Lions Matt Patricia stresses hard work, execution on day after stunning loss

Jets’ defense knew the Lions’ plays

The day after the debacle, Lions coach Matt Patricia stayed on message. He’s moving on from the 48-17 loss to the Jets on Monday Night Football

Patricia, on a Tuesday evening conference call, said the team is working hard to get better every day.

Pure coach speak. With the way the Lions stunk up Ford Field, it seems Patricia would be a little more fiery and address the areas that failed (basically all of them).

Here are two concerns:

— Have the played bought in to his message?

— How come the Jets defense knew what was coming on Detroit’s offense?

If he’s worried that some of the players may have tuned him out, he did not let on.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

“The good thing about this game, one of the things we try to do is build mental toughness, that’s part of the game and what we’re all about,’’ Patricia said in a Tuesday conference call.

Really, it could have been any coach of any team in any sport uttering those same words.

This is an area that cannot be overlooked. If Patricia has lost the team — and it’s an if — one game into the season, it could turn into a four-month nightmare. Lions’ fans know the script.

Along with messaging, it certainly can’t be overlooked that Jets defensive and offensive players said they knew what plays the Lions were running and were able to adjust. This is the first game of the season so they must have gone back to last season for film — and maybe to Patriots’ film on defense. Afterall they intercepted Matthew Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once.

Patricia doesn’t seem fazed by this.

“I would say in general, there are a lot of things that go on in the games that are identifiable to the players on both sides of the ball through the course of the game and that happens at times. Those things come up,’’ Patricia said. “There are certainly very specific things that are used in the course of a game where guys do a good job of steering things or studying things and seeing stuff at that standpoint. We try to do the best we can to keep it moving on both sides of the ball. We certainly have the same situation from our side, we study opponents the same as everybody else does and you kind of, group, I would say, things into categories based on schemes and systems. And that’s really important to understand. So, if you do that, sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes it’s not.”

Got that?

The offensive woes on Monday night were possibly most worrisome since it’s basically the same offense that Jim Bob Cooter ran last year. It seems like he would have changed formations and signals, or maybe he did.

Patricia brought in a new defensive scheme. Do the Lions have enough talent and depth on defense to execute it? He didn’t really say.

“We have the players that we have that are going to help us try to get better. I think the biggest part of it for us, again I’ll start with myself, some of the coaching and some of that stuff has to be better and some of the execution of some of the things we were trying to do last night has to be better,’’ Patricia said. “I don’t think it was a situation where we were outmatched or out-manned , we just got out-executed, give credit to the Jets.’’

Veteran safety Glover Quin said it felt like the defense never was in control of the game.

The Lions finished 2017 with a 9-7 record. They’ve won at least nine games in three of the last four seasons. Patricia doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. This is not a rebuild. This is not a young team by NFL standards. These guys know football.

“I feel like we were right in the game in a good situation at the beginning of the third quarter and we let things spiral out of control from there,” veteran linebacker Devon Kennard said. “Like I said, being a defensive guy, I would’ve loved to get a stop after our offense scored and put them in position to maybe score again. But we didn’t do that and things got out of control.”

 

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Lions, Matt Patricia had seven months to prepare for Jets; results inexcusable

Lopsided loss raises doubts

Seven months. Coach Matt Patricia and his staff had seven months to prepare for the N.Y. Jets. The results are shameful.

The Lions are coming off a 9-7 season which was not good enough to keep Jim Caldwell around. On paper it’s a decent NFL team. Not elite, but it should be at least an eight- or nine-win team.

This is not a rebuild. This is a team that should re ready to take the next step, a playoff win.

Then came a stinker like Monday when the Lions lost 48-17 at Ford Field to the Jets and their rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

Color me befuddled.

It would be understandable if Stafford happened to have a bad day but the defense and special teams held their own. Or any variation of that – defense bad and Stafford and special teams good. Or, if one of the key players had been out with an injury it would have been a little less befuddling.

But it was all three phases that stunk in Monday night’s debacle. Even Matt Prater missed two field goals.

Stafford threw four interceptions and afterward several Jets defenders said they knew what play the Lions were going to run by their formations and Stafford’s hand signals, according to Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports.

How can that happen? Patricia is a defensive guru — he’s the guy who has been looking for tells on other offenses. How can he not see them in his own offense?

He took partial blame, but should have put it all on his shoulders. That’s what Stafford did – he told his teammates that loss was on him. That’s a sign of a leader.

