Five thoughts from Lions’ Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison on the tie with the Cardinals

ALLEN PARK — Not long after the game, when the wound was still fresh, Lions defensive lineman Damon “Snack” Harrison took the blame for the collapse and eventual tie with the Arizona Cardinals.

“I wasn’t my usual productive self,’’ Harrison said on Monday less than 24 hours after the game ended in Arizona.

The defensive line played well in the first three quarters, but they deserve part of the blame for the  fourth quarter defensive collapse 

“It was more to it than you guys know, I won’t get into it much, there’s a reason for it,’’ Harrison said. He wouldn’t be specific.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions (0-0-1) now have to recover and get ready for Sunday’s home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers (1-0).

Five things from Harrison on Monday:

1. It was a tie, the Lions are still undefeated but it feels exactly like a loss. “That’s exactly what it is, it’s a loss,’’ Harrison said. “You can’t look at it any other way we didn’t get a point in the win column so for us it’s a loss.’’

2. The difference in the fourth quarter was mental not physical. “Mental errors, that’s all it was. It wasn’t anything they were doing, it was all on us,’’ Harrison said.

3. He didn’t play much in the fourth quarter because he’s not a pass rusher and the Cardinals were down by so much they were in passing mode. “It wasn’t a situation when I was tired, I played 26 snaps,’’ Harrison said.

4. Moving forward it’s all about adjustments. “Just try to lock in, anything you did in that fourth quarter of that game where you could have done better,’’ Harrison said. “Those are the plays you focus on the most, not so much the positive plays, you learn from those as well. It was just mental mistakes that we did that we can’t have again.’’

5. Even though both sides of the ball had positives in the first three quarters on their way to a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead, that is in the past and nothing to boast about. “Not at all because we didn’t come out with a win, I don’t think anybody should be feeling good,’’ Harrison said.

Advertisements

Five things to know about Detroit Lions’ collapse, ending with a tie at Arizona

This was a game the Detroit Lions had to win to start the season. The Arizona Cardinals featured a rookie quarterback in Kyler Murray, were without their two starting cornerbacks and were playing first game under first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Instead the Lions blew a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead and ended up with a 27-27 tie against the lowly Cardinals.

Oh, there’s plenty of blame to go around, but the coaching staff deserves a huge portion of it. This is a game of adjustments and they did not make them in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Also, they have to trust quarterback Matthew Stafford who had a solid opener (27-45, 385 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and 22 yards rushing). 

With 2:47 left in the fourth quarter, the Lions had the game most likely won. But offensive coordinator Darell Bevell called a timeout on a third-and-5. Stafford didn’t hear him, so ran the play – a screen pass to J.D. McKissic along the sidelines. It was complete. The Lions just had to hold on — the Cardinals did not have a timeout left.

But the timeout call negated the completion and the next pass attempt to Kenny Golladay was incomplete. The Cardinals got the ball after the punt, went downfield with Murray scoring on a 4-yard touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald and completing the 2-point conversion to Christian Kirk to tie the game and send it to overtime.

Murray looked like a rookie in the first three quarters and like a savior in the fourth and overtime. That was in part due to adjustments from the Cardinals and the fact that the Lions’ defense disappeared after playing solid in the first three quarters.

Five things to know: 

1. Patricia and his staff failed to adequately prepare the players and make adjustments when necessary. The Lions had a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter, but everyone in Detroit knows that does not guarantee a win. That timeout is on his shoulders, as is the play of the defense in the fourth quarter and overtime.

2. Matthew Stafford was clearly angry after that bad timeout call. Can’t blame the guy. He appeared to be in midseason form. Starting his 11th season, he passed for 200 yards in the first half and 385 overall. The Lions are going to need more out of this new Bevell offense, but certainly saw a few good signs today. The run game needs work. Kerryon Johnson had 16 carries for 49 yards and C.J. Anderson had 11 for 35. OK, but not good enough for a Bevell offense which historically has leaned on the run. 

3. Two newcomers on offense were standouts. Neither really a surprise. Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson had six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown. The first one for 28 yards, another for 39 yards. Wide receiver Danny Amendola’s 47-yard touchdown catch was half a great play by Stafford who dodged a pair of rushers just to get the ball in the air AND a stutter step by Amendola after the catch to clear the path to the end zone. Amendola did make a mental mistake on a reception in overtime. After catching the ball instead of running out of bounds to stop the clock, he cut inward. He finished with seven receptions for 104 yards.

