The Detroit Lions are at least exploring options at kicker, as colleague Adam Schefter reported the team brought in three veterans at the position to work out Tuesday: Rob Bironas, Garrett Hartley and Alex Henery.

They might not be the only possibilities, though. When the Lions kicked around switching kickers last season, they brought them in over a two-day span before sticking with David Akers for the rest of the 2013 season.

So here are some possibilities for Detroit as it explores its kicking question:

Nate Freese: He has the job right now after beating out Giorgio Tavecchio during the preseason. Detroit's seventh-round draft pick in May, Freese is 2 of 5 so far with no made field goals over 30 yards. This is on top of a somewhat shaky preseason where Tavecchio appeared to outperform him. Lions coach Jim Caldwell still thinks Freese has a future in the league, and he might. If Detroit sticks with him, he'll likely have a small margin for error to fix his issues.

Rob Bironas: Tennessee released him in March as a clear cap casualty as he was due a $250,000 roster bonus and had a $2.875 million base salary for 2014. He is, however, a strong veteran kicker. The 36-year-old Bironas made 25 of 29 field goals last season, including 2 of 3 over 50 yards.

Garrett Hartley: Hartley is somewhat of a riskier play than Bironas. He made 22 of 30 field goals last season for New Orleans and has had a downward trajectory since making all eight of his field goals in 2008. But, members of the Lions coaching staff will have familiarity with him and familiarity often breeds signings.

Alex Henery: Like Hartley, Henery has had a downward trajectory the past three seasons and lost his job in Philadelphia to rookie Cody Parkey during training camp. He has a fairly accurate leg, though, making 86 percent of field goals in his career. Plus, he's only 27 so if the Lions sign him and he does well, he could be a long-term solution.

Giorgio Tavecchio: Detroit knows what it would get with him, so probably one of the reasons it didn't call him up for a tryout. But he's a young kicker who some -- including myself -- believe should have won the job out of camp. So he'd at least be in consideration if the team makes a move.

Jay Feely: Probably the best kicker Detroit hasn't reportedly brought in yet. When he was cut by Arizona, he indicated he still wanted to kick and still believed he could. He has ties to the state, having played college football at Michigan. The 38-year-old could also provide a mentoring presence to punter Sam Martin. He wouldn't be a long-term solution, but he made 30 of 36 field goals last season, was 11 of 12 from 40-to-49 yards and 3 of 5 from 50-plus yards.
The Detroit Lions looked a little bit like the team that struggled through the end of last season instead of one that annihilated the New York Giants in the season opener. So while the real Lions team continues to sort themselves out, Detroit took the expected fall in the Power Rankings on Tuesday.

Detroit dropped to No. 18 in the latest ESPN Power Rankings, down from No. 13 last week and back where the team was during the first rankings of the preseason.

Personally, I had Detroit a little bit higher at No. 15, down five spots from No. 10 last week. Below, as always, is my weekly ballot, along with last week’s ballot in parentheses.

1. Denver (2)

2. Philadelphia (3)

3. Seattle (1)

4. Carolina (9)

5. Cincinnati (7)

6. Arizona (11)

7. Green Bay (8)

8. Atlanta (4)

9. Buffalo (17)

10. Houston (21)

11. Chicago (22)

12. San Francisco (5)

13. Indianapolis (6)

14. San Diego (19)

15. Detroit (10)

16. Baltimore (27)

17. New England (16)

18. New York Jets (20)

19. Minnesota (15)

20. Miami (19)

21. Pittsburgh (12)

22. Cleveland (25)

23. Tennessee (18)

24. Washington (26)

25. New Orleans (13)

26. Dallas (29)

27. St. Louis (32)

28.Tampa Bay (23)

29. Kansas City (28)

30. Jacksonville (24)

31. Oakland (31)

32. New York Giants (30)

How I Prepare: Punter Sam Martin

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Sam Martin is more of a punter with a plan this season instead of his rookie year, when he showed up each day and decided what to do.

“It’s different,” Martin said. “You can say it all you want but once you’re here, it’s a 16-week season, almost like you’re going through the motions. That’s what separates guys who have discipline to do the same thing they are doing Week 1 that you do Week 16.”

Consistency has become Martin’s key after a rookie year where he showed promise as one of the top young punters in the NFL and offered a look into the “method to my madness” each week.

[+] EnlargeSam Martin
Harry How/Getty ImagesSam Martin uses a lot of visualization techniques to prepare for his job.
Martin starts his Sundays on the field before almost everyone else, trying to picture what will happen a few hours later.

He starts on each 35-yard line and runs through six kickoffs on each side, running through the motions without kicking a ball. He imagines three to the left and three to the right.

