Jim Schwartz isn’t satisfied with Lions’ record: ‘We have work to do’


Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— The Lions are 4-0, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to coach Jim Schwartz.

“We still have yet to play a complete game,” he said Monday. “We still have a lot of work to do. We have talent to do it but still have a lot of work to do.”

The Lions are the first team in NFL history to win consecutive games in which it trailed by at least 20 points in each contest. The Lions erased a 27-3 second-half deficit to defeat Dallas 34-30 Sunday. Last week, the Lions trailed 20-0 and rallied to beat Minnesota 26-23 in overtime.

Both the players and Schwartz know the low-scoring first halves eventually will catch up with them if the trend continues.

“It is a huge issue,” linebacker Justin Durant said of the slow starts the last two weeks. “It’s the NFL. We can’t (win) every game like this. You can’t get down by 20 points at halftime and expect to win every week. It’s not what we’re about.”

Schwartz said reserve safety Erik Coleman will be out “a little bit” after suffering a leg injury Sunday.

Starting safety Amari Spievey wasn’t able to finish the game because of a hamstring injury and Schwartz said he’ll be “day to day.”

Durant missed Sunday’s game with a concussion but said Monday he feels much better and he expects to be on the practice field this week and play Monday night against Chicago at Ford Field.

ttwentyman@detnews.com

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Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis utilizes skill, swagger on his ‘Island’


The NFL’s best: A Detroit News series

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Ninth of 13-part series ranking the best NFL players at each position

The NFL’s transition into a passing league has made cornerbacks one of the most important players on the field.

“I think it’s the quarterback first and the defensive back second,” former safety and current NFL Network analyst Solomon Wilcots told USA Today.

Offenses have gotten complicated and are incorporating so many weapons, that defenses without a gifted corner or two are playing from a disadvantage.

A corner that can shut down half the field and take an offense’s No. 1 receiver out of the game is a defensive coordinator’s dream.

Interceptions don’t accurately measure a cornerback’s effectiveness, either. The truly talented corners don’t get thrown at enough to make an impact with interceptions.

So, taking into account those standards, there are two lockdown corners that stand above the rest: Darrelle Revis (Jets) and Nnamdi Asomugha (Raiders, free agent).

Revis is so good, his real estate on the football field has been coined “Revis Island.”

Receivers rarely get off Revis Island.

Calvin Johnson (Lions) and Andre Johnson (Texans) combined for five catches and 45 yards against Revis last season.

Despite finishing last season with no interceptions and 10 pass breakups, Revis was a unanimous choice to start the Pro Bowl, and earned all-Pro first-team honors.

At only 25, it’s amazing to think Revis might only be reaching his prime.

As for Asomugha, the Raiders couldn’t afford his $16 million price tag, so they voided the contract in January.

With his production — eight interceptions for the Raiders in 2006, teams got wise and stopped throwing at him (three the next four years) — Asomugha will be inundated with calls when free agency opens.

He’ll likely become the richest cornerback in history.

The Lions’ situation at corner is up in the air.

Chris Houston was the most consistent performer last season, but says he’ll test the free-agent market.

Alphonso Smith started 10 games on the right side last season and led the team with five interceptions.

But his confidence seemed to waiver toward the end of the season, especially after a terrible game against the Patriots on Thanksgiving, when he allowed three touchdowns.

Smith is also coming off shoulder surgery that forced him out of the last four games.

The Lions do have a number of other players who’ll compete for time during training camp, including Aaron Berry, Nathan Vasher, Brandon McDonald, Prince Miller and Jack Williams.

But expect the Lions to be big players in a deep free-agency market.

Top 10 corners

 1. Darrelle Revis, Jets: What more can you say about a player who week-in and week-out performers at an all-Pro level against the best receivers? The Jets had the No. 3 defense last season and were No. 6 against the pass, thanks in large part to Revis.

 2. Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders: The three-time Pro Bowler surrendered a mere 10 receptions last season and didn’t allow a touchdown. He’s right there with Revis among the elite.

 3. Charles Woodson, Packers: He’s a jack-of-all-trades for Dom Capers’ defense. He plays corner, safety and rushes the quarterback. A seven-time Pro Bowler, his 92 tackles and five forced fumbles in 2010 were career bests. He’s three interceptions shy of reaching 50 for his career.

