NFC North: Detroit Lions

If the Detroit Lions front office woke up this morning a little bit queasy, it would be somewhat understandable, and it has nothing to do with their present and everything to do with their future.

The Lions took a gamble when they were unable to get a deal done with star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh before the start of the season. They are aware, too, that tabling negotiations with him at the start of training camp meant they’ll have a much smaller window to work with to sign Suh after the season.

Suh
 On Tuesday morning, they also started to realize exactly how much it might cost to retain Suh’s services well into the future.

Houston defensive end J.J. Watt -- who, like Suh, is considered the best at his position in the NFL -- earned a six-year, $100 million contract extension with a reported $51.8 million guaranteed, the most guaranteed cash ever for a defensive player.

He and the Texans got the deal done with two seasons left on his rookie deal so the two sides never came close to the potential sweat-it-out deadline the Lions and Suh appear barreling toward.

The Watt deal, if divided equally -- and we don’t know specifics yet -- would equate to $16.6 million per season. While Suh and Watt play different positions, that’s probably around the range Suh would be trying to earn.

Like Watt, Suh has been healthy throughout his career and has been dominant as his position. Like Watt, teams have to game plan around Suh when they face him, which opens up holes for everyone else on the defense.

There’s another thing in play, too, when it comes to this particular Watt deal. Watt is represented by Tom Condon, which is part of CAA. Suh is represented by Jimmy Sexton.

His firm? CAA.

This, right here, is why it never made sense for Suh to strike a deal with Detroit earlier than he needed to. Yes, he could have set the market with his contract, but there would have also been the possibility he might have seen Watt or Gerald McCoy earn more money than him. And while money isn’t everything, it is still a very big thing for players who have a limited window to maximize their earning potential.

After Watt’s deal and with the Lions calling off talks with Suh for a while, this also gives McCoy a chance to set a defensive tackle number. Oh, and by the way, McCoy is represented by Ben Dogra.

His firm? Yep, you guessed it ... CAA.

While Suh has never explained why he ditched Relativity Sports for CAA, you might be seeing exactly why he did play out throughout all of these contract extensions. CAA is being able to work to set the numbers for Watt, McCoy and Suh and happen to represent all of them, so they theoretically know what they are getting into with each deal.

When contract negotiations do resume between Sexton, Suh and the Lions after the season, this is the new baseline the player and his agent are going to work with. Since Suh has a clock ticking until he can test his true worth on the free agent market in March, he continues to hold increasing leverage over the Lions, who will have to decide whether or not to let the game-changing tackle go.

Both team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew appeared optimistic they would still sign Suh when they halted contract talks in July. That was before Watt. Potentially before McCoy.

So good morning, Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew. You’re not negotiating with Suh until at least January. When the new year hits, this is what you’ll be looking at.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- James Ihedigbo hasn’t played in two weeks. He didn’t even travel to Buffalo for the Detroit Lions' preseason finale against the Bills.

If you listen to the Lions’ starting safety, though, he is not concerned.

Ihedigbo
“I’m just resting,” Ihedigbo said Monday. “Getting ready for Monday night. That’s what really the mindset going in is.”

It’s a curious statement, because Lions coach Jim Caldwell indicated after Thursday’s preseason finale that Ihedigbo had stayed behind to receive treatment. Typically, that indicates an injury of some sort that needs to be healed.

Prior to practice Monday, Caldwell declined to give an update on Ihedigbo and said to wait for the injury report, the first one being released Thursday.

Ihedigbo said he was told by the Lions’ coaching staff to remain behind in Michigan instead of heading to New York.

“I just do what I’m told and that’s what was told to me,” Ihedigbo said. “And that was the best thing for our team and that’s what I do, whatever the best thing for my team.”

Ihedigbo is expected to be a starter at strong safety opposite Glover Quin. If Ihedigbo can’t play for some reason, either rookie James Couplin or veterans Don Carey or Isa Abdul-Quddus will pick up the start.

Abdul-Quddus started for Ihedigbo against Buffalo.

As of now, Ihedigbo insists he’ll be ready to play against the Giants.

“Yeah, of course,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s Monday night.”
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions still have a week to go until they open the season against the New York Giants, but they have slowly begun preparing for the team that knocked them out of playoff contention last season.

