Detroit Lions camp: Kenny Wiggins on O-line competition, facing Mike Daniels

 ALLEN PARK — Guard Kenny Wiggins, for one, is happy to have Mike Daniels as a newcomer on the Detroit Lions roster.

The Lions announced on Saturday that they have signed the veteran Pro Bowl defensive end who was released by the Green Bay Packers before camp.

Wiggins, who is battling for a starting role at guard, vividly remembers the first time he faced Daniels.

“My third start ever at Green Bay when I was with the Chargers. He gave me a little fit, we ran 93 plays that game, which is a lot, and a lot of them were passes,’’ Wiggins said. “That was fun. No sacks though.’’

Daniels will add to a formidable defensive line that includes Damon “Snacks” Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson, Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara.

Wiggins said they should have some good battles at camp between the offensive and defensive lines.

“It’s going to make us better, it’s only going to make the whole team better too,’’ Wiggins said. “I would say the games are won up front. Iron sharpens iron. So whoever comes out on top one day, the next day we’re going to get better, we’re going to come out and get better and be better as a total unit.’’

Wiggins started 10 games at right guard for the Lions last season when T.J. Lang was injured. With Frank Ragnow moved to center from left guard and Lang retired both guard spots are up for grabs in camp. Graham Glasgow and and Joe Dahl are also in the mix along with veteran Oday Aboushi.

“We have a lot of guys who have played a lot of football and all of us have great depth and that’s a good thing to have,’’ Wiggins said. “Whoever gets the nod — it’s up in the air right now so who knows — we’re just out here competing trying to get better.’’

Saturday was the third day of camp, but the first day in pads 

“Once the pads come on that’s when camp starts for me, just out in pajamas before then,’’ Wiggins said. “This is camp now.”

Lions T.J. Lang said team went through ‘drastic’ change with Matt Patricia

Still, no excuses for 6-10 season

ALLEN PARK — T.J. Lang has played 10 years so he knows a little about how an NFL  season unfolds.

The right guard spoke at length, after cleaning out his locker on Monday. The Lions wrapped up their season with a 31-0 win at Green Bay on Sunday to finish 6-10.

In the first season for coach Matt Patricia, the Lions got off to a slow start. There was much speculation about whether the team was buying in to Patricia’s changes especially at training camp and after the Lions started the season 0-2 with losses to the Jets and 49ers.

Lang was open about the transition calling it drastic.

“I guess I wouldn’t say the buy-in didn’t exist. Just like anything, you go through a change as drastic as we did there’s going to be a learning curve,’’ Lang said. “There’s going to be some things that you have to learn how to practice different, how to prepare different, how to meet different, I think that being said I think that takes a little longer sometimes — no excuses.

“I think that was maybe an issue we had early on in the season. I would never question the guys’ effort or the guys wanting to be here or the buy-in,” Lang said, “I think it’s something that at the end of the day, obviously it’d be nice to get off to a lot faster start in the season to kind of shred some of those questions, some of those doubts. But at the end of the day everybody in this locker room is together and that’s what it’s all about.’’

Lang said it was a combination of factors at work.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys, this is my 10th season doing it. I’ve seen different coaches, different approaches, anyway you can,’’ Lang said. “It’s about adjusting as fast as you can and adapting to new way and getting rolling. Like I said there’s no excuse. I think that will be a learning experience that we can take into next year.’’

Patricia was more vague about the situation and how it should make the start of next season smoother.

“There’s always a little more comfort with familiarity when you can walk into a situation and kind of know what to expect that’s always better,’’ Patricia said. “But I certainly do believe every team is different every single year in the NFL whether there’s consistency with the coaching or not. It does change and coaches do change, things do change it’s just part of the NFL season. We’ll certainly evaluate everything and try to do the best we can to make it better from that standpoint.’’

Patricia, whose ragged beard had been trimmed, had no update on the status of his coaching staff including offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter whose contract is expiring.

