Even in preseason, is it time to be concerned about Detroit Lions?

Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer

DETROIT — The images were far too familiar. Matthew Stafford dropping back, seeing his offensive line accordion in front of him.

When he was on the sidelines, he saw his defense do exactly the opposite: Allow his quarterbacking counterparts to get all the time they needed to find an open man and complete a pass. Or have a running back have an easy lane to run through.

This was a theme of 2017 for the Lions – lack of protection for Stafford and lack of pressure on opponents. And it was among the things Detroit supposedly had fixed heading into this season, particularly the bit about keeping Stafford upright. Yet in the second preseason game, none of that really happened.

Stafford, when he was in for three series, was sacked twice. All night, Detroit’s running backs had little to no room to run. Giants backup quarterback Davis Webb had enough time to complete 14 of 20 passes and not get sacked. And New York’s top two running backs – neither of whom was super rookie Saquon Barkley – averaged over 5 yards per carry.

If all of this sounds like a repetition of past years, well …

“It looked bad,” offensive lineman Kenny Wiggins said.

Yes, it is still early. Preseason being preseason, everything should be viewed with the caveats of the lack of game-planning and nuanced play-calling along with players themselves getting into shape and fewer reps to find a rhythm. But as many veterans know and what has played out year over year is this: Early can get late in the NFL faster than any player or coach would like. So a performance like this, preseason be darned, is reason for concern heading into when games really count three weeks from now.

This isn’t a judge of the final score of either preseason game. It’s more that when the starters were in, nothing looked particularly good other than a play here or there. The players and Matt Patricia said all the things you figured they’d say after a game like Friday – they have to get better, it’s still early, it’s preseason. But there was also some acknowledgement of, well, how rough it looked.

“It’s disheartening to see us not perfect our technique. It’s disheartening to see us not execute what we’ve been executing all week,” defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois said. “It’s disheartening not to see certain things that you sit in a building from morning till night going over and then when you get on the field you don’t see it done.

“Like I said, we got two more weeks and [Saturday] is the first day to start correcting these situations and start correcting to stop that run. Because if you don’t stop the run you have a lot of great NFL teams in the league that have good running backs and O-lines that can just move that ball whenever they choose to.”

Every area had issues. Matt Prater missed a field goal. TJ Jones had a drop that led to an interception. The Lions looked discombobulated and at points without any sort of energy.

Had Stafford and the starters played an entire game it’s possible things would have looked different. But based on the small sample size, the Lions look far away from the team they need to be to have success this year. Patricia acknowledged as much, calling what the Lions have to do a “big job in front of us” and that his team didn’t play well at any position.

There’s no denying any of that. It looked like it live. The tape essentially confirmed it. And while yes, it is early, if the Lions don’t get things fixed over the next two weeks things could be really problematic once games start counting in September.

“We have to come together as a group,” Jean Francois said. “The coaches can talk until they’re blue in the face. We have to come together as a team and we have to show Matt Patricia that we can master everything that he asks us to do.

“Because if we don’t, it’s going to be a long season and we ain’t trying to have a long season around here.”

http://www.espn.com/blog/detroit-lions/post/_/id/34146/even-in-preseason-is-it-time-to-be-concerned-about-detroit-lions

Photo: Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

Tigers’ Martinez ready to call it quits after season

ESPN News Services

Detroit Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez said after Wednesday’s 6-5 home loss to the Chicago White Sox that this season will likely be his last.

“I’m pretty sure this is going to be it,” said Martinez, who will be 40 in December. “Like I said, I’m just enjoying these last six weeks and finally go home.”

Martinez, who singled as a pinch hitter Wednesday, is batting .244 this season with six home runs and 39 RBIs.

He said that despite a disappointing season for the 50-71 Tigers, he still feels fortunate to play the game.

“I tell the guys you have to enjoy it,” Martinez said. “We’re lucky to be here just in this [locker] room. You have to enjoy every moment because you never know where you’re gonna be tomorrow.”

He has a .295 career batting average with 243 homers and 1,163 RBIs in 1,945 games with the Indians, Red Sox and Tigers.

Martinez, who spent the bulk of his career as a catcher, is in the final season of a four-year, $68 million contract.

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/24385862/tigers-dh-victor-martinez-pretty-sure-retire-end-season

Photo: Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports

Kenny Golladay could be breakout star, key to Lions’ offense

Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — Kenny Golladay will lean back ever so slightly in the Detroit Lions’ meeting room and begin to speak. In front of him is an explanation of something they were going to work on or had just completed, and Golladay just isn’t quite sure of it.

