September 1, 2022
Opening Statement:
Executive Vice President and General Manager Brad Holmes:
 “Just wanted to kind of start off with just some thanks and appreciation, obviously everything starts with ownership, and we wouldn’t even be in position to have a successful training camp without their unwavering support and the resource that they provide. And the players, most importantly, they – I respect the hell out of them. I mean they – it was – they gave everything. It was a fierce competition in camp, and they reported ready to go and they gave us everything they had. They really did – the grind, the strain, so hat’s off to all 90 of them that were here. I thought (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) did a phenomenal job. I would say elite management, elite preparation. With such a young team, it’s a balance of getting the work that you need to get in and that’s required, plus being smart, plus getting the guys prepared and ready to go for Week 1. And that’s a hard thing to do and I thought he did an excellent job of it. I thought him and the entire coaching staff, they were excellent, and our personnel staff did a great job. Evaluating the entire League through the preseason and the roster decisions that we had to make, I want to say it’s a collaborative effort. So, they are very much a part of it, along with the coaching staff. But all the preseason work, ending up with one claim, that was – that was huge. So, it’s just a lot of work that goes into that one name. But I would say just going back to last year, trying to cut down to 85, probably after the first few days of camp, probably could’ve told you, ‘Yep, got the five.’ You got to cut down to 80 and it’s like, ‘Yep, got it.’ Even – I told you guys last year, we cut down to 53 last year, I mean Dan and I maybe had probably like one or two discussions that needed to be made. But fast forward to this year, just getting down to 85 was – it was difficult. You kind of got to about three and then it’s like, ‘OK, I’m not sure if I want to quite do this yet.’ And so, it’s just – it made it hard, and I think all of that dates all the way back to the start of this offseason and everything that everybody put in during free agency. Our pro personnel department, (Lions Chief Operating Officer) Mike Disner, and just getting the right guys in, getting the right guys that fit. You go through the Draft, our college scouting department doing a great job. So, you get this boost in talent and so, you combine the boost of talent with a great coaching staff and here we are. And we had a lot of tough decisions to make, and I even know that right now it’s the 53 and there’s a lot made about who made the team and who made what even the guys we have on practice squad that we were able to get back. I mean it’s not over, again it’s still a young roster and those guys that got some of those last spots, they’re still got to keep playing because we’re not going to stop working and it’s going to be an evolving process.”
On how much discussion went into the backup quarterback decision:
(Holmes)“Yeah so, I’d say even going back when we decided to bring the two back, every single decision we make, it goes through a very thorough process and we want to be as rational and sound on our judgement as possible. So, even with (former Lions QB) Tim (Boyle) being that the wins didn’t come in the games that he played, but those first games that he ever played in his entire life we saw some things that encouraged us to want to keep working with him. And then, bringing back (former Lions QB David) Blough, and he’s got previous experience. And so, we had the plan in place, we felt good about it and they just didn’t quite make the jump that we expected them to make. And so, you’ve just got to make some tough decisions and you’ve just got to just find the best solution that you can.”
On if they are willing to take more of a risk on players with talent or those who fit the culture and do everything right:
(Holmes): “I would say exactly what (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) said about the guys that are doing every single thing right, it’s just that – like, we want it to be hard for us. And when you have those guys that maybe are lacking a little bit of ability and are doing every single thing right, there’s a dependability, reliability factor that Dan and I are aligned in and believe in and we like those kind of guys. But at the end of the day, we still have a coaching staff that has a passion to develop and a great coaching staff that can develop players. So, when you have that talent it does make it extremely hard. So, we’ll always preach the guys that are doing everything right, ‘Keep doing everything right.’ But exactly what Dan said, the guys that have the talent, but we won’t kind of take more talented guys that aren’t as reliable, and the guys that are not as talented, but are much more reliable. I mean we’re not going say, ‘Oh, we’ll just go talent,’ because we’re not just collecting talent, we’re trying to build the right team and have the right 53.”
On if they had discussions to bring in another quarterback before cutting the roster down to 53:
(Holmes): “Yeah, we looked at every option. We’ll always go down every avenue if there’s a way to improve our football team. So, when we kind of saw kind of where it was going, then yeah every avenue was looked at and exhausted for sure.”
