Lions add speed to receiving corps by adding Mike Thomas

Mike ThomasThe Detroit Lions made a minor deal before Thursday’s trading deadline, acquiring speedy wide receiver Mike Thomas from the Jacksonville Jaguars. The terms of the deal are still unknown.
The 5-foot-8, 198-pound Thomas had a career year for the Jaguars in 2010, catching 66 passes for 820 yards and four touchdowns.
His production slid in 2011 with rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert at the helm. Thomas has only caught 12 passes this season for 80 yards.
Thomas works primary out of the slot. He can be a downfield threat or pick up yardage after the catch working short routes underneath. He’s also considered an exceptional blocker despite his smaller frame.
Thomas has been the Jaguars’ primary punt returner the past four seasons. He averaged better than 10 yards per return, including a 78-yard touchdown, in 2010. He hasn’t been used on kickoffs much since his rookie year in 2009. Read more…

Top receiving corps in the 2012 NFL season

The NFL has morphed into a passing league over the past few seasons. While a running game is still important, a team is not going to win without at least one good receiver on the roster. If a team has more than one good receiver on the roster, it has a chance to win a championship. What teams have the best group of wide receivers?

Green Bay Packers: This should come as no surprise to anyone. Aaron Rodgers is one of the best when it comes to making receivers look good. However, the guys who catch his passes are superbly talented. Randall Cobb is one of the faster receivers in the league. James Jones and Jordy Nelson have emerged as more than just depth players in the absence of Greg Jennings. Greg Jennings is one of the best players in the game when he is healthy.

Detroit Lions: Everyone knows who Calvin Johnson is. However, most people are unaware of the other players who play receiver for Detroit. Titus Young is emerging as Matthew Stafford’s other favorite target when Johnson is being taken away. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew is another strong receiving target in that offense as well. It is no surprise that the Lions were able to rack up over 5,000 yards in the air last season. Read more…

Nate Burleson fined for shooting water gun celebration?

Nate Burleson went hunting and the NFL has made him pay the price.

The Detroit Lions wide receiver was fined $10,000 by the league for his touchdown celebration in Sunday’s comeback victory at Philadelphia. Burleson was not penalized on the play.

After hauling in his pass from quarterback Matthew Stafford in the corner of the end zone during the fourth quarter, Burleson flapped his arms as if he was an Eagle in flight. Then, he pretended to shoot the bird down.

According to Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press, the NFL came down on Burleson because thecelebration included a “violent action toward another team.”

Burleson indicated he will appeal the fine, saying he could have been shooting the Eagle with a “super soaker.” Read more…

Patrick Willis doesn’t know who Matt Millen is

Matt MillenMatt Millen, the former NFL linebacker and former Lions president who currently serves as a TV analyst, was unimpressed with the 49ers’ linebackers when breaking down San Francisco’s loss to the Giants on Sunday. When 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis heard that Millen criticized him, he wasn’t happy.

Millen said on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco that he thought Willis and 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman had the worst game he had ever seen the two of them play on Sunday. Willis later went on the same radio show, heard the same comments, and said Millen doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
“Whoever this Matt Millen guy is, I’d like to ask him if he could do what we do every day and do what we do for 16 games a year and see if he can hold up every game,” Willis said, via “I doubt he would. I doubt he would be able to consistently play at a high level as Bowman and I do. I really don’t care about what this guy has to say.”
Now, it’s easy to rip Millen after his disastrous stint running the Lions, and believe me, I’ve ripped Millen plenty myself. But the reality is Millen did, in fact, play linebacker in the NFL at a high level. So Willis is wrong when he says Millen couldn’t do it. If Millen ever criticizes an NFL general manager for drafting too many bad wide receivers with Top 10 picks, that G.M. will be justified in saying Millen has no room to criticize. But Willis is wrong to suggest that Millen doesn’t know what he’s talking about when it comes to playing the linebacker position.
Still, Willis may be right to think that people were too quick to jump off the 49ers’ bandwagon this week. Read more…

Do the Lions have reason for optimism?

Matthew Stafford

Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have finally ended their losing streak as they nearly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. This team is still struggling though and this game should not offer much comfort to the team or its fans. Fortunately there has been some late game magic, but that formula will only get you so far in this league. The truth of the matter is that Matthews Stafford continues to struggle and has not looked like an elite quarterback outside of the 4th quarter.

His inconsistency and their offensive struggles aside, the Lions do have a glimmer of hope amid the cellar dweller record of 2-3. Believe it or not, the Detroit Lions defense is better than advertised. Yes, I have said the seemingly absurd. I can’t argue that the “all-hype” defensive line has not produced as expected, but I see a silver lining.