Lions coach Jim Caldwell said practices Monday and Tuesday would be more focused on improving things they need to work on instead of game-planning, but that they might sneak some things into preparation as well.

Here's other things from Monday's open portion of practice:
  • Safeties James Ihedigbo (undisclosed) and Don Carey (hamstring) sat out practice along with linebacker Kyle Van Noy (abdominal). All three were out there and Van Noy appeared to be moving OK for having had core muscle surgery less than a week ago.
  • Nick Fairley took some reps with Ndamukong Suh during position drills, but so did C.J. Mosley. Mosley started the last two preseason games at tackle. Fairley is listed as first on the depth chart.
  • Also at practice but not participating was wide receiver TJ Jones, who is on the PUP list.
  • New numbers: Mohammed Seisay is now wearing No. 39, Jerome Couplin is No. 24 and George Johnson is No. 93.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Monday afternoon, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he would not speak on who some of his starters were until the team released a depth chart.

The Lions have done that, and potentially revealed some opening-game starters. This, however, remains an unofficial depth chart that the Lions media relations staff puts together, not one given out by the coaching staff.

Here are some of the notable things:
 
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Jim Caldwell came into Detroit in January and from the outset has tried to instill discipline and accountability in hopes of turning the LIons from one of the perennial losers in the NFL to a consistent winner.

He has been around winning franchises before, so he surmises he has seen what it takes to win. And he said Monday that he believes this Detroit team has similar characteristics to the winning squads he has coached before.

So how does he plan to do finish this rehabilitation of the Lions' image from 0-16 in 2008 to their current competitive-but-not-quite-enough state?

[+] EnlargeJim Caldwell
Carlos Osorio/AP PhotoJim Caldwell has been charged with finding the spark that will turn the Lions from also-rans into contenders.
“It all depends on me,” Caldwell said. “I’m responsible for each and every little thing that goes on in this program. Bar none. Wins and losses. Conduct. Every single phase. Offense, defense, special teams, it all runs through me.

“So there is not anything that I don’t have responsibility for that doesn’t fall upon my shoulders.”

That includes the positive -- no players arrested this offseason -- and the negative -- same old penalty issues at times during the preseason. It includes making sure his players understand what is expected of them, what is allowed and what is prohibited.

On the field, that will rely on both a successful run game and stopping the run along with cutting down on the aforementioned penalties and on turnovers, which was a major issue for the Lions in 2013.

Off the field, it is a little bit different than when he was a college coach at Wake Forest and sold parents and guardians of prospects that he would be monitoring everything in their child's life during his time in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Now he’s dealing with NFL players, so he treats them as the men they are.

This has been mentioned multiple times by various players since Caldwell’s hire, and the players are appreciative of that.

“We still hold them to the same standards that anybody else would working for any other company. That they are still responsible for their own personal conduct, that we don’t hold their hand outside of this building,” Caldwell said. “I think it is our responsibility to make sure that we educate them and we do that on a daily basis. We talk about everything that comes up, every instance.

“Today we’ll discuss in detail the new policy the NFL just released in terms of domestic violence. We will talk about it in detail and that’s our responsibility to make certain that we do that and if we don’t do that, that’s my problem. That’s my fault.”

Caldwell has been straightforward with his players since the beginning of his tenure, and there’s little reason to think he won’t be when it comes to how he expects players to act on the field and off.

As far as the domestic violence policy instituted by the league -- where a first offense could be a six-game suspension without pay and a second offense could be anywhere from a year-long suspension to a lifetime ban -- Caldwell seems in favor of it.

“My thoughts are just like anything else with the NFL decides is best for the league,” Caldwell said. “That there are rules we should enforce and make certain we should enforce. We should support them wholeheartedly and make certain that our team understands them explicitly from top to bottom and even the spirit of the rules.

“So I’m certainly in favor of it and thus will express that to the team.”
Most significant move: The biggest surprise among the Lions’ cuts came at the position with the toughest overall competition: wide receiver. Kris Durham was tabbed a starter last season when Nate Burleson was injured and a starter again during the preseason when Calvin Johnson sat out to rest. He also caught a touchdown in the preseason and showed sure hands as a tall wide receiver who could fill a role. Instead, Durham is on the waiver wire right now, the lone man out in a battle between Durham, Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles and Corey Fuller.

