Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE DYE  |  Last updated 8/20/13
ALLEN PARK, Mich. A popular line around NFL camps these days is that the preseason games dont count but they matter. For Detroit Lions rookie cornerback Darius Slay, this next one counts and matters. It appears that Slay has a chance to lock down a starting job for the regular-season opener with a strong performance in Thursdays exhibition against New England at Ford Field. Hes taken a jump this week, coach Jim Schwartz said. Hes going to have an opportunity to get more reps against some pretty good competition, a top-notch quarterback (Tom Brady of the Patriots) and a very good passing offense. Its a very important week for him. Slay replaced nine-year veteran Ron Bartell with the first-team defense after last weeks exhibition loss at Cleveland. Bartell has struggled since returning from a shoulder injury suffered earlier in training camp. The Lions coaching staff has been particularly impressed with Slays man-to-man coverage skills. It didnt give me any more confidence, Slay, a second-round draft pick out of Mississippi State, said of the promotion. Ive already been confident about my game. Im just stepping up to the plate. Im just ready to compete. CALVIN UPDATE Receiver Calvin Johnson missed his second straight practice because of a bruised knee. He also sat out last weeks game. Asked if he plans to play Thursday, Johnson said, Yeah. Well see how it goes when we get out there. The starting offense is in need of a lift from its star receiver after the unit failed to score a touchdown in seven possessions over the first two games. Were going to be OK on offense, Johnson said. My thing is just to get my wind right. Its going to be a long season but the better you are conditioned, the better youre going to be in that fourth quarter. As for what he wants to see most from the offense right now, Johnson said, Starting fast more than anything. HOME SWEET HOME The Lions technically broke training camp following Tuesdays practice, but it wasnt quite like the old days when they stayed in dorm rooms without air conditioning. Schwartz said it used to be a celebrated day throughout the league. Its tough in the NFL, the coach added with a little sarcasm. Theyve got to check out of the hotel today. So, its not exactly roughing it during camp anymore. But it is a little bit different, Schwartz said of the change. Weve talked about this as a team. We have to have the maturity to be consistent when there is no horn blowing in the morning to wake you up, when theres no bed check at night. The guys that are going to be successful in the NFL can handle that kind of discipline. If they cant then theyre not going to be a part of what we do. STARTERS SNAP COUNT The third preseason game is always the one where the first team gets its most playing time. The Lions arent game-planning to the extent they would for a regular-season game, but they are preparing in other ways as if its a real game week. Schwartz was noncommittal on how much the starters will play, but it likely will be for the first half, if not into the third quarter. We play them as much as we think they need to get played, Schwartz said. It depends. There have been times where we said Hey, were going to take it into the half and then youve got 50 snaps in the first half on offense. Well, thats too many. Theres other times where you say, Were going to shut them down after a half and maybe they play only 20 snaps. Thats not enough. Well just play it as the game develops. Its hard to really have any kind of set agenda other than having a feel for it during the game. EXTRA POINTS --- Reserve quarterback Shaun Hill missed practice for the second straight day because of an unconfirmed injury that's not believed to be serious. He is among several players whose status for Thursday won't be announced until game day. --- Schwartz confirmed that Ashlee Palmer is in line to be the starter at left outside linebacker, replacing Justin Durant, who signed as a free agent with Dallas. --- Actor Jeff Daniels, a Chelsea native, made his annual visit to training camp. Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer also stopped by Tuesdays practice.
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