Seven months.

Look back to 2009 when Jim Schwartz, also a first-year head coach, took over the Lions who had stumbled to an 0-16 record in 2008. That was a job no one wanted. The roster he inherited had more weak points than strengths (Calvin Johnson). Matthew Stafford was a 21-year-old rookie. The team culture was all about losing. The roster didn’t have near the talent or depth that today’s does.

The 2009 season opener was in New Orleans, a tough place for any NFL team to win except the Saints. Drew Brees threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions while Stafford threw three interceptions and zero touchdowns. And, yes, the Lions lost, but the score was 45-27. Detroit had 33 rushing yards, even then it was a weak point. It was not a great start for Schwartz, but considering where the Lions came from, it was not that upsetting.

In 2014, Jim Caldwell won his first game as Lions coach on a Monday night against the Giants, 35-14, at Ford Field. Those Lions were coming off a 7-9 season that got Schwartz fired.

That was then, this is now. Patricia’s message has been “last year was last year.”

Well, last year is looking pretty good.

Five thoughts on the Lions embarrassing 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets

Even Prater missed a pair of field goals

DETROIT — It wasn’t just a loss. The Lions through the years have dropped many games they were supposed to win.

No, Monday night’s season-opening 48-17 loss to the N.Y. Jets was humiliating, embarrassing and all-around atrocious.

To say it was awful is just too kind.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

The Lions were beat solidly in every phase on Monday night in the friendly confines of Ford Field by rookie Sam Darnold, the youngest quarterback to ever start a game in the NFL.

Five thoughts:

1. Let’s start with the coaching. Did Matt Patricia have this bunch fully prepared? It did not look like it. Patricia’s first start as an NFL head coach was abysmal.

“Look we’re just trying to come out here everyday and get better. It’s a team game but it starts with me and we’ve got to do it better,’’ Patricia said afterwards. “Look we work hard, try to do the right things, we try to coach it the right way, we try to run it the right way, we try to execute the right way we obviously didn’t do a good enough job tonight.” Obviously.

2. Matthew Stafford is a talented quarterback with a big arm. He is not just a gunslinger. His former backup, Dan Orlovsky, said on WJR’s pre-game show that most people don’t understand the level of Stafford’s intelligence. It was the first game of Stafford’s 10th season and he threw four interceptions. Four. His record is five in a game but that was back when he was a rookie. Stafford got dinged twice in the game, but made it through until there was absolutely no need for him to be on the field.

“The story of the game was turnovers, we had too many of them, I had too many of them. I told those guys in there I’ll take (the blame) for this one. I hope I never have to say that again, I don’t want to do it, I’ll push myself as hard as I can to make sure I don’t have to. Felt prepared coming into the game, but didn’t make enough good decisions or good throws,’’ Stafford said.

3.  It is not the first time opponents said they knew what plays the Lions offense was running before the ball was snapped. Dan Wetzel, Yahoo columnist, tweeted that “a number of  Jets defenders said they knew what plays the Lions were going to run based on formation and Stafford hand signals.’’ Could explain why the Jets defense intercepted Stafford four times and Matt Cassel once. This is inexcusable and it can be blamed on coaching. Patricia knows better than this.

4. Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said finger-pointing will not help. He emphasized that players and coaches have to examine their roles in the debacle. Francois started with himself.

“We just got beat across the board. Tonight is a game we need to look at, we need to look at each individual self including my damn self. I need to look myself in the mirror and look at this game. I have to put it behind me fast,’’ Francois said. “This is a game we need to learn off of. The bad part about it, we got beat this way. The good part about it is we get to learn from it. We’ve got 16 more weeks to play.’’

5. Bailing out the water from this sinking ship can’t be a drawn-out process. It has to be done before Sunday when the Lions play at the 49ers.

“There’s not a lot to be happy about here. I think in general all of us have to be better, start from the top and work our way down, I don’t think there’s anything you can say other than it’s all execution and coaching it all has to be better from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said.

BONUS 1: Wide receiver Kenny Golladay (7 catches for 114 yards) and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson (5 carries for 17 yards; 3 catches for 20 yards) provided highlights on offense. … Safety Quandre Diggs intercepted Darnold on the first play from scrimmage and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown. It was a great way to start a game. … Detroit’s defense allowed 169 rushing yards and 349 yards overall. … Matt Prater missed two field goal attempts (55 yards short and wide right from 44 yards). … Ziggy Ansah had a sack early, but couldn’t finish the game due to a shoulder injury. Devon Kennard also sacked Darnold. … Ameer Abdullah and A’Shawn Robinson were inactive.

