Lions rookie Kenny Golladay earns time with starters after first game

Third-round pick continues to show he belongs

ALLEN PARK >> Kenny Golladay’s  solid showing in his first preseason game, Sunday’s win at Indianapolis, has bumped him up on the depth chart.

At Wednesday’s practice the rookie wide receiver was lined up with starters Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. At the game, TJ Jones started with the two veterans.

Coach Jim Caldwell, always cautious to praise rookies too much, explained the move.

“He’s one of those guys that we’re just trying to make certain that we give him a bit of experience in a little bit of everything to kind of see where he fits,’’ Caldwell said.

“We have an idea, but you really don’t know until you give him a chance to really delve into one spot or the other. So, we’re trying to cross-train him a little bit, but he has the speed and has the length and those kinds of things you look for, for good matchups on the outside,’’ the coach added.

He’d like all wide receivers to be able to play at every spot. With some of them that is just not possible.

“Often times you may find a guy that only fits a particular role, but the more flexible you are, the better. And particularly in our system, because we line up guys in all different types of spots,’’ Caldwell explained. “Even in their normal position you still have to line up in various positions, so you have to know all of the route combinations and those kinds of things.

“But, we’d love to be able to move guys around, it makes them a little bit tougher to double cover. Makes them a little bit tougher to plan on in terms of where they’re going to be. Gives us a lot more flexibility that way,’’ Caldwell added.

Golladay, the third-round draft pick out of Northern Illinois, has earned “darling of the week” status around the NFL.

Against the Colts, he had three receptions for 53 yards.  Two of them were for touchdowns — both from Jake Rudock.

He’s a lock to make the Lions’ 53-man roster behind Tate and Marvin Jones. Others in the conversation for the competition for the other one or two wide receiver spots are TJ Jones, Jared Abbrederis, Jace Billingsley and Keshawn Martin.


Lions Jim Caldwell, Ameer Abdullah discuss Charlottesville race issues

Caldwell thinks the world can learn from the diversity in sports

ALLEN PARK >> Ameer Abdullah had a few things to get off his mind about the racial issues surrounding Charlottesville, Va.

The Lions running back knew it was OK to speak out because coach Jim Caldwell has addressed the situation with players.

“What’s most disheartening is people still try to make excuses for certain behaviors. People in position of influence as well, still making excuses for specifically what happened in Virginia,’’ Abdullah said after Wednesday’s practice. “To me that’s the most disheartening thing. We know what the issue is, it’s been laid out before us. We just need more people on board who won’t make excuses, but will make change.’’

He was asked if he was specifically talking about President Donald Trump.

“Him and his followers,’’ Abdullah replied.

He is well aware that not everyone will agree with him. That’s OK.

“Not everyone is going to root for you, that’s something my dad taught me when I was young, everyone’s not going to like you. If somebody’s not going to like my stance on a situation, especially when it comes to racial issues, then I don’t really want that guy root for me anyway.

“That’s something my dad kind of taught me, not everyone’s going to like you but stand for something or you’re going to fall for anything,’’ he added.

Abdullah  feels he has a responsibility to speak out and credits Cleveland’s Lebron James with opening doors for other athletes to voice their opinions on hot-button topics.

“He’s been very vocal about a lot of instances in society, it helps someone like myself come out and feel more comfortable — not necessarily my opinions but what’s right and what’s wrong,’’ Abdullah said.

Caldwell used the example of trips he and his wife have taken with their two oldest grandsons the past two summers. A year ago they took them to Washington, D.C., around the Fourth of July.

We watched the fireworks, all the monuments. We went to the White House and it was great to just see how the people reacting during that time that the greatness of our country. And our two young guys were just I think extremely excited about it,’’ Caldwell said.

This summer they took them to the Civil Rights trail in Atlanta. He specifically mentioned one exhibit at the Civil Rights Museum.

“It had a lunch counter that was, it emulated the lunch counters of sit-ins and so while they were sitting there, and they had to put the headsets on, and (hear) all of the yelling, the screaming, name calling, etc. Trey put his hands on (the counter) and he took them off after about a couple minutes or so and he looked back at me and he said, ‘Papa Coach,’ he said. ‘That’s scary.’