On if there was a certain position group that intrigued them heading into training camp:
(Holmes): “I would say our secondary was one that – going into camp we – let’s just be honest, it was a lot of question marks back there, whether it was lack of experience, lack of play time, guys that had some elements dealing with. And I’ll say even starting off at safety, it was pretty bare at the end of the season in terms of – not at the end of the season but starting the offseason. Hopefully you can sign (Lions S) Tracy (Walker) back and what are you going to do on the next? And so, we had to kind of collect as much competition as possible and there were moves made along the way, even doing like a late claim on a (Lions S) JuJu Hughes and I’ll let Ray speak more onto JuJu. But making a late claim like that during the postseason you’ve got to wait, he comes in, and so I don’t think a whole lot of noise was made about that. But that move ended up being big for us down the road. So, I would say the secondary and then, I got – I appreciate the way (Lions CB) Jeff Okudah responded and he was challenged, and he earned it. And we were upfront and honest with him and he didn’t cower, back down or anything, he took it and he earned it. So, a lot of those questions were what were answered and it was much appreciated.”(Agnew): “Yeah, first speak on (Lions S) JuJu (Hughes), obviously we had a previous relationship with JuJu. Things we liked about JuJu was his instincts, his toughness, his ability to make plays on the ball. JuJu is a very smart football player, just limited a little bit in some areas, but a guy you can count on and dependable. So, it was great to get him at that point. But for me, the group that I was interested in watching was the inside linebackers. I thought that group responded. I thought there was a lot of competition in that group. We brought in some new guys, really only had a few guys that played last year, brought in some new guys and we created competition. And I think that group responded very well.”
On how closely they work together on a day-to-day basis:
(Agnew): “I know a lot of people think I’m quiet and reserved, but when I’m with Brad it’s a whole different story. Brad sees a different side of me and we spend a lot of time together discussing players, man, and we go back and forth disagree, agree, disagree, agree. And so, my job is to help him make sound decisions to help this football team to get better and that’s what I do. I just support him in every area, building this roster, and that’s all we think about, and all we talk about.”
On the evaluation process of Lions DL Demetrius Taylor and what went into their decision to keep him on the 53-man roster:
(Agnew): “Yeah, first of all I have to give (Lions Assistant Director of College Scouting) Brian Hudspeth and (Lions Area Scout) Steve Neal credit, they brought him up to sign him as a free agent. And Steve does the school, so he talked about the kid. And man, all the kid did was a – he made plays and continued to be productive and disruptive in the run game and the pass game. He made it hard to overlook what he had been doing, regardless of the size. You see the size and you think, ‘Is this guy big enough?’ But he’s quick off the ball and he continued to prove himself and by the end of camp you just say, ‘Hey, this guy’s too good to move on from.’ So, he earned everything he got.”(Holmes): “He was one of those names that when I was down here talking with you guys after the Draft and I didn’t know who we signed yet. And so, he was one of those names where I was like, ‘Woah, we got him.’ And not because I invested so much time in him, looking at him, I’m not saying that. But he’s one of those guys that sometimes when you’re watching tape on other people and I want to say it was during the 2020 season actually, where I was looking at somebody either on App State’s defense or somebody playing App State. But he just stood out and I just said, ‘Who’s number nine kind of coming off the edge there? He’s got twitch and high motor.’ So, he just kind of stuck out to me, didn’t really pay much attention, so then when he started to surface during the process, it was pretty jacked. But Ray hit it, he was – he made it hard to ignore where eventually you’ve got to kind of overlook the height, undrafted free agent from App, you’ve got to pull that label off and say this guy’s on the other side of the line of scrimmage a lot. And so, like Ray said it was hard to ignore.”
On what made him believe Lions DL Demetrius Taylor could make the transition from playing on the edge in college to interior defensive line:
(Holmes): “Well, he did back when I noticed him the year before, I saw him playing defensive end. So, I didn’t know if that was just a package or that’s when he caught my eye. But this year, he did play a lot more inside that I saw, but he was a versatile player.”
On the youth of the roster and if they have enough veteran leadership heading into the 2022 season:
(Holmes): “Yeah, that’s a really good question. With the youth, it kind of goes back to where we were last year, a lot of patience had to be practiced last year and those guys got a lot of valuable, valuable reps. And there were some up moments, there were some down moments, but (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) and I just sticking to our plan and being patient, and saying, ‘Look, this is what we’re doing.’ And those guys having those reps heading into this year, it was – you could see the difference, it was very, very noticeable. But I was talking about our practice squad just recently and a lot of guys that played for us last year in games were able to come back to our practice squad. And so, there is a – it’s young but at the same time there’s some plug and play in there as well. So, I think that’s just a testament to those valuable reps those young guys got last year.”
