Lions WR Marvin Jones on returning to Cincy, hitting 1,000 yards and the catch

Jones is close to reaching 1,000-yard mark for first time

ALLEN PARK — Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones spent the first four seasons of his NFL career playing for the Bengals. So it will be a homecoming of sort when the Lions play at Cincinnati on Sunday.

He downplayed the significance.

“I’m just going to see a couple friends I have there, but other than that there’s no significance,’’ Jones said. “Not nostalgic or anything, it will be cool to go there and just play.’’

Jones is just 30 yards shy of his first 1,000 receiving yards season. Since he averages 69.2 receiving yards per game, there’s a good chance he’ll reach that milestone on Sunday against the Bengals.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“It’s always a milestone for a receiver to go over a thousand, I’m looking forward to it,’’ Jones said.

After 14 games he has 54 catches for 970 yards (a career high) and eight touchdowns.

Since he signed with the Lions as a free agent in 2016, Jones and Matthew Stafford have developed a solid connection.

“Marv’s put a lot of work in. I think our system and the system he came from in Cincinnati is quite a bit different, and he did a great job of adjusting, putting the work in. And then, on Sundays he just goes out there and makes plays,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “I’m giving him chances on certain throws, and he’s going up and making me right more often than not. So, it’s nice to have.”

The most recent example was a 58-yard completion on third-and-18 in Saturday’s 20-10 win over the Bears. He wasn’t paying attention to anything around him.

“Just go get the ball, that’s it. Locating the ball, running as fast as I can to go meet it and just catch it,’’ Jones said.

“I wasn’t really worried whoever was behind me, I just said I have to get up and get it. I jumped early so I had to wait. That’s kind of what I thought. I jumped early I just had to stay up there for a little bit,’’ Jones said.

He said that was a ball only Matthew Stafford could throw.

“Whenever he breaks out of the pocket, I’m looking and I say, ‘OK.’ I just put my head down, I run, I look up and there it goes,’’ Jones said. “… I see his eyes and I just take off.”

Coach Jim Caldwell has commented through this season about how hard Jones worked to improve in the offseason.

“I think just precision and his route running has gotten a whole lot better, and with that has come separation at the top of routes and all that kind of stuff, the better you get at running them. And like I said, some of the routes that we’re asking him to run here are probably different than what he had done in the past, so it took some time, and some effort, and some concentration, and focus on those details and he’s done a nice job with that,’’ Stafford said.

So it just makes sense that Stafford has developed more confidence in Jones who had 55 catches for 930 yards and four touchdowns in 2016.

“I think the more and more you play with guys the more you understand their body language at the top of routes and whether or not they can win,’’ Stafford said. “And I’m getting that with all of our guys at the moment, so just trying to continue to put the ball in a good spot, let those guys go and make plays like they’re doing.’’

BONUS: Wide receiver T.J. Jones was placed on injured reserve after injuring his shoulder on Saturday. He’s being replaced on the roster by wide receiver Andy Jones, who spent time on the Lions’ practice squad. Of course, they join Marvin Jones. Apparently it’s key for the Lions to have two receivers named Jones.

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Lions offensive line adjusts for personnel depending on who starts

Stafford has been sacked 43 times in 14 games

 

ALLEN PARK — If  Matthew Stafford is sacked twice in the final two games, it will tie his career record for being taken down.

Not exactly what GM Bob Quinn was thinking when he made the offensive line a priority last spring by signing veterans Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang.

Injuries happen and certainly the Lions’ offensive line has had more than its share in the first 15 weeks.

It’s difficult to keep track of who is where to start each game and then, typically, it’s not the same group that is on the field when the game wraps.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Graham Glasgow has been the only lineman to start all 14 games so far and he’s moved from left guard to center in two games.

Joe Dahl got his first significant playing time this season on Sunday, starting for Glasgow at left guard. He just came off injured reserve last week.

“Joe did some good things out there, and he hung in there pretty well,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said.

Center Travis Swanson (concussion) and right tackle Rick Wagner (ankle) were out and it’s too early to know if they will return on Sunday at Cincinnati.

