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Justin Rogers | Detroit Lions Insider, Detroit News

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January 6, 2023 6:06 am

Justin Rogers | Detroit Lions Insider, Detroit News

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January 6, 2023 6:06 am

 Detroit Lions insider Justin Rogers joins the show to talk about an incredible turnaround from the team this season, and a potential win-and-in scenario vs the Packers on Sunday Night.

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No one's more locked into the NFL than First and Pod. Why is it not within the realm of possibility that Geno Smith was a victim of a horrible organization, bad offensive coaching, and then went and played behind three high-level talents and only got spot starts and did okay, by the way?

Well, because it's just it doesn't really happen that often anymore. Subscribe to First and Pod on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts. Subscribe to First and Pod on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcasts. Please, to spend some time in Detroit right now, and for the first time in a long time, welcome a Lions-specific guest to After Hours. Justin Rogers covers the Lions for the Detroit News and joins us.

It's past his bedtime, but this is a big deal. Lions finally get flexed the very last weekend of the NFL season. Dan Campbell gets his wish. What's the atmosphere, the tone around the team right now as they head into this final week of the regular season? It's funny, you go into this season and every single one of the Lions games were at one o'clock on the dot.

I don't know if I've ever even seen something quite like that. A little bit of a curveball in week 18, but there is a genuine excitement. I think the thing that I've appreciated about Dan Campbell is a lot of coaches will try to downplay the magnitude of the moment. They'll try to keep their guys level. It's just another game. We have to treat it like another game. That has been the exact opposite of how he's approached this. He has embraced the moment. He wants his guys to recognize the magnitude of the moment. It's a very young roster.

I believe that the start of the regular season was the second youngest in the NFL. This is a big test for them. They've won seven of nine. They've clawed out of this one and six hole. They're figuring out how to win. They're figuring out how to finish games. They're figuring out how to overcome these hurdles that have plagued the organization for years that maybe they don't have an appreciation or understanding for, but it matters to the fan base. This is really the latest of those challenges of being under the bright lights and playing in a game that is potentially very meaningful with a playoff spot on the line. If not, still the opportunity to finish with a winning record to show that this rebound is on the right track and to knock the Packers out, which I think is not a bad consolation prize for these players and certainly for the fan base. Well, and stranger things have happened. They're in line for a playoff spot.

It very well could fall to them depending on what happens with the Seahawks and the Rams. So Justin, last year in Dan Campbell's first season, they were competitive. They fought, they scratched, they clawed. They made life difficult for their opponents, but the wins didn't necessarily come as a result. What has been a difference this year in some of these games where they actually have been able to come away with the W's? Well, there's a lot of differences obviously, but I remember last year in training camp watching the practices and I turned to a colleague and no hyperbole.

I just said, look, this might be the worst offense in the NFL. It was just, it was incongruent. The talent wasn't there.

They weren't meshing. And really that kind of came into fruition for the first three quarters of that season. And look, late in the year, I'm on Ross St. Brown and merged, has really become one of the league's bright young stars at that position. They picked up Josh Reynolds, not a star by any means, but a guy that had chemistry with Jared Goff and they started clicking at the end of that season. They go into this off season, they get more pieces. They go sign DJ chart, the offensive line, which was a revolving door of injuries last year.

All those guys get healthy or most of them get healthy. And this offense has been one of the best in the NFL this year. The defense really struggled out the gate, uh, kind of was on pace for, you know, to be one of the worst defense in the history of the NFL, but they've kind of figured some things out too, schematically, um, the young unit, as I mentioned, kind of with the rest of the rosters that are all kind of growing together. We've got so many rookies contributing in the starting lineup that they're on pace, just one more stack. They're going to have the most stacks by rookies in NFL history.

So it's just, it's a matter of a young roster, jelling at the right time, building on their experiences and coming together. And you're seeing that we're so excited to be talking about the lions as we head into week 18, still alive for a playoff spot in the NFC Justin Rogers covers the team for the Detroit news. How long have you been covering this team?

This is year 11. Sometimes I stopped counting and counting by the number of coaches at some point. Oh man, it's after hours here on CBS sports radio talking defense at a young defense.

