LIONS INSIDER

NOTEBOOK: Defense ahead of offense

Posted May 28, 2014

The Lions defense has the upper hand in practice while the offense adjusts to their new scheme.

It’s not uncommon for the defense to be a little bit ahead of the offense this time of year. We see it all the time in spring football at every level.

Throw in the fact the Detroit Lions are learning an entirely new offense with all new terminology, and it’s not a big surprise the defense looks ahead of the offense at this point.

In fact, the defense pretty much took it to the offense in 11-on-11 drills during Wednesday’s open OTA practice. The offense managed just one field goal during situational offense vs. defense drills at the end of practice.

It started right off the bat when second-year cornerback Darius Slay went up and knocked a ball away from All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson deep down the field on the first play of 11-on-11 drills.

“It’s good to see our defense performing at a high level right now,” Johnson said. “We love to see it because we know they’re going to get better and we’re going to get better just because they’re so sharp right now. It’s going to make us all better in the end.”

There’s energy with this defense that simply hasn’t been there in year’s past. They’re loud, rambunctious and not afraid to let the offense know when they’ve made a play.

There's an early swagger about them.

“I know the Lions have had a prolific offense for years, but that doesn’t mean we (the defense) can’t have any energy and be just as prolific,” said new cornerback Cassius Vaughn, who’s been a very vocal player along the Lions defensive sideline.

“I stress to the guys all the time, as a team, we want to be the best group, period, on defense. We’re more together. We hang out more on the field together and build a better bond together and that makes us play better together as a team.”

We can’t lose sight of the fact this is mid-May and the pads aren’t even on. It’s a long way from September and the offense will come around the more reps they get.

“I mean, today was a little sloppy, I’m not going to lie to you,” offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said. “I was getting a little angry today because I thought that mostly the drops and some of the alignments weren’t what you want.

“So, it was really a concentration issue more than anything, but I’m pretty excited about these players we have and the way this thing’s going to develop.”

Practice should be interesting the rest of the spring and into June’s minicamp.

CALDWELL ON ANGELOU PASSING

When Jim Caldwell arrived at Wake Forest in 1993 as its new head football coach, one of the first people to welcome him on campus was Dr. Maya Angelou, the university's Reynolds Professor of American Studies since 1982.

“She invited me to her home and she had a reception for me to get to know people within the community,” Caldwell said after Wednesday’s OTA practice. “She was on the faculty there for many years and one of the beloved literary giants in our lifetime.

“She was very hospitable, she was open, she was encouraging and she was very inquisitive about the game of football. What a great person she was.”

Angelou, a professor, novelist, poet, actress, singer, dancer and activist, died at the age of 86 Wednesday morning.

In 2010, President Barack Obama named her the recipient of the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the country can give a citizen.

“She was extremely impactful,” Caldwell said. “You look at just the body of her work and what a difference that made for our society from a cultural standpoint and from a social standpoint as well.

"She influenced a number of students and folks like myself who worked there at the university who had the great fortune of coming into contact with her.”

INJURY SCARE

The Lions certainly took notice of the news out of Dallas, Wednesday, where starting middle linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL in a non-contact OTA practice and was lost for the 2014 season.

“We talked about it today, making sure we’re doing the best we can to take care of each other,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said. “This is the time of year when guys are full of energy, trying to make plays, trying to impress coaches and do all that kind of stuff.

“You’re going to make sure at the same time we’re taking care of each other and learning as we go.”

Do the coaches stress it?

“Every day,” he said.

PRACTICE REPORT

Wednesday was the fifth OTA practice in Phase III of the offseason training program and the second open to the media in its entirety.

The team was without cornerbacks Chris Houston and Chris Greenwood, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, defensive end Ziggy Ansah, running back Joique Bell, receiver Kevin Ogletree and linebacker Brandon Hepburn.

Safety Glover Quin and defensive end Jason Jones were limited.