Lions minus Slay, Lang, Willson and more as they face Bears in Chicago

Ziggy Ansah active; Zach Zenner returns

The Detroit Lions will be without several key players at Soldier Field to play the NFC North leading Chicago Bears today. Kickoff is 1 p.m.

Cornerback Darius Slay (knee) will miss first game this season. He didn’t practice all week and his status was announced on Friday.

Right guard T.J. Lang (neck) has suffered from a variety of injuries this season and also missed games in Weeks 2 and 5. The LIons announced on Friday that he wouldn’t play today.

Linebacker Eli Harold (shoulder) was added to the inactive list on Saturday.

Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (neck) and tight end Luke Willson (shoulder) will not play. They were  listed as questionable on Friday.

Defensive end Ezekiel Ansah (shoulder) will play in his second game.

Running back Kerryon Johnson (ankle) was questionable but is a go.

Running back Zach Zenner, who was released in September with a back injury, was re-signed on Tuesday and is active today. Expect to see him on special teams.

Other Lions’ inactives: Wide receiver Bruce Ellington and offensive lineman Andrew Donnal.

The Lions are barely hanging in the NFC North race with a 3-5 record. Today’s game could be a turning point in the season.

Detroit Lions’ guard T.J. Lang seeks advice from concussion specialists

Lang back at practice, could play Sunday

ALLEN PARK — T.J. Lang spent part of his bye week examining his health, in particular the latest concussion that he suffered on Sept. 30.

The Detroit Lions starting right guard has practiced this week and could be back in the lineup for Sunday’s game at the Miami Dolphins. He missed the Oct. 7 win over the Green Bay Packers and Wednesday was the first day he practiced since the injury.

“I feel pretty good, back to the normal routine,’’ Lang said on Thursday after practice. He stopped short of guaranteeing he will be on the field at Miami but seemed confident that would happen.

It was not his first concussion and the 31-year-old Lang did not take it lightly.

“Dating back to last week and even two weeks ago I tried not to make too big of a deal about it. Obviously I’ve been down this road before,’’ Lang said. “The older you get the more you start to think. The guys here — the trainers, doctors, everybody that is involved in my personal life — did a good job setting me up with high-end experts, doctors, neurologists that I could talk to. I reached out to a lot of them and tried to gather as much information as I could. I would say most of those meetings are pretty positive.’’

He wouldn’t go into detail on the information he culled because as he said, “I’m just not that smart.”

His wife went on a few of the appointments with him.

“She seems to be pretty worked up about some of the head stuff with obviously everything that is going on in the public. At the end of the day you have to make a conscious educated decision to move forward. I think I gathered enough information to feel comfortable to continue to play when I’m feeling good,’’ Lang said.

He said he saw three or four specialists to gather information on former players and CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy). He wanted to know if concussion are overblown in the media. Also is the information out there accurate.

“The biggest question I had was, ‘Do you think I”ll be safe to return once I’m fully back healthy?’ And I think most of them said, ‘Yes.’ That gave me a lot of comfort knowing that when this is all settled and done, basically set the reset button and continue to play,”’ Lang said.

A few of the specialists had different opinions.

“For the most part it was you’d be fine to play, I don’t think there’ll be ramifications down the line if you continue to play,’’ Lang said. “There were some tough conversations, you have to have those conversations no matter what injury you have. …

“For me the biggest thing was I feel like I have teammates in this locker room that are counting on me to be out there and to play at a high level , that’s something that’s always driven me and will continue to drive me,’’ Lang said. “So I don’t know if its the brightest way to look at it when you’re comparing your health. At the same time it’s all I really know and I want to be known as a dependable guy.’’

His wife, his mother and his children all factor into his decisions.

“My kids are old enough to watch the games now and notice when something is wrong,’’ Lang said. “All that goes through your mind, it’s human nature. At the end of the day I try to explain that I’ll be all right.’’

