Ever since the Detroit Lions lost Ndamukong Suh to free agency, replacing the star defensive tackle has been a huge priority this offseason. Detroit made one big move in the wake of Suh’s departure, acquiring defensive lineman Haloti Ngata from Baltimore. Now, the Lions will see if anyone in the draft can help their defensive front. ”Very deep at defensive tackle especially – there are some quality defensive ends also,” general manager Martin Mayhew said.
The Detroit Lions, owners of the 23rd overall pick in next week’s NFL draft, are putting the finishing touches on their plans and draft board. Martin Mayhew is entering his eighth draft as the team’s general manager – and this is just the second time in his tenure that the team’s first-round pick is outside the top 20. The Lions have picked in the top 10 each of the last two years, but dropped this year after reaching the playoffs with an 11-5 record. It’s a little harder to predict who will be there.” Mayhew said Friday that he and his team are ”95 percent done,” with their draft board, with a few players still left to talk about and meetings to be had with coaches, personnel and team ownership.
The Sunday night and Monday night NFL schedule is where your eyes typically start, right? When the NFL releases the season schedule in full, as it did Tuesday night, you’re naturally drawn to the night games — especially those on non-Thursdays. We expect great evening theater in our pro football. But some of those games tend to fall flat. Some now, when the schedule is brand new, and some later, after we’ve found out that everyone’s Super Bowl favorite is actually a crappy team. That can happen as soon as September. But the league does its best to please its media partners — in this case, NBC for Sundays and ESPN for Mondays. (We’ll discuss the Thursday schedule in a different blog entry.) Does it always work? No, which is why we feel we can point out to you where it falls flat. Here’s a look at the week-by-week prime-time games for Sunday and Monday … and which ones you actually should watch: WEEK 1 Sunday: New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys Monday: Philadelphia Eagles at Atlanta Falcons; Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers Our take: Not a bad way to start the first week of football, but … maybe we expected a little more? Yes, we have a division rivalry with Cowboys-Giants, and maybe Odell Beckham Jr. (recurring theme alert) or Dez Bryant do something ridiculous; we’re in good hands with Al Michaels on the call there. And the next night, we have the wack-a-doodle Eagles, and I like my Chip Kelly after dark, so that’s good. But playing the Falcons? Kinda meh. And that’s the undercard? The nightcap is a battle of a Jim Harbaugh-less 49ers against a maybe Adrian Peterson-less Vikings? Consider us underwhelmed a bit. Verdict: We rank them thusly: in chronological order — Giants-Boys, then the battle of the birds, followed by that game out west. If you skip the last one, no one will question why. WEEK 2 Sunday: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Monday: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Our take: Oh, yeah. This is what we came for. A rematch of the NFC title game, but this time it’s in Green Bay. We’re already asking our bosses if we can go. This is choice stuff here, and yet it’s not a revenge — don’t be that fan. If the Packers win, it’s not going to make up for blowing a two-TD lead for a trip to the Super Bowl. Now that we have that out of the way … you wonder if the Seahawks’ banged-up secondary will be in top form this early in the season. Frankly, the Packers probably catch a mini-break getting the Seahawks this early in the season. As for the Monday game, this does’t look super sexy, especially with the Jets having a new coach and being rudderless (as of now) as QB. But think of it this way: A good Jets defense got better, adding Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and a good Colts offense got better, adding Andre Johnson and Frank Gore. Verdict: When we put it like that, the MNF game doesn’t sound so bad, eh? We know Sunday will be great. Watch both games. Trust us. WEEK 3 Sunday: Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions Monday: Kansas City Chiefs at Green Bay Packers Our take: Oh. Yeah, that’s our initial reaction. Look, these are four good teams on paper, and we could be treated to two very good matchups here. But Broncos-Lions in prime time? Hmm. We frankly thought this might be a Thanksgiving game or a Sunday game. We’re not complaining with a Peyton Manning night game in his possible swan song season. We’re not. It’s just … hmm. Same with the Monday game. Two straight at night at home for the Packers? Consider this: Many Packers fans make the drive up from Milwaukee, so that’s two weeks in a row with games on school nights. Verdict: Yeah, we’re still watching both. They’re just … weird matchups, that’s all. WEEK 4 Sunday: Cowboys at New Orleans Saints Monday: Lions at Seahawks Our take: We still love the Lions? They lose three-quarters of their defensive line and Reggie Bush and they get two early prime-time games early on. Just a feeling here that this one might flop. The Seahawks fans get geeked for night games, though, so there’s that. In the opening act, it’s no slouch. You have America’s Team heading down to the Big Easy — another town that loves getting well-lubricated before evening contests. These teams have had some nice battles in the past decade or so, so we can get behind that one. Verdict: If we’re being honest, we’re actually slightly more tuned up about the Cowboys-Saints game. WEEK 5 Sunday: 49ers at Giants Monday: Pittsburgh Steelers at San Diego Chargers Our take: Someone needs to explain this Niners thing to me. Are they going to be good? The Giants, we get — Beckham and Eli, and heck, I’ll say it: I think this is a better team than people realize. But the 49ers aren’t sneaking up on anyone, and we don’t mean that in a good way. This is not, we’ll safely predict, going to be up there with the 1990 NFC championship game or the 2002 wild-card madness game in this rivalry. Putting the Chargers on at night is dangerous. This could be the final season in San Diego, and that talk — moving to L.A. — could dominate the pre-game chatter, especially if Philip Rivers is not on the team. Maybe if Marcus Mariota becomes a Charger … Verdict: Check back with us after the draft. We’ll probably watch both, but we might need a decent reason why.