So the second-year wide receiver takes his massive frame, pushes back and asks the receiver behind him a question. And Marvin Jones Jr. almost always has the answer.

“He’ll ask me a lot of different things,” Jones said. “Sometimes a play or sometimes what should I have done right there or what would you have done. Stuff like that. Whatever question pops in his mind, he asks.

“He wants to be that guy that’s dominant and stuff like that, and you see it transfer on the field.”

Dominance has been a big word in Golladay’s lexicon so far this training camp. While often choosing not to talk with the media, he did say in a rare-for-this-year interview that his plan was to “dominate every day and that’s just what I’m looking forward to.”

That’s come intermittently — but his presence is noticed. The Lions’ tallest receiver at 6-foot-4, Detroit selected him in the third round last year in part because of his jumping ability, catch radius and knack for grabbing the ball at its highest point. Combined with his speed for a bigger receiver, it made him a tantalizing early threat — something enhanced by his two touchdowns in both the preseason and regular-season openers in 2017.

Then he went quiet for most of the year, in part due to a hamstring injury that cost him five games of his rookie year. But the potential was intriguing. Then he started lining up on the outside during training camp opposite Jones with Golden Tate in the slot and had flashes of dominance again.

It’s reason to think he could be a massive key to Detroit’s offense this fall. Among receivers with 20 or more receptions last season, Jones was first in the league with 18.05 yards per catch. Golladay was fifth at 17.04 yards.

Having the two of them on the field at the same time with Tate, the NFL’s yards-after-catch leader among receivers last season, forms a dynamic combination most teams in the league don’t have.

“It is trouble for the defense,” tight end Michael Roberts said. “It’s so many options on both sides of the ball. If you put the two of them on the same side, it’s even more trouble. It’s just a well-balanced offense.

“You saw what we did, drafted a running back, brought in LeGarrette [Blount], took an O-lineman in the first round (center Frank Ragnow) so that’s obviously speaking to our run game, and that’s what they want — they want to run it. So it’s just becoming a very balanced offense and it’ll show soon.”

It’s also one that has the big-play capability because of Jones and Golladay — but specifically Golladay. With the three receivers on the field at the same time, teams will struggle where to shade a safety or straight up double a player. Focus too much on the short game with Tate and Theo Riddick and both Golladay and Jones win one-on-one matchups with corners. Focus on the deep threats and it leaves Tate and Riddick underneath to move the ball.

“Everything,” Golladay said, “works in together.”

Golladay becomes a bigger option, too, with the departure of tight end Eric Ebron. Golladay has the height (6-foot-4) of Ebron with better jumping ability. He also could siphon some of the targets that went to Ebron since the tight end combination of Roberts and Luke Willson is unlikely to garner the attention Ebron did last year. This could lead him to be the breakout player on a veteran offense with multiple pass-catchers at every position.

It helps, too, that Golladay grasps the game better than he did a year ago. He understands how to face longer corners and how important the details are to turn him from a receiver with potential into one of the better ones in the NFL.

“He’s understanding the game,” cornerback Nevin Lawson said. “He’s understanding where he needs to be. I can tell he’s focused.”

That’s on the field, where it’s shown through his play and his numerous grabs over Detroit’s defensive backs in the red zone and out of it. Then off the field, in the meeting rooms, he’s focused more, too.

And there, where he’s still learning, all he has to do is turn around to find the answers. Because sitting there is Jones. And that’s been a help, as he’s learning new parts of the offense under a different head coach.

“Just understanding the full concept of what we’re doing, which he’s learning, which has been good so far. Just really being consistent with all of that information,” Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “It’s one thing to kind of come in as a young player, learn a specific role, be consistent with just that information.

“But now once you expand the information, to make sure that is continually improved upon as that goes through.”

Photo: Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

http://www.espn.com/blog/detroit-lions/post/_/id/34104/kenny-golladay-could-be-breakout-star-key-to-lions-offense

Former Tiger Martin fighting life-threatening bacterial infection

Cleveland Indians outfielder Leonys Martin had a bacterial infection that attacked his organs and was life-threatening, but he is in stable condition and improving, Indians president Chris Antonetti said.

Antonetti addressed the team Monday and said that Martin, who has been hospitalized at Cleveland Clinic for nearly a week, is recovering and his outlook is good, but that “progress will be measured in weeks, not days.”

