Detroit — The Detroit Economic Club held their 22nd annual Detroit Lions kickoff luncheon Wednesday afternoon at the Renaissance Center Marriott.
The event included a 10-minute panel discussion with Lions players Matthew Stafford, Devon Kennard, Jarrad Davis, Marvin Jones and T.J. Lang and a separate panel discussion with general manager Bob Quinn, team president Rod Wood and coach Matt Patricia. Here are some highlights from those talks.
■ On cutting the roster down to 53 players by Saturday, general manager Bob Quinn said he is facing some tough decisions.
“Training camp has been a really competitive situation at a lot of positions,” Quinn said. “I think over the next couple days, we’ve been talking about it for a few weeks, we’re going to have some really hard decisions to keep the best 53 players on the team. Sometimes it isn’t always the 53 most talented players, it’s really the right fits for us, our team going forward.”
That's interesting wording when you consider someone like rookie wide receiver Brandon Powell, who has been excellent this preseason, but doesn't have a clear-cut path to playing time if he made the 53.
■ And once Detroit is down to their 53, that doesn’t mean they’re done making moves. The Lions are expected to be active on the waiver wire this weekend. Quinn explained how much work his staff has put into researching other teams’ talent.
“We have to try to predict who those guys (getting cut) are going to be,” Quinn said. “The personnel list comes out at 8 o’clock at night and you have until noon (the next day) to decide whether you want to put a claim in on someone.
“You can’t be waiting until the last minute to do the work. I’d say, since the preseason games have started, myself and my staff, we go through every game. We create prospect lists, for each team, of guys we want to target and make sure we have a thorough evaluation on them, so if they do become available, it’s an easy decision. …Hopefully we can acquire some of those guys, if they can upgrade our roster.”
■ Quinn was asked about a pair of recent acquisitions, trading for Eli Harold and signing veteran Robert Ayers, who was released one day later. The general manager ignored the question about Ayers, but talked about the appealing versatility Harold brings to the table.
“We obviously scouted Eli coming out of college a few years back and followed his career in San Francisco,” Quinn said. “He’s a versatile guy who can play at the end of the line of scrimmage, can play off the ball, can rush the pass, set the edge and play in coverage.
“It’s a move we were excited to do.”
■ NFL coaches are so focused on the moment and rarely allow themselves to look ahead. It was out of character, given a fourth preseason game still to be played, but Patricia couldn’t contain his excitement about making his head-coaching debut on Monday Night Football.
“That desire for success, that everybody is craving, that’s not lost on me, one ounce,” Patricia said, when talking about his impression of Detroit's fans. “That is what drives me, every day, in the morning to work as hard as I can.”
As for opening on Monday night:
“Really, Monday Night Football is something, as a little kid, you just dream to be a part of. It’s something you sneak downstairs to watch with your dad as your mom is yelling at you to get back upstairs and go to bed,” he said. “To be a part of something like that, my first game here at home, with our fans, our crowd, our home-field advantage, I can’t wait.”
■ Wood was asked about changes to concession prices at Ford Field and had a good zinger at the $5 beer being offered at select concession stands in the stadium.
“Everybody focuses on that,” he said. “It’s maybe the best thing I’ve done (as Lions president).”
■ Speaking on some of the team’s preseason struggles, Patricia talked about how much he hates losing the games, but he constantly has to remind himself the situational evaluations are the most important thing to get out of the games.
“There are a lot of situations that come up in a game where I really have to fight myself internally, to just press forward and not go into a mode where we either are going to do something personnel-wise or maybe scheme-wise, so we’re not changing up what we’re doing to just go win,” Patricia said.
“I have to remember we still need to see this in this game and we still need to see these players or evaluate this scheme or look at this individual situation. That really has to come first. It really does. For us to have a great gauge of where our players are and do a proper job of evaluating them, we have to give them that opportunity.”
■ And while there are high expectations for a pair of Lions rookies this season, with guard Frank Ragnow and running back Kerryon Johnson primed for meaningful roles, Quinn revealed that his roster-building strategy focuses on what draft picks will be capable of contributing in their second year.
“Being a rookie in the NFL is really, really hard,” Quinn said. “The transition from college football to pro football is night and day for a lot of these kids. When we’re trying to evaluate college players, give them a grade on our draft board, we’re really saying, by year two, what can this guy be? That’s the timeframe I use. Some guys take shorter than that, some guys take longer, but generally speaking, that’s what we look for.”
That makes this a critical year for Davis, cornerback Teez Tabor, wide receiver Kenny Golladay, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, tight end Michael Roberts and cornerback and return man Jamal Agnew.
■ The conversation with the players was light on newsworthy information. Each was asked if they've experienced a lighter side with Patricia and not one was willing, or able, to provide an example. Even in this friendly setting, Patricia has his group trained to not to say much beyond cliches.