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Sunday Notes: Browns Game Observations

  • Before getting to my observations from yesterday's game, I first want to mention that there is a good chance Drew Henson will be signed to the Lions' practice squad when the final round of cuts are made next Saturday.  Henson will not be on the 53-man roster, but the Lions are likely going to keep Henson around just in case an injury happens to Dan Orlovsky while Drew Stanton is out with his own injury.  After all, the Lions are planning on carrying only two healthy QBs for the first five weeks of the season, so it's a good idea to have another QB ready just in case he needs to be added to the active roster.
  • The running game didn't look great, but it wasn't horrible, either.  The Lions seemed to struggle against Cleveland's 3-4 defense at times, but there were many positives to take out of this game.  The biggest positive was Kevin Smith's 35-yard touchdown run that included a block from Dan Orlovsky right before Smith scored.  Smith cut to the left side after having no room to the right and simply ran by defenders.  When he got inside the 5-yard line Orlovsky blocked one Browns defender and then got in the way of another, allowing Smith to fall into the endzone.
  • It is clear at this point that Kevin Smith will be this team's starting running back.  He has looked better than any other Lions running back so far this preseason and is clearly the most talented RB on the roster.  Smith doesn't just run forward and go down.  Instead, he makes plays out of nothing.  We saw that quite a few times against Cleveland.  Smith would run outside after having no room to run in the middle and would gain yards when he should have been tackled for a loss.
  • As far as the other running backs go, other than Smith I would say it is unclear who else will make the team at this point.  Tatum Bell still hasn't shown anything that sets himself apart from the other running backs, meaning his spot on the roster is very much in jeopardy.  Brian Calhoun had his best preseason game yesterday.  He broke a tackle and went down the field for a 40-yard run that put the Lions in position to score a touchdown.  The only bad thing about the play is that he was run down by a couple Browns defenders (I thought he was faster than that).

    Aveion Cason only got 1 carry, so there's not much I can say about him.  Artose Pinner didn't look as good as he has in the past, but it's not like he did anything that erases his performance the last two weeks.  I still believe Pinner deserves a spot on the roster, but I suppose we'll get a better idea if that'll happen after Thursday's preseason finale.
  • Jon Kitna looked much younger than he actually is against Cleveland.  On three or so separate occasions Kitna scrambled away from a Cleveland pass rush that should have resulted in a few sacks.  Instead, it resulted in 0 as Kitna managed to escape the blitz every single time.  That is something all Lions fans have to love to see as Kitna not getting sacked is always a good thing.  I wish the offensive line was doing a better job of protecting him, but if he can continue to avoid pressure by using his feet then the Lions should be able to live with the poor blocking.
  • Roy Williams had his best game of the preseason as he caught 3 passes for 61 yards.  His best catch came when Kitna avoided a sack and threw the ball downfield to Williams.  Roy had to come back for the ball and made an outstanding catch that resulted in a gain of 29 yards.
  • Dave Rayner filled in for the injured Jason Hanson very well, making all 4 of his attempted field goals.  Rayner's accuracy looked better yesterday compared to last week and his leg continued to look powerful.  I hope Hanson is able to return soon, but if something does happen where the Lions need a replacement going into the regular season, Rayner would be more than qualified.  The only thing is that as soon as Rayner becomes a free agent he'll probably find another job quickly after being released as he has played well in Detroit.
  • Perhaps the best thing to come out of the preseason is the play of the Lions' defensive line.  In all three games this preseason the Lions have done an amazing job of putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.  The pass rush has forced bad throws, which in turn is helping out the Lions secondary.  That was especially evident when Brady Quinn was in the game yesterday as he rarely had enough time to make the throws he wanted.
  • I mentioned that the Lions secondary was getting help from the pass rush, but they have been playing much, much better in the preseason compared to 2007.  Leigh Bodden and Dwight Smith played well on Saturday, and although Brian Kelly didn't play, he looked great against Cincinnati.  Gerald Alexander, who is in his second season in the NFL, had a tremendous game against Cleveland as well.  He was all over the field making play after play.
  • That last sentence also sums up Ernie Sims' play against the Browns.  Sims was in the game longer than I expected and made the most of his time on the field.  On one drive it seemed like he was in on every single play.  And on the other drives he was usually near the play all the time as well.
  • Browns defensive tackle Shaun Rogers played well against his former team.  The fans actually booed him a couple of times after he made a play, which isn't a big surprise.  Rogers seemed to feed off of the crowd at times, though, especially after he put a big hit on Kevin Smith.
  • Running back Aveion Cason and fullback/tight end Sean McHugh both suffered ankle injuries.  Defensive end Cliff Avril also hurt his back.  The severity of all three players' injuries is unknown at this time, but nothing sounds serious.
  • As already mentioned, cornerback Brian Kelly didn't dress against Cleveland.  Rod Marinelli didn't elaborate on why he wasn't in uniform.  However, I got the impression that Kelly didn't play just so he could get a break.  After all, he has been in this league for quite some time.