They brought the kids, who are 7 and 10, because they thought it would be an educational experience. Caldwell, 62, grew up in the 1960s so it was nothing startling for him.

“I said, you know what it’s probably good for him just to get a sense of it. Not realizing that within his lifetime, he’s going to see some of the same things on television again. And that’s disappointing,’’ Caldwell said.

He thinks the Lions players — and all athletes — can make a difference.

“I think the world can take a lot from what we do in sports. It’s a highly diverse community. Guys get along. They’re from all walks of life. But there’s no place in this game for bigotry and hatred,’’ Caldwell said. “And I think that’s same way as society but it’s there. And it’s something that I think we all have to speak out against and not tolerate.”

The coach addressed the subject of protests like sitting during the National Anthem with the same thing he said a year ago when the spotlight was on Colin Kaepernick.

“My thing is, a lot of people talk about protest and those kinds of issues. They can do something about it in our communities. They go out and they work within their foundations, they can have an impact without necessarily what you’d consider to be a protest so you guys can talk about guys sitting down on the sideline and all that. What does that really do?

“And I think our guys are a little bit more concerned about action. But they’re men too. I mean they have their own opinions. I expressed to them, ‘Look at the world. Have your own comments.’ They’re not robots. And they do have feelings. Some of them have grown up in some of those communities where they have all kinds of issues,’’ Caldwell said.

“And I don’t think they should have to be quiet. And I think our guys when you ask them questions about it, Like Ameer (Abdullah) and some of those guys, they’ll speak freely about it and tell you what they think.”

UPDATED Lions notes: Kerry Hyder placed on IR; Copeland could be out for season; more on A’Shawn Robinson and Valoaga

Copeland suffers torn pectoral muscle

ALLEN PARK >> The Lions made it official on Tuesday that the season is over for Kerry Hyder. The defensive end, who tore his Achilles in Sunday’s preseason opener, was placed on injured reserve.

After Monday’s walk-through, coach Jim Caldwell only would say that an announcement was forthcoming. Hyder, who led the Lions with 8.5 sacks in 2016, is likely out until training camp in 2018.

Also on Tuesday, the Lions placed running back Mike James on injured reserve and waived guard Matt Rotheram.

Hyder posted on his Instagram account: “There is no quit in my body. I truly believe God has a plan for me and I will be back better than ever. I am blessed beyond measure and I know this is not setback. It is an opportunity for me to show my strength that God has put in me. All things are possible through him. Thank you to all the friends and family for support. To Lions nation I promise I will be back better than ever. Thank you all.’’

His teammates will miss him.

“Kerry is a big brother to me, having him in the room he has one of the biggest hearts and he plays and it shows day in and day out in practice. … Now we just think what we can do for him. He worked his butt off to get to where he is now. That this happened to him sucks,’’ said defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (in photo).

Caldwell said not surprisingly Monday was a tough day for Hyder.

“It’s kind of what you can expect. I’m not got to say that it was obvious but there’s nobody that’s excited about going through what he’s going through, so it’s a tough time,’’ Caldwell said.

— Defensive end/linebacker Brandon Copeland could miss the season with a torn pectoral muscle, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

His loss would mean another huge hit for the defensive line. Hyder is out for the season and defensive tackle Khyri Thornton (six games) and defensive end Armonty Bryant (four games) will serve suspensions to start the season.

Copeland left the game in the fourth quarter and did not return. The Lions have made no statement on Copeland. After a day off on Tuesday they return to practice on Wednesday.

— A’Shawn Robinson was a standout on the defensive line in the preseason win over the Colts.

He finished his rookie season in 2016 showing more s each week.

“You know, which is  kind of hard to believe with a guy that big, that strong that he’s stronger. He’s, I think, running well. He had a pretty solid game the other day and did some of the things he’s accustomed to doing. He put pressure on the quarterback by knocking his guy back into the pocket,’’ Caldwell said. “And certainly when he gets pushed, it just ties in together with him getting his hands up in the throwing lane and tipping a few here and there. But he’s coming along well.”

He’ll likely start alongside veteran defensive tackle Haloti Ngata. And while the line will miss Hyder and Copeland, Robinson on the inside will be a factor.