“I’ve got to give credit to Ron Prince who does a great job with them. I mean, we’ve had more guys in and out on our line than probably as much as anyone I would assume,’’ Caldwell said on Monday. “But what he does and what the rest of our guys do, they just face the challenge. They prepare extremely hard. Even though a guy may not have gotten a whole lot of playing time previously, we treat him as if he’s supposed to play well and supposed to handle whoever he faces like a guy like (Akiem) Hicks, who’s as good as they come up front last week. But I think it’s attitude, determination in terms of their preparation, and the fight of the young men who’s plays for us. So, I think all of those things play a part in it.”

The line is not responsible for all of the sacks, but the blame falls on their shoulders for plenty of them.

Stafford was sacked a career-high 45 times in 2014 and will match that mark with two more sacks.

Only Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been sacked more often — he’s gone down 49 times.

Only Tom Brady (4,163 yards) and Ben Roethlisberger (4,025) have passed for more yards than Stafford (3,920). Brady had been sacked 31 times, it’s only 21 for Roethlisberger.

In Sunday’s 20-10 win over the Bears, the LIons’ offensive line featured the ninth configuration of starters in 14 games with left tackle Taylor Decker, Dahl at left guard, Glasgow at center, right guard T.J. Lang and right tackle Corey Robinson.

The line also of course opens up gaps for the run game which has been another issue with the Lions this year.

Caldwell admitted that depending who is starting on the offensive line, they may adjust the play-calling.

“There’s certain things you do that you may not – I think what you have to try to do is try to make certain that you know thyself and then make adjustments accordingly, which we do,’’ Caldwell said. “I mean, that’s at a number of different spots. When you’re up front, there’s some guys that pull better than other guys, so how many times you pull a guy that depends upon how well he does his job. Now, it’s something that you’re always trying to improve upon, but we still try to make certain that we’re judicious and try to be prudent in selection of plays with certain individuals.”

The Bengals defense has sacked opponents 38 times which is tied for seventh most in the NFL. It will be another test for the Lions offensive line whoever it is that may play on Sunday.

Five thoughts from Lions Matthew Stafford after win over the Bears

Stafford has completed 81.8 percent of his passes in last 3 games

DETROIT — In the last three games, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has completed 85 of 106 passes for an 81.8 completion percentage.

That’s astronomical.

And Stafford offered a Stafford-like answer on his accomplishment.

“I’m throwing it, they’re catching it,’’ Stafford said.

Perhaps there is a little more to it.

“Matthew has been on a tear lately, playing well, he’s been playing well for a while. He hangs in there, delivers the ball. he’s got some receivers making plays for him,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “That catch by Marvin Jones and a couple of the guys making some things happen for him.’’

Jones was on the receiving end of a beauty of a Stafford pass that flew 58 yards.

Stafford was 25 of 33 for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Saturday’s 20-10 win over the Chicago Bears.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Five thoughts from Stafford following the game:

1. The quarterback said trust is the key to the offense. I mean, I think that’s the key to success on offense, is having trust in each other. You know, I put a couple up to Kenny (Golladay) today, he made a great catch on one. He got called for OPI (offensive pass interference), but great play. And then the one to Marv was an exceptional play,’’ Stafford said. He completed passes to eight guys.

2. The Lions ran the ball for 77 yards in the first half, then just 14 in the second half. Still a decent effort for the Lions whose run game ranks at the bottom of the NFL charts.

“I think we plan to go out there and try and run it every game, you know? And our guys up front were doing a good job of moving them, our backs were finding some seams and just getting that extra yard. You know, we didn’t have any – I don’t think we had any big, big runs today, but guys were getting four (yards) on first down and, you know, getting seven there on second down, whatever it was,’’ Stafford said. “We did a nice job being efficient running the ball. Our guys did a good job. Like I said, getting hats on hats, letting our backs fall forward, all that is a positive for us.”

3. Tight end Eric Ebron, who has been playing well since the bye week, had another good game with five catches for 33 yards including an 8-yard  touchdown pass in the third quarter.

“The first one i overshot. I wish I had that one back, check at the line, I got a good check to him. I just missed it,’’ Stafford said. “Frustrated at that one and wanted to come back to him and give him a chance. I think you slide a piece of paper under his feet and he went up and got it.’’

