Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face N.Y. Giants at Ford Field

After three straight losses, the Lions face a must-win situation when they face the New York Giants on Sunday at Ford Field.

Must-win in October? Absolutely.

The Lions (2-3-1)  are in the NFC North basement, with two straight division losses. Also they hit the road for the next two weeks — at Oakland on Nov. 3 and at Chicago on Nov. 10.

The Giants (2-5) have won just as many games as the Lions. Think about that.

“We have a big challenge in front of us. I think this is a really good Giants team and I think they’re building confidence as the season goes, and certainly they create a lot of problems on both sides of the ball,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Offensively, they have some skill players that are just so dangerous, starting obviously with the running back (Saquon) Barkley and the tight end position (Evan) Engram – when you watch him more and more, his speed is really a major issue – especially, down there with a size matchup and stuff. Defensively, the packages that they mix and the pressures, and things like that they are bringing down in the red (zone) area are really hard …’’

Five things to watch:

1. Detroit’s defensive line must play better, get some pressure on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Damon “Snacks” Harrison took the blame for the poor play of the defense this week, but it is not just him. Communication and technique are issues that certainly can be fixed, the question is how quickly can this defense turn around. It is ranked 31st overall (allowing 428.7 yards per game.) Patricia is a defensive specialist which makes this all the more surprising. Mike Daniels (foot) remains out, but Da’Shawn Hand is expected to play his first game this season.

2. The Lions secondary will be forced to make adjustments with Darius Slay (hamstring) sidelined and the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs. Look for Tavon Wilson, along with rookie Will Harris and, possibly C.J. Moore, to see more snaps. Diggs was a leader on and off the field, so his presence will be missed all-around. Patricia mentioned that Miles Killebrew, who mostly plays special teams, could get involved in the defense. They must contain Golden Tate, former Lions’ wide receiver. You can bet Tate will be looking to have a great game. Patricia noted this week that he’s one of the toughest guys in the NFL to tackle. 

3. The Giants’ rookie quarterback Daniel Jones could cause real problems. He’s young so he’ll make mistakes. His stat line of six touchdown passes against seven interceptions is hardly impressive. Still, he should be taken seriously. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni on Jones: “He’s very, very athletic, he has a very strong arm, he can make all the throws. He can do some real damage – he can do some real damage scrambling and running out of the pocket. They are running the zone-read play. He did do that against Tampa and had one heck of a nice run in the red zone for a touchdown. He’s a really, really, really good player, and I think it’s just he’s a little bit young and trying to get used to playing quarterback in the pocket with the speed and the violence of the game in the NFL.”

4. Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense has been solid but will be challenged without running back Kerryon Johnson who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic will pick up the slack. Maybe fullback Nick Bawden could get more involved too. Johnson has almost half of the team’s rushing yards — 308 out of 619 — and both of the Lions’ rushing touchdowns. He also ranks sixth in receiving yards with 126. The Diggs trade took much of the spotlight off the bad news regarding the run game which has struggled at times with Johnson healthy. He’s a big loss and coordinator Darrell Bevell must come up with a way to compensate and in a hurry.

5. The fourth-quarter letdowns must end. The Lions have been outscored 38-16 in the fourth quarters of the last three games, all losses. 

PREDICTION: Lions 31, Giants 24 (No excuses, the Lions have to find a way to win this home game.)

Detroit Lions Matt Patricia looks to youth to replace safety Quandre Diggs

ALLEN PARK — Coach Matt Patricia said despite the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs the Lions’ goals remain the same for the final 10 games of the season.

That starts Sunday against the N.Y. Giants at Ford Field.

Certainly, those decisions are very difficult. They’re not taken lightly. There are certainly things that we try to do to help the team get better in the long run for us, and certainly in a situation where we think moving forward hopefully, we have some players that can still help us, even if we do make a move like we did yesterday’’ Patricia said at his Wednesday press conference.

Diggs, a former sixth-round draft pick, was shipped to the Seattle Seahawks along with a seventh-round pick for a fifth-round pick in 2020.

The Lions’ goals have not changed, Patricia said they want to win every week.

“I think those guys in the back end have all been working really hard and developing, and some of those guys have had to really play in the last couple of weeks, and in some of those bigger games that we’ve had so far this year,’’ Patricia said on Wednesday. “Will Harris is someone that’s has to step into some roles, Tracy Walker plays more for us in some of those roles, Tavon Wilson who has been a good solid player for us for a long time. 

