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Matthew Stafford on opting out: ‘I never gave it serious thought’by Jeremy Reisman on August 11, 2020 at 6:20 pm
Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images Once again, Matthew Stafford is committed to football—and committed to the Detroit Lions. The Stafford’s have had a lot on their plate over the past couple years. Between brain surgery for Kelly and an intense recovery program, three kids—including a twins—and a fourth newcomer to the family this year, a broken back, and a big COVID-19 scare just a week ago, it couldn’t have been easy for the family. So no one would’ve blamed Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford if he had decided to sit out a year to protect himself and his family. But in his first interview since the COVID-19 false positive test, Stafford said he and his family never truly considered it. “Like everybody, you hear it and you talk with your spouse and your family about it,” Stafford said. “I never gave it serious thought. I want to play football. I want to be out here. I have a supporting wife and family that know I love doing what I do and know it’s important to me. So they were right on board there with me.” Stafford is entering his 12th season in the NFL, coming off one of the most impressive string of games in his career before the aforementioned broken back cut his season in half. But fully healthy now and ready to go, he is looking to finally put all of the doubts about his commitment behind him—even as conspiracy theorists continue to wonder whether the listing of his Bloomfield Township house is a sign of a departing quarterback. “It has nothing to do with my tenure here, how long I’ve been here, how long I want to be here,” Stafford said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve got to tell you guys, I want to be here as long as I can. It has nothing to do with that, I promise.” Instead, Stafford simply reiterated that it was a family matter, as described by his wife a couple months ago. Back in May, Kelly simply explained that with four young children she didn’t feel safe around a body of water. As for the false positive COVID test result he received, Stafford understands it was a learning experience for the NFL. As a result of Stafford’s test results, the NFL changed their testing policy. Previously, even though Stafford tested negative twice before his positive result, and was negative three more times in the days after the positive test, he still had to sit out five days. Under the new rule, if a player has no known history of COVID infection and is still asymptomatic, a positive test result will have to be confirmed by two separate tests the following day. In the meantime, the player will still have to isolate. But if the confirmation tests turn up negative, a player could potentially return in the span of 48 hours rather than five days—a significant change in a short work week. In fact, Stafford was even a little grateful it happened to him now instead of in the middle of the season. “I know everybody is doing the best that they possibly can,” Stafford said. “I’m glad that it happened to me at this point and the league is doing what they can to try and change and make sure this doesn’t happen again. But I’m sure there’s going to be another problem down the road at some point that we’re going to have to figure out when we get there.” For now, though, Stafford remains optimistic about the safety in the building and is focused on just getting things back to as normal as possible. “I’m just happy to be in the building hanging with the guys, getting a little normalcy back when it comes to football.”
Lions excited about punter battle: ‘They can do all kinds of things’by Jeremy Reisman on August 11, 2020 at 4:15 pm
Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs likes what the Lions have in their two punters. For the first time in several years, the Detroit Lions will have a punter camp battle in training camp this year. And with new special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs in charge of the unit, it will be one of the most important duties for the first-time coordinator. It won’t be easy decision, either. Both competitors, Jack Fox and former Australian Football League’s Arryn Siposs, have never kicked a punt at the NFL level. Regardless, Coombs is eager to see the competition play out. “I’m really excited about it, really excited about both of those guys,” Coombs said in a Zoom conference over the weekend. Perhaps the more interesting candidate for the job is Siposs. Coming from Aussie rules football, his skillset is a little different than your average kicker. “As a general thing with the Aussie guys, they have the ability—just kind of naturally the way they come up playing that sport—to do all kinds of different kicks,” Coombs explained. “It’s not necessarily just the typical spiral punts or the typical ‘end over end’ what we call in the plus 50 (yard line). They can do all kinds of things.” Additionally, Coombs has already played at a professional level in Australia. He spent four seasons with the St Kilda Football Club. That experience could give him the edge in what appears to be a pretty even match. “The biggest bonus from that is that he’s played professional sports,” Coomb said. “I know he’s ready for the moment when it comes.” But Coombs also made sure not to count out Fox. While Siposs may come with a bag of tricks, American kickers are starting to take notice—including Fox—and add some more variety to their arsenal of punts. “A lot of the guys here in the U.S. are starting to learn those things at a younger age. So Jack has a lot of tricks in his bag too,” Coombs said. However, the biggest challenge for Fox, Siposs and Coombs will be proper evaluation in a shortened offseason. With no preseason, it will be hard for Fox and Siposs to truly prove they can do something they’ve never done before: punt at the NFL level. Still, Coombs believes he can create a competitive environment without the benefit of exhibition games. “We’re going to find ways to make it hyper competitive in practice and put them under competitive situations and we’ll see who rises to the top,” Coombs said. “I’m really, really excited for both of those guys.”
