Five things to watch in Detroit Lions’ preseason game at Buffalo

Quarterback Jake Rudock should see extensive time

The Lions have tough decisions to make on Saturday to whittle the roster down to 53 men. Many of the roster spots are inked in while a few others could depend on how certain players perform in Thursday night’s preseason game at the Buffalo Bills.

In the final preseason game a year ago, defensive end Kerry Hyder earned a roster spot with three sacks in the 31-0 win over the Bills at Ford Field.

“There are a lot of guys that have made tremendous strides and really play well in that last game that make your team. Kerry Hyder was one them in his year that he came out and did some great things for us, but that fourth game, there’s a number of guys that you can point to,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said this week. “So, I think it’s important that the more guys that we have to look at and still evaluate, the better the competition, and that being the case, it makes it better for the coaches and the staff as well.’’

Unfortunately, Hyder tore his Achilles in the first preseason game this year and is out for the season.

Don’t expect most starters to get playing time.

Here are five things to watch:

1. Quarterback Jake Rudock is expected to start and play most of the game. Rudock had a good game last week against the Patriots (10-13, 113 yards, 1 touchdown) and would like to keep it going. “Every game is a new game, that’s the first thing. I want to get a first down and then another. You get enough of those eventually you’re in the end zone,’’ Rudock said. “It’s about doing that, hopefully finishing in the red zone, you always to come away with points.’’ Rudock isn’t fighting for a job. He is clearly the No. 2 quarterback. Brad Kaaya could see some mop-up time in the second half. The rookie is not even close to battling Rudock for the No. 2 spot.

2. It could be a good game to get another look at running backs not named Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Those two should be on the sidelines covered in bubble wrap. You could see more of Dwayne Washington, Matt Asiata, Tion Green and maybe Zach Zenner. Although wouldn’t be shocked if Zenner doesn’t play much. He’s a lock to make the roster.

3. Last year Caldwell only kept four wide receivers on the 53-man roster. He could still have decisions to make there if he keeps four or five. Again, Golden Tate and Marvin Jones are unlikely to see action. Maybe Kenny Golladay too. Without question those three are on the roster. Jace Billingsley, Jared Abbrederis and TJ Jones could get plenty of playing time against the Bills’ defense.

4. Eric Ebron did not play in the first three games due to injury but has practiced this week. He could get in there to knock off a little rust. Still decisions to be made at tight end. Darren Fells is a keeper. Not sure about Cole Wick, rookie Michael Roberts and Khari Lee. Roberts could be a practice squad candidate.

5. The defensive line is still Question Mark City. GM Bob Quinn expects Ziggy Ansah to be ready for Week One, but he’s not expected to suit up on Thursday. Look for more playing time for rookie defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter and tackle Derrick Lott who was signed this week. At end keep an eye on three rookies — Alex Barrett, Pat O’Connor and Jeremiah Valoaga.

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Five things to know about Matthew Stafford’s extension with Detroit Lions

No one expects Stafford to change after inking new deal

ALLEN PARK >> The Detroit Lions have been accused of many things over the decades. Being cheap is usually on the list, even if it’s not accurate.

Well they opened the vault on Monday making quarterback Matthew Stafford the highest paid NFL player with a five-year, $135 million contract extension.

It seemed like a no-brainer. Stafford has been good for the Lions and they respect the 29-year-old quarterback.

They don’t expect anything to change now that he’ll have more money in the bank.

That’s how Stafford sees it too. He said he didn’t feel different on Tuesday.

“I work extremely hard no matter what my salary is for the year or anything like that. It’s just part of what comes with the position of playing quarterback in this league and playing it at a high level, and that’s what I strive to do,’’ Stafford said. “And I don’t do that for anything other than the guys in the locker room, the coaching staff that puts in all the hard work to get us ready to play, and my teammates. Obviously, couldn’t have gotten to this point without a lot of help from all those guys.”

At a press conference at the Lions facility on Tuesday, vice president and general manager Bob Quinn, coach Jim Caldwell and Stafford spoke about the contract and its consequences.

Five of the highlights:

1. Detroit is where Stafford wants to finish his NFL career. The extension will get him almost home. He’s signed through 2022 when he’ll be 35.  “I’ve loved playing here. I’m going to continue to love playing here. Obviously, a great ownership group. I love playing for the Fords. Mrs. Ford reached out to me today. I had a great conversation with her. Her family is always around and great. So, that makes it a lot of fun for me,’’ Stafford said. “And then, the guys in the locker room. Teammates, coaches, front office guys were all involved, were all in this. And I consider myself lucky to be a part of it, and just happy that I can continue here for another six years at least.”

2. The two sides first met in February so this was about a seven-month project. It’s not like they had a major issue on one part of the contract. “I think I told Matt I wanted to get it done the first time we talked about it, but I knew it takes time, so. Not one thing in particular, just a lot of back and forth,’’ Quinn said. “It’s a lot of conversation, it’s a lot of emails, it’s a lot of text messages, it’s a lot of work. So, not one thing in particular.” Quinn would not get into specifics about the negotiations. “I’m not going to get into what the gaps were. All I know is what we came to, was a fair deal on both sides. We made some concessions, they made some concessions, and we’re at where we’re at today,’’ Quinn said.

3. During the spring and training camp, Stafford was mostly mum about the negotiations, answering politely when he was asked. He put everything in the hands of his agent Tom Condon. Even last week he wouldn’t say if they would continue talks if a deal wasn’t done before the start of the season. Well, turns out it was important to get it done prior to next week. “It wasn’t something that all along I knew was going to be the case, but as it got into training camp a little bit I realized that I think we have an extremely talented team, and for us to be worrying about, or anybody, even myself, about my contract situation or what it was going to be, was going to be a disservice to the organization, to our team, to the players in the locker room,’’ Stafford said. “So, I wanted to get this thing done and kind of realized that during training camp. And like Bob (Quinn) said, without Mrs. Ford, Bob’s hard work, Matt Harriss, Rod Wood, Coach (Caldwell), everybody involved it took everybody to get it done in the time frame it did, including Tom Condon and my guys at CAA.”

4. Jim Caldwell has been a big Matthew Stafford fan since they first met. The day Caldwell was hired he was asked if he could fix Stafford and he snapped back, “He’s not broken.” Stafford has done nothing to change the coach’s opinion. Caldwell expects Stafford won’t change even though he’s the highest paid player in the NFL.  “It’s not like he hasn’t had any money in his pocket. But you know, the guys that we’ve had an opportunity to be around that have his kind of talent and focus, they don’t change much. They don’t deviate from their norm,’’ said Caldwell who worked for years with Peyton Manning.

5. When Quinn was hired 20 months ago he did not know Stafford at all. So at his introductory presser he wasn’t quite sure if Stafford was the franchise’s future. He didn’t want to commit before he got to know him. What I found, when you’re on a different team and you don’t really know someone personally, you don’t deal with them on a day-by-day basis, you don’t go on the practice field with them, you don’t see them in pregame warm-ups, you don’t see them interact with your teammates,’’ Quinn said. “If you don’t see that every day, it’s hard to really get a real strong feel on the player. I mean, I could watch tape until I’m blue in the face on Matthew when I was in Foxborough, but to see him work, to see him lead, to see him practice, to see the time that he puts in preparing for each week and each season, that’s the big thing for me.”

BONUS. Stafford had nice things to say about Detroit. “I’ve made Detroit my home. And obviously I have a family now (his wife Kelly and twin daughters attended the press conference). You can hear them in the background cheering for me, I guess. But no I’ve really enjoyed it,” Stafford said. “I’ve learned to embrace everything good, bad about the city. I think that’s what’s great about the people of Detroit. It’s not always perfect but the fabric of this city is amazing and it’s a really tight knit community. So, I’ve enjoyed my time. I know I’m going to enjoy the next six years and hopefully more after that. Being a part of not only this organization, but this city and this state.”

Lions react to Matthew Stafford’s $135 million contract extension

Teammates congratulated the QB who didn’t have much to say

ALLEN PARK >> Tuesday was just another work day for Matthew Stafford after he signed a five-year, $135 million contract extension with the Detroit Lions on Monday night.

“Honestly I feel like everyone around us talked about it more than he did. I don’t think he said a single word about his contract,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said. “You would expect that from Matt anyway. Everyone in here was congratulating him, I know we’ve all been talking about it all day. We’re excited.

“I think this is a huge signing for this organization. I think Matt has proved he’s a top-tier quarterback, he’s an elite quarterback, he’s tough as nails. That’s what you want. This is a great signing,’’ Tate added.

The deal makes Stafford the NFL’s highest paid player in history.

Tate, who is entering his fourth season with the Lions, said Stafford played a role in his decision to originally sign with Detroit.

“I know in my decision three or four years ago, it played a huge part to have a quarterback. I’ve seen great receivers start off with a great quarterback, I’ve seen OK receivers with a great quarterback and they looked really good and I’ve seen really good receivers that go somewhere without a quarterback and they just disappear,’’ Tate said.

He thinks having Stafford will have an impact on drawing free agent receivers, but he’s happy with who they have on the roster now.

Plus, he’s thrilled to be on the same team with the highest paid player in the NFL.

“I’m really happy, I have two years left on my contract and I’m very confident I’m going to have a really good quarterback throwing to me. Honestly I’d like to be here for the remainder of my career and help this organization do great things,’’ Tate said.

