Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis’ 5 thoughts on defensive play in first 4 games

Improvement is all about the details

ALLEN PARK — At the quarter pole mark of the NFL season, the Detroit Lions have extra time to reflect. It’s their bye week. Their next game is Monday, Oct. 14, at Green Bay.

Coming off a tough 34-30 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Lions are 2-1-1. The loss showed they can hang with one of the elite NFL teams.

Five thoughts from Lions’ middle linebacker Jarrad Davis on Monday:

1. Davis says they understand a few things about themselves after four games. “We’re definitely a team that’s going to fight no matter what. It doesn’t matter what people say about us, what people feel about us, we’re definitely going to fight no matter what the circumstance is,’’ Davis said. “We know what we have, in a sense we’re kind of like a newly seeded plant, we’re starting to blossom a little bit but we’ve got to keep watering, got to keep giving ourselves that light, we’ve got to keep making sure we pay attention to the things that are going to make us grow and get better and ultimately come out and perform to the best of our ability and do exactly what we know we can do on Sundays.’’

2. Details, he repeatedly said details are key to improving in the final 12 games. “Just improve on the details of the game, how we’re calling plays, how we’re getting lined up, what we’re communicating pre-snap and everything like that, also post-snap just making sure we’re always talking out there and we’re always aware of what’s going on around us,’’ Davis said.

3. On Sunday, the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes gained 15 yards running up the middle on a fourth-and-8 play late in the game. It was a key moment in the loss. “It’s definitely tough, it’s like the old saying just one play doesn’t define the game. We had multiple opportunities after that play to get them off the field and we still let those guys get down there to the 1-yard line, it comes down to making sure we take care of the details,’’ Davis said.

4. Davis also discussed what they could do to improve on a play like that. “We’ve just got to make sure we keep the quarterback in the pocket and also as a defense, got to make sure that we get back, get our heads back, the crowd kind of tells you what’s going on with their energy but we’ve got to be aware of what’s going around us, and make sure we can get back and make a tackle before he gets a first down. It’s a collective effort across the board making sure we’re always aware of what’s going on and what the situation is,’’ Davis said. The Lions’ defense is ranked 27th in the NFL, allowing 405.5 yards per game.

5. The players will get a few days off to rest before getting to work next week, preparing to play the Packers at Lambeau Field. “The opponent we’re playing the following week after this bye week, they’re playing this week and we’re not so we have to find a way to get the edge while also taking care of our bodies and getting our time off when we can,’’ Davis said. The Packers (3-1) play at the Cowboys (3-1) on Sunday.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

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Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face Eagles in Philadelphia

ALLEN PARK — After two weeks, the Lions remain undefeated even though that first-week tie still seems kind of ugly.

Onward.

The Lions are 5-point underdogs on the road at Philadelphia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford said he doesn’t think at all about being 1-0-1.

“It’s just a huge challenge for us this week. Going to Philadelphia is a tough place to play. They have a bunch of good players and have been a really good team for a long time, so it’s just a new challenge for us, something we have to attack on its own,’’ Stafford said.

Stafford and his teammates agree that Sunday’s comeback win against the Chargers doesn’t mean much this week.

I think just because you did it last week doesn’t mean you’re going to do it again the next week, but also if you didn’t do it the week before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it the next week,’’ Stafford said. “No, we take every challenge head-on as a new one.”

Five things to know about the Lions at the Eagles (1-1):

1. In the win over the Chargers, Stafford was let loose. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell called an aggressive game even after Stafford had thrown two interceptions. Afterward Stafford was smiling and it wasn’t just because of the win. Bevell is known for depending on the run game and certainly a balance (not necessarily 50-50) is key to an offense putting up points in the NFL, but Stafford has to be allowed to throw the bombs, to throw on an important third down. Maybe this is the change the Lions have needed over the past few years. Now we’ll see if it continues.

2. Stafford must be kept clean again. It’s rare when he goes through a game without being sacked like he did on Sunday. In the last five seasons he’s been sacked 213 times with only 7 games with no sacks. “Keeping the quarterback safe and protected is No. 1. You know obviously you’ve seen us do different things with Matthew (and the first thing is always trying to take care of him and how we keep him upright, even if he gets an opportunity to run,’’ Bevell said. “That’s always in the forefront of our minds because those guys are really hard to find, and we have a good one and we want to protect that guy.”

3. After missing left tackle Taylor Decker for one game and linebacker Jarrad Davis for two, it looks like the Lions will be mostly healthy in Philadelphia. Both practiced all week and are officially listed as questionable. Tyrell Crosby did a commendable job filling in for Decker on Sunday, but having a healthy Decker return would be a positive facing Fletcher Cox and the Eagles’ defensive line. “They have a solid front with Fletcher and Brandon Graham on the same side. They can move those guys around with (Derek) Barnett. It’s an active front,’’ Bevell said. “They do a great job of getting penetration and really trying to work up the field and wreak havoc that way. Fletcher has been a good player for a long time and something that we’ll have to make sure that we have answers for. It’s a good combination of him and Brandon Graham working on the side together.”