Detroit Lions’ offensive line plays best game in win over Patriots

Run game exploded; Stafford sacked just once

ALLEN PARK — Without a smart and strong offensive line, the Lions run game was going nowhere this season.

The O-line played its best game early this season in the 26-10 win over the Patriots on Sunday night at Ford Field.

The Lions rushed for 159 yards and rookie Kerryon Johnson became the first Lions player to reach 100 yards in a game since Reggie Bush scampered for 117 yards on Nov. 28, 2013.

“That’s obviously a critical part of every football game, I think (the line) did a great job up front, definitely very difficult against that defense and the multiple looks they’ll give you,’’ coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “They were spinning the dial pretty good last night with a couple different looks — four-man rushes, five-man looks, six-man looks and I think those guys did a great job up font of recognizing that stuff, getting on the same page, executing their blocks well. There were a couple plays they could have done better, but I thought we had good movement at the line of scrimmage which is most important.’’

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)

Pro Football Focus’ analysis of the line: “(They) performed exceptionally well against New England. Not a single starting lineman graded below a 65 and three of them graded at 70 or better.’’

Ragnow, who allowed seven pressures the previous week to the 49ers, came back with a “dominant performance.” He didn’t allow a single pressure against the Patriots, per Pro Football Focus.

The Lions O-line features two first-round picks — Taylor Decker (2016) and Frank Ragnow, a rookie. Also center Graham Glasgow was a third-round pick in 2016.

Right guard T.J. Lang returned after missing the previous game with a back injury. Lang, who signed as a free agent in 2017, proved he’s still got something in the tank because the line was more effective with him than the previous week with Kenny Wiggins.

Right tackle Rick Wagner, who was also signed as a free agent in 2017,  quietly had a good game.

Not only did they open lanes for the running backs, they also gave Matthew Stafford plenty of time in the pocket. It’s possible more time than he’s ever had consistently for four quarters. He was sacked just once.

Immediately after the game, Stafford couldn’t say enough about the line’s play.

Stafford has been sacked on just 2.2 percent of pass attempts (3/138) this season which is the best in the NFL. The league average is 6.6 percent, per Josh Norris of Rotoworld.

Five things to watch as Detroit Lions host New England Patriots; also prediction

New England defense without 3 sstarters

After what can best be described as a disappointing start to the season, the Lions face their toughest opponent so far when they host the New England Patriots tonight at Ford Field.

“Did they win the Super Bowl last year?” asked Glover Quin, possibly trying to downplay the Patriots’ elite status. Well, of course they didn’t win it, but they were in it.

New England is off to a 1-1 start and the offense needs some work but they have Tom Brady (five touchdowns, 1 interception). The Patriots’ defense, which has allowed 25.5 points per game, will be missing defensive lineman Trey Flowers, along with safety Patrick Chung and cornerback Eric Rowe. All three started last week and have been ruled out for this game due to injury.

Meanwhile, Matthew Stafford is off to an inglorious start with four touchdowns and four interceptions. He’s been off on connecting with receivers on the long ball. Just not a good look so far.

Of course all eyes will be on Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia, his disciple and former defensive coordinator. They will be a part of the story on Sunday night even though they both try to dismiss the attention.

Five things to watch:

1. Stafford has to have a better game. They don’t win unless this offense gets turned around. Since he’s the quarterback he gets the blame or the credit. “I have to make sure I give those guys (Golden Tate, Marvin Jones Jr.) chances, No. 1, and then when they do beat those guys just make sure I put it on them,’’ Stafford said.

2. The offensive line had a better Week 2. Left tackle Taylor Decker didn’t practice on Friday but it wasn’t an injury situation and he’s expected to play tonight. The line was without right guard T.J. Lang last week, but he practiced this week and should start.

3. Detroit’s secondary against Brady will be a tough matchup. It could be worse if cornerback Darius Slay (concussion) does not play. He participated in practice on Friday for the first time all week but it’s unclear if he’ll be ready to go. Slay gives the Lions’ defense the best chance of being able to stop Brady and his gang.

