Behind Enemy Lines: Cardinals open season in Detroit vs. Lions
After a seemingly endless NFL preseason, the regular season is here.
The Arizona Cardinals open their 2017 season with designs on washing the taste of a disappointing 2016 campaign in Detroit against the Lions at Ford Field Sunday morning at 10:00 AM.
It’s the third time the two teams have opened a season against each other in the Motor City since the Cardinals relocated from St. Louis in 1989. The then-Phoenix Cardinals knocked off Detroit 16-13 to start the 1989 season. The Lions defeated Arizona in 2003, 42-24, despite a record-setting performance from rookie receiver Anquan Boldin, who had 10 catches for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
They’re not division rivals, but the Cardinals and Lions are no strangers to each other. Sunday marks the 13th time the teams have faced each other since 2000, with Arizona winning nine of those, including the last seven.
All week, we’ll take you to Detroit to give you an inside look at the story lines and players as the Lions prepare to host the Cardinals.
It’s Behind Enemy Lines.
Saturday, September 9
No team ran more no-huddle in the preseason, and on a fast track in a dome in Week 1, expect them to go after an Arizona defense that is missing some of its top players from last season.
• Will Lions deal for a defensive lineman? And why rotating captains? (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
So if the Lions struggle Sunday getting to Carson Palmer and none of those young options show immediate breakout potential, the Lions should at least look at some veteran options there – even if it is just until Bryant returns to the rotation after Week 4.
• Niyo: Caldwell’s future with Lions could be on the line (Detroit News)
And as he begins his fourth season as the Lions’ head coach, not to mention the final year of his contract in Detroit, he knows where the questions are headed even before they’re finished.
• Detroit Lions vs. Arizona Cardinals scouting report, prediction (Detroit Free Press)
For the Lions to win, they have to keep Chandler Jones off Matthew Stafford, they have to get steady production out of their two-headed backfield, and they have to contain David Johnson. If either Jones or Johnson gets loose, and if Ziggy Ansah can’t provide some pass rush of his own, it’s going to be a long day for the Lions
Friday, September 8
• Time for Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take next step, become great (Detroit Free Press)
The newly minted highest-paid player in NFL history, Stafford will be under more scrutiny and have more pressure to perform than ever before. And that’s saying something considering he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2009 and the top high school recruit in the country before that.
• Niyo: All eyes on rookie Davis as he takes center stage (Detroit News)
The Lions’ settling on Jarrad Davis with their first-round draft pick this spring wasn’t exactly a surprise. Neither was the decision to immediately entrust him with the starter’s role at middle linebacker. But it is a calculated risk, even more so than relying on rookie Taylor Decker as the team’s starting left tackle a year ago.
• Washington will likely handle Lions’ kick returns (Detroit News)
During the preseason, Washington brought back three kickoffs, averaging 17.7 yards. He only returned two last season, as a rookie, but had a 96-yard touchdown during the preseason.
• Scouting the Detroit Lions offense heading into 2017 (MLive.com)
The Detroit Lions open the season on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. Here’s a snapshot of what to expect from their offense this season.
Where is the Detroit Lions pass rush going to come from this season?
It has become the prevailing question about this team, given they weren’t very good last year, already lost Kerry Hyder this year and will play their first four games without Armonty Bryant because of another suspension.
• Lions’ Ameer Abdullah eager to put injury behind him, take game to next level (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
Ameer Abdullah never thought the Lisfranc injury he suffered against the Tennessee Titans, the one that knocked him out of the 2016 season as it was just getting started, would significantly alter or end his career.
• Eric Ebron’s role might change as the 2017 season goes along (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
There’s been little question that when Ebron has been on the field, he’s productive. He’s improved every year, including a career-high in catches (61) and yards (711) last season. He said toward the end of last season that his goal was 1,000 yards for this year.
Thursday, September 7
• Glover Quin’s secret to being an iron man for Lions? Toughness a key (Detroit Free Press)
Quin’s durability has been invaluable to the Detroit Lions during his four seasons in Detroit, and that’s a big reason why the team felt comfortable giving him a two-year contract extension earlier this summer at age 31.
• Detroit Lions’ 2016 defense wasn’t THAT bad; they were average (Detroit Free Press)
Do you know where the Lions ranked on defense last year? They were 18th overall and 13th in points allowed.
• 2017 Detroit Lions preview: Breakdowns, predictions, analysis (Detroit Free Press)+
We’ve come to the precipice of the 2017 NFL season, which means the Detroit Lions are at the start of their 88th season, 84th in Michigan. Here’s what you need to know about the Lions entering this year.
• Detroit Lions are more talented now than they were in 2016 (Detroit Free Press)
The Lions are more talented than they were a year ago. That doesn’t mean they will be better. Nor does it mean they will win more games.
