Lions

Detroit Lions Strategy And Personnel 9-22-11

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Head coach Jim Schwartz looks on during training camp at the Detroit Lions Headquarters (File Getty Images)

Head coach Jim Schwartz looks on during training camp at the Detroit Lions Headquarters (File Getty Images)

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Message sent, message received. Head coach Jim Schwartz benched starting RT Gosder Cherilus last week in favor of Corey Hilliard. Cherilus had incurred Schwartz’s wrath the previous week in Tampa for taking an ill-timed personal foul penalty. It allowed the Bucs to mount one last potential game-tying drive. But after the one-week stint in the doghouse, Cherilus was back at his usual starting right tackle spot during position drills Wednesday.

The Lions have some issues on their coverage units. Their top two gunners, Rashied Davis (hamstring) and Maurice Stovall (hand) are injured. For that reason, Schwartz had Jason Hanson boot every ball out of the end zone. It’s possible both will be out again this week.

PLAYER NOTES

–PK Jason Hanson is the only player left from the 1997 team that won in Minnesota. The Lions have lost 13 straight there since. “Something else starts to happen,” he said. “The team starts to think they can beat you. We are 2-0 and they are 0-2 and I guarantee you they feel like this is a game they can get because they’ve beaten us up there so often. That kind of thing starts to snowball on you, so we have to do something about it.”

–RB Keiland Williams played in the final two series against the Chiefs last week, but from the sound of it, he might not be ready for a bigger role. Coach Jim Schwartz said there were still some things he needed to “iron out” in the Lions’ system.

–RB Maurice Morris did not play a down last week after fumbling twice in Tampa. The broken right hand that kept out all preseason is healed, but the coaches are worried that it is not strong enough.

–DT Ndamukong Suh rushed the passer 23 times last week and wound up with one sack and one hit.

–WR Calvin Johnson is at the top of the NFL charts in touchdown receptions (4). He has more receiving touchdowns (33) since 2008 than any other player.

INJURY IMPACT

–TE Brandon Pettigrew is nursing a shoulder bruise. He did not practice Wednesday but is expected back Thursday.

–WR Calvin Johnson is playing on a sore left ankle. It didn’t seem to bother him on Sunday but he did not practice Wednesday.

–DE Cliff Avril has been nursing a bruised hand that forced him out of a couple of series on Sunday, but it was knee soreness that kept off the practice field on Wednesday.

–FS Louis Delmas continues to miss a couple of practices a week to take treatment on a hip pointer he sustained in Week 1. His play was not hampered against Kansas City.

–OLB DeAndre Levy (knee) did not practice Wednesday. His injury was not immediately revealed.

–DT Nick Fairley (foot) still has not practiced. It is doubtful he will return before Week 5.

–WR Rashied Davis (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday.

GAME PLAN

The Vikings defense will test the Lions’ patience on offense. The Vikings take away the back end with a lot of two-deep coverage. The Lions are going to have to be content to move the ball in short chunks and not try to throw into the teeth of that coverage. In the past, QB Matthew Stafford would try to force deep balls. He’s been better at taking what the defense gives so far this season.

Defensively, the Lions’ biggest worry will be RB Adrian Peterson and the Vikings’ short passing game. Expect them to bring one of the safeties, Louis Delmas or Amari Spievey, into the box. The Lions have also deployed the nickel package against the short passing game this year.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

Lions linebackers vs. Vikings RB Adrian Peterson — Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant will be on high alert. The Chiefs had success early running the ball at the edges of the Lions’ defense. After a minor adjustment, the linebackers got more involved and the problem was solved. Peterson had 160 yards rushing in the Vikings win last year; he was limited to 31 yards.

Lions LG Rob Sims and C Dominic Raiola vs. Vikings DT Kevin Williams — Williams is back after serving his suspension and you can expect him to be loaded for bear. There is no love lost between the Lions offensive line and the Vikings’ defensive line. The Vikings last year accused RG Stephen Peterman of playing dirty.

Lions WR Calvin Johnson vs. Vikings LCB Antoine Winfield — In their one clash last season (Johnson was injured when they met in Week 17), Winfield limited Johnson to six catches for 56 yards. That was with Shaun Hill at quarterback. It will be an altogether different challenge with Matthew Stafford throwing.

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