4. The offensive line was a bit of a question mark going in. Frank Ragnow, who was injured in the preseason, started at center. Joe Dahl got the start at left guard and Graham Glasgow at right guard, but Kenny Wiggins rotated in at those two positions throughout the game. Left tackle Taylor Decker certainly did not have his best day in fact he was awful. He had at least three penalties and allowed two sacks. 

5. The defense played well for three quarters but it wasn’t enough. They were back on their heels the fourth quarter and Murray took advantage. Devon Kennard was credited with three sacks, and rookie Jahlani Tavai, who started in place of the injured Jarrad Davis, notched his first sack and was effective when he was in the game. 

BONUS: It doesn’t get easier. The Lions host the Chargers (who beat the Colts in OT) next Sunday at Ford Field. Then they play at the Eagles on Sept. 22, then home to the Kansas City Chief on Sept. 29 and at Green Bay on Oct. 14 after a bye week.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

Detroit Lions 5 things: Matthew Stafford on the season opener, the new offense

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford will start his 11th season with the Detroit Lions on Sunday at the Arizona Cardinals.

He may be 31, but he exudes the excitement of a kid about getting the football season going. 

The quarterback said some days and some times it does feel like he’s been at it in the NFL for 11 years, but he’s not complaining. 

“A lot of memories, a lot of games played, a lot of snaps that I can remember. All of it’s good experience and use it to my advantage as much as I possibly can,’’ Stafford said after Tuesday’s practice. “Every year I’m extremely excited to get out there and go play. We work all year for 16 opportunities that are guaranteed to us to go out there and play, kicking the first one off is a whole lot of fun.’’

Other thoughts from Stafford on the season, his teammates and more:

1. The offensive system has changed with the hiring of coordinator Darrell Bevell, Stafford’s fourth offensive coordinator. “Obviously we’ve been working extremely hard, he’s trying to get to know our players and myself as much as he can, I’m trying to get to know him and his system as best I can and try to make that thing gel as quickly as possible,’’ Stafford said. “It’s always a work in progress, whether it’s Year 1, Day 1 or Year 10, it doesn’t matter. You’re always trying to be better, find ways to be better.’’

2. He has a whole new group of tight ends this season — T.J. Hockenson (6-foot-5), Jesse James (6-foot-7) and Logan Thomas (6-foot-6). The group is definitely an upgrade over last year. “A lot of versatility, I think all of the guys can do a little bit of everything which is fun to have as a quarterback,’’ Stafford said. “All of them are big physical guys, all of them move really well, catch the ball really well (and are solid in) the run game and passing game blocking wise.’’

3. Despite his earlier denials there are still questions about his back and his health. “I feel great, I feel good,’’ Stafford said.

4. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, who entered the NFL two years after Stafford, recently announced his retirement due to fatigue from rehabbing from injuries. “It doesn’t change my thought process, I think everybody is in their own different situation. Everybody is their own human being,’’ Stafford said. “I respect the hell out of Andrew. He’s a great player in this league, a warrior out on the football field, a great player when he was healthy and rolling. I’m happy for him if he’s happy. If that’s what makes him happy I’m really happy for him and I wish him the best.’’

5. After 10 seasons, are there still surprises? Yes. “These guys are getting younger every year in this locker room what they do on and off the field surprises me sometimes, I enjoy it man, it’s a really fun part of being around for as long as I’ve been around,’’ Stafford said.

Detroit Lions coordinator Paul Pasqualoni: Defense more comfortable, but Cardinals will provide challenges

ALLEN PARK — What a difference a year can make. When the Lions open the season at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Detroit’s defense has a built-in advantage due to experience.

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni enters his second year with the group that has added a few new pieces since last season.

“I think we’re much more comfortable, all of the players who’ve returned, fortunately we’ve got quite a few guys who returned. I think we’re much more familiar with the system is, fitting pieces, trying to get the right guys on the bus and getting them in the right seat, so to speak,’’ Pasqualoni said on Monday. “I think that’s a process, that’s a work that you keep trying to get better at.’’

He does admit that the defense has a disadvantage because so many players have been injured.

“From a defensive standpoint we need to play together, we’ve had so many injuries and nicks and bumps we haven’t really had an opportunity to put the whole unit together and get them out there for an extended period of time,’’ Pasqualoni said. “That will be a work in progress this week and the first weeks of the season.’’

Early in the season, it’s difficult to know what to expect from any NFL team because they just don’t show much in preseason games. That will be amplified against the Cardinals who have a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, a first-time NFL head coach, and in rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.