Antonetti said that Martin had a bacterial infection that entered his bloodstream and damaged his internal organs. Antonetti said the organs started to shut down, and it was “severe.”

“Thankfully, he’s made a lot of progress in the last 24 to 36 hours,” Antonetti said. “He’s regained a lot of the organ function. We’re optimistic. He’s on a good path right now, and we’re hopeful that he’ll have a full recovery. But he’s got a long path to get back to full health in front of him. It’s going to take some time.”

The Indians acquired Martin, 30, from the Tigers on July 31 just before the non-waiver deadline. He became ill last Tuesday night and did not play Wednesday. On Thursday, the Indians placed him on the 10-day disabled list. On Friday, some Indians players wrote Martin’s name on their hats, and manager Terry Francona asked fans to pray for him.

“What I would say, if you believe in saying prayers and things like that, keep him in your thoughts,” Francona said.

In six games with the Indians, Martin is hitting .333 (5-for-15) with two homers and four RBIs.

Antonetti said he did not know whether Martin would play again this season.

“I haven’t even thought about baseball,” Antonetti said. “He’s got a long path to get to full health in front of him. It’s going to take him some time, but we’re in a much better spot today than we were 24 to 36 hours ago.”

http://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/24368344/leonys-martin-cleveland-indians-battling-bacterial-infection

Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Former Pistons coach Van Gundy: ‘Really lost’ about future

ESPN News Services

Former Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy says he is feeling “lost” after not finding another coaching job since parting ways with Detroit at the end of last season.

In an interview with the Real Talk Basketball with Rex Walters podcast published Friday, Van Gundy said he was still hoping to coach again but that no opportunities are presenting themselves.

“If I could get a job [for next season], I had planned to coach. Now, I really don’t know,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really lost right now. I don’t have an idea. My wife wants me to retire.”

If he doesn’t coach, Van Gundy, 58, said he is considering media opportunities or teaching at the college level.

“I want to do something, but if I’m not coaching, I don’t want to work too hard,” Van Gundy said. “If I’m going to be grinding, then I want to coach. If I’m not going to be coaching, I want to be semi-retired, at least. I really don’t know.”

The Pistons and Van Gundy parted ways after a 39-43 season in which they missed the playoffs for the second straight year. He was replaced by former Toronto Raptors coach and reigning NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey.

Van Gundy, who has also coached the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic, has a career record of 523-384.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24349831/stan-van-gundy-admits-feeling-lost-coaching-job

Red Wings re-sign Dylan Larkin to 5-year contract

ESPN News Services

The Detroit Red Wings have re-signed restricted free-agent center Dylan Larkin to a five-year contract, the team announced Friday.

The team did not release terms of the contract, but according to multiple reports, the total value of the deal is $30.5 million.

Larkin, 22, posted a team-best 63 points for the Red Wings while appearing in all 82 games in 2017-18.

The 2014 first-round pick has 56 goals and 84 assists in 242 career games for Detroit.

http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/24340148/detroit-red-wings-re-sign-dylan-larkin-five-year-contract

Photo: ESPN News Services

Would unlikely Khalil Mack trade make sense for Lions?

Every week during the preseason, we’ll be taking some of your questions for a Detroit Lions mailbag. To ask a question for a future Mailbag, use the hashtag #LionsMailbag on Twitter or email michael.rothstein@espn.com.

Now, on to this week’s questions.

Michael, there’s definitely a difference with Matt Patricia instead of Jim Caldwell. Practices are more intense. There’s more running. The pacing is different and, obviously, the defensive scheme is different. Every coach is going to bring his own philosophy and that has been obvious.

As far as specifically Miles Killebrew, I don’t think what Patricia is doing with him is that much different than what Teryl Austin tried to do with him. Austin attempted to put Killebrew in the best position, which was a sub-package player who was essentially a hybrid linebacker/safety. It seems like that’s what Detroit is looking at Killebrew as again. The difference this year is that Killebrew – in my opinion – hasn’t looked quite as good. Now there’s a long way to go between now and the regular season, but the combination of adding Tracy Walker as a third-round pick as well as the flexibility of Quandre Diggs and the re-signing of Tavon Wilson has put Killebrew in a tough spot, roster-wise. It’s why I’ve consistently mentioned him as a possible trade target. That would only increase if this coaching staff believes in Charles Washington as much as the last staff did, particularly on special teams.