Moore survives for one more: Lions coach Jim Caldwell spent most of the past two weeks deflecting questions on whether he would keep two or three quarterbacks on his roster. At least initially, he’s sticking with three as the Lions kept Kellen Moore for the third consecutive season. Moore outplayed No. 2 quarterback Dan Orlovsky throughout the preseason and clearly the Lions see enough from Moore right now to develop him.

What’s next: While the Detroit roster (depth charts will be updated shortly) is initially set, things could -- and almost certainly will -- change. Don’t be surprised if the Lions look at running backs, linebackers, cornerbacks, wide receivers and maybe offensive linemen on the waiver wire. It's also unclear what Detroit will do with injured linebacker Kyle Van Noy. If he needs to go to injured reserve/designated to return, that can’t happen until Tuesday, so one of the players cut (or someone else) could be coming back. Darryl Tapp might be a good candidate there.

Lions moves: Cut RB Mikel Leshoure; RB George Winn; FB Emil Igwenagu; WR Kris Durham; WR Patrick Edwards; WR Andrew Peacock; TE Jordan Thompson; TE Michael Egnew; OL Rodney Austin; OL Darren Keyton; OL Garrett Reynolds; OL Michael Williams; DE Darryl Tapp; DL Andre Fluellen; DT Jimmy Saddler-McQueen; DT Xavier Proctor; LB Brandon Hepburn; LB Shamari Benton; LB Julian Stanford; CB Chris Greenwood; CB Mohammed Seisay; S Nate Ness. Waived/injured DeJon Gomes (was done Friday)
The Detroit Lions have had a very tight wide receiver competition -- and the one player who might have ended up cut is somewhat of a surprise.

Durham
The Detroit Free Press has reported the Lions are cutting WR Kris Durham, who started 13 games last season after an injury to Nate Burleson.

Durham had appeared to be safe initially, starting preseason games in place of Calvin Johnson, who the team was resting.

The Lions had signed Durham after Seattle waived him prior to the 2012 season. Durham told me he would spend Saturday watching college football, waiting to see if he would be playing in Detroit for another season. Durham had 49 catches for 645 yards and three touchdowns from 2011 to 2013.

"You never know what's going to happen," Durham said earlier this week. "As far as the emotions go, you're sitting there by your phone. You try to see if you get a phone call, sometimes it's a phone call that says 'Hey, congratulations.' I've been on the other side of that saying, 'Hey, bring your playbook.'

"It's one of those things where you know what you signed up for. Mentally, you kind of prepare yourself as much as possible for the worst and hope for the best."

Durham's release might mean good things for the other three players he was competing with for roster spots: Kevin Ogletree, Ryan Broyles and Corey Fuller.

Here's a list of players who have been reported as waived or released by various outlets as of 1:15 p.m. ET: RB George Winn, RB Mikel Leshoure; WR Kris Durham; OL Darren Keyton; OL Garrett Reynolds; OL Michael Williams; DE Darryl Tapp; LB Brandon Hepburn; LB Shamari Benton; CB Mohammed Seisay; S Nate Ness.

The Lions must be down to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET.
Since the beginning of the 2013 season, Mikel Leshoure has just wanted a chance to play and prove himself.

Leshoure
It now appears he will be attempting to do that somewhere other than with the Detroit Lions.

The Detroit Free Press is reporting the Lions will waive Leshoure, one of the team's two second-round picks in 2011, as part of their cuts down to a 53-man roster.

Leshoure lost his starting job to Joique Bell last season and appeared to be fighting for a roster spot since the beginning of offseason workouts in April. He never really established himself during the preseason and ended up having to contend with George Winn, a 2013 undrafted free agent brought in who ended up taking some carries from Leshoure.

Unlike Winn -- who is still not guaranteed a roster spot with Leshoure's release -- Leshoure was barely used on special teams, which is an issue for any depth running back.

Leshoure, who went to Illinois, had 217 carries for 807 yards and nine touchdowns for Detroit -- all but two of those carries and nine of those yards coming during the 2012 season.

Cutting Leshoure also means the Lions only have one player left from their 2011 draft class: defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who was taken in the first round. Leshoure is also one of a litany of second-round picks -- including fellow 2011 second-rounder Titus Young -- who didn't really work out for Detroit.
The preseason is over and on Thursday night, many Detroit Lions starters did not play a snap against Buffalo.