 4. Asante Samuel, Eagles: The career leader with four postseason interception returns for a touchdown, Samuel allowed 20 completions and one touchdown in 11 games last season. Unlike Revis and Asomugha, teams continue to target Samuel — and he continues to make then pay (36 interceptions the last five seasons).

 5. Champ Bailey, Broncos: Bailey continued to be one of the most dominant cornerbacks in 2010, with two interceptions and 13 passes defended. At 32, his 10 Pro Bowl appearances are the most by a corner.

 6. Tramon Williams, Packers: Williams certainly benefits from having Woodson on the other side, but he’s a playmaker in his own right. He’s notched 15 interceptions the last three seasons (six in 2010).

 7. Devin McCourty Patriots: His biggest accomplishment last season was earning the starting job on a Bill Belichick-coached defense as a rookie. He rewarded Belichick with 82 tackles, seven interceptions (second in the league) and a Pro Bowl nod.

 8. Dunta Robinson, Falcons: He was the free agent catch of 2010 — and proved it. Teams stayed away from his side of the field, and teammate Brent Grimes benefited. The pair form one of the best secondary duos in the NFL.

 9. Brent Grimes, Falcons: Teams had to pick their poison — pick on Robinson or Grimes? Grimes made them pay when they chose his side of the field. The undrafted corner out of Shippenburg University earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2010, finishing with 87 tackles, five interceptions and 23 pass break-ups.

 10. Antoine Winfield, Vikings: Like Bailey, the 12-year veteran is as productive as ever. He’s one of the best at supporting the run defense — he had 91 tackles last year. He also chipped in two sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Schedule

June 22 Quarterbacks

June 23 Running backs

June 24 Receivers

June 25 Tight ends

June 26 Offensive tackles

June 28 Guards

June 29 Centers

June 30 Safeties

July 1 Cornerbacks

Saturday Outside linebackers

Monday, July 4 Inside linebackers

Tuesday, July 5 Defensive ends

Wednesday, July 6 Defensive tackles

ttwentyman@detnews.com

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Ex-Wolverine Jake Long, Joe Thomas tops among NFL offensive tackles


The NFL’s best: A Detroit News series

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Fifth of a 13-part series ranking the best NFL players at each position.

Being an offensive tackle is a thankless job in the NFL.

There is little mention of stats and you never hear them discussed in any fantasy draft conversation.

Yet, offensive tackles are one of the most important pieces to a good offense.

They protect the quarterback, spearhead the running game and make the offense go.

In today’s NFL, there are two tackles who stand above the rest: Jake Long (Dolphins) and Joe Thomas (Browns).

And their similarities are astonishing:

Both learned the position in the rough-and-tumble trenches of the Big Ten: Long at Michigan and Thomas at Wisconsin.

Both were high draft picks: Long No. 1 in 2008 and Thomas No. 3 in 2007.

Both are perennial Pro Bowlers.

Both are big, strong, athletic, versatile and nasty.

There are 10-12 legitimate Pro Bowl-caliber tackles in the game today, and it’s no coincidence the league is currently enjoying some of its best offensive numbers.

A record 11,283 points were scored in 2010 with games averaging 44.07 points, the highest average in 45 seasons.

The league set a record with 1,270 touchdowns.

Twenty-two quarterbacks threw for at least 3,000 yards.

Those numbers aren’t possible without a lot of talented players up front.

The Lions, too, benefited from good play from both of their tackles in 2010.

Jeff Backus cemented his status as one of the top 12 tackles in the game. Lions coach Jim Schwartz called his play “Pro Bowl worthy,” although Backus didn’t get the nod.

Backus has started every game (160) since he was drafted in 2001.

From the left side, he holds the mark for the most consecutive starts among active interior (offense and defense) linemen.

On the right side, third-year tackle Gosder Cherilus worked to improve his technique after the 2009 season, and showed improvement last year. His play cemented his status as the team’s starting right tackle, assuming offseason microfracture surgery doesn’t derail those plans.

Top 10 offensive tackles

 1. Jake Long, Miami: There are no weaknesses in his game. He’s 6 foot, 7 inches and 317 pounds with long arms and quick feet. That’s pretty much the definition of a Pro Bowl tackle. He was the third tackle drafted No. 1 overall and has started every game at left tackle since.

  2. Joe Thomas, Cleveland: Thomas is an inch shorter than Long, but just as much the athlete — he played tight end, kicker and punter in high school. He’s a four-time Pro Bowler, three-time all-pro and played every offensive snap as a rookie. He’s started every game (64) the past four seasons.

 3. Ryan Clady, Broncos: Clady was in the same draft class as Long (No. 12), and has blossomed into a terrific player. He finished third behind Matt Ryan and Chris Johnson for offensive rookie of the year honors, and set the NFL record for consecutive games to start a career without allowing a sack (20).

 4. Jordan Gross, Panthers: He was one of the few bright spots on a one-win team in 2010. He began his career in 2003 as a right tackle and switched to the left side in 2004. Gross recovered nicely from a broken ankle in 2009 to earn another Pro Bowl nod in 2010.

 5. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Jets: Ferguson, a black belt in karate, is one of the best athletes at the position. He’s terrific one-on-one in pass protection and is a beast in the running game. He’s been a Pro Bowler the last two seasons.

 6. Michael Roos, Titans: Roos has been a stalwart for the Titans, starting every game of his career dating to 2005. Roos is as tough as they come and one of the reasons the Titans have one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.

 7. Matt Light, Patriots: The Patriots allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (25) and the third-fewest quarterback hits (52) in 2010. Like a good wine, Light has gotten better with age. He earned his third Pro Bowl appearance in 2010 after starting all 16 games.

 8. Jared Gaither, Ravens: No one on this list has persevered more than Gaither. Bad grades at Maryland forced him into the supplemental draft in 2007. He then had to take over for eventual Hall-of-Famer Jonathon Ogden. At 6-9 and 340, Gaither is the biggest tackle in the league.

 9. Marcus McNeill, Chargers: A contract dispute forced him to miss the first five games of last season. But when healthy and motivated, McNeill is one of the best. He helped the Chargers become the No. 1 offense last year.

 10. Donald Penn, Buccaneers: He went from undrafted rookie free agent out of Utah State in 2006 to the starting left tackle on one of the league’s rising young offenses. Penn earned his first Pro Bowl selection in 2010.

Schedule

June 22 Quarterbacks

June 23 Running backs

June 24 Receivers

June 25 Tight ends

Today Offensive tackles

Tuesday Guards

Wednesday Centers

Thursday Safeties

Friday Cornerbacks

Saturday Outside linebackers

Monday, July 4 Inside linebackers

Tuesday, July 5 Defensive ends

Wednesday, July 6 Def. tackles

ttwentyman@detnews.com

Calvin Johnson is NFL’s prime catch


The NFL’s best: A Detroit News series

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Third of 13-part series ranking the best NFL players at each position.

When Lions coach Jim Schwartz was the defensive coordinator with the Titans in 2008, he had a short week to prepare for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Lions.

The Lions hadn’t won a game all season but that didn’t stop Schwartz from staying up late worrying about a solid defensive game plan. He told reporters shortly after taking the Lions head coaching position that it was Lions receiver Calvin Johnson that he was so worried about.

At 6-foot-5, 236 pounds, and boasting 4.3 speed, Johnson is one of the toughest matchups for defensive backs in all of football. As Schwartz can attest, he gives defensive coordinators headaches trying to figure a way to slow him down.

“He’s a young player, but he also has some experience now,” Schwartz said. “He’s learned how to persevere through a lot of things in the NFL, he’s learned how to persevere through double teams; he’s learned how to be successful even when he’s being double teamed. He’s taken a really big jump this year as an inside receiver. Inside breaking routes from the slot, I mean those are run after the catch, those things have been really big for him this year. It’s been difficult for him, but his production wouldn’t reflect how difficult it’s been on him.”

Before the Lions added a few weapons to pair with Johnson, it wasn’t uncommon for him to be double and even triple teamed.

Johnson broke through in 2010, earning his first Pro Bowl and All-Pro nods after compiling 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns.

The fact that Johnson was productive without franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford for 12 games is even more impressive. Johnson played with three different quarterbacks 2010, having to adjust week-to-week with three very different throwing styles.