The long NFL offseason seems a little more palatable when there’s a Week 1 opponent to look forward to. Each NFL team found out who it will start the 2015 regular season against, and the rest of the schedule too ( see the entire schedule here on NFL.com ). The opening game of the season will be the Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the defending champion New England Patriots on Thursday, Sept. 10 (a favorable break for the Patriots because the Steelers will be without All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell due to suspension). The first “Sunday Night Football” game of the season, on Sept. 13, will be the New York Giants traveling to face the Dallas Cowboys. As usual, the NFL has a doubleheader scheduled for “Monday Night Football” in Week 1. The Philadelphia Eagles, one of the most interesting teams this season after a flurry of offseason moves, play at the Atlanta Falcons in the first game. The San Francisco 49ers will host the late Monday night game against the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson … if Peterson is still with the Vikings. The NFL decided to go with three NFC vs. NFC games on Thanksgiving for the second straight season. The Eagles kick it off at the Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers will play at the Dallas Cowboys, and the third Thanksgiving game will be the Chicago Bears at the Green Bay Packers . That will be the Packers’ first home Thanksgiving game since playing the Hammond Pros in 1923. There will be rematches of each conference championship game from last season, and each rematch will be on “Sunday Night Football.” On Sept. 20, the Green Bay Packers will host the Seattle Seahawks on NBC, which is one of the most interesting games on the entire regular-season schedule. The New England Patriots will play at the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 18 in a prime-time game. There was also a welcomed change for the Denver Broncos in this year’s schedule. For years, a CBS conflict with the U.S. Open tennis tournament prevented the Broncos from opening the season at home in their usual late-afternoon slot. The U.S. Open is moving to ESPN this year. So the Broncos will open the regular season at home against the Baltimore Ravens in the late-afternoon time slot, in one of the best games of Week 1. The NFL’s regular-season schedule release has become a big day on the sports calendar, in many ways overshadowing the NBA and NHL playoffs. The schedule release was covered with two hours of programming on ESPN’s networks, and there was a three-hour schedule release show scheduled for NFL Network. – – – – – – – Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
The Detroit Lions released guard Rodney Austin on Tuesday, four days after police in Charlotte, North Carolina, charged him with assault on a female and assault on a child under 12. According to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff Department’s website, the 6-foot-4, 330-pound Austin was also charged with interfering in an emergency communication and misdemeanor larceny. An undrafted rookie free agent out of Elon in 2012, Austin joined the Lions as a member of the practice squad. He appeared in two games during his three seasons in Detroit, including the team’s NFC wild-card game against Dallas last season.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed quarterback Tim Tebow, more than two years removed from his last NFL action, to a one-year contract Monday. The Eagles made it official after news broke Sunday evening of the agreement. – – Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who rarely participated in offseason workouts while with the Detroit Lions, was present on the first day of the Miami Dolphins’ offseason program. Suh signed a six-year $114 million contract — $60 million guaranteed — with the Dolphins last month, making him the highest-paid defender in NFL history.
There are a few ways to judge an NFL player’s popularity, but the amount of merchandise he sells might be the best way. And if you believe that to be true, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the NFL’s most popular player. Again. For the second straight season, Wilson led the NFL Players Association’s player sales list. That takes into account all officially licensed products, including jerseys, Fatheads, ugly sweaters and bobbleheads. Wilson led all players in jersey sales and ugly sweaters (I had no idea NFL ugly sweaters was actually a thing until this list was released … and I’m glad I didn’t). Wilson’s rise to stardom is easy to track: He’s an exciting player, some fans probably relate to him overcoming odds to be a top quarterback at 5-foot-11, the Seahawks have won a ton with him and they have a fan base that loves to buy merchandise. Seahawks players like cornerback Richard Sherman (No. 7), running back Marshawn Lynch (No. 9), safeties Earl Thomas (No. 29) and Kam Chancellor (No. 30) also made the NFLPA’s list. No. 2 behind Wilson isn’t a big surprise; it’s Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (he led all players in bobblehead sales). Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was the top non-quarterback, checking in at No. 6. Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel, who wasn’t too impressive in two starts as a rookie last year, still finished No. 10 in sales. There are also a lot of people who bought LeSean McCoy’s Philadelphia Eagles gear only to have it rendered obsolete when McCoy was traded to the Buffalo Bills this offseason. McCoy ranked 14th on the NFLPA’s sales list. Here’s the entire top 50 from NFLPA, based on sales from the 2015 fiscal year of March 1, 2014, through Feb. 28, 2015: 1. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks 2. Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos 3. Tom Brady, New England Patriots 4. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers 5. Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers 6. Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys 7. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks 8. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans 9. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle Seahawks 10. Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns 11. Jason Witten, Dallas Cowboys 12. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints 13. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots 14. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles 15. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts 16. Clay Matthews, Green Bay Packers 17. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys 18. Brandon Marshall, Chicago Bears 19. Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions 20. Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants 21. Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers 22. Eli Manning, New York Giants 23. DeMarco Murray, Dallas Cowboys 24. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers 25. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins 26. Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles 27. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings 28. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs 29. Earl Thomas, Seattle Seahawks 30. Kam Chancellor, Seattle Seahawks 31. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay Packers 32. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins 33. Victor Cruz, New York Giants 34. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers 35. Matt Forte, Chicago Bears 36. Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens 37. Patrick Willis, San Francisco 49ers 38. Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers 39. Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh Steelers 40. Demaryius Thomas, Denver Broncos 41. Julian Edelman, New England Patriots 42. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers 43. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers 44. Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers 45. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals 46. Devon Still, Cincinnati Bengals 47. Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers 48. A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals 49. Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings 50. Wes Welker, Denver Broncos – – – – – – – Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab