Lions Matt Cassel has advice for young players trying to crack the roster

Cassel, Rudock expected to split QB duties tonight vs. Browns

ALLEN PARK >> Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Cassel has a few words of advice for younger players trying to crack an NFL 53-man roster.

“What I always tell people, especially the young guys, is don’t worry about what’s going on around you. Because so many times you get enamored with ‘Oh the coach gave him an extra rep’ or ‘What are they thinking?’ And it kind of takes away from your focus and what you’re trying to do on the field,’’ Cassel said on Tuesday. “So I always say to focus on you, do the best you can do every time you go out. Like I said, as you preform and worry about what you have to do is you’ll get more reps.’’

Cassel and Jake Rudock are expected to split the quarterback duties in Thursday’s final preseason game at Ford Field.

“The goal (Thursday) night is to go out and execute, put points on the board, execute and get in a rhythm and a flow with these guys,’’ Cassel said. “I think a big thing for us as qbs is to take charge in the huddle, eliminate the bad football and the penalties, go out there and just play ball.’’

It’s uncertain if the Lions will keep two or three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster. If it’s two, it’s between Cassel, who has played 12 NFL seasons, and Rudock, who has spent the last two seasons as Matthew Stafford’s backup.

Final roster cuts are due at 4 p.m. on Saturday, although expect changes to be ongoing through the weekend and into the season.

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Lions newest LB Eli Harold excited for opportunity after trade from 49ers

Linebacker expected to play in Thursday’s preseason game

ALLEN PARK >> A trade was perhaps the last thing on Eli Harold’s mind.

As a San Francisco 49er linebacker, he had played in every game for the past three seasons and had been a starter in 10 games last season.

He and his wife, Kelsey, had just moved into a new rental home. And the bigger news is that she was expecting their first child — a daughter — on Oct. 3.

Then on Thursday he got a surprising call from 49ers general manager John Lynch with news of a trade to the Detroit Lions.

“It’s tough, but ultimately I’m doing what I love to do. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve played this game since I was a child and as long as I’m still playing, I’m happy,’’ Harold said after practice on Tuesday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Monday was his first practice with the Lions where he’s got to be a quick-study of a new defensive scheme.

“It’s tough, but luckily still preseason and I’ve got time to learn the playbook. I’m here with a lot of vets, I’m excited about that,’’ said Harold who is 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds.

For him, it’s a big plus that he can learn from the veterans who, even if they are new to Detroit, can help him learn the system.

“I’m learning the basic nuances of the defense. Like I said, wherever they put me I’m going to do my best and strive and help, I just want to compete wherever I am,’’ said the 24-year-old Harold who is in a contract year.

“This is a guy who’s got great leverage. He’s really long, does a good job with his punch and his strike, and you can really kind of see him use that leverage to his ability especially out on the edge,” coach Matt Patricia said. “Now he’s also a really good —showing some flashes in the pass rush game, too, which is positive from that standpoint. So, we’ll see what that looks like when we get him in.”

The Lions will face the 49ers at San Francisco in Week 2 of the regular season.

“It’s marked, it’s definitely marked (on the calendar). It hurt. I started my pro life there. Me and my wife moved out there my rookie year. All my close friends are out there. We built a group of guys, we all came in this thing together. It hurt, but onto new things,’’ Harold said. “We have a good group of guys here, I’m excited.’’

His wife is 34 weeks pregnant, just making the cut-off so she was allowed to fly to Michigan.

“She’s here, we just found her a doctor, everything is good with her,’’ Harold said.

Expect to see him play in the final preseason game on Thursday against the Cleveland Browns.

Lions training camp: Five thoughts from veteran RB LeGarrette Blount

Blount has won 3 Super Bowl rings in last 4 seasons

ALLEN PARK >> If you’re expecting LeGarrette Blount to be the savior, to resurrect a Lions’ run game that has been dormant for too long, take a deep breath and step back.

Blount, who is 31, should provide a boost to the Lions’ run game which was the worst in the NFL last year. However, he will just be one factor.

Much emphasis has been placed on running the ball effectively, including signing Blount who has won three Super Bowl rings in the past four seasons. Last year with the Eagles and twice with the Patriots. Last season he had 173 carries for 766 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

His work ethic and straight-forward approach seem to fit right in with coach Matt Patricia who knew him from their Patriot days together.

Blount was asked on Wednesday if the run unit was going to work to develop swag and he provided the perfect answer: “We’re going to worry about the swag later. We’re going to worry about football right now.”