Football Outsiders: Lions have best odds to win NFC North in 2020by Jeremy Reisman on August 11, 2020 at 3:30 pm
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images One statistical model suggests the Lions have a good chance to win their first divisional title in nearly 30 years. Forgive us if this sounds like déjà vu, but our friends at Football Outsiders have once again provided a beacon of hope for Detroit Lions fans. Aaron Schatz, the head of Football Outsiders, penned an article over at ESPN ranking the eight teams that finished in last place in their division by their likelihood of going worst-to-first in 2020. The Lions placed No. 1 on his list, but that’s just the tip of this Honolulu Blue iceberg. According to Football Outsiders’ prediction model, the Lions have a 27.5 percent chance of winning the NFC North this year—the highest percentage of any other team in the NFC North. Yes, the Lions have better odds to win the North than the Bears, Packers and Vikings. Much like Bill Barnwell’s article from earlier in the week, Schatz sees opportunity for a big improvement in Detroit this year. A big reason for that is the health of Matthew Stafford, but Schatz takes it a step further, saying he expects the Lions defense to make a significant jump this year as well. “Our projection system also likes the Detroit defense to improve after the unit ranked 28th in DVOA last season,” Schatz wrote. “The Lions added a good amount of free-agent talent, much of it from the No. 1 New England Patriots defense. They made up for trading away veteran cornerback Darius Slay by selecting the talented Jeff Okudah third overall in the draft. Combine the talent influx with a low turnover rate (something that strongly regresses towards the mean) and the Lions should be better on defense in 2020.” Now, before you go buying your 2020 NFC North Champion t-shirts, there are a couple of very important caveats to this prediction model. First, Football Outsiders basically predicted this exact same outcome last year. Per their model, the Lions had a 25.5 percent chance to win the division (second-highest), putting them atop their worst-to-first list. We all know how that ended. Additionally, although Schatz expects significant regression from the Packers, and admits the Vikings will likely be hurt by their significant losses on defense, each team in the North maintains a fairly high probability of winning the division. The Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings all have between a 23 and 28 percent chance of earning the divisional crown, per their prediction model. So while nothing is guaranteed at this point—hell, a 2020 season is far from guaranteed right now—it’s always nice to see someone in the Lions’ corner, especially when it’s backed by a statistical, unbiased model. If you want to know more about Football Outsiders and their overview of the 2020 season, I highly recommend their Football Outsider Almanac.
Tavon Wilson signs with Indianapolis Coltsby Mansur Shaheen on August 11, 2020 at 2:11 pm
Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images The former Lions safety finds a new team. Former Detroit Lions safety Tavon Wilson has signed with the Indianapolis Colts, the team announced on Tuesday morning. Wilson spent the last four years with the Lions after signing with the team in 2016. The safety played 56 games for the Lions, starting in 39 of them. He notched three interceptions and 212 combined tackles in four seasons. The safety initially was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. He spent four seasons with the Patriots before leaving for Detroit. Wilson was among the first of the many former Patriots that have featured for the Lions since general manager Bob Quinn took over in 2016. The team chose to allow Wilson to walk in free agency at the conclusion of last season. He remained a free agent deep into the offseason, but has now finally landed with a team. Wilson took to Twitter to thank the city of Detroit and Lions fans for his time with the team, along with a video featuring some of his greatest moments in the Honolulu Blue. Thank you Detroit! Appreciate all of the relationships made over the past 4 years on the field & in the community. Nothing but love for the @Lions organization & the city. ✊ pic.twitter.com/7kDe3tpX5V— Tavon Wilson (@tavonwilson) August 9, 2020
Lions Bubble Watch: Predicting defensive player cutsby Jeremy Reisman on August 11, 2020 at 1:00 pm