4. Stafford was sacked four times in part because the offensive line was banged up and patched up. Center Travis Swanson and right tackle Rick Wagner were out. Right guard T.J. Land went out in the first half.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s a tough (defensive) front, too. I mean, those guys are big and physical on the inside. They make it tough to run the ball, they’re good pass rushers, too,’’ Stafford said. “So our guys did a great job, you know, hung together, hung tough, communicated well and we got the win.”

5. After four interceptions in the past four games, Stafford was able to protect the ball against the Bears. “It’s a tough balance. You know, I mean, there’s going to be times where there are going to be throws that I wish I had back and there’s going to be other times where I make great plays,’’ Stafford said. “So, you know, I think it’s just trying to be as calculated as you can with those chances that you’re going to take and understanding the game situation as much as possible helps.”

Five reasons the Detroit Lions beat the Chicago Bears, 20-10

Lions’ defense came up big against the run

DETROIT — The Detroit Lions’ defense had one big job on Saturday — stop Chicago Bears running back Jordan Howard.

Mission accomplished.

That is one big reason the Lions were able to defeat the Chicago Bears, 20-10 at Ford Field.

“We came out there and punched them in the face, that was what was different. We out-physicalled them, out-hit them, that’s what we preached to our defense, that’s what we went out there and did,’’ said cornerback Darius Slay who had two interceptions.

The Lions are now 8-6 with playoff hopes still alive. Slim hope, but hope just the same.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Detroit beat the Bears 27-24 on Nov. 19 at Soldier Field. While Chicago has won just four games (4-10) they had topped the Steelers, Panthers and Ravens — teams that had beaten the Lions.

Five reasons the Lions won on Saturday:

1. Again, stopping Howard and the run game. In their previous meeting the Bears ran for 222 yards 125 by Howard. He had 10 carries for 37 yards on Saturday. Slight difference. “I just think we did what we were supposed to do, nothing more than that,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. The defense saw it as a challenge and they met it this time.

2. The defense played possibly their most complete game this season. Slay intercepted Mitchell Trubisky twice and safety Quandre Diggs had one interception (his second in two games). “Watching film, I saw it, I jumped it. Either it was going to be incomplete pass or complete pass to me. I just made a play on it. If he would have tried to jump and catch it I would have smacked him right out of bounds,’’ said Slay describing his first interception.

The Lions’ defense held the Bears to 43 net rushing yards.

3. It wasn’t Matthew Stafford’s best game ever, but he was as good as he’s been this season. His 58-yard pass to Marvin Jones on third-and-18 in the first half was a thing of beauty. Jones went up to make the catch, but not many quarterbacks could deliver a ball like that.

“The one to Marv was an exceptional play, third and extra long they pick it right there and the guy falls down that’s a real good net punt, I think,’’ Stafford said. “So (I’m) willing to take those chances. I feel we needed a spark at that time in the game. It was a big one that helped us get in the end zone.’’

Stafford and Jones (three catches, 85 yards) have developed quite the connection.

“He’s really good body control guy, he’s made some big plays. I’m not afraid to give him chances,’’ Stafford said. “I think the further you get down the field the more uncomfortable the guys on defense get and the more advantage you have as an offense.’’

That 58-yard pass led to a touchdown pass to T.J. Jones in the second quarter to give the Lions a 13-0 lead. Stafford, who was sacked four times, finished 25 of 33 for 237 yards, two touchdowns and a 115.3 rating.

4. The Lions running game was effective. (I haven’t typed that sentence in a while.) Theo Riddick led the way with eight carries for 49 yards before he left the game with a wrist injury. Tion Green had 10 for 35 yards. Ameer Abdullah returned after missing two games with a neck injury. He wasn’t used often but had one carry for 8 yards and also three catches for 13 yards. Cue the speculation on who is the No. 1 running back. Caldwell said it will change each game depending on the opponent.

“We ran the ball relatively well, 91 yards, but you know that’s kind of where we want to be. You want to out-rush your opponent and you want to be somewhere in that 100-yard area. We didn’t quite get over the threshold, but I thought upfront with our line the guys hung in there, guys going in and out, they found a way to pass protect well enough and find some seams to run the ball so that was key,’’ Caldwell said.

