LIONS INSIDER

CAMP NOTEBOOK: Teryl Austin high on his starting safeties

Posted Aug 5, 2014

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Tuesday's training camp practice including improvement on defense, depth chart observations and more.

If the Detroit Lions are going to be better on defense this year they need a few things to happen.

They need their high-priced defensive line to be productive, they have to have their cornerbacks play better football and they need safeties Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo to do their job in the back end.

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is pretty confident through the first week of training camp that he’s found the right two players in Quin and Ihedigbo to orchestrate it all.

"You have two high-character veterans," Austin said of his starting safeties. "They know that for us to play well, they have to play well. They have to be problem solvers in the back and they've done that with the young guys.

"What that will do is cut down on the big plays. Cut down on the breakout runs. All those different things. Getting lined up wrong. Not getting a call. That's what they're working really well at right now."

Quin and Ihedigbo (known as Digs around here) are the quarterbacks on that defense and the last line of defense. They make a mistake and a big play is usually the result.

The Lions gave up way too many big plays in 2013, which ended up being a big reason they were 7-9.

Austin pushed hard for the team to sign Ihedigbo as a free agent this year for that very reason and he's seeing the benefits early in camp.

"I know what Dig (Ihedigbo) brings to the table," Austin said. "Not just because I know him, but I think it benefits us and that's why we brought him here."

NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP FOR WARFORD

Larry WarfordG Larry Warford (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Don’t expect any kind of sophomore slump from Lions guard Larry Warford.

Warford turned out to be one of the best rookies in the NFL last year and the Lions were able to get him in the third round with the 65th overall pick.

Warford started all 16 games at right guard and was named the Pro Football Focus Rookie of the Year.

His rookie season was good, but even he admitted this offseason he wore down at the end of last year.

“Looking back on my last three games and comparing it to my first four or five, the difference in explosion was significant,” Warford said back in April. 

“I wasn’t coming off the ball as hard as I used to. I was still getting good movement and all that, but it wasn’t a snap like it used to be. I didn’t realize how much (the season) would tear me down.”

That admittance is why head coach Jim Caldwell and the Lions aren’t worried about any kind of slump from their talented guard in year two.

“I think that he’s got the proper makeup, he never gets too high or too low and is never full of himself,” Caldwell said Monday.

“Jim Collins says in his book, How the Mighty Fall is arrogance, he has none of that. Also, he doesn’t think he’s arrived. He’s working extremely hard, so I doubt very seriously that you’ll see him slip, so I think you’ll continue to see him progress.”

LIONS EVALUATING BALDWIN

The Lions claimed receiver Jon Baldwin off waivers on Monday, but he did not take part in practice Tuesday as they continue to evaluate him medically.

“We’re just in the process of evaluating his medical condition,” Caldwell said.

Baldwin has dealt with a knee issue in the past.

TATE HAS FANS ON DEFENSE

The Lions made Golden Tate a huge free-agent target because they liked his experience, his hands and his run-after-the-catch potential.

The latter has certainly caught the eye of some of the Lions defenders.

“He’s phenomenal – yards after the catch, he’s definitely that guy,” linebacker Stephen Tulloch said.

“He can stop on a dime. You’ve got to respect him. I don’t think too many people can double Calvin that much and have that guy as your No. 2 receiver.”

DEPTH CHART

The Lions’ media relations department released its first depth chart of the season four days ahead of Saturday’s preseason opener with Cleveland.

It should be noted this is a media relations' depth chart and not one released by the coaches or front office.

Here are a few highlights:

-- Kevin Ogletree and Kris Durham are listed as the second receivers behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate

-- Cornelius Lucas and Corey Hilliard are the backup tackles, Rodney Austin and Garrett Reynolds the backup guards and the team lists Travis Swanson as the backup center

-- Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria are ahead of Eric Ebron on the depth chart, but Ebron and Pettigrew have been getting a majority of the first-team reps in practice.

-- Montell Owens is listed as the first-team fullback with Jed Collins backing him up.

--Darryl Tapp and Devin Taylor are listed as the second-string defensive ends behind Ziggy Ansah and Jason Jones, but don’t count George Johnson out of that mix. He’s been taking a lot of first-team reps with Ansah on PUP.

-- Ashlee Palmer is the starting SAM linebacker for now with Kyle Van Noy in reserve. The other two backup linebackers are Tahir Whitehead (WILL) and Travis Lewis (MIKE). Van Noy did get first-team reps on Tuesday.

-- Sam Martin is listed as the kickoff specialist.

-- Nate Freese the first-string placekicker, though the competition for that job with Giorgio Tavecchio is far from over.

-- Jeremy Ross is returning both punts and kickoffs. Tate is listed at the No. 2 punt returner and Theo Riddick the No. 2 kick returner.

-- Bill Bentley and Cassius Vaughn are the second-unit cornerbacks.

CAMP OBSERVATIONS

-- Ansah, TJ Jones and Michael Williams remain sidelined due to injury.

-- Van Noy had a good day with the first-team offense. He filled some gaps nicely in the run game and he seems to move very well in space. He’s battling Palmer for that starting spot.

-- The defense worked on a read-option period. The Lions will see that offense a few times this season, most notably Week 2 in Carolina.

-- Fauria made a terrific diving catch in the corner of the end zone over Vaughn in a red zone period. The Lions are expecting Fauria to be a big weapon in the red zone and are moving him all over the field in those situations.

-- Freese and Tavecchio both hit all five of their field goal attempts in a team period.