I am captivated by Aiden Hutchinson. What difference has he made on that side of the ball? You know, the lines pass rush was really awful for, uh, you know, basically the entirety of, of Matt Patricia's tenure here and they really needed help there. Um, and, and Hutchinson's been a big part of that, right? He's been a stabilizing force. You look at the snap counts, he's played third or fourth most snaps of any defensive line in the entire NFL rookie wall be damned.

This guy just plowed through it and just. You know, maybe two weeks ago, I felt like it was a week three. He's just got, um, really impressive endurance stamina to, uh, continue to contribute at a high level late in the season, despite never really doing this for, um, the playmaker, the sacks are there. The pressure's there at three interceptions. I mean, you know, that's a, a really flukey set for a defensive end, but he has that, that rare athleticism to match the, the, uh, the motor that goes into it.

And then the lines recently, you know, another guy that just merits mention is James Houston. Six round draft pick on the practice squad for half a year. I call him up before the Thanksgiving game. He plays five snaps as debut, two snaps, two sacks in five snaps, and it has not stopped. He's played a hundred snaps. Approximately he has eight sacks. He has more sacks than Aiden Hutchinson.

He has more stacks in anybody in NFL history in their first six games. This guy has been a game changer and you don't really looks like the lions stumbled upon a gym here that has a long term or the potential to be a long-term piece. It's pretty incredible to think about, uh, the trajectory of the team and the, and similar actually to the Packers.

Now their experience is different, but we're kind of dead in the water and now have put together this awesome second half, which forces the clash in week 18. Other than say Jared Goff, who of course has been to a Superbowl, how much experience does this team have in games where you're talking significant stakes on the line? Yeah, we looked it up today and we were just kind of counting the guys on the roster that have playoff experience.

It was more than I expected. You know, there's 15 guys, but that's when you start getting down to guys that maybe are primarily special teamers or even the kicker. But you know, a lot of these guys also played at high level programs. I talked to Hutchinson today and I said, how much does this, this experience compare to the Ohio state game last year? When you went into it undefeated knowing for years, your program at Michigan struggled to beat Ohio state, but you needed to beat them to get to the next goal to get to the college football playoffs. I mean, it's, it's very similar in a lot of ways.

It's the bright lights shining. And so they've gone through these experiences in, in other ways. But that is the test this week, right? It's, it's how will these guys respond? They've, they've responded to most of the challenges along the way. There's the, the Carolina game where, you know, they got punched in the mouth and it was a little bit of a. An unexpected jarring experience for them, but they, they responded in the following week and they came back and they beat the bears handily 41 to 10. So they keep responding to these little challenges within the whole tired of the season.

And this is just the latest one. When that trade went down and Matthew Stafford went to LA, it seemed as though the lions had gotten the raw end of the deal Rams go on to win the super bowl and Stafford has this great season, but where have you seen Jared Goff make an impact? What is different, better in season two with the lions? Yeah, I want to go back to that trade for a second. And it really, it felt like the perfect trade for both teams. You know, lions were clearly tearing it down to the studs and with Jared Goff, they also got back to first round picks and a third pick. That's a lot of draft equity to, to kickstart a rebuild.

And then you look at Goff as a piece of software. It's a former number one draft pick. It's a guy that had been to two pro bowls. He had led a team to the super bowl and you know that there's, there's talent there.

There's limitations. Otherwise the Rams wouldn't have dealt him, but it's something you can work with from the terms of a toughness standpoint, a leader standpoint, a talent standpoint. You're not going into a season with a guy that can't play the position at all. And I think Goff had some fairly clear flaws in his, his resume, you know, never was a guy that really dealt well with pressure. His deep ball was never, you know, close to the top of the league in terms of accuracy when throwing downfield. And he had a propensity for, for making almost a mistake, a game, a big mistake, a turnover, a bad decision that would, you know, maybe it would or wouldn't cost a team depending on the roster talent. But this certainly was a roster that could afford that one big mistake.

And even this season starts a year during that one and six stretch. There was so many of those plays where he made the big interception, the loss to Seattle. He had a pick six. They lose by three. New England, they're kind of hanging tough in the first half. He loses a fumble.