Photo by Allan Dranberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images A look at the players firmly on the defensive roster bubble. On Monday, we examined the offensive players on the Detroit Lions roster bubble entering the ramp-up period of training camp this year. Today, we shift our focus to the defense. This side of the ball has gone through a lot more turnover in the past few months, and that could mean a lot of the guys that managed to squeeze their way onto the roster last year may not be as lucky this time around. Aside from a big roster turnover, the addition of two new coordinators could have a big impact on roster decisions. Defensive coordinator Cory Undlin may say that he’s on the same page as head coach Matt Patricia, but he’ll undoubtedly have a different perspective as well. And don’t forget the addition of special team coordinator Brayden Coombs; special teams plays a huge part in the final roster spots, and that means Coombs’ voice will carry a lot of weight to general manager Bob Quinn come the end of camp. So with all of that in mind, here’s our predictions for the Detroit Lions roster bubble on defense. Somewhat safe (6-8 in votes) DT John Penisini (8 votes) - After John Atkins opted out and Daylon Mack failed his physical, the path seems to have cleared for the Lions’ sixth-round pick to slide into that backup nose tackle position, despite being a rookie. At this point, Olive Sagapolu is his only competition, and he has just as little experience at the pro level. LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (8 votes) - The linebacker room is a little more crowded with the additions of Jamie Collins Sr. and Reggie Ragland, but the staff is still confident that Reeves-Maybin’s special teams contributions will land him a roster spot. LB Austin Bryant (6 votes) - The staff is a little less confident in Bryant’s place on the roster, despite just being a year removed from being drafted in the fourth round. Quinn has said specifically that he expects more out of Bryant this year, but starting training camp on the Physically Unable to Perform list is not a good start on Year 2 after an injury-riddled rookie season. LB Reggie Ragland (6 votes) - Ragland is a versatile linebacker with a lot of experience, and those are two things that have to make Patricia very happy. He’ll face a learning curve in Detroit, though, having little experience in this defense. However, former Crimson Tide defenders seem to transition fairly well into this scheme. LB Miles Killebrew (6 votes) - You can see just how competitive the linebacker position will be in camp, as the converted safety is also in the mix here. Like Reeves-Maybin, Killebrew’s best attribute is his special teams skills (no one played more special teams snaps than him last year), but will that be enough to warrant a roster spot this year? S Jayron Kearse (6 votes) - I should clarify here, because I’m not sure it was clear to the staff about his inclusion here. Kearse has been suspended for the first three games of the 2020 season, meaning if he “makes” the team, he’ll actually start the season on the Reserve/Suspended list. So he won’t technically “make” the team, because he won’t be on the 53-man roster. However, there is a possibility he still gets cut if the Lions decide he isn’t worth the trouble. I meant this to be a suspended vs. cut decision, and based on the results, most seem to believe he’ll safely make it onto the Suspended List. 50/50 shot (3-5 votes) CB Darryl Roberts (5 votes) - The cornerback depth battle is one to keep an eye on, as the Lions will have to make some really tough decisions. Among the depth options, Roberts seems the most safe simply because he has a good amount of experience both as a starting cornerback (26 starts) and as a special teamer. CB Tony McRae (5 votes) - McRae, though, may have an edge that no other secondary member has. He has direct experience under Lions new special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs. McRae has logged over 400 special teams snaps in the past two years with the Bengals, where Coombs served as the assistant special teams coach. He even started a couple games on defense last year, so cornerback play is not completely foreign to him either at the NFL level. DT Kevin Strong (3 votes) - Last year, Strong played quite a bit—likely due to Da’Shawn Hand’s absence. But with a healthy Hand, an incoming Nick Williams and even seventh-round pick Jashon Cornell, the competition will be much more stiff for Strong this year. DE Jashon Cornell (4 votes) - There’s never any guarantee that a seventh-round draft pick makes the roster their first season. Oftentimes, they’re perfect fits for the practice squad, and that may be especially true in a shortened offseason like the one the Lions are facing right now. Cornell had a fantastic senior season in Ohio State, but was just a role player prior to 2019. He may need time to grow at the NFL level. CB Mike Ford (3 votes) - Ford has started six games over the past two years in Patricia’s defense, which could give him a leg up. However, his play has been a bit inconsistent. Luckily for Ford, he committed to a huge role on special teams last year, and that gives him a fighting chance for one of the last roster spots in the secondary. Work to do (0-2 votes) CB Dee Virgin (1 vote) - Speaking of huge special teams roles, no one played more on that unit than Dee Virgin last year. But with the addition of all these other cornerbacks with special teams experience, it seems like Detroit may not be willing to keep someone as inexperienced as Virgin (1 career defensive snap) on the roster. He’ll have to prove his defensive worth in camp. S Bobby Price (0 votes) - Although the suspension of Jayron Kearse could open up a temporary roster spot at safety, our staff isn’t quite ready to give that spot to undrafted rookie Bobby Price. The Norfolk State product has extremely alluring athletic traits, but coming from a small school will likely work against him here.