LIONS INSIDER

Camp Notebook: Suh and Fairley rush package, Mathis playing safety, practice report and more

Posted Aug 17, 2013

Suh and Fairley's play against the Browns, new Lions Rashean Mathis, practice report and other observations from Lions' camp

There weren't a lot of positives to take from Thursday's defensive performance down in Cleveland, but the pass rush, and particularly the play of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, was one.

Most impressive was the way Suh and Fairley showed their range and versatility on the Browns' second drive of the game.

First, Suh laid a devastating hit along the sideline on Browns running back Trent Richardson nine yards down field on a sweep play. The hit sent Richardson flying into the bench.

After the game, Richardson tried to make light of the hit.

"The hit was not as hard as everybody thought it was," he said. "He caught me from behind, but I bounced right back up. I did not even know he hit me that hard until I saw it on the film."

Yeah right.

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

In that same drive, Fairley made a terrific play recognizing a screen pass and got all the way to the sideline to stop running back Chris Ogbonnaya for a 1-yard loss.

That kind of range and versatility is also why the Lions have been able to put Suh and Fairley wide on the edges and move the defensive ends inside in certain rush packages.

The package resulted in an incomplete pass early in the game when Fairley breezed by Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas to nearly sack quarterback Brandon Weeden and force an incompletion.

"Both of those guys have end athletic ability," head coach Jim Schwartz said. "They are very strong guys, but they have enough speed that they can still close the distance. It's something we've sort of experimented around with in the past ... and I think it's something that can be effective for us. It has a chance to be a nice part of our rush package."

MATHIS AT SAFETY

Rashean Mathis was still introducing himself to his new teammates at the start of practice after signing a contract with the Lions just minutes before Saturday's practice began.

During his first on-the-field work with his new team, he was also getting reacquainted with the safety position.

Ndamukong SuhDB Rashean Mathis

Mathis played safety in college at Bethune-Cookman and played it the first 10 games of his rookie season after the Jaguars took him in the second round of the 2003 draft.

"A corner went down and then I moved to corner," Mathis said.

And that's where he's stayed the last nine years and six games of his career ... until Saturday that is.

"He's multidimensional," Schwartz said. "He also played nickel. He'll get reps at corner and we'll find what works best for us.

"There's a couple different options with him. We always preach versatile guys and I think he's one of those guys. He's a smart player."

Mathis said afterward that he didn't care where he played as long as he could help.

"There's nothing solidified," he said. "I'm going to play wherever they plug me in. I can play safety. I can play corner. I can play nickel.

"I guess I'm a little something you call a savvy vet because I know the ins and outs of defense. I've been around. I've seen it all. There's nothing new under the sun, so I'm just looking to be plugged in wherever I can."

PRACTICE REPORT

Calvin Johnson rejoined Saturday's practice after missing practice time and Thursday's preseason game with a bruised knee.

Without his No. 1 target in Cleveland, quarterback Matthew Stafford completed 11-of-16 passes for 74 yards, but to only one wide receiver (Patrick Edwards had three catches for 10 yards).

Schwartz wouldn't say if Johnson would be available for the team's third preseason game Thursday at Ford Field vs. the Patriots, but did say it would be important to have all hands on deck if it was possible.

"You want to have all the pieces because they all uniquely fit," he said. "It affects the defense's way they have to defend and things like that. I think it's important. It's not a deal breaker.

"We know Calvin will be ready. Coach Linehan has a good handle for how people play with Calvin and things like that. We'll be fine there regardless of how it works through the rest of preseason."

Safety John Wendling and running back Montell Owens also returned to practice.

Cornerback Corey Greenwood participated in seven-on-seven and team drills for the first time since injuring a hamstring July 28.

Players sitting out Saturday's session were: defensive tackle Nick Fairley (illness), quarterback Shaun Hill (rest), safety Louis Delmas (knee), linebacker Cory Greenwood (stinger), defensive end Jason Jones (knee), cornerback Ross Weaver (undisclosed) and tight end Matt Veldman (Achilles).

One depth-chart change of note, rookie cornerback Darius Slay replaced Ron Bartell at right cornerback with the starting defense at practice

PLAYING TIME

A few things to note when it came to the playtime percentage in Thursday's loss to Cleveland: