Listed within the 'bad' from Detroit's 20-16 loss to Cleveland on Friday? Receiver Mike Williams. Williams had one nice catch and run, writes columnist James Cook, but then disappeared. Rumors of him sleeping on the sideline in the second quarter are unfounded, but not unreasonable. More from Friday's contest inside.
The old addage is that special teams is one-third of the game, and it's true.
And if you're a fringe player trying to make a team, that's how you'll likely
get on the final roster.
So, when the Lions trotted out their supposed top special teams units early
in Friday's 20-16 loss to Cleveland, who was on them? Surprisingly, Devale Ellis
-- an undrafted free agent rookie from Hofstra who looks surprisingly like Eddie Drummond -- played on most units, returning kicks in place of Drummond.
The usual suspects were out there -- Vernon Fox, Donte' Curry, Jared DeVries,
On the kickoff coverage unit, rookie sixth-round pick Anthony Cannon joined
second-round pick Daniel Bullocks and undrafted receiver Shaun Bodiford on the
game's opening play, along with Terrence Holt, LeVar Woods, Fox, Curry and Jamar Fletcher, among others.
The punt coverage unit was somewhat similar, with Curry, Woods, Bullocks,
Fox, Holt, Paris Lenon. First-round pick Ernie Sims was also out there, as well
as James Hall and Ellis.
On kickoff returns, the three wedge blockers were backup linemen Rick DeMulling and Brock Gutierrez and DeVries. Cory Schlesinger was the lead blocker
in back (I expected to see Will Matthews) and other blockers included Fox, Lenon,
Alex Lewis, starting strong safety Kenoy Kennedy and Cannon.
The five "down linemen" on the punt return team were linebackers Lewis, Sims,
Curry and Woods and wide receiver Corey Bradford on the end. Lenon was in a
middle linebacker position, with Fernando Bryant and Bullocks harassing the
gunner on the left and Dre' Bly and Fletcher on the right.
The line on PATs included DeMulling, Gutierrez, and starting left guard Ross Verba, with Don Muhlbach snapping.
Extra blockers included Marcus Pollard and, surprisingly, starting defensive
tackle Shaun Cody.
It's obvious not every special teams player will be the bottom of the roster
and rookies. DeVries has been a wedge blocker for years now and Sledge has been
on kick returns for ages, but the inclusion of guys like Hall, Bradford, Cody,
Kennedy and somewhat frail Bly and Bryant shows that special teams coach Chuck
Priefer isn't just going to throw an entire unit of rooks out there.
If these hold up, it looks like "borderline" guys like Furrey, Cannon,
DeMulling (notice Fred Mutua wasn't on the "first-string" units) and Gutierrez
have a better chance of sticking than some think. It strengthens the case for
guys like Fox, Woods (James Davis wasn't noticed on any units in the first half)
and weakens the case for guys like fullback Will Matthews (who may be practice
squad-bound for another year until he can take over for Schlesinger).
Anyway, back to the actual game itself.
Eddie Drummond reminded people that his position on the Lions roster is
officially listed as wide receiver. The former return specialist looked
comfortable on the field with the offensive unit for perhaps the first time as
a Lion. He had three catches for 36 yards, but also had a nice block on Mike Williams' catch and made a smart play when Dan Orlovsky was hit as he was
throwing. Orlovsky's pass went dangerously up in the air and was begging to be
picked off, but Drummond stepped in front of a Browns defender to prevent him
from catching the ball.
Artose Pinner had some nice runs, and had the kind of game that Arlen Harris
had last week that sparked Pinner trade talk. Pinner ended up with
six carries for 40 yards.
Matthews. If you watch the long Pinner runs, each one was sprung by a block
from Matthews. If only he played on special teams...
Kicker Matt Prater. The kid has a serious leg. Unfortunately for the Lions,
he won't be available by the time Jason Hanson calls it quits. He was
3-for-3 on field goals, including a 48-yarder that had plenty of room to spare
and routinely placed his kickoffs in the end zone.
The defensive ends. As a whole, they played pretty well. You can try to
pin the blown draw plays on them, but that's more scheme and the Browns using
Donnie Henderson's aggressiveness against him. Hall and Cory Redding were
seemingly everywhere while in there, and DeVries and Kalimba Edwards also played
Bullocks. He showed good tackling ability and always seemed to be around
the play (not behind it), something that can't be said much of Lions safeties
over the past few years.
OG Frank Davis. This undrafted rookie will at least make the practice
squad. Mark it down.
Curry. When allowed to do something other than special teams, he just
doesn't mess up much. Very consistent, and always near the ball. Doesn't
over-run plays, either (take notice, Mr. Davis and Mr. Lewis).
Fernando Bryant. Played very well when he was in there, both against the
run and pass. And didn't get hurt. That always counts for something with
Josh McCown. He may have just taken the No. 2 QB spot back from Orlovsky.
An 8-for-15 night isn't great statistically, but he looked better than that and
had a few passes dropped. Best yet, he looked in control out there and used his
running ability effectively (take note, Mike McMahon). On a side note, isn't it
exciting to actually have a competition for the BACKUP quarterback spot? Wow. In
past years, nobody even really bothered to compete for the starting spot, let
alone as a backup.
Lemarcus Hicks. This guy is making a serious case for a practice squad
spot this year, as is Marcus Demps. Do you wonder if Hicks taunts Demps by
saying he is THE Marcus?
Bill Swancutt. He is going to make it extremely hard for Rod Marinelli to
The Lions were victimized early and often by draw plays to Browns
third-down back Jerome Harrison (53 yards on just nine carries - yikes!).
Orlovsky didn't look like the same quarterback who was stellar last week
and who everyone was talking about unseating McCown as the No. 2 QB. He was 3-for-11
with a pick.
OT Clint Stickdorn. Penalties may make him the next lineman to get the axe.
The Lions' running game. In the first half, the Leos had just 3 yards.
Kevin Jones had seven yards on six carries, and everyone else had a combined total
of minus four yards. The Lions came back with 81 yards in the second half, but 37 of
that was by McCown.
The pass defense. Cleveland QBs were 26-for-36. The good news is that
none of those were really big plays, a result of the cover 2, and the Lions
picked off two passes (Bly and Fletcher).
Mike Williams. Had one nice catch and run, then disappeared. Rumors of
him sleeping on the sideline in the second quarter are unfounded, but not
Pinner's start. He fumbled his first carry, caught a short pass that was
negated by an illegal block and dropped a pass as the Lions went to him on
three straight plays.
Without Shaun Rogers in the lineup, the Lions defensive tackles were
virtually invisible in the game. Tyoka Jackson started in place of Rogers,
but you'd have never known it.
Special teams play was a little ragged. Ellis had some nice returns
early, but negated any points he might have earned with the coaching staff
with some blunders later (taking a kick from several yards back in the end
zone and not getting back to the 20, not following his blockers on another
short run back, and not catching a punt that rolled inside the 10). The
Lions also got bailed out when a pair of holding penalties negated Josh
Cribbs' 72-yard punt return that would have been a TD. Yeah, that's the same
Josh Cribbs that had a return TD against Detroit last year.
Kitna's celebration after his first-half TD pass to Kevin Jones. He tried
some kind of crazy leaping head-butt with Marcus Pollard on the way back to
the bench, but missed and ended up on the turf and lost his lid. Kind of
reminiscent of Gus Frerotte's wall-butt, minus the concussion.
Maybe this doesn't really fall under the heading of "ugly," but it's
amazing that the Jets flunked Lee Suggs on his physical after trading for
him earlier this week, but he was able to play on Friday for the Browns.
Maybe the Jets had a major case of buyer's remorse with a guy who has missed
about as many games due to injury as he has played in his career, but didn't
look hurt on Friday, just a few days after his "failed" physical. Maybe the
Jets were just misinformed, and originally thought he was a quarterback.