Notebook: Defensive makeup; Warford's scouting report on Floyd and a potential red zone mismatch

Posted Sep 6, 2013

Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham likes the mix of veteran and young talent and Larry Warford gives Lions fans the skinny (not really) on Vikings defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, who's expected to start in place of Kevin Williams

Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham likes the makeup of his defense heading into Sunday’s regular season opener vs. Minnesota.

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

It’s not just the size and the speed the team added this offseason that Cunningham likes so much -- though that certainly helps -- either. Cunningham likes the chemistry and the blend of young veterans infused with youthful talent.

The Lions have had veteran leadership in the past, but it came from veterans who were past their prime. The dichotomy of this defense is different in that veteran players like safety Glover Quin, defensive end Jason Jones, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and newly appointed captain Ndamukong Suh have played a lot of football, but are still in the prime of their careers.

Quin has played in 63 regular season games and four playoff games, but is only entering his fifth season.

"He also has a good personality," head coach Jim Schwartz said of Quin. "He likes going out to practice. It shows in the locker room. It shows in the meeting rooms. It shows on the practice field."

The Lions are counting on a number of young players to step in and make immediate contributions and having some of the veteran around to help them along has been invaluable, according to Cunningham.

"When (Rashean) Mathis came in, within two or three days, Bill Bentley started to become a different nickel (cornerback)," Cunningham said.

"And I asked Bill point blank, 'Is it coaching or the new guy?' He looked at me and I said, 'Tell me the truth.' He said, 'Rashean has really showed me.'

"That’s what’s good about the way the team has been put together, so hopefully it will carry over starting Sunday."


Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kevin Williams has been ruled out of Sunday’s game for Minnesota because of a knee injury suffered in the preseason.

In his place, the Vikings are expected to start rookie first-round pick Sharif Floyd.

The Lions will start rookie Larry Warford at right guard, and he’s very familiar with Floyd from their days playing in the SEC – Warford with Kentucky and Floyd with Florida.

So what about a little scouting report from Warford on Floyd.

"He was a real strong guy," Warford said. "Pretty good with his hands. I’ve watched him on film and he’s gotten a lot better. He’s good with a little arm-over move and he beat someone really bad with that (in the preseason).

"He’s getting a little bit more explosive and has a little bit more twitch and he’s improved a lot."

It’s nice for Warford, who will be making his first career NFL start, to be facing a player he’s familiar with in the fellow rookie Floyd than it would have been a veteran Williams.

"To have gone against him (before) there’s a little more confidence," Warford said of Floyd. "I kind of have a hold of his tendencies a little bit from when he was playing at Florida. I can’t completely rely on that, because he’s obviously gotten better, but it is pretty cool to have already been up against him."


After bouncing around from practice squad to practice squad and roster to roster his first couple seasons in the league, running back Joique Bell has found a home in Detroit.

Bell burst onto the scene when finally given a chance to play last year. He had 414 rushing yards (5.0 average) and finished third on the team with 52 catches for another 485 yards.

"Joique’s had a very quietly excellent year for us last year," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "He came in, stepped in and showed that he can be pretty versatile.

"Had a very good preseason that way. I think you saw the same things you saw from Joique during the season in the preseason. He’s earned the right to get out there on the field and help us win."

Expect Bell to be the second running back in the game Sunday when Reggie Bush needs a breather.


Imagine this red zone scenario for a moment if you’re the Vikings secondary. The Lions trout out Calvin Johnson (6-5), Kris Durham (6-6), Brandon Pettigrew (6-5) and Joseph Fauria (6-7) down around the goal line.

"Put it up where the kids can’t reach it," Fauria said of that potential scenario when asked in the locker room Friday.

"What did your mom used to do to keep the cookies away from you? She used to put them high up. Well, my mom couldn’t do that to me."

Fauria said all quarterback Matthew Stafford has to do in that scenario is keep the ball high.