You can’t blame Jerome Felton if he feels like he’s in a bad movie spinoff – “Honey I shrunk the fullback’s role.”
The Lions have gone with one-back sets for the majority of the preseason thus far, either with two tight ends or three wide receivers. The fullback has even stayed off the field in short-yardage situations, with No. 3 tight end Will Heller being used as an H-back.
“I think there is a certain package in there for me,” said Felton, who played all 16 games last season. “It’s one of those things that come and go. I do think there is a role for me, and whatever that might be, I am going to do it to the best of my ability.”
If and how the Lions use the fullback will depend on weekly matchups and roster decisions. But one thing that works against Felton is that for the most part, the Lions use the fullback as a blocker. Felton had just 22 carries last season and nine receptions. He’s only had 38 carries in 41 games with the Lions.
And if all he does is block, and the Lions like Heller’s versatility as an H-back in that situation, Felton could be in a precarious position.
“Here’s the thing,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said of the fullback’s role. “When you get to Sunday and you have to put your 46 out there, the availability of offensive personnel is based on what you need from an offensive standpoint but also from a special teams standpoint.”
Linehan said that, depending on matchups and game plan, it might be more prudent to use an H-back instead of a fullback. Other times, a player like Felton, who excels on special teams as well as a blocking back, might make more sense.
“I feel good about myself, where I’m at as a football player and what I can do at the position,” Felton said. “So I don’t worry about that stuff. That will take care of itself. I just want to put good film out there and I feel I am doing that. Whatever opportunities I get, I will keep taking advantage of.”
–S Aaron Francisco, who started 12 games with the Colts last season, was signed late last week. GM Martin Mayhew is loading up on veteran free agents. Besides Francisco, the Lions have also brought in RBs Mike Bell (Browns), Jerome Harrison (Eagles), CB Anthony Madison (Steelers), S Michael Johnson (who won a Super Bowl ring with the Giants) and OT Rudy Niswanger (Chiefs).
–S Randy Phillips, who played in three games last season, was released to make room for Francisco. He was released the same day that allegations surfaced about his relationship with a University of Miami booster that is likely to draw NCAA sanctions against the program.
–OL Jeff Maddux (ankle) and CB Maurice Leggett (unspecified) were placed on the waived-injured list.
–WR Maurice Stovall, a long shot to make the 53-man roster, has impressed both on special teams and in the offense. He caught four passes for 67 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown from No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton against the Browns.
–S Ricardo Silva, also at long odds to make the roster, had three tackles and forced a fumble on Friday. That after he had an interception in the exhibition opener against the Bengals. He could end up on the practice squad if he’s not claimed by another team.
–OLB DeAndre Levy continues to call the defensive signals during games. The Lions were expected to turn those chores over to new MLB Stephen Tulloch once he gets fluent in the terminology, but that hasn’t happened yet.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK
There was talk early in camp that veteran OLB Bobby Carpenter might be on the bubble. The Lions carry either six or seven linebackers, depending on what they need for special teams.
Starters Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant are locks, as are special teams ace Isaiah Ekejiuba and outside linebacker Ashlee Palmer.
The Lions drafted Syracuse linebacker Doug Hogue in the fifth round, projecting him to be a mainstay on the coverage units.
But Carpenter has burst whatever bubble he might have been on. He showed up to camp in excellent shape and playing faster than the Lions had ever seen him. He hasn’t been as tentative as he was last year when he struggled to learn the system.
As a result, he’s been pushing Durant for a starting position rather than fighting to hold a roster spot.
Carpenter is strong against the run but Durant is much faster and more comfortable covering in space.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS
RB Jerome Harrison seems to have inched ahead of Mike Bell and Aaron Brown for the No. 2 running back spot. RB Maurice Morris, who is expected to have the cast removed from his broken right hand this week, will also get involved in that competition shortly. Harrison averaged 4.5 yards (27 yards on six carries), Bell 3.0 (33 on 11) and Brown 1.8 (11 on 6).
Jason Hanson is looking as strong as ever, though so is his competition. Hanson booted field goals of 25 and 49 yards. Dave Rayner, though, booted a 48-yarder which ended up being the game-winner. Both are kicking the ball easily to the back of the end zone, but Hanson is better at the high, lob kicks when the Lions want to force a return to bury the opposition inside the 20.
WR Derrick Williams, after a fast start, is slipping. He dropped a couple of passes in the opener, dropped some more during the week and then dropped another against the Browns. It appears that both Rashied Davis and Maurice Stovall are ahead of him right now.
DT Nick Fairley was on the practice field last week, the first time he’s been out there since surgery to repair a broken bone in his left foot. He had the cast removed last week and was in a walking boot.
“Now that he’s got the cast off he can walk around and get some (mental reps),” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We can’t have a guy on crutches that can’t walk around out there. But he’s done a good job in our meetings and in the weight room doing what he can do. When he’s healthy, he’ll be ready.”