On the transition from training camp mode to regular season mode:
(Holmes): “Yeah, you’re basically in regular season mode now. We’ll take some – we’ll take kind of an extended weekend off here and then, when we come back on Monday, we’re getting ready for Philly. So, and that’s just the normal regular season. It kind of comes in phases where you’re in your training camp mode and just even from an evaluation standpoint, you’re looking at the entire League and looking at all the preseason games and seeing who might come available. Where now it’s – now it’s college football, now you start looking at players that might be for this next upcoming Draft and all the while still keeping up with what’s going on in the League.”
On what has changed in Lions QB Jared Goff from last season to this season:
(Holmes): “Yeah, there’s a lot that I think can go into that question, it’s a great question. I will say, I do believe the confidence that he has going into this year has been a big difference. And I always felt that he was a confident kid, he’s always been a very mentally tough kid. But I think us giving him ownership and letting him know like, ‘Look, we believe in you, we’re supporting you, we’re going to put in the best position to succeed. You’re the quarterback.’ So, us surrounding him with a little bit better supporting cast and giving him that ownership, I think that’s helped his confidence and it’s showed in this camp.”
On if he thinks he is making a risk with the backup quarterback position in-flux:
(Holmes): “Yeah, I mean it’s never – it’s never totally ideal. Just like I was telling him, we had a plan in place for the backup quarterback position. It kind of took a detour that was unexpected, but you’ve got to be prepared for that. And we just kind of made it work the best way we can, and we did what’s best for the organization at this time. Not saying that there’s – there’s a lot of different options you can go. You can trade a bunch of Draft capital for a backup quarterback. I mean there’s a lot of different options you can go, but we did the best thing for the Detroit Lions and so, that’s how it goes. So, is there a little bit of risk? And is it foolproof? And absolutely no, well I have too much respect for the unknown to really not say that there’s a little bit of that. But I think we got the plan in place where (Lions QB) Nate (Sudfeld) will get caught up to speed and we’ll be in good shape.”
On if there is a flaw in their pre-Draft medical evaluation process after two-straight second round picks have missed time in camp due to injury:
(Holmes): “I think everything is – especially when it comes to medical, it’s always case-by-case. And you’re going back with (Lions DL) Levi (Onwuzurike), he was dealing with something that we were aware of and that we knew about. And so, he actually was able to do more than what he was going to able last year. And so, unfortunately, he’s had to still deal with it, but you just don’t have that crystal ball quite yet. And then, with (Lions DL) Josh (Paschal) it was something that we were aware of, that we knew that he had to deal with, while we have a timeline in place, and we don’t have any problem with it. So, it’s not – we’re not kicking ourselves, we’re not saying, ‘Oh, we overlooked this or that,’ it’s just things that we were prepared for.”
On what they have liked about how Lions Offensive Coordinator Ben Johnson is putting the pieces together on offense:
(Holmes): “Yeah, there’s so many positives I can start with, with Ben. But I would say, even the first – I mean, when I first got here and he was coaching tight ends and hearing his command in that room, and how he related to the players, and then he started getting into collaborative meetings about personnel and with the Draft and free agency and him really having an eye for talent and really having – he really knows how to evaluate, and so with all of that, and then when we made the switch about mid-way last year and (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) can’t rave about him enough. And so, when got his opportunity, I was all in. I was jacked for him. He’s been everything that I would have expected and I think it’s a great marriage between him and (Lions QB Jared) Goff, and I think you guys can see the results so far that he’s had.”
On their impressions of Lions DL Aidan Hutchinson after seeing him work behind the scenes throughout the preseason:
(Holmes): “Yeah, well with Aidan, we pretty much knew that he was a high-floor player. So – but that also comes as a question mark when it comes to Draft sometimes, because it’s like, ‘Oh, well what’s his upside? Is it –?‘ But there were a lot of things that we knew that he could get better at, and so him having the immediate impact that he’s had so far, again, he hasn’t played a regular season NFL game yet, but since he stepped out there on the grass, he made it known pretty quickly that he was about business. And there are some things that he’s shown that I think some people didn’t even know that he had. I’ll let Ray speak more on that.”(Agnew): “I can’t stop smiling. I love the kid, the kid’s relentless, effort, and much better athlete than you thought he was in the Draft process. Man, the things he can do rushing the passer, inside, off the edge, using his hands. He’s very creative as a rusher. I would just say this, we got the right one.”(Holmes): “Absolutely.”
