Your former quarterback is staying at Oregon. What do you think about that decision? COACH KELLY: Yeah, I'm happy for him. I know he comes from a great family. His mother and father value education. He's going to stay and get his degree. He's a really special young man. Everybody in the league will have to wait a couple years.
I loved coaching him. He's exactly what you want in a football player. I know everybody in Eugene is happy. Eugene is a special place. Take it from a guy who had a real tough time leaving there, I think it's a good decision.
Did you consult him at all in his decision?
COACH KELLY: No, I didn't. We're not allowed to talk to guys about that. I had nothing to do with it. They have a great plan in place at Oregon. Mark Helfrich does a great job there. I'm sure he provided them with everything he needed. I did not talk to him about any of that stuff.
The wide nine, the defensive front that the Lions play, is it different from what you've seen from other teams this year?
COACH KELLY: What is the wide nine? No, a lot of teams bull rush you, kind of tee off, go after you. They do it a little bit more in terms of the techniques that they play. If you don't have a tight end, there's no wide nine. I don't know where the name comes from.
First and foremost, they have really, really good players. The two guys inside are pro‑bowl caliber type players. I don't think the defensive ends get enough credit just because they have the two high‑profile guys inside.
They're well‑coached. They're physical. That's one thing that jumps out on tape, how physical that defensive front is. Any time you can get your guys to play hard, it's going to be a challenge for you to line up against them.
How much do you have to account for Reggie Bush on defense?
COACH KELLY: He's one of those guys that you got to know where he is on every play. They do a great job. Coach [Scott] Linehan runs their offense, does a great job of moving him around, putting him in different spots. He is not always the running back. He is going to be in the slot, he is going to be the single receiver. There's going to be an empty. He creates mismatches.
If it becomes a matchup game, you're trying to get somebody matched up on Calvin [Johnson], then you're trying to match up with the other receivers, the tight end, who is left to cover the back? They will expect that, especially depending on which linebacker you put on them.
When a team gives up so few yards rushing like Detroit, how much extra pressure does it put on the receivers and quarterback?
COACH KELLY: We don't talk about that. We'll have a game plan going in, and we'll just adjust. What people have played us in a lot of games so far isn't something we've seen on tape. There have to be some in‑game adjustments. I've been in some games where you say, it's going to be this way, and it's not that way.
We're going to do what we do, they're going to do what they do. We'll going to figure out how it works out.
You said that Lane Johnson is improving, still needs to work on some things. What are some of the things that you've seen recently that he's been very good at doing?
COACH KELLY: I just think he's a by‑product of his experience. He's got an opportunity to play in four pre‑season games, 12 regular‑season games.
The one thing about Lane, I don't know if people forget, he's very inexperienced as an offensive lineman. JC, he was a quarterback. When he first went to Oklahoma, he was playing tight end and defensive end. He was only on the offensive side of the ball at offensive line for a short amount of time.
I think every day out here you kind of see him improve. I think Coach [Jeff] Stoutland and Greg Austin have done a great job on him with just the intricacies, his sets, set lines, his angles of departure from the line of scrimmage, little teeny things, where his hand placement is, is he too far outside of his hand placement, is he getting his hands back outside. It's in the details.
He knows exactly what he's supposed to do and who he's supposed to block, but now working the intricacies that come along with just experience is what you're seeing from him. It's fun to see him progress each week.
I think for our rookies, Bennie Logan is a great example of that. You're watching Bennie each week getting a little bit better and better. Zach [Ertz] is a great example of that. It's interesting to see that. They're young and so new, they haven't seen it.
A lot of times you can talk about it, but until they actually go through it and experience it, they're not going to be able to fix it.
Nate Allen struggled for a couple years, playing better now. Have you seen progress from him?
COACH KELLY: Through the course of the season, yeah, I think Nate is playing better in game 12 than he did in game one. I think almost everybody is on defense. Understanding where he fits, how we do things. What we taught in the secondary is different than what they were taught before.
I've seen great improvement in Nate. I think that pick he made on Sunday was critical for us. You're starting to see him show up more and more and more. You're also starting to see him play with confidence which is really a key at this level.
Guys understand it, but can you go out there and not think, just react, trust your instincts and go play football. I think that's what we're seeing in Nate.
Have you guys tried to stress takeaways this year?
COACH KELLY: Yeah, I mean we always want to try to take the ball away from the opposing team. We stress takeaways on defense and ball security on the offensive side of the ball. We're always trying to go after it in practice.
It's one of the real big factors that you can look at in the NFL, or in college, that the turnover differential is usually when you're on the plus side you're winning games. That's a big, big thing for us.
And we work on it every day in practice. You watch us in pregame, in pregame everybody is catching ball. We want as many different people as we can to catch footballs. Having guys back that have great ball skills. Cary [Williams] has great ball skills. Bradley Fletcher has great ball skills. Brandon Boykin has outstanding ball skills. You are starting to see that show up. Those are the guys that are getting footballs for us.
Do you expect to have Earl Wolff or Jeff Maehl or Najee Goode available?
COACH KELLY: I don't know. I think Maehl is going to run around today. I think he's got to go to the independent and they'll tell us if he's cleared. Those things are a day‑to‑day thing. We don't have anything to say with that.
I'm hoping that Jeff is back. I don't know about Earl, to be honest with you. Then Najee, we'll see what he can do.
What is your recollection of Nick Fairley?
COACH KELLY: Really good football player. I think he was the best lineman in the country when we played him in 2010. He played that way when we played him in the championship game.
He's very, very difficult to block. He's a lot more athletic. He's physical at the point of attack but he can get off a block and chase plays down. Really starting to play well. I think the fact that you can put him next to [Ndamukong] Suh is really what makes that defense go right now.
Have screens to running backs always been a big part of your offense, or are you playing to the skill sets of LeSean McCoy and offensive linemen that are very good out in space?
COACH KELLY: Screens have always been a big part of our offense. It's another tool in your toolbox, kind of slows the rush down and take advantage of what some people are doing and make them defend everything. Screens have always been a big part of wherever I've been.
You have good screen personnel. Your linemen are more athletic and you have a running back that can catch the pass well. If you didn't have that kind of skill set, would you still be trying to use it as much?
COACH KELLY: No, I mean, I think you're always trying to exploit your linemen in terms of what they do. Kind of the question, if you don't have guys to run the ball, you're not going to run the ball either.
I think it's part of what those guys do. They're good in space. But our linemen at Oregon were good in space. That's part of what we're looking for. We're look for good athletic offensive linemen.
You said you had to monitor LeSean McCoy's carries a lot as he has gotten a lot of carries early in the season.
COACH KELLY: I said we would. You guys said he was having a lot.
You said you were going to make sure you were going to monitor his carries. How fresh does he look?
COACH KELLY: He looks fresh.
Can you elaborate?
COACH KELLY: Freshy, fresher, freshest. (Laughter)
He looks good. We don't have any ill effects. He is out here practicing every day. He comes out and practices on Tuesday and is running around. I think he looks good.
When you were putting together your staff, why did you want to go with two tight ends coaches? What's the dynamic between Ted Williams and Justin Peelle?
COACH KELLY: Justin is a guy I knew. He played at the University of Oregon. My last year there, he came up to visit. I have a lot of respect for him. Our tight end coach, Tom Osborne, coached him when I was at Oregon. Justin wanted to get into coaching.
I wanted to get a lot of young guys in here that are willing to work, do all the grunt work, the film breakdown, staying here till 1:00 in the morning, at night, make sure everything's all set for us.
I knew he was going to be one of those guys. Him, Greg Austin on the offensive side of the ball, Press Taylor, guys that will get all that stuff done. I think he's got a bright future from a coaching standpoint.
Then obviously with Ted, the first time I met him, sat down and had an interview with him, there's a lot of intelligent people in the world, but there's not a lot of wise people in the world. I think Ted has wisdom. A guy that has been around this organization for as long as Ted has, a great teacher, just a guy that, you know, that wily old sage veteran in the room that we can really bounce a lot of ideas off.
It was really important to have Ted be a part of the staff also.
Talk about the challenge of Calvin Johnson. Is anybody similar to him?
COACH KELLY: In this world? No. I mean, you look at the Cowboys game, you would think when you have a guy triple covered, they're not going to throw the ball to him. [Matthew Stafford] Staffs throws it to him and he goes up and catches it.
The combination of his size and his speed and explosiveness, I don't think there's anybody like that in this league. He can just go get the football.
I think sometimes when you're playing people, you can say, 'Hey, if we double this guy with our play call, we got two good guys that can double him. You're in good shape.' They're still going to throw it up and a lot of times he goes and gets it. That's what makes it really difficult with him.
When Lane Johnson lines up in the slot, would he have to report to the official to be eligible as a receiver or is that not what you're trying to do there anyway?
COACH KELLY: No, he's not eligible.
Would you ever consider having him eligible?
COACH KELLY: Sure.
They have two rookies and a second‑year guys on the offensive line and have only given up 15 sacks. What are the challenges that group presents?
COACH KELLY: I think a lot of the sacks, we've said it, I've said it, a lot of sacks are on your quarterback and a lot of not getting sacks are on your quarterback, too. And the one thing with Matt Stafford is how quickly he gets the ball out of his hands. He's got one of the quickest triggers in the league where he can get the ball out.
He's been with that system since he's been there. He has a great understanding of what they're doing. He knows where his receivers are. If you try to blitz him...I don't know why he doesn't get enough credit. I think he's one of the top quarterbacks in this league.
If you've ever seen him in person throw the football, he's got as strong an arm as there is in the NFL. I think he does a great job of also handling that.
It's the quarterbacks sometimes that hold the ball a little bit too much that are going to take the sacks. But Matt, that ball is coming out pretty quick and he can rip it.