“That was the first game for all those guys and we’ll see what happens in the second. Like I told the rookies, for the most part, we have a period that we go through all the mistakes. And the reason why we do that is because of the fact that those mistakes have to be corrected because what the other team does now, you’re on film. They look at your strengths. They look at your weaknesses. And those are the things that you attack,’’ Caldwell said. “So, we got to work at correcting ours. So, it’s the same thing with the guys that have been around a little bit. They still will look at you next week, they’ll spend a little bit more time in terms of preparation. So, we’ll see how well they progress.”

— Jeremiah Valoaga seemed to make the most of his chances on Sunday. The defensive end, an undrafted rookie, has had a few moments in training camp too.

“He played well. He’s long (6-foot-5) . He’s got some push. Between he and Alex (Barrett), those number of guys got some pressure on the quarterback,’’ Caldwell said. “And we kind of like what he’s doing right now. But he’s still young.”

Defensive end is a key position with Hyder likely out, and suspensions for ends Armonty Bryant (four games) and Khyri Thornton (six games) to start the season.


Five things to know about Greg Robinson who could start at left tackle

The veteran played the first half Sunday in win over Colts

ALLEN PARK >> In his fourth season in the NFL, Greg Robinson knows how key it is to take advantage of every opportunity.

The left tackle, who was signed by the Lions after Taylor Decker tore his labrum in June, played the first half in the 24-10 preseason win over the Colts on Sunday. It’s unknown exactly how long Decker will be out but he’s expected to miss at least a few games early in the season. Robinson is the likely candidate to start in his place. But it’s not a sure thing just yet.

“I take it with a grain of salt, it’s just something I can’t take for granted, honestly come out every day and work my butt off. That’s the real important thing,’’ Robinson said. “Just because a guy got hurt it’s not like things are supposed to be handed to me, I have to come out apply what the coach is teaching in the room and take that to the field and each day just build.’’

The offensive line protected all three quarterbacks, allowing just one sack of Jake Rudock.

Robinson and Cyrus Kouandijo, who was also signed after Decker’s injury, joined the team just before they broke for several weeks off in mid-June. So both studied the playbook on their own but were thrown in the fire when camp started.

Five things to know about Robinson:

1. Coach Jim Caldwell is cautious with praise at this time of year but had some good things to say about Robinson. “Solid, he was solid,’’ Caldwell said. ”In terms of his first outing within the system against another team, I thought he did some good things. But he’s still got a ways to go.’’

2.  Robinson knows he has improvement to make after watching film of Sunday’s win. “Coach grades kind of tough. It wasn’t as expected. I knew I had a lot that I had to clean up. I played hard,’’ Robinson said. “I felt like when opportunities presented themselves I took advantage of it and that’s the things that really count. We don’t get many plays in preseason games so the opportunity to prove yourself is so critical so just deal with that. I feel confident that I can do that.’’

3. He knew the day before that he would be playing the entire first half on Sunday. “At night I  went to sleep a little early knowing that it wasn’t going to be a series, get my mind right mentally,’’ Robinson said. “I went  over the plays, I focused on things I was struggling with throughout the week and make sure I pounded that in my head so I could be prepared in case the coach called it. I feel my conditioning needs to ramp up a little bit just in case I had to play a little more but I felt good afterwards.’’

4. The 24-year-old Robinson was the second overall pick by the St. Louis Rams in the 2014 draft, but never lived up to expectations. He spent the first three years of his career with the Rams, so moving to a new team has offered challenges. “I would say just mentally things aren’t moving as fast as my rookie year. But I’m allowed to slow the game down a lot on my own, getting on the same page, getting the calls and those type of things. I’m able to  relate to guys when they make certain calls. It gives me a headstart almost,’’ Robinson said.

5. Robinson seemed to have a slow start in training camp but has been slowly trending up as he gets more comfortable. “Yes, honestly going against another defense (the Colts) helped a lot,’’ Robinson said. “When I was in this position and noticed that ‘OK, I’m covered, I won’t have help here, I have to change my footwork’ — a few plays I got downgraded by the coach because of that but I feel like it was just a platform I laid and I’ve got a lot of building to do.’’

Five things learned from Lions’ 24-10 preseason win over Colts

Kerry Hyder suffers ‘significant’ Achilles injury

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions.)

