Below is a look at what Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell had to say on Wednesday. (Quotes provided by the Lions.)
Opening Statement: "Great afternoon it looks like to go out and practice. I'm looking forward to getting a chance to get out there in the sunshine. It's been a few days now that we've had an opportunity to get together after the break and go through a regular Wednesday practice. We had our walk through this morning and I'm looking forward to getting to work. Obviously, we have a lot of work cut out for us because we're playing a team that's playing extremely well at this time on both sides of the ball and in their kicking game. They are playing tough. You watched the game against San Diego, they've done a tremendous job just in terms of executing and using their personnel. They're strong offensively and defensively. Their quarterback's doing a great job so we have to make certain that we get ourselves prepared to play and play well. I think our guys understand the importance of preparation and we're going to have to be well prepared going into this game."
On if there is some value for the team knowing they have a tough game: "There's not a game that we play that is not tough. I think our guys have gotten to the point where they understand that. There is no game that you ever go into in this league and feel comfortable. You have to be able to make certain that you get yourself ready and prepared to go. This one presents every challenge that we could possibly think of. They have the ability to challenge every area. I do think our guys understand the importance of it."
On what he has learned about RB Theo Riddick during the first half of the season: "I think he does a lot of things well. He is certainly a guy that has speed, he's very difficult to cover in one on one situations, so he's good out of the backfield in terms of the pass. He has good vision, he's young and he hasn't had an opportunity to get on the field a whole lot for us but he's been in and out a little bit. But, I do think he's got a lot of potential."
On how Riddick's pass protection helps get him more playing time: "I think he's tough and he's a guy that's a real good technician as well. All of those tools are going to come into play this week because they have some exceptional pass rushers both inside and out, their linebacking core and then obviously Cameron Wake. Wake and those guys are tremendous. He's a fine technician and he works at it, he takes pride in what he does and he tries to get better every single day."
On his decision to hold WR Calvin Johnson out a couple weeks ago and how having him offensively changes what he'll see defensively: "One of the things that I try and make certain that we do is that we listen to our physicians. They're the ones that make the decision. I think if you keep it that way, it's a lot cleaner. When coaches start getting involved and making decisions to play players or not play them based on their own intuition and not on what the player feels along with what the medical staff feels, then you're out of line I think. I'm not going to conduct business that way, they're the professionals, they've studied years and years at their craft. They know when they're ready and they can kind of give you a sense of when they can go and when they can't go. So, we leave it up to that. Now, what does he do for us when he's on the field? Obviously, he's a threat on every single snap to take it the distance. He's extremely explosive, I don't think anybody needs an explanation of his province. To have now, he and Golden both on the field at the same time with the kind of performance that Golden has been giving us throughout his tenure here, gives us a bit more firepower."
On if he is more conservative when a player is on the fence about an injury: "That's probably a better question that you could ask them, are they more conservative? Because, I listen to them and then we kind of go from there. Obviously, you have to treat the player as well, some guys are different. So, I think all of that plays a part in it."
On how Johnson might be able to open things up for other guys: "I do think that he has an effect on the entire unit, defensively in terms of your plans. It's whether or not you feel comfortable leaving him in a one on one situation or whether you feel comfortable not rolling the coverage to him or assigning an underneath cover guy to him. All of those things play a part because you can only deploy 11 guys in a certain way. The minute you assign one or two to his area that sometimes dictates what you do. I think he does make you think about a number of things in which you may plan to do."
On if he regrets playing Johnson in Weeks 4 and 5: "We lean more to what the doctors tell us, more so than anything else. They're the ones that make a determination. They treat him, they look at him from an in depth standpoint and they make a determination on whether or not he's ready to go or can't go, along with the individual, because everybody's a little bit different. There's no regret on my part in that regard. I think that we get great advice from those that have studied a long time in terms of making those kinds of decisions and we certainly lean on their expertise."
On if Stafford is a better quarterback having gone through missing his top weapons for multiple weeks: "I do believe in, sometimes, the advantage of disadvantage. I do think there are some things that do help you adjust to them. If you can win in those situations, I think it adds something to your repertoire. It makes you look at things differently, it makes you function. Maybe those synapses function a little bit differently because sometimes you just have to go about your game slightly different. I think that's a plus because it makes you stronger overall and I think it does add maybe a little bit more balance to what you're doing. But yet, also you have to feel pretty good about some of the other guys that kind of stepped up during the course of that process that you know now we can lean on this guy a little bit more in tough situations as well."
On what sort of mental toll an injury can take on a young player like CB Nevin Lawson: "I think for your particularly young, competitive guys, it's difficult. They love the spirit of competition. They love to be out there in the action and sometimes the healing process is a bit slow, but that's one of the reasons why we like to keep him around. You'll see him around, he's in meetings, he's with the guys. It's a tough time, it's a tough time mentally, but I do think we have enough people here in the building that certainly watch and listen and talk with those guys as they kind of come through some of those difficult times. The great thing about them is that young guys heal fast and he'll come through it and he'll come through it fine. We look forward to that."
