On Tuesday morning, offensive coodinator Joe Lombardi and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin spoke briefly with the media. Here's what they had to say. (Transcripts provided by the Lions.)
LIONS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR TERYL AUSTIN
On getting things in order before the first round of cuts: "Well, I think you have to get your starters ready and give them enough playing time so they’re used to the stamina that’s needed to finish a game. But the players that really need to be evaluated, we’ll make sure that we get them, those guys some reps. Get them some game opportunities, so when that will happen in a game, we don’t know. We’ll just see how the game goes."
On the overall evaluation of the defense so far: "We’ve got a ways to go. I was pleased with how the first group played. Wasn’t very pleased with how we tackled after that, how we ran to the ball, how we fit some things, so we have a lot of work to do because it’s not just the first-team. It’s our defense and so whenever our defense steps on the field, we anticipate that we should play well, and we did. So we know we have a lot of work to do and the guys have really done a good job working this week."
On the familiarity the defense has with each other: "The thing that’s really good when you have guys that have played together for a while is they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You get a feel for what the other guy may do in a certain situation and so, hopefully that leads to less blown coverages, less assignments missed, less big plays and we play more conducive, more cohesive together."
On DT Caraun Reid’s injury stunting his progression: "I don’t think it will stall him. He’s a tremendous worker, tremendous guy. The biggest thing we need to do is get him healthy and I think once he gets healthy, he’ll come back and he’ll be, continue to ascend for us."
On how big of a loss Reid is: "Well, it’s always a loss when you have a guy that you think is going to be in the rotation, you plan on being in the rotation, but as always, we, whoever the next guy is, we anticipate that he will step up and play well for us until Caraun (Reid) is back if he’s not available."
On DT Jermelle Cudjo: "He is a very, very tough, stout run player. He gives us great temperament inside. He may not be as flashy as some of the other guys in terms of size and speed, but what he really does is he really attacks blocks and really causes some problems for the other team in the backfield because he can hold the point, he can shed and he can make tackles."
On DT Haloti Ngata: "We’d love to have him available, but the biggest thing for us is to make sure he’s available for the season. I know exactly what we’re going to get from Haloti (Ngata). He’s proven it year in and year out in this league, and so, it’s not an unproven entity that we’re waiting on. He’s a proven player and our biggest thing is making sure he’s healthy."
On the possibility of not having Ngata for the start of the season: "We plan on having everybody and when we get closer to the season, then we will figure out who we have and we’ll go from there."
On Ngata playing in a new scheme: "Well, I didn’t say that necessarily. I would love to see him, but if we don’t, it’s just, what are we going to do? There’s nothing, you know, I’m not going to make the guy come out and practice when he’s not ready, so we deal with it as it comes and I know Haloti (Ngata) and I know he’ll be ready to play."
On what the defense has gained with some of the new players: "We always try to focus on the guys we have here. I learned that from Jim (Caldwell) a long time ago when we were at Wake Forest and I’d get a little upset if I lost out on a recruit or we lost something. He would say, ‘Hey listen, we can’t worry about what we don’t have. Let’s make sure we take care of what we have here,’ and so, once the season was over and our roster started to shape up in the offseason, our thing was, ‘hey, we’ve got pretty good depth in our team. We’ve got good linebackers, we’ve got good secondary. We have some young defensive ends. We have some, we knew, a proven player in Haloti (Ngata) coming in. Our biggest thing was let’s just make sure we get them to mesh together. So, we weren’t so much worried about the guys we lost, our thing was let’s mold the guys we have here to be better than they were last year and play better together than we did last year."
On recapturing the No. 2 defense in the league: "No, our thing was we just wanted to make sure we played good enough defense to help us win more games than we did last year to help us win our division and that’s what we focus on, not whether we’re number two or number ten. Our goal is each game we go out, let’s make sure we hold our opponent to less points than our offense has and that’s really all we care about."
On DE Larry Webster: "He’s still a developmental player. He still has a ways to go, but he’s getting there. I always look at it when I think of Larry (Webster), he played two years of Division II football, and now he’s trying to make the transition here, put on a lot of weight. There’s a lot of different things that he has to adjust to and we just have to be a little bit patient with him. I think physically and athletically, he can do the things that we’d like our ends to do and it’s just a matter, I think, of him getting reps, getting acclimated to NFL football. That’s quite a big jump for a guy who didn’t play until his last few years of college and then come here, but we’re pleased with where he is because he does have some raw ability and he will flash. We just have to get that more consistent."
