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New Lions OC Darrell Bevell Excited About the Teams’ Tight Ends in 2019

The biggest reshaping of the Lions roster this offseason took place at the tight end position, and it was much needed after the team hired Darrell Bevell to be their new offensive coordinator, Tim Twentyman of Detroitlions.com reports.

Detroit’s tight ends accounted for just 13 percent (43) of the team’s catches last season. Levine Toilolo led them with 21 receptions. There were 41 tight ends around the league who recorded more than 21 receptions on the season and there were 14 tight ends league-wide who had more catches than all of the Lions’ tight ends combined.

Detroit was in 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, two receivers) just 12 percent of the time in 2018, and played the majority of their snaps out of three receiver sets, or 11 personnel.

The refitting of the position began with the signing of veteran Jesse James on the first day of free agency. Then the team added veteran Logan Thomas a little less than a week later in free agency. The following month, Detroit drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick and used another late-round draft pick on tight end in Isaac Nauta.

It was a complete makeover for the tight end room and Bevell says it should allow him to be able to do a lot of different things within his offense.

“I think that whole room has been a big upgrade in all ways,” he said. “From Jesse to T.J. to Logan… it’s a great group for us to work with to kind of sift through those guys and find out what they’re doing well.

“But that’s a talented group. We’re really excited about all of those guys.”

Even in the spring through the open OTA and minicamp practices the use of the tight end position as multi-deployable weapon was evident. Whether it was one-, two- or sometimes three-tight end sets, Detroit’s tight ends moved around and Bevell dabbled with a lot of different personnel groupings.

“I think it’s going to give us the ability to do a lot of things,” Bevell said. “We’ll still use our three wideouts as well. All the personnel groups, I think you’ll be able to see a lot of those. They (the tight ends) give us a lot of flexibility.”

Barry Sanders Gives His Take on the Lions Feud with Calvin Johnson

Lions great Barry Sanders, who was once in a dispute with the team over bonus money, weighed in Wednesday on fellow Lions great Calvin Johnson, who currently is involved a dispute with the team over bonus money, Carlos Monarrez and Greg Levinsky of the Detroit Free Press report.

“It’s tough,” Sanders said after playing in the pro-am of the PGA Tour’s Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club. “Each case is different.”

Johnson retired unexpectedly after the 2015 season. When he made his retirement official, the Lions forced him to repay a seven-figure portion of the $16-million signing bonus he received four years earlier.

Sanders, like Johnson, was forced to repay a seven-figure portion of his signing bonus when he retired abruptly before the 1999 season. Sanders stayed away from Lions functions for years before he recently returned to work for the team as an ambassador.

“Hey, that’s a tough check to write,” Sanders said about repaying the bonus money. “In the NFL you realize it’s a business and they have to handle things on their side of it the way that they do.

“So I don’t have any advice other than I think over time then you’ll probably see the two sides come together. You think they’d be able to reach some agreement. But I wish Calvin well. We’d love to have him back around, especially the fans, what have you.”

A Fast Start Against a Challenging Schedule Can Give the Lions Plenty of Confidence in 2019

Last season the Detroit Lions got off to a rather awful start under new head coach Matt Patrica, who was hoping to get the fan base to buy in to what the team was selling.

Instead of a fast start, the team was embarrassed in their opener in front of a national television audience, as on this website we felt the Lions would hang and possibly even beat the New York Jets.

No one could have seen the team fall 48-17, turning the ball over often and putting up just 39 yards on the ground.

The team started 1-3, and while they won two straight to get to 3-3, the writing was on the wall as they lost their next three games to fall to 3-6 and never recovered.

This year the team has got to get off to a better start. The first quarter of the season is going to go a long way in determining if this team is going to finally turn things around.

The Lions will start the year at Arizona against the first overall pick in the NFL Draft, quarterback Kyler Murray and the Cardinals.

Both the Cards and Lions are not expected to have much success this year, so while not get off to a quick start with a road win against the Cardinals.

Week two for the home opener the team will welcome in the Los Angeles Chargers, a team that got to the AFC Divisional round before falling to the New England Patriots.

It will be a real test for a Lions defense that played well late in the season, but will have to shut down the likes of Phillip Rivers and Melvin Gordon.

