Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan had to say after Thursday's practice. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
LIONS HEAD COACH JIM SCHWARTZ QUOTE SHEET:
On WR Calvin Johnson being business as usual every week: "That's Calvin's personality. He doesn't change. He's the same guy in training camp that he is on Sunday. I think that's one of the things that really serves him well is he doesn't change his personality. He's a competitor. He dives for balls out in practice and you have to hold your breath every time he dives for a ball in here and during the season and stuff like that. It's just he's up for any challenge. He doesn't have to make it depending on who the opponent is."
On how tough the Cardinals' secondary is overall: "It starts with (CB) Patrick Peterson, and I said before he's one of the best young corners and he's not - he's one of the best corners in the NFL. But they're very opportunistic. They've intercepted a couple passes (on the) first play of the game. They've set their offense up. Their offense has scored a bunch off of those turnovers. They're a big-play defense-sacks and interceptions in particular that's what's kept them in their games. Last Sunday was a bit of an exception rather than the rule for them because they've been a top 10 defense pretty much the whole year, and they'd been the one making turnovers and that's been definitely been keeping them in the game."
On not being the big-play defense the Lions were last season: "The one thing - we had a lot of sack strips last year. We've had a lot of sack strips this year, we haven't gotten the ball. Got to have more guys around it, the way the ball bounces, you know whatever. But also the interceptions for scores-a lot of those come from game situation. We haven't played with the lead very much. The one time we did in Jacksonville, really the only time that we're protecting a big lead, and quarterbacks have to gamble and take chances in there. Playing the close games that we do, it's a little bit harder to make those plays."
On accountability: "We're confident in our program here. We're confident in our decision making. Hasn't worked out with a good record this year but we haven't wavered in our confidence in our system or our program."
On your feelings regarding QB Matthew Stafford's future: "Don't feel any different about him than when we drafted him. He's our franchise quarterback, and we have all the confidence in the world in him. He's going to continue to play well for us and lead this franchise to great things."
On if DT Nick Fairley having an increased maturity level on and off the field: "I think we're all a work-in-progress when it comes to stuff like that. You can never feel as though you're out of the woods. I think that decision making is something that is an everyday thing for players, for coaches, for people around the League, for individuals. You can't count on that being something that's ever put aside. I don't know if I'm describing it the best way but you have to continue to do that. As a player he's matured for sure. He's matured within the scheme, he's been more assignment sound, he's in better shape and he's made more plays for us. He's had more playing time, so as a player he has. As individuals, I think every single player is always going to have to continue to make good decisions."
On to what you attribute Stafford's drop in accuracy: "I don't really think he's dropped in accuracy. I don't know how many that you put together, but we've had about five touchdown passes dropped this year. He's put balls where they need to go and maybe you'd look at it a lot different if we had made those catches. You're not going to make every single one but if we made our share of those. I think that the way Matt's played has been...there's a fluke-y thing last week with the ball slipping out of his hand, but I mean Drew Brees threw five interceptions in a game. It's life in the NFL."
LIONS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR SCOTT LINEHAN QUOTE SHEET:
On WR Calvin Johnson's performance this season: "Yeah, I think the thing he's been able to be productive without really, this is nothing with the new guys that are filling in because I think they've done a remarkable job of filling in in spots, but Calvin's picked up a lot of slack. We've played him in a lot of different positions. I don't think he gets enough credit for how versatile he is. He plays probably three or four different positions, real common for him to do that even within a drive. To be able to know the route or the rule of the slot or the X or the Z, whatever he is, and not even blink is pretty impressive."
On what the next level of QB Matthew Stafford is and how good he is at the line of scrimmage: "Obviously he's a lot younger (than Peyton Manning). I think kind of following, studying how guys' careers went, I don't know where Peyton was after four years or exactly but I think Matt's definitely on track to be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play this position. He's in his first quarter of his career I would say. We'll see when it's all said and done. But he's really taken a lot on. We put a lot on him as well. He puts a lot on things that he does even with these young receivers. There's typically two or three guys he's telling what to do. They know, but he's making sure because he hasn't worked with them. That's quite a task for a young quarterback and it's just making him better."
On why he thinks Stafford could be one of the best ever: "Well, just where he's at after four years. The wins are going to come. This last year the way he was able to be. And he's in an age of great quarterbacks. I mean, he's not going to be mentioned in that category yet till we put together two or three seasons like we did last year in a row. Finish this season out strong. You look at the end of the year, see his numbers after two years. It's hard to say that there are a lot of quarterbacks that have done that."
"But at this point, the only thing that's kept him from being able to do some of the things that are unbelievable are the injuries in his first two years. He's over 4,000 yards 13 games into the season and he's done nothing but great things as far as getting better and being productive in our offense. And he's got things he's got to improve on but at this young stage of his career, man it's hard to say there's too many guys that have done that much that early."
On if Stafford has made enough progression this year with drop-off in his accuracy and touchdowns: "Well, I think that's a fair thing to look at but he's went through the year basically without his receivers practicing. I mean, there was probably six weeks where Calvin, Titus weren't even in practice during the week. So there are some things in there, but everybody's got to look at what they've got to do to improve to get better. There are a lot of things that factor into that, but for him with all that kind of adverse things to happen around him and still be productive within the offense shows me - if he's not doing that we're not going to be where we have been in games. We've been in every game. I can't think of a game we weren't in position to, if we had finished the game right or started the game better, think we would have won and his play has put us in position to win. We've just got to finish as a group better around him and I think you'll start seeing the, I guess, realization of those stats and those numbers are real, they aren't just things he's got in garbage time or anything like that. We haven't had any games doing that."
On if Stafford will be judged based on postseason success: "Well, I mean, you're always judged by winning and losing and I think he came here - from where we started to where we are now and to be in a position where he's basically been commanding a top offense, a top passing offense, four years into his career. Those are all things that bode well for where he's at. If players around him improve as well as he's improved, I just think you'll see him continue to get better, which is exciting because he's pretty good right now."
On what RB Joique Bell has done to get more snaps: "Well he's produced when we've asked him. One play in the passing game he might be in on a third down and he gets a first down, he wins his matchup. You put him in in the fourth quarter to run the ball and he's able to run the ball effectively and produce when you put him in. So when a guy produces within his role, I think he's going to earn more playing time and that's what he's been able to do."
On being able to get undrafted running backs that outperform high picks: "It's probably the hardest position to predict because you've got first rounders that are playing like first rounders and you've got free agents, like you mentioned, playing great. I just think it's a scheme fit. It's those kinds of things. Everybody's looking for a certain type and the magic is if you find the right guy that fits your profile. I think that's what the teams that are having production from, whether it's a first rounder or a free agent, are doing is identifying the strengths of that back and kind of highlighting them."
On Stafford's ability to look at the play printouts and judge them: "He's got a great feel, I've always talked about he's got a photographic memory and his recall. What he sees is never really wrong on the picture. You say ‘What'd you see?' And he'll say ‘That safety never moved.' Then you look at the picture and you're like ‘Okay, I see that. Now I know why you didn't go there.' When he tells you something, the one thing I've learned is it's always correct. You can see it on film or see it on the picture and tell ‘I see why you did that but if we get it again let's stay there because they're not getting an extra guy there and it's still a good play' or whatever. He's a guy that's just, you trust his instincts and just his feel for the game. He's just really, really exceptional at that."
On how important it is for Stafford to finish the year: "Well, it's different because he's finishing with a lot of the guys that are not there that started the year out, so I think it's important that he's here doing it the same way as if we were 9-4 because seasons aren't always going to be like this. To finish and being the same guy day in and day out is going to be important for him."
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