Pasqualoni expects a wide-open, spread offense, run mostly out of the shotgun, with 3-5 receivers on the field each snap. Oh, and no-huddle too. 

“It stretches you this way (holds his arms out wide) horizontally, and they stretch you vertically based on the speed of what they have in Kyler Murray’s ability to throw the ball, he can throw the ball deep,’’ Pasqualoni said.

Plus they have Arizona running back David Johnson to keep under control.

“You put too many resources into the pass and the run hurts you, you put too many resources into the run and the pass hurts you,” Pasqualoni said. “That’s the whole idea of this, this offense is really an explosive deal when you’ve got real speed at the wide receiver position, they’ve got a Hall of Fame receiver in Larry Fitzgerald who is going to really present issues in this offense too. It presents a lot of problems.”

The Lions’ defense took a while to get going last season. They lost 48-17 in their opener at home to the New York Jets.

But once they got going and added James “Snacks” Harrison on the defensive line, they improved steadily.

Now they’ve added veterans Mike Daniels and Tre Flowers to the defensive line along with a few other key pieces.

If middle linebacker Jarrad Davis doesn’t play (he’s not expected to be ready), rookie Jahlani Tavai could be running the defense. Pasqualoni wouldn’t say much about Tavai because he doesn’t want to put more pressure on him.  But if the second-round pick starts, that says the coaching staff believes in him.

The defense is a work in progress. It’s flexibility will definitely be tested in the opening week.

 

 

Detroit Lions trim roster to 53 with few surprises; more changes likely

The Detroit Lions established their 53-man roster on Saturday when they released 25 players including cornerback Teez Tabor, wide receiver Brandon Powell, safety Charles Washington and quarterback Tom Savage.

This roster is fluid and it’s likely GM Bob Quinn will make changes in the next few days as other NFL teams make cuts.

At this point:

Quarterbacks (3) — Matthew Stafford, Josh Johnson and David Blough.

Tom Savage was cut along with David Perez who could find a spot on the practice squad. Johnson just joined the Lions but is an NFL veteran who has played in 33 NFL games, including four starts with the Redskins last year. Blough was acquired in a trade on Friday.

Running backs (4) — Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Ty Johnson and FB Nick Bawden.

The biggest surprise was the release of Zach Zenner earlier in the week. Zenner was a staple on special teams. It was clear that they like what they’ve seen from the rookie Johnson, a sixth-round draft pick.

Wide receivers (5) — Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy and Travis Fulgham.

Brandon Powell, who played in six games for the Lions in 2018, was cut in the tight competition for the fourth and fifth spots. Lacy’s special teams play gave him an edge, same with Travis Fulgham who was a sixth-round draft pick.

Tight ends (3) — T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James and Logan Thomas.

Expect much more from this position this season with an all-new crew. Hockenson was a standout in training camp and can learn from the veterans. Nauta, a seventh-round pick could return on the practice squad.

Offensive line (9) — Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, Rick Wagner, Joe Dahl, Kenny Wiggins, Oday Aboushi, Beau Benzschawel and Tyrell Crosby. 

Benzschawel’s versatility helped his cause. The undrafted rookie lineman can play guard and center. It’s unclear if Ragnow, who has moved to center, will be healthy to play in the opener at the Arizona Cardinals. If he goes, look for Glasgow and Dahl to start at the guard positions.

Defensive line (8) — Trey Flowers, Damon Harrison Sr., Mike Daniels, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara, Kevin Strong and Austin Bryant.

No real surprises here. Bryant was injured early in camp, but he apparently is getting close to a return. Strong is another undrafted rookie free agent. P.J. Johnson, a seventh-round pick could be a practice squad candidate.

Linebackers (6) — Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Christian Jones, Jahlani Tavai, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Miles Killebrew.

No surprises here either. Anthony Pittman (Birmingham Groves, Wayne State) was cut but could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Defensive backs (12) — Darius Slay, Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin, Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Will Harris, Amani Oruwariye, Tavon Wilson, Jamal Agnew, Mike Ford, Dee Virgin and C.J. Moore.

Teez Tabor, the 2017 second-round pick, was released. He was sidelined the past three weeks with a leg injury. Tabor was drafted despite his lack of speed and could never make up for it. Another cut, Charles Washington, was a factor on special teams and a great guy in the locker room, but couldn’t carve out a role on defense.