Week three will see another tough road test, as the team will travel to Philadelphia to take on Carson Wentz and the Eagles.

The Eagles won the Super Bowl two seasons ago and also made the divisional round in the NFC lats year before falling to the New Orleans Saints.

The final game of the first four will see yet a third playoff team on the map for the Lions, that being the Kansas City Chiefs.

Pat Mahomes was the league MVP last year, and it will be a huge test at Ford Field to see if the Detroit defense can step up and make it a long day for the young quarterback who surprised everyone last year.

Looking at the slate, it will be up to the coaches to get this team ready for four tough tests against three playoff teams.

A fast start for this team can build the confidence they sorely need to have a successful 2019.

Could the New Look Lions Offense Surprise Some Teams in 2019?

The Detroit Lions are looking to put what was a very disappointing 2018 behind them and under second-year head coach Matt Patrica have a new start to this year.

Checking sportsbooks in New Jersey the Lions are not getting a lot of love, as right now in terms of odds they are tied for dead last with the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins and New York Giants at 60/1 to win the Conference.

As far as even winning their division, they are 12/1, which is also last among the four teams that will battle it out in 2019.

The Chicago Bears, who won the NFC North in 2018 are currently the favorites once again at 7/4 to win the North, followed by the Green Bay Packers who have a new coach in Matt LaFleur at 2/1, and the Minnesota Vikings, who had a very up and down 2018 are also 2/1.

One thing that could put the Lions in a much better position in 2019 is the fact they will have a very different look to their offense.

While quarterback Matthew Stafford is still the biggest piece, new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has already stated he wants to build an offense built around running the football, something the Lions have been flat out awful in doing in the last decade.

Not since the days of Barry Sanders have the Lions put an emphasis on the run game, and with Bevell running the show, that very much can change once the 2019 season kicks off.

At a recent OTA and minicamp, the Lions offense had a very different look from the past, as they had tight ends lined up in-line, in the slot and out wide.

The team has been busy this offseason adding players that will fit the new look offense, with Bevell getting his hands on some versatility at the skill positions.

What the new offensive coordinator can do with those new players is anyone’s guess, but he should have the ability to intersperse multiple groupings based on matchups, which could confuse some defenses that have not seen the Lions in awhile.

It all comes down to Stafford being the quarterback of old, not being shy in the pocket, and using these new players around him to be able to get the ball downfield.

The Lions new looks on offense could be the best thing going for them in 2019. We will see early on in training camp and in practices and preseason games if these players can all get on the same page and make some noise for this team looking to surprise in the NFC North and in the NFC as a whole.

“Snacks” Harrison and Darius Slay Both Skipping Lions Mandatory Minicamp

Two big players on the Lions defense are nowhere to be found, as Damon “Snacks” Harrison and Darius Slay are skipping the mandatory sessions of the team’s minicamp.

The Lions begin the three-day camp Tuesday. Slay announced his intentions to skip minicamp Monday on his Instagram Live. Sources told NFL Network that Harrison and Slay are skipping minicamp because they want new contracts.

“It’s nothing uncharted territory from that aspect of it,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said via the Detroit Free Press.

“We’re just focused on the guys that are here. We’re really just trying to get better.”

Patricia said he doesn’t want to talk about the contract status of the two players who are both seeking more money.

“I don’t really talk about any of that stuff as far as contract situations or relationships or any of that sort of stuff,” he said. “So we’re just, again, focusing on the guys that are in the building and out on the practice field.”

Slay inked a four-year, $48.15 million pact with the Lions in 2016. He has a $12.55 million base salary this season and a $10 million base salary in 2020. Slay also has a $250,000 workout bonus in each of his next two seasons.

The two-time Pro Bowl selection and 2017 All-Pro ranked as the No. 23 cornerback in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

The Giants traded Harrison to the Lions in October. The 30-year-old defensive tackle had 81 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a passes defensed in 17 games last season between the Giants and Lions.

The 6-foot-3, 353-pound defensive lineman started 16 games in 2018. Pro Football Focus rated Harrison as the No. 3 defensive lineman in football in 2018.

