Detroit Lions camp: Three draft picks among the early stand-outs

ALLEN PARK — After a week of training camp, three of the Detroit Lions draft picks have stood out.

That doesn’t mean the others will not contribute this season, but early on it’s clear that first-round pick tight end T.J. Hockenson (first round), linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round) and cornerback Amani Oruwariye (fifth round) have what it takes. 

All eyes have been on Hockenson since Day 1. No. 88 is so smooth for a rookie and appears to have developed quite a connection with quarterback Matthew Stafford. He makes the tough catches especially in the corner of the end zone on goal-line drills. He beats defenders in one-on-one drills. It’s early but there isn’t much to not like about the kid.

“He knows that he has a lot to learn and he’s got a long way to go, but he is a hard worker. He loves the game, the guys got a great attitude, the guy just loves the grind and the passion of the game,” coach Matt Patricia said. “So, you take it, you work with it, you go forward, and he’s got a skill set that hopefully we got to see out on the field.”

The Lions were roundly criticized when they drafted Tavai in the second round out of Hawaii because no one else had him going that high. Didn’t matter. Tavai is exactly who they wanted and they got him. He snagged an interception this week from Stafford. Watch one practice and you won’t be able to keep your eyes off No. 51. Again, it’s early but he’s been impressive so far.

Oruwarije (in photo) has seen plenty of reps in camp with Darius Slay on the sidelines (non-football injury). 

“We all know what (Slay) can do, he’s a great player and so I just try to ask him as many questions as I can, I have to use my resources. He’s got so much experience and knowledge I’d be dumb to not ask him questions and learn some things I can take from his game I can take to mine.”

In fact, Oruwarije got some first-team reps on Thursday and grabbed his first interception on a ball intended for none other than Kenny Golladay. 

“Just kind of like being a little tighter, just play with my upper leverage and worked on the technique that (defensive backs) coach Brian Stewart teaches me, came down with the play,’’ Oruwariye said. Like it was that simple.

 

 

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Lions Darius Slay watches 1st day of training camp from sidelines

ALLEN PARK — Darius Slay didn’t want to talk about his hold-out during the offseason program.

No matter from which angle the question was asked on Thursday, “next question” was his reply.

The Detroit Lions Pro Bowl cornerback did report to training camp on Wednesday, but was placed on the non-football injury list along with Damon “Snacks” Harrison, another veteran hold-out. Neither participated in the first day of camp on Thursday.

Coach Matt Patricia said it was just a matter of conditioning after being away from football for so long.

Slay has two years remaining on his contract which will pay him $12 million this year and $10 million in 2020.

One exchange went like this:

Reporter: Are you content with your current deal?

Slay: What do you think?

Reporter: I’ve been pretty vocal saying I think you’re underpaid but my opinion doesn’t …

Slay: Everybody in the world knows.

While he hasn’t been at the practice facility he has not lost touch with his teammates.

“It was cool, I was here in Detroit. Guys came over the house, hung out, chilled, cooked them crab legs,’’ Slay said. “It’s a business so it’s all good.

No matter his contract situation he said they’re his guys, his brothers.

“Everybody knows it’s a business,’’ said Slay who is entering his seventh season.

He said he’s happy the Lions signed a few veteran cornerbacks like Justin Coleman, Rashaan Melvin and Marcus Cooper.

“Oh, they’re great guys. It’s a little less pressure on my shoulders. This is really my first year stepping into the role of a leader, leader, leader with GQ (Glover Quin) not being here (which I miss so much, it’s hard to walk on the field without my dog). He’s chilling. Other than that it’s been good,’’ Slay said.

He said that the contract situation will not affect his play on the field.

“I’m going to do out there to dominate,’’ Slay said. “So I play for the name on the back of my jersey and this organization and my teammates. So ain’t going to never stop me from what I’m doing on the field.’’

He has set goals for himself but said he’s not worried about interceptions. He had three last season after pulling in eight to lead the league in 2018.

“That will come, I’m not stressing on that …’’ Slay said.

Instead he wants to step up his leadership since Quin has retired.

“Be a better leader, be more vocal with the guys, just helping these guys be better than I am that’s my goal,’’ Slay said. “Try to get these guys Teez (Tabor), (Jamal) Agnew, the young corners that just came in I want them to be a lot better than what I did. That’s my goal.’’