“I don’t know how many wide receivers are making the Pro Bowl with three different quarterbacks,” Schwartz said.

The scary thing about Johnson is that he feels he hasn’t even reached his potential yet.

“I’m close, but I haven’t gotten there exactly where I want to be,” he said late last season.

Johnson is one of a number of truly gifted receivers in the NFL today.

Right now, there’s probably the biggest collection of Hall-of-Fame caliber receivers playing in the NFL than there’s even been.

Top 10 receivers

1. Calvin Johnson, Lions: He’s the hardest receiver to match up against since Randy Moss was in his prime. Simply put, he’s a freak. There’s a reason they call him “Megatron.” Take a poll of defensive backs around the league and ask them who the hardest receiver in the NFL to cover is and Johnson’s name will likely come up more than anyone else.

2. Andre Johnson, Texans: If anything, he’s consistent. Johnson has averaged nearly 100 yards per game over his last 54 games. He managed 1,216 yards and eight touchdowns in 13 games in 2010 and that was with the league’s leading rusher (Adrian Foster) as a teammate.

3. Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals: No one probably did more with less than Fitzgerald. The quarterback play was abysmal for the Cardinals all season, yet he managed 90 catches for 1,137 yards and six touchdowns. It’s his fourth-straight season with at least 1,000 receiving yards and over that stretch he missed just one game.

4. Roddy White, Falcons: White led the league with 115 receptions, a single-season Falcons record, marking the fourth-straight season he’s recorded at least 1,100 receiving yards. White led the NFL with 73 of his catches resulting in a first down.

5. Reggie Wayne, Colts: With an AFC-best 111 receptions, Wayne became the seventh player in NFL history with three or more 100-catch seasons.Last season was his seventh-straight 1,000 yard season. Even more impressive is the fact that he hasn’t missed a game since 2002, a streak of 129-straight regular season starts.

6. Greg Jennings, Packers: Jennings was clutch for the Packers all season, especially when tight end Jermichael Finley was lost to a knee injury. Jennings had 1,265 yards and 12 touchdowns and posted 100-yard-plus games in playoff wins against the Falcons and Bears on way to Super Bowl title.

7. Mike Wallace, Steelers: The fastest receiver in the NFL stormed onto the scene in 2010 with 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns. There was some debate as to whether he could flourish as a team’s No. 1 option, but those questions have been put to bed for good. Wallace averaged 21.0 yards per catch, and by the end of the season, he demanded safety help over the top.

8. DeSean Jackson, Eagles: Jackson is lightning in a bottle, whether it’s running the go route for quarterback Michael Vick or returning punts. One of the fastest players in the game, Jackson averaged 22.5 yards per-catch last season, the most of any receiver with more than 10 catches.

9. Dwayne Bowe, Chiefs: Bowe paced the NFL with 15 touchdown catches in 2010, the most in a season in Chiefs history. There have been questions about his work ethic, but there’s no question that when he’s healthy, and motivated, he’s a fantasy football player’s dream.

10. Hakeem Nicks, Giants: Nicks missed three games in 2010 but still had 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first season as the team’s No. 1 option. In only his second season in the league, Nicks has become the go-to guy for Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Schedule

Wednesday: Quarterbacks

Thursday : Running backs

Friday : Receivers

Saturday : Tight ends

Monday : Offensive tackles

Tuesday : Guards

Wednesday, June 29: Centers

Thursday, June 30 : Safeties

Friday, July 1 : Cornerbacks

Saturday, July 2 : Outside linebackers

Monday, July 4 : Inside linebackers

Tuesday, July 5 : Defensive ends

Wednesday, July 6 : Defensive tackles

tim.twentyman@detnews.com

Lions ‘steeling’ for success


Lions: Analysis

Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Allen Park— Could the Lions be on the cusp of something special?

Every great team in NFL history had to start somewhere.

Take the dominant Steelers teams of the 1970s. Before they won four Super Bowls in six years, they were plagued by decades of ineptitude. It wasn’t before all the right pieces came together that the Steelers became the franchise we know today.

The Steelers got a young, defensive-minded coach. They drafted a franchise quarterback No. 1 overall. They built one of the most dominant defensive lines in football, and pieced together four terrific draft classes that produced five Hall of Famers.