It was an impressive debut for a few of the Detroit Lions rookies in the 24-10 win over the Colts in the preseason opener for both teams at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Field.

It may become known as Kenny Golladay’s big coming out party.

Remember the Colts were playing without starting quarterback Andrew Luck who is out rehabbing a shoulder injury. He was missed the Colts’ offense just couldn’t get anything going. The Lions led in yardage 336-230.

A win is always a plus in the preseason, but don’t make too much of it. Do I have to remind you that the Lions went 4-0 in the preseason in 2008 and then couldn’t win a regular season game? Didn’t think so.

Here are five things we learned from Sunday’s win:

1. First, the bad news. Kerry Hyder went down in the first quarter grabbing his lower left leg on a non-contact play. He was carted off the field which is never a good sign. After the game, coach Jim Caldwell told reporters Hyder has a “significant” Achilles injury. Caldwell would not say his season is over, but it very well could be. Hyder led the Lions with 8.5 sacks last season. Also linebacker/defensive end Brandon Copeland went out in the second half with a shoulder injury. Overall the defensive line was impressive considering they were missing key elements.

2. Kenny Golladay, the Lions’ rookie wide receiver, lived up to the hype. He’s been solid in training camp and was able to translate it to the field on game day. Golladay had three catches for 53 yards — two of them were touchdowns — in the first half. All three passes were from Jake Rudock. On everyone he used his height (he’s 6-foot-4) over rookie cornerback Quincy Wilson. While Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and TJ Jones started, if Golladay keeps this up he could break the top three. “He functioned well today … That’s one game down and more to go,’’ said Caldwell who was typically cautious about not over-hyping the rookie.

3. First-round pick Jarrad Davis didn’t waste any time, picking up a tackle on the first defensive snap. This isn’t a surprise to those who have seen the middle linebacker at camp. He’s a hard worked and understands the game which helps when calling the defensive plays.

4. Matthew Stafford completed two of three passes for 36 yards and a touchdown. The best news is that he was not injured. Rudock took over for Stafford in the first half and started the second half. Rudock’s numbers were solid — 13 of 21 for 142 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Rookie Brad Kaaya got his first reps and was able to move the ball. He connected with Dontez Ford for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and finished 8 of 11 for 71 yards. Ford made a terrific play to get in the the end zone.

5. Discipline was a key factor for the Lions who made it through the first half without a penalty and finished the game with just six. Sure, it’s just the preseason but it could be an indication of things to come. Meanwhile the Colts were a little sloppy with 11 penalties.

— BONUS: Defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga, an undrafted rookie out of UNLV, was a standout with five tackles and one sack. … Rookie linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin led the defense with six tackles. … Linebacker Paul Worrilow, defensive end Pat O’Connor, defensive end Alex Barrett and Valoaga each picked up a sack.

Five positions to watch as Lions take on Colts in Sunday’s preseason opener

First chance to see rookies in game situation

After two days of joint practices, the Lions and Colts will face off at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday in the preseason opener for both teams at Indianapolis. (In Detroit, the game will air on FOX 2.)

Typically in this first game, starters might see about a quarter of playing time depending on how the game unfolds.

Here are five positions to watch:

1. Greg Robinson seems to have the edge at left tackle to hold down the position until Taylor Decker is able to return. It’s not a done deal though. Cyrus Kouandijo was also signed to get a look for the left tackle spot. Both are veterans and this battle could continue through the four preseason games.

2. At wide receiver there are plenty of bodies. The Lions could have some tough decisions to make here. Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and rookie Kenny Golladay are locks. Then there’s a bottleneck for the fourth and fifth spots (if they keep five). TJ Jones, Jared Abbrederis, Keshawn Martin and Jace Billingsley have had solid camps so far. TJ Jones has been a bit of a surprise coming up with tough catches in traffic.  Even coach Jim Caldwell is uncertain how many wide receivers they will keep. “It just depends on how many guys are kept at other positions. What we think, you know, we may have some guys that take us above maybe what our normal limit would be in terms of how many we would keep. It changes. There’s a lot of positions involved in that,’’ Caldwell said this week. The number of tight ends could play a factor, same with running backs.