But many players battling for roster spots did.

Here’s a peek and some analysis on the defensive snap counts:

DEFENSIVE ENDS:

Tapp
Larry Webster 29 snaps (48 percent); Darryl Tapp 25 snaps (42 percent); George Johnson 23 snaps (38 percent); Devin Taylor 23 snaps (38 percent); Ezekiel Ansah 15 snaps (25 percent).

Analysis: The Lions are still trying to get Webster as much experience as possible to try and work him into a rotation player as soon as possible. Nothing else to really read into here.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES:

Xavier Proctor 29 snaps (48 percent); Jimmy Saddler-McQueen 29 snaps (48 percent); C.J. Mosley 21 snaps (35 percent); Andre Fluellen 20 snaps (33 percent); Nick Fairley 13 snaps (22 percent); Caraun Reid 13 snaps (22 percent).

Analysis: This went about as expected other than Reid, who appeared to have some sort of injury in the game. But Proctor and Saddler-McQueen are players Detroit wanted to get one last look at, perhaps for practice squad decisions.

LINEBACKERS

Tahir Whitehead 28 snaps (47 percent); Travis Lewis 26 snaps (43 percent); Julian Stanford 25 snaps (42 percent); Brandon Hepburn 23 snaps (38 percent); DeAndre Levy 7 snaps (12 percent); Stephen Tulloch 7 snaps (12 percent); Shamari Benton 2 snaps (3 percent).

Analysis: With Kyle Van Noy out, the Lions played Whitehead probably more than they would have liked. Lewis needed to continue to show linebacker skills. That Benton played fewer snaps than the starters is not a good sign for his roster chances.

CORNERBACKS

Chris Greenwood 40 snaps (67 percent); Nevin Lawson 31 snaps (52 percent); Cassius Vaughn 29 snaps (48 percent); Mohammed Seisay 25 snaps (42 percent); Bill Bentley 21 snaps (35 percent); Darius Slay 15 snaps (25 percent).

Analysis: Rashean Mathis didn’t play and Slay didn’t need to do much, especially once Sammy Watkins left the game. The Lions needed to play Greenwood a lot since he is on the roster bubble and likely wanted to give Lawson as many snaps as possible. Seisay’s 25 snaps feel like an attempt to hide a good player for practice squad purposes.

SAFETIES

Jerome Couplin 45 snaps (75 percent); Isa Abdul-Quddus 40 snaps (67 percent); Nate Ness 25 snaps (42 percent); Glover Quin 10 snaps (17 percent).

Analysis: With Don Carey and James Ihedigbo not traveling, there were a lot of snaps for Couplin, Abdul-Quddus and Ness to have one last chance to impress. Couplin again showed up a lot of places and seems to be close to a roster spot. Abdul-Quddus intercepted another pass. With Carey and Ihedigbo’s status unknown, he’s almost a lock for the roster at this point.
The preseason is over and on Thursday night, many Detroit Lions starters did not play a snap against Buffalo.

But many players battling for roster spots did.

Here’s a peek and some analysis on the offensive snap counts:

QUARTERBACKS:

Moore
Kellen Moore 56 snaps (77 percent); Dan Orlovsky 17 snaps (23 percent)

Analysis: Moore was going to get the majority of snaps in Buffalo. Orlovsky remains the No. 2 quarterback as Moore waits to find out if he has a roster spot or has to go through waivers. Moore had a strong preseason, though, and will give coaches something to think about.

RUNNING BACKS:

George Winn 31 snaps (42 percent); Mikel Leshoure 26 snaps (36 percent); Theo Riddick 18 snaps (25 percent).

Analysis: Reggie Bush and Joique Bell didn’t play. Riddick didn’t see much time as the third back. This was a final audition for both Winn and Leshoure, and neither one stood out. Winn had the most carries for the second straight game and should be ahead of Leshoure on a roster spot fight if the team keeps either one.

FULLBACKS:

Emil Igwenagu 22 snaps (30 percent); Jed Collins 5 snaps (7 percent)

Analysis: Montell Owens didn’t play, probably meaning he’s on the roster. Jim Caldwell said he wanted to take a long look at Igwenagu and he got it, although not sure how much he really saw.