“C.J. Moore, you’ll see him, he’s been mixed out there actually in some of these games, too in some other aspects. We have some depth too, with guys that have played for us in the past – (Miles) Killebrew would be another one. With those guys, they’ll continually push to get better, and they understand that maybe they have to take on maybe a little bit more work load or job responsibility. They’re good with that challenge, they’ll accept that challenge and kind of go forward from there.”

So far this season Tracy Walker has started all six games; Tavon Wilson who had started three games and played in all six.

The trade shows the Lions have faith in rookie Will Harris, a third-round pick, who has played in every game.

Killebrew who plays almost exclusively on special teams has played sporadically on defense in his four seasons with the Lions.

Moore, a rookie, has played just five snaps on defense in the first six games, contributing mostly on special teams.

Being a young NFL safety has its challenges. This is where the coaches need to step up.

“I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge for us. Especially as we go through the season and we’re starting to see different looks or multiple looks from teams, and especially good quarterbacks and good offensive schemes, just the experience part of it,’’ Patricia said. “Those guys are going to have to catch up on that stuff really quickly. The good thing for us is Tracy (Walker) played in a lot of critical situations last year. He played in those maybe situations that you don’t have an opportunity during the game to talk about, they happen, and you have to react to them. His ability to be able to communicate with the less experienced guys that are on the field at that time, and certainly Tavon is someone that has great experience playing this game and can see some those situations happen pretty quick.’’

Diggs had played in 65 regular season games and was very much a student of football growing up watching his brother Quentin Jammer, who played for the San Diego chargers. 

Replacing Diggs in midstream will certainly have its challenges.

Lions’ Damon Harrison takes blame in defensive woes against the run

Five thoughts from ‘Snacks’

ALLEN PARK — After three straight losses, the Lions’ defense is under scrutiny.

 It allowed 503 net yards, including 166 rushing yards in the loss to the Vikings on Sunday.

The head-scratcher is that going into the season, the Lions’ defensive line looked like it would be the strength of the defense.

So far that has not been the case.

Lions coach Matt Patricia blamed it on lack of communication, consistency and the need for better coaching on Monday. He still thinks they can improve in the 10 games left this season. 

“We’re always going to coach, and work, and try to improve and get better. Certainly, that’s happened many times in the years past where teams have gotten better as the season has gone on,’’ Patricia said on Monday.

Defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison agreed with his coach about communication and working on the details.

Harrison said no one is panicking yet, but they are certainly disappointed in the 2-3-1 start this season.

Five thoughts from Harrison: 

1. He points a finger at himself for not playing up to his usual standards. “Obviously it’s very disappointing, especially having the guys we have in the room. It really starts with me upfront, I have to do a better job in the middle getting some of those plays that I’m used to making that I’m not making this year,’’ Harrison said on Monday. “There’s a lot of things that I can blame it on but the only thing I can do at the end of the day is throw effort at it during the practice week and try to perform on Sunday.’’

2. The veteran, in his eighth NFL season, can’t pinpoint why he’s not making the plays he used to make routinely. “Let’s just say teams are doing a good job of making sure I’m accounted for, it hasn’t stopped me in the past and I don’t see why it should stop me now,’’ Harrison said.

3. When last season ended, the Lions defense was one of the best in stopping the run. Today they’re ranked 28th in the NFL, allowing an average of 139.2 rushing yards per game. (The overall defense is ranked 31st.) “It’s been a long season and we have a long season ahead of us, again we can’t look back in the past and we damn sure can’t look at what we did last year,’’ Harrison said. “It’s a new year, the offenses get paid too so they’ve done a pretty good job a scheming up some runs and things we aren’t doing well they’re exploiting them.’’

4. Harrison said he doesn’t think it has anything to do with missing the preseason. “There’s a lot of things to blame it on, that’s one of the things. Obviously I missed a lot of the preseason but again I’ve been playing football for a long time and the game hasn’t changed. Just got to get better and get better fast,’’ Harrison said.

5. The Lions host the Giants, Harrison’s former team, on Sunday at Ford Field. He said it’s no big deal. The big deal is facing Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley. “Because he’s big, fast and strong and can catch the ball out of the backfield,’’ Harrison said. “He can do just about everything on the football field including lining up at receiver. I’m pretty sure he can play quarterback too, he’s just one heck of an athlete.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Detroit Lions release 2019 schedule

Will play one Monday night game on the road

Not too much drama in the release of the Detroit Lions’ 2019 schedule on Wednesday night although just two of the first five games will be played at Ford Field.