4. Matt Patricia did not confirm that Jarrad Davis will play on Sunday, but seemed optimistic before Friday’s practice. Davis’ presence would be huge against the EAgles offense led by Carson Wentz and fueled by TE Zach Ertz. “I think J.D., just in general, obviously this is a kid that loves the game,’’ Patricia said. “He just loves to come in and prepare every week and he loves to learn and he’s just every single day – that intensity to get better, as a coach, is something you love to see. I think he obviously provides a layer of leadership, I’ll say comfort or calmness, to the middle of the defense when he’s out there because of his knowledge and his ability to control the middle part of what we do in the defensive scheme. I think those other guys have done a great job and really Devon Kennard I think has stepped in great as far as the communication on the field. I think he’s done a phenomenal job of that too.’’

5. Special teams have not gotten off to a good start this season. Would expect that Matt Prater’s missed 40-yard field goal and missed extra point are just anomalies. Patricia said punt returner Jamal Agnew was benched for that game after a fumble, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back as the return guy. Patricia does have options in Danny Amendola and Ty Johnson. Special teams also had too many penalties which is something that should be easy to clean up.

PREDICTION: Eagles 27, Lions 24. (Philadelphia is banged up while Detroit is mostly healthy. Still, it’s a tough place to play and pulling out a win would be a tough task.)

Detroit Lions Taylor Decker, Jarrad Davis, Da’Shawn Hand out vs. Chargers

DETROIT — Starting left tackle Taylor Decker and linebacker Jarrad Davis are out in the Detroit Lions home opener against the Los Angeles Chargers today at Ford Field.

Decker, who injured his back in the tie at Arizona last Sunday, has practiced on a limited basis all week so this is no surprise. He was listed as questionable on Friday’s injury report. Decker started in all 16 games in 2018.

Tyrell Crosby, who started one game at right tackle last season, could get the start in Decker’s place.

Davis (ankle), who missed the opener last week, was also limited in practice all week and was listed as questionable. Last week rookie Jahlani Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin stepped in with Devon Kennard wearing the helmet with the microphone.

Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand (elbow), who also sat out last week, is once again sidelined. He too had limited practice this week and was listed as questionable.

The Lions have lost three of their last five home openers including last year when the N.Y. Jets clobbered them 48-17 in the regular season opener at Ford Field.

Other inactives for the Lions: QB David Blough, WR Travis Fulgham, CB Amani Oruwariye and G Beau Benzschawel.

Chargers inactives: Easton Stick, Michael Badgley, Roderic Teamer, Michael Davis, Jatavis Brown, Hunter Henry and Cortez Broughton.

Detroit Lions coordinator Paul Pasqualoni: Defense more comfortable, but Cardinals will provide challenges

ALLEN PARK — What a difference a year can make. When the Lions open the season at the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, Detroit’s defense has a built-in advantage due to experience.

Defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni enters his second year with the group that has added a few new pieces since last season.

“I think we’re much more comfortable, all of the players who’ve returned, fortunately we’ve got quite a few guys who returned. I think we’re much more familiar with the system is, fitting pieces, trying to get the right guys on the bus and getting them in the right seat, so to speak,’’ Pasqualoni said on Monday. “I think that’s a process, that’s a work that you keep trying to get better at.’’

He does admit that the defense has a disadvantage because so many players have been injured.

“From a defensive standpoint we need to play together, we’ve had so many injuries and nicks and bumps we haven’t really had an opportunity to put the whole unit together and get them out there for an extended period of time,’’ Pasqualoni said. “That will be a work in progress this week and the first weeks of the season.’’

Early in the season, it’s difficult to know what to expect from any NFL team because they just don’t show much in preseason games. That will be amplified against the Cardinals who have a new coach in Kliff Kingsbury, a first-time NFL head coach, and in rookie quarterback Kyler Murray.

Pasqualoni expects a wide-open, spread offense, run mostly out of the shotgun, with 3-5 receivers on the field each snap. Oh, and no-huddle too. 

“It stretches you this way (holds his arms out wide) horizontally, and they stretch you vertically based on the speed of what they have in Kyler Murray’s ability to throw the ball, he can throw the ball deep,’’ Pasqualoni said.

Plus they have Arizona running back David Johnson to keep under control.

“You put too many resources into the pass and the run hurts you, you put too many resources into the run and the pass hurts you,” Pasqualoni said. “That’s the whole idea of this, this offense is really an explosive deal when you’ve got real speed at the wide receiver position, they’ve got a Hall of Fame receiver in Larry Fitzgerald who is going to really present issues in this offense too. It presents a lot of problems.”

The Lions’ defense took a while to get going last season. They lost 48-17 in their opener at home to the New York Jets.

But once they got going and added James “Snacks” Harrison on the defensive line, they improved steadily.

Now they’ve added veterans Mike Daniels and Tre Flowers to the defensive line along with a few other key pieces.

If middle linebacker Jarrad Davis doesn’t play (he’s not expected to be ready), rookie Jahlani Tavai could be running the defense. Pasqualoni wouldn’t say much about Tavai because he doesn’t want to put more pressure on him.  But if the second-round pick starts, that says the coaching staff believes in him.

The defense is a work in progress. It’s flexibility will definitely be tested in the opening week.

 

 

Detroit Lions: Jarrad Davis, Frank Ragnow injuries not season-ending

Jarrad Davis and Frank Ragnow did not suffer season-ending injuries in the Detroit Lions’ preseason loss to the Bills on Friday night.

Lions coach Matt Patricia gave the update during a conference call on Saturday afternoon. 

He said neither one will play in the final preseason game at Cleveland on Thursday, but wouldn’t put a timetable on their returns. He also said neither one is in the category to be placed on injured reserve to return.

“The one great thing about these two guys is they have tremendous work ethic, we know they’re going to be working as hard as they can to get back as soon as possible,’’ Patricia said.

Patricia offered no specifics on the injuries.

Davis, the starting middle linebacker, was injured on the second snap of the game. And eventually carted off to the locker room from the sidelines. 

“Obviously J.D. does a tremendous job inside the building, outside the building, he just loves football. It’s 24/7 with him. He loves to study it, he loves to learn,’’ Patricia said. 

Ragnow, the starting center, went down about midway through the second quarter. He was helped off the field and it appeared he could not put weight on his right leg.

The first-round pick in 2018 started at left guard last season but moved to center during the offseason. 

UPDATED: Lions Jarrad Davis, Frank Ragnow injured in preseason loss to Bills

DETROIT — Nothing mattered when the game was over except that the Detroit Lions could have lost two starters for the season.

The Bills won 24-20 on Friday night at Ford Field, but that was almost inconsequential. 

Starting middle linebacker Jarrad Davis went down on the second snap of the game. It appears to be a right ankle injury. He was helped to the sideline and then carted off to the locker room. Never a good sign.

Davis had worked hard in the offseason to add 15 pounds of muscle to his frame. It appeared he was headed for a breakout season in his third year. 

Ragnow, a first-round pick in 2018 who moved to center in the offseason, went down midway through the second quarter. Medical personnel helped him off the field. He could not put weight on his right leg. No stopping at the bench, they helped him to the locker room immediately.

“We lost a couple guys early in the game, we have to grind through this here and through tomorrow and find out what’s going on,’’ coach Matt Patricia said. “With J.D. and Frank there’s nothing really to report right now, we’ll see what it looks like tomorrow and go through the normal procedures the day after the game to see what that looks like and go from there.’’

He offered no specifics on the injuries.

Rookie Jahlani Tavai would be the likely replacement for Davis if he’s out. After Davis went down it was Tavai and Jalen Reeves-Maybin lining up in the 3-4.

On the offensive line, Graham Glasgow moved back to center after Ragnow went out. Glasgow started Friday night at right guard, but was at center last season. Joe Dahl started at left guard. Kenny Wiggins, who started 10 games at right guard in 2018, could be the top option at right guard. 

“We’ve got to keep pushing forward as far as getting ready to go for us the big thing is we have to compete, the competition is still wide open and we’ve got to go out and guys have to make the most of their opportunities and we’ve got to continue to get better,’’ Patricia said.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions) 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford saw his first preseason action, playing into the second quarter. 

“It was good, had some fun, I love playing. I don’t care what the situation is. We practice hard, I want to go out there and play,’’ Stafford said. “It was good to go out there and operate. Some things to clean up on tape, some really good things we did but some things we have to clean up for sure and we’ll make sure we do that.’’

He was 12-of-19 for 137 yards and one touchdown. He appeared to escaped unscathed.

“It’s tough to judge where (the offense) is, where it’s going to be. I just know we’re always trying to be better,’’ Stafford said. “I think we made some explosive plays which was good. A few too many mistakes — stalled out in the red zone twice. One to Marv (Jones) I’d like back, just didn’t see it clear enough and obviously the fourth down we went for and didn’t get it. Those are two that you’d like to have back, but I was proud of the way the guys fought, our tempo was great, thought we ran the ball pretty efficiently, struggled a little early on, but did a nice job on the pass game and made some plays.’’

Rookie tight end T.J. Hockenson, a first-round pick, was targeted four times and came down with three catches for 52 yards, including a 32-yard gain. He and Stafford have connected well throughout training camp.

“It’s a lot of what you’ve seen in practice,’’ Stafford said.

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.