The Detroit Lions have desperately tried to improve what has been a weakness Jamize Olawale Jersey , signing and drafting players to improve their running game.
Detroit ranked last in the NFL last season in rushing offense and has been among the league’s worst on the ground offensively in recent seasons.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn has made it a priority to fix the problem.
He signed veteran LeGarrette Blount in free agency and moved up in the draft to select Kerryon Johnson in the second round.
The newcomers will compete with or perhaps push out Ameer Abdullah in what has become a crowded backfield with running backs Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington also on the roster.
”We got a lot of talent,” Johnson said Tuesday after a minicamp practice. ”A lot of these guys are good. I’m stepping into a lot of competition. A lot of these guys have played in the past. A lot of these guys want to keep playing in the future.
”At the end of the day, it’s going to make us all better.”
Detroit selected Frank Ragnow 20th overall in the draft, counting on him to play alongside four returning starters to bolster the offensive line. The former Arkansas center looks as if he’s getting a shot to play left guard with the first-string offense.
”He just kind of fits in with the group,” coach Matt Patricia said. ”You’re not really looking at it and saying, `That’s out of place,’ like it looks like it’s out of place. I haven’t noticed that at all.”
Anyone watching the Lions, especially under former coach Jim Caldwell , noticed they simply couldn’t run the ball well consistently.
That played a part in Caldwell getting fired and Matthew Stafford directing a one-dimensional offense that led to him being sacked 47 times last season.
In short-yardage situations, especially near the goal line, Quinn saw the Lions come up short all too often and frankly acknowledged their toughness was lacking.
”That bothered me,” he said after the draft. ”So, I took it upon myself to implement some changes in terms of what we want to do.”
The first change Quinn made to address the issue in the offseason was adding the 31-year-old Blount in the opening days of free agency. He helped Philadelphia and New England win the past two Super Bowls and reunited with an executive he knew from their time together with the Patriots.
If the season started this week Ryan Griffin Jersey , it appears the 6-foot, 247-pound Blount would be the No. 1 running back.
”He’s obviously a big dude,” Stafford said last month. ”Big, physical guy. Obviously, has played in some big-time games for some successful teams.”
If Detroit doesn’t block better, though, it may not matter who is running the ball.
The Lions didn’t have a true fullback on their roster last season and now they have a pair of them, converting Nick Bellore from linebacker and drafting Nick Bawden in the seventh round. More importantly, they invested a first-round pick in Ragnow to effectively replace Travis Swanson.
”On paper should our run game be better? Yeah, probably,” Quinn has said. ”The pieces are there. Now it’s really up to all of us in the building to kind of make sure these guys produce at a high level.”
NOTES: Safety Glover Quin participated in minicamp after missing voluntary workouts earlier in the offseason. When Quin was asked if he was considering retirement, he paused for several seconds before saying, ”No.”
Turns out there were enough bodies on offense for the Kansas City Chiefs to practice after all.
The Chiefs opened a three-day rookie minicamp on Saturday after selecting six defensive players in last week’s draft, though one of them – defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie – is expected to transition to offensive guard. But with 14 rookie free agents and another 43 players in for tryouts Kyle Long Jersey , there were plenty of bodies to make up an offensive, defensive and special teams unit.
Don’t sleep on the unknown guys, either.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid pointed out that just a few years ago, an unheralded wide receiver named Albert Wilson impressed him during the same weekend. Wilson hung around for the next phase of the offseason program, survived training camp and ultimately made the Kansas City roster.
This past offseason, Wilson signed a $24 million, three-year deal with the Miami Dolphins.
”Albert just made about $8 million,” Reid said with a smile, ”so there’s been a few. You invite them to the next phase and the next and eventually they make the roster.”
Still, it’s the draft picks that will draw the most attention this weekend.
The Chiefs didn’t have a first-round pick, so they used their initial selection on Ole Miss pass rusher Breeland Speaks in the second round. Speaks is expected to push last year’s second-round pick, Tanoh Kpassgnon, for playing time right out of the gate opposite standout linebacker Justin Houston.
”I did get the playbook,” Speaks said. ”My first reaction was Brad Nortman Jersey , `I can do this.’ I looked at a few defenses we installed today and went over those and know those by heart already.”
With two third-round picks, Chiefs general manager Brett Veach continued to shore up his defense. He grabbed 315-pound run-stuffer Derrick Nnadi out of Florida State and then Clemson hybrid linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, both of whom could also factor into the starting rotation this fall.
The Chiefs were thin along the defensive front, even after signing Xavier Williams in free agency and retaining Rakeem Hunez-Roches as a restricted free agent. And with the expected departure of erstwhile pass rusher Tamba Hali, and injury woes to Dee Ford, finding another linebacker was paramount.
McKenzie, the son of Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, was also in attendance, as were fellow sixth-round pick Tremon Smith and Texas A&M safety Armani Watts, who could be the steal of the draft.
Watts dropped to the fourth round after concerns about his workouts at the combine, but the four-year starter said he had bulked up in the hopes that it would help him out. Instead, it only slowed him down and already Watts has reverted to his lean, fast playing weight.
The Chiefs are hopeful that he factors into the defense right away.
Star safety Eric Berry is returning from a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, and reliable safety Ron Parker was released in a cost-saving move. That leaves plenty of questions at the back of the defense.
”It’s a little bit different for those safeties Chris Baker Jersey ,” Veach said, ”because they are like the quarterbacks of the defense where they have to line up people and make the calls and adjustments. That is no different than any safety, even if you draft them in the first round.
”Breeland is someone who we feel can come in and help us right away. Derrick, Dorian and Armani can certainly do some different things while he grows and understands the system a little bit better.”
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
The Chiefs signed 14 rookie free agents on Saturday, including former Kansas State wide receiver Byron Pringle. The local product left school a year early and has intriguing size at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, but he needs to showcase better hands than he did playing just down the road.
The Chiefs also signed RBs Darrell Williams and J.D. Moore from LSU; OL Ryan Hunter (Bowling Green), Jimmy Murray (Holy Cross) and Devondre Seymour (Southern Illinois); TE Blake Mack (Arkansas State); WR Elijah Marks (Northern Arizona); QB Chase Litton (Marshall); DB Arrion Springs (Oregon) and D’Montre Wade (Murray State); LBs Ben Niemann (Iowa) and Raymond Davison (California); and DT Dee Liner (Arkansas State).
The Chiefs also had 43 players on tryouts during the three-day rookie minicamp, including DB Elliott Berry. The undrafted rookie from Tennessee is the younger brother of the Chiefs’ star safety, Eric Berry.
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