August 30, 2014 at 7:51 pm

Terry Foster

Lions show progress with cuts, but Jim Caldwell remains key to success

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell claps on the sidelines during the third quarter of Thursday's exhibition game against the Bills in Orchard Park, New York. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)

The Lions 53-man roster is set, and let me make a confession: I really do not know where this team is headed.

My guess is itís a middle-of-the-road ballclub. Others disagree and believe the Lions will make the playoffs and be a dangerous dark horse.

When you look at the product on the field during the exhibition season it appears as if this is the same old Lions team that makes too many mistakes, is undisciplined and unfocused. Quarterback Matthew Stafford seemed to make the same mistakes and the offensive line appears to be nice at pass blocking but marginal at run blocking.

However, head coach Jim Caldwell and his staff are the wild cards. I have to believe he was holding more things back than previous coach Jim Schwartz did in the exhibition season. We wonít know what Caldwell is all about until kickoff during that Monday Night Football spectacular against the New York Giants.

That is when we discover the real Jim Caldwell. Will he remain the mild-mannered guy we saw run a mild-mannered offense in the exhibition season? Or will he be the mild-mannered guy who unleashes the inner dragon in him?

The NFL Network ranked head coaches from 1-32 and Caldwell did not get much respect. He was 27th on the list, and now he has a chance to not only win but build his resume. Players swear by this guy. Running back Reggie Bush said he is a better man having known Caldwell.

Lions players have a history of talking up coaches. Now they must play for them. The jury is out on Caldwell. He finished the 2010 season 10-6 with Peyton Manning and 2-14 the following season with Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter.

However, there are signs of progress. The Lions released running back Mikel Leshoure when he was at his best. I watched Leshoure turn from a chubby guy with a gut who made the team to a more sculpted guy who looked more like a running back. But he is no longer good enough to make the team because of the Lionsí depth at running back.

Wide receiver Kris Durham also is gone. This is another guy who played his best and did his best but he is not good enough for a playoff-contending team. He not only played a lot for the Lions, but he played important minutes in important games because of injuries.

It is a sad weekend for Leshoure and Durham but it is a significant sign of progress for the Lions.

There are two guys who were cut who I want the Lions to keep around in hopes they develop into players who can help. I like running back George Winn and cornerback Mohammed Seisay, a rookie out of Nebraska always seemed to be around the ball.

It was interesting to see the Lions kept three quarterbacks. Kellen Moore must continue to outperform Dan Orlovsky in case something happens to Matthew Stafford. Moore won over the hearts of the people by playing with heart during the exhibitoin season.

I always rooted for local kid Chris Greenwood to show something on the field. He played at Detroit Martin Luther King and Albion College. He was the pride of all the small colleges in the state of Michigan but he never showed signs of being a playmaker for the Lions.

Leshoure, Durham and Greenwood represent three names the Lions hoped would become something. They never did, but now that they are gone perhaps this is a sign their replacements are a little better.

At least Lions fans hope so. That will be an all-day party for fans, but it will also be the day we learn more about Caldwell and the men he coaches.

terry.foster@detroitnews.com
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