 

 

Justin Coleman reunites with high school buddies Darius Slay, Tracy Walker

Slot corner signed 4-year, $36 million deal with Lions

 

ALLEN PARK — Justin Coleman has cleared up the biggest mystery since he was rumored earlier this week to be signing as a free agent with the Detroit Lions.

Detroit cornerback Darius Slay claims he and Coleman are cousins.

Slay, Coleman and Lions safety Tracy Walker are all from Brunswick, Ga., and all went to the same high school there, but Coleman said they are not blood relatives.

“Man, the city where we’re from everybody are cousins. We’re not blood-related but we definitely are close, we grew up together,’’ Coleman said at his introductory press conference on Thursday at the Lions headquarters.

Slay and Coleman played for a few years together in high school. At age 24, Walker is younger and is indeed blood relatives with Slay.

“It was great playing with (Slay), we never knew that we were both going to get to this point. In high school he was one of the best players on the field, he kind of motivated me to get on the field and play a lot more,’’ Coleman said. “He kind of helped me along the way being the leader that he is. I tried to compete with him so I could get better myself and it helped me to get further along the way.’’

Slay, 28, was drafted by the Lions in the second round in 2013, while Coleman was undrafted but played in 10 games with two starts for the Patriots as a rookie in 2015. He also played for Matt Patricia in New England in 2016 before moving to the Seahawks for the 2017 and 2018 seasons.

“It was definitely a dream that we would come together at some point. I definitely looked up to (Slay) as a young kid to get to where he was going because I knew he was going to do something big with his life. Step by step, he led the way and we just grew up real close together, that allowed us to compete and get to this point,’’ said Coleman who turns 26 on March 27.

Coleman said he didn’t talk to Slay before he signed his four-year, $36 million ($19 million guaranteed) contract with the Lions.

But he’s heard from him since then. Slay told him, “Man, I’m so happy man, I told them they need to pay you.’’

Coleman ranks as the highest paid slot corner in the NFL, but that doesn’t seem to mean much to him.

“I kind of consider myself just another player coming to help the team. The money doesn’t matter. Of course it matters off the field — it helps my family out and helps the people close to me — but I just came here to help the team win and get to where we need to be,’’ Coleman said.

He would not be specific about how Patricia used him in New England’s defense instead saying he’s just happy to have the opportunity in Detroit.

His best traits?

“I feel like I give a lot of effort when it comes to finishing plays and just getting involved. That’s pretty much how I got here — a lot of effort, a lot of hard work,’’ Coleman said. “I’m not the biggest or the strongest or the fastest, but I can put myself in position to make it seem that way.’’

Lions’ CB Darius Slay excited for second straight Pro Bowl trip

His kids may even be happier

ALLEN PARK >> Darius Slay’s kids are so excited that their dad made the Pro Bowl for the second straight year, that they created a “Daddy Made the Pro Bowl” dance.

The three kids display quite the moves on Slay’s Instagram My Story. It’s not that their dad has been voted as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, as much as that it’s in Orlando and a trip to Disney World is part of the package.

“My kids are already hyped up … They’re ready. They’re already packed,’’ Slay said on Wednesday.

He is hyped too. Now in his sixth season, Slay longed to make it to the top echelon of NFL cornerbacks since he was a rookie. Back-to-back Pro Bowl nods show that others have noticed.

“It was a great honor, felt good, let me know folks are watching film and understanding and, like I said, I was excited and ready,’’ Slay said.

His numbers are down from last season when he had eight interceptions and 26 pass defenses. This season, with two games remaining, he has three interceptions and 15 pass defenses.

“My play been good, I had a couple few plays here, a few plays there, I had a few plays last year too,’’ Slay said. “Other than the picks, I think I played pretty well. Competing all the time at a high level.’’

Also this season, he scored his first touchdown returning an interception at Arizona two weeks ago. He was holding that football when he talked to the media on Wednesday and said it was going in a special place with his other memorabilia.

Slay has kept up his energy despite the Lions’ 5-9 record so far.

“Got great guys in the room I’ve got to go to war with, I enjoy going to war with, have fun doing it,’’ Slay said. “That’s how I keep it up.’’

He’s also happy that teammate Quandre Diggs has been voted as a Pro Bowl alternate.

“I thought it should be more but that’s how everybody sees it. Quandre is playing at an elite level and at 5-2 1/2 so that should give him more nod,’’ Slay said. “I’m proud of him, he works hard, One thing I know he’s going to go 100 percent every game.’’

