Lions vs. Cleveland Notebook: Willie Young continues to prove high expectations were warranted

Posted Aug 10, 2012

It’s says something about the expectations the Lions have in defensive end Willie Young when general manager Martin Mayhew made it a point to single him out as one the top performers in the offseason program this spring.

Young has backed up those words this summer with a strong training camp up to this point.

The Lions are hoping that trend continues into the regular season this fall, and there’s no reason to think it won’t, after watching Young in Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Browns in the preseason opener.

Young, who started in place of Cliff Avril, was too much to handle for Browns offensive tackles most of the night. He had a sack, fumble recovery and quarterback pressure in the game. He forced a holding call with a terrific outside rush on another quarterback pressure that nearly resulted in another sack.

“I was coming out with the intent to have a tenacious attitude and to (be) very dominant,” Young said after the game. “When you have a chance to take those reps with the first team early on the first quarter, it means a lot.”

Young’s transition to an important contributor for this defense has been a three-year project in the making. Young came in as a seventh-round draft pick in 2010 and was admittedly immature and not ready for the type of work it would take to be a good NFL player his rookie year.

He turned himself into a limited contributor in 2011, but seems to have taken a giant leap forward this year. If the spring and summer are any indication of what’s yet to come, this could be a breakout season for Young.

“Obviously, this didn’t happen overnight,” Young said. “I look to continue to improve from this day forward.”


Reserve running back Joique Bell first thought he could be an NFL running back early in his football career at Wayne State University. He asked a scout at a Lions football camp he was working security for if it was possible for a kid going to Division II Wayne State to ever play football in the NFL.

The scout told Bell that the NFL will always find talent, no matter where it might preside.

Bell said that was all he needed to hear.

Fast-forward a few years later and Bell was back at Ford Field, this time playing in his first NFL game with his hometown Lions. As fate would have it, Bell was named Friday’s player of the game after rushing for 89 yards on 16 carries (5.6 yards per rush).

That scout was right.


Injuries in the preseason are a big concern for coaches. The Lions may have lost their preseason opener to the Browns Friday night, but they didn’t lose any key pieces to injury. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said after the game that there were a few bumps and bruises, but nothing serious on the injury front.

When it comes to penalties, the Lions played a nearly flawless game with only one (very questionable) 15-yard penalty for a late hit out of bounds by reserve safety Ricardo Silva. The Lions were one of the most penalized teams last year (128).


The Lions were without a number of key performers on defense, including starting defensive ends Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. In all, the Lions were without 11 players in all.

Besides Avril and Vanden Bosch, the Lions were without running back Jahvid Best (Active/PUP), receiver Ryan Broyles, safety Don Carey, safety Louis Delmas, cornerback Chris Greenwood (Active/PUP), running back Mikel Leshoure, defensive tackle Sammie Hill, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott, and receiver Titus Young.

Young was excused from the game due to the birth of his child.