Then he starts to focus on his punts. He starts in the end zone and starts to walk in an “S.” At the 10-yard line, he’ll be on the left hash. The 20-yard line, the right hash all the way up the field.

“Always done it, mental imagery, vision,” Martin said. “It’s good, good to do.”

Most of Martin’s preparation during a week is in his head – ending with his Sunday walk.

The first thing he does Mondays at the team’s practice facility is head to a meeting room by himself and watch all of his punts, kickoffs and holds from the day before. Unlike offensive and defensive players, his film study isn’t as extensive. After all, there isn’t much he can watch and most of what he could do wrong he knows immediately.

After watching film, he does a heavy lower body lift along with a core workout. Monday nights are typically reserved for a 90-minute to two-hour massage, mainly focusing on his legs.

While Tuesday is a day off for players, Martin goes to the facility for around an hour for recovery. He’ll stretch a lot that day, use a foam roller on his legs and spend time in the hot and cold tubs.

He kicks Wednesdays and Thursdays. Typically, he says, there are about 10 scripted punts during practice. He’ll kick on his own as well -- especially if he needs to refine some of his steps or leg swing. In a week, he says he does between 60 and 80 kickoffs and punts during practice.

Wednesday is also cardio day for Martin. He does one of three things. If he rides the bike or uses the elliptical machine, he trains for 20 to 30 minutes. If he chooses interval running, he’ll do 10 to 15 sets of 13 to 15 miles per hour for 30 seconds followed by running at 8 to 9 miles per hour before revving it up again.

“After that, I get in the tubs at the end of the day,” Martin said. “If I do straight cold tub, it’ll be like 10 to 15 [minutes]. I’ll do intervals with that with hot to cold. If I do contrast, I’ll do five in the hot, three in the cold for the first one and then I’ll do two and two or three and three five times back and forth.”

Thursday is similar to Wednesday, except instead of cardio, he lifts his upper body and does core work. Between Wednesday and Thursday he’ll watch a little more tape of himself and some of his opponent.

He does not watch opposing returners, except how they line up for a punt on the left hash mark versus the right hash mark and the middle of the field. He’s mostly focused on what the defensive fronts are looking like.

Friday is another recovery and stretching day. He also goes to his chiropractor -- the one who set him up with his massage therapist -- for five or 10 minutes to fix his alignment. He uses Friday as another mental visualization day.

Saturday is a day off until at night in the hotel. Then, in his room on Saturday nights, he starts his visualization again. He runs through kickoffs, pooch punts, punts backed up in his end zone, catching the snap, dropping and then 6-second hang times on 75-yard punts.

“Maybe 10 minutes worth of scenarios,” Martin said. “I might do it a few times. If I’m just watching TV, I might just start doing it or if I am watching film, I’ll watch a punt on film and then I’ll visualize what I want to happen.

“Then I’ll unwind for two hours and do it again.”

Then he wakes up Sunday, heads to the field and begins his game day and week again.

Reggie Bush: Peterson should play

September, 16, 2014
Sep 16

In separate interviews Tuesday, Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush said the NFL should reinstate Ray Rice or levy the same suspension to all players associated with domestic violence, and said that Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson should be allowed to play.

"Well, basically just saying that you either suspend everybody the same or you got to reinstate Ray Rice," Bush said Tuesday on "SportsCenter."

"I wasn't specifically calling out anybody, but we just got to find a way to obviously make everything even playing field for everybody."

Also Tuesday, in an interview with New York sports radio station WFAN, Bush expressed his views on Peterson's situation.

"I know me and a lot of other guys who were born in the '80s and earlier were raised differently and disciplined differently, and I was one of those kids," Bush said on WFAN. "I got whuppings, with belts and stuff like that, so for me growing up it was normal, not to downplay the situation at all.

"If it was genuine ... he [Peterson] should be allowed to play football."

(Read full post)


Lions RB Reggie Bush discusses Detroit's offensive woes against the Panthers and how the Lions will address those issues heading into their Week 3 matchup against the Packers.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions missed two starters on Sunday at Carolina and it isn't quite clear whether or not safety James Ihedigbo or right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will be back this week.

Ihedigbo has yet to play in a regular season for Detroit since being signed during free agency as he deals with what he called a shoulder injury and the injury report deemed a neck injury. He has been replaced by Isa Abdul-Quddus.

Waddle played one series in the season opener before injuring his calf and did not practice or play last week. He was initially replaced by Corey Hilliard, who then suffered a season-ending Lisfranc injury. Garrett Reynolds started at right tackle in place of Waddle and Hilliard against the Panthers.

