The third preseason game is always 50-50… maybe 60-40. This is the one preseason game where the starters play at least half the game and probably into the second half. It’s where the offensive coordinator begins to draw up more of a game plan. After the starters, that’s when the best backups show up. Together, Jim Caldwell should have a pretty good idea what kind of team he has heading into the regular season. This game will also spotlight Bob Quinn’s greatest needs first going into the season and also where he needs to focus once the college season starts.
The Minutemen are coming! The New England Patriots come to Detroit this Friday night. They’re bringing the undisputed best quarterback in the NFL, Tom Brady. From a competitive standpoint, Caldwell and Quinn will get an eyeful. But it’s not just the Patriots’ offense because Matthew Stafford will be going up against their Super Bowl-winning defense. Both sides of the ball will be tested this week.
The offense hasn’t exactly been a juggernaut. The improved run game is still missing in action. However, the passing game is lethal. Stafford went 8-for-10 against the Jets, but threw nothing deep. For the first time I’ve seen Matthew Stafford throttle down and throw the touch pass consistently. Add that to his cannon arm and as good as he was last year he could be even better this year. Then, hopefully, get some semblance of a running game and Detroit’s offense will win a number of games single handed.
Speaking of missing in action, TE Eric Ebron has barely been seen all training camp. One of his backups, free agent Darren Fells, has been missing too. As it turns out, Rookie TE Michael Roberts wasn’t the only one to have an awakening his first preseason game. He did have two catches but he also dropped two and fumbled twice, both saved by the rule but not the coaches.
This is where I think there is a story brewing. Bob Quinn has signed two TEs over the last ten days, former Lion Tim Wright and 2017 undrafted free agent Scott Orndoff, who was cut by the Steelers. Wright is the more significant signing. He already knows the playbook, so, a move like this so close to the season indicates the higher-ups have a lingering problem that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. So, without Ebron (receiving) or Fells (blocking) the front office and coaching staff were convinced they needed to add to their stable of TEs. Something to watch going forward.
The good, the bad and the ugly of the Lions defense is this: The Good – Detroit has only given up 16 points this preseason and none by the first-team defense. The Bad – The Lions defense has only played two quarters. Not exactly a large sample size. The Ugly – The Lions’ pass rush has been questioned all offseason and now they’ve lost two DE for the season and their Pro Bowl DE Ziggy Ansah hasn’t practiced at all. However, the defensive tackles are really coming on.
Meet 22-year-old DT – A’Shawn Robinson – Doesn’t look 22 does he? Doesn’t play like it, either.
Still, Detroit has logged some sacks but not enough pressure to help the secondary, especially against a QB like Brady. The secondary has done an admirable job so far but hasn’t generated any turnovers. There have been a couple of dropped interceptions and if the Lions are to win against the elite teams, like New England, then they have to step it up. The best thing the Lions defense is good at is keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.
Over the past few years, the Lions’ special teams have been one of the best in the NFL. So far this year, not so much. With the loss of punt returner Andre Roberts the Lions have been lethargic in the return game. Prior to the preseason Jamal Agnew, who runs a 4.3 40-yard sprint, broke loose during the Lions mock game. Since then, nothing.
There is one other issue and that is punter Sam Martin who hasn’t practiced at all because of an undisclosed injury. That’s the bad, the good is who Detroit signed for the preseason, Kasey Redfern. His 46.7 net average would have been first overall in the NFL last season. Hey, Sam Martin is no slouch, he finished third with a 45.2 net average.
In a perfect world Lions, GM Bob Quinn could parlay a talent like Redfern into a productive trade but we’re talking a punter here. Not only that but he’s the second punter so the rest of the NFL won’t give up something when they can get one for free.
There are just ten days left in the preseason. That includes two games, one for the starters and one for the hopefuls, but the greatest concern from here on out are the injuries. The Lions already have had their fair share. Any significant injury now and Bob Quinn will be able to find a serviceable replacement but not someone who can just walk in and fit seamlessly. This Friday night against the New England Patriots the Detroit Lions will be able to gauge where they are on a competitive scale and what they have yet to do.
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