With huge roster decisions looming this weekend for the Detroit Lions, general manager Bob Quinn sat down with beat writers ahead of Detroit’s final preseason game in Cleveland to talk about the current state of the roster heading into the weekend.
Here are some key questions from that session:
Why was extending Damon Harrison Sr.’s contract important for Quinn to get done?
“Damon is a great player and it was something we talked about all offseason,” he said. “We felt like it was a situation where we wanted to do that to solidify our defensive front and have him here for a couple more years.
“I thought looking back at that trade it was a great trade for us. He wasn’t completely happy with the contract he signed in New York a couple years ago, so we had some conversations and we found a middle ground. It was good.”
Harrison was one of four players, and the only defensive tackle, to accumulate at least 80 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles last season. His nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles were career highs.
View photos from the Detroit Lions at Cleveland Browns Preseason Week 4 game at FirstEnergy Stadium on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 in Cleveland.
How does Quinn feel about what he’s built upfront on defense alongside Harrison?
On paper, Detroit’s defensive line, anchored by Harrison, but also including Mike Daniels, Trey Flowers, A’Shawn Robinson, Da’Shawn Hand and Romeo Okwara, looks to be one of the league’s deeper and more talented units.
“We feel really good about our defensive front,” Quinn said. “I think when you look at the overall roster, the way it stands today, barring anything that happens over the weekend, it’s hopefully one of the strengths of our team.
“We want to be strong up the middle and I think with the additions of Mike Daniels and other guys that we put in the front, (Jahlani) Tavai and some of the other guys coming back, I think there’s a lot of depth there and I’d say versatility.”
Quinn said head coach Matt Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni will be able to really put the chess pieces in different places upfront along the defensive line to make it hard on opposing offenses.
What about position groups where Quinn doesn’t feel as strong?
“There’s a few,” he admitted, though he declined to go into detail.
“My job is to make the roster as competitive as we can,” he said. “And I think it’s a hard time of year for those guys.”
Quinn said some players who played tonight in Cleveland had a good grasp they were on the bubble. Others might have thought they were safe, and they probably shouldn’t have felt that way.
“There’s a few positions we’re going to look at that myself and my staff are concentrating on and we’ll see what comes down the pike,” Quinn said. “It’s interesting when you have 1,100 or 1,200 players on the waiver wire at one time. It’s an exhausting process.”
What can Quinn tell us about the cut-down process this weekend?
“We try to do the great majority of the work before,” he said of Saturday’s 4 p.m. deadline to trim the roster from 90 players to an initial 53.
“When I first got here, my pro scouts were like, ‘We’re doing it this way,’” Quinn said. “Because I just feel like there’s only one way to do it and it’s to be as thorough as humanly possible because you never know who is going to get cut.”
Quinn said he probably asks his staff to write up and evaluate more players than any team in the league, but he wants the information in front of him because he has a little more than 12 hours from the time he gets the waiver wire players to the time he has to submit his claims the next day.
“It’s a busy time of year and it’s something we’re always going to strive to improve our team,” Quinn said. “Whether it’s Sunday, whether it’s Monday ...”
Why is it important for fans to know that the roster-building process doesn’t end Saturday and Sunday?
The Lions claimed defensive end Romeo Okwara last year off waivers from New York on Sept. 5, which was the Wednesday following the first training camp cuts. Okwara ended up leading the Lions in sacks last year with 7.5.
“Everyone is concentrated on Saturday 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon,” Quinn said. “Well, you claim three guys, you have to release three guys. Sometimes the second wave of those is better players than the first wave.”
Oftentimes the Sunday or Monday personnel notice is better than the Saturday notice, per Quinn.
“Those guys actually made the team coming out of camp,” he said. “That’s just something we try to judge and depending on what happens we can keep a roster spot open.”
What’s Quinn’s comfort level with the talent and depth at guard?
“Good comfort level,” he said.
“It’s an area where we have really multiple guys kind of battling for those guard spots and I think whichever way this ends up we think we feel good that we’re going to have a starter, and really good that we’re going to have a great backup at both spots.”
Joe Dahl and Graham Glasgow have taken the majority of the first-team reps at guard the last few week with Kenny Wiggins and Oday Aboushi in reserve. Undrafted rookie Beau Benzschawel has come along late in camp as well.
Wiggins started 10 games last year for the injured T.J. Lang, so there’s a lot of familiarity there between Quinn and him.
Quinn said he like the combination of young guys and veterans, and feels good about the position.
How has head coach Matt Patricia changed in year two?
It was obviously a whirlwind for Patricia last year getting hired late in the process because of New England’s Super Bowl run and then having to put together a staff on the fly and head right into free agency and the draft.
Patricia has seemed much more settled and comfortable this offseason, and Quinn has seen that as well.
“I think he definitely changed the ways he’s done some things,” Quinn said. “I think he’s taken a lot of input from the players. A lot of great conversations, I would say, dating back to January, February, March when the players weren’t in the building about things that he was thinking about and wanted to get some input from some of the veteran guys. Very reflective. Very honest with himself.”
How does Quinn measure progress?
“You guys will judge progress with wins and losses, which we have to too,” he said. “It’s a bottom-line business. We understand that.”
Quinn’s seen progress through the offseason program in terms of the players coming back ready to work with a goal to prove they’re a better football team than 6-10.
“I see the growth,” Quinn said. “I see the way the guys came in in really good shape. I’ve seen the practices during training camp being more intense and just as physical as last year.
“And the guys just saying, ‘hey, this is what it takes to win in this league.’ It’s been really refreshing. I’d say on a lot of levels to sit back ... and I’ve seen glimpses of just little things that either an older guy or newer guy are doing and I see that a younger guy is doing it a couple days later. That’s how I see growth.”
In the end, however, Quinn knows those things have to translate to wins in the NFL’s bottom-line business.