5.  Jim Bob Cooter, the offensive coordinator, gets his share of the blame often but he called a solid game. The Lions did not run on each and every first down. He let Stafford loose a few times. The Bears defense was ranked 11th overall, allowing 325.5 yards per game so it’s not like the offense didn’t have to work hard. The Lions were six of 12 on third downs and looked to have a rhythm which is something we haven’t always seen this season. You can’t define it with stats, but you know it when you see it.

Lions RB Ameer Abdullah returns; Ansah, Lang active against Bears today

Offensive line missing 2 starters

DETROIT — Running back Ameer Abdullah, who has missed the last two games, is active today for the game against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Kickoff is at 4:30 p.m.

Running backs Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner are inactive.

It’s unclear what role Abdullah will have.

Ziggy Ansah (ankle) who was limited in practice this week is a go. The defensive end has played in the last three games despite knee and back injuries. He was questionable on Thursday’s injury report.

The Lions offensive line will be missing two starters in right tackle Rick Wagner and center Travis Swanson as the Lions face the Chicago Bears at 4:30 p.m. today. They were declared out on Thursday after they didn’t practice at all this week.

Right guard T.J. Lang (foot) is active after he was limited in practice on Thursday after sitting out on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Expect Corey Robinson to start in place of Wagner at right tackle. Left guard Graham Glasgow is expected to shift to center for Swanson. Glasgow also started at center at the Ravens two weeks ago.

Joe Dahl is expected to get his first start of the season at left guard.

Got that?

Other Lions inactives: Tackle Emmett Cleary, wide receiver Bradley Marquez and defensive tackle Rodney Coe.

Five things to watch as the Detroit Lions face the Bears on Saturday

Lions won first meeting, 27-24

While the Chicago Bears have just won four games, they play tough. The Lions discovered that in their first meeting on Nov. 19. The Lions won 27-24 thanks to a last-minute 52-yard Matt Prater field goal.

On Saturday they meet again at Ford Field at 4:30 p.m.

It’s a huge game for the Lions (7-6) who must win to keep any playoff hopes alive. They know they cannot take the Bears (4-9) lightly.

The Bears have defeated the Steelers, Panthers and Ravens — three teams that have beaten the Lions.

“They run the ball as well as anybody that we’ve seen to date. What they were able to do against us, what they were able to do last week, they’re blocking extremely well up front,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said on Thursday.

“The backs are running extremely hard and with that, they’re doing a nice job in terms of mixing that with their play actions and so it keeps a lot of teams off balance when you got to be concerned about the run,’’ Caldwell said. “The upfield sort of a push is not as prevalent, but then also they’re keeping things within range just in terms of they gain so many yards on first down, they never get in to a whole lot of third down and long situations where your protection is challenged.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Here are five things to watch when the Lions play the Bears:

1. Stop Bears running back Jordan Howard who had 125 yards on 15 carries in the first meeting. He’s not a one-man band, Tarik Cohen is a handful too. The Bears ran for 222 yards in that game, compared to 65 for the Lions. “(Howard) had good games against us, he’s a good runner, he’s got really good vision, runs behinds his pads. I mean, even the big run he had in the first game it looked all bottled up, and he just had a little patience, and then it opened up and he went,’’ defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said. “The other guy’s (Cohen) a hard tackle. He’s not a big guy, but he is shifty, a hard tackle.’’

2. Ameer Abdullah is expected to return after missing two games with a neck injury. He felt he was ready to go last week but he was not active. Theo Riddick had just 29 rushing yards in the win at Tampa Bay last week but he ran in for a pair of touchdowns. Rookie Tion Green has shown flashes. “So, we got some getting better to do when we run the football, but I’m excited to get Ameer back on the field. He’s a good football player, and we like good football players,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said.

3. Matthew Stafford needs a solid game like he had in the first meeting (299 passing yards, two touchdowns, zero interceptions). At least Cooter stayed with the pass last week with 44 pass attempts and 18 carries. “ I thought we had some success throwing the ball last week. I would like to have more success when we run it. That would be beneficial to our offense and our team for sure. So, we would like to be more successful, more efficient running the football,’’ Cooter said without giving away any of his secrets.

