We are only a couple hours away from the final preseason game for the Lions. The starters are expected to play very little, so most of what we will watch in this game is about battles for the backup roster positions. Here are just a few of the situations that could develop from the Lions game against the Bills.
UPDATE: I have added my impressions from watching the game about each of the topics that I initially pointed out.
The Zac Attack
Zac Robinson should play some significant minutes in this game. A huge game by Robinson would make him interesting to some of the teams that have a shaky situation at quarterback. That would be good for Zac and good for the Lions. Robinson is languishing on the practice squad with little chance of seeing significant playing time behind Stafford, Hill, and Stanton. If the Lions can get a draft pick for him it is all profit since the Lions claimed him from the Seattle practice squad. Moving Robinson also frees up a spot on the practice squad for a player that has more future with the Lions. I like Zac, but he isn't going to beat Matt Stafford for a starting job in our lifetime.
Result: Zac Robinson was good, but not stellar. He might have shown enough in preseason to force the Lions to try and trade him rather than risk losing him on waivers. There are some teams that don't have second and thrid string quarterbacks that are as good as Zac. I was hoping that Zac would be so good that a team was willing to spend a draft pick to get him. I don't think he rose to that level. So I think that the Lions will probably lose Zac on waivers unless Mayhew can pull off some magic.
A Whole Line of Linebackers
We can already write Levy, Tulloch, Durant, and Carpenter into the 53 man roster in ink. They are making the team and there isn't any doubt about it. The Lions will keep at least six linebackers on the roster so we can expect at least two more guys to win jobs in the game against the Bills. Currently the Lions have Caleb Campbell, Isaiah Ekejiuba, Doug Hogue, Cobriani Mixon, and Ashlee Palmer fighting for those last linebacker positions. A breakout performance by any of them would go a long way toward impressing the coaches and winning a roster spot.
Result: Well, Carpenter was good, but we knew he was going to make the team already. Ashleee Pamer was out on the field with the second team so I have to assume he is in the picture to get a spot. I saw some good things from Caleb Campbell and Cobriani Mixon. They were usually around the ball and making plays. Ekejiuba was a non-factor. Hogue was not as involved in the play as either Campbell or Mixon. Campbell also made a nice hit on special teams.
This is going to be a tough decision, but I just cannot see keeping Ekejiuba with all the guys that we have to play special teams. I think the Lions have to keep Either Hogue, to protect him and give him time to develop, or Campbell, who was the best player of the bubble linebackers tonight., If the Lions feel they will lose Hogue on waivers they should keep him and put both Campbell and Mixon on the practice squad.
To Punt or Not To Punt
Nick Harris and Ryan Donahue are locked in a death match for the punting job. They have both performed very well in camp and neither player has given the coaches a reason to grade them down much. The only bad punt of the preseason was a result of confusion in front of the punter rather than being a mistake by the punter himself. This battle might be more about if either punter makes a mistake, than about who performs better. Both punters are great and they both deserve a job in the NFL.
Result: This is a tough decision because neither guy really beat the other one clearly. I would have to be the coaches trying to make this decision.
Logjam In the Middle
The Lions are still carrying five centers on the roster. Could this mean that they are finally trying to recognize that Dominic Raiola is a liability when blocking? Yep, he makes great line calls, but he gets pushed back on too many plays. I don't know if any of the guys that are on the Lions roster are able to unseat Raiola for the starting job, but we need to find the best possible alternative from this group that we can. The second team offensive line has been consistently performing better in run blocking than the starters, but they are up against lesser competition as well. That makes this evaluation difficult to make.
Result: There was an interesting series in the first quarter where the Lions second team offense was able to play against the first team defense for the Bills. They were not able to open any running lanes, but in all fairness, neither did the first team. Once the Bills second team defense came in the Lions started moving the ball. I thought it was interesting that Dan Gerberry was playing center for the second team. I cannot really evaluate this battle without watching a lot of replays and even then it would be incomplete. Television coverage does not really give you the angles you need to evaluate line play well because a lot of what happens on the line is away from the ball.
The DWill DIlemma
Derrick Williams has all the skills you need to be a receiver in the NFL, except one, he drops the ball too often. I think that Williams problem is entirely in his head, because he makes some great catches when he is relaxed and in the flow of the game. Williams will see a lot of time on the field against the Bills and he needs to make a case for staying on the roster if he wants a job. He needs to look like an impact player and, most of all, he can't drop anything.
Result: Derrick Williams did nothing to help him make the team. I am leaning toward the idea that he is going to be looking for a new team by Saturday.
A Silva Lining
Ricardo Silva has impressed Jim Schwatrz in the preseason. He makes plays. He has put himself on the radar during camp and the Lions could decide to keep him on the roster if he shows a lot during this game. He is a virtual lock for the practice squad even if he does not stand out. The problem is that, with a big game, Silva might become too visible to other teams to slip through waivers.
Result: Silva was inconsistent in hos play. He is generally around the ball but he missed a couple of tackles that the coaches will not be pleased with. He likes to gamble and sometimes he misses, which can cause big plays for the opponent. Silva will not make the 53 man roster, but he is a strong candidate for the practice squad.
There are many other jobs up for grabs in this game, but these are the players I have chosen to watch closely during the Lions vs Bills preseason game. Feel free to add any other interesting situations that you might be watching in the comments.