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NOTEBOOK: 2018 Lions still developing identity

Safety Glover Quin stood at his locker Wednesday talking to reporters. He was asked what this team's identity is. He paused for a moment and admitted it's been an up and down year, going through each of the first five games, and then eluding to the fact that he'd know more about this team after Sunday's game in Miami.

It's been a strange start to the 2018 season for Detroit. Are they more like the team that got blown out at home by the Jets (3-3) to begin the year? Or are they closer to the team that thoroughly dominated the New England Patriots (4-2) at home Week 3?

This is a Lions team that battled the 49ers (1-5) and Cowboys (3-3) on the road, but lost close games down the stretch by three points or less to those clubs. It's the same Lions team that came back home after that tough Week 4 loss in Dallas and went up 24-0 on Aaron Rodgers and the Packers Week 5, holding on to win.

Miami (4-2) is undefeated at home this season. They have a terrific home-field advantage with the crowd, the heat and humidity, especially when teams from the north go down and play there.

Hard Rock Stadium will be a tough environment for the Lions Sunday, and the Lions are playing against an unfamiliar opponent from the AFC.

"To me, at home, (Miami) looks like the best team in the league," Lions wide receiver Golden Tate said this week.

So, which Lions team shows up? The one that looked outmatched against the Jets? The one that competed tough against the 49ers and Cowboys on the road, but couldn't make the plays down the stretch necessary to win? Or will the team that handed Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers losses this year?

"I feel great about this team," veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois said this week. "I feel a lot different than Week 1 to now. I feel real positive about this team, so I'm ready to go take those (next) 11 weeks on."

Lions fans are certainly interested to see which Lions team shows up Sunday in Miami.

So too, it appears, is Quin.


Through 16 games last year, the Dolphins intercepted just nine passes, which was the fourth lowest total in the league.

Through six games this season, Miami already has 11, which leads the NFL.

So, what's been the difference?

"I think our guys are doing a better job this year of really just holding onto them," Dolphins head coach Adam Gase said in a conference call this week. "We had opportunities the previous season to probably have more interceptions than what we did. We didn't finish the play. I think this year the whole defensive staff has done a great job of emphasizing holding the football. And we've had some deflections where the guys are in the right spots and balls really come to them."

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown just one interception over his last four games, so something will have to give either way Sunday.

"They are ball hawks, definitely," Tate said of the Miami secondary. "One of the best defenses we've faced this year so far.

"It's going to be about us. We have to run precise routes. We have to be at our depths. Crisp brakes. We have to catch everything with our hands. Those guys have a knack for finding the ball, whether it be a tip or overthrow or just jumping routes, but we have to not give anything away. It's definitely a challenge."


The bye week came at a perfect time for guard T.J. Lang.

After suffering a concussion Week 4 in Dallas, what he estimates as the fifth or sixth of his career, Lang took the time to consult with three or four experts in the field of neurology to try and gather as much information as he could about his health, concussions and his long-term future.

"Most of those meetings were pretty positive," said Lang, who was back to being a full participant in Lions practice Thursday. "I'm not going to explain in detail all the information I got, I'm just not that smart. I took my wife with me to a couple of them. She seems to be pretty worried about the head stuff."

Lang says he wanted to be educated about continuing his career, and feels better about his situation after seeking the advice of experts. He said his biggest question for them was whether they felt he'd be safe to return to the field when he's fully healthy to do so.

"Most of them said yes," Lang said. "That gave me a lot of confidence. A few of them had different opinions, but for the most part it was, 'I think you'll be fine to play. I don't think there will be ramifications further down the line if you continue to play.'"

They were some tough conversations to have, Lang admitted, but necessary ones.

Lang says he plays football knowing the risk of injury and potential long-term effects, like CTE, but that's a choice he's made and is comfortable with. 

"I feel like I have a lot of teammates in this locker room that are counting on me to be out there and play and play at a high level," he said. "That's something that's always driven me and will continue to drive me.

"I don't know if it's the brightest way to look at it when you're comparing your health, but at the same time it's really all I know and I want to be known as a dependable guy.

"Right now, I'm comfortable where I'm at here Week 6 and I'm just glad I'm feeling better and hopefully it's the last time it happens.

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