On if Webster is expected to contribute this year: "Not sure yet."
On CB Alex Carter: "We won’t know until he gets out there. Won’t know."
On LB Kyle Van Noy’s offseason and preseason before his injury: "Well, I think it was better. Again, he was a guy that never played off the ball in college, so now we’re asking him to play off the ball and read inside keys and linemen and all kinds of different things which is a lot different. I would say a little different, but it’s a lot different. He would take incremental steps, so one day, he might not be very good in pass coverage, but then he’d come back and he’d get it and he’d be better. One day, he might miss a run fit because he didn’t catch the puller, then the next day, he would come back and get it. So it’s just a work in progress with him and it’s always going to be that in a sense until he gets up to speed because again, he was an on-the-ball player, almost a defensive end and so now, we have to make him a stand-up, off-the ball-backer and it’s, you know, the development takes a little bit of time. But he’s still developing and we were pleased with where he was. You know, it’s a shame that he’s, you know, he’s hurt right now, but we like where he is development wise. Maybe not as fast as the public would like, but we think he’s coming along to plan as we see it."
On getting injured players up to speed: "You can’t get a guy up to speed until he’s available to practice, so until that happens, we’ll just, right now, we’re in a holding pattern."
On being creative with the defense: "I don’t know if I have to be any more creative. We just have to do what we do. I think that’s one thing we do. We might, there may be more pressures, there may not. I think it’s all game specific in terms of whether we’re going to bring pressure, how much we’re going to bring, who we’re going to bring. We’re going to go into it and we’re going to have to have our front four be able to rush and I think we have some good pieces. I think Ziggy (Ezekiel Ansah) can rush. When we get into sub situations, Jason (Jones) is a really good rusher inside. It’ll be interesting to see what Haloti (Ngata) does in a different type of front because he is such a big man. And so, we will figure it out as we go. I don’t think it’s, in terms of me getting over creative or doing something crazy, I’m not going to put our guys out of position. We’re going to try to be in position to make plays and sometimes when you get too creative, you get guys out of position. I’m going to make sure, we don’t want to do that."
On being aggressive on defense this preseason: "Well, I think what I did or what I do is, we go into a plan. The first game, I don’t think we were as aggressive. The second game, we were because we wanted to look at things. We want to see how they work, how they mesh up, how they time up and we don’t want to do that the very first game, so we’ll get a look at our pressure package and that was our plan last week with the first group to come out, run some pressures, see how they look, see how they fit and this week may be different, we’ll see."
On what he needs to see from Carter: "I have to see him practice first. I don’t know what else to tell you. He’s got to get out there and be able to go through a full practice full speed and compete before I can tell you anything about him. If he goes out there and he does well, we will evaluate that in another week, but right now it’s hard to tell."
On LB Brandon Copeland seeing time at DE: "When we first had Brandon in Baltimore, he was a defensive end in college. We were doing the same thing, making him a stand up backer. So he lost some weight, he was a bigger guy, then he lost some weight. So when we got him back, he’s all the way down in weight, but he still has the pass rushing traits, so we can play him off the ball and he can also give us a little flexibility in the rush package. So our way to get him some reps rushing is to play him at defensive end, but I think what it does is it allows him to develop his rush package here in the NFL. So if he is a linebacker and he is coming off as a blitzer he’s getting those rush reps. He does have a unique skill set because he is really fast and really explosive, so we’re just trying to see what he can do this preseason."
On how the defense’s success this year will correlate to his potential head coaching career: "It doesn’t make a difference. The bottom line is we have to get our team ready to win. I told you guys, if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m very content and happy right here to try to have our guys play great defense and help us win games."
On the defense impacting his coaching possibilities: "I don’t care. I just care that we play good, we play well, we play hard, fast. That other stuff I can’t control, so I don’t worry about it."
On what he likes most about his defense this year: "What I like is I think we have guys that play hard, really play hard. They play well together. I think we’re communicating better than we did last year. Sometimes we would get into some situations where we didn’t communicate so well and some things would happen. I think our guys are communicating really well, so I like that aspect of it. So there’s a lot of things I like as we go, but I really like the fact that they play hard together and I think they care for one another and that’s good."