WIDE RECEIVERS:

Ryan Broyles 36 snaps (49 percent); Jeremy Ross 26 snaps (36 percent); Andrew Peacock 23 snaps (32 percent); Kris Durham 23 snaps (32 percent); Kevin Ogletree 23 snaps (32 percent); Patrick Edwards 23 snaps (32 percent); Corey Fuller 20 snaps (27 percent).

Analysis: No need for Calvin Johnson or Golden Tate to play. That Broyles was in the game so late was somewhat curious -- and leads to some question about his potential roster spot. That said, I have Broyles on my final projection. Fuller receiving the least amount of snaps again leads me to think the team might be trying to hide him for the practice squad.

TIGHT ENDS:

Jordan Thompson 27 snaps (37 percent); Joseph Fauria 22 snaps (30 percent); Eric Ebron 21 snaps (29 percent); Michael Egnew 20 snaps (27 percent).

Analysis: Nothing to read into here, although the team took a look at Egnew. Still don’t think he fits anywhere on the roster.

OFFENSIVE TACKLE:

Cornelius Lucas 56 snaps (77 percent); Michael Williams 56 snaps (77 percent); LaAdrian Waddle 17 snaps (23 percent); Corey Hilliard 10 snaps (14 percent); Riley Reiff 7 snaps (10 percent).

Analysis: Waddle received the start and it is still unclear who wins that right tackle between him and Hilliard. That Lucas and Williams received the same number of snaps, to me, means that’s still a really tight competition for the fourth tackle spot. Could be close to a 50-50 decision there.

INTERIOR LINEMEN:

Rodney Austin 66 snaps (90 percent); Travis Swanson 57 snaps (78 percent); Darren Keyton 55 snaps (75 percent); Garrett Reynolds 33 snaps (45 percent); Larry Warford 7 snaps (10 percent).

Analysis: Dominic Raiola and Rob Sims sat with no real reason to play. Warford played sparingly as the Lions needed to get some work for reserves. Reynolds getting the start was curious to me. That Austin played so much Thursday night makes me wonder if he is more on the roster bubble than previously thought, with both Keyton and Reynolds pushing him.
Examining the Detroit Lions' roster. This is the final projection of the roster. A practice squad projection will be up this morning, too.

QUARTERBACKS (2)
Kellen Moore did what he could and might make it hard on the Lions coaches when it comes to deciding whether or not to keep the third-year quarterback as the team's No. 3 quarterback. Stafford is the starter. Orlovsky is the backup based on his preseason snaps and everything I've seen. Moore remains a true question mark.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

Another tough call here. Staying with five in the final projection, although I could easily see a scenario where George Winn makes the team. Would be somewhat surprised if Mikel Leshoure stuck considering he does not bring special teams value and and did not run well in the preseason. Both Winn and Emil Igwenagu are practice-squad candidates.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)

Staying the same here, too, although Corey Fuller did catch another touchdown pass. If he doesn't end up on the final 53-man roster, the Lions will hope he slips through waivers for the practice squad. Broyles was curiously playing very late in Thursday's finale, so his spot might not be as secure as initially thought. Both Fuller and Andrew Peacock are practice squad possibilities.

TIGHT END (3)

All three will make the roster. Nothing is changing here barring injury.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Made a change here and it is somewhat of a bold one. Put Reynolds in the final projection over Rodney Austin. This is definitely a place I could be wrong, but it could be significant that Reynolds saw more time -- and appeared to hold up well -- against Buffalo. Also, he has much more experience than Austin and can play both guard and tackle. There's a possibility the Lions could stash Austin as well on the practice squad. Williams vs. Cornelius Lucas is also a tough call, but Williams appeared to outplay Lucas in the preseason and both have major potential as a fourth tackle.

DEFENSIVE LINE (10)

As you'll see below, I pulled linebacker Kyle Van Noy off of the final roster projection because I think he ends up on injured reserve with a designation to return. This opens up one roster spot and I think it goes to Tapp, who has the flexibility to play defensive end or linebacker in an emergency situation. That might be enough to give him a roster spot in a position group that otherwise feels pretty set.

LINEBACKER (5)

As mentioned above, I moved Van Noy to injured reserve in this projection, opening up a roster spot. If the Lions choose to keep a sixth linebacker, it would probably be Julian Stanford, but Lewis should beat him out and Detroit has other needs elsewhere. The other four linebackers are close to locks.

