Lions Camp Blitz: Kitna, Camp Battles, More

The protection of Jon Kitna, rookie update, the top training camp battles in Allen Park, Leigh Bodden vs. Travis Fischer and much, much more in our detailed Detroit Lions training camp blitz.

Some of the first things you notice at Lions training camp are the changes that have been made to the offense to protect quarterback Jon Kitna, not to mention the ball.

In Mike Martz's offense the past two years, the Lions rarely ran the ball. Opponents pinned their ears back and came after Kitna, who often took seven-step drops and stood there waiting for deep routes to develop, a sitting duck.

Now that Jim Colletto has replaced Martz as offensive coordinator, the Lions plan to be more balanced to keep opponents off-balance. There will be more three-step drops and quick throws, and Kitna, Dan Orlovsky and Drew Stanton won't be stationary. They will be moving targets with roll outs and bootlegs.

"We're going to make them honor the quarterback," Colletto said. "All those guys can run good enough. They're not Michael Vicks, but they can run good enough. You leave them alone, they're going to make some yards. He isn't going to be in the same place all the time."

Kitna is all for it.

"I like to throw on the move," Kitna said. "It's something I came into the league doing. It's what I did in college. It's how I grew up playing in high school. Just kind of gym-rat type of thing."

The changes shouldn't just help Kitna avoid sacks (he took 114 of them over the past two years) and hits (he took a heck of a lot). It should help him avoid interceptions too. He threw 42 over the past two years, against 39 touchdown passes.


Jon Kitna won't be standing much in the pocket -- he'll be moving.
Getty Images

Fewer passing attempts should lead to fewer hits and picks, and when you're on the move, you have more options.

"When you're outside the pocket, you can always throw it away," Kitna said. "When you're inside the pocket, coachspeak says, 'Throw it away.' Well, you have to have a place to throw it to throw it away inside the pocket. When you're outside the pocket, you can just throw it. Throw it out of bounds. Throw it in the dirt. No harm. You line back up."

Kitna was close to Martz and enjoyed playing in his offense. He loved its aggressiveness and design, and he threw for 4,208 yards in 2007 and 4,068 last year. Those are the second- and third-highest totals in team history.

But he said he feels comfortable in Colletto's offense. It is more like what he did earlier in his career with the Seahawks and Bengals.

"It's different because the last two years," Kitna said. "But prior to that, this is what I've been in. This is what we were when I was in Cincinnati. This is what we were when I was in Seattle.

"I love what we did the last two years. Everybody knows my feelings about Coach Martz and all that stuff, and I had a great time playing.

"But I've done this. This is nothing new for me. I'm excited about it. I understand it. Their concern is, 'Will you understand the running game?' I know all that stuff. So we'll be fine."

CAMP CALENDAR: Controlled scrimmage Aug. 2. Camp breaks Aug. 18.

Camp Notebook

  • Caleb Campbell hasn't given up on a career with the Lions even though a sudden change in Army policy has forced him to report for military duty instead of training camp. Campbell, a seventh-round pick this year out of West Point, can apply for early release from active duty in May 2010. He said he spoke to team president Matt Millen and "the Lions would be ecstatic to have me back." "I'm going to work out every day like I'm training in training camp," Campbell told "The Dan Patrick Radio Show." "It's still a dream of mine, and if they're going to give me that opportunity two years later, I'm definitely going to take it."
  • LB Jordon Dizon, the Lions' second-round pick, missed the first three practices of training camp before signing a four-year deal. After he reported, he addressed his offseason issues. Dizon was arrested in Colorado six days before the draft on suspicion of drunk driving, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and failure to provide insurance. He said he was as sorry as he could be. The arrest didn't show up on a background check two days before the draft, and the Lions didn't know about it until the news broke June 23. Then Dizon called coach Rod Marinelli at home. "Before I got to know him, it would have been the toughest thing in the world," Dizon said. "But after I got to know him, it was probably the first thing I should have done. ... I see him as not only a coach but a father for this team. He understands. I know there's consequences. I know I should have called him first off the bat, and I'll learn from it. I really will."
  • The Lions had a little scare when LB Ernie Sims looked like he suffered a right knee injury. He was in pass coverage when he leapt for a ball down the left sideline and came down wrong. The medical staff rushed to his aid and checked the stability of the knee. But it wasn't long before Sims ran back on the field to test it. "It scared me a little bit, but thank God, it's just feeling a little sore," Sims said. "Other than that -- I mean, you saw me. I ran back out there and started cutting. So it feels fine."
  • DE Dewayne White and LT Jeff Backus got into a fight on the fourth day of camp. Backus held White, and White threw him down. Shortly afterward, White popped Backus under the chin on the rush, and Backus took him down and punched him repeatedly. Coach Rod Marinelli was not pleased, calling it a "lack of self-control" and "losing football."