4. After missing last week, defensive end Ziggy Ansah is expected to play — he’s practiced this week. Ansah and the line have to put pressure on Brady, keep him in the pocket. They sacked Jimmy Garoppolo six times, but he holds onto the ball longer so don’t give that stat too much value. Brady has been sacked four times in the first two games.

5. The Lions run game has slightly improved. They’re up to 4.3 yards per catch which is 1.1 yards better than last season. In the first two games, the Lions fell so far behind they had to resort to the pass to try to catch up. Kerryon Johnson (4.6 yards per carry) has just 13 touches in the first two weeks. If the Lions can stay in the game, he could get more of the load. LeGarrette Blount, a former Patriot, has proven he’s still got gas in the tank.

PREDICTION: Patriots 27, Lions 24.

Five things to watch as Lions face 49ers

Both teams want to avoid 0-2 start

After Monday night’s 48-17 loss, the Detroit Lions have much to prove today at the San Francisco 49ers.

They can quiet the rumors that the team doesn’t buy into new coach Matt Patricia. The defense can show that Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni have drawn up a scheme that complements the players’ talents.

They can prove this team is ready to take a step up from a 9-7 record last season. They can show that they can compete for a playoff spot.

(Kickoff is at 4:05 p.m. on FOX)

The Lions’ short turn-around from playing on Monday night is no excuse. This is the NFL, this is what they do.

In the past 10 seasons only 10 NFL teams  made the playoffs after an 0-2 start. Here’s the thing, though. San Francisco is 0-1 too — although they looked more competitive in the 24-16 loss at the Vikings.

It all sets up for a Week 2 game with plenty on the line for both teams.

Five things to watch:

1. Matthew Stafford should have a better game. The four interceptions were not all on him, but he made some bad decisions in the first game of this tenth season. He is better than that. Of course when he delivers a ball to a receiver, they cannot drop it. Golden Tate alone had two drops. He knows he can do better.

2. The offensive line last week didn’t allow Stafford to be sacked. However, the quarterback faced much pressure. With T.J. Lang (foot) out at right guard we could see Kenny Wiggins start in his place. He is experienced after starting all 16 games last season for the Chargers. The line — all five of them — have to play better than last week not just in protecting Stafford but opening up holes for the running backs.

3. That run game that has been talked about since the final snap of the 2017 season, needs to get in gear early. Let’s see more of rookie Kerryon Johnson and veteran LeGarrette Blount. Last week Ameer Abdullah was inactive (coach’s decision) and would expect the same at San Francisco. The Lions only had 39 yards rushing in Monday night’s loss to the Jets. They had to get away from the run in the second half because they fell so far behind. In the first half they managed just 18 rushing yards. It’s befuddling, that’s for sure. If it’s not corrected, their chances of beating the 49ers are diminished.

4. Detroit’s defense got off to a terrific start with Quandre Diggs intercepting Sam Darnold on the Jets’ first play from scrimmage. It was pretty much downhill from there with the defense giving up five touchdowns, 169 rushing yards and 48 total points. It doesn’t get easier. Coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense has plenty of weapons with Jimmy Garoppolo connecting on passes of 36 yards or more to three different receivers last week. Shanahan said he watched Patriots’ film from the Super Bowl to acquaint himself with Patricia’s defensive scheme. The line must get pressure on Jimmy Garoppolo to force him to throw interceptions. Last week he threw three, which is uncharacteristic for him. In six games last season he was picked off just five times. The Vikings made him uncomfortable (he was sacked three times) and it worked.

5. Special teams must get its act together after a lousy start against the Jets. They gave up a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown and Matt Prater missed two field goals (56 and 44 yards). Sam Martin’s punts averaged a healthy 50.7 yards but those were returned for a total of 137 yards. Special teams can be overlooked, but this unit needs to step up.