LIONS INSIDER

CAMP NOTEBOOK: Defense eager to show identity Saturday

Posted Aug 6, 2014

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Wednesday's training camp practice at Ford Field including the identity of the defense, Eric Ebron's injury and more.

We have a pretty good idea what we’re going to see from the Detroit Lions offense in 2014. They have weapons galore and can do a lot of different things in both the pass and run game.

The defense is still a bit of a question mark, however. All offseason we’ve heard buzz words like “aggressive” and “smart” and "fast" but it’s hard to get a grasp on a defenses’ true makeup until the pads come on and the hitting starts.

For the Lions, that begins Saturday vs. Cleveland. Saturday we’ll start to see what the Lions’ identity on defense is going to be.

“I think it’s developed over time,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “You can kind of sense it and see it, but I really do think it’s developing. They’re getting a better feel for the system. They’re functioning within it better.

“They’re getting a better understanding where they’re reacting more so than thinking. This is going to be our first game really working against the opposition, so I think we’ll be able to tell quite a bit about where we are in that regard. I think you’ll start to see the way the defense plays start to take shape.”

It’s why these players can’t wait for Saturday to show off.

“I can’t wait until Saturday,” defensive end Jason Jones said. “I think Saturday is a test. It’s a chance for us to actually go against somebody and run our stuff against somebody else’s scheme. Saturday is going to be a test for us and we’re going to show a lot of people what we’re about.”

Safety Glover Quin offered a preview into the identity they hope to showcase starting vs. Cleveland.

“Fast, physical, relentless and attacking the ball,” he said.

Quin said it’s tough to build an identity on defense practicing in shorts, which is why they can't wait for the hitting to start for real.

“When you’re in shorts the quarterbacks know they’re not going to be hit,” Quin said. “Receivers know they’re not going to get hit. The d-line can’t rush to pressure the quarterback. It’s more of an offensive day of practice.

"But when you put the pads on and the d-line can get after the quarterback ... we can definitely get to the ball to make some plays."

EBRON INJURED

Rookie tight end Eric Ebron missed his first practice of training camp Wednesday night with an undisclosed injury.

“We’re going to keep him out for a couple days and see what that does,” Caldwell said after practice.

Caldwell said Ebron was “day-to-day” and that his status for Saturday’s preseason opener is still up in the air.

BALDWIN WAIVED

Jon BaldwinWR Jon Baldwin (Photo: AP Images)

Jon Baldwin’s stay in Detroit was a short one.

After being claimed off waivers on Monday, the Lions waived him on Wednesday after he failed to pass a physical.

The former first-round selection by Kansas City has dealt with knee issues in the past.

Baldwin has appeared in 33 games, catching just 44 passes for just 607 yards and two touchdowns.

Caldwell left open the possibility of potentially circling the wagon on Baldwin down the road when/if he gets healthy.

The waiving of Baldwin leaves the roster at 89 and room for one more.

The team also reached and injury settlement with receiver Cody Wilson, according to the official NFL transaction list.

PENALTY WATCH

The Lions’ defensive line led the league in neutral zone infractions (11) and encroachment penalties (6) a season ago.

The former regime chalked that up to the line’s aggressive nature and rationalized those penalties and somewhat accepted them.

If the Lions would have been getting to the quarterback more frequently in 2013 that mindset might be acceptable, but 33 sacks last year ranked 28th in the league.

Austin says the penalties are no longer acceptable under his watch.

“Well that’s not what we want,” Austin said. “We’re tracking them with our guys, we’re letting them know in certain terms, that it beats you because you give the offense an extra five yards. 

“That happened (Tuesday), we jumped offsides and we gave them five yards and instead of 3rd and 8, it’s 3rd and 3. And that’s a whole different dilemma there for defense. So the guys have been really harping on it and we hope that it carries over into the season.”   

GOAL POSTS

The goal posts at Ford Field were painted green for the Lions’ practice sponsored by Repreve. They will be re-painted yellow after tonight's practice and donated to Detroit Cody High School

The new NFL goal posts with the five-foot extensions mandated by the league will be in place at Ford Field before Saturday's game.

SATURDAY EXPECTATIONS

Caldwell will see his team in action for the first time against someone else on Saturday and he’s spelled out a few of the things he’ll be looking for.

"Alignment, assignment, communication, technique and make sure our fundamentals are solid,” he said before Wednesday’s practice.

“That’s what we’ve really been working on the last few weeks, and it’s really important to us in terms of a base and foundation. So we hope to see some guys execute those extremely well. Those are the areas we are focusing on. We are improving every day.”

BIGGEST LOSERS

Former Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell and offensive lineman Damien Woody will join the cast of NBC’s reality weight-loss show “The Biggest Loser” for season 16.

According to the show’s website, Mitchell currently weighs in at 366 pounds and Woody at 388.

Mitchell’s NBC bio says he joined the show to try and lose the weight and live a healthier lifestyle for his family.

“His biggest motivation for going on the show was seeing his dad die of obesity-related causes early this year and knowing he could be headed down the same path if he doesn't change his life,” the bio read.

“Now 46 years old and 366 pounds, Mitchell has sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Weight has been an issue since age 35 due to a busy life and poor diet. With five kids ranging in age from 11 to 21, he wants to be there for his family and is ready to embrace a healthy lifestyle.

Mitchell set Lions single-season records for touchdown passes (32) and passing yards (4,338) in 1995, both of which have since been broken by current Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

CAMP OBSERVATIONS

-- Darius Slay has changed his number from No. 30 to No. 23.

He asked Caldwell for the number a while back and Caldwell told Slay he had to earn it.

Obviously he has, and that’s good for Slay because he wanted the number to honor his favorite player growing up – Cleveland’s Joe Haden.

-- Ebron, defensive end Ziggy Ansah, linebacker Cory Greenwood (excused absense) and receiver TJ Jones sat out Wednesday night’s practice at Ford Field.

The Lions did get tackle Michael Williams back at practice after missing the last several days due to injury.

-- Brandon Pettigrew is one of the better blockers from the tight end position in the league and it’s easy to see why after watching him in RB/TE vs. LB/S drills. He won all of his matchups, including the final one vs. Stephen Tulloch.

DeAndre Levy saved face for the defense, however, as Reggie Bush didn’t have a chance blocking him.

-- Nate Freese hit all five of his field goal attempts from 30, 35, 40, 45 and 47 yards.

Giorgio Tavecchio hit the first four and missed from 47 yards, hitting the right goal post.