At this point last week, Ihedigbo seemed to believe he'd be back by now, although it is not clear whether either player will be able to go against Green Bay.

"We'll have to see as the week goes on," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "...They were both in (Monday) and they are both improving and we'll see what happens come Wednesday whether or not they'll be able to practice or if it'll be later in the week or not at all."

Caldwell said, as he has all season, that whether or not a player needs to practice during the week in order to play will depend on the player, though it is more likely a veteran who had to sit out a week would be available Sundays instead of a younger player like Waddle, who is in his second year.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Calvin Johnson stood at his locker Sunday afternoon and lamented the obvious, something he experienced far too often last season.

Turnovers once again destroyed the Detroit Lions on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers in the 24-7 loss. Detroit couldn’t force any turnovers, while giving up the ball three times. Combined that with two missed field goals from Nate Freese, and it was enough to turn a close game into a blowout.

The three turnovers came at critical times Sunday. A fumble from Joique Bell ended a Detroit drive just outside of the Carolina red zone during the first quarter. A Matthew Stafford interception gave the Lions a one-play drive in the fourth quarter and the next drive never got started as Jeremy Ross fumbled the kick return.

Here’s a look at what happened on each turnover.

The Bell fumble

Bell had just run the ball up the middle for three yards on first down to give Detroit a manageable 2nd-and-7 from the Carolina 27-yard line. Lined up in an I-formation with Jed Collins in front of him, Bell took the handoff from Stafford and headed toward the right.

The right side of the line blocked well, although Collins slowed up a little bit and Bell made contact with him, but not enough to really take him off stride in front of a falling Dominic Raiola. This allowed Carolina cornerback Antoine Cason to approach Bell from the right side, although a little bit late.

Bell looked like he was past Cason, but Cason grabbed the ball and started to rip at it. One rip along with a little punch and the ball popped out. Cason then finished the play on his own, recovering the fumble. There wasn’t much Bell could do on the play. It was a perfect punch-out by Cason.

“You let your team down. I let my city down,” Bell said. “Coming from a place I have a lot of pride for. I know a lot of people who were pulling for me and I feel like I let those people down. I had to get back in there and I wanted to do something to bring a light back to the team.”

Bell finished with 36 yards rushing and 61 yards receiving.

The Stafford interception

Detroit trailed 13-7 with 12:32 left in the fourth quarter when the offense took over on the Lions’ 48-yard line. Stafford once again lined up in I-formation, with Johnson on the bottom, Golden Tate on the top and Brandon Pettigrew moving in motion on the line.

Stafford used playaction to Bell, got through the motion and almost immediately looked to launch the ball to Johnson. Stafford threw into double coverage and Carolina safety Thomas DeCoud tipped what appeared to be an underthrown ball that Johnson never had a shot at. It appeared Stafford locked on throwing to Johnson almost immediately.

“You have to give him a chance,” Stafford said. “I just wish I would have thrown it out there a little bit more, throw a better ball.

"... Just a poor physical throw, I guess.”

It went right into Melvin White on a perfect tip-drill play and White’s return to the Carolina 30-yard line set up a nine-play, 67-yard drive that ended in a Panthers touchdown, changing the game.

“Cason and DeCoud made the play because they were tight coverage on him and they tipped it up,” White said. “I just came and secured the ball and finished up.”

The Ross Fumble

Down 21-7 following the Stafford interception and a Carolina touchdown drive, Ross caught the ball five yards into the end zone and chose to take it out along the right hash mark. Ross accelerated and had some speed heading into the blocking when he tried to switch direction and cut upfield.

As he did, Chase Blackburn tried to wrap Ross up, eventually grabbing his ankle. As Blackburn slowed Ross down, linebacker Ben Jacobs dove and his hand made contact with the ball right after Blackburn hit the ball.

“Just in traffic, changing directions, started to reaccelerate,” Ross said. “Guy just got his arm in there, got a good grip on the ball and started ripping on it.

“Tried to come over with my left hand to secure it but he had a good grip on it and kind of ripped it out of there as I was in the process of changing direction.”

Three turnovers helped flip a close game into a Carolina blowout, at least in terms of score. It is something the Lions need to fix as soon as possible.

“Fall behind like that,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to win games when you’re 0-3 on the turnover battle.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Throughout training camp and the regular season, throughout all of his inconsistencies so far, Detroit Lions kicker Nate Freese has remained remarkably consistent in one thing.

He says none of this is actually affecting his confidence. Not the two misses Sunday against Carolina. Not the miss in the season opener against New York. Not his head coach, Jim Caldwell, saying the Lions are going to look at all options when it comes to their kicker.