On how impressed he is with Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill: "I had a chance to talk to him during the evaluation process when he was coming out of college and sat down with him at the Combine a little bit. I had a chance to just visit with him. You could see right away that he is very smart. He's an individual that adapts very well to change, obviously playing wide receiver and quarterback. It also probably gave him a different perspective than most guys that play that position, but also probably fine-tuned some of his other skills. His ability to run in open space, his ability to kind of anticipate what's going to happen out there on the flanks according to the coverage that he sees. I think once you've played it and then you also go to another position where you're watching that position, I think it gives you a little bit better feel for it. I think he has that kind of rapport with the guys that he plays with, with tight ends and with the receivers. Obviously with (Brian) Hartline, who's an outstanding route runner, (Mike) Wallace, who's got all the speed in the world, and I think it all sort of helped him, but also you could sense very early that he is a guy that has great poise. Nothing shakes him and I think you see that also reflected in his play."
On the key to stopping the read-option: "It's tough, it's difficult to stop. Particularly, you've seen he's run off 24, 25 yards a chunk and they have an interesting way to kind of employ it. They do a number of different things, not quite exposing him all the time to the effects of a defender that's unblocked, but schematically, they do some pretty unique things with him. And he is talented enough, once he gets a little open space, to get out there and run and cover ground. He can really run and they also protect himself as well. He gets down when he's supposed to get down, he gets out of bounds when he's supposed to get out of bounds, those kinds of things. He does not take a whole lot of direct hits, so that's difficult. When you add that dimension, it adds an extra blocker in the scheme because typically the quarterback has the ball, that's one out of your 11, he hands the ball to someone else, which takes two from your blocking scheme for the most part. In this particular case, he holds the ball and these other guys are blocking for him, so you gain a blocker. That's the difficult of part of defending it. That's the part of it that's really kind of a wild card. You add that extra blocker in there who can cover up the great majority of your guys and only leaves one that's free. It creates issues for you."
On what he remembers about preparing for the Lions run defense last year and why have they been successful this year: "The big thing is I think is the two, all three levels are certainly sound. Upfront there's big strong people that take care of their assignments well, but also can be disruptive all the way across the board. It's layered, it's not just one or two, there's two units. The linebacking core is a core that can run. Often times you spend a lot of time really trying to make sure you take care of the immediate line of scrimmage so you're climbing to the second level in terms of your blocking scheme is compromised. Therefore, linebackers are running free and when you turn guys loose like (DeAndre) Levy and Tahir (Whitehead), you know, running around back there makes it difficult. Then you add that with the fact that there are safeties that can tackle and our two guys at that position can tackle, but then also our corners tackle as well. With all of those things part of that is what makes it difficult. That's what makes it hard to handle because I think all phases are sound."
On how much of a sense has he gotten that teams are shying against the run when facing them: "Not much. I think everybody is going to test because they know how important the running game is. You have to have some balance. If you get into a ball game where it's strictly pass the entire time that's the thing that we have to sort of guard against these guys. You turn Cameron Wake loose on you and he knows the passes are coming, there's a problem. He's going to create some havoc so you have to have some balance and be able to mix it up. The teams that have the most balance I think are teams that find themselves less vulnerable to huge turnovers and things of that nature in the return game."
On what makes Dolphins DE Cameron Wake unique: "He's powerful. He's fast. He has a variety of moves. His up field speed rush is extraordinary. He can run by you and not only that he can turn speed to power, so the minute you think, ‘Hey I better make certain I get up my depth off the ball,' he turns into you and can bull rush you with the best of them. He can in particular knock you back and constrict the pocket which he does extremely well. This guy, he's one of those compact, powerful and fast individuals that creates havoc. Similar to a Dwight Freeney, I'm not saying he's Dwight but he's got those kinds of traits in terms of explosiveness. He's difficult to handle."
On if he agrees with DT Ndamukong Suh saying that he's built to endure and is mentally wired differently than other players: "If he says it it's a fact. There's no question that he's a guy that understands what it takes to perform well at his spot. He's a Pro Bowl performer and he's been outstanding for us. I think if you look at him and the way he prepares we can anticipate that week after week that we're going to get the same kind of effort and production from him."
On how much it helps that WR Golden Tate was able to get some reps as the No. 1 receiver while WR Calvin Johnson was out: "It's going to help us at some point in time a tremendous amount because of the fact that he's been able to be called upon to do a few more things more often than if Calvin was in the game. I think with that it also establishes a real strong comfort level with everybody involved in the passing game in particular with Matthew (Stafford). I think they've gotten their timing together and that they've been able to really move it along maybe a lot faster than it ordinarily would have come along. When I was talking a little earlier about the advantages and disadvantages in terms of injuries and things and how they beset you once in a while but yet in the long run it makes you a little bit better. I think in that regard with the focus being on him as kind of our number one guy for an extended period of time has helped us a tremendous amount."
On how he thinks defenses will try to adjust to Tate and Johnson both being on the field with his ability: "I think it's going to be difficult for them to really adjust to it because of the fact now they have two primary factors out there in the flanks to deal with. Not only them, I think it opens up things for everybody that's catching routes. Whether it's out of the backfield or on our perimeter. Also with that it gives you maybe an opportunity to run the ball a little bit better as well because it takes a defender away from the core. It should give you some pretty decent matchups I think on the inside."