Lions coaches, players jump in on ‘My Cause My Cleats’ initiative

Jim Caldwell, coaching staff join in

ALLEN PARK — Many of the Lions will be wearing specially painted shoes in the game at the Ravens on “My Cause My Cleats” Sunday.

It won’t be just the players who will be identifying their causes on their footwear.

Coach Jim Caldwell said he was given the option and jumped at it along with several coaches on his staff and general manager Bob Quinn.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“Mine in particular kind of falls in line with my wife and I’s foundation, Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation. My cleats are for the Midnight Golf Program which is one that’s been in here in the Detroit area for quite some time,’’ Caldwell said on Friday. “Reneé Fluker actually started it, and it’s not playing golf at night just in case anybody wants to know. What they use is they use golf to obviously attract young people and kind of teach them how to live their life around the game of golf. But it’s a mentoring, tutoring sort of initiative that really have several thousand applicants, and they choose 250, or 260, or so. And of those individuals, they follow them through their senior year in high school, help them in terms of going on to college with funding. Once they’re in college, it gives them support mechanisms, and then also after college and starting their careers, internships, etc.

“I had an opportunity to go over for the first time and see the young people that have come out of the program, and it was absolutely, unbelievably impressive and so we got involved in it. So, that’s kind of what we’re going to do wear the shoe for the Midnight Golf Program,’’ Caldwell said. “So, it should be a great time I think for all. I know a number of our players are also wearing cleats for different reasons and different causes. So, I think it’ll be certainly well worthwhile.”

Golden Tate will honor veterans with his cleats, while Matthew Stafford will highlight “S.A.Y. Detroit.” Don Carey reps his own foundation while Tahir Whitehead goes with “Downtown Boxing Gym.”

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Three things to know about Lions’ defensive changes this week

Jarrad Davis’ snaps decrease in last 2 weeks

ALLEN PARK — If Teryl Austin knew how to get his defense off to a better start each game, they wouldn’t have fallen behind in the past three games 10-0, 10-0 and 13-0.

Searching for answers is fine, but the Lions defensive coordinator is also making a few adjustments that have nothing to do with injuries and one that does.

The Lions (6-5) play at the Baltimore Ravens (6-5) on Sunday. It’s a win Detroit needs to keep its playoff chances alive.

Three things to know about defensive changes:

1. Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis’ snaps have decreased in the past two games. He started playing 100 percent of the defensive snaps in Week 1, got hurt in Week 2 so he was down to 75 percent. Then he missed Weeks 3 and 4 with a concussion and neck injury. The next five games he also played every snap on defense. Then in Week 11, in the win at Chicago, he was down to 78 percent of the snaps and last week, in the loss to the Vikings, he was at 73 percent.

Austin explained the decision on Thursday.

“I think that the reason it was scaled back is because we thought again like anything, thought Tahir (Whitehead) was doing really well in terms of how he was handling the coverage. So, we wanted to put, like anything, whatever we think is the best for us to win that game,’’ Austin said. “And so, at that point, we’re looking to win the game. At this point in the season we want him to develop, but we can’t have him develop at the chance that we’re setting a guy that could probably do that position better at this particular time.

“And Jarrad will get better because he’s working at it. He’s getting reps in practice. But right now we think in some of those positions that Tahir is going to be a better fit for us right now,’’ he added.

In other words, they are not giving up on Davis, their first-round pick. At this point they have to put guys on the field who will give them the best chance to win.

2. Due to Tavon Wilson being placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, Miles Killebrew will get his third start this season. Killebrew, a second-year safety, has excelled at times playing in certain defensive packages but he appreciated the invaluable experience of starting in Weeks 2 and 3. He’s ready. He said the safeties play a variety of roles during practice so he will be comfortable on the field.

“With a guy who’s a backup and everybody wants him to be the starter, and then when he’s a starter maybe he’s not as effective as you thought he was because now he’s playing 60 plays instead of 20. So, it’s an adjustment,’’ Austin said. “But in Miles’ case he has had a few games when he’s had to start, and he’s had to play a lot of plays. So, I think he’ll adjust to that accordingly.”

