Previewing the 2014 Detroit Lions Schedule Release

Photo Credit @gavinsmithphoto and 
@detroitlionsnfl

The Detroit Lions weren’t quite good enough in 2013, as another missed bid for the playoffs ended head coach Jim Schwartz’s tenure and brought in the offensive-minded Jim Caldwell. Caldwell leads a more balanced approach and with the Lions still fairly stacked on both sides of the ball, he will try to right the ship in a very competitive NFC North.

Detroit endured most of it’s struggles on the road last year, and may find it to be a problem again in 2014 due to dates with the Falcons, Panthers, Cardinals, Patriots and Jets.

At home, however, the Detroit Lions schedule will hopefully be a little lighter with matchups against the Saints, Buccaneers, Giants, Bills and Dolphins. New Orleans should be a tough out like they always are, but the rest of Detroit’s home games appear to be winnable.

All 2014 Opponents

Home: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins

Away: Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, New York Jets

For a look at all team’s 2014 match-ups, click here.

Report: Detroit Lions Not Interested in QB Mark Sanchez

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The Detroit Lions find themselves looking for options at backup quarterback behind Matthew Stafford, as Shaun Hill signed a one-year deal with the St. Louis Rams Wednesday. At the owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, general manager Martin Mayhew said that they would consider acquiring a quarterback in free agency or the upcoming draft.

There is also speculation that former New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez could be signed by the Lions this offseason to fill the void left by Hill. However, head coach Jim Caldwell told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press that the team hasn’t explored bringing in Sanchez.

“We have not entertained it, in that regard,” Caldwell said at the owners meetings. “But talented guy who’s got experience in the league, and I’m sure there are a lot of teams who are looking at him closely.”

A first round draft pick in 2009, Sanchez was selected four spots after Stafford by the Jets with the No. 5 pick. He helped the team reach the AFC championship game in each of his first two seasons in the NFL. Since then, he finished the 2012 campaign with a 6-10 record and third in the AFC East division. Sanchez also missed the entire season in 2013 after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason which eventually led to his release.

The Lions have shown that they’re not confident right now in handing over the backup duties to third stringer Kellen Moore, who has been on the roster since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

“Everything’s open,” Caldwell told Birkett. “Everything’s open and, particularly, we had an opportunity to kind of look at the entire breadth of the draft, and that certainly is a possibility.”

James Ihedigbo Announces Signing With Detroit Lions on Twitter

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Snatching a top free agent safety was a crucial part of the Detroit Lions offseason plans in 2014. After watching the likes of Jairus Byrd, Donte Whitner and T.J. Ward sign with other franchises meant that the team had to bring in James Ihedigbo to replace Louis Delmas and solidify the need at safety.

The news that Ihedigbo agreed to a two-year deal with the Lions was released by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Ihedigbo will now be reunited with defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who oversaw Ihedigbo the last two seasons when he was the secondary coach for the Baltimore Ravens.

“It’s Agreed upon! I’m a @DetroitLionsNFL,” Ihedigbo wrote on Twitter Sunday night. “I’m excited for what’s ahead and helping this team achieve greatness!!! #HeartOfALion #LionsNation.”

At 30-years old, Ihedigbo has played in the NFL for six seasons with three different teams. Starting in every game last year for the Ravens, Ihedigbo had a career-high 101 tackles, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.

According to Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, Ihedigbo is a “hard-hitter who is punishing on the blitz and occupies a lot of terrain in coverage.”  Meinke also wrote that the UMass alumni is the front runner to win the starting strong safety spot alongside Glover Quinn in 2014.

By acquiring a veteran safety in Ihedigbo gives the Lions the opportunity to go out and address another need with the No. 10 pick in the upcoming draft. This now adds more speculation that Detroit could draft another wide receiver to complement Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate or a cornerback to upgrade the talent again in the secondary.

Detroit Lions Won’t Exercise Nick Fairley’s Option in 2015

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Entering the final year of his rookie contract, defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s fifth-year option will not be picked up by the Detroit Lions where he is expected to receive $5.5 million in 2015.

General manager Martin Mayhew told reporters at the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando, Florida that the move was made so Fairley will be motivated to earn the right to acquire a new contract next offseason.

“It’s an opportunity for him to go out and perform his best this offseason, perform his best during the season and hopefully it helps him become the best player he can possibly be,” Mayhew said.

“(The option) is $5.5 million dollars and I have to ask myself is he a $5.5 million player? There’s some performances where he is. There’s some performances where he’s not.

“I think it’s going to be an incentive for him to have an outstanding offseason and an outstanding season. That’s what I want more than anything else.”

Mayhew also took the time to compare Fairley and fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who is currently working on a contract extension with the Lions this week in Orlando with agent Jimmy Sexton.

“If you look at him vs. Suh, he probably has better lateral quickness than Ndamukong does, he’s probably slightly a better athlete and definitely runs better in a straight line than Ndamukong,” Mayhew said. “Ndamukong is a more powerful guy and he performs more consistent week in and week out.

“I can tell you right now, wherever (Suh) is right now, he’s doing something to make him better either from a football standpoint or a business standpoint for next season,” Mayhew said. “That’s what he’s doing as we speak right now. That’s what the difference right now is between the two guys.”

Since being drafted by Detroit with the No. 13 pick in the 2011 NFL draft, Fairley has recorded 84 tackles and 12.5 sacks in 39 games played. He also finished the 2013 campaign with career high statistics, racking up 35 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a safety and a touchdown.

“He’s a phenomenal talent,” Mayhew said. “This guy can be whatever he wants to be. That’s probably why I’m on him so hard.”