Are the Lions following the same blueprint?

Now, this doesn’t guarantee the Lions the same success as those vaunted Steelers teams, but it’s not a bad start.

The Steelers set the foundation, so here’s how that compares to what the Lions are doing.

Starts with coaching

  Chuck Noll: The eventual Hall of Fame coach took over the Steelers in 1969 after being a career defensive coach, including coordinator under Don Shula in Baltimore. The first thing he did in Pittsburgh was install a defensive system that would become the “Steel Curtain.”

  Jim Schwartz: Also a career defensive coach who was coordinator under Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, the first thing he did was implement an attacking defensive scheme.

Get the quarterback

  Terry Bradshaw: The Steelers drafted Bradshaw No. 1 overall in 1970 after they finished 1-13 in 1969. Bradshaw was highly criticized early in his career for throwing too many interceptions and for an apparent lack of aptitude for the position. It took Bradshaw a few seasons to become a premier quarterback.

  Matthew Stafford: Any of that sound familiar? The Lions drafted Stafford No. 1 overall in 2009 following an 0-16 season. Stafford seems to have all the talent in the world — like Bradshaw — but has missed more games because of injuries than he’s started. If he remains healthy, there’s no denying his talent.

Defensive line prowess

  Steel Curtain: In 1969, the Steelers drafted “Mean Joe” Greene in the first round and L.C. Greenwood in the 10th. They became the foundation for one of the best defensive lines in history — and one of the best defenses period, the “Steel Curtain.”

   Schwartz is searching for a name to call his defensive line. The Lions drafted their own version of Greene in 2010 in the form of Ndamukong Suh. Suh was an all-Pro as a rookie, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be a dominant player his entire career. Add players such as Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, Cliff Avril and Nick Fairley to the mix and the Lions are well on their way to having one of the best defensive lines in football.

Draft good players

  Steelers: Between 1969-72, the Steelers laid the foundation for a decades’ worth of success. Starting with Greene in 1969, the Steelers went on to draft Bradshaw, running back Franco Harris, receivers Frank Lewis and Ron Shanklin, tight end Larry Brown, linebacker Jack Ham, cornerback Mel Blount and defensive back Mike Wagner during those years. All those players played in at least one Pro Bowl and five — Greene, Bradshaw, Ham, Blount and Harris — are in the Hall of Fame.

  Lions: The jury is still out on some of the young Lions, but by most accounts, the franchise has had three straight terrific drafts, 2009-11, since Martin Mayhew took over as general manager and Schwartz as coach in 2009. The last three seasons, the Lions have gotten a franchise quarterback in Stafford, a dynamic runner in Jahvid Best, a top-10 tight end in Brandon Pettigrew, a dominant defensive lineman in Suh, a versatile linebacker in DeAndre Levy, and a Pro-Bowl-caliber safety in Louis Delmas. And defensive tackle Nick Fairley looks to be a first-round steal this year.

All about numbers

  Steelers 1969-72: The 1969 Steelers were one of the worst teams in football at 1-13. Their lone victory? Over the Lions. But the Steelers got progressively better the next three seasons — 5-9 in 1970, 6-8 in 1971 and 11-3 in 1972. In fact, they reached the AFC championship in 1972, losing to the soon-to-be perfect Dolphins.

  Lions 2008-11: Since the 0-16 season in 2008, the Lions also have gotten progressively better — 2-14 in 2009 and 6-10 in 2010. The Lions are a hot pick by some national pundits to reach the playoffs this season.

Ownership royalty?

  Rooneys: Ask Steelers fans in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s what they thought of the Rooney family? The Steelers played second fiddle to the Pirates, and were known as the “lovable losers” until the 1970s. They made questionable personnel calls — they cut quarterback Johnny Unitasin training camp! It wasn’t until the Steelers started winning that the city truly embraced the Rooney family.

  Fords: Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? The Fords have been under fire for years. From the hiring of GM Matt Millen in 2001 to the draft debacles that followed, the Fords have made their fair share of mistakes. The family isn’t exactly beloved by Lions fans, and won’t be until the team is a consistent winner.