It's returned all the way for a touchdown and they end up getting blown out in that game. Man, he has turned a corner in the second half of the season and it's, it's really unbelievable. All those criticisms I just said, the deep ball, the mistakes, they've all evaporated.

And it's, you know, some of that has to do with the roster getting healthy. Some of that has to do with his, um, you know, indescribable chemistry with, with first year offensive coordinator, Ben Johnson, and kind of the symbiotic relationship they built. But I think the most impressive thing about golf has been this Greek of passes without interception for years.

Like, you know, I, like I said, he averaged about, you know, nearly a pick a game for, for some stretches. And he has thrown 290 consecutive passes. He's gone a streak of seven games without an interception.

I mean, it just blows away anything he's ever done previously. He's making such good decisions with the football. And I made the comment today that like, it's almost like he and Aaron Rogers have flipped the script of what their careers about. Aaron Rogers has always been that ball security guy, right?

Right. Look at this year, 11 interceptions, even when they're winning right now, this four game winning streak. Not Aaron Rogers is the reason they're winning. It's their defense at their special teams.

He's playing very pedestrian right now. I think it's all 87 passer rating, four touchdowns, one per game, two picks during this, this four game stretch. Like it's just, it's, it's so strange to go into this game and think about the way the quarterbacks are playing coming into it. It's just the opposite of what you'd expect going into this one. I actually have made the comment that I won my fantasy football championship in spite of having Aaron Rogers as my quarterback.

So I know well, uh, in terms of his numbers, his stats, uh, that they weren't MVP. Like Justin Rogers is with us from the Detroit news, talking about the lions week 18 against the Packers. And there are playoff implications on Sunday night football. It's after hours here on CBS sports radio. Certainly this was a different week for the NFL.

A typical week. What did you hear from the lions, whether it be players or coaches about, uh, watching and waiting for news of DeMar Hamlin? It's such a strange thing, right? You know, we, we watch this game, we're around this game all the time and you know, you know, inherently the risks of, of the violent nature of the game is that anybody can be one play away from something awful happening.

But yet we see this and it's just so jarring for all of us. And the lions had a situation earlier this season where, you know, cornerback was, was hit in the head. Uh, neck shoulder area went down, was temporarily paralyzed. The ambulance had to be driven onto the field and, and you have that eight to 10 minutes of just chilling silence as everybody's just kind of waiting and hoping and praying that that he's all right. It wasn't quite to the level of Hamlin, obviously the heart was still beating. The movement was restored before he was taken off the field, but it's just so, so terrifying.

And it just, um, you know, just is a constant reminder of, uh, every play is nothing's given to you, you know, that the next moment is not given to you in this world. And, um, defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn really brought it home today. Um, in a, in a way, I guess I had completely forgotten, um, at least in his role in it, but the lines have had their fair share of, of tragedy, uh, on the field. Um, Chuck Hughes in 1971, the only player to ever die in an NFL game played for the lions in 1991, um, Mike Utley was paralyzed. And in 1997, in the last game of the season, a game fairly notable for, for Barry Sanders, becoming one of the few running backs, the top 2,000 yards in the season linebacker Reggie Brown had to receive life-saving CPR after a spinal injury, uh, caused the blockage at his airway and kind of very similar to the Hamlin situation. And in that game, Aaron Glenn was on the opposing team playing for New York jets.

And not only that Reggie Brown was his college teammate and close friend. And so that game, that injury occurred with 11 minutes to go and what's wild is, you know, they, they finished the game. They finished the game after they watched a player on the field, turning blue and purple in the face and, and getting CPR. And just the moment, like you just, you don't know what's happening to this, this guy, whether he's your teammate or your opponent, like it's still a brotherhood.

Right. And so they had to, you know, kind of find a way to quickly bury those emotions and it's impossible. It's impossible path to ask somebody to bury their emotions in situations like that, but they had to finish that game. Um, and so, you know, just, just to hear Glenn talk about it from that perspective was, um, just a, just another reminder of, uh, you know, how precious, I guess, uh, you know, life is for all these players. And I guess the, um, it's obviously just been good news after good news after good news after Hamlin went down and it's, uh, you know, hopefully going to continue in that direction. I think everybody's just hoping for the best right now.

