CAMP NOTEBOOK: Safeties to be better last line of defense

Posted Jul 31, 2014

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Day 4 of Lions Training Camp including the secondary's focus on limiting big plays, Michael Williams' injury and more.

If there’s one thing the Detroit Lions’ secondary has emphasized more than anything else this season it's limiting the big plays.

The Lions defense gave up 14 passing plays of 40-plus yards in 2013 (fifth most in league) and five rushing plays of 50-plus yards (most in NFL).

For a defense that ranked toward the top in the NFL against the run, on third down and in red zone defense a season ago, the big plays were big killers.

That’s where Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo step in. The Lions made Ihedigbo a priority in free agency because he’s experienced, he’s smart and he’s reliable.

Those were some of the same traits they valued in Quin when they made him a Day 1 signing in free agency a year prior.

Quin says both he and Ihedigbo have taken it upon themselves to be a better last line of defense in 2014.

“The safety is exactly what it is, a safety,” Quin said. “A lot of guys are playing man (defense). The safeties are playing man. We have to be that last line of defense. We have to be great tacklers.

"As a safety we have to make sure the ball isn’t going over our heads. Making sure we’re communicating with everyone. Making sure everyone is on the same page in the coverage and our responsibilities and being that eye in the sky.”

Quin said being a playmaker is important from the safety position, especially from his free safety spot, but it doesn’t trump being the last line of defense and limiting the big plays.

The Lions are hoping the move of Quin to free and the signing of Ihedigbo is an upgrade in the position from Louis Delmas (now with Miami).

“First of all, they know what they’re doing,” secondary/cornerbacks coach Tony Oden said of Quin and Ihedigbo. “That’s the most important thing.

“They are great communicators. That helps a corner. It’s like a corners best friend. If he has a safety next to him that can communicate to him the correct information, and gets it to him quickly, that gives him a better opportunity to get lined up and digest what’s going on and allows him to go play.

“If things happen slowly they have a little less time to get lined up and a little less time to react. The corners are excited about (these) safeties.”

Veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis said the biggest difference he’s seen from this year to last is the emphasis on playing disciplined football.

“The thing about this year is we’re going to have more discipline on the defensive side of the ball,” he said. “And we’re going to do more on our end, on the back end, to eliminate those explosives when a running back does pop through the gap ... when the ball is thrown down the field. We have to find a way to come up with it.”

It's a new defense and Quin and Ihedigbo are playing together for the first time, but they already seem to have a good grasp of each other and their responsibilities within this scheme.

“Those guys are like the quarterback back there in that perimeter so they do a great job communicating and making certain everyone is in the right place and I think that is key,” head coach Jim Caldwell said. “If everyone is in the right place, and has the right angles, we’re going to limit the big plays.”


Kevin OgletreeWR Kevin Ogletree (Photo: Detroit Lions)

The competition is stiff for that fourth and possibly fifth roster spot at receiver and everyday is a chance to make a good impression on coaches, scouts and front office personnel.

Kevin Ogletree, who the team signed as a free agent last October, has been getting a lot of reps alongside Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate and has been making the most of those opportunities.

“Quick, resourceful, really has a good understanding of the positions,” Caldwell said of Ogletree.

“Works at it, quiet, hardly says a word, but I really like what we’ve seen from him so far. He has been catching the ball consistently; we anticipate that that’s going to carry over. He’s got some unusual traits on the inside.”


The Lions drafted Michael Williams in the seventh round out of Alabama last year to be a blocking tight end in their offense.

This offseason Williams made the move to tackle in an attempt to prolong his career because the Lions are stacked at tight end.

Williams says the adjustment has been going well and he’s put on 15 pounds since June’s minicamp. He currently weighs in at 298 and said he’s hoping to add on a few more pounds to get to 305-310. He’s been getting some second-team reps early in camp.

Practice time is crucial for a player making a position change, but Williams didn’t practice Thursday because of an undisclosed injury.

“It’s not a long-term thing,” Caldwell said of Williams’ injury. “A few days maybe, but I think he’ll be back.”


The Lions plan to have their first full-padded practice of training camp on Friday.

“It’s going to be a situation where we’ll do maybe a little bit more heavy hitting, but you get most of your work in this league in terms of tackling and taking guys to the ground during preseason games,” Caldwell said.

“We’ll do some isolated things, but for the most part you want to see whether or not a guy can carry his pads, run in his pads, in the heat. Can they carry their pads? Can they run behind them, use leverage, and bend their knees? When fatigue sets in, can they overcome it and can they strike consistently? We’re looking for those things.”


Warford said Thursday he's fine after injuring an ankle Wednesday night at Wayne State.

"It hurt real bad when it happened," he said. "I was in a lot of pain. Ten seconds later, it was gone.

"It was stiff when I woke up this morning. It's fine. It hurts a little bit, but nothing I can't handle."


The Lions signed free agent defensive end Kris Redding on Thursday and released receiver Cody Wilson.

Redding, listed at 6-foot-4, 273 pounds, went undrafted out of Wake Forest this year. In 41 collegiate games, he tallied 64 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

The Lions are still short on the defensive line as Ziggy Ansah remains on PUP.


--DeJon Gomes had a nice interception jumping a Brandon Pettigrew route in one-on-one drills. Gomes has played well through the early portion of camp and is seeing a lot of second-team reps alongside Don Carey. Gomes is also a core special teamer, which is going to be an important factor in who ultimately wins that fourth safety spot between Gomes, Isa Abdul-Quddus and Jerome Couplin.

--I walked over to watch the offensive line vs. defensive line rush drill. Out of 35 reps, I scored it 22-13 for the offensive line. One of the impressive players on defense, however, was rookie defensive end Larry Webster, who beat LaAdrian Waddle pretty easily in both reps against him.

--Kris Durham has a unique skill set in that he’s 6-foot-6 and can run. Durham made a terrific catch over Bill Bentley in a red zone drill, but also dropped a sure touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball after beating Bentley in one-on-ones.