Now, all this doesn’t mean that Schwartz is the next Knoll or Stafford and Suh are the reincarnation of Bradshaw and Greene.

It doesn’t mean the playoffs are in the cards for the Lions in 2011, or that four Super Bowls are on the horizon.

It just means there’s hope for Lions fans. And history behind that hope.

tim.twentyman@detnews.com

Formers Spartans are now free agents stuck in NFL lockout limbo


Tim Twentyman/ The Detroit News

Beverly Hills— The hardest part of the NFL lockout from the players’ perspective is the uncertainty it carries with it.

Will players miss a paycheck? Will they be restricted or unrestricted free agents? Are they going to have to take a pay cut?

Those are all questions that no one has the answers to right now.

But for undrafted free agents like Michigan State receiver Mark Dell and tight end Charlie Gantt, their fear is that the lockout could cost them their football careers altogether.

In a normal NFL year, teams would contact players like Dell and Gantt immediately after the draft in hopes of signing them to a free-agent contract. They’d have a contract, a playbook and would already be preparing for minicamps, but not this year.

Because of the lockout, teams were prohibited from signing undrafted free agents. In fact, they could only talk to players during the draft. So, there was a flood of calls from teams to players projected to go undrafted late on the final day of the draft.

Dell said he was contacted by the Lions, Redskins, Patriots, Colts and a couple of other teams that told him they were interested in signing him as a free agent. Dell said they were brief conversations and because of the lockout he hasn’t talked to any of those teams since.

.”It’s been very difficult, actually,” Dell said. “Just for the simple fact that I haven’t played football since Jan. 1. During this time in college, I would have already wrapped up spring ball and been doing some conditioning, at least some football. Not being able to play any football except for the times I’m doing it on my own has been difficult.”

But Dell said he’s at least trying to finding a positive in a bad situation.

“I look at the lockout as both good and bad,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason. It gives me an opportunity to get bigger, faster and stronger and I’m taking full advantage of it.”

Dell said he’s working out three times a day to stay ready for the phone call he hopes is coming sooner rather than later.

But Gantt says he’s preparing for all possible scenarios, including an extended lockout.

Like Dell, Gantt was contacted by a number of teams that included the Redskins, Chiefs and Dolphins late on the final day of the draft to tell him they were interested in signing him to a free-agent deal. But he’s also preparing for the worst.

“I’ve got an interview at Beaumont (Hospital) with the chancellor because I want to go to physician assistant school,” he said. “Every day that goes by, I have a worse and worse chance of making a team because I’m not going to know any plays and I’m not going to have any reps.”

Dell thinks the lockout will have the biggest effect on undrafted players teams will invite to training camp. Those players will be coming in with a distinct disadvantage because of the time away from football and the new environment of the NFL to which they’ll not be acclimated. Dell is hoping the coaches take that into consideration and are a little more patient with those players.

“It’s a bit of a disadvantage just as far as learning the concepts and the offense,” he said. “It’s not necessarily the physical play of it. It’s the mental reps and gaining the knowledge of the game and picking up the game from veterans and the playbook. That’s what we’re missing the most.”

Stay or go?

Current NFL players such as Lions quarterback Drew Stanton are also in limbo thanks to the lockout.

No collective bargaining agreement means no rules for free agency. And for a four-year veteran like Stanton, that means a state of flux because he doesn’t yet know if he’s a restricted or unrestricted free agent. He’s doesn’t know if he’s staying or going.

In the old CBA that the owners opted out of, players who had played through their current contract and had at least four years in the league were unrestricted free agents, meaning they could sign with any team.

In last year’s final year of the old CBA, the rules were different and players needed at least six years to reach unrestricted status. Four- and five-year players were restricted free agents, making it much tougher for other teams to sign them.

No one really knows what rules will be in effect in 2011 and that has Stanton uneasy.

“It’s tough because we don’t necessarily have any more information than anyone else,” Stanton said after a workout with teammates at Detroit Country Day last week. “We’re flying by the seat of our pants because once something does get resolved it’s going to be contingent on what our status is.”

The Lions tendered Stanton a restricted free-agent contract at the original-round level under last year’s rules before the lockout took effect. Since Stanton was a second-round pick in 2007, the compensation the Lions would get if he signed elsewhere and the Lions declined to match the offer made to him would be a second-round pick from that team.

