Matthew Stafford, Lions are back; team goes to work on free agents


Chris McCosky/ The Detroit News

Allen Park — Quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and linebacker Ashlee Palmer were among the first Lions players to arrive at the practice facility Tuesday.

Players are allowed in to workout at the facility Tuesday and Wednesday. Training camp will open Thursday with the first official practice set for Friday.

“It’s great to be back,” Stafford said. “It’s nice see all the coaches, the team personnel and the other players again. I can’t wait to get started.”

Stafford said he poked his head upstairs, but with the mad free-agency scramble on, neither coach Jim Schwartz nor general manager Martin Mayhew had much time to chat.

“It’s going to be a pretty wild, crazy week,” Stafford said. “But I’m excited about the year. I feel like we are in a good position. We’ve got a lot of guys coming back who understand the system. Obviously, we have a lot of young guys to catch-up and get going, but other than that, we feel pretty good about where we are.”

Among the other Lions at the facility Tuesday were defensive end Cliff Avril, running back Jahvid Best, kicker Dave Rayner and offensive linemen Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola and Stephen Peterman.

“The players have been ready,” Vanden Bosch said. “The thing we emphasized to all players (during the lockout) was to stay ready. We have a short amount of time, a small window, to come together quickly. We need to get the new guys up to speed. We need to get the guys who were here last year back up to speed and we need to form as a team. That’s quite a challenge in such a short amount of time.”

Mayhew was busy signing undrafted free agents to fill out the 90-man training camp roster.

Among those he has or is expected to sign:

* Receiver-returner Jared Jenkins, Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

* Tight end-fullback Preston Dial, Alabama.

* Linebacker Dejuan Fulghum, Texas Southern.

* Linebacker Quentin Davie, Northwestern.

* Receiver Keith Smith, Purdue.

* Linebacker Cobrani Mixon, Kent State.

* Punter Ryan Donahue, Iowa.

* Safety Ricardo Silva, Hampton.

* Receiver Marcus Harris, Murray State.

Prince Amukamara doesn’t fare well in ESPN stats analysis


Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

ESPN analyst JC Joyner thinks Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, a candidate to be selected by the Lions with the 13th pick, is rated far too high in this year’s NFL draft.

And he’s got data to prove it.

Advertisement



Joyner broke down the statistics of Amukamara and some of the draft’s other corners and found that he lagged behind.

“In fact, his performance level placed him well behind some other cornerbacks that are considered borderline first-round choices,” Joyner wrote.

In the 10 games in which the Cornhuskers faced FBS competition (Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, Iowa State, Texas AM, Colorado, Oklahoma and two games against Washington), Amukamara was targeted 37 times and gave up 17 completions for 297 yards (8.7 yards per catch average) with three touchdowns. On plays over 30 yards, Joyner notes that teams completed three of their four attempts against Amukamara for 161 yards.

Amukamara gave up 11 completions/defensive penalties in 20 vertical pass attempts, according to Joyner, which equates to a 45-percent success rate. That would have ranked 82nd in that category at the pro level last season. The 14.1 vertical yards per attempt (YPA) and 16.6 stretch vertical YPA would also have placed him in the bottom quarter of the league in those categories.

Joyner admits that Amukamara’s numbers were skewed by his performance against Oklahoma State star wideout Justin Blackmon (Blackmon went 3-for-6 for 144 total reception/penalty yards and a touchdown), but writes that even if you subtract that game, he still gave up a nearly 50-percent completion rate on all other passes.

Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith is considered another draft candidate for the Lions. In an eight-game sample (Colorado State, California, Hawaii, Georgia, Missouri, Baylor, Oklahoma and Nebraska), Smith was targeted 21 times and gave up eight completions for 73 yards, or a 3.5 YPA. He also had a 3.6 YPA on passes of more than 11 yards and a 2.3 YPA on seven passes of 20 yards or more.

“The Georgia game included two targets in which Smith was covering consensus No. 1 wide receiver A.J. Green, both of which fell incomplete,” Joyner notes.

ESPN Insider is a premium site at ESPN.com. To subscribe, go to espn.com/insider.

Browns cut former Lions DT Shaun Rogers


NFL: Notebook

Associated Press / Associated Press

Cleveland— The Browns are cleaning house. On Wednesday, team officials terminated the contracts of some big-name players, including their biggest player — enormous nose tackle Shaun Rogers, who also played for the Lions.