BONUS 2: Ricky Jean Francois gets the final words: “As long as nobody in this locker room, this organization lost faith, I could care less (what’s said) outside the door. None of them play for us. The only people who play for us are the people in this locker room, who I go to practice every day. As long as they still have confidence, as long as they know we have 16 weeks and as long as they know we’ve got a quick turnaround for this game we have to play (Sunday). That’s all that matters to this Lions organization.’’

 

Detroit Lions make cuts, release initial 53-man roster

Changes will likely be made this weekend

A few surprises were included when the Lions released their list of roster cuts on Saturday to get down to an initial 53-man roster. Really, though no shockers among those no longer on the team. A few have a chance of being brought back for the practice squad but first them must clear waivers by noon on Sunday.

Here’s a look at the initial 53-man Lions roster. This will likely change through the weekend, next week and, in fact, through much of the season.

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks (2): Matthew Stafford and Matt Cassel

Analysis: Jake Rudock was the odd man out. If he clears waivers, he could be brought back on the practice squad. This move was pretty much guaranteed when Cassel was signed in the spring.

Wide receivers (6): Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, T.J. Jones, Bradley Marquez and Brandon Powell.

Analysis: A little surprised to see six wide receivers on the roster, but can’t argue with the choices. Rookie Brandon Powell was a standout in camp and the preseason. Bradley Marquez quietly earned his spot on the roster. Jace Billingsley and Chris Lacy were waived with Andy Jones placed on PUP.

Tight ends (4): Luke Willson, Hakeem Valles, Michael Roberts and Levine Toilolo.

Analysis: It became clear in camp that Valles belonged on the roster in his third year, his first with the Lions. Roberts didn’t get much opportunity in his rookie season last year. He needs to take a step forward and make the most of his chances.

Running backs (5): Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick. Ameer Abdullah and FB Nick Bellore.

Analysis: Dwayne Washington was waived after struggled with a toe injury throughout camp. Zach Zenner, who injured his back in the final preseason game, was placed on injured reserve. Who will get the most work? Depends on the game and individual performance. Johnson, the second-round pick, could be something special but give him a little time.

Offensive line (10): Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, Rick Wagner, rookie Tyrell Crosby, Kenny Wiggins, Joe Dahl, Brian Mihalik and Leo Koloamatangi.

Analysis: Good depth here with 10. Only seven are active on game days. Tyrell Crosby has been effective enough to make the roster as a rookie. Koloamatangi spent last season on the practice squad in Detroit and obviously learned along the way. If the starting five stay healthy, this line should be improved over last season.

DEFENSE

Defensive line (7): Ziggy Ansah, A’Shawn Robinson, Sylvester Williams, Anthony Zettel, Kerry Hyder, Da’Shawn Hand and Ricky Jean Francois.

Analysis: Seven a low number, although it could change. Also, this is a new defense scheme and the numbers reflect that. Can this group pass rush better than they did in preseason games? That is perhaps the biggest question on defense. Francois has stepped up as a veteran leader which has been a missing ingredient since Haloti Ngata’s departure.

Linebackers (7): Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard, Eli Harold, Christian Jones, Jalen Reeves-Maybin, Miles Killebrew and Trevor Bates.

Analysis: Harold was a late addition who could prove to be one of Bob Quinn’s better August moves. Killebrew made the move from safety and Patricia has made no secret that he loves his hard-hitting no matter where he is on the field.

Defensive backs (9): Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs, Teez Tabor, Jamal Agnew, Charles Washington and Tracey Walker.

Analysis: DeShawn Shead was surprisingly waived. He was expected to vie for a starting role but a back injury held him back. Still, they could have found a way to keep him around. Washington’s play on special teams last year, helped him stay around this year. Third-round pick Tracey Walker has been impressive since the offseason.

Special teams (3): Matt Prater, Sam Martin and Don Muhlbach.

Analysis: Martin had a rough year last year coming back from a foot injury but he’s looked fine so far. Ryan Santoso got some film in the preseason game which is the best he could hope for.