4. Rattle the rookie. Pressure quarterback Mitchell Trubisky who is “much improved” in recent weeks according to Austin. “I thought he was outstanding last week the way he played, I thought he had really good command of the offense,’’ Austin said of Trubisky. “He made all the throws he needed to make, he was sharp, he was accurate, he was decisive with the ball. So, I think he’s really improved since the first time we played him.”

5. Get off to a good start. In the first meeting, the Bears took a 10-0 lead in the first quarter. The Lions were able to fight back for a win but it wasn’t easy.

PREDICTION: Lions 27, Bears 21

No excuses despite several injuries on Lions offensive line all season

Stafford was not sacked for first time this season at Tampa

It’s been a rough season for the Lions offensive line.

This group was supposed to be a strength, but injuries have prevented the line playing together as planned except for two games in November.

It started in June when left tackle Taylor Decker injured his shoulder and underwent surgery.

So far Graham Glasgow is the only lineman who has played in every game. He’s typically the left guard but has started for Travis Swanson at center in the two games he’s missed.

Joe Dahl was on injured reserved for nine weeks and Corey Robinson missed eight games with injury.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

It continues through this week. Three of the five Lions who did not practice on Thursday were offensive linemen — T.J. Lang (foot), Swanson (concussion) and Rick Wagner (ankle). Also Decker was limited in practice due to his shoulder.

Although Lang has missed several practices due to injury, he has only missed two games.

“It’s not easy this time of year, it’s a physical game, but (Lang) knows his body, he knows what he needs. It’s great to have a guy that’s been around a bit to be able to step in there who if he says he can go when the doctors concur with that as well, he steps in and does a great job,” coach Jim Caldwell said.

Swanson and Wagner have been ruled out for Saturday when the Lions (7-6) host the Chicago Bears (4-9).

Look for Glasgow to start at center and possibly Dahl to fill in at left guard. Expect to see Corey Robinson or Brian Mihalik, who has played in every game with two starts, to replace Wagner at right tackle.

Coach Jim Caldwell wouldn’t say he’s frustrated with the offensive line injuries, instead saying it’s part of the game.

“It’s just how it is, I mean you have to adapt and adjust. …  I believe you don’t dwell on things of that nature, I mean all you do is handicap yourself. Let’s move on with it, you understand the circumstances, nobody cares about that. The only thing anybody cares about is winning, I’m talking about people outside of our building,’’ Caldwell said. “Certainly, we care about our guys from a physical nature and all that kind of stuff, I don’t want somebody to misunderstand that part of it, but nevertheless, I just don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about that. Here it is, this is what it is, deal with it, win. Plain and simple, no excuses.”

Despite the musical chairs on the O-line, last week in the win at Tampa Bay was the first time all season that Matthew Stafford was not sacked.

The Lions durable quarterback has been sacked 39 times, tied for second in the league. Only the Colts’ Jacoby Brissett has been sacked more often (48). And still Stafford has the third most passing yards in the NFL (3,683) behind Tom Brady (3,865) and Ben Roethlisberger (3,744).

“We’re just trying to adjust and adapt to our guys and their guys — our sort of pass protection plan to their either pass rush plan or blitz plan. And every one of those things matches up a little bit differently. Our guys up front did a really nice job last week,’’ offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said. “That was not a defense that was going to blitz you 40 times in a game. They were going to mix some big pressures from time to time, but a lot of times we were getting four-man rush. We tried to have the best plan available to block those four guys.’’

Of course sacks are not just the fault of the line, Stafford needs to get rid of the ball in timely fashion and he needs pass protection from everyone else too.

“Our guys up front did a good job. Stafford did a good job getting the ball out on time which requires our receivers getting open on time, and that all kind of worked together pretty well a lot of those times last week anyway, and we need to keep that going. Zero sack games are really beneficial for our team,’’ Cooter said.

And for the health of Stafford whose throwing hand was severely bruised in the loss at the Ravens.