3. Expect to see newly acquired defensive end Dwight Freeney get in the game Sunday.

“Since he’s been here, Dwight’s the ultimate pro. Really sharp, understands what’s going on, and we’ll be looking to use him, so the impressions are good,’’ Austin said. “He’s bright, we all know what he’s done in the past. Are we going to get the 24-year-old Dwight? No, but we still think he’s got some juice and the ability to rush the passer.”

Freeney and Austin go back to when Freeney was in tenth grade and attended football camps at Syracuse where Austin was a defensive assistant. Then in Freeney’s  freshman year at Syracuse in 1998 when Austin was still on the coaching staff.

Freeney was acquired last week off waivers from Seattle. Since he had played on Monday night with the Seahawks, he didn’t have enough turn-around time to play on Thanksgiving.

Freeney also goes back with Jim Caldwell when they were both with the Indianapolis Colts.

Lions Matthew Stafford: From china doll to Ironman

Stafford had rough start in first 2 seasons

ALLEN PARK >> Matthew Stafford was injury plagued in his first two seasons with the Lions. As a rookie in 2009 he played in 10 games and the next season was only healthy enough to start three.

It was so bad fans were turning on him (imagine that) and his teammate linebacker Zack Follett called him a “china doll.”

Once he regained his health in 2011, Stafford has 107 consecutive regular season starts.

With Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive regular season starts coming to an end due to coach Ben McAdoo’s bonehead decision to start Geno Smith, that moves Stafford up to No. 3 on the NFL’s active consecutive starts by a quarterback list behind the Chargers’ Philip Rivers (148) and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan (126).

“It’s difficult. I think you look across this league, there’s guys at every position showing up on Sunday and playing and doing a great job that I feel like the normal human being wouldn’t be out there doing that,’’ Stafford said on Wednesday. “These guys are impressive people. I’m just happy to be a part of it. I’ll try to play as many games in a row as I possibly can and play at a high level. I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Stafford said his streak means a lot to him.

“I think just coming from my first couple of years in the League and some of the tough times that came with that as far as injuries go and missing games and not being able to be out there with the guys,’’ Stafford said. “So, it’s nice to be able to be out there and have a bunch of games under my belt.”

Stafford’s teammates appreciate his durability.

“We all know what Eli bought to that team and what he brings to the team. Obviously we have an ironman quarterback ourselves and that’s a good thing to have. To know that when it  comes down to it, your guy is going to be out there for you,’’ wide receiver Marvin Jones said.

It extends beyond game day with Stafford to everyday practice. He is always there.

“All of us tip our hats off to him, it’s a lot of meetings and a lot of extra stuff that goes with being in that position. To be able to do that for a long period of time it’s to be applauded,” wide receiver Marvin Jones said.

Stafford gets credit from around the NFL, including Baltimore coach John Harbaugh whose Ravens (6-5) play the Lions (6-5) on Sunday.

“I just think it’s one of the great accomplishments because you’re the target. You’re the quarterback, you’re the target, and this is a rough game. And that guy is a guy that really runs everything. Especially there, I mean Matthew does just an amazing job of running the offense on the field,” Harbaugh said in a conference call on Wednesday. “He operates. Coach (Jim) Caldwell and Coach (Jim Bob) Cooter they have a really good system, and he’s the guy that runs it on the field. So, it’s a really important for him to be out there, and he’s just done a fabulous job of consistency and how well he plays from week to week, and being out there, and overcoming the bumps and bruises that are usually even more than that. He seems like he’s a very tough guy. It’s just been very impressive to see.”

Brett Favre is atop the all-time consecutive starts for a quarterback chart with 297. Eli Manning is at 210 while his brother Peyton Manning sits at 208.

Detroit Lions notes: Eyes on Killebrew with Tavon Wilson out; Dahl returns

Dwight Freeney expected to play Sunday at Ravens

ALLEN PARK — With starting safety Tavon Wilson placed on injured reserve due to a shoulder injury, Miles Killebrew is likely to get the start.

Wilson re-injured his shoulder in Thursday’s loss to the Vikings and could not return to the game.

“It’s just like anything else you know. The guys that, regardless of who it is, the guys that you lose, that you don’t want to lose, but you’re always going to have somebody be able to step up and step in and get it done,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said on Monday. “But obviously, he’s been a vital part of what we do and he’s done a great job for us, so we’ll see what happens.”