Said Fairley, “Right now I’m taking it day by day. I’m in the treatment room, trying to get back as fast as I can. I’m staying in the film room. Those guys are behind me 100 percent. They just tell me to get back as fast as I can.”
–WR Titus Young returned to practice on Sunday after missing all but one day of training camp with a left hamstring injury. He took part in seven-on-seven drills and it scheduled to do the full practice on Monday. “This was a big step for him,” Schwartz said. “Hopefully we’ve put (the injury) in the rearview mirror now.”
–WR Calvin Johnson (bruised shoulder) did not play Friday. He was held out as a precaution. He practiced on Wednesday and Thursday.
–RB Jahvid Best left the game Friday complaining of wooziness. He was treated for a concussion and missed practice Sunday. He is expected to be cleared for practice on Monday, but because he had concussion issues in college, the Lions will take it slow.
–DE Kyle Vanden Bosch missed practice on Sunday but Schwartz said it was mostly a rest day.
–CB Chris Houston (groin) did not play Friday. He didn’t practice most of the week, either. He tried to go on Wednesday but was clearly hobbled. He returned to practice on Sunday.
–CB Eric Wright (groin) also missed some practice time during the week but he played on Friday.
–CB Alphonso Smith (foot) has had his cast off for a couple of weeks and has begun light running and cutting.
–OT Jason Fox (foot) was in a boot last week and could begin light running this week.
–WR Demario Ballard (foot) returned to practice on Sunday.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
–S C.C. Brown will not be re-signed.
–LB Vinny Ciurciu won’t return.
–WR Brian Clark will not be re-signed.
–CB Tye Hill isn’t in the team’s 2011 plans.
–LB Landon Johnson won’t be back with the team.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
–TE Jake Nordin (not tendered as ERFA).
–RB Kevin Smith (not tendered as RFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED
–DT Nick Fairley (1/13): $10M/4 yrs with 5th-yr option; $5.7M SB.
–WR Titus Young (2/44): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
–RB Mikel Leshoure (2/57): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
–LB Doug Hogue (5/157): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
–T/G Johnny Culbreath (7/209): 4 yrs, terms unknown.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS RE-SIGNED
–LB Bobby Carpenter: UFA; terms unknown.
–G/C Dylan Gandy: UFA; terms unknown.
–CB Chris Houston: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
–CB Brandon McDonald: UFA; terms unknown.
–K Dave Rayner: UFA 1 yr, terms unknown.
–QB Drew Stanton: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–CB Nathan Vasher: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–S John Wendling: UFA; $2.75M/3 yrs, guarantees unknown.
–DE Cliff Avril: RFA (tendered $2.6M with first-round pick as compensation); $2.6M/1 yr.
–LB Korey Bosworth: ERFA; terms unknown.
–LB Caleb Campbell: ERFA; terms unknown.
–FB Jerome Felton: RFA (tendered $1.2M with fifth-round pick as compensation); $1.2M/1 yr.
–DT Andre Fluellen: RFA (tendered $1.2M with third-round pick as compensation); $1.2M/1 yr.
–T Corey Hilliard: ERFA; terms unknown.
–WR/KR Stefan Logan: ERFA; terms unknown.
–CB Prince Miller: ERFA; terms unknown.
–LB Ashlee Palmer: ERFA; terms unknown.
–S Randy Phillips: ERFA; terms unknown.
–CB Paul Pratt: ERFA; terms unknown.
–RB Mike Bell: UFA Browns; terms unknown.
–OT Kirk Chambers: UFA Bengals; terms unknown.
–S Erik Coleman: FA Falcons; terms unknown.
–WR Rashied Davis: UFA Bears; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–DE Keyunta Dawson: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
–LB Justin Durant: UFA Jaguars; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
–S Aaron Francisco: UFA Colts; terms unknown.
–RB Jerome Harrison: UFA Eagles; terms unknown.
–DE Taylor Hilee (waivers Panthers).
–S Michael Johnson: UFA Giants; terms unknown.
–CB Maurice Leggett: Not tendered as ERFA by Chiefs; terms unknown (subsequently released).
–CB Anthony Madison: UFA Steelers; terms unknown.
–C/G Rudy Niswanger: UFA Chiefs; 1 yr, terms unknown.
–DT Quinn Pitcock: FA; terms unknown.
–WR Maurice Stovall: UFA Buccaneers; terms unknown.
–LB Stephen Tulloch: UFA Titans; $3M/1 yr, guarantees unknown.
–CB Eric Wright: UFA Browns; terms unknown.
–LB Jordon Dizon (released).
–DE Jared DeVries (UFA; retired).
–LB Zack Follett (released).
–WR Bryant Johnson (released).
–CB Eric King (released).
–DE Turk McBride: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
–LB Julian Peterson (released/failed physical).
–DT Quinn Pitcock: FA; terms unknown.
–T Tony Ugoh (released).
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