On if they are confident in the pass rush being disruptive this season after struggling to get to the quarterback last year:
(Holmes): “Yeah, absolutely. Obviously with (Lions DL) Aidan (Hutchinson) in – with Aidan, when you Draft a rookie, obviously you pick a guy two overall, you expect him to start year one, but you don’t know when it’s really going to turn on. I mean, it’s guys that – when Ray and I were with the Rams, it was – drafted (Rams DL) Aaron Donald. Aaron Donald wasn’t the Week 1 starter as a rookie, so you don’t know when it’s going to happen. Probably should have been, but whatever. But with Aidan, it was so quick. But the step (Lions DL) Charles Harris took, him coming in last year and kind of having a revival in his career. And I’ll say in the right environment and everything that’s been around, Charles, he’s even taken another step, so it’s – you come out to the grass, you look and you’re like, ‘He even looks even more explosive than he was last year.’ So, get that, and then you tack that on with when (Lions DL) Josh Paschal comes back, and he can provide some rush. (Lions DL Romeo) Okwara, he’ll be able to apply rush. So, there’s a lot of intrigue about our pass rush.”
On the place that women have in this League compared to when Holmes had just began his career:
(Holmes): “Lightyears, I mean I’ve been in this thing – it’s year 20 for me, and you’d always think, when are women going to get into scouting and coaching and that’s not even a question now. Now, it’s almost – it’s normal now. You go to school visits in the fall, and there’s a woman – a female presence in scouting, there’s female presence in coaching. There’s female presence – I mean, you get to sports science, athletic performance, I remember when I first got hired, I was very encouraged and intrigued to have a co-ed player engagement department, and that was from my days in scouting is that I’m getting all this information about these players and often the women on staff at these colleges had the best information and they knew the players the best, and so there was like, ‘There’s something going on here that we can’t overlook it.’ So, I love it, but it’s night and day from when I first started.”
On when in the preseason Lions LB Malcolm Rodriguez proved he was more than a special teams player:
(Agnew): “He’s had a really good camp. He’s had a really good camp, productive camp, the guy has played fast, he’s played physical. But the guy – he’s still a rookie, man. He’s still learning. He’s still developing. We love what we see in him. Watching him on tape in college, the first thing that jumps out to you is how past he plays the game. And then the first thought is that, ‘OK, we got us a four-corps special teams player when we get this guy.’ But he’s proven to be a little more than that, but he’s still a rookie, and he has a ways to go that he has to develop, but we’ve been very pleased from what we’ve saw from him.”(Holmes): “Yeah, the four-corps stuff that Ray just mentioned, that would get you active on gameday. And he was a bonafide four-corps special teams candidate throughout the Draft process, so right there, it’s like, ‘OK, he’s going to be playing.’ But how quickly is the first, second, third-down stuff going to translate playing linebacker? And Ray mentioned just his processing skills, being a quarterback in high school, you know what I mean? He’s just got a level of key and diagnose that has translated, but again, you just don’t know quickly it’s going to come but it’s come, come quick, and – but can’t say enough that he is a rookie. He hadn’t played an NFL game yet, so let’s just see where it goes.”
On Lions WR Jameson Williams’s injury rehab progress and at what point in the season is he expected to play:
(Holmes)“Yeah, he is on track. Again, I’m not going to put out a hard date, but I will say, the weeks and weeks he’s strung together with his rehab, and – he’s so gifted from a genetic standpoint. Once he keeps that consistency going, it actually could accelerate that return that we’re thinking. You’ve got to be a little bit conservative and on the safer side when it comes to forecasts and those returns to play. But hopefully he stays on track, and hopefully it’s sooner than later, but we’re going to continue to be smart with him. We’ve always said that from day one. I know he’s chomping at the bit, I mean he’ll put on a helmet right now and go out there. He would jog a slant route if he could, but he – but we’ve got to be smart because we didn’t make that move for him just for year one. This is a long-term investment.”
On the best-case scenario for Lions WR Jameson Williams’s role when he returns and how much he can contribute:
(Holmes): “Yeah, that’s probably more of a (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell) question in terms of how we’ll implement him early on. I will say, just because of his skillset, he’ll be able to – he’ll have a lot of versatility for us. So, if he’s not a full-time wide receiver, does he play special teams? Well, he’s got some damn good gunner tape out there in the SEC. He’s got some good return tape out there in the SEC, so we’ll have some options.”
On how they feel about negotiating new contracts with players in-season:
(Holmes): “Yeah, no, I mean we have a precedent in place for what we do, but we’ll just keep those discussions in-house right now.”
On what they like about Lions TE James Mitchell and his potential upside:
(Agnew): “I think he’s – his upside is tremendous. And what stood out about him is the route running and the ability to catch the ball in college. And he was a much better blocker than you’d think in college. Lot of college guys are not great blockers, but he was pretty good, and before the injury, he was playing really well. So, the upside was what stood out to me, the ability to catch the ball and run after the catch also.”
