Mikel Leshoure #25 of the Detroit Lions goes through the daily practice session at the Lions training facility.
Week 3 of the NFL preseason is generally considered the dress rehearsal for the regular season by teams. Starters get more playing time than any other preseason game, and it's the closest thing to regular-season football that you will see in the preseason. For the Detroit Lions, their dress rehearsal comes on Saturday night against the Oakland Raiders. Here are five things to keep an eye on during the game:
1. Mikel Leshoure's NFL debut
Lions fans have been waiting a long time to see Leshoure in action. After tearing his Achilles early on in camp last year, the hope was that he would be ready to go by the start of the 2012 preseason. Thanks to a lingering hamstring injury, that didn't happen, and he actually missed the first two weeks of the preseason. He's healthy now, though, and he's finally ready to appear in a game for the Lions.
2. Performance of special teams units
Jim Schwartz put the special teams units on blast after last week's game in Baltimore. The coverage units have been struggling quite a bit so far during the preseason, and really they've been struggling since last season. I don't know if it's just poor execution by the players or poor coaching, but the coverage units really need to get things turned around on Saturday in Oakland.
3. Lions' first-team offense
The Lions' offensive starters got off to slow starts in each of the first two preseason games. Last week, they rebounded after the slow start to score a couple of touchdowns, but this unit really needs to be more consistent. It shouldn't take an offense with so many weapons a couple drives to get going, and considering this game is the dress rehearsal, it'd be a little disheartening if they come out and struggle again.
4. Pass defense
The last time the Lions played the Raiders was last December, and the Lions won a thrilling game to set themselves up to make the playoffs. Part of the reason it was so thrilling is because the pass defense was so awful, forcing Matthew Stafford and company to make a late comeback. Carson Palmer went 32-of-40 against Detroit and threw for 367 yards and a touchdown. It was an embarrassing performance by the pass defense and was a sign of things to come later in the season and in the playoffs. On Saturday night in Oakland, I hope to see a much improved unit that doesn't allow Palmer to have anywhere near as much success.
5. Kellen Moore
With the starters expected to play at least a half, Moore won't get as many reps as usual in Saturday night's game. Even so, when he does enter the game, he needs to make the most of his time on the field. The final round of cuts is less than a week away, and if Moore wants to make the 53-man roster, he needs to impress when he gets a chance to play. Next Thursday's preseason finale will be his final audition for the 53-man roster, but he can certainly help his chances with a strong showing in Oakland.