The Lions are currently ranked 24th in scoring defense with 27.4 points per game allowed which is putrid. In fact, that total would have ranked them for 30th last season with only the Vikings and Buccaneers being worse. The defense clearly has holes in, primarily on the back end, but it isn’t as bad as many believe.  Read more…

Lions’ great Alex Karras passed away


Former Detroit Lions star defensive lineman Alex Karras passed away on Wednesday at the age of 77.

“After a heroic fight with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and for the last two years, stomach cancer,” Karras died at his home, surrounded by family,” a family spokesman told CNN.

Lions president Tom Lewand released a statement reacting to the news.

“On behalf of the William Clay Ford Family and the entire Detroit Lions organization, we extend our deepest sympathies to Susan, the Karras Family and to all of Alex’s friends and fans across the country,” Lewand said. “While his legacy reached far beyond the gridiron, we always will fondly remember Alex as one of our own and also as one of the best to ever wear the Honolulu Blue and Silver.

It was reported on Monday that Karras was suffering from kidney failure and had days to live.

Karras had also been battling dementia. In April, he joined a growing number of former players suing the NFL, claiming the league didn’t do enough to protect and educate players about the risks of the profession. Read more…

What is wrong with the Detroit Lions?

Matthew Stafford

Matthew StaffordThe Lions are a team that is, by design, built to score in the passing game and get opposing teams on their heels’ so our front four can attack.  That is why Matt Stafford and company have bypassed glaring needs with most of their draft choices, instead acquiring more offensive weapons like Pettigrew, Best, LeShoure, Young, and Broyles.  Despite their turn around in 2011, the strategy is not working.

The Lions’ disappointing start to the 2012 season has been well documented, but few commentators or analysts are actually talking about the real issues at hand.  Detroit has been created to be a pass first team.  When you have the best receiver in the NFL and one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the game, this seems like a good strategy.  This formula in and of itself is not the problem, but defenses have quickly adjusted, as NFL defenses do.

Every team they play continues to drape bracket coverage over Calvin Johnson, while sitting in a passive Cover 2 shell all day long.  Cover 2 is not some mystical and impenetrable fortress.  In fact it can actually be advantageous for the offense to know where the holes are in the zones pre-snap.  What the coverage does, though, is dictate where Stafford can go with the ball most of the time.  This bend-but-don’t-break style of defense works more often than not, because it demands that teams dink and dunk their way down the field.  By giving up less big plays, the opposition is forced to continually move the ball in bite sized chunks.  Doing this is hard in the NFL, because playing a perfect game offensively just doesn’t happen very often.  Making it worse is the fact that the Lions are currently leading the NFL with 15 dropped passes, averaging almost four per game.  Playing into the opponents’ hand further, they are only averaging 7.3 yards per pass attempt, ranking them 16th in the NFL.
The Lions go into each game knowing they are going to see a double high safety look with this Cover 2 shell.  Most coaches will tell you, you have to take what the defense is giving you.  That is what Schwartz and Linehan have attempted to do. The Lions are 2nd in both the total number of offensive plays run and the amount of pass attempts through the first four weeks of the season.  Yet with almost 300 offensive plays run and 102 first downs (2nd most in the NFL), the team is still working out the kinks.
As you would expect, the coaching staff is determined to take advantage of the seven-man boxes they are facing week-in week-out.  So as expected the Lions have tried to run on these favorable fronts 100 times, but have only averaged a measly 3.6 yards per carry which ranks them 25th in the league. Read more…

NFL Game Changers: NFC North

Join us as TTR Game Changers takes a tour through all 32 teams, identifying one player from every squad that I believe has a great chance of being a game changer in 2012.  To see the full series click here.