The Lions open on the road at the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 8 with their first home game in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers who finished 12-4 last season.

They will play on Monday night game, on Oct. 14 at the Green Bay Packers. It will be their first game after the bye in Week 5 (Oct. 6).

On Oct. 27, the Lions will welcome the New York Giants and wide receiver Golden Tate.

On Thanksgiving they will face the Chicago Bears for the second straight season. In 2018 the Bears feasted on the Lions with a 23-16 win.

The regular season — the second under coach Matt Patricia —  will wrap up on Dec. 29 against the Packers at Ford Field. It’s the second straight home finale against the Packers. The Lions won that game 30-0 last year to finish the season, 6-10.

2019 REGULAR SEASON LIONS SCHEDULE

Sunday, Sept. 8 at Arizona Cardinals, FOX, 4:25 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 15 LOS ANGELES CHARGERS, CBS, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 22 at Philadelphia Eagles, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 29 KANSAS CITY CHIEFS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 6 BYE WEEK

Monday, October 14 at Green Bay Packers, ESPN, 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 20 MINNESOTA VIKINGS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 27 NEW YORK GIANTS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 3 at Oakland Raiders, FOX, 4:05 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 10 at Chicago Bears, CBS, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov. 17 DALLAS COWBOYS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Nov.24 at Washington Redskins, FOX, 1 p.m.

Thursday, Nov. 28 CHICAGO BEARS, FOX, 12:30 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 8 at Minnesota Vikings, FOX, 1 p.m.

Sunday, Dec. 15 TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS, FOX, 1 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 21/Sunday, Dec. 22 at Denver Broncos TBD

Sunday, Dec. 29 GREEN BAY PACKERS, FOX, 1 p.m.

PRESEASON SCHEDULE

Thursday, Aug. 8 NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS, WJBK-TV FOX 2, 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17 at Houston Texans WJBK-TV FOX 2, 8 p.m.

Friday, Aug. 23 BUFFALO BILLS, CBS, 8 p.m.

Thursday, Aug. 29 at Cleveland Browns, WJBK-TV, FOX 2 7:30 p.m

Lions welcome Damon ‘Snacks’ Harrison with open arms and a box of snacks

Harrison expected to play Sunday against the Seahawks

ALLEN PARK — Damon “Snacks” Harrison has arrived.

Waiting for the newest Detroit Lions nose tackle in his locker was a big box of snacks — candy, chips, a solid goodie assortment for a 355-pound mountain of a man nicknamed “Snacks.”

“I thought it was appropriate. I reached out to him via social media. He said Honey Buns and Butterfingers, which are solid choices. I figured I’d take care of him and other D-linemen,’’ wide receiver Golden Tate said.

The Lions who traded a fifth-round pick to the N.Y. Giants for Harrison, made the move official on Thursday morning.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Harrison was handed a No. 98 jersey and practiced for the first time with the team. He’ll meet with the media on Friday.

“It’s exciting, he’s been a big-time playmaker in this league for a long time. He’s really good at what he does,’’ Matthew Stafford said. “Hopefully he can bring that to us. Played against him a bunch of times, he’s definitely a guy you star when you playing against him and understand what his strengths are. Obviously really happy to have him.’’

The nose tackle has developed a reputation as a run stuffer, but he offers more than that.

“(He’s) extremely disruptive in the run game and sneaky good in the pass game too,’’ Stafford said. “Condensing the pocket in the pass game, and in the run game just dominating with his size, strength and quickness he’s been really good for along time.’’

Defensive end Kerry Hyder spent 2014 on the practice squad with the N.Y. Jets where Harrison was a starter.

“He’s a good dude, I’ve known him since my rookie year. To see him here, he’s a real cool dude, man, and he’s definitely going to give us a great impact,’’ Hyder said. “I’m excited to see him out there.’’

Hyder expects Harrison to easily pick up the scheme and be ready for Sunday’s game at Ford Field against the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions are riding a two-game win streak. Not much is needed to pump them up for a Sunday home game, but it appears the addition of Harrison has provided a spark in the locker room.

“What he’s done for a long time speaks for itself,’’ Tate said. “I think he’s an instant addition to our team that’s going to help us. That’s what we’re hoping for. I can’t wait to watch him.’’

Tate is not alone.