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NOTEBOOK: Tavon Wilson to start at strong safety

Posted Sep 8, 2016

Tim Twentyman covers all the news from Thursday's practice including the starter at strong safety, a special trio and more.

Tavon Wilson started four games in the middle of his rookie season for the New England Patriots back in 2012. He played in all 16 games that season and contributed four interceptions and six passes defended.

At the time, Wilson probably never thought that an Oct. 28 game against the Rams in 2012 would be the last time he’d start a game for the Patriots. He played three more seasons in New England as a backup and special teams contributor.

He signed with the Detroit Lions this offseason because there was an opportunity to compete for the starting strong safety job on defense.

After essentially a six-month on-the-field interview process, Wilson will get his chance to be a starter once again when the Lions travel to Indianapolis to face the Colts Week 1.

“Obviously, I’ll be excited to go out there and play and get an opportunity to play,” Wilson said Thursday. “I look forward to doing my best.”

Wilson gets the start, but head coach Jim Caldwell said Rafael Bush and rookie fourth-round pick Miles Killebrew could see action in certain packages.

Wilson beat out Bush for the starting job in camp because he was consistently more of a playmaker for Teryl Austin’s defense.

“I think when you watched him he was very productive in the preseason,” Austin said of Wilson. “He can do a lot of different things. He tackled well, he tackled physically, he was real solid down in the box.

“Those are some things that I was looking for, hoping to see out of some of the guys and he did a really good job of it. If we can continue that throughout the course of the season we’ll be okay.”

We often talk about how much easier free safety Glover Quin makes it on the guys playing next to him because of his football IQ and playmaking ability. But Wilson said his goal as the new starter alongside Quin, is to start making it easier on Quin -- Being solid on his end, so it frees Quin up to do what he does best, which is make plays.

“My job as a player that’s going to be back there with him is to try and take some of the stuff off his plate,” Wilson said. “Not put so much pressure on him to have to make all the calls and have to worry about so much.

“I’m a helping hand back there for him and try to take some pressure off him so he can focus on how teams are trying to attack him.”

SPECIAL TRIO

New Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi led the NFL in special teams tackles last season with 17. Fellow Lions safety Don Carey was second in that department with 16. Add fourth-year punter Sam Martin, who consistently has some of the best hang time in the NFL into that mix, and the Lions have the makings of a pretty special trio when they have to punt the football.

“It definitely causes issues,” Martin said of having two gunners like Bademosi and Carey on the outside.

“When you’re looking at return fronts, when you have to worry about two guys like that, you’ll see a lot less seven and eight (man) boxes because they’re going to have to make a decision, ‘Who are we going to vice in a seven-man box? Who are we going to let go?’”

Martin said it will be something opposing special teams coordinators will really have to game plan for.

“I think it’s going to present some difficulties for opposing special teams guys,” Carey said.

“I know when we face a team that has a good gunner corps, there’s an emphasis and a premium on stopping those guys. Now you have Bademosi, who is one of the best if not the best doing it. Myself, I’m okay.

"They’re going to have to choose their poison. Do you double both of us and let the interior guys go? You open yourself up to a lot of things when you do that. I’m glad I’m not in their shoes.”

PUSH THE BUTTON, COACH

A new rule implemented this season on coach to player communication allows coaches to use the headset system to talk to players from the press box.

Before, if an offensive or defensive play caller wanted to see the field from the coaches' box, he’d have to relay the play call to a third party on the field, and that person would give the call to the player.

Essentially, the NFL has taken out the middleman.

That’s good for Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who prefers to call the game from the vantage point of the coaches' box.

“I think it’s good, it cuts out the middleman so it saves time getting the calls in,” he said.

But just like players have to adjust to new things all the time, there’s still a little adjusting being done on Austin’s part to the new system.

“The only problem with it is I have to press a button to talk to the middle linebacker, and sometimes I don’t, so I’m just telling the coaches the call,” Austin said with a small laugh.

“So we’ve had that happen a few times in the preseason where the coaches got the call, but the players didn’t. So I have to make sure I stay on that and do it, but I think it’s a much cleaner system, I like it.”