Green Bay Packers – The Packers very well could be the team to beat in 2012.  For the majority of the season they were a dominant team.  Aaron Rodgers play was the biggest reason for that as he was simply off the charts with his efficiency ratings.  He is in an offensive system that fits his skill set excellently and he has a host of weapons to take advantage of.  It is that group of weapons that really sets the Packers apart.  While smart money is going to be on Jordy Nelson to continue his ascent into super stardom, I think that Greg Jennings is also going to have a huge year.  I know he just suffered a concussion, but he appears to be completely healthy.  He also does not have a deal in place after this season.  For many players this would be a distraction, but the classy Jennings has vowed not to allow it to affect his play.  If anything, I believe that it could have a positive impact on him this season.  Jennings  will be 29 years old next season, and possibly looking for a new home.  The reality that it could happen means that Jennings needs to perform at the highest level this year, so he will remain focused this season.  I also believe that the increased attention paid to Jordy Nelson this season will actually benefit Jennings significantly, allowing him to see less coverage rolled his way.
Detroit Lions –  Many of the voices around the NFL say that the Lions will fail to meet expectations this year for a variety of reasons.  Some blame it on the lack of a running game.  Others blame it on discipline.  While some simply say that the Bears are just better.  I have looked closely at both organizations, and I still think that the Lions will end up in a better position when the dust settles.  I know all the attention goes to the Bears addition of Brandon Marshall, but the Lions offense is far more explosive.  I believe that Titus Young is going to surprise a lot of people this year, and he is just one of many talented weapons on this Lions squad.  With all the attention being paid to their offense, I have to shift my attention to the defensive side of the ball.  Naturally people would expect you to think about Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley or Cliff Avril when you talk about their defense, but not me.  Those guys are all going to have a major impact this season, but I want to highlight third year defensive end Willie Young.  Willie Young was a 7th round draft pick in 2010 bout of North Carolina State.  While not as heralded as his predecessor Mario Williams, Willie has quietly developed into a very dangerous edge rusher perfectly suited to Detroit’s wide 9 scheme.  He is quick off the ball with excellent burst and uses his long frame to disrupt the passing game.  Willie has shown a knack at making impact plays from sacks and strips to interceptions.  His strong showing this preseason is just another indicator that he is steadily improving, and I believe 2012 will be a break out year for the big fisherman. Read more…

2012 NFL playoff predictions

(6) Chicago Bears vs. (3) San Francisco 49ers  
Patrick Willis (52) and the 49ers’ defense proves to be too much for Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, and the rest of the Bears’ offense.

Both teams come into the 2012 playoffs having already clinched a playoff berth weeks ago. The 49ers proved to be a tougher team at home in 2011, and are just as tough a home team in 2012. The Bears’ offensive line troubles hurts them, as defensive end Justin Smith and linebackers Aldon Smith, Navorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis help limit Matt Forte’s production and pressure Jay Cutler enough to seal the victory. 49ers over Bears 

(5) Green Bay Packers vs. (4) Atlanta Falcons: 
Familiar playoff foes, the Packers enter the 2012 playoffs on a two-game winning streak, and the Falcons enter having clinched the NFC South division in the final week of the regular season. Last time these two teams met in the playoffs in Atlanta, the Packers defeated the Falcons, 48-21, en route to a victory in Super Bowl XLV. Don’t expect the same kind of game, but expect a similar result for Aaron Rodgers and company.
Packers over Falcons
(5) Green Bay Packers vs. (1) Detroit Lions 

In the last two seasons, the number-one seed hasn’t fared well in the divisional round, as the NFC’s top seed has been outscored 85-41 in the last two divisional round match ups. Although the Packers are only a couple of years removed from a Super Bowl win, the Lions utilize Megatron, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, to their full-advantage and edge the Packers in a close and high-scoring match up in the motor city. Lions over Packers

(3) San Francisco 49ers vs. (2) Philadelphia Eagles
The “dream team” finally makes an appearance in the postseason, and stand toe-to-toe with the NFC West champion 49ers in Philadelphia. With LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, and Michael Vick, the Eagles have too much offensive fire power for the 49ers to handle, and defensive ends Jason Babin and Trent Cole make life miserable for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, as the Eagles do not disappoint and reach the NFC Championship game for the first time since the 2008 season. Eagles over 49ers
(2) Philadelphia Eagles vs. (1) Detroit Lions

A potential exciting and explosive match up including some of the NFL’s greatest playmakers, the Eagles and Lions will execute big plays in exciting fashion. The NFC Championship will come down to which team has the stronger pass rush. The Lions possess a deep defensive line which includes Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Corey Williams, Cliff Avril, and Kyle Vanden Bosch, while the Eagles’ defensive line includes Babin, Cole, Cullen Jenkins, Fletcher Cox, Antonio Dixon, and Darryl Tapp. Which line do I have my money on? The Eagles, as the wide-9 gives Lions’ quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offensive line a rough day. Eagles over Lions

Read the AFC predictions here…

Detroit Lions: 2012 season preview

It wasn’t too long ago that the Detroit Lions were the laughing stock of the football world. The Lions compiled a 31-97 record from 2001 to 2008, setting the standard for futility in that time frame and managing to cap it off with a winless regular season in 2008. In the years since CEO Matt Millen departed from the franchise, the organization has made strides in improving and making itself a legitimate NFL playoff contender. They managed to win two games in 2009 and six games in 2010 before breaking through in 2011: Their 10-6 record earned them a Wild Card berth and, although they were eliminated in one game by the Saints, it also gave their fans something that they haven’t had for a long time as the team heads into 2012: Hope.