3. Defensive end is another key area to watch. Ziggy Ansah likely won’t play at all since he’s been out with an undetermined injury. That gives the others a chance to go against the Colts’ first unit. Kerry Hyder and Anthony Zettel are listed as starters on the depth chart. Armonty Bryant, who is suspended for the first four games, and Cornelius Washington are next up. Still keep an eye on Alex Barrett (No. 79), the undrafted rookie who has opened eyes in camp. Plenty of tough competition at this spot.

4. Not sure how much we’ll see of Ameer Abdullah, who missed the final 14 games in 2016. He’s looked fine in camp but Caldwell won’t want to take unnecessary risks. Same for Theo Riddick who is coming off surgery on both wrists. Quietly Zach Zenner has had a good camp, especially during goal-line plays. Mike Asiata and Tion Green should get plenty of reps along with Dwayne Washington who was hot and cold as a rookie last year.

5. Jarrad Davis, the first-round pick, has looked good as middle linebacker in camp. It will be interesting to see how that translates to a preseason game. Chances are good it will carry over. Tahir Whitehead will start on the weakside and Antwione Williams on the strong side. Still plenty of time to make changes. Watch rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin, veterans Paul Worrilow and Nik Bellore, along with Brandon Copeland.

BONUS: Safety Miles Killebrew could come out hitting. Also Teez Tabor plays with a chip on his shoulder so let’s see how it goes in a game situation.

Five things to know about Lions QB Matthew Stafford as camp progresses

Remember back to the Lions’ 2009 training camp? All eyes were on first-round pick Matthew Stafford who had to beat out veteran Daunte Culpepper for the starting quarterback job. (It seems a little ridiculous now but that’s what coach Jim Schwartz wanted. Stafford wasn’t announced as the starter until Sept. 6.)

Fast-forward nine years.

While the Lions have many question marks and tough roster decisions to make, concern about Stafford is just not an issue.

The 29-year-old quarterback looks just fine and has rarely missed any throws in camp.

He’s in great shape, according to coach Jim Caldwell. And, he’s got two new fans — 4-month-old twin daughters Sawyer and Chandler. (Photo from Instagram account of Kelly Stafford.)

Here are five new things to know about Stafford:

1. Running back Theo Riddick sees a difference in Stafford from last season. “Definitely he’s way more vocal and that’s what we love,’’ Riddick said. “We’re definitely going to need that to see the things that he likes so that we can change and iron out a few things so we’re all on the same page.’’

2. Wide receiver Golden Tate pretty much agrees. “I think at the end of the day in this game you’re getting better or you’re getting worse, you’re never staying the same,’’ Tate said. “Knowing who Stafford is and who we have in this locker room we’re all getting better. Naturally as you get more comfortable he probably shares a little more and micro-manages the guys a little bit more and that’s what he’s been doing. He’s a phenomenal leader as it is and he’s been doing even more of that this year.’’

3. Rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay has told stories about how Stafford has taken him under his wing, even worked on routes with him after practice. Golladay mostly has no complaints about Stafford’s zip on the ball. “To begin with I’m used to it now,’’ Golladay said.  “It’s pretty much any other ball unless he throws a real rocket in there, then it might be a hard fastball.’’

4. Caldwell just sees Stafford continuing to grow. “I know everybody’s kind of looking for the Holy Grail in terms of something that’s really different. He’s always been a leader. I just think there may be some things that he wants to make sure he gets right and that they understand exactly what he’s looking for and so, I think he’s certainly got to be a little bit more vocal,’’ Caldwell said. “And that happens too when guys get a little bit better, more seasoned, in the system too. But, he’s always taken ownership and I think if you take a look at some film and just go back you’ll see quite often he’s pretty vocal out there.”

5. And a look from the outside on Stafford as he heads into his ninth season. Andy Benoit of wrote on Wednesday: “Besides continuing to make the big-time tight-window throws that Matthew Stafford has always made (he’s especially deft throwing deep outside against Cover 2), we’ve also seen the 29-year-old QB plays with more maturity in offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s system. Those ‘wow’ throws no longer come at the cost of wise decision-making. Cooter often puts the Lions in straightforward, static formations. The stillness gives Stafford a clearer picture of the defense pre-snap. It’s the same thing the Colts used to do with Peyton Manning.’’ It’s probably not a coincidence that Cooter and Caldwell spent significant time working with Manning.