On what he dislikes about his defense: "Well, if you looked at last week you would say the way we tackled. I didn’t like the way we tackled last week, so that’s something we’ve addressed and something we will continue to address because we can’t play defense if we tackle like that."
On how to address tackling without tackling in practice: "You can do everything but tackle a guy, and that means shedding a block, getting off, running full speed, getting in a proper position with your knees bent, tagging the runner off with both hands on the waist, not running by flagging him, not jogging to the ball. So that’s how we get our tackling practice in, we just have to do a better job of that in practice."
On DE Phillip Hunt: "Phillip’s been a pleasant surprise, really tough, really explosive off the ball. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he brings an edge of toughness to us. He’s a lot like George (Johnson) was last year. George just was going all the time, tough, good motor and Phillip has a lot of those same traits."
On if the defense has a chip on its shoulder: "No, I think for our defense, we just have a standard that we want to set to be as good as we can be that given Sunday and to get better every week. I don’t think there’s a chip. I think the thing is we just want to be, the guys in that room, they want to be great. They want to be great players individually. They want to be great players collectively and that is really what we’re working for. So, we have a standard that it doesn’t matter who’s in that room, that’s the type of defense we want to play."
On LB Kyle Van Noy and what about his college film made him believe that he would be a good pro player: "Because he was so versatile. Sometimes, he would drop in coverage, but it was more of a flat drop, but he got his hands on balls. He got around, he made plays and that’s something you can’t discount. So, we thought we can make the transition for him and we still think so, it’s just taking us a little bit more time."
On LB DeAndre Levy and his next step and evolution as a player: "I don’t know, he’s pretty good. I would think – I’ve watched him and even the year before. I know everybody talked about his interceptions, I thought he was a tremendous runplayer. He’s just a fine, fine all-around player and the biggest evolution or the next step for him is just to consistently keep it going, which I think he will."
On LB Stephen Tulloch: "I like ‘Tully.’ He’s our energizer. I mean he is always going. He is up-tempo. We had a mock session the other day and he’s going full speed, they’re like, ‘Tully it’s not full speed.’ That’s what he brings to our team and he’s a great football player. Guys love him and respect him. He’s kind of - A lot of times you have guys on your defense, they’re kind of the glue. You have a guy like him, you have Levy, right, you have those types of guys in there, Glover (Quin), all those guys they bond together and they bring people with them. I think that’s important. You can have great players that don’t bring people with you. They bring people together and I think maybe last year, when we first started talking defense and the big question last year was our secondary, ‘Well they’re not going to be very good, they’re not going to be this,’ and I said we’re going to be okay because collectively if we play well together we’ll do things the right way. That’s how our defense is and I think those types of guys, they help our defense. They help our team because collectively they’re not ego guys. They just want everybody, they want us to be great and so I think that’s good."
On DT Gabe Wright and his progress: "I think he’s doing fine. He’s a developing player who is going to play for us. Like all young players he’s going to take some lumps, but he’s going to continue to grow. He’s got a tremendous motor. He’s got a good football IQ and so that’s part of the growth process I think with young players and he’s in the middle of it right now. We like where he is. We like where he’s going and so we’re going to continue to move forward with him."
On DT Haloti Ngata and if he’s frustrated: "No, he’s working hard as he can to get better, but I don’t see any frustration."
On RB Ameer Abdullah and what stands out on offense: "On our offense? That’s a – let me see how I want to answer that because I may not want to answer it because that’s not – I’m not going to comment on our other guys. I can comment about our defense because I know intimately our defense. I made the comment about Ameer because he makes our guys miss, but overall our offense is doing, I think they’re doing well. I don’t judge them. I don’t grade them."
On the philosophy around playing an offense where the running back is versatile: "Philosophy wise, it is a good point. You have to know who is in the game because there are different runs, sometimes based on which back is in the game. There’s different skill sets. Two years ago when we played here when Reggie (Bush) came in the game we went to our sub-package because of the fact that we knew he would go out some as a receiver and do different things that way. So, it all depends on what the backs’ strengths are and that depends on how we play it. So, it does make a difference. If you have just one guy that carries it and does that we know how that guy’s going to run. There are certain guys, they bounce the ball a certain way. One guy likes to cut back, one guy’s going to hit straight down, so you’ve got two different running styles. We’ll make a point with our guys, when we’re coaching them, you have to know which back is in the game."