The cuts:

RELEASED (VESTED VETERANS)

LB Jonathan Freeny, C Wesley Johnson, TE Sean McGrath and CB DeShawn Shead.

WAIVED

RB Dwayne Washington, DE Alex Barrett, WR Jace Billingsley, LB Freddie Bishop, WR Dontez Ford, CB Mike Ford, CB Chris Jones, WR Chris Lacy, DT Jeremiah Ledbetter, S Rolan Milligan, QB Jake Rudock, LB Darnell Sankey, P Ryan Santoso and T Dan Skipper.

PLACED ON RESERVE/INJURED

RB Zach Zenner

PLACED ON RESERVE/PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM

WR Andy Jones

TRADED

Traded T Corey Robinson to the Carolina Panthers for an undisclosed future draft selection.

WAIVED FROM RESERVE/INJURED

DT Toby Johnson

Lions release Jake Rudock; 5 reasons Matt Cassel best choice as No. 2 QB

Cassel’s experience a boost on and off the field

The Lions released quarterback Jake Rudock Saturday as one of their cuts on the way to the initial 53-man roster which was due at 4 p.m.

Matt Cassel, the NFL veteran, will back up Matthew Stafford this season.

Do not think for a minute that the backup has to be the quarterback who has best moved the offense in the preseason games or the younger guy. Look at the big picture.

“Their preparation, their professionalism, how they attack the day, the daily game plan, the weekly game plan, how they prepare themselves, is definitely all part of the evaluation,’’ coach Matt Patricia said.

This is not an attack on Rudock who could land on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

However, keeping Cassel over Rudock is a good move. Here are five reasons why:

1. After watching both at training camp, Cassel at age 36, has a better arm than the 25-year-old Rudock who served as Stafford’s backup the past two seasons after he was drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan in 2016. The Lions wouldn’t have signed Cassel if they thought his arm strength was gone and they wouldn’t have kept him if he didn’t meet expectations in the offseason and preseason.

2. It is not, however, all about arm strength or even the ability to move the offense down the field. Certainly those help, but the backup quarterback serves as another set of eyes for Stafford on the sideline during games, at practice and in the film room. This is a huge part of the job description. It only makes sense that this is the strength of Cassel who is entering his 14th NFL season. Deciphering defenses is second nature. Cassel has seen it all as a starter and backup on six other NFL teams. That experience is invaluable.

3. Rudock had a head-start on the Jim Bob Cooter offense, but Cassel seemed to be a quick learner. It happens with experience. Did I mention the benefits of experience? Cassel has played in 105 NFL games completing 1,571 of 2,666 passes (58.9 percent). As an NFL starter, Cassel owns a 36-45 record. He had two 10-5 seasons — in 2008 (Patriots) and 2010 (Chiefs). Rudock got some garbage time in three games last season completing 3 of 5 pass attempts with one interception.

4. Cassel, who was drafted in the seventh round in 2005 by the New England Patriots, has a history with Patricia. While Patricia ran the defense in New England, the two were not strangers. This is not the only reason Cassel got the nod as the No. 2 quarterback but it helps that Patricia knows him well and obviously trusts him.

5. Rudock is a nice guy and has worked hard the past two seasons. This isn’t a nice guy contest, although Cassel seems like quite a champ in that department too. It’s a business. Remember how Jim Caldwell felt comfortable with Dan Orlovsky as a backup? That’s how it looks for Patricia and Cassel.

(BONUS tidbit: Cassel has NFL career earnings of $61 million, according to FOXsports.)

Expect changes through the next few days. Initial roster cuts:

RELEASED (VESTED VETERANS)
LB Jonathan Freeny
C Wesley Johnson
TE Sean McGrath
CB DeShawn Shead

WAIVED
DE Alex Barrett
WR Jace Billingsley
LB Freddie Bishop
WR Dontez Ford
CB Mike Ford
CB Chris Jones
WR Chris Lacy
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter
S Rolan Milligan
QB Jake Rudock
LB Darnell Sankey
P Ryan Santoso
T Dan Skipper
RB Dwayne Washington

PLACED ON RESERVE/INJURED
RB Zach Zenner

PLACED ON RESERVE/PHYSICALLY UNABLE TO PERFORM
WR Andy Jones

TRADED
Traded T Corey Robinson to the Carolina Panthers for an undisclosed future draft selection.

WAIVED FROM RESERVE/INJURED
DT Toby Johnson

 

 

 

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.