On what excites them about the team and their expectation for the level they can play at:
(Holmes): “When you say expectations, we just want to make sure that we’re aligned in terms of what the mentality is going to be, and just make sure that I think that we kind of laid the foundation that we’re going to compete and play really, really hard regardless. But now our players have to be smarter now. And so, I think that growth of those young guys taking that year two leap. They’re being sharper mentally, so that’s the leap that we expect them to take. That’s what’s – that’s what get us excited, but not just competing but just being smarter, but expecting to win now. You don’t go into the games saying, ‘Well, we’re the underdogs and – .’ No, you’re going into the game saying, ‘Yeah, no, we’re going to win this game.’ And I think that’s the mindset that you’ve got to have. And I think (Lions Head Coach) Dan (Campbell)’s done a good job making sure that that message has come across.”
On if they believe there is enough talent on the team to contend for the playoffs:
(Holmes): “We’ll just take it one week at a time. Again, if we have the right mentality and we control what we can control, then we’ll just see what the results are going to be, but we’re not going to guess a record, ‘We’re going to be this win team or that win team.’ We’re just going to control what we can control. With that same mentality, we stay aligned, and we’re competitive every week, but we’re very optimistic.”
On Lions Head Coach Dan Campbell’s confidence in the defense after the preseason:
(Holmes): “Well, we put a lot of investment into the defense this past offseason and the draft, and there were some guys with us last year that are going to aid that whether it’s going to be some young guys like (Lions LB) Derrick Barnes that’s going to take a next step. It’s going to – I think that it’s all coming together. We have an extraordinarily talented defensive coordinator in (Lions Defensive Coordinator) Aaron Glenn, and we are very, very fortunate to be in a position to have him leading our defense. And so, made some, not wholesale changes, but a tweak here and there in our scheme, but what I love about our coaching staff is everything is done for the benefit of the players. And so, that’s why those tweaks were made, and – but yeah, I think the pass rush like we’ve talked about in the past, and then the secondary. I think we’ve seen a lot of growth there, and Ray mentioned the inside linebacker room. With the intriguing piece in that is that the majority of those guys are really good special teams players, and so usually that’s often the separator of like, ‘Well, we got a lot of competition in the linebacker room, but we can only keep five or are we going to keep six?’ You know what I mean? But it makes it even harder because all those guys are really good special teams players, so I think at all levels, we improved.”(Agnew): “Yeah, I agree with a lot of what you said, but the one thing that’s intriguing to me is AG. Like Brad said, he’s very talented, and when you’ve got an aggressive guy, and then you’ve got extremely athletic guys and some guys who I think are violent football players that he can use, that he has the ability to use those tools. I think is going to be a recipe of success. So, I’m excited about our defense this year, how we go this year.”
On how the team will respond to the extra attention and expectations given due to ‘Hard Knocks’:
(Holmes): “Yeah, I was just having conversation about – it was cool that people were able to see and get a peek inside of our culture and what we’re about. We put in a lot of work laying that foundation down and getting that culture right last year, and even in the free agency process, players were starting to hear about it, but now the world can see it, and we didn’t do anything special for cameras or anything. It’s just, this is what we are every single day. It’s very normal, but at the end of the day, if we go out there and win three games again, then it’s all for naught. So, like we can have as much buzz and all this stuff as you want, and I really appreciate that the fans, this fan base is so passionate. They deserve to have hope and belief, but we’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain, so we can have all this buzz and hype and all that, but if we don’t go out there and equate it to wins, then it really doesn’t matter. So then, next season, we’re sitting down there right now at this time of the year, we’ll be saying, ‘Well there’s all this buzz, but Lions just let us down.’ Like no, that’s not – that’s not what we’re trying to be. So, we understand that this thing’s got to equate to wins.”
On if finding a potentially productive late-round player like Lions LB Malcolm Rodriguez changes the evaluation process for the future:
(Holmes): “Yeah, it doesn’t really change it. I will say that with – when you look at the round that he was taken, and you can always look at past success at certain positions that you may be able to hit on in the later rounds. I think that that’s been evident. I was talking with Ray about when we were with the Rams, drafted (Rams S) Jordan Fuller in the sixth round, but had a pretty good idea that he’s a high-floor player that’s going to end up being a starter, so – but there’s certain positions that you can kind of look at and assess that you may be able to find gold in the later rounds, and inside linebackers, it’s a good volume of them throughout the Draft. But it’s still got to be the right guy. I mean, there’s inside linebackers that had better physical traits than Malcolm Rodriguez in the later rounds. But we decided to go the route that we went, and so – not saying that you’re going to hit like that all the time, but we’ll just stick to our same process.”