ Wiggins said. “That was fun. No sacks though.’’

Daniels will add to a formidable defensive line that includes Damon “Snacks” Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara.

Wiggins said they should have some good battles at camp between the offensive and defensive lines.

“It’s going to make us better, it’s only going to make the whole team better too,’’ Wiggins said. “I would say the games are won up front. Iron sharpens iron. So whoever comes out on top one day, the next day we’re going to get better, we’re going to come out and get better and be better as a total unit.’’

Wiggins started 10 games at right guard for the Lions last season when T.J. Lang was injured. With Frank Ragnow moved to center from left guard and Lang retired both guard spots are up for grabs in camp. Graham Glasgow and and Joe Dahl are also in the mix along with veteran Oday Aboushi.

“We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football and all of us have great depth and that’s a good thing to have,’’ Wiggins said. “Whoever gets the nod — it’s up in the air right now so who knows — we’re just out here competing trying to get better.’’

Saturday was the third day of camp, but the first day in pads 

“Once the pads come on that’s when camp starts for me, just out in pajamas before then,’’ Wiggins said. “This is camp now.”

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It’s official: Lions sign DE Mike Daniels; surprisingly release Theo Riddick

ALLEN PARK — The Lions made it official on Saturday morning that they’ve signed veteran defensive end Mike Daniels.

Running back Theo Riddick was released to make room for Daniels.

Coach Matt Patricia made the announcements Saturday morning just before the start of camp.

“I have a lot of respect for (Daniels), he’s had really good production in the way he plays the game, he’s very intense,’’ Patricia said noting his knowledge of the game.

Patricia said he met with Daniels on Thursday. 

“He’s very aware of the division which is nice,’’ Patricia said.

Daniels joins Damon “Snacks” Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara on the defensive line. 

The Green Bay Packers released the 30-year-old Daniels just before the start of camp.

The seven-year veteran signed a one-year deal worth $9.1 according to several reports. He was set to make $8.1 million in Green Bay this season.

Daniels, a Pro Bowler in 2017, had 29 sacks in his seven years with the Packers. He was a fourth-round draft pick in 2012. 

Patricia would not get into details of why they cut Riddick who was scheduled to make $3.2 million this season.

“Theo is obviously a great professional, did a lot of great things for us,’’ Patricia said.

Riddick spent the last six seasons with the Lions. Last season in 14 games he had 40 carries for 171 yards and 61 catches for 384 yards.

The Lions added veteran running back C.J. Anderson in the offseason and have depth at the position with Kerryon Johnson, Zack Zenner and rookie Ty Johnson.

Detroit Lions’ C.J. Anderson describes his run game as ‘just nasty’

ALLEN PARK – Running back C.J. Anderson has three words to describe his style: “It’s just nasty.”

OK, then. The seven-year NFL veteran expects to bring some of that nastiness to the Detroit Lions offense.

“It’s just downhill, there’s nothing special about it if it’s 4 it’s 4. If it’s 6 it’s 6, if is’t 46 it’s 46. It is what it is,’’ Anderson said on Friday, the second day of training camp.

He’s averaged 4.5 yards per carry in his first six seasons in the league — the first five with the Denver Broncos and then in 2018 he played nine games for the Florida Panthers and two for the Los Angeles Rams.

He credits his respect for coach Matt Patricia as the reason he signed with the Lions.

“Me and him had a lot of battles (when I was) in Denver in his New England days,’’ Anderson said. “I respect what he’s trying to get done over here, I see what he’s trying to get done over here. He respects me as a player and he asked if I could help him accomplish that and I said. “Why not?’’’

Anderson owns one Super Bowl ring and came up on the short end in two other Super Bowls.

That experience is a part of what he brings to Detroit.

“aCome out here and work every day, we put our heads down, try to eliminate bad football, understand situational football,’’ Anderson said. “That’s the difference between really good teams and really bad teams — understanding those little situations, getting off the field on third down on defense, keeping drives alive on third down for us. Some of those things are being talked about, I can’t speak what was talked about (last year) I wasn’t here. I just know the past two successful teams I’ve been on — two losses, one (Super Bowl) win —  those are some of the things we did.’’

He said it’s about attitude and leadership.

“I pride myself on preparation. I’ve been raised in this league by the more better, correct vets, I guess you could say,’’ Anderson said. “Just trying to bring that knowledge of football to the team.’’

It’s early but he’s quite impressed by running back Kerryon Johnson who is heading into his second season.