Here are five thoughts from Blount:

1. He’s serious about being serious. He’s not going to boast about the run game potential at this point one week into camp. “It’s early. We’ve only done drills against each other like we’ve been doing the entire offseason. It’s pretty tough to gauge at this point,’’ Blount said. “We’ll just continue to work hard, we’ll continue to grind, fix all the mistakes that we have, pay attention to all the details we have and do everything we can to improve the running game and our play of offense all together.’’

2. Patricia demands physicality and has placed a huge emphasis on it through drills at camp. “You practice being more physical, you practice hitting more, you practicing tackling live, you practice getting in situations where you have no choice but to play downhill and either make a stop or make a play. We’re continuing to try to get better with everything, all aspects of the game,’’ Blount said.

3. While he is starting his ninth NFL season, he is working beside Kerryon Johnson, a rookie with potential. “He’s a good runner, he’s a really good runner. He does a lot of things well, he does a lot of things exceptional,’’ Blount said. “He can catch the ball, he can run the ball, he has great vision, he picks up on the offense well. He’s going to be a good player, he’s a good part of our team.’’

4.  Age isn’t probably his favorite topic, but he sad he feels great and doesn’t think he is slowing down. He makes sure to take care of his body.. His offseason program hasn’t really changed much. “Work out, run, lift and eat,’’ he said with a hearty laugh. It appears to be working. In the last five seasons he has missed just four games (all in 2015).

5. Blount has played with quarterbacks Tom Brady and Carson Wentz in recent years. He doesn’t see himself as a quarterback evaluator since he’s never played the position, but thinks highly of Matthew Stafford. “I think Stafford is a great quarterback, he’s been doing wonderful things over the course of his career. A lot of amazing games, a lot of comebacks, he’s done a lot of good things in this league,’’ Blount said. “He’s somebody that I definitely have a lot of confidence in , that can do what we need him to do, we have a lot of confidence in him to make sure our offense is running smoothly.’’

Five reasons the Detroit Lions offensive line will improve this season

Frank Ragnow impressive so far

The offensive line has been the focus of GM Bob Quinn since he arrived in Detroit. His drafts and free agent signings could see a payoff this season.

Last year injuries were a factor throughout the season. So far in training camp, health is not an issue.

Obviously strong play by the line is crucial to get the run game on track after last season when the Lions averaged a measly  3.4 yards per carry and just 76.3 rushing yards per game ranking them at the bottom of the NFL.

It looks like the starting lineup will be left tackle Taylor Decker, left guard Frank Ragnow, center Graham Glasgow, right guard T.J. Land and right tackle Rick Wagner.

After four days of training camp, here are five reasons the offensive line will be better this year:

1. The addition of first-round pick Frank Ragnow  (in photo) looks to be huge. Look for him to start at left guard where he has taken most of his reps since OTAs. He did get some work in at center on Monday. That’s likely to give the line more flexibility in case of injury. It is certainly not because he hasn’t played well at left guard. His domination there stood out big-time on the first day of pads on Sunday. He said he’s living his dream and working hard each day to learn.

2. Decker played in only the final eight games last year after suffering a torn labrum in June 2017. The Lions didn’t have much time to find a replacement and really no one could fill Decker’s shoes. He’s back, excited to go and will be ready from the get-go. He won’t talk about last year but is pumped to be on the field in training camp this year. No one is probably happier than Matthew Stafford who was sacked 47 times last season.

3. Continuity is key to the offensive line. Of all the position groups the line needs consistency to play well. This was a huge issue in 2017. Due to injuries the line had 10 different looks in 16 games. It wasn’t just Decker who was out. Graham Glasgow was the only starting offensive lineman to play every game. There is no telling what may happen in the next several weeks or months, but at this point everyone is healthy. That includes right guard T.J. Lang who was coming off hip surgery last season.

4. Glasgow looks to be the starting center. He started last season at left guard but started six games at center giving him invaluable experience at the position. He and Stafford have a better comfort level after last season.

5. Depth is key because injuries happen. The Lions added experience on the line by signing free agents — guard Kenny Wiggins and center Wesley Johnson. Wiggins has played in 45 games the past five seasons for the Chargers where he started all 16 games at right guard  in 2017. Johnson has started 24 games in the past three seasons for the Jets including 15 starts at center in 2017. Brian Mihalik, who played in 15 games and started two for the Lions last year, and Corey Robinson, who played in eight games in 2017 with five starts, return as backup tackles. Also, fifth-round pick Tyrell Crosby, who played left tackle at Oregon, is available although he might land on the practice squad with so many veterans ahead of him on the depth chart.