As far as personnel goes, the Lions have become a talented bunch. By making the most of their draft picks over the last several years, Detroit has been able to stockpile a handful of young players who can serve as difference makers. Quarterback Matt Stafford is heading into his fourth season, and he’s proven himself to be a very productive player when able to stay healthy. Although Stafford played in just 13 of a potential 32 games over his first two seasons, 2011 saw him stay healthy and put up marvelous numbers: Stafford finished with the fifth-highest QB rating in the league with a 97.2, and he was one of three players to throw for an eye-popping 5,000-plus yards, finishing with 5,038. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has one of the most dynamic young receivers in the league to throw to in Calvin Johnson. Read more here…

Jahvid Best not cleared to play, moved to PUP list


ALLEN PARK — Jahvid Best failed to clear the necessary hurdles to return to action as the Detroit Lions opened training camp on Friday, landing the running back on the physically able to perform (PUP) list.

Best, who participated in the Lions’ organized team activities and mandatory minicamp the past two months, still hasn’t been cleared for contact after sustaining a season-ending concussion in Week 6 last season.

After declaring himself symptom-free back in June, Best was relatively upbeat about this seemingly disappointing setback.

 “I’m not disappointed,” Best said. “The only thing I’m worried about is doing everything I can to get cleared. Once I get cleared, I’ll be out there.”  Read more…

Jeff Backus and Mikel LeShoure dinged up in Lions camp

Jeff Backus

ALLEN PARK — Detroit Lions left tackle Jeff Backus and running back Mikel Leshoure sustained injuries on the second day of training camp.

Backus left practice with an injured thumb, while Leshoure sustained a hamstring injury.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz was unsure of the severity of Backus’ injury, but planned to consult with the team’s medical staff later this afternoon, which likely means there is some sort of significant damage.

“He hurt his thumb in one-on-one,” Schwartz said. “Went in and got x-rays. Didn’t return to practice. We’re going to wait and see what those looks like. It wasn’t real determinate right away, but there’s some findings on there, so we’ll look at it later this afternoon.

“We’ll see what comes of it. If it’s something long-term, we’ll let you know.”

Backus, who is an 11-year veteran, has started in all started all 177 games since the Lions used their 2001 first-round pick on the University of Michigan offensive lineman.  Read More…


Cliff Avril rejected Lions offer of $30 million

According to Albert Breer the Lions last ditch attempt at landing Cliff Avril was $30 million over three years with a reported $20 million in guarantees.

Apparently Cliff feels that he is worth more than that, and quite frankly whether he is or isn’t, he will likely get paid accordingly.  He has no reason not to play under the franchise tag this year which will reward with $10.6 million for the season, and next year he will become an unrestricted free agent and if he doesn’t like the Lions’ offer, the young pass rusher will have no shortage of suitors.

The Lions would love to keep Cliff around, he is a key part of their defensive scheme, but make no mistake about it, he is not an élite pass rusher in the NFL.  Cliff posted his best season with 11 sacks in 2011, but it was done while primarily being blocked one on one, rarely facing the double teams that the leagues première pass rushers face.  He is ideally suited for the wide 9 defensive front, and honestly would not be as productive in some other systems.  Cliff also gets the luxury of being part of an 8 man rotation, allowing the edge rusher to be fresh more often, something most other teams can not afford to do.  Lastly, as much as I love Cliff’s attitude, athleticism, and motor; he isn’t that good against the run.  The wide 9 system makes it look worse than it is, but he is not great at stacking the edge at the point of attack. Read more here…

Lions’ Justin Durant upset with his teammates

Justin Durant

Detroit Lions linebacker Justin Durant is not impressed with the way his teammates have conducted themselves this offseason.

Durant participated in a chat at and was asked by a fan about the total of six arrests from four players that the Lions have experienced this offseason. Durant said it’s time for players in Detroit to make better decisions.

“We just have to be smarter regardless of age right now. I’m not one to judge because nobody is perfect but we have really been terrible at decision making this offseason. I trust the people in the front office to make the right moves,” Durant wrote. “It’s tough because it brings the type of attention we do not want to our team. We want them to talk about the talent we have not about our off the field issues. We have to be smarter and make better choices.”

Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley has been arrested for drunk driving and marijuana possession, running back Mikel Leshoure has been arrested twice for marijuana possession, offensive lineman Johnny Culbreath has been arrested for marijuana possession and cornerback Aaron Berry has been arrested for drunk driving. It would be hard for anyone to argue with Durant:

They’ve made some terrible decisions this offseason. Read more here…

Lions give Schwartz multi-year extension

jim-schwartzIt looks like Rex Ryan was right about Jim Schwartz.

The New York Jets coach said that he thought he and his Detroit Lions counterpart would have their jobs for years to come and the Lions appear to agree with half that statement. Tim Twentyman of the team’s website is reporting that the team and Schwartz have agreed to terms on a multi-year contract extension. Considering the source of the infomation, it shouldn’t be long before a more official comment comes our way.  Read More…