Wilson originally injured his shoulder during training camp. He aggravated it in Week 2’s win at the Giants. Killebrew started in Week 3 with Wilson out. Killebrew also started Week 4 but Wilson was able to play about half of the defensive snaps.

Killebrew had seen his playing time on defense decrease, but he had 32 defensive snaps in the loss to the Vikings on Thursday.

“Coming along. You know, he’s making steps forward and he’s coming,’’ Caldwell said of Killebrew.

In other roster moves, guard Joe Dahl returned to practice on Monday from injured reserve. He’s eligible to play immediately.

Wide receiver  Bradley Marquez and safety Rolan Milligan were signed to the active roster from the practice squad.

Also, wide receiver Jace Billingsley and safety Stefan McClure were signed  to the practice squad.

Billingsley has bounced between the practice squad and the active roster. He began the season on the practice squad before appearing in two games with the club on the active roster.

McClure comes to the Lions after most recently playing in seven games for the Washington Redskins this season. Prior to Washington, he spent time as a member of the Indianapolis Colts practice squad in 2016, where he originally entered the NFL as an undrafted rookie free agent out of California.

 

FREENEY’S ROLE NOT YET DEFINED

Defensive end Dwight Freeney, who was acquired last Wednesday off waivers from the Seahawks, is expected to practice this week and play at the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.

Freeney and Caldwell know each other from their time together with the Indianapolis Colts.

“Guy that’s been around, he’s still got juice. You take a look, he’s been productive anytime that he’s been on the field, and we’ll expect him to be productive for us as well. How we’ll use him? We’ll make a real good determination of that as we go through the week, but he’ll be able to do something for us,’’ Caldwell said on Monday.

Freeney notched three sacks in four games for the Seahawks this season.

 

 

Five reasons the Detroit Lions lost 30-23 to the Vikings

Jim Caldwell said the sky isn’t falling; Stafford injures ankle

DETROIT — Of course Jim Caldwell wasn’t happy with the Lions’ 30-23 Thanksgiving loss to the Minnesota Vikings, but he doesn’t think it sunk their playoff chances.

With the loss, the Lions dropped to 6-5, while the Vikings are now 9-2 and clearly in control of the NFC North. The Lions might have to win out and get some help just to have a chance at the final wild-card spot.

“There’s a lot of football left. There’s a guy that I know who is in this league for a long time, he said if you’re around .500 little bit before when you’re sitting down for your Thanksgiving meal, you’ve still got a chance. I’ve experienced it,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “… We’re not — don’t count us out just yet. We’ve got a lot of football yet to play and you don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s other games that are being played too. That’s a big thing – I know the media will paint it like the sky is falling, but the sky is not falling for us. We’ve got to get ourselves a little bit better and keep moving forward.”

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions have the next two games on the road — at Baltimore on Dec. 3 and then at Tampa Bay on Dec, 10.

Five reasons the Lions lost:

1. For the third straight game they were in a double-digit deficit early. As cold as the Lions were, it didn’t take long for the Vikings to heat up. They took a 13-0 lead with 3:55 left in the first quarter after a one-yard touchdown pass from Case Keenum to Kyle Rudolph followed by Keenum running in from nine yards out for a score. Boom. Watching the first drive, it’s like the Lions’ defense wasn’t on the field. Way too easy.

“We just dug a little too much of a hole, we just didn’t perform well there at the onset. Anytime you do that against a good team it’s going to be tough. We fought back and gave ourselves a chance but some of those holes are a little too big to dig out of, it was tough,’’ Caldwell said. “Our guys fought to the end. We have to do a better job at the beginning in all three phases.’’

He said the only way he knows how to do that is through hard work.

2. Matthew Stafford didn’t have a great day start to finish. He completed just 57.1 percent of his passes, missing long and short on plays he typically makes. “Wish we would’ve won the game, didn’t play well enough to win, left too many points out there, missed a couple throws here and there that probably could have changed the game never fun to let that happen,’’ Stafford said afterward.

He injured his ankle on the play where he hit Marvin Jones in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. One of the Vikings accidentally rolled into him from behind, buckling Stafford’s legs. The medical staff went out on the field to check him out and he limped off. He didn’t miss a snap and limped into the media room after the game for his press conference. When pressed for how he was feeling, Stafford said, “Not 100 percent, but ticker is still ticking so I’ll be alright.’’

