Key Questions: Jim Schwartz on PUP, rookie expectations and more

Posted Jul 25, 2013

Senior writer Tim Twentyman reflects on key questions answered from head coach Jim Schwartz's pre-training camp press conference

Jim SchwartzHead coach Jim Schwartz holds his pre-training camp press conference.

A team is only as good as it's record indicates. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz made that point clear during his pre-training camp press conference Thursday.

But Schwartz, who is entering his fifth season at the helm, said the free agency acquisitions made this offseason, a good draft and the players he's getting back off injury have him the most optimistic he's ever been heading into camp.

"I'm the most confident I have been in four years here as the head coach," he said. "We're confident in our players and system. I like where this team is, and I look forward to having a good training camp."

Schwartz did admit, though, that Detroit's disappointing 4-12 season a year ago was humbling.

"I'd agree with that term: humbling, sure," he said. "I think it was humbling for me personally. I think it was humbling for the team, individuals, and also the entire team. We had made the playoffs for the first time in a decade (in 2011). There was a different dynamic coming into the next year than from the previous year. I think that's fair to say.

"I think we all learned a lot of lessons last year, for sure. And the only way that those are going to be beneficial for us, is to carry those lessons across to the next season and this year."

After making the playoffs with a 10-win season in 2011, the Lions stumbled out of the gate last season and ended the year with eight straight losses. There were certainly lessons to be learned, and Schwartz is hopeful going through that kind of difficult season makes him a better coach and this team more resilient.

"I think experience makes you a better coach, if you learn those lessons," he said. "I think the best coaches learn from what's happened in the past. I think we certainly have. I know personally I think I have. Whether or not I'm a better coach, I think that'll be determined in the future. It's going to be in the record this year."

There is pressure on Schwartz to right the ship quickly and he acknowledged that Thursday.

"As coaches we are use to that scrutiny, we are use to high expectations," he said. "That doesn't change the way we do things. We remain committed; we remain believing in our plan. It doesn't enter our thoughts. Everybody's work is on display and everyone knows what is at stake. We embrace all that. That's part of this business."

Shifting the focus to training camp itself ...

Are there any candidates to start training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list?

Schwartz said there were no long-term candidates, but there could be some players who start camp on the list as a precaution.

"There may be something that comes up with somebody, if anyone is nursing a small injury. Just the way the PUP rules work a lot of the times it's best to give them a day to make sure they respond the right way after the conditioning test or something that; their knee doesn't blow up or their ankle doesn't get swollen," Schwartz said.

There were some players like guards Bill Nagy and Leroy Harris who didn't participate much during the spring who could be candidates for that short-term list.

What about safety Louis Delmas?

Delmas missed eight games last year with knee troubles and five games in 2011. The Lions will monitor his practice time in camp in order to keep him on the field come September, but he's not expected to enter camp on PUP.

"Unless something came up on the physical, I'd be surprised if we went the PUP route with him," Schwartz said. "We'll just take day by day. We will have a plan for him during training camp.

"Lou is a veteran player, he is a veteran in our system. He knows exactly what is being asked of him. He knows our system inside and out. He needs to practice, but it's probably going to be counterproductive for him to practice every single day."

That's significant because Delmas sat out the entire offseason program and has yet to play with new safety Glover Quin.

"We need to get Lou and Glover on the field and create that kind of camaraderie and synergy between those two guys," Schwartz said. "There's a lot of unspoken communication between those two safeties there; in a lot of ways (they are) the quarterbacks of the defense and it's very important to get some practice time. We just need to balance that time with overextending it."

What kind of contributions are the Lions expecting from their rookies?

With their first three picks, the Lions filled very specific needs. Defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, cornerback Darius Slay and guard Larry Warford are all expected to either start, or make big contributions in 2013.

"They weren't drafted to find their way or redshirt or things like that," Schwartz said. "They were drafted with very specific purpose in mind. How well they do that will depend on where they are in training camp. I like where all those guys were at the end of OTAs and at the end of our minicamp. They all showed the reasons they were drafted and they've all shown they can help us."

Schwartz made the point that training camp is about consistentcy, not flashing ability, for these rookies.

Add fifth-round pick Sam Martin to mix as the team's expected punter, and the Lions are banking on some of their rookies having important roles.

Which wide receiver steps up?

There are plenty of candidates, but Schwartz stressed Thursday how important it was for a playmaker to emerge from the fourth and fifth spots, specifically. The Lions know what they have in Johnson, Ryan Broyles and Nate Burleson. Schwartz is looking for someone else to emerge.

"It's going be one of the interesting things during training camp, which one of those receivers' steps up and becomes a part of the offense," he said. "We are going to need one of those guys -- at least one of them -- to step up and make plays for us. We know we added Chaz (Schilens), and late in OTAs and minicamp (Matt) Willis and (Micheal) Spurlock, very similar guys. Guys that have played the league that bring something to the table.

"We need guys like Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles to be healthy and productive over 16 games the way they were in spots last year but we also need somebody to emerge and Chaz has just as good as chance as those other guys. "

Broyles has a shot to be a breakout performer for the Lions in 2013. He'll have plenty of room to roam the middle of the field and he was just starting to come on last year before suffering the ACL injury.

Is the defense better?

The Lions have featured an explosive offense for a couple seasons now, but have been waiting for the defense to catch up. The defense ranked 13th in yards allowed last year and were in the middle of the pack against the pass and the run.

They needed to get more playmakers on that side of the football that can get their hands on the football. The Lions forced only six fumbles all season and had a minus-16 turnover ratio.

"In 2011, I thought our defensive line really carried us," Schwartz said. "Our defensive line is different this year, but I think we have the potential to be just as effective, if not more. It's a much bigger defensive line. The dynamics there are a little bit different. Same scheme, but maybe a little different execution of that scheme."

Schwartz seemed particularly excited about the retooled secondary.

"We made some really good acquisitions in the secondary. A lot of people talk about Reggie Bush, and he's going to be an impact player for us. I think the one we're equally excited about that's flown below the radar is Glover Quin. Just an outstanding safety. Drafting Darius Slay, getting Bill Bentley back, retaining Chris Houston. We have some other veteran players mixed into that group.

"I think we're deeper in the secondary. I think we're more talented in the secondary. I think we have just as much potential to be really good up front. But, again, it's potential, and how much we can realize that potential is only going to be determined through hard work, and training camp, and preseason games and through the regular season."

What comparisons can the Lions draw to the City of Detroit?

"I'd like those comparisons to be resiliency, blue collar, hard work and toughness," Schwartz said. "I think those are the things that are most important about the City of Detroit and those are the things I hope the Lions reflect in that."