When: Thursday, August 22.
Where: Ford Field, Detroit
Time: 7:30 ET
As the Detroit Lions prepare for tonight’s match-up against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, they’ll look to catapult off their lethargic week two showing against the Cleveland Browns
Issues along the offense and defense remain unsolved. The timing between Matthew Stafford and his receivers have been off. The offensive line, collectively, has looked good in pass protection, but individual play needs to step up. And finally, tackling across the defense has been horrendous.
But what are we looking for in tonight’s game? Here’s a look at five key area’s to keep an eye on.
1. The Starters Will Receive Majority Of The Snaps:
A downside to a fans preseason experience, is the lack of excitement, particularly generated from the lack of snaps from the first stringers. But the third preseason game is different. It’s the tune-up game, allowing the offensive and defensive starters to build chemistry for their week one opponent.
Jim Schwartz shared his in-game strategy to MLive’s Kyle Meinke:
We play ‘em as much as we think they need to be played,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “It depends. There have been times where we say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take it into the half, and then you got 50 snaps in the first half on offense.’ There are other times you say you’re going to shut them down after a half, and maybe you only play 20 snaps and that’s not enough.
“We’ll just play it as the game develops. Things happen during the game. It’s going to be hard to have any really set agenda other than just having a feel for it.”
3. Dominic Raiola Needs A Rebound Effort:
Phil Taylor had a field day against Raiola in week two of the preseaon. Though Taylor recorded just one hurry in nine pass rush snaps, he repeatedly beat Raiola off the line and wreaked havoc in the Lions backfield. Twice, in six run snaps, he found himself two yards into the Lions backfield, forcing an inside zone to bounce outside.
This game won’t come any easier. Vince Wilfork is a notorious run oriented nose tackle, and Tommy Kelly presents quickness and speed from the interior. A perfect opportunity for Raiola to gain confidence as we inch towards the week one matchup versus the Minnesota Vikings.
2. Tight End Battle Rages On:
The past week of practice featured four tight ends taking first string snaps alongside Matthew Stafford — Brandon Pettigrew, Tony Scheffler, Michael Williams and Joseph Fauria. Fauria has shown significant improvement, especially in the run game — a noted strength of 7th round draft pick Michael Williams.
The Lions will likely carry just three tight ends on the 53-man roster, and Scheffler — who received just three snaps last week versus the Browns — Williams and Fauria, an undrafted rookie out of UCLA, will have one last shot to stake their claim for a roster spot heading into Tuesday’s cuts.
4. Reggie Bush’s Takeover:
Brandon Pettigrew has made a living being Stafford’s short-to-intermediate safety valve – though he had the third most drops of tight ends in 2012. But if the first two preseason games are any indication, Reggie Bush has certainly taken over those duties. His eleven touches last week on just 24 snaps — including four receptions for 44 yards — showed the Lions aptitude to get Bush the football.
With Pettigrew entering his final year under contract, it could spell trouble for his future in Detroit.
5. Stafford Has Looked Merely ‘Okay’:
His mechanics are improved. Gone is the frantic throw of his back foot without immediate pressure, and he’s looked more comfortable in the pocket. But his eyes are still a problem. Ahtyba Rubin and Jabaal Sheard each had a batted ball off Stafford last week, as Stafford never looked off his first target.
He has a chance tonight to show improvement tonight, that he can still be effective without Calvin Johnson, and lead the Lions to an impressive outing against the Patriots.