Lions coach Schwartz focuses on few bright spots
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP)
Given a couple days to cool down after Detroit's lackluster performance in Cleveland, Lions coach Jim Schwartz was ready to move on and focus on the few bright spots.
Getting All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson back on the practice field and adding three veteran defensive players to the roster helped further brighten the mood on a sunny afternoon at the team's training facility.
Schwartz didn't back off his postgame comments that the Lions played ''poorly in all three phases'' during a 24-6 loss Thursday night in their second exhibition game, but did find good things to say about the team's pass rush and the play of running back Reggie Bush (five receptions, 44 yards) against the Browns.
''It's been said a lot of times that preseason games don't count and don't matter. It matters how you play,'' Schwartz said. ''There were a bunch of situations where we didn't play well enough. ... I don't want to take away from a lot of the good things that happened because I think there were some very bright spots in there. But we need to execute better and we derailed too many times with penalties, particularly on special teams.''
Besides Bush, the Lions' first-team offense struggled without Johnson, who missed the Cleveland game and practice leading up to it because of a bruised knee. He and quarterback Matthew Stafford connected on several long pass plays Saturday and the three-time Pro Bowl selection is on track to play when the Lions host the New England Patriots on Thursday night.
Schwartz said getting his star receiver on the field in the preseason is important because the way teams defend him significantly impacts the rest of the offense, but that it's ''not a deal-breaker,'' noting offensive coordinator Scott Linehan ''has a good handle for how people play Calvin.''
''You want to have all the pieces, because they all uniquely fit and it affects defenses and the way they have to defend them,'' Schwartz said. ''I think that's important.''
The Lions added four new faces to their defense Saturday, including three NFL veterans. They signed outside linebacker Rocky McIntosh and cornerback Rashean Mathis earlier in the day and also welcomed defensive tackles Justin Bannan and John Drew, who signed Friday.
McIntosh played six seasons for the Washington Redskins before starting nine games for the St. Louis Rams in 2012. Mathis, a 2006 Pro Bowl selection, played all 10 of his NFL seasons in Jacksonville and holds the Jaguars' franchise interception record with 30.
Bannan is an 11-year veteran who started 15 games for the Denver Broncos last season. Drew was an undrafted rookie free agent out of North Carolina Central.
Schwartz said the mid-camp signings weren't necessarily a message for the current roster.
''The only message we're sending is that we're going to keep on trying to add good football players,'' Schwartz said. ''It wasn't a reaction to anyone's play, more an opportunity to get those guys.
''Those are three veteran players, guys that played a lot of football in the NFL. We've got to get them up to speed pretty quickly, but all of them have a proven track record in the NFL,'' Schwartz said.
Mathis, who said he worked out for the team at 12:45 p.m. and was signed in time for the 3:15 p.m. practice, has NFL experience at the safety, cornerback and nickel back position. The former Pro Bowl selection was limited by knee injuries the past two seasons, but says he is 100-percent healthy.
''They're trying to find something that works. They're trying to find some veteran guys who know how to play football,'' Mathis said of the Lions' additions. ''I know the quality of play that good football players can play when they're healthy, and that can be a plus to the ballclub.''
NOTES: Among the players held out or limited in practice were defensive tackle Nick Fairley (illness), safety Louis Delmas (knee) and quarterback Shaun Hill (rest). ... Schwartz said the Lions are experimenting with rushing defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley from the outside because ''both of those guys have end athletic ability.'' He said the package gives the team flexibility along the front line and ''has a chance to be a nice part of our rush package.'' ... To make room on the 90-man roster for the new defensive additions, the Lions released cornerback Conroy Black, defensive end Braylon Broughton, linebacker Adrian Moten and safety Trevor Coston.