• They may deny it, but benching in ’15 changed Matthew Stafford’s career (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
Looking back now, it seems like a turning point in his career. Stafford and Caldwell downplayed that Wednesday as the Lions prepare to face Arizona for the first time since. But the statistics since then are undeniable, as is Detroit’s 16-11 record since and the $135 million contract Stafford signed last month.
Wednesday, September 6
• 2017 Detroit Lions game-by-game predictions: Will team make playoffs? (Detroit Free Press)
Breaking down the 2017 Detroit Lions schedule, game by game.
• Is Curse of Bobby Layne real? 1957 Detroit Lions say team’s jinxed (Detroit Free Press)
At a roundtable discussion the Detroit Free Press hosted July 26 at Andiamo Italian restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Zatkoff joined linebacker Joe Schmidt, receivers Dorne Dibble and Steve Junker, defensive end Gene Cronin and former assistant general manager Bud Erickson to discuss the curse and other topics for the 60th anniversary of the team’s last championship.
They all agreed: The Curse of Bobby Layne is real.
• Detroit Lions depth chart: Tate to return punts; Worrilow starting OLB (Detroit Free Press)
Golden Tate hasn’t returned a punt since the 2015 season, but that didn’t stop the Lions from listing him as their starting punt returner on their first depth chart of the season released today.
With that, here are game-by-game predictions from MLive beat writer Kyle Meinke. (For those curious, he went 11-5 in last season’s preseason picks.)
• From dismissal to acceptance: Jeremiah Valoaga’s road to a Lions roster spot (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
Rookie Jeremiah Valoaga didn’t think he would be here, standing off to the side of the Detroit Lions indoor practice field a few weeks ago, taking questions about his past, explaining his unexpected road to the NFL.
• What we learned from roster cutdown (DetroitLions.com)
For example: 11 positions will have new starters for Sunday’s regular-season opener against the Cardinals compared to last season’s opener against the Colts. The most extreme makeovers are on the offensive line, with four new starters out of five, and at linebacker, where newcomers are in two spots and Tahir Whitehead has been moved from the middle to the weak side.
• Rookie Jarrad Davis learning from his preseason tape (DetroitLions.com)
Detroit Lions rookie Jarrad Davis did some good things in the preseason, but the Lions’ starting middle linebacker made mistakes too.
Tuesday, September 5
• Larry Fitzgerald to test Darius Slay, rest of Detroit Lions secondary (Detroit Free Press)
Slay said he got beat by Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on a pass route early in his career, and immediately after the play Fitzgerald told him how and what he did wrong.
• Detroit Lions RB Tion Green: Special teams helped win roster spot (Detroit Free Press)
When news broke that the Lions traded Johnson Bademosi to the New England Patriots, Green got a phone call from his mother wondering if that meant he made the team. Bademosi was ahead of Green on special teams, so perhaps his departure created a roster spot.
• Lions haven’t made any clear, drastic improvements from last season (Detroit Free Press)
Where are the Lions significantly better this year than they were last year, when they cut some sort of Faustian deal to pull off an NFL-record eight fourth-quarter comebacks, finished 9-7 and squeaked into the playoffs, only to get blown out by the Seattle Seahawks?
• Houston native D.J. Hayden commends J.J. Watt, pushes for relief effort (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
“I feel like all this turmoil kind of brings people together,” Hayden said. “There’s a lot of people out there helping out, and it’s just unfortunate because of all the water, all the damage that it’s done. People think about it’s a lot of damage, but a lot of people’s lives are altered from it.”
• How Verizon gave Detroit Lions DB Charles Washington a cut-down day scare (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
It was the worst kind of false alarm. Earlier in the week, Washington had visited the Verizon store in Allen Park, Michigan. So the 313 area code was actually an automated message, asking him if he had any feedback or questions about his recent visit.
Then the message said “Thank you for being a Verizon customer!”
• Need proof the preseason means ‘squat diddly’? Look at 2008 Lions (ESPN.com NFL Nation)
They thought — thought — they had the chance to be contenders. Instead, the 2008 Detroit Lions became the first 0-16 team in NFL history.
• Lions on edge: Surviving cut day brings relief (Detroit News)
Tion Green cannot remember experiencing the anxiety he felt on Saturday.
Like many of his teammates, the exuberant running back sat by his phone all morning and afternoon, waiting for the dreaded call that would let him know he was being cut.
• Rogers: Lions’ toothless pass rush gambling on potential (Detroit News)
The Lions established their 53-man roster and 10-man practice squad over the weekend, and the glaring concern that’s lingered all offseason remains unanswered with the season opener a week away.
Where are the Lions going to find a pass rush?
• Can the Detroit Lions return to the playoffs? (MLive.com)
It hasn’t happened in more than two decades.
No, we’re not talking about a Detroit Lions postseason win (yes, that was 1991), but instead the last time the franchise made the playoffs in consecutive years.
• Detroit Lions play it coy with return jobs (MLive.com)
The Detroit Lions are expected to release their depth chart for the season opener as soon as today, but Jim Caldwell is playing it coy at both both kick and punt returner.
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