Five reasons Detroit Lions CB Darius Slay loves match-up with Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald

Slay says Fitzgerald can only make him better

ALLEN PARK >>  Lions cornerback Darius Slay can’t wait to face Cardinals’ wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on Sunday.

Arizona plays Detroit at 1 p.m. at Ford Field in the season opener.

After working against his teammates Golden Tate and Marvin Jones since the spring, Slay can’t wait to go up against guys in different uniforms when it counts.

“I’m looking forward to competing with all the best guys in the league,’’ Slay said after Monday’s practice.

Five reason Slay loves to match up with Fitzgerald:

1. “You know how the game plan goes, I’d be honored to (cover him). One of the best to ever do it,’’ Slay said.  “I just love, everybody looks up to Larry. Fourteen years in the game, takes care of his body. He’s so professional about everything.’’

2. Not only does Slay like the 34-year-old Fitzgerald on the field, he thinks he’s a great guy. ”I’ve met him a couple times. He’s very very great guy. I look forward to going against him,’’ Slay said.

3. “The only thing he’s going to do is make me better,’’ said Slay who is entering his fifth season.

4. Fitzgerald isn’t shy on the field during the game. “For people who don’t know, he kind of corrects you if you’re wrong about something out there on defense. That is how nice of guy he is, that’s good about him. That’s why I love about him,’’ Slay said. “Man. no arguments just friendly fun enjoying the work. Competing, it’s just fun.’’

5. Let’s get into specifics. “One time we was in coverage — I ain’t goin to tell what coverage we was in — we was in the coverage and he told me why he got me and how he knew what it was. So I’m’ like, ‘Dang, you know.’I hope he don’t remember. I hope I don’t refresh his mind remembering that, just in case I might try to do something different,’’ Slay said.

BONUS: Slay said that even if he has perfect coverage, Fitzgerald’s strong hands are tough to beat.

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Detroit Lions reduce roster to 53

Not many surprises among those who were cut

OK, after several months of work, the Lions whittled the roster to 53 men today.

The roster features a few surprises. They’ve gone with youth on the defensive line at least until Armonty Bryant and Khyri Thornton return from their suspensions.

This is just the start of getting the roster to GM Bob Quinn’s liking. Don’t be surprised if they add and subtract prior to the season opener on Sept. 10 against the Arizona Cardinals.

Here’s a look by position:

 

QBs (2)

Matthew Stafford

Jake Rudock

CUT: Brad Kaaya

SKINNY: Jim Caldwell typically keeps just two quarterbacks so this isn’t a surprise. Kaaya could be signed to the practice squad

 

WRs (5)

Golden Tate

Marvin Jones

Kenny Golladay

Jared Abbrederis

TJ Jones

CUT: Jace Billingsley, Dontez Ford, Michael Rector, Noel Thomas

SKINNY: TJ Jones looked strong in camp. The final battle could have been between Abbrederis who has more NFL experience than Billingsley who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

 

RBs (5)

Ameer Abdullah

Theo Riddicck

Zach Zenner

Dwayne Washington

Tion Green (rookie)\

CUT: Matt Asiata

SKINNY:: Not much drama at this position. The big question was whether Green, an undrafted rookie, could make the cut. The top four were locks.

 

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Eric Ebron

Darren Fells

Michael Roberts (rookie)

CUT: Cole Wick, Khari Lee, Robert Tonyan, Scott Orndoff

SKINNY:: Ebron must be ready to go after missing much of camp with a hamstring injury. Last year they kept four tight ends.

 

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

G T.J. Lang

G Graham Glasgow

G Brandon Thomas

G/C Joe Dahl

C Travis Swanson

T Rick Wagner

T Greg Robinson

T Cornelius Lucas

T Corey Robinson

PUP: Taylor Decker

CUT: Storm Norton, Nick Becton, Leo Koloamatangi, Connor Bozick

SKINNY:: Laken Tomlinson was traded Thursday which opened a spot for Brandon Thomas. One of the Robinsons — Greg or Corey — should start at left tackle until Decker return from shoulder surgery.

 

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

DE Ziggy Ansah

DE Anthony Zettel

DE Jeremiah Valoaga (rookie)

DE Cornelius Washington

DE Alex Barrett (rookie)

DT Haloti Ngata

DT A’Shawn Robinson

DT Akeem Spence

DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (rookie)

SUSPENDED: Armonty Bryant (first four games), Khyri Thornton (first six games).

CUT: Pat O’Connor, Ego Ferguson, Caushaud Lyons, Giorgio Newberry, Derrick Lott

SKINNY: It’s a young D-line until Bryant and Thornton return with a bit more experience. Barrett and Valoaga earned the spots with their preseason play.

 

LINEBACKER (6)

Jarrad Davis (rookie)

Tahir Whitehead

Nick Bellore

Steve Longa

Paul Worrilow

Jalen Reeves-Maybin (rookie)

CUT: Antwione Williams, Thurston Armbrister

SKINNY: Bellore, who is a solid special teams contributor, beat out Williams for a spot. Williams had looked like a lock until they played him late in the final preseason game. Still a bit of a surprise that he is gone.