CORNERBACK (5)

Another tough position call. Mohammed Seisay is likely bound for the practice squad, so it comes down to whether or not the team keeps Chris Greenwood on the active roster or tries to sneak him through to practice squad for one more season. Greenwood could very easily end up on the roster and if the Lions are feeling really adventurous, they could try to cut Lawson and move him to the practice squad, but Greenwood feels like the odd player out in the defensive backfield.

SAFETY (5)
DeJon Gomes heading to injured reserve made this position much easier to predict. Quin and Ihedigbo are the starters. Abdul-Quddus had a better preseason than almost any other player on the roster. Carey is a special teams dynamo and has position flexibility. Couplin is a rookie and raw, but can play special teams and has the potential to eventually replace Ihedigbo in a couple of seasons.

SPECIALISTS (3)

No changes here. These are your specialists.
Ndamukong Suh is one of the most polarizing players in the NFL. His talent has made him one of the best players in the league and a dominant defensive tackle. How he sometimes roughs up quarterbacks and others, though, has brought him a bunch of scrutiny.

Based on his play, however, there is little doubt he is in the Top 10.

Suh
Suh was one of two Detroit Lions players to be in the Top 10 of the #NFLRank project on either offense or defense and he comes in at No. 9 on defense. Calvin Johnson was named the top offensive player in the NFL from our 90-person panel.

Combined, they are two of the most dominant players in the NFL and last season they combined to be the two most feared players in the league.

Suh's skills are special for a defensive tackle. He is an elite pass-rusher who is also strong against the run. His size and speed make him capable of lining up outside on the end in some situations, and he commands double teams on almost every play.

It isn't a shock at all that he is in the Top 10 among defensive players. If anything, I'm kind of surprised he wasn't higher on the list, but because of the position he plays, his statistics sometimes don't explain exactly how good he is.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A fan asked Matthew Stafford a question Wednesday. It was almost a silly question six years into the quarterback’s NFL career -- especially since throughout his whole career, he has known one receiver more than anyone.

 To paraphrase the question: Was there any awkwardness for him, as a Georgia player, to throw to a receiver who went to rival Georgia Tech?

It took Stafford essentially one day to get over that. When a player is as gifted as Calvin Johnson, it’s easy to forget about college loyalties.

For Stafford, this connection has been extra special and extra important, and he knows it. Johnson is a special player. He is the best receiver in the NFL and perhaps one of the top pass-catchers of all time. Stafford is the second-fastest quarterback ever to throw for 10,000 yards, and a lot of that has to do with the man at the other end of so many of his passes.

All of those skills are why Johnson was named the top offensive player in the NFL by our 90 panelists here at ESPN. This may be a quarterback-driven league, but Johnson is one of the few players any quarterback in the league would want to make him look even better.

In seven years in the NFL, Johnson has amassed 572 catches for 9,328 yards and 66 touchdowns. He holds the single-season receiving yards record with 1,964 yards, and the combination of all of his physical gifts make him torturous to cover for opposing defensive backs, who nearly all admit to needing help to do it.

“When I first came into the league, Randy Moss was kind of that big, long receiver who could stretch the field, run by you, separate from any corner he played against,” cornerback Quentin Jammer told ESPN.com last year. “[Johnson] is a bigger version of that, [he can] out-muscle you and run by you.”

Then there’s how Johnson acts on and off the field. In a wide receiver world in which so many skill players like to talk and draw attention to themselves, Johnson does none of that. He’s almost universally liked, even by the players who have to cover him.

Johnson
 He is fairly quiet. He rarely boasts and often appears uncomfortable talking about his own ability and feats. He is a superstar in skill and in game, but he's a regular guy when it comes to how he acts.

“When you talk about going against a guy, you look at off-the-field presence, who he is as a player, and he’s just a hardworking, stand-up, nice guy off the field, very humble,” Miami cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. “So it’s hard to try and p--- him off, you know. It’s just one of those things.

“But you just want to compete with him because you understand in order to become better and be on to his level, you have to play good every snap because he’s going to bring it every snap. It’s one of those things that you know every single play can be that game-changing play.”

Not many players in the NFL are like that -- and Johnson is one of the most dangerous and best at accomplishing it.

ESPN NFL Nation Denver Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.