Backup quarterback Jake Rudock said he saw no difference in Stafford on Tuesday morning.

“Same dude, came in and we did our workout together,’’ Rudock said.

“It’s awesome, I saw it this morning, I thought great for him. He deserves it, he works so hard . he does so much more that you guys never see and never hear about. He works his tail off,’’ Rudock said. “I’m really happy for him.’’

 

Why Lions’ extension with Matthew Stafford was the right move

When you have a franchise QB, you keep him

Matthew Stafford’s five-year $135 million contract extension with the Lions just makes sense. The team announced the extension on Monday night reporting that he’s signed through 2022.

Look, if you’re an NFL owner and you’ve got a good, young quarterback who is still trending up, you make sure you keep him in town. Kudos to Martha Firestone Ford and to GM Bob Quinn for getting the deal done.

An NFL team without a good quarterback is nothing.

A team with a franchise quarterback at least has a fighting chance.

Stafford is just 29 years old and has eight years of NFL experience. His teammates say he’s more vocal and has improved his leadership even more since the start of training camp.

He is widely respected in the locker room from players on both sides of the ball. He’s dedicated and committed to winning.

Stafford possesses a good combination of traits for a quarterback — a rocket for an arm, he thrives on pressure, has a high football I.Q. and he is not afraid of hard work.

He’s led the team to the playoffs in two of the past three seasons. He has yet to win a playoff game, but that is not all on him. A run game and a consistent defense would help the cause.

Stafford has found ways to give back to the community even though he’s not too vocal about it.

He may be from Dallas, but he is a good fit in Detroit.

Lions, Matthew Stafford agree to 5-year extension worth $135 million

Deal expected to make him highest paid NFL player

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has agreed to a five-year extension that is expected to make him the highest paid player in NFL history. The Lions made the announcement on Monday night that he is signed through the 2022 season.

Multiple reports have the deal valued at $27 million per year or $135 million for five years. It includes a $50 million signing bonus and $92 million guaranteed, both NFL highs, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

(Photo of Stafford reading to his twin daughters was posted on his wife Kelly’s Instagram account on Monday.)

Stafford, 29, had one year remaining on his contract. The two sides have been talking for months to get a deal done.

The quarterback, entering his ninth season, has not had much to say about the negotiations, leaving everything up to his agent and the team.

He has led the Lions to the playoffs in two of the last three seasons, but has yet to win a postseason game.

The quarterback has led 28 game-winning drives in his career when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter or overtime. He had eight of those drives in the 2016 season.

Lions wide receiver Golden Tate posted congratulations on his Instagram account: “Congrats my friend, you deserve every blessing that’s coming your way! No one deserves this more than you. The attitude and dedication you bring every day is contagious …”

Lions punter Sam Martin tweeted his thoughts: “So happy for my dude! Congrats niner!”

Dan Orlovsky, who was Stafford’s backup for three years, posted on Twitter: “I was there for all these, and I still LOVE watching this dude ball. I watched this dude work, and prepare, and grind, and play through. For him it represents so much more than a $ amount. It’s a professional pride he has that’s unmatched. Congrats 9”

Stafford was the first overall pick in the 2009 draft. He surpassed 30,000 passing yards in the fewest games (109) ever by a quarterback in NFL history. He broke the previous record of 114 games set by Dan Marino and Kurt Warner.

With 30,303 passing yards, he joined Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to hit the 30,000-yard mark in their first eight seasons.

Currently the NFL’s highest paid player is Derek Carr, the Raiders’ quarterback, who makes $25 million a year.

 

 

Glover Quin’s heart is in Houston with his wife and three sons

‘I’ve never heard animals cry like that.’

ALLEN PARK >> Glover Quin was at the Lions practice facility Sunday, but his heart was in Houston.

Quin’s wife Gladys and their three sons are riding out Tropical Storm Harvey, the floods and tornadoes at their home in the Houston suburb of Richmond.

They are safe for now.

“Our house, we’re located kind of up a little bit. Our house is out of the floodplain but the streets we travel on are not,’’ ‘Quin said. “She’s probably trapped in the house a few days before I go down, the streets are flooded but at least they’re safe in the house.’’

Gladys went out in the backyard to take pictures of all the water in a field and wooded area behind the house — home to cows, farm animals and plenty of wildlife including deer and coyotes.

“She said she was hearing stuff and didn’t know what it was. Then she paid more attention and said, ‘I’ve never heard animals cry like that.’ It’s tough,’’ Quin said.

He has been on the phone with her day and night to help keep her calm. At this point it’s his only option.

“She’s a little overwhelmed. You’ve got everybody seeing it on TV, they’re blowing up my phone, they’re telling her to leave. You’re trying to stay calm through all that. You’re watching the news and seeing the city flooded and places that you’ve been and areas you know and go, ‘Oh wow that water is really high’ because you can recognize the area and the spot. … It’s sad.’’