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS (11)

S Glover Quin

S Don Carey

S Miles Killebrew

S Tavon Wilson

S Charles Washington

CB Darius Slay

CB Quandre Diggs

CB Nevin Lawson

CB D.J. Hayden

CB Teez Tabor (rookie)

CB Jamal Agnew (rookie)

TRADED: Johnson Bademosi (to Patriots)

CUT: Alex Carter, Rolan Milligan, Adairius Barnes, Tramain Jacobs, Josh Thornton

SKINNY: So long Alex Carter who had been moved to safety from corner. He just never got going after he was a third-round pick in 2015. No real surprises. Agnew is in the hunt to return punts. Don Carey’s strength is special teams.

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

K Matt Prater

P Kasey Redfern

LS Don Muhlbach

NFI: P Sam Martin

SKINNY: Redfern’s good preseason earned him a job until Martin is ready to return.

My Detroit Lions’ projected 53-man roster

Final cuts due at 4 p.m. on Saturday

After four preseason games, the final cuts are due at 4 p.m. on Saturday to reduce the Detroit Lions’ roster to 53 men.

This was the first year the NFL had eliminated earlier cuts, although the Lions had released a few guys earlier in the week including Tim Wright, Keshawn Martin and Cyrus Kouandijo. The early cuts gave the veterans a chance to sign with another team.

On Thursday they traded guard Laken Tomlinson. On Friday they released running back Matt Asiata and waived guard Connor Bozick and defensive end Giorgio Newberry.

Depth at a few positions will provide GM Bob Quinn with some tough decisions. Running back Tion Green had a good showing on Thursday night but can he crack the roster? If not, the rookie would be an ideal practice squad candidate.

At wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and Jace Billingsley have made their cases at wide receiver.

Remember after the cuts are made to 53, it’s likely more changes will be made before the season opener on Sept. 10 against the Arizona Cardinals. Expect that Quinn will be looking for more help on the defensive line.

Here is my projected 53-man roster:

QBs (2)

Matthew Stafford

Jake Rudock

 

WRs (5)

Golden Tate

Marvin Jones

Kenny Golladay

Jace Billingsley

TJ Jones

 

RBs (4)

Ameer Abdullah

Theo Riddicck

Zach Zenner

Dwayne Washingtom

 

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Eric Ebron

Darren Fells

Cole Wick

Michael Roberts (rookie)

 

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

G T.J. Lang

G Graham Glasgow

G Brandon Thomas

G/C Joe Dahl

C Travis Swanson

T Rick Wagner

T Greg Robinson

T Cornelius Lucas

T Corey Robinson

PUP: Taylor Decker

 

DEFENSIVE LINE (9)

DE Ziggy Ansah

DE Anthony Zettel

DE Jeremiah Valoaga (rookie)

DE Cornelius Washington

DE Alex Barrett (rookie)

DT Haloti Ngata

DT A’Shawn Robinson

DT Akeem Spence

DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (rookie)

SUSPENDED: Armonty Bryant, Khyri Thornton

 

LINEBACKER (6)

Jarrad Davis (rookie)

Tahir Whitehead

Antwione Williams

Steve Longa

Paul Worrilow

Jalen Reeves-Maybin (rookie)

 

DEFENSIVE BACKS (11)

S Glover Quin

S Don Carey

S Miles Killebrew

S Tavon Wilson

S Alex Carter

CB Darius Slay

CB Johnson Bademosi

CB Quandre Diggs

CB Nevin Lawson

CB Teez Tabor (rookie)

CB Jamal Agnew (rookie)

 

SPECIAL TEAMS (3)

K Matt Prater

P Kasey Redfern

LS Don Muhlbach

NFI: P Sam Martin

 

Five reasons the Detroit Lions’ trade of Laken Tomlinson makes sense

Former first-round pick was likely to be cut

It just makes sense that the Lion traded guard Laken Tomlinson to the San Francisco 49ers for a fifth-round pick today.

Tomlinson started 10 games in 2016, the last four at right guard due to injuries on the line. He was at left guard for the first five games and then was switched to right guard in Week 6.

Here are five reasons why it was a good move:

1. The former first-round pick was likely to be cut on Saturday when the 53-man rosters are due. This way at least the team gets something instead of nothing.

2. Yes, he was a first-round pick (2015 out of Duke), but he was drafted by former Lions GM Martin Mayhew. Believe me, it would have been a little tougher to trade him if Bob Quinn had drafted him, although Quinn still might have done it. Some people say drafting first-round picks is easy. Tomlinson is evidence to the contrary.

3. Mayhew is currently a senior personnel executive with the 49ers. Obviously he still thinks Tomlinson is an NFL-caliber player. We will see if he survives the 49ers’ cuts.

4. The writing was on the wall when Tomlinson, who had started at left guard as a rookie, was benched for rookie Graham Glasgow after five games in 2016. That said it all. It also let the players know that coach Jim Caldwell and his gang do not care what round you are drafted in, the best players will be on the field.

5. It’s likely Glasgow again will start at left guard. Joe Dahl should be active on Sundays because he can back up at guard, center and, in a pinch, at tackle. Dahl has played in just six regular season NFL games with no starts, but obviously the coaches have confidence in him. There was no reason for the Lions to keep Tomlinson if he wasn’t going to be active on game days. They only keep seven offensive linemen active for games including one backup tackle.

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.

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.’’