Overall he was 20 of 35 for 25 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a 86.6 rating. The interception came late in the fourth when the Marvin Jones and cornerback Xavier Rhodes both went up for the ball and Rhodes came away with it.

3. Once again the Lions run game was a disappointment with 53 rushing yards total. Abdullah had six carries for 14 yards (2.3 yards per carry). When the Lions beat the Vikings on Oct. 1, Abdullah had his best game of the season with 94 rushing yards. Riddick was the leading rusher with 20 yards (4.0 yards per carry). Golden Tate was third with two carries for 13 yards.

4. And in other news, the Lions defense allowed 136 rushing yards which is actually down from the previous two games when they gave up more than 200 in each game. In the Vikings first drive of the third quarter, they ran four plays (all running) for a total of 75 yards to score a touchdown on first-and-goal from the 2-yard line. That was a killer that put the Vikings up 27-10.

“They just took it right down the field, they had 75 yards rushing in that sequence alone,’’ Caldwell said.  “Up until then I thought our guys had done a decent job of getting stopped in the first half. That one was tough, it didn’t knock us out of it but it made it more difficult.’’

The Vikings rushed for 54 yards in the first half.

5. The Vikings are a better team all-around. Quarterback Case Keenum has grown into his role as starter while the defense has improved as the season has worn on. The Vikings have matured since the Lions beat them 14-7 on Oct. 1. The difference? The Lions have not made vast improvements since then. The team that has grown together is the one that’s 9-2. The team that is somewhat stagnant, is looking for answers with just five games left and a 6-5 record.

Lions Ziggy Ansah active today against Vikings; Dwight Freeney won’t dress

Lions have won 4 straight on Thanksgiving

DETROIT —  Defensive end Ziggy Ansah, who missed the past two games with a back injury, is active today against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. He was limited in practice on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Defensive end Dwight Freeney who was acquired off waivers late on Wednesday will not dress today. He played 18 snaps in the Seahawks’ Monday night game so that would be a quick turn-around. Expect him to make his debut on Dec. 3 at Baltimore.

Look for T.J. Jones, Ameer Abdullah and Golden Tate to possibly fill in for Jamal Agnew on returns. Agnew sustained a knee injury in Sunday’s win at Chicago. He was listed as out on Wednesday’s injury report.

Running back Dwayne Washington (hip) was declared out on Wednesday. It’s the second straight game he’s been out and the  sixth game he has missed this season

Other Lions inactives: Running back Tion Green, tackle Emmett Cleary and defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga.

Five things to know about new Lions DE Dwight Freeney

Freeney had 3 sacks in 4 games with Seahawks this season

The Lions added a future Hall of Famer on Wednesday when they were awarded defensive end Dwight Freeney via waivers from the Seahawks.

Freeney should be able to provide a spark to the pass rush even though he is 37 years old.

Detroit’s defensive line has become a weak spot due to season-ending injuries to Haloti Ngata and Kerry Hyder. To make matters worse Ziggy Ansah has missed the last two games with a back injury. He is questionable to play on Thanksgiving against the Vikings at Ford Field.

Freeney is unlikely to suit up to face the Vikings on Thursday since he had to travel to Detroit and also he played 18 snaps for Seattle in their loss to the Falcons on Monday night.

Freeney may not jump in until the Lions’ next game at the Ravens on Dec. 3.

Five things to know about Freeney:

1. He played in four games for the Seahawks this season and had three sacks. He was released by Seattle on Tuesday, apparently as a cap casualty.

2. This is his 16th NFL season. He has played for Seahawks (2017), Falcons (2016), Cardinals (2015), Chargers (2013-14), and the Indianapolis Colts from 2002 through 2012.

3. He has a relationship with Lions coach Jim Caldwell from their years together with the Colts. That could be a key reason the Lions are taking a chance on him. Also reportedly he’s not breaking the bank.

4. Freeney has 125.5 career sacks. In his first four years with the Colts, he was good for 51 sacks. He had three sacks in four games for Seattle this year. Originally he was a first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2002 draft out of Syracuse. He set a rookie record with nine forced fumbles in 2002 with the Colts. He was runner-up for NFL defensive rookie of the year.

5. Freeney won a Super Bowl ring with the Colts in 2006. He’s been voted to the Pro Bowl seven times and has been All-Pro first team three time. He’s on the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team.