August 25, 2012; Oakland, CA, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) hands the ball off to running back Mikel Leshoure (25) during the first quarter against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
It's never a good sign when the list of losers from a game is longer than the list of winners. Unfortunately, that's the case for Saturday night's Detroit Lions game. The Lions lost to the Oakland Raiders by a score of 31-20, and in general it was by far their weakest effort of the preseason so far, as reflected by the winners list being much shorter than usual. Take a look:
RB Mikel Leshoure: It might be a stretch to call Leshoure a winner considering he had one yard rushing on five carries and six yards receiving on one catch. However, it was a big win for him to simply play in this game and get his NFL debut out of the way. It's been a long time coming, and although the numbers don't reflect it (thanks, O-line!), I thought Leshoure showed a lot of promise. He had virtually no room to work with thanks to some really bad blocking, but he displayed his ability to make people miss quite a bit and often turned something into nothing in order to get back to the line of scrimmage. (Again, the run blocking was terrible. More on that in a second.)
DE Willie Young: Young just keeps making plays. This week, he got his hand on a Carson Palmer screen pass and tipped it to himself for an interception, giving the Lions outstanding field position. He also made a nice play against the run where he shed a block to bring down the ball carrier. He has definitely delivered on all of the hype surrounding him this offseason.
Special teams: After how bad they were the last couple of weeks, I can't believe I'm writing this, but the special teams units were perhaps the biggest winners from Saturday's game. The kick and punt units didn't allow any big returns, and more often than not they made immediate tackles and tackles that put the Raiders in bad field position. What's more, the Lions' return unit excelled with Justin Miller taking a kick back 80 yards. All in all, it was a great day for the Lions' special teams unit.
QB Shaun Hill: While he did lead the Lions to a touchdown on one drive, Hill had a pretty rough game. He went 7-of-15 for 67 yards and one touchdown, and he had one interception (on the TD drive) washed out because of a penalty on the defense. Something just seemed off with Hill on Saturday, and the Lions' offense really struggled to move the ball when he came into the game. Just because he's on this list doesn't mean his backup job is even remotely in jeopardy or anything like that, but it was a rough performance in my mind for Hill.
WR Patrick Edwards: I think Edwards has played his way off of the roster in recent weeks. He had a great start to training camp, but he's sort of disappeared since then. Unfortunately for Edwards, he did show up as one of the lone weak spots on special teams on Saturday, making some bad decisions as a returner. On one punt, he called for a fair catch at the five-yard line, and he muffed another. While he recovered the fumble, it just wasn't an impressive day for somebody who needs to excel on special teams to make the team.
Run blocking: The reason Leshoure's numbers weren't worse is because he did make some nice moves to get back to the line of scrimmage on a few plays where he had a defender immediately in his face. More often than not, there was really nowhere for Leshoure to run, and this issue was the result of mediocre run blocking by the offensive line. The Lions averaged 2.7 yards per carry on 24 attempts, and a good chunk of their yards came on scrambles by Hill and a couple reverses. The Lions struggling to run the ball is certainly no surprise at this point, but it was disappointing to see just how bad the O-line was on Saturday.
Pass defense: Palmer and Terrelle Pryor both torched the Lions. Together, they combined to go 20-of-31 for 318 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. A big part of the Lions' problem was that Bill Bentley and Chris Houston got hurt, but the bigger issue was how many long passes the Lions' secondary surrendered in this game. It was concerning, to say the least.
Health: As already discussed, Lions starters suffered several injuries in Oakland. This was the first time injuries have really been a huge issue in the 2012 preseason for the Lions, and although none of them appear to be serious right now, it's still a bit concerning that so many guys got banged up.
Replacement officials: Once again, the replacement officials have landed on the losers list, and once again, it wasn't because of one egregious call or anything like that. Instead, it's a problem of game management. The replacement officials just don't do a good job of running everything smoothly. An example of this from Saturday's game was when a Raiders player tried fumbling the ball out of bounds to stop the clock toward the end of the first half. For some reason, an official called for the clock to stop when it should have kept running. Realizing the mistake, the clock then started to run again before Oakland took a timeout. Somehow, the solution to this mistake was for a couple of seconds to be put back on the clock. It was just a really strange sequence of events, and Jim Schwartz looked like he was going to explode over on the Lions sideline over the call.