But with all restricted free agents, whether or not these tenders apply in the new CBA remains to be seen. It’s possible that the rules could change and have four-year players become unrestricted.

“I’m going to prepare as if I’m going to be here,” he said. “I don’t know it’s tough to say because I want to find the best situation for myself and the organization that’s going to do the best for them. (The Lions) offered me a tender and hopefully when this all gets resolved we’ll have a clearer picture of what that means. Right now, it’s nice to know (the Lions) want me here from their side. But once this all gets resolved, maybe they don’t. Time will tell.”

Time is what a lot of players have on their hands right now and an uncertain future has a lot of them feeling uneasy.

“I just love the game of football,” Dell said. “Being away from it is a little different. I’m ready for that phone call.”

ttwentyman@detnews.com

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Tim Twentyman: Three high-potential Lions picks trumps one Patrick Peterson


Tim Twentyman

Allen Park — The best thing that happened to the Lions during last week’s draft is what didn’t happen.

The Lions reportedly tried to move up from the 13th pick to the Cardinals’ fifth pick in order to draft LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Peterson was by far the best corner available in the draft and getting him would have instantly fulfilled a need for the Lions.

But at what cost?

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The Lions offered their first, second and fourth-round picks to move up the eight spots.

The Cardinals, obviously, scoffed at the offering and a deal was not made. They selected Peterson themselves.

We got a good idea of what it would have taken to get the pick when the Falcons made a trade to move into the Browns’ No. 6 spot — the pick just after the Cardinals’.

The Falcons wanted Alabama receiver Julio Jones and paid exceedingly for him. They gave up five picks: this year’s first, second and fourth-round selections, and next year’s first and fourth-rounder.

That’s a lot picks to hand over for one player, even though they’ll likely be late-round picks.

Let’s just pretend for a moment that the Cardinals had accepted the Lions offer of three picks in this year’s draft. The Lions would have gotten Peterson, but wouldn’t have had another pick until the third round (75th overall).

That means no Nick Fairley, and likely no Titus Young or Mikel Leshoure.

No thanks.

I’m not saying Fairley is going to be a better player than Peterson, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Did anyone see the national championship game?

What the Lions would have had to give up to get Peterson just wasn’t worth it, especially after evaluating the Lions haul afterwards. Most experts gave the Lions rave reviews for this year’s class.

I think Fairley is going to be a terrific player and I think the Lions have solidified their defensive front for the next five or six years, at least.

Mix in the explosive third receiver (Titus) and power rusher (Leshoure) that the Lions snagged in the second round, and I’m just fine with how things worked out.

The Lions know that cornerback is the deepest position in this year’s free-agent class.

Filling three needs with terrific talent in the first two rounds makes more sense to me than getting one great player at one position of need.

It’s simple math.

tim.twentyman@detnews.com

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.

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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.

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Good news? Lions’ Ndamukong Suh won’t grace ‘Madden’ cover


Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

Ndamukong Suh has avoided the Madden curse.

The Lions defensive tackle lost to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the first round of ESPN.com’s bracket-style competition, which will determine which player graces the cover of the newest installment of the popular video game “Madden NFL 12.”

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Rodgers, a No. 1 seed in the bracket, got 72 percent of the vote and faces Rams quarterback Sam Bradford in the second round.

Appearing on the Madden cover is considered an honor for NFL players, but past cover boys also have experienced a decline in performance, usually due to an injury.

Report: NFL not likely to change ‘Calvin Johnson rule’


Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

The NFL is unlikely to make changes to the “Calvin Johnson rule” this offseason, New York Giants owner John Mara told Newsday.

Mara said the controversial rule — which contributed to a Lions loss in Chicago in Week 1 last season — will not be brought up for discussion by the league’s competition committee; Mara is a member of that committee.

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Johnson had a touchdown taken away after officials ruled on replay that Johnson did not maintain complete possession of the ball through the entirety of his catching motion with 25 seconds left in the game. The Lions lost 19-14.

Johnson clearly had control of the ball in his right hand as he fell to the ground, and established both feet and his left hand inbounds. But the ball came loose when his right hand, holding the ball, hit the ground.