Detroit Lions Host Bloomsburg University DE Larry Webster

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After losing Willie Young to free agency and the fact that Jason Jones is expected to come back from knee surgery, the Detroit Lions are looking to add talent at the defensive end position this offseason. Even though they recently signed Vaughn Martin last Friday, it looks like Detroit isn’t done acquiring more players.

According to DetroitLions.com beat writer Tim Twentyman, the team has brought in defensive end prospect Larry Webster from Bloomsburg University for a pre-draft visit.

Webster originally went to Bloomsburg on a basketball scholarship before joining the football team in 2012. In two seasons, Webster played in 24 games total, recording 88 tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 26 sacks.

At last month’s combine in Indianapolis, Webster ran the second fastest 40-yard dash among defensive ends with a time of 4.58 seconds. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times, a vertical jump of 36 1/2 inches and a broad jump of 10’3″.

Webster won’t be the only NFL player in his family. His father, Larry, played 11 seasons in the league with the Miami DolphinsCleveland BrownsBaltimore Ravens and the New York Jets from 1992-2002.

Webster is currently ranked 255 overall and 21st at defensive end by CBSSports.com and is projected to be selected in the seventh round. The website also compared Webster’s talent to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end, Michael Johnson.

“Although he’s not there yet, Webster has the frame and athleticism to develop into a similar pass rusher at the NFL level.”

Sammy Watkins: Playing for the Detroit Lions would be ‘Crazy’

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In a recent interview with FoxSports.com, Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins spoke on what it would be like if he ended up being drafted by the Lions. He also talked about how he wants to play on a offense like Detroit’s, which he describes as “explosive.”

“I think that would be crazy,” Watkins said. “You wouldn’t be able to double-guard Megatron. You wouldn’t be able to double-guard me. Basically it would be pick your poison and then you have Golden Tate in the slot. He runs nice routes and is a very physical guy. Then you have Reggie Bush in the backfield. There would be a lot of speed in that offense.

“That’s the type of offense that I want to play in. It’s a very explosive offense. Being with good coaches, an older wide receiver and a quarterback would definitely help me out a lot.”

Watkins has been regarded as the most talented prospect coming into this year’s draft and due to the fact that Detroit currently holds the No. 10 pick makes it unlikely that the 20-year old falls to them. According to Mel Kiper of ESPN.com, Watkins is projected to go to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at No. 7 and NFL draft analyst Todd McShay has Watkins going to the Oakland Raiders at No. 5.

Using their first round pick on a stud wide receiver like Watkins to line up alongside Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate would add another dangerous weapon to the Lions’ high powered offense, which will give Matthew Stafford plenty of toys to play with next season.

Detroit Lions Have Signed FB Jed Collins

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The years of Matthew Stafford slinging the football around more than any other quarterback in the NFL appear to be over with as the Lions look to be heading into a more two-dimensional style of offense with their latest addition.

The combination of Reggie Bush and Joique Bell will now have a lead blocker to open up more holes on the ground as the Lions have now signed free agent fullback Jed Collins to a one-year deal. 

Collins, who spent the last four seasons with the New Orleans Saints, will be reunited with offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, who was the previous quarterbacks coach for New Orleans. The 28-year old played in 16 games in 2013, recording 15 carries for 45 rushing yards and one touchdown.

Due to the fact that Collins saw limited time carrying the ball, he will most likely have the same role in Detroit as he did with the Saints, by playing mostly special teams and blocking. Along with Collins, the Lions now have two fullbacks on the roster heading into training camp, as they just re-signed Montell Owens to a two-year deal.

General manager Matin Mayhew told reporters at last month’s combine in Indianapolis that he expects his fullbacks to be tough and physical athletes who can perform different tasks for the team.

“I’ve kind of always liked to have a fullback around,” Mayhew said. “The problem has been if the guy’s just going to be I-back and that’s all he’s going to do, he’s going to play 10 snaps, then how do you keep him active? So you got to have a fullback that can do multiple things, I think, whether that’s being a fullback/halfback, which we wanted to do with Montell Owens last year, before he got injured, a special teams player, or whether it’s a fullback that can play tight end in some situations, or a guy that’s a really bona fide hard-core, like Montell, special teams guy that’s a true fullback.

“Montell is kind of a tweener between a fullback and a halfback. He’s only 220, 225 pounds. But you want that physical fullback who is also a beast on special teams, but he has to bring something else to the table too. I’ve always liked to have a fullback, though, and we’re looking to find a guy that can fit into one of those roles.”

QB Shaun Hill Visiting the St. Louis Rams Monday

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According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, quarterback Shaun Hill will visit the St. Louis Rams Monday as the free agency period rolls into it’s second week.

Hill has spent the last four seasons with the Detroit Lions, playing in only five games the past three years. He saw significant time however in 2010 after Matthew Stafford went down with a shoulder injury, playing in 11 games that season.

Completing eight years in the NFL, Hills has thrown for 6,381 yards and 41 touchdowns on 591-954 passing with a completion rate of 62 percent. Along with his stint with the Lions, Hill has also made stops in San Francisco and Minnesota.

At 34-years old, it’s a question of whether of not Hill is a potential starting quarterback with a new team, or is a full time clipboard holder. Due to the fact that the Rams have their trust in Sam Bradford and that former backup Kellen Clemens has left for the San Diego Chargers this offseason, Hill could very well have the role in St. Louis as he did in Detroit.

If Hill winds up signing a deal with the Rams, the Lions will have to find their next backup quarterback for the upcoming season, whether through the draft or free agency. The team has around $2.3 million to spend, which means their selection could be limited.

Drafting a quarterback would most likely occur in the middle-to-late rounds for Detroit. Possibly names that could fit well into offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s system are Aaron Murray of Georgia and David Fales of San Jose State. If they decide to focus their need at the backup position in free agency, potential candidates would be either Luke McCown or Ryan Fitzpartick.