    Dan Orlovsky (right) is currently penciled in as the team's No. 2 QB over Drew Stanton
    Associated Press

  • Dan Orlovsky has the edge over Drew Stanton in the Lions' backup quarterback competition. But it's early, and both have a long way to go. The battle has been inconsistent so far. "Well, it probably is a little bit," offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said. "I mean, I think Dan's ahead. There's a lot of stuff that they're doing, but it's all stuff we did in (the offseason). We've given them a lot of pass stuff to do." Colletto said he isn't disappointed, pointing out the Lions have had only five practices.
  • The Lions signed LB Teddy Lehman, who left for Tampa Bay as a free agent in March but was cut by the Buccaneers. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry said Lehman would play in the middle and on the strong side. Coach Rod Marinelli, who has brought in several players from the Bucs, his former team, joked: "Your headline for tomorrow: Old Marinelli brings another Tampa guy."
  • WR Calvin Johnson's back looks fine. He made a catch one morning similar to the one that hurt him last year at Philadelphia, leaping for a long ball down the left sideline, catching it in the air and falling on his back. This time, Johnson hopped right up. But the concern is that if he keeps doing that he might get hurt again. "He won't quit on a play," coach Rod Marinelli said. "That's a good thing. ... I'm very conscious talking to him all the time. You've got to just be smart."
  • Jonathan Scott has been playing both offensive tackle positions. Even Gosder Cherilus has been playing both. The Lions drafted Cherilus in the first round this year with the hope of making him their right tackle, and he is expected to overtake George Foster eventually. But right now, the Lions need to develop versatility on the line. They dress only seven offensive linemen per game, and the two backups must be able to step in where needed. "We're trying to find the guy that can play guard and center," offensive coordinator Jim Colletto said. "We've got to make sure that happens. We've got to have a guy to play guard or tackle or tackle both sides, because those two guys, they become really critical when you only have seven."
  • Under the new NFL rules, if you win the coin toss, you can defer to the second half. Rod Marinelli, an old defensive line coach, might prefer to start on defense. "I kind of favor that," Marinelli said, laughing. "I just really like the rule, because it does add some strategy to the game, especially on away games and things like that with bad weather, some of those things. I think it's neat."
  • The Lions open the exhibition season Aug. 7 against the New York Giants. Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto could not care less about the outcome of exhibitions. "Preseason doesn't mean diddly," Colletto said. "We're going to come out in one of these games and run a two-minute offense in the middle of the second quarter -- for no other reason other than to do what? Practice against somebody else. You've got to use the preseason games to get better at some of the things you're doing. You've got to find out what you can and can't do."
  • WR Roy Williams has been sharp, and he has continued his camp tradition of occasionally pulling a kid wearing his No. 11 jersey out of the stands to make him his personal water boy.
  • The first day of camp, C Dominic Raiola ran out of stretching and took out a tackling dummy. On Day 4, his target was a plastic trash can. He flattened the thing. Literally. The equipment guys had to get it back into shape so they could put it upside down on the grass and use it as an obstacle for a drill. "I beat the trash can up," Raiola said, laughing.

    Quote To Note: "I hope no ear pads or nothing come up missing." -- Rookie RB Kevin Smith, smiling as he carried helmets for veteran RBs Tatum Bell and Aveion Cason after practice.

    Strategy/Personnel:

    Lions coach Rod Marinelli would like to sign free agent LB Takeo Spikes, who visited Detroit recently. Marinelli was hoping to have Spikes in time for camp, but Spikes is taking his time before signing. Spikes would play the strong side.

    In the meantime, the Lions signed LB Teddy Lehman, who left Detroit for Tampa Bay as a free agent in the offseason, only to be cut by the Buccaneers before camp. They also signed LB Leon Joe, cut LB Alfred Fincher and lost LB Caleb Campbell, a seventh-round pick out of West Point, because of a change in Army policy.

  • CB Leigh Bodden has been impressive in camp and has signed a reported four-year, $27 million extension. But he is still behind Travis Fisher on the depth chart for now.
  • WR Devale Ellis has looked good and appears to have the edge in the fight for the fifth wide receiver position.
  • DT Shaun Cody lost about 15 pounds, putting him at about 291, and has looked quicker in camp.
  • WR Reggie Ball suffered a knee injury and was placed on injured reserve.

    BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Leigh Bodden vs. Travis Fisher for starting RCB -- Fisher is still the starter because he finished last season as the starter. But Bodden probably won't be on the second team long. Fisher is the starting nickel back but could be pushed by Kalvin Pearson.

    OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: The Lions' top three picks are all fighting for starting spots -- Gosder Cherilus at right tackle, Jordon Dizon at middle linebacker and Kevin Smith at running back. Cherilus and Smith have the best chance of winning jobs before the end of camp. The return jobs are wide open, with several candidates, including Devale Ellis, Brian Calhoun, Aveion Cason, Brandon Middleton and Kenneth Moore.

    PLAYER OF THE WEEK: CB Leigh Bodden -- Bodden came to the Lions with a third-round pick from Cleveland in a trade for DT Shaun Rogers. He made two impressive interceptions in two days and signed a reported four-year, $27 million extension. After one pick, teammates hollered: "Money guy!"

    ROOKIE REPORT: RT Gosder Cherilus came to camp on time after signing a five-year deal worth just under $8.9 million guaranteed and just under $15 million total. He is behind George Foster. ... LB Jordon Dizon missed the first three practices of camp before signing and is playing catch up behind Paris Lenon and Buster Davis in the middle. ... RB Kevin Smith has been the most noticeable rookie. He knows the zone scheme and looks good cutting. ... DT Andre Fluellen and DE Cliff Avril are in the mix but haven't stood out so far. ... FB Jerome Felton, WR Kenneth Moore and DT Landon Cohen face stiff competition for jobs.

    INJURY REPORT: G Edwin Mulitalo (elbow), TE Dan Campbell (elbow), WR Shaun McDonald (knee) and S Daniel Bullocks (knee) are on the physically-unable-to-perform list. No one is expected to stay on it too long.


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