On if they have looked ahead to San Diego: "I think off and on you start because they’re not a familiar opponent. So, we’ll look at them a little bit in the spring. Look at them a little bit in the summer and obviously, we’ll be looking at them real hard here shortly."
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR JOE LOMBARDI
On shortening the preseason because of injury risk: "I don’t particularly have a stance. I’m focusing on trying to get the Lions offense better. Injuries are always a concern, but there’s a balancing act for everyone trying to get guys ready and trying to keep guys healthy. It’s a fine line we walk every day."
On the differences in preparation for having multiple running backs as compared to one primary running back: "I think you’re just always trying to figure out what guys do best and put them in those situations. Some guys sometimes run certain plays better than others and you want to make sure they’re in there doing the things that they do best. Like I said, when we game plan you’re always kind of thinking of each like, ‘Which running back would we want in this situation?’ You want to be certainly aware that sometimes guys like to get in a rhythm, so you have to be sensitive of that. But when you’ve got talented players you want to make sure you give them a chance to maximize those talents."
On his evaluation of the offense so far this preseason: "I think we’re heading in the right direction. There’s been some good days. There’s been some practices before the Washington game where I thought we were languishing a little bit out there, but for the most part I think we’re headed in the right direction. I kind of like the direction the running game is going, and I’m happy with the way the guys have been executing for the most part."
On what he wants to see in the game on Friday: "Just operating at a good tempo. I want to make sure that we’re not having any pre-snap penalties. Protect the football. You know, just doing the things that win football games and see that guys are comfortable in what we’re doing and operating at a fast tempo."
On what he’s seen from WR Jeremy Ross: "I think he’s been playing well. He’s a guy that’s a physical blocker, and dependable when he’s running routes. We’ve got a really talented group of guys at the receiver position, and he’s right there in the mix."
On the difficulty of selecting the receivers who will make the team: "Yeah, I think that the receiver position is a spot where it’s figuring out who is on the roster. Again, some of those decisions are made like you suggested by special teams considerations and how many guys we keep on offense versus defense. So there’s a lot of factors that go into those decisions."
On WR TJ Jones: "He’s right in the thick of it. It’s been nice to see him out there this year. He’s certainly made some good plays in practice and made a couple good catches in the games, so he’s a player we feel highly about."
On WR Ryan Broyles: "Like we said, there’s a group of guys who are kind of in that clump together and there’s going to be some tough decisions there."
On how RB Zach Zenner has helped his case for making the team: "Well, he’s a guy that’s been productive every time he’s had a chance to go out there and play. He’s dependable, a smart player and he seems to gain yards every time he gets the ball. So he’s had a really good preseason."
On QB Matthew Stafford working more with other players: "Yeah, and I think that comes from understanding what we want and then also seeing what he wants as he gets to know the plays a little better. I think he’s been a little bit more involved in coaching up the other receivers and running backs as far as exactly how he wants a route to look and what he wants a guy to be thinking based on different defensive looks. So I think as he’s become more comfortable and confident in what’s happening around him, he’s able to take more of a role like that."
On what differences he’s seen from Stafford from last year to this year: "I would say he’s just playing faster, which you would expect as you become more comfortable. The difference between good and great is just a split second at that position and I think he’s just seeing things a little faster and also knows when he can throw into some looks that last year maybe were a little cloudy that are much more clear to him. I think he’s had a real strong camp."
On managing the number of snaps for WR Calvin Johnson and RB Joique Bell: "Yeah, I think a lot of that, every day you kind of get a feel for how they’re feeling and you get a report from the trainers. If a guy’s sore you might back off a little bit. I feel like Calvin this year is a little healthier than he was last year. There’s not as much talk about how he’s feeling. I think he’s feeling a little bit better than he did last year coming off some injuries. But going back to the first question, you get better at playing football by playing football full speed and hitting people, but that’s also how guys get worn down and hurt. I think that no one has a better balance of that than Jim Caldwell and the way that he does our schedule. He’s always very aware of not over-working guys and making sure they get the work they need. But talking about Joique as he’s coming off this injury and starts playing, you have to be aware of how he’s feeling and what his condition level is but I think it just depends on what the player and the trainer is telling us as far as how much you want to work him."
On not wanting Johnson on the field every snap: "I want him out there most snaps. I’d like him to be out there every snap, but you want to make sure that when you’re in a game and all of a sudden you’ve called a play and you see the player you called that play for coming off to get a blow that you aren’t in that situation. So there are times where you can schedule in breaks for a player where it’s definitely a run situation. There’s a handful of situations where it doesn’t hurt you to take one of your best players off the field so he can kind of catch his breath and be fresh in the fourth quarter. You’d like those guys out there every single play if you could, but I think you have to be smart so, in the fourth quarter you’re calling this play and then after you call it you realize your best player has come off the field."
On if Johnson’s health will lead to him playing more this season: "Well, he missed three games. Listen, if he’s 100 percent healthy, I don’t know what his play percentage was last year. I don’t think he came off a ton when he was healthy, so I still wouldn’t expect him coming off a ton."
On how G Larry Warford’s injury affects G Laken Tomlinson’s progression: "Well, he’ll get more reps which will always help a young player. I think (Tomlinson) is in a good spot. Again, he’s a rookie, so he can always get better and I think he is getting better. You’re seeing every week there’s an improvement in this player. The talent is there, the want-to is there and for the most part he plays pretty good. There’s lessons that a young player has to learn and he’s a quick learner."
On calling plays for players who come off the field: "Sure, that happens. That happens with running backs, that happens with receiver where all of a sudden here’s the go-to play and he’s not in there and now you’ve got to find the next play. But it usually happens during the week. As you look at a play, ‘Here’s a play that doesn’t hurt us at all to give Calvin a breather.’ So it’s not usually happening during the game as much as it’s happening during the week like, ‘Here’s one where he can sit down and catch his breath then go back in."
On if the same mentality applies to WR Golden Tate: "Yeah, yeah. Exactly."
On if he is confident placing Tomlinson in a starting role: "For sure. We’ve got some good depth inside. Hopefully Larry (Warford) isn’t out a real long time because he’s a great player, but the depth in there is comforting. Now, we had great depth at right tackle last year and lost two guys in the first game, so you can never have enough. But we’re confident in all those guys."
On G/C Taylor Boggs: "I heard some good reports on him before he came here so I kind of had a high opinion on him just from some people I know, but I think he’s been playing really well. He’s a really good technician, plays hard, loves football, so he’s been a good addition."
On the battle between FBs Michael Burton and Emil Igwenagu: "I think they’re both good fullbacks. A lot of these are good problems to have when you have sometimes more good players at a position than you think you can keep. We’re kind of cross-training those guys a little bit, maybe giving them some roles to learn that might be for a tight end in our mind. But those guys are big enough and strong enough to do some of those roles. So we’re cross-training them because you never know with injuries and depth when you might need one of those guys. But they’re both playing well."
On what it would take to keep both fullbacks on the roster: "Oh, I don’t know. That’s above my pay grade. But you’re always thinking about injuries and depth and what happens if, and that’s kind of where the cross-training comes in. If we’re short a position, this guy could fill that role a little bit. But again, to ask me how the final roster is going to look, we sit in there, Martin (Mayhew) tells us something, Jim (Caldwell) tells us something and then they ask our opinion and that’s how the decisions are made. For me to tell, you know, and what would have to happen to keep two fullbacks, I’ve got no idea. That’s above my pay grade a little bit."
On QB Kellen Moore and his value to QB Matthew Stafford: "You know, all of those quarterbacks are very, you know, they study hard, they’re smart, they understand the offense and so as you got all those eyes on film or, you know, watching opponent, they’ve all got really good insight sometimes and they all get along really well. So there’s kind of a nice, it’s a good room. It’s a fun room to be in and, you know, we like having all of those guys."
On RB Ameer Abdullah having an expanded role against Jacksonville: "I would expect to. You know, we kind of, it was kind of a funny flow to that game against Washington with getting behind the sticks a few times and not getting as many snaps as we did in the first game, so yeah, you’d expect him to get, he only had two plays or two carries? Two carries? Ok, yeah, so yeah I would think he would get a few more than that."
On keeping two or three quarterbacks: "You know, listen, you always want more players than they let us have, so. Especially when, you know, I think all three of those quarterbacks are, well Matt (Stafford), but the guys behind, they’re talented and you don’t like to lose talented players. But like you said, how that final roster looks is not necessarily up to me because I would say, well, defense needs about 12 guys, we’ll take the rest, so I’m not going to let them do that."