On Saturday, the Cleveland Browns will take on the Detroit Lions for their first preseason game of the year. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Sean Yuille from Pride of Detroit and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Jim Caldwell is getting his second shot in the NFL to be a head coach. How has he been perceived by Lions fans thus far, and how does that compare to the reaction from when he was first hired?"
Sean: "The reaction when he was first hired was one of disappointment. Not only did the Lions unexpectedly get spurned by Ken Whisenhunt, who chose to take the Titans' head coach job instead, but Caldwell was viewed as an unexciting candidate from the get-go. Actually, he wasn't really viewed as a serious candidate by many until it became clear that he was going to get the job, and fans generally just saw him as someone who let things fall apart in Indianapolis.
Since then, the opinion of Caldwell has changed quite a bit. Personality-wise, he's really the opposite of Jim Schwartz, and the Lions really needed a change in that department with the way things went in 2012 and 2013. What's more, Caldwell put together a really solid coaching staff, and he has been focused on fixing the problems that caused the Lions' second-half collapse last season (turnovers, not finishing games, dumb penalties, etc.). So far, I'd say most fans are pleased with what they've seen out of Caldwell."
Chris: "The Browns signed former Lions WR Nate Burleson this offseason. Aside from the broken arm/pizza ordeal, do you think Burleson still has enough in the tank to be a starting receiver?"
Sean: "Burleson actually got off to a great start last season before he broke his arm. When he eventually came back, he wasn't nearly as effective, but I suppose you could say that about the Lions offense as a whole at that point in the season. I do think he can be a solid No. 2 in an offense that doesn't rely on passing the ball nearly as much as the Lions. Don't expect him to take over games or anything like that, but as long as he can stay healthy, I think he can be a solid contributor for the Browns. (Plus, he's great to have in the locker room.)"
Chris: "This offseason, the Lions re-signed Brandon Pettigrew and drafted Eric Ebron. Do you expect one player to start over the other, or will both guys be on the field at the same time?"
Sean: "On their depth chart, the Lions are listing Pettigrew as their only starting tight end. In reality, though, Pettigrew and Ebron will likely be on the field together quite a bit. Pettigrew is more of a blocking tight end who will be on the line of scrimmage, whereas Ebron is more of a "move" tight end who will line up out wide and in the slot quite a bit. They really have different roles in the Lions offense, which is based on what offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi saw during his time as New Orleans' quarterbacks coach. Ebron is playing the Jimmy Graham role, and Pettigrew is essentially serving as a Benjamin Watson-type player in Detroit's offense."
Chris: "What is the most closely-contested position battle the Lions have in camp this year, when it comes to a starting role?"
Sean: "I would say strongside linebacker. The Lions drafted BYU's Kyle Van Noy in the second round this year to fill that role, but Ashlee Palmer is returning after starting last season. Currently, Palmer is listed ahead of Van Noy on the depth chart, but all along the expectation has been for Van Noy to be the starter by the time the regular season begins. That is still the expectation, but perhaps Palmer could hang on to his starting job for the time being with a strong preseason."
Chris: "When the second- and third-stringers enter the game, tell us briefly about a player or two who is relatively unknown but has been turning heads in camp."
Sean: "On offense, wide receiver Corey Fuller has had a really strong camp. He spent last season on the practice squad, and he's fighting for a roster spot this year, so it'll be important for him to have a good preseason.
On defense, George Johnson has been surprising a lot of people at defensive end with Ziggy Ansah on the PUP list. Johnson has spent time with the Buccaneers and Vikings in the past, and he was really viewed as nothing more than a camp body when the Lions signed him this offseason. Now, though, he's at least gotten himself into the mix for a roster spot. It remains to be seen if there will actually be room for him at defensive end once Ansah returns, but if nothing else, he's made things interesting at the position."
Thanks again to Sean for taking the time to answer my questions. You can read my answers to Sean's questions over at Pride of Detroit.