“Kerryon is a good man, he’s going to be fun,’’ Anderson said. “I had a young guy last year, C- Mac (Christian McCaffrey), just trying to give him everything I can. I’m here to help whether that’s on the field or whether that’s off the field or in the meeting rooms. I’m here to help hopefully push his career beyond mine or up to mine — Year 7 or past Year 7. That’s my goal with the young guys.’’

Without pads in the first two days of training camp, it’s impossible to judge Anderson’s game. He does seem to be alongside Kerryon Johnson for much of the workouts.

 

 

Detroit Lions camp: Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson impressive early

ALLEN PARK — Tight end T.J. Hockenson’s catches deep in the corner of the end zone have been among the highlights during the first two days of Detroit Lions training camp.

Even his teammates appreciate it — hooting and hollering for the rookie each time he brings in a ball thrown by Matthew Stafford.

The first-round pick takes his early stand-out plays in stride.

“We’re all just trying to have fun out here. I’m just trying to have fun playing the game I love, being able to do it with these guys means a lot,’’ Hockenson said. “This group of veterans has taken you in really well, they’ve accepted me as part of this team and I’m super excited to get started.’’

If the first two days of camp are any indication, this could be a very tight-end friendly offense under new coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Hockenson doesn’t put more pressure on himself because he’s a first-round pick. Like each and every one of the Lions he repeats the mantra that he just wants to get better every day.

“He knows that he has a lot to earn and he’s got a long way to go, but he is a hard worker. He loves the game. The guy’s got a great attitude, the guy just loves the grind and the passion of the game,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “So, you take it, you work with it, you go forward, and he’s got a skill set that hopefully we got to see out on the field. He’s got to go out there and do it consistently and do it every single day.”

Hockenson, who is 6-foot-5, is one six tight ends on the camp roster. All of them are new to the Lions this season, although Logan Thomas (6-foot-6) and Jesse James (6-foot-7) bring years of NFL experience. 

“It’s competition in camp, we have such a great tight end room. Logan and everyone in that group has been great, they’ve accepted us they’ve done everything that I can ask,’’ Hockenson said. “They’ve taught us things that a rookie wouldn’t normally see. It’s nice to be with that group of guys.’’

Hockenson repeatedly mentioned how the intelligence level is so much higher than it was in college (Iowa).

“The defense can see a formation one time and know the play. You have to be smarter than the 10-year vet that is in front of you,’’ Hockenson said. “Being a rookie you have to come in and study and work at it, that’s what we’re all trying to do, that’s what I’m trying to do.’’

Tight end is traditionally one of the hardest positions to learn as a rookie requiring that they know how to catch and also block for the run game. Hockenson said it’s all a challenge.

“It’s the next level. Everything is faster, everything is more dynamic, everyone is smarter, it’s different,’’ Hockenson said. “I’m coming to work every day trying to take that next step and get better every single day.’’

Detroit Lions training camp: Danny Amendola out to develop his role

ALLEN PARK — Danny Amendola’s challenge is finding where he best fits in the Detroit Lions’ new-look offense.

“I’m trying to develop a role on this team and I’m trying to expand that role as much as I can, do whatever I can to help the team win in whatever capacity that is. That’s why I’m here,’’ the 33-year-old said on Thursday.

Amendola  played in 15 games for the Miami Dolphins last season with 59 receptions and a touchdown. The previous five seasons he spent with the New England Patriots where he got to know Matt Patricia who was the defensive coordinator.

“He’s tough man, he demands a lot, he expects a lot, he has high expectations. I knew that coming here that’s why I wanted to come here, he’s a great coach,’’ Amendola said. 

Patricia obviously thinks highly of him too.

“I think just in general you’ve got to love Danny Amendola, you’ve got to love everything he brings every single day,’’ Patricia said on Friday. “He’s probably one of the most intense people you’re going to talk to. When you’re passionate about the game of football like we all are and like he is passion breeds passion … 

“He’s like everybody else he’s got a lot of work to do to improve. But as far as a person he’s a football guy, he loves the game, he loves being around the guys, loves every aspect of it. All of that energy is contagious and that’s great to be around all the time,’’ the coach said.

The veteran wide receiver — he is 33 —  been working overtime with Matthew Stafford to develop a rapport.

“Anytime we’re able to get together we try to get as many reps as we can is possible. We’re out here right now trying to steal as many reps, before practice, after practice, in the weight room,’’ he said. “We’re always talking about ideas, trying to get better.’’

Amendola, who wears No. 80, was among those returning punts in training camp on Thursday.

During the spring Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were sidelined with injuries which gave Amendola more reps with Stafford.

