Lions’ defensive backs remain primary concern

Allen Park — The Lions’ defensive line has performed so well in the first two games that it has exposed the team’s biggest weakness.

The lackluster play of the linebackers and secondary remains a primary concern, with only one interception and seven pass breakups in the first two games.

There is a sense of urgency for the back seven to take advantage of the defensive line’s pass rush. The Lions are tied with the Packers for the league lead with 10 sacks.

“We have to,” cornerback Jonathan Wade said Monday afternoon. “The defensive line is getting sacks. When we get a chance to get our hands on passes, we have to hold on to them.”

Wade had a chance for an interception in the second quarter of Sunday’s 35-32 loss to the Eagles. Michael Vick’s pass meant for DeSean Jackson went through Wade’s hands in the end zone.

The drive continued, and five plays later the Eagles scored a touchdown for a 17-14 lead.

On the failed interception attempt, Wade stared at his hands in exasperation for several seconds before trotting back to the defensive huddle.

“I felt like I let the team, the city and all the fans in the stadium down,” Wade said. “That play would have ended that drive. They don’t go down and score.

“I’ve got to make it when I get the chance.”

Coach Jim Schwartz expects a cornerback to make interceptions on plays like that. Wade was running with the receiver, but there was no contact. He had a clear shot at catching the ball. In fact, it was almost as if Vick had made him the primary receiver.

“Jonathan Wade needs to make that play,” Schwartz said at his regular Monday press conference. “You need to make that play in the NFL.”

Breakdowns in pass coverage are obvious, but Schwartz was unhappy about a play by the back seven that let LeSean McCoy break free for a 46-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The play should have been stopped for a gain of a yard or two, Schwartz said.

“We’re not playing well enough on the back end,” he said. “We’re not playing well enough at linebacker and defensive back.

“Our defensive line has played well. It can play better, but it is playing well.”

Stafford’s view

Quarterback Matthew Stafford watched Sunday’s game with the coaches in the press box. Stafford was out with an injured right shoulder.

Schwartz wanted him to get a different view of the game, away from the sideline. The press box environment is more clinical, away from the emotion.

“I just wanted to give him a little different perspective … away from the emotion of the game a little,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz would not give an update on Stafford’s condition, or when he might return to practice.

“He’ll play quarterback again for us when he’s healthy, and when he’s able to do all the things he needs to do.”

Hill OK

Quarterback Shaun Hill had no lasting effects from a shot he took on the last possession. Hill was hit on the first play after the Lions recovered the onside kick at their 43. Hill was limping noticeably but didn’t seem to have a problem Monday.

“I just kind of got rolled up a little bit,” Hill said. “It’s OK.”

The Eagles doubled wide receiver Calvin Johnson all game, jamming him at the line with a cornerback and keeping a safety over the top, Hill said. Johnson had 11 passes thrown his way but had only four receptions.

“It gave us some good match-ups with our running backs and tight ends,” Hill said of the attention on Johnson.

Rookie running back Jahvid Best had nine catches for 154 yards. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught seven passes for 108 yards.

Burleson update

Wide receiver Nate Burleson will take treatment all week on a sprained right ankle in an effort to play against the Vikings on Sunday.

“I have no idea right now,” Burleson said when asked if he will play in the next game. “I’m going to continue to hit the treatment two or three times a day.”

Hill was hurt on the first play Sunday. He caught a pass for a 4-yard gain. He was hit first by a cornerback, then by linebacker Ernie Sims, a former Lion.

Burleson joked about Sims being mad that the Lions traded him in the off-season.

“The first player he tries to take it out on was me,” Burleson said. “I wasn’t even here.”

Burleson signed as a free agent in March.

Sept. 20, 2010