Slay enjoys making fun of Digg’s height. He’s officially listed at 5-foot-9. He gets the job done with two interceptions, one touchdown, seven pass defenses and 55 tackles so far this season.

The Pro Bowl will be played on Jan. 27, the Sunday before the Super Bowl.

The Vikings, who are fighting for a wild-card playoff berth, are the next challenge for the Lions. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on Sunday in the Lions final home game this season.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five reasons Detroit Lions beat Arizona Cardinals, 17-3

Detroit’s effective run game was key

Yikes. It was not pretty, but the Detroit Lions snapped their two-game losing streak with a 17-3 win at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

Detroit’s defense was key, holding Arizona to a field goal.

When the Cardinals came within a touchdown in the fourth quarter, the Lions ran downfield, eating up clock and finishing with a Zach Zenner touchdown run.

Neither offense could get much going. The Lions finished with 218 total yards while it was 279 for the Cardinals.

The Lions are now 5-8 in Matt Patricia’s first season, while the Cardinals drop to 3-10.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. The injury-riddled defense was solid, holding the Cardinals to just a field goal and rattling rookie quarterback Josh Rosen. Larry Fitzgerald was held to five catches (77 yards) while running back David Johnson had just 15 carries for 49 yards. The Cardinals managed just 73 yards of offense in the first half. Detroit linebacker Jarrad Davis was a standout with a sack, two tackles for loss, one pass defense, one quarterback hit and eight tackles.

2. Cornerback Darius Slay’s interception and return for touchdown in the third quarter, gave the Lions a 10-0 cushion. It was Slay’s first career pick-six and his third interception this season. He also broke up a potential touchdown catch by Larry Fitzgerald in the fourth quarter. It was one of his three pass defenses.

3. Matthew Stafford (15-23, 101 yards) played just well enough to win, but it was the effective running game that was key. The Lions had 122 rushing yards — led by Zach Zenner with 54 yards and LeGarrette Blount with 33 yards. Stafford’s aching back limited him in practice last week. It didn’t affect his arm strength — he threw deep downfield, but couldn’t connect on one longer than 17 yards.

4. It must say something that the Lions could win despite an incredible number of injures, most forcing players from the game. That includes Ziggy Ansah (shoulder), Da’Shawn Hand knee), Bruce Ellington (hamstring), Charles Washington (hamstring), Marcus Cooper (back), Rick Wagner (concussion), Nick Bellore, Luke Willson and Damon “Snacks” Harrison. Next man up, indeed.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

5. It was a win. It was kind of ugly (really dreadful in the first half) but the Lions hung in there so there’s something that should be said for it.

NEXT UP: Lions (5-8) at Buffalo Bills (4-9), at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16.

Five reasons the Detroit Lions beat Carolina Panthers, 20-19

Offense, defense and special teams came up big

DETROIT — Perhaps the Lions’ game ball should have gone to Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera. He made the decision to go for a 2-point conversion after a touchdown catch by D.J. Moore that pulled Carolina within one point with 1:07 left.

The conversion failed when quarterback Cam Newton couldn’t find an open receiver and sailed one high into the end zone. Panthers’ kicker Graham Gano had missed a field goal and extra-point earlier and Newton had momentum, it just didn’t work out.

That decision allowed the Lions (4-6) to snap a three-game losing streak with a 20-19 win over the Panthers who fall to 6-4.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford wasn’t thinking about Rivera’s 2-point decision at the time.

“I’m kind of just locked in on what my two-minute calls are going to be, what I’m going to have to do to go down and score and get a field goal to win the game. I trust our defense a ton to make a play but as a player you have to be ready for what’s ahead,’’ Stafford said. “It’s either going to be two-minute or take a knee. … Obviously we didn’t need (the two-minute) which was awesome.’’

He wasn’t surprised they went for 2 points since they’re so aggressive and it gave them a chance to steal one on the road.

“Obviously our defense made a great play there at the end. They were rolling a little bit there in the second half on a couple drives. I bet they felt confident, but I was confident in our guys and I’m glad we made the play,’’ Stafford said.