If Kellen Moore were trying to make a case to Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Caldwell for inclusion on the team’s 53-man roster, he certainly did it Thursday night.

Moore, who played the majority of the Lions’ 23-0 victory over Buffalo in the preseason finale, managed the game well and moved the ball down the field with relative ease. Yes, Moore continued to play with and against extreme backups, many of whom will not be on the Bills roster in 48 hours, but he did what he could with what he was given.

That included going 17-of-28 for 172 yards and two touchdowns. One of his touchdown passes, a 25-yarder to Corey Fuller, was threaded perfectly between defenders.

His status will be one of many calls for Lions coaches and Mayhew.

Here are some other thoughts from the Lions' preseason finale:
  • Left guard Garrett Reynolds blocked impressively on the first drive, sealing a pocket well for Dan Orlovsky. His candidacy hasn’t been discussed much as winning a job on the 53-man roster, but that he earned the start in the final preseason game over Rodney Austin, a young player who could use the reps, could be significant. On his second series, he got upfield blocking fairly well.
  • Wide receiver Ryan Broyles ended up as the punt returner after Jeremy Ross. Beyond the fact that Broyles' Achilles injury opened the door for Ross to return punts last season, that is a sign the team is trying to see what Broyles can give Detroit on special teams as it figures out whether to keep him on the roster. It was really interesting to see Broyles, who is in a tight receiver competition with Kevin Ogletree, Kris Durham and Fuller, on the field late in the fourth quarter with a bunch of players who won’t be on rosters by Monday.
  • Nate Freese was tabbed the team’s kicker earlier in the week. He responded by nailing a 53-yarder right down the middle in the first half and another 53-yarder in the second half Thursday night. He has rebounded well from his struggles early in camp and appears to have become a good option for Detroit.
  • Isa Abdul-Quddus probably locked up a roster spot Thursday night. He was around the ball consistently, intercepted another pass and was active on special teams. Add in both James Ihedigbo and Don Carey not traveling to Buffalo -- Carey’s been hurt -- and Abdul-Quddus should be safe this weekend. Jerome Couplin, who lined up with Abdul-Quddus a lot Thursday night, is on the bubble and could be one of two undrafted free agents with a legitimate chance to be on the 53-man roster along with tackle Cornelius Lucas. Lucas is in a fight with Michael Williams for the fourth tackle spot.
  • The Lions should be pretty happy. Unless something comes out about Ihedigbo and an injury, Detroit got out of the preseason with only injuries to Kyle Van Noy and Carey among potential major contributors. The Lions should be pleased to be so healthy.
Maybe the Detroit Lions should think about forgoing second-round picks for the immediate future.

Van Noy
This is not a serious statement, of course, but considering the lack of immediate success -- or any success at all -- the team’s second-round picks have had recently, it is at the very least a very odd, very random coincidence.

The team’s latest second-round pick, linebacker Kyle Van Noy, was tabbed during May’s draft as a player who could be an immediate starter for the team at SAM linebacker. Then he missed part of spring workouts due to injury. After coming back for the first part of the preseason, he injured his abdominal muscle, resulting in surgery Thursday and a chance he’ll be out for a while.

And now you can add him to the list of players who at the very least did not do much during their first years.

Here are the second-round picks under current general manager Martin Mayhew:
  • Last season’s second-round pick, cornerback Darius Slay, started the first two games of the season before being benched in favor of Rashean Mathis.
  • The team’s 2012 second-round pick, Ryan Broyles, was coming off an ACL injury his last year at Oklahoma. Then he tore an ACL his rookie year, returned and ruptured his Achilles midway through last season. He is playing Thursday night fighting for a roster spot.
  • Detroit’s two second-rounders in 2011 have both been disappointments. Receiver Titus Young had stability issues and was released by the Lions after two seasons. He is currently in jail awaiting his latest court case in California. Running back Mikel Leshoure is the team’s No. 4 running back and not guaranteed of being on the roster by the end of the weekend.
  • Perhaps the team’s best second-round pick of recent memory was Louis Delmas, who was released this offseason and now is with Miami. But he was at least productive.

That list is not an inspiring group, to be sure, but the team still has high hopes for Van Noy and it is way, way too early to judge anything about his career based off its start. But considering the team’s past, there should at least be some concern of how much -- if at all -- they’ll be able to use their linebacker prospect during his first season.

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