Coaches Have Tough Decisions Ahead

Posted Sep 2, 2010

There are some long days ahead for the Lions' coaching staff.

And there will be some sleepless nights ahead for several Detroit players who will wonder if they did enough to avoid the final roster cuts on Saturday.

Thursday's come-from-behind 28-23 victory against Buffalo in the final preseason game didn't make some of the roster decisions any easier.

Many of the players fighting for jobs strengthened their cases with a strong showing in their last dress rehearsal.

"I thought particularly in the fourth quarter we had some guys fighting really hard for jobs," said coach Jim Schwartz. "You want to see guys win jobs. I think guys that end up making our roster will have won jobs in the fourth quarter of this game."

One of them might be Paul Pratt.

Pratt didn't know if his pro football career was over when the Lions cut him last spring. He was managing a fitness gym and played in the UFL.

Pratt capped the Lions' scoring with a 102-yard kickoff return with 6 1/2 minutes left in the game.

"It was a gift from God," Pratt said of his interception. "Once I got the ball I got up so fast. I saw one lineman ahead of me and I said,' he's not going to catch me.'  It was a great feeling. I can't even explain how I feel now."

"I hope the coaches look at that and see that I can make great plays," Pratt said. "I know they like me or they wouldn't have brought me back."

The long interception return wasn't Pratt's only contribution to the Lions' third victory in four preseason games. He led the team with seven tackles, including five solos.

Pratt said he wouldn't be losing sleep over the roster cuts.

"I can't worry about things I can't control -- but I'm happy I got that play," Pratt said.

There's Ashlee Palmer, who's in the mix for one of the outside linebacker positions.

He gave the fans their first reason to cheer when he intercepted Brian Brohm's pass that deflected off the hands of tight end J.P. Foschi. Palmer, who played 14 games with the Bills last season, returned the pass 39 yards to the Buffalo 14-yard line. That set up a one-yard plunge by fullback Jerome Felton for Detroit's first touchdown.

"I was upset because I just missed a tackle on a screen play," Palmer said. "I just tried to focus on the next play. When the tight end bobbled it, I had to make the play. I got my hand on it and tried to curl it before I hit the ground."

Palmer said it was special coming against Buffalo.

"It's always going to feel good coming against your former team," he said. "I still have a lot of friends over there."

Last year, Palmer came to camp with Buffalo as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi and made the team. He came in with the same kind of perseverance this year, even though he has one NFL season under his belt.

"Every day is competition. That's what they teach and preach here," Palmer said. "That brings out the best in players. When I came in I expected to battle for a spot on the 53-man roster. Nobody's going to give you anything."

Palmer finished the preseason with 10 tackles. He hopes it's enough.

"I feel I had a pretty decent preseason," Palmer said. "But I can't worry about the next couple of days. I can only do what I can do. Now it's in the coaches' hands."

Defensive end Willie Young came into camp as a seventh-round draft pick. He has been impressive with each preseason game. He had five tackles against Buffalo and finished the preseason with 15 and two sacks.

"Nothing's set in stone around here," Young said. "I just hope I came out and showed my best. I personally feel I showed some athleticism and the ability to play within this defense.  I guess we'll find out in the next couple of days."

Young said that several of the veterans on the defensive line took him under their wing.

"I had a great group of guys to learn from," he said. "The entire D-line has helped me. They know how tough camp can be and they were by my side on those heavy workload days. I think I took what they had to say and bettered myself."

Young joined the Lions thinking that he could play in the NFL. Now he's convinced of it.

"Definitely," he said. "I'm very confident. I've never sold myself short on what I'm capable of doing."

Landon Cohen had two sacks against the Bills. He's in his third season with Detroit and battling for playing time in the defensive line.

"I definitely tried to (send a message)," Cohen said. "In the fourth game the pressure was on and I like to come through under pressure. All I can do is play football and make plays. That's what they pay me to do so that's what I'm going to do."

DeDe Dorsey made a bid to stay with the team as an extra running back. He had seven carries for 33 yards and caught two passes for 59 yards. One of his receptions was a 25-yard touchown from Drew Stanton that cut Buffalo's lead to 16-14 late in the third quarter.

Dorsey also made a key tackle on special teams.

Derrick Williams, fighting for a spot on the receiving corps, put Detroit ahead with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Stanton early in the fourth quarter. Williams atoned for a costly drop earlier in the game.

The starting offense, which had been so productive in the first three games, didn't play that well, but running back Jahvid Best and left tackle Jeff Backus were held out of the game. The other starters played only two offensive series.

Detroit's defense, however, played well. It didn't give up a touchdown until Chad Simpson scored on a one-yard run with 16 seconds left in the game.

"The defense played a lot of snaps. We were really shorthanded," Schwartz said. "We were putting people in a couple positions that they don't play but I thought they soldered through and did a really nice job. We'll have some difficult decisions."