In addition, the Browns, who are rebuilding once again under new coach Pat Shurmur, also released veteran linebackers Eric Barton and David Bowens (Michigan), defensive end Kenyon Coleman, tight end Robert Royal and right offensive tackle John St. Clair.

Advertisement



Rogers, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, was due to make $5.5 million in 2011 with a $500,000 roster bonus.

Rogers was on his own practice schedule last season, resting a leg injury so he could play on Sundays.

A Pro Bowler in 2008, Rogers played in 15 games, but made only one start and finished with just 17 tackles.

The Lions traded Rogers to the Browns in 2008 for cornerback Leigh Bodden and a third-round draft pick.

Ticket holders sue NFL

Ticket-holding football fans that ended up with no seats or what they considered bad views of the Super Bowl have filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL, the Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones .

The federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in Dallas alleges breach of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices on behalf of people who ended up watching the game on television at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, or had seats the lawsuit labeled “illegitimate.”

NFL officials had announced just hours before the Packers played the Steelers last weekend about 1,250 temporary seats were deemed unsafe.

Officials scrambled to find new seats for about 850 people. The remaining 400 were forced to watch from standing-room locations around the stadium.

Cowboys and NFL officials had no comment Wednesday.

League, union meet

The NFL and players union representatives met for much of Wednesday afternoon in Washington to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement.

It was the second session in five days. Another session is set for today.

Neither side would comment on what was discussed or how fruitful the talks were.

Team owners opted out of the CBA in 2008 and the current contract expires March 3. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell emphasized the need to get a deal done soon during his Super Bowl news conference last week.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has said he expects the owners to lock out the players after the CBA expires.

Team owners want a bigger cut of the revenues, which are roughly $9 billion, as well as a rookie wage scale and to increase the regular season by two games to 18, dropping two exhibitions.

It’s not too early for Lions fans to think draft

Lions: Analysis

Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

Allen Park– The Lions lost their ninth game in 11 tries over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. With hopes for a playoff spot dashed for an 11th-consecutive season, it’s not too early to start looking at how this team might improve itself in 2011.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew put together a couple of nice drafts the last two seasons, particularly with top picks Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh, and will need to get more help this spring.

Positions in need of upgrades: the secondary, linebacking corps, and offensive line.

So who might the Lions target with another likely top five pick?

After watching Tom Brady slice up the Lions in a 45-24 Thanksgiving Day loss, the early favorite is Louisiana State cornerback Patrick Peterson. Peterson is a true lockdown corner, something the Lions haven’t had in years.

Peterson (6-1, 222) has drawn comparisons to former Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson. Only a junior, he is a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top cornerback. He’s also a productive returner, averaging 27.5 yards per kick return and 19.7 per punt.

Peterson has elite size for the position and runs in the 4.3 to 4.4 range in the 40-yard dash.

Other possibilities

Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara could also be an option. Amukamara (6-1, 205) doesn’t have an interception in 2010, but that’s mainly because opposing quarterbacks rarely throw his way.

Amukamara was a late bloomer, making three starts his first two seasons at Nebraska, but has developed into one of the nation’s top defenders. He’s also a finalist for the Thorpe Award.

The year’s cornerback class is deep by draft analysts, and includes other top-flight corners in Brandon Harris (Miami), Janoris Jenkins (Florida), Ras-I Dowling (Virginia) and Aaron Williams (Texas).

On draft day, don’t be surprised, if the Lions bypass all the cornerbacks and decide early to get help at linebacker, especially on the outside.

Veteran outside linebacker Julian Peterson and his $8 million salary are likely gone after the season.

Zack Follett, who started the season at outside linebacker, was lost for the season due to a neck injury and has an uncertain future.

The unit needs a young playmaker alongside middle linebacker DeAndre Levy.

The two best linebacker prospects, according to Kiper, are Akeem Ayers (UCLA) and Von Miller (Texas AM).

Both Ayers (6-4, 255) and Miller (6-3, 243) have terrific size and speed, but are viewed more as 3-4 rush linebackers at the next level. The Lions run a 4-3 base defense.

Later round talents

Other options at linebacker, later in the first round or possibly early in the second round, are Travis Lewis (6-2, 232) of Oklahoma and North Carolina’s Bruce Carter (6-3, 225).

Lewis and Carter are a bit small for Lions coach Jim Schwartz’s scheme, though.