Definitely feels as though the league can move forward into week 18 with less of that heaviness and the concern because of the fact that DeMar is awake and his doctors have indicated he's making incredible progress. Before I let you go, Justin, I have to tell you one of my favorite things that I've heard this NFL season goes back to hard knocks with the lions. When Dan told the team, I promise you, I'm not a lunatic covering him. What's it like to be around this guy who's unique in the NFL? You know, I think the wildest part about him is I don't think it makes you crazy, but it's kind of crazy to find someone in this business that is as genuine and as authentic and, um, thoughtful as he is. You know, coaches are so robotic in this league and often they don't enjoy the media obligations. Um, there's a ton of pressure on that job. I mean, I, I understand it from that aspect, but, um, you know, we joke sometimes it's like Campbell's unable to lie.

Like he just, he doesn't have the bone in his body. So if he doesn't want to answer questions instead of BS like you, he'll kind of just steer it off and go a different direction. Or I'll just tell you, I'm not answering that. Like it's, it's rewarding as a reporter that if you put the time in to come up with thoughtful questions that you will genuinely and frequently get thoughtful, meaningful responses. It just makes the job easier. And so, um, and it's, it's also nice to, to know that, um, you know, the person you're dealing with respects what you do, like it's not always that way.

It doesn't have to be that way. You know, the job is going to be there and the job is the job, but it does make it easier knowing when you go into work that the relationship is positive in the way to make it easier to do the job. And it trickles down into, I mean, he, the way he treats the players, the staffers in the building, the media, um, is, is shown also through, um, his assistant coaches. And it really carries into the locker room. I mean, I think I've had, in my opinion, I know we've been out of the locker rooms for a few years, obviously with COVID, but, um, just the approachability, the honest and raw conversations I've been able to have in the locker room this year has been as good as ever. And that's in large part because of the players they've brought in both him and general manager, Brad Holmes. And, um, you know, the, the culture that they've instilled to allow those guys to be themselves, to know that, you know, as long as they don't say anything stupid, they're, they're not going to be punished, um, for, for being themselves and speaking freely. They, the authenticity is encouraged, not just from the top down, but across the entire roster. And that's, that's a rewarding thing to cover from a general's perspective. And I think it's a rewarding thing for fans to see that from their head coach. It definitely makes them easy to root for. They're gaining momentum around the league and more and more people talking about the Lions after they have a chance to make the playoffs despite a one and six start. It's only happened one other time in NFL history. You can find Justin on Twitter at Justin underscore Rogers covers the Lions for the Detroit news.

We'll be there at Lambeau for week 18 under the lights. Justin, happy new year to you. Thank you so much for a couple of minutes.

Happy new year to you as well. Thank you for having me. No one's more locked into the NFL than first and pod. Why is it not within the realm of possibility that Geno Smith was a victim of a horrible organization, bad offensive coaching, and then went and played behind three high level talents and only got spot starts and did okay by the way.

Well, because it's just, it doesn't really happen that often anymore. Subscribe to first and pod on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcast. What's the strangest thing you're afraid of? Tails without fur on them, such as rats or possums? I'm Larry Mullins, host of the podcast, Your Weirdest Fears, where we dig into the crazy things you're afraid of. Everything from animal people hybrids, you know, people who get surgeries to look like an animal to giant statues. If I ever saw one of those giant statues, I probably would poop my pants.

Listen and subscribe on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcast from. What's the strangest thing you're afraid of? Tails without fur on them, such as rats or possums? I'm Larry Mullins, host of the podcast, Your Weirdest Fears, where we dig into the crazy things you're afraid of. Everything from animal people hybrids, you know, people who get surgeries to look like an animal to giant statues.

If I ever saw one of those giant statues, I probably would poop my pants. Listen and subscribe on the Odyssey app or wherever you get your podcast from.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-06 08:59:43 / 2023-01-06 09:08:20 / 9

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