KEY QUESTIONS: Lions searching for closers this year

Posted Apr 14, 2014

Tim Twentyman covers the key questions from Monday's town hall meeting at Ford Field.

The Lions had the lead or were tied in the fourth quarter in 15 games last season, but finished with a 7-9 record.

They lost six of their last seven games after starting 6-3, a slide which ended any playoff hopes and prompted major changes to the coaching staff after the season.

During a town hall meeting at Ford Field Monday night attended by around 1,500 season-ticket holders, Lions vice president of pro personnel Sheldon White was asked what kind of players the Lions are looking for.

White paused for a second and his answer -- "closers" -- is a direct result of those fourth-quarter woes last year.

“Obviously, I wont tell you who we’re drafting, but I can tell you we’re going to be drafting a player of high integrity, a guy with a high motor and a guy that finishes well," he said.

Too many times last season the Lions couldn't put together the one drive late in the fourth quarter to seal a victory. They weren’t able to get off the field when they desperately needed to on defense in critical moments late in games. The Lions simply didn’t make enough plays in the last 15 minutes of games a season ago.

“Every game (team president) Tom Lewand and I come down (to the field) in the fourth quarter,” White said. “We come down to the sideline to get a feel for what’s going on with everyone in the stands.

“So we’re going to be there right with Jim (Caldwell) when we finish up each game. You see the positives and you see the negatives. With that, you saw six games out of seven where we did not finish, so we’re going to be looking for closers this year.”

White said that was also the team's approach in free agency with the signing of receiver Golden Tate and safety James Ihedigbo -- players who have experience and know how to finish games.

“Guys who will not quit,” White said of what the Lions are looking for in next month's draft. “We have some now, but we need some more.”

What is the status of Ndamukong Suh’s contract negotiations?

Ndamukong SuhDT Ndamukong Suh (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Lewand said contract negotiations with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh have been very amicable since Suh hired veteran agent Jimmy Sexton to represent him.

Lewand reiterated Suh has made it known to the organization he wants to re-sign and the organization wants that too, obviously.

“It’s been my experience over the years that when a player says he wants to be here, and we indicate we want to keep him around, we have a good track record of finding success,” Lewand said.

“When that happens? I don’t know and it doesn’t really matter. The timing is less important than the outcome as long as the outcome is right for Ndamukong and us. Then I think he can be a part of our core for a long time.”

What can fans expect from offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi’s offense?

The new Lions offensive coordinator has no doubt stolen a few ideas and concepts from the New Orleans offense he spent the last seven years in as an offensive assistant and quarterbacks coach. However, it will ultimately be a “Lions” offense this season with a lot of different elements.

“Coach Caldwell always talks about using the intellectual property you have access to,” Lombardi said.

“The offensive coaching staff is a pretty impressive group so you’re going to see elements of the Colts and Ravens that coach Caldwell knew. There are some things they did here last year that I think are really good that we’re going to keep in the system.

“Then you’ve got (assistant head coach/tight ends coach) Ron Prince and some things he did at Rutgers and (wide receivers coach) Robert Prince and some things he did at Boise State.

Lombardi said he plans to “borrow and steal” from all of those different systems and it will eventually become a Lions offense.

“If you take one idea it’s stealing,” Lewand followed up Lombardi's remarks. “If you take a lot of them it’s research.

“We’ve got a lot of research we’ve been doing on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

The team is banking on that knowledge and experience making a big difference when the coaches and the players hit the field together for the first time during next week’s voluntary mini camp.