Each year the first preseason game is anything but a litmus test as to who your team really is. No different with the Detroit Lions, who won their preseason opener 24-10 against the Indianapolis Colts. Considering how little the first team played this game was simply a live evaluation of the rookies and backups. Don’t misunderstand, that has more value going forward than the grind of everyday practices against your own guys.
Matthew Stafford and the full compliment of starters, both offense and defense, were on the field for literally one series. Stafford went 2-of-3 passing with his lone incompletion being an interception, thus ending his day. It was a bad throw. Not terrible, but bad enough. The ball was tipped high into the air and picked off by a linebacker.
Ameer Abdullah didn’t play enough to grade his return from last years foot injury, but what he did the first time he touched the ball was special. He caught a flare pass from Stafford and juked the defender right into the ground. 14 yards later showed Abdullah’s recovery is behind him and put his athleticism on full display once again. What could be a concern is Theo Riddick didn’t play. Not to read too much into it but his recovery from two wrist surgeries may be more hindering than first thought.
Marvin Jones spent time with Randy Moss this past offseason in hopes of being more consistent but his first target led to a tipped ball and interception. He was thumped when the ball arrived and it wasn’t Stafford’s most perfect pass. Chris Spielman, color commentator for Detroit, noted that ball needed to be down and out front, not high and behind his receiver.
Probably the most anticipated starter was LT Greg Robinson, who put together a solid game. When he did lose control of his man he was still able to steer him wide of the pocket. There were a couple of interior breakdowns that looked like an old fashioned jailhouse break, but over all the offensive line held up well.
The star of the day was Lions rookie Kenny Golladay, who had three catches on three targets and two went for touchdowns. His first catch was across the field where Stafford found him with a touch pass and easy catch for 22 yards. His two TDs were mirror images of each other, both back-shoulder throws from backup QB Jake Rudock. The first down the left sideline which Golladay made a nice soft handed catch where he was falling back and tipped the ball to himself. The next down the right sideline was an easier back shoulder catch right at the front pylon.
TE Michael Roberts had his ups and downs. He made a nice block to open a hole for Dwayne Washington to break through, but his huge hands did nothing to impress anyone. Roberts had two drops, two catches and two questionable fumbles in the first two-quarters. Ball security just became a huge priority for the rookie TE who never fumbled the ball in college.
I’ve already touched on Greg Robinson, but Rick Wagner at RT was every bit as solid and consistent as he’s been all offseason. His line mate, RG T. J. Lang, hasn’t been practicing and missed this game as well. His recovery from hip surgery is lingering longer than expected and will have to get better sooner rather than later.
Rookie MLB Jarrad Davis didn’t have a breakout day but his coverage skills showed he is more than capable of covering NFL TEs, a huge need on the Lions defense.
Free agent LB Paul Worrilow took the wrong angle on a screen pass, but overall showed his strength which is in run support. CB D. J. Hayden didn’t have a spectacular day but he too didn’t make that splash play.
The greatest loss was Detroit’s DE Kerry Hyder who’s likely out for the season with an Achilles injury. Last year’s sack leader will be replaced will by Anthony Zettel, who has to be the most improved second year player on the Lions team. He didn’t make a play against the Colts but his pressure did and helped lead to at least one sack.
Both DL Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga each had one sack in Sunday’s preseason opener. With Kerry Hyder out and a couple of veterans serving suspensions, there is an opportunity for these guys. Their sacks came against backups but when you get your opportunities you have to make the most of them and both Barrett and Valoaga did that.
HC Jim Caldwell found his offensive line just might hold up. He saw which rookies were good, really good, and a couple who need more work. At this point, execution is the key especially in the preseason where everything is very vanilla. That said, the Lions did not commit one penalty in the first half. OC Jim Bob Cooter did enough to protect Stafford so it looks like Detroit has a chance to survive the first weeks of the regular season.
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