Harrison signed a five-year, $46.25 million contract with the Giants in 2016. He is set to make $6.76 million in base salary this season. He has a $250,000 workout bonus. Harrison has a $9 million base salary in 2020, with another $250,000 workout bonus.

Lions OC Darrell Bevell Says the Team Will Commit to the Run Game in 2019

While plenty of teams are going to more of a high flying attack around the NFL, the Lions might be going in an opposite direction in 2019, at least according to new OC Darrell Bevell, who says the team is going to run, run and run some more.

While the spread offense has infiltrated the NFL and wunderkind coaches like Sean McVay and his pass-happy disciples have taken over the league, Bevell is still holding true to his old-school philosophies.

“We’ll always be about running the football,” Bevell, the Lions’ new offensive coordinator, said Tuesday in his first interview since he was hired in January. “We want to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical football team. We want to be able to exert our will on our opponents.”

Bevell’s ideology – his other tenets are protecting the football and being explosive in the passing game – is rooted in his days as a player at Wisconsin, where his game-management skills as a quarterback helped Barry Alvarez raise a moribund Badgers program.

“It is different for the opponent,” Bevell said. “If you’re playing the Rams and the Chiefs and those teams week in and week out, they’re defending the same thing. All of a sudden you play us, there’s going to be different things to defend and they have to decide how they want to do it, if they’re going to have to personnel it different. I think it kind of gives you a little bit of an edge that way.”

Lions Work Out Former Seahawks Wide Out Jermaine Kearse

Jermaine Kearse once made one of the most improbable clutch catches in the history of the Super Bowl. Darrell Bevell was calling the plays for him. Matt Patricia was calling the ones to stop him.

Now, the coaches are taking a look at the possibility of working together with him, Nate Atkins of Mlive reports.

The Lions worked out the former Seahawks receiver Wednesday, but he left Allen Park without a deal, NFL Network reported.

Kearse, 29, has been a productive receiver for several years now, as the 6-foot-1-inch, 209-pounder has topped 300 yards in six straight seasons. The first four came in Seattle, where Bevell called the plays. The Lions hired Bevell to be their offensive coordinator this year.

Patricia and Bevell gave Kearse a look after two days of getting to judge their own receivers in organized training activities practices.

Lions Select Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson with the 8th Pick in the NFL Draft

The Lions made a major upgrade at the tight end spot on Thursday night, as the team picked Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson with the 8th overall pick.

Here’s highlights of the Iowa TE

And a scouting report on Hockenson:

Strengths:

Excellent blocker
Developed blocking technique
Big frame
Leaping ability
Red-zone weapon
Reliable hands
Soft hands
Quick down the seam
Mismatch weapon
Too fast for linebackers and some safeties
Too big for safeties to cover
Dangerous run-after-the-catch skills
Breaks tackles downfield; gets yards after contact
Tough to get on the ground
Tracks the ball well
Athletic
Fast for a tight end
Adjusts well to the ball
Good route-runnner
Finds the soft spots in zone coverage
Fearless in the middle of the field

Weaknesses:

Adequate speed, but not overwhelming
Good, but not great, athlete

Summary: Teammate Noah Fant entered the 2018 season with more hype, but it was Hockenson who became the star tight end for the Hawkeyes. While splitting targets with Fant, Hockenson totaled 49 receptions for 760 yards with six touchdowns. Both then entered the 2019 NFL Draft and have early-round potential, but Hockenson’s excellent 2018 season vaulted him to being the top tight end for the 2019 NFL Draft.

As a blocker, Hockenson is special. He is like an extra offensive lineman with his ability to tie up and handle defenders. He has size and strength, and should be able to win his blocks at the NFL level as well. Hockenson gives a relentless effort and displays excellent technique. His blocking should improve with pro coaching, but he enters the NFL as a plus blocker and significantly better than most receiving tight end prospects.

Hockenson has mismatch potential for the passing game. With his quickness and athleticism, Hockenson will be tough for linebackers to cover, and his size is problematic for safeties. Hockenson does a nice job of using his frame to shield defenders from the ball and win on contested catches. He also has reliable hands and is dangerous after the catch. He runs through tackles and picks up yards after contact downfield. In the open field, Hockenson will hurdle defensive backs, but he may want to be careful about doing that in the NFL or he will be putting his body in a vulnerable situation.