As nice as it's been to be able to talk about actual football the last couple weeks, practice only tells you so much. That's why there is so much excitement surrounding Friday night's Detroit Lions game against the Cleveland Browns. Finally fans will get a chance to see the Lions return to the field for a game, and finally fans will get a closer look at this year's early edition of the team. Here are five things I will personally be keeping my eye on during the game:
1. The NFL debut of Bill Bentley
A lot of players get hyped up during training camp, but few players have received as much hype as rookie cornerback Bill Bentley. By all accounts, he has been great in practice, but how will he handle his first game in the NFL? What's more, how will he handle being in the starting lineup? The Lions are expected to start Bentley opposite Chris Houston at cornerback, meaning he will get a chance very early on to show if the hype translates from practice to an actual game.
2. Which receivers step it up
The battle for the fifth wide receiver spot is an intriguing one. The Lions have several guys in the mix, including Maurice Stovall, Jarett Dillard, Lance Long and Patrick Edwards. All of these players have seemingly had a strong start to camp, and all of them contribute one way or another on special teams. For guys like this, preseason games can make or break their chances of making the 53-man roster. Considering they will be trying to show off their skills on both offense and special teams, Friday's game will be a big opportunity for the receivers on the bubble of the roster.
3. How the Lions use James Bryant
The fullback position disappeared from the Lions' offense last year when the team cut Jerome Felton, but this offseason they brought it back with the addition of James Bryant. So far during camp, there have been reports of Bryant being used as a blocker and doing a good job of opening up holes, but Jim Schwartz has said in the past that he wants versatility out of this position. What I'm interested in seeing is how the Lions actually use Bryant. Will he just line up as a blocker? Will he get any reps with the starters? Can he catch the ball? Answers to these questions will say a lot about if he actually has a chance to make the team.
4. Ronnell Lewis on special teams
When putting together the scouting report on Ronnell Lewis after the draft, it became apparent from the videos of him that he is a beast on special teams. He reminds me a lot of Zack Follett in this regard, and I'm very excited to see what "The Hammer" can do on coverage units. For him, excelling as a defensive end is extremely important, but I want to see what Lewis brings to the Lions' special teams units.
5. Kellen Moore and R.J. Archer
It's not expected that Matthew Stafford will get a ton of playing time on Friday night. Shaun Hill will be the first quarterback off the bench, and then the Lions will close the game out with Kellen Moore and R.J. Archer. Moore is believed to be the current leader for the third quarterback job, but will that continue to be the case after he goes up against an NFL defense in a game? Will Archer make a case to be the third-string quarterback? And perhaps most importantly, will either player show that he is deserving of a roster spot? That is really the most intriguing part about the battle for the third quarterback job. If Moore and Archer both come out of Friday's game looking like they don't belong in the NFL, I might start to believe the talk that the Lions could decide to go into the season with only two quarterbacks on the roster.
Obviously there are many other things worth keeping an eye on during Friday night's game, but these five are at the top of the list for me. What are you planning to keep an eye on when the Lions kick off their preseason schedule?