The Lions will enter the 2012 season exactly the way they exited 2011 -- with more questions than answers in the secondary.
Safety Louis Delmas (knee) and cornerback Chris Houston (ankle) did not practice Monday or Wednesday. There is a chance that neither will play Sunday. That means, most likely, that rookie Bill Bentley will start at right corner and newly-signed veteran Drayton Florence will start at left corner. Florence's first practice was Monday.
At safety, the Lions will go with veterans John Wendling, a career special teams ace, and Erik Coleman, who won the starting job from third-year Amari Spievey. There is no other backup safety on the roster.
Barnes could be used as an emergency fill-in at safety.
--C Dominic Raiola not only studied film from the Rams' preseason games, he also went back and studied the Lions' two games against the Saints last season. Why? Because Fisher originally hired former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams (suspended for his role in the bounty scandal) and presently Williams' son Blake is calling the defensive signals. But even that didn't reveal any magical insight into what the Lions might see Sunday. "I don't think it helps at all," Raiola said. "I think it's a totally different scheme. I am sure that question has gone through (Schwartz's) mind a million times, but there are different hands on that defense now. I'm sure Fisher has his stamp on it, but there are a bunch of different people influencing the calls."
--DT Ndamukong Suh was asked about his relationship with coach Jim Schwartz on Wednesday. "I am not saying I wasn't close with him," Suh said. "Everything is a learning process. It's just like if you have a newborn, you have to understand what that newborn wants and needs to grow to be a strong woman or man. It's the same process." Suh's closest relationships, outside of his teammates, are with defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham and defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Those are the coaches he spends the most time with. "The biggest thing is that (he and Schwartz) continue to grow and continue to understand each other," Suh said. "I did the same thing with coach Bo (Pelini at Nebraska) - understanding him and what he wanted and what he expected. Now me and Bo are very, very close. I think me and Jim will end up being very, very close when it's all said and done. But I still have to learn and understand what he wants from me in terms of being a player and a professional."
--CB Bill Bentley, third-round pick from Louisiana-Lafayette, will most likely start on Sunday. "It would be an honor and a blessing to be out there with the starters unit from all the hard work I'm putting in," he said. "It'd be nice to start. If I don't start, oh well. When my number is called, I'll come in and contribute to my team any way possible - special teams, at the corner spot, anywhere." If he does start, he knows the Rams will test him early and often. "No doubt. I want to be tested," Bentley said. "Give me an opportunity to make plays, and give me a couple spotlights."
--DE Cliff Avril knows the numbers, but he's not putting much stock in them. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked 9.3 percent of the time he dropped back to pass, the second most in the league. "We definitely feel like we should go out and dominate, and that's the goal every week," said Avril. "But they're doing different things to try and give Bradford some time in the pocket."
--QB Matthew Stafford's commercial promoting Monday Night Football is a hit both inside the locker room and outside. But Stafford is taking it in stride. "Those guys know I don't take myself too seriously," Stafford said. "Between the lines I'm trying to be as good a football player as I can, be as good as leader as I can. But I have fun just like everybody else. I can make fun of myself. I know I'm not perfect. It's fun to do. And as long as other people laugh, I'm cool with it."
QB Shaun Hill, who runs the Kangaroo Court inside the team's quarterback room, said the commercial is going to cost Stafford some money. "Every time I see it," Hill said, straying from protocol to explain the $5 penalties that cover everything from gratuitous Jumbotron appearances to unexcused bathroom breaks during games. "Anytime you're on national TV, it's a fine."
--S Louis Delmas has not practiced since having surgery on his right knee Aug. 7. He is not expected to play Sunday. Veteran John Wendling will start in his place.
--CB Chris Houston has not practiced since injuring his right ankle in the final exhibition game Aug. 25. He has been running and working with a trainer during practice. Coach Jim Schwartz won't decide until Friday whether or not Houston will play Sunday, but it's doubtful. Veteran Drayton Florence is expected to start in his place."
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was sacked 9.3 percent of the times he dropped back to pass, second most in the NFL last season. The left side of the Rams offensive line includes third-year tackle Rodger Saffold and rookie Rokevious Watkins. The Lions pass rushers on the right side, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Willie Young, Ndamukong Suh should be able to wreak some havoc on Bradford and the passing game.
But, as always, to contain the Rams offense the Lions will need to contain running back Stephen Jackson, who has had big games against the Lions in the past. The Lions have struggled against the run the last three seasons, so the challenge is formidable.
On offense, look for the Lions to test the Rams young secondary, particularly cornerback Janoris Jenkins.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz vs. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher: This will be intriguing for the simple fact that the two know each other so well. Schwartz worked on Fisher's staff in Tennessee for 10 seasons and has essentially co-opted his defense. This is more than a mentor-protege battle; their football philosophies are identical.
Lions secondary vs. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford: The Rams typically were a one-trick pony on offense; and it was a powerful pony - RB Stephen Jackson. But with the Lions secondary seemingly in disarray, you have to expect Bradford to attack it early and often, if for no other reason than to open up the game for Jackson.
Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.