It’s difficult for the veteran safety to maintain his focus on football.

“It’s tough, it’s tough because, at least for me, I want to be there, helping keeping calm, all those things. All I can do is sit here and keep her calm and explain things,’’ Quin said.

“I grew up in Mississippi so I’ve dealt with hurricanes and water. I try to keep her calm and keep letting her know the game plan. There’s been some long nights, staying up, making sure that they’re good. She’s done a great job,” he added.

She’s from Albuquerque so the conditions are all new to her.

“I’ve been on the phone several times and all of a sudden the phone hangs up and I get a message, ‘We had to run to the shelter – tornado warning.’ Tornadoes popping up everywhere,’’ Quin said.

Gladys and the boys are more fortunate than many in the Houston area. Their power is on although it has blinked on and off. Quin hesitated when asked if she had enough food and water.

“When you get to this point you just start eating everything you can. Sometimes you survive off tortilla, chips, dry cereal whatever you have,’’ Quin said.

Quin already had booked a flight for Houston on Friday because the team has a few days off after the final preseason game on Thursday. If he can go earlier, he will. He said he’s had conversations with coach Jim Caldwell. As a starter, he’s unlikely to play in Thursday’s game anyways.

He’s just hoping  the airports will be open.

“If I get down there and can land, but the roads (are still flooded) or stuff, I’ll have to get a helicopter to drop me off in the backyard,’’ Quin said.

It’s easy to second-guess why many Texans didn’t evacuate. But for many — like Gladys — the timing didn’t make sense.

“At the time, due to the reporting, when it was the (best) possible time to evacuate it was too late as far as flights and trying to get to the airport and get out,’’ Quin said. “Then when you go to drive? Where do you drive to? Everybody’s driving to Dallas or Austin.  Do you go out on a limb?’’

He’s thankful the cell towers are holding up and that things are not worse for his family.

Still, it’s not an easy time for him.

“I’d go back right now if I could,’’ Quin said.

Lions: Jim Caldwell’s Sunday updates on Whitehead, Wick, D-line and more

Some good injury news, some bad

ALLEN PARK >> Coming off Friday night’s preseason loss to New England, the Lions didn’t practice on Sunday but instead had a walk-through.

They will get back to work at practice on Monday and Tuesday to prepare for Thursday night’s final preseason game at the Buffalo Bills.

Coach Jim Caldwell met with the media prior to the walk-through.

Six updates from Caldwell on Sunday:

— Linebacker Tahir Whitehead and tight end Cole Wick, who both left Friday’s game, will be “OK” according to Caldwell. Of course he offered no specifics.

—  The Lions lost another defensive lineman when Jordan Hill was injured on Friday and placed on injured reserve Sunday. “One of the things that everybody realizes is there are no guarantees in our game, you have to be able to adjust,’’ Caldwell said. “Sometimes those adjustments will stretch you to the limits. We do have guys who are available and will be ready to go. It’s kind of the nature of what we do. No one likes it but nevertheless we have to deal with it.’’

— The team signed defensive tackle Derrick Lott on Sunday. He spent the 2016 preseason with the Eagles and Raiders. Lott, who has not played in an NFL regular season game, was undrafted out of Chattanooga in 2015 and spent time on the practice squads with the Titans and the Tampa Bay Bucs.

— Rookie defensive tackle Jeremiah Ledbetter, a sixth-round pick, may be an option for the defensive line rotation, but he also could be a practice squad candidate. “Still growing, still developing, still making good progress. Getting a little better every day,’’ Caldwell said. “It’s a challenging spot when you have so much going on around you in terms of handling different schemes, and looks and body types you have to deal with. But we like what he’s doing at this point. I think he’ll be up for the challenge. He’s got the right kind of attitude and he’s got physical talent.’’ Ledbetter is 6-foot-3 and listed at 275 pounds, although Caldwell said he’s put on a little weight for them.

— The Lions still have one more preseason game to determine who will be the return guy to start the season. “We’ll get a chance to look at some guys in depth. We have some guys who have done some good things for us,’’ Caldwell said. In the first three preseason games, running back Dwayne Washington, wide receiver Keshawn Martin, cornerback Jamal Agnew, wide receiver TJ Jones and wide receiver Jace Billingsley have gotten good looks.

— Punter Sam Martin hasn’t practiced since the start of training camp due to an ankle injury. Caldwell would not say if Martin has been able to punt. Kasey Redfern has filled in admirably. “Kasey has done a very, very good job overall. He’s done a nice job holding and punting,’’ Caldwell said. If Martin is not ready to go for the opener there’s a chance they could keep two punters on the roster. The coach said nothing is off the table.