Five reasons the Lions won:

1. Two huge defensive plays on a Panthers’ drive early in the fourth quarter were key. Cornerback Darius Slay turned on the jets and somehow caught D.J. Moore at Detroit’s 12-yard line after an 82-yard gain that looked sure to be a touchdown. Then three plays later on third-and-2, at Detroit’s 4, linebacker Jarrad Davis sacked Cam Newton for a 12-yard loss and forced the Panthers to attempt a field goal which kicker Graham Gano clunked off the post. Big Play Slay certainly lived up to his nickname on that one play. He limped off the field but was able to finish the game.  “We knew that’s what we had to do. If we stop (Newton) ‚ he’s the show — if we stop the show, we can win,’’ Slay said. “And he’s the show and we stopped him and did our best we could against him and handled that.”

2. Kenny Golladay had a big day (eight catches for 113 yards). With Marvin Jones Jr., out, Golladay was the top wide receiver on the field. No catch was bigger than his 19-yard touchdown with just five minutes left in the game. Golladay was covered by James Bradberry, but he leapt up and dove backward into the end zone, keeping control of the ball on his way down. That score gave the Lions a 20-13 lead. “(Stafford) just gave me a nice, pretty, high ball. I like balls like that for me to just use my size, hands, athletic ability to go up there and make the catch and that’s what I did,’’ Golladay said.

3. The offensive line came up big protecting Matthew Stafford. He was sacked just once (by his old nemesis Julius Peppers) and hit just once. He had been sacked 16 times in the past two games. “I was just trying to do a good job of keeping us ahead of the sticks. If I had to take 3 or 4 (yards) on first down and not wait on something that was 10 or 15, I was going to do it,’’ Stafford said. “Credit to our guys getting open and making the catches when we were able to do that. Obviously running the ball helps … I was proud of our guys up front, they pushed them around in the run game and kept me clean for most of the day which was awesome.’’

4. Running back Kerryon Johnson ran in from 8 yards out for a touchdown on the Lions’ first possession. Johnson had a great day with 15 carries for 87 yards, along with two catches for 10 yards, until he injured his knee late in the third quarter and was unable to return. In his post-game press conference, Patricia said he had no update on Johnson. FOX reported that Johnson was crying once he got in the tunnel on the way to the locker room. “He’s got some big-play ability, you see it. Some 20-plus runs, I’ve got the best view in the house right behind him,’’ Stafford said. “Sometimes splits a seam and he’s out. He’s done a nice job for us and it was more of the same today.”

5. Stafford and Jim Bob Cooter fashioned together an offense without Marvin Jones Jr., and it worked. “We knew it was going to be a collective effort. It was going to take everybody doing a little bit here and there to make that thing go for us,’’ Stafford said. “We didn’t light up the scoreboard by any means but we got enough points to win the game which was nice.’’ Along with Golladay’s eight catches, Bruce Ellington had six for 52 yards and Theo Riddick finished with five receptions for 30 yards. Stafford was 23 of 37 for 220 yards and one touchdown. The quarterback has been criticized early and often for the last three losses, he deserves credit here too.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

UP NEXT: Lions host the Chicago Bears at 12:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving at Ford Field. It’s a short-turnaround for Detroit or as Stafford said, “We’ve got to flip it quick.” The Lions lost to the Bears, 34-22, two weeks ago.

Lions without Marvin Jones, A’Shawn Robinson, Michael Roberts

Ziggy Ansah to play third straight game

DETROIT — The Lions’ wide receiving corps was one of the NFL’s best until two weeks ago when Golden Tate was traded. They will be without Marvin Jones Jr. (knee) today against the Carolina Panthers at Ford Field. That leaves Kenny Golladay and T.J. Jones to be Matthew Stafford’s main targets. Wide receiver Andy Jones has been called up from the practice squad.

Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick are the only running back duo to each have 30 more receptions, so Stafford could be looking to them also.

Detroit will also be without defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson (ankle) and tight end Michael Roberts (shoulder). Both were listed as out on Friday’s injury report.

DE Ezekiel Ansah and DT Damon Harrison Sr., who both have shoulder injuries, are active after being limited in practice all week.

Right guard T. J. Lang (neck) was placed on injured reserve this week, ending his season. Kenny Wiggins will start in his place.

Darius Slay (knee), Eli Harold (shoulder), Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) and tight end Luke Willson (shoulder) who were out a week ago, are all active.

Other Lions’ inactives (all healthy): Wide receiver Brandon Powell, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, defensive end Eric Lee and offensive lineman Andrew Donnal.

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. with game televised on FOX with Kenny Albert, Ronde Barber and Jen Hale.