–WR Nate Burleson is looking forward to his matchup with Bucs veteran CB Ronde Barber. “I played against Ronde my rookie year in 2002 and I remember he jammed me up,” he said “I was thinking to myself, ‘I am doing all right if I’m getting jammed up by Ronde Barber.’ I am a big fan of his. Everybody says he’s pretty good for his age. No. He’s pretty good in general. Age has nothing to do with it.”
–DE Kyle Vanden Bosch returned to practice on Thursday after he was given the day off Wednesday – which is going to be the plan all season for the 33 year old who’s coming off neck surgery. “It’s just where he is age-wise,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “We are going to try and take some of the wear and tear off him during the week.” Vanden Bosch is onboard with the plan. “There aren’t many who I trust more than coach Schwartz,” he said. “Physically I feel great and hopefully this will pay off on Sunday.”
–CB Alphonso Smith (foot) was a full participant in practice Thursday, but coach Jim Schwartz said he still wasn’t game-ready. Smith missed all of training camp.
–WR Titus Young had a rough outing in the final exhibition game against Buffalo, but offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said the rookie has come a long way in a short time. “He’s behind a little because of all the time he missed (three weeks with a hamstring injury), but he’s made a lot of strides in just the last two weeks. He wasn’t at full strength until maybe right before the last game. But the timing was good. He was able to get a good week and a half of full speed work in.”
–RB Maurice Morris, who missed all of camp with a broken hand, will most likely be the primary backup to starter Jahvid Best. “He’s kind of Mr. Everything for us,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “At times we will give him the ball, at other times we will ask him to block and other times he will be asked to catch the ball. He does everything we ask and he’s ready to do it in a second’s notice.”
The Lions last season had trouble with offenses that featured either a mobile quarterback, an up-tempo passing game or a dynamic power runner. The Buccaneers have all three with Josh Freeman, their version of the West Coast offense and RB LeGarrette Blount.
The Lions successfully hounded Freeman last season (six hits, three sacks) but Blount hurt them. This will be a telling test for the Lions revamped linebacker crew. It’s a huge upgrade in overall speed, both in the middle and in the flats, so they should be able to close on the short, quick routes better.
And if they can force Freeman to throw deep, then they’re playing into the strength of the defensive line.
“I think we are built to match up with any type of offense,” DE Kyle Vanden Bosch said. “With our additions at linebacker (Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant) teams are going to have a hard time running the ball on us and piling up yards on first and second down.”
On offense, the Lions will look to attack quickly. The Bucs had a hard time with the pace of the New England offense in the preseason. The Lions can get it rolling just as quick.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
–WR Calvin Johnson vs. Bucs cornerback Aqib Talib. It’s a prime-time matchup. Last year, Talib was injured and the Bucs tried to deploy single-safety coverage. Johnson had 10 catches for 152 yards. It’s doubtful they will leave Talib on an island with the taller Johnson all game, but Talib has said publicly he wants that challenge.
–DT Ndamukong Suh vs. Bucs RG Davin Joseph. Suh had a relatively quiet three tackle, no sack day against the Bucs last season. Joseph is a former first round pick who the Bucs signed to a seven-year, $53 million deal with a $19 million guarantee in July — that’s how good they think he is. The Bucs are no longer a zone blocking offensive line — which puts even more pressure on Joseph.
–RG Stephen Peterman vs. Bucs DT Gerald McCoy. Peterman, playing through injuries last season, is a worry for the Lions. Playing against a speed rusher like McCoy will be a tough test.
Copyright (C) 2011 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.