But Detroit is trying to put Killebrew in a bunch of different spots right now to see which one, if any, fits best. The Lions did this with a lot of players in the past; Austin happened to be quite good at that. Don’t think the comparison to Kyle Van Noy is accurate because Van Noy was always going to be a player who was better in a 3-4 system – something obvious in New England. If Van Noy was still a Lion now, I think he would have found a role in this defense.

On the face of it, it seems insane, Ben, but with every day Khalil Mack doesn’t report to camp and if the Raiders really believe they can’t sign him, it could be possible that Oakland would try to make a deal. First the logistics on that. For any team to trade for Mack, it have to be convinced it could sign him to a long-term deal. Unlike Major League Baseball and the NBA, NFL general managers and head coaches hoard draft picks like the rarest of diamonds. And if I’m the Raiders – again, this is me being the Raiders­ – I’m asking for a reasonable amount of draft picks for Mack. So there’s that. I also would do everything I could, if I were the Raiders, to try and retain Mack.

With that being said, if I’m Bob Quinn, I’m at least poking around while I’m in Napa, California, this week to see what it would take to trade for the star pass-rusher. There’s no question Detroit needs pass-rush help, and the team’s top pass-rusher, Ezekiel Ansah, is playing on the franchise tag, has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career and turns 30 next year. Trading for Mack – depending on what it would cost – would give Patricia an elite pass-rusher and give Detroit’s talented secondary an established pass-rusher to create havoc. Do I think it would happen? No, I don’t. But if I’m Quinn I’m at least asking about it just in case.

Tigers trade Fiers to A’s, for real this time

By Blake Froling

It’s officially official this time. 

A week after a deadline deal with the Oakland Athletics fell through, the Detroit Tigers sent pitcher Mike Fiers to the A’s for cash considerations or two players to be named later, according to the team.

In his first season with the Tigers, Fiers is 7-6 with a 3.48 ERA and 87 strikeouts over 119 innings pitched. He’s been at the top of his game lately, posting a 2.10 ERA over his last six starts.

Fiers, 33, exited his last start against the Cincinnati Reds after two innings when he was struck on the shin by a line drive. X-rays were negative and he isn’t expected to miss any time. 

Baseball-Reference has his wins above replacement at 3.1, tops on the team, while Fangraphs has Fiers much lower at 1.2, which is fourth among Tigers starting pitchers. Based on which site you trust more, Fiers is either a quality middle of the rotation starter or a veteran that will eat some innings without too much damage. 

The Tigers signed Fiers in the offseason to a one-year, $6 million dollar deal after he spent two and a half seasons with the Houston Astros, where he owned a 4.59 ERA. 

Oakland is one of the hottest teams in baseball right now after winning six games in a row. They’re 2.5 games ahead of the Seattle Mariners for the second AL Wild Card spot and could use additional pitching depth behind Sean Manaea and Trevor Cahill. As for Fiers, he doesn’t have to go very far since the Tigers are in Anaheim right now. 

Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

Lions DE Ansah off PUP list

Associated Press

ALLEN PARK, Mich. — The Detroit Lions have removed defensive end Ziggy Ansah from the active/physically unable to perform list.

The Lions announced the move Monday. They have not said what injury caused Ansah to go on the PUP list.

Ansah hasn’t played a full 16 games since the 2015 season. He is back with the Lions for this season on the franchise tag.

Ansah played in 14 games last season and finished with 12 sacks, including three each against the Giants, Bengals and Packers. Detroit drafted him in the first round in 2013.

http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/24301799/detroit-lions-remove-ziggy-ansah-pup-list

Photo: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire

Pistons agree to deal with former Wolverine Robinson III

Free-agent small forward Glenn Robinson III has agreed to a two-year, $8 million deal with the Detroit Pistons, a source told The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.

The contract has a team option on the second year, the source said.

The deal can’t be officially announced until Friday but Robinson tweeted Sunday that he was headed back to Michigan, where he played collegiately for two seasons with the Wolverines.

Robinson, 24, was limited to 23 games for the Indiana Pacers last season after he suffered an injury to the medial and lateral ligaments in his left ankle during a Sept. 29 practice. He underwent surgery in October and didn’t make his season debut until late February.

The 2017 NBA Slam Dunk champion, he blossomed into a solid contributor the previous season for Indiana when he averaged a career-high 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. Robinson shot .392 from the 3-point line, converting 49 of his 125 attempts.

At the time of his injury last season, he was shooting .412 from 3-point range, making 14 of his 34 attempts.

http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23966202/glenn-robinson-iii-agrees-join-detroit-pistons