Special teams (3) — Kicker: Matt Prater;  Punter: Sam Martin; Long snapper: Don Muhlbach

Released on Saturday:

CB Johnathan Alston

DT John Atkins

LB Malik Carney

TE Jerome Cunningham

T Andrew Donnal

LB Garret Dooley

WR Jonathan Duhart

DT P.J. Johnson

DT Fredrick Jones

WR Tom Kennedy

C Leo Koloamatangi

LB Steven Longa

TE Isaac Nauta

T Matt Nelson

QB Luis Perez

LB Anthony Pittman

WR Brandon Powell

QB Tom Savage

DT Ray Smith

RB Justin Stockton

CB Teez Tabor

RB Mark Thompson

TE Austin Traylor

S Charles Washington

DE Jonathan Wynn

Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, Frank Ragnow injuries not season-ending

Jarrad Davis and Frank Ragnow did not suffer season-ending injuries in the Detroit Lions’ preseason loss to the Bills on Friday night.

Lions coach Matt Patricia gave the update during a conference call on Saturday afternoon. 

He said neither one will play in the final preseason game at Cleveland on Thursday, but wouldn’t put a timetable on their returns. He also said neither one is in the category to be placed on injured reserve to return.

“The one great thing about these two guys is they have tremendous work ethic, we know they’re going to be working as hard as they can to get back as soon as possible,’’ Patricia said.

Patricia offered no specifics on the injuries.

Davis, the starting middle linebacker, was injured on the second snap of the game. And eventually carted off to the locker room from the sidelines. 

“Obviously J.D. does a tremendous job inside the building, outside the building, he just loves football. It’s 24/7 with him. He loves to study it, he loves to learn,’’ Patricia said. 

Ragnow, the starting center, went down about midway through the second quarter. He was helped off the field and it appeared he could not put weight on his right leg.

The first-round pick in 2018 started at left guard last season but moved to center during the offseason. 

UPDATED: Lions Jarrad Davis, Frank Ragnow injured in preseason loss to Bills

DETROIT — Nothing mattered when the game was over except that the Detroit Lions could have lost two starters for the season.

The Bills won 24-20 on Friday night at Ford Field, but that was almost inconsequential. 

Starting middle linebacker Jarrad Davis went down on the second snap of the game. It appears to be a right ankle injury. He was helped to the sideline and then carted off to the locker room. Never a good sign.

Davis had worked hard in the offseason to add 15 pounds of muscle to his frame. It appeared he was headed for a breakout season in his third year. 

Ragnow, a first-round pick in 2018 who moved to center in the offseason, went down midway through the second quarter. Medical personnel helped him off the field. He could not put weight on his right leg. No stopping at the bench, they helped him to the locker room immediately.

“We lost a couple guys early in the game, we have to grind through this here and through tomorrow and find out what’s going on,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “With J.D. and Frank there’s nothing really to report right now, we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow and go through the normal procedures the day after the game to see what that looks like and go from there.’’

He offered no specifics on the injuries.

Rookie Jahlani Tavai would be the likely replacement for Davis if he’s out. After Davis went down it was Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin lining up in the 3-4.

On the offensive line, Graham Glasgow moved back to center after Ragnow went out. Glasgow started Friday night at right guard, but was at center last season. Joe Dahl started at left guard. Kenny Wiggins, who started 10 games at right guard in 2018, could be the top option at right guard. 

“We’ve got to keep pushing forward as far as getting ready to go for us the big thing is we have to compete, the competition is still wide open and we’ve got to go out and guys have to make the most of their opportunities and we’ve got to continue to get better,’’ Patricia said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions) 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford saw his first preseason action, playing into the second quarter. 

“It was good, had some fun, I love playing. I don’t care what the situation is. We practice hard, I want to go out there and play,’’ Stafford said. “It was good to go out there and operate. Some things to clean up on tape, some really good things we did but some things we have to clean up for sure and we’ll make sure we do that.’’

He was 12-of-19 for 137 yards and one touchdown. He appeared to escaped unscathed.

“It’s tough to judge where (the offense) is, where it’s going to be. I just know we’re always trying to be better,’’ Stafford said. “I think we made some explosive plays which was good. A few too many mistakes — stalled out in the red zone twice. One to Marv (Jones) I’d like back, just didn’t see it clear enough and obviously the fourth down we went for and didn’t get it. Those are two that you’d like to have back, but I was proud of the way the guys fought, our tempo was great, thought we ran the ball pretty efficiently, struggled a little early on, but did a nice job on the pass game and made some plays.’’

Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, a first-round pick, was targeted four times and came down with three catches for 52 yards, including a 32-yard gain. He and Stafford have connected well throughout training camp.

“It’s a lot of what you’ve seen in practice,’’ Stafford said.