"Just like I always say, I'm never too high, I'm never too low," Freese said Monday. "I go into this week as any other week. I put the game behind me, behind me, and I look forward to next week."

Freese said he opened up a little bit on his first missed 49-yard field goal as he tried to play the wind. He wanted to play it a little right. It stayed and went wide right. He said he hit the second field goal attempt well, but a wind gust caught it and he didn't account for the wind as much as he should have.

The two misses led to more questions again about Freese's status with the team and he said he wasn't concerned that the Lions might contemplate bringing in other kickers to try out this week.

He is, though, disappointed with how he has started his career.

"Yeah," Freese said. "But at the same time, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. So I got to keep moving forward and keep working hard."

Freese said he needs to work on his consistency and "get little tweaks here and there," although he did not go into specifics about what, exactly, is wrong with his game. This has been unusual for Freese, who did not miss a field goal his senior year in college.

As he works through it, at least one Lions player offered support to him as he tries to remedy his current kicking woes.

"I talked to him throughout the course of the game," linebacker Stephen Tulloch said. "I said you know what, he's going to win the game for us. Obviously, he's shaken up a little bit, missed the first kick last week, missed two this week.

"But that's not going to define him and his career. He's a rookie. He'll learn from it. He'll get better. We have a good coaching staff that will work on it with him. I'm all behind him. This locker room is behind him. We're encouraging him and we're behind him."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have opened up a roster spot.

After promoting Nate Ness from the practice squad Saturday and playing him on special teams Sunday, the Lions released Ness on Monday, perhaps to open up room for another defensive back signing.

The Lions are in need of cornerbacks, having lost Bill Bentley for the season with a torn ACL and Nevin Lawson for an undetermined amount of time -- possibly the season -- after having surgery for dislocated toes.

The Lions cut Ness during the end of training camp and then brought him back to the practice squad as one of the two exceptions instituted by the NFL. He is eligible to return to Detroit's practice squad if the Lions choose to do that.

This leaves Detroit with at least one and maybe two spots open on the roster depending what happens with Lawson.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Here’s a weekly look at some numbers behind the Detroit Lions' 24-7 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

0 – Turnovers caused by Detroit against Carolina.

1 – Reception by Calvin Johnson when Matthew Stafford threw the ball more than 10 yards.

3 – Drops by Lions pass catchers Sunday, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

3.89 – Yards per rush for the Lions on Sunday, 20th in the NFL.

4 – Consecutive road losses by Detroit, dating back to last season.

5 – Receptions by Johnson from 10 yards and in.

11 – Targets to Joique Bell, the second most in Bell’s career.

49 – Yards of both field goals Nate Freese missed against Carolina.

55.0 – Stafford’s QBR on Sunday, 43 points lower than his QBR in the season opener.

62 – Offensive snaps Johnson played Sunday.

66 – Offensive snaps Golden Tate played Sunday.

72.5 – Stafford’s passer rating Sunday, more than 50 points lower than the opening week of the season.

108 – Consecutive games with a reception for Johnson, a franchise record.

130 – Consecutive games played by Stephen Tulloch, the longest active streak for a defensive player in the league.

150 – Don Muhlbach's games with the Lions. He’s the 20th person to play 150 games for the team.

Some statistics provided were courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. Follow Stats & Information on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo.

The Film Don't Lie: Lions

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
A weekly look at what the Detroit Lions must fix:

Other than one drive in the second half against New York in the opener, the Lions’ running game has struggled the first two weeks of the season. Joique Bell and Reggie Bush each have fewer than 100 yards rushing this season. Bell has 87 yards on 25 carries. Bush has 41 yards on 15 carries. Neither has gained more than 12 yards on a single run.

Despite Bell playing more snaps and having more carries, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said the team’s starting running back is as listed on the depth chart, which means Bush. Caldwell said they will be balancing both backs, but right now, the Lions would be happy to get consistent production from either one of them.

The Lions are hosting a Packers team that has the second-worst run defense in the league, allowing 176.5 yards per game.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jim Caldwell didn’t want to make any rash decisions Sunday after Nate Freese missed two field goals in Detroit’s loss to Carolina.

A day later, though, Caldwell didn’t give Freese a ringing endorsement, either.

“We’re still discussing, talking, looking at different options,” Caldwell said Monday. “I still believe this young man is going to be a fine kicker in this league. I don’t think there is any question about that.

“We’ll see how it goes here but I still believe, you look at him, he had three kicks of 50 yards plus in the preseason, so you know he can get it out there. Sometimes guys just have a bad day, but we’ll look at that.”

