Young defenders stepping up for Lions

The Lions' defense needs some young blood, and some of the Lions' rookies are starting to show some potential. More, including player notes, inside

The Lions' defense needs some young blood, and some of the Lions' rookies are starting to show some potential.

Cornerbacks A.J. Davis (fourth round) and Ramzee Robinson (seventh) are works-in-progress, according to coach Rod Marinelli. But defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis (second), safety Gerald Alexander (second) and linebacker Johnny Baldwin (fifth) are making impacts. All are raw but athletic.

Alama-Francis started the second exhibition at right end, while Kalimba Edwards sat out with an ankle injury. When the second team came in, he moved back to left end, where he has been playing most of training camp. Marinelli wanted to throw Alama-Francis into the fire against Cleveland left tackle Joe Thomas, the third overall pick of this year's draft.

"I think the first thing that you've got to like is his athleticism," defensive coordinator Joe Barry said. "You forget sometimes that he's 280 pounds. He's very smooth. He's very athletic. ... You can't find usually big men that can run and change direction and rush the passer. Another thing with Ikaika: You never see him on the ground. He's got great balance."

Alexander intercepted a pass in the second exhibition at Cleveland. He is starting to show confidence in the system and play quicker.

"We really liked him obviously through the draft," Marinelli said. "We saw something kind of special. He's got a certain awareness, a knack, a feel for this game. He's a quiet competitor back there."

Baldwin stood out right away in the exhibition opener against Cincinnati and again on special teams against the Browns. He wasn't always doing everything right, but he was doing something, at least. He's still learning everything he'll needs to know at middle linebacker.

"Nothing seems to really faze him, and it drives me crazy sometimes," Barry said. "But he's just one of those kids. He's kind of out there just running around and letting his instincts and his athleticism take over."

Barry laughed.

"He made a few mistakes on plays where he actually made a play," Barry said, "just because going fast and being athletic and not getting knocked on the ground, that helps you sometimes."

Camp and Practice Notes

  • P Joe Deraney was placed on injured reserve with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. His nice onside kick in the exhibition opener made the victory possible, but he was unlikely to make the team ahead of Nick Harris.
  • P Micah Knorr was signed to replace Joe Deraney.
  • FB Alan Ricard was waived injured with a neck problem. The veteran had just arrived in camp.
  • FB Keith Belton was signed to replace Ricard. He is a longshot to make the team.
  • WR Reggie Ball was waived injured. He was Calvin Johnson's quarterback at Georgia Tech but a longshot to be one of his fellow wideouts in Detroit.
  • LB Cole Haley was signed to fill out the linebacking corps.

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