Penalties should be concerning for Lions

DETROIT -- When the Detroit Lions hired Jim Caldwell, one of the biggest things preached was how he was going to cut down on penalties and errors, long an issue for the team under former coach Jim Schwartz.

Yet three games into Caldwell’s tenure with Detroit -- and, to be fair, this wasn't a game that counted -- penalties can once again be considered a worry with the Lions.

If this were considered a dress rehearsal, consider the Lions in need of at least one major revision. Detroit committed 15 penalties for 131 yards Friday night against Jacksonville, racking up more yards in miscues than they did passing against the Jaguars.

And it left Caldwell obviously concerned, especially considering how focused he has been on accountability.

“This game is not a perfect game, obviously,” Caldwell said. “But it is an issue, like I said. We can take about three or so. If you get beyond that, it’s an issue. No, we haven't seen a rash of 15 in a practice, but we've certainly seen some. But within our normal limits.”

In Detroit’s first two games, the Lions had 16 penalties for 106 yards -- still more than Caldwell would like, but somewhat manageable considering it is the preseason and starters were barely playing. Then Friday came and went, and 15 penalties later, there was no way Caldwell was going to be happy.

And it showed.

He was fine with picking up a 13-12 win over Jacksonville, but those penalties cropped up again and again. There were the personal fouls, including one from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on quarterback Chad Henne, mental errors and almost everything else in between.

“I’m concerned about it, yes,” Caldwell said. “Absolutely. Fifteen is way too many.”

Actually, the Lions committed 16 penalties, but one of the five holding calls they were whistled for was declined. Detroit was also flagged for offsides twice and once each for an illegal block, roughing the passer, offensive pass interference, a false start, illegal contact, intentional grounding, unnecessary roughness, illegal use of the hands, and a facemask.

Penalties and how often officials have been throwing flags have been mentioned as an issue throughout the league during the preseason, however, players don't seem completely concerned about it yet. But it is certainly something to keep an eye on for the Lions, considering their history of committing these types of gaffes.

In some ways, after all, this is a tuneup for officials as well as players.

“We definitely have to cut them down, but this preseason is like any other preseason that’s ever been in the league with penalties,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “We have to take that into account, that we're not the only team. Almost every team in the league is getting penalized like this.

“We have to see the things that we can correct, the self-made penalties. The nonaggressive penalties, as we call them. We have to correct those, because 15 penalties, you can't win like that in the regular season, and we know that.”

That’s something Caldwell will likely preach to his players over the next two weeks. An effort that resulted in a one-point win in August likely would produce a loss in September, October, November or December.