Caldwell declined to say whether the team will audition kickers this week. Among the available kickers are the player Freese beat out during training camp, Giorgio Tavecchio, and veterans Jay Feely and Rob Bironas. Feely was cut by Arizona during the preseason and Bironas was released by Tennessee in March.

As far as Freese having a bad day, these types of struggles have not been new for him. He has not made a field goal this season over 30 yards – he’s 0 of 3 including two misses from 49 yards on Sunday – and had some consistency issues during training camp as well.

As the Lions decide what to do with Freese, they are also working on trying to figure out what his struggles are.

“We don’t analyze it any differently than any other position when you have some mistakes and problems you need to get corrected,” Caldwell said. “We try to look at those from a technical standpoint. We try to look at all the variables just to make sure we narrow it down and see if we can solve the problem.

“Take a look at what the problem was, what caused the problem and how do we go about correcting it.”

Nevin Lawson has surgery on toes

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
[+] EnlargeNevin Lawson
AP Photo/Mike McCarnNevin Lawson, hurt during Sunday's game, underwent surgery on his dislocated toes.

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions likely will send their second cornerback to injured reserve in as many weeks.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday he does not anticipate rookie Nevin Lawson to return this season after he suffered dislocated toes on his left foot during the Lions' 24-7 loss to Carolina on Sunday. Lawson was taken to Mercy Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, immediately after the injury and was in surgery before the game ended.

"How long it's going to be, I am not certain as of yet, the doctors are going to look at it before they release him," Caldwell said Monday. "He's still there. He'll be back in a day or so, and that'll give us a prognosis on the injury.

"Would not anticipate that he'll be back this year, OK, but hopefully he'll heal quickly."

Lawson, who took over the team's starting slot cornerback spot after Bill Bentley tore his ACL in the season opener against the New York Giants, was fortunate because one of Carolina's team physicians is Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina, one of the leading foot and ankle specialists in the country.

(Read full post)

Rookie Report: Week 2 vs. Carolina

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
Each week, we'll take a look at how the Detroit Lions' rookies fared the week before. This series will typically run the mornings after games.

The Lions are losing their rookies somewhat quickly this season -- at least for the short term. This isn't a knock on Martin Mayhew's drafting ability, because he couldn't have predicted some of what's happened, but this rookie class is not going to have the immediate impact of last season's group.

That said, there were some standout performances and some encouraging -- and discouraging -- signs.

Here's how the rookies fared Sunday:

TE Eric Ebron (first round, North Carolina): Ebron played 26 snaps against Carolina (up six snaps and six percent from the opener) and was on par with Joseph Fauria when it came to snaps. He was also targeted much more by Matthew Stafford as the quarterback looked at him five times. Ebron caught three of those for 38 yards, although he also had one drop.

LB Kyle Van Noy (second round, BYU): He's on injured reserve/designated to return. He won't be doing anything for at least the first half of the season.

OL Travis Swanson (third round, Arkansas): Swanson again didn't play on offense, only special teams. He played on nine special teams snaps, including kick return.

DE Larry Webster (fourth round, Bloomsburg): Webster was inactive against Carolina.

CB Nevin Lawson (fourth round, Utah State): The rookie was elevated to the team's starting slot cornerback last week after Bill Bentley was knocked out for the season with an ACL injury. Now, he might be out for the season as well. Lawson dislocated his left foot on Sunday and was in surgery before the game concluded. He played 12 defensive snaps and eight special teams snaps prior to the injury, which came on a punt return. His season could be over.

DT Caraun Reid (fifth round, Princeton): After seeing three snaps in the opener, Reid had six defensive snaps -- he didn't do much in them and they came late -- and one special teams snap. It is somewhat interesting Reid doesn't play more on special teams, especially in punt field goal block because of his success there at Princeton.

WR TJ Jones (sixth round, Notre Dame): Is on the physically unable to perform list for now. Won't play until midseason more than likely. Even then will be down the depth chart at receiver.

K Nate Freese (seventh round, Boston College): Not a good outing for Freese. He missed both of his 49-yard field goal attempts and after the game, Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn't rule out searching for other options at kicker. He's 2 of 5 this season on field goals after a preseason where he had some consistency issues. His spot is a position to watch in the next few days.

OL Cornelius Lucas (undrafted, Kansas State): Lucas remains the team's fourth tackle but was activated Sunday and saw his first action, playing 17 snaps (24 percent). He came in mostly in the second half in relief of Garrett Reynolds, who earned the start. Pro Football Focus had Lucas with 11 snaps (and that seems more accurate) and rated him with a .2 overall rating.

S Jerome Couplin (undrafted, William & Mary): Couplin was active for the second straight game and played two defensive snaps. He was also in on 14 special teams plays. He failed to record a defensive statistic.