“It’s great to have them back they’re two explosive players and I’m happy to be playing with them,’’ Amendola said. “I’m excited to be it he huddle with them.’’

He’s not the only veteran wide receiver signed as a free agent. Jermaine Kearse has also been added to the roster.

Amendola also has the utmost respect for Stafford.

“Exceptional. He’s up there with the best I’ve been with,’’ Amendola said. “Extremely cerebral player, he can anticipate and he’s been doing it for a long time at an extremely high level so I’m excited to be here with him.’’

Lions Darius Slay watches 1st day of training camp from sidelines

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay didn’t want to talk about his hold-out during the offseason program.

No matter from which angle the question was asked on Thursday, “next question” was his reply.

The Detroit Lions Pro Bowl cornerback did report to training camp on Wednesday, but was placed on the non-football injury list along with Damon “Snacks” Harrison, another veteran hold-out. Neither participated in the first day of camp on Thursday.

Coach Matt Patricia said it was just a matter of conditioning after being away from football for so long.

Slay has two years remaining on his contract which will pay him $12 million this year and $10 million in 2020.

One exchange went like this:

Reporter: Are you content with your current deal?

Slay: What do you think?

Reporter: I’ve been pretty vocal saying I think you’re underpaid but my opinion doesn’t …

Slay: Everybody in the world knows.

While he hasn’t been at the practice facility he has not lost touch with his teammates.

“It was cool, I was here in Detroit. Guys came over the house, hung out, chilled, cooked them crab legs,’’ Slay said. “It’s a business so it’s all good.

No matter his contract situation he said they’re his guys, his brothers.

“Everybody knows it’s a business,’’ said Slay who is entering his seventh season.

He said he’s happy the Lions signed a few veteran cornerbacks like Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin and Marcus Cooper.

“Oh, they’re great guys. It’s a little less pressure on my shoulders. This is really my first year stepping into the role of a leader, leader, leader with GQ (Glover Quin) not being here (which I miss so much, it’s hard to walk on the field without my dog). He’s chilling. Other than that it’s been good,’’ Slay said.

He said that the contract situation will not affect his play on the field.

“I’m going to do out there to dominate,’’ Slay said. “So I play for the name on the back of my jersey and this organization and my teammates. So ain’t going to never stop me from what I’m doing on the field.’’

He has set goals for himself but said he’s not worried about interceptions. He had three last season after pulling in eight to lead the league in 2018.

“That will come, I’m not stressing on that …’’ Slay said.

Instead he wants to step up his leadership since Quin has retired.

“Be a better leader, be more vocal with the guys, just helping these guys be better than I am that’s my goal,’’ Slay said. “Try to get these guys Teez (Tabor), (Jamal) Agnew, the young corners that just came in I want them to be a lot better than what I did. That’s my goal.’’

 

 

Lions’ D coordinator in search of unicorn

ALLEN PARK — When Detroit Lions training camp opens Thursday morning, Paul Pasqualoni will continue his search for a unicorn.

Say what?

In discussing the challenges of creating an effective defense against quality tight ends, the Lions defensive coordinator mentioned he’s looking for a multi-dimensional defenseman or a unicorn.

“You are trying to disguise it and you are also trying to come up with this guy on your defense who is almost like a Unicorn defined, who can be a good run defender but at the same time go over and matchup with one for these (tight ends),’’ Pasqualoni said on Wednesday. “It becomes hard to find that guy and then it becomes hard to disguise those looks because eventually you have to declare what you are doing. You’re right. It just makes it hard on the game plan.’’

In training camp he’ll set out to define the skill set of each player. Many of them he’s familiar with from last season.

“So, you’re looking for that guy who can be tough as hell, support the run, have linebacker qualities, and at the same time is athletic and fast enough where he can cover either a wide receiver or one of these crafty tight ends that we’re putting up with more or more this day and age,’’ Pasqualoni said.

Now going all the way back — 20 years ago or however long ago that was — coaches, general managers, personnel people in the NFL were looking for that guy,’’ Pasqualoni said. “Long way of telling you, we’re going to work our way through preseason camp and try to find out who those people are.’’

He wouldn’t name names but says he likes his safeties. Quandre Diggs or Tracy Walker could be the unicorn he is seeking.

“We’ve added a few guys. So, again now, we’re just starting preseason camp. I think we’re in a good position, everybody’s in a good position,” Pasqualoni said. “We had a good offseason program. We put ourselves in position to have a good day one, that’s where we are, we take it one day at a time. I don’t look beyond that because it’s just too much to look beyond that.’’