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Detroit Lions Stock Report: Rookies take the stage

The Detroit Lions have had an uneven showing from their rookies through training camp, but they were all highlighted against the Pittsburgh Steelers, for better or worse.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions won their first preseason matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a game that wasn’t even a little close. The Lions dominated their matchup from start to finish, even with the missteps and unforced errors they found with their starting unit. As in most victories, there is more good than bad to talk about, but we’re still going to take stock and look at where the players stand based on their first live action.

Stock Up: Joe Dahl, OG

Annoying broadcast aside, Dahl was being called out so much because he was making good blocks all night. I say all night, but I am of course omitting one play in particular. Dahl had one of the worst plays of the game when he completely whiffed on his assignment and allowed a free rusher. It was an awful play, so any tentative feelings you have on Dahl would be justified. For the rest of the game, however, he settled in and seemed to be playing off linemate Graham Glasgow very well. Dahl had a good camp and if he can continue his upward trend he may end up starting by year’s end.

Stock Down: TJ Jones, WR

Prior to the Steelers game, I considered TJ Jones a lock to make the roster. He was being used as if he was a lock and played as if he was one. He was still used like he was a lock in the team’s first preseason matchup, but, man, did he waste any goodwill he had earned in camp. He caught only one pass, which he then fumbled for a net loss of a yard. Then he followed that up with a clean drop on what should have been an easy catch. Compounding his woes, Andre Roberts and Quinshad Davis both played well, while Dwayne Washington notched a return TD on special teams. All of these things add up to a bad day for the former sixth-round pick.

Stock Up: Kyle Van Noy, LB

The third year linebacker started off his day with good coverage in the flat and then fell apart. He was embarrassed in coverage, albeit against a receiver, which made him lose his footing and send the receiver free. He followed that up with a missed tackle. Unlike last year, it didn’t get in his head. He made a nice tackle on a runner up the middle, cutting through the line and wrapping both legs. The rest of his day would mostly trend positively. He was in for all three teams, so the Lions coaching staff clearly wanted to see if he could handle a whole day’s work, and stayed clean for much of it. Late in the game, he missed a tackle he should have made, making it two on the day. It wasn’t a perfect day, but there were a lot of promising signs in his development and his day overall held up to scrutiny.

Stock Down: Taylor Decker

The Lions first-round pick got thrust right into the fire in his first matchup, going against 38-year-old James Harrison. The long time veteran pass rusher ate Decker for lunch and gave him a learning experience he’s going to remember for the rest of his career. Decker was put on skates his entire time in the game and never really recovered. Rookie offensive tackles generally struggle, so I’m no more concerned about this than I was when Decker was listed as the starter, but seeing it in real time is not promising for Matthew Stafford’s health.

Stock Up: Jake Rudock, QB

Like Kellen Moore in years past, Rudock had a good preseason showing but likely did little to narrow the gap between himself and that No. 2 spot. Rudock went 8-of-11 for 72 yards and a TD. Not too bad of a showing, and it’s nice to see Rudock playing well after a rocky training camp where he missed routine throws, well, routinely. As we do every preseason, we have to take into account that it was third team, but playing a clean game is important for a quarterback’s confidence. Rudock showed off his wheels, notching a neat little 17-yard run when a play broke down, and while he isn’t a scrambling type of QB, it’s good to see he’s not inept in that area. Most of his passes were check downs, relying on the receivers to gain yards after the catch. This was mostly by design I would bet, since Rudock has struggled mostly with passes more than a few yards past the line of scrimmage, so just give him the stuff he can win with and he won’t flounder.

Stock Down: Brandon Copeland, DE

There isn’t a consensus for how Copeland played against the Steelers. Some of us here thought he played well, getting pressure most of the night. That wasn’t my impression at all, and while I won’t take any credit away from his heads up scoop of a Johnson Bademosi forced fumble, Copeland was mostly a negative as a pass rusher. Eaten up by his blockers the entire night, he didn’t register so much as a single tackle. Not even an assist. He wasn’t any better in run support, failing to set the edge on an early Daryl Richardson run and struggling to disengage once he was locked up with a tackle. Like Kyle Van Noy, Copeland played with all three teams and saw plenty of action. I just wanted to see more done with the opportunities he was given, but left unsatisfied.

Quick Hits

Stock Up

Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB: Managed to play some third team, didn’t look lost.
Johnson Bademosi, CB: Got the start with Darius Slay out, made a few plays.
Jace Billingsley, WR: The rookie is a long shot, but had his first touchdown with some YAC and good field awareness.
Anquan Boldin, WR: Boldin got to show why he’s here with a powerful 30 yard reception complete with tough catch and broken tackle.
Josh Bynes: Back in the starting lineup due to Jon Bostic’s injury, Bynes wasn’t abused in coverage as is normally the case.
Stefan Charles, DT: Charles got in on a couple plays, nothing amazing but a positive day.

Quinshad Davis, WR: Getting the nod over fellow UDFA Jay Lee, Quinshad Davis delivered a couple catches including a two-point conversion.
Graham Glasgow, OC: Like Dahl, he struggled early but was able to rebound and have a solid-to-good overall first game.
Khaseem Greene, LB: Greene made a nice sack where he cut through the Steelers offensive line. Due to injuries, it’s a thin unit, so making plays helps.
Marvin Jones, WR: Jones and Matthew Stafford is obvious, it’s a connection we should get used to seeing often.
Miles Killebrew, SS: He wasn’t challenged much, but did a good job in his debut and didn’t look out of place.
Jimmy Landes, LS: Landes struggled with low snaps on kicks in camp, but nailed everything in his first game action.
Cornelius Lucas, OT: It isn’t often I praise Lucas’ play, but he had some nice moments. Even looked aggressive. I know, I was shocked, too.
Matthew Mulligan, TE: Got the start and was able as a blocker. Safe bet for third TE if the team keeps one.
Glover Quin, FS: Despite not being challenged much, Quin still showed field awareness and a command of the secondary. Not often mentioned as a leader, but is.
Rashaad Reynolds, CB: He hasn’t had much chance to learn the defense, but got plenty of play and wasn’t completely lost. Good show on little preparation.
Andre Roberts, WR: Dan Orlovsky loves Roberts and the two played off each other perfectly. Made a great case for his roster spot.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: A rough camp behind him, Robinson was a mauler when matched up one-on-one.
Devin Taylor, DE: Had a few poor plays, but was mostly disruptive and active as a starter.
Khyri Thornton, DT: Even if you ignore his suplex Thornton got a lot of work and looked pretty good in it.
Dwayne Washington, RB: Washington's great return will surely help his long shot bid for a roster spot. Most important to me, he caught that return cleanly.
Tahir Whitehead, LB: Wasn’t bad in coverage, which was an issue all of camp. 
George Winn, RB: Was the fourth RB to take the field, caught a couple passes and looked decisive as a runner.
Zach Zenner, RB: Took the first carries with second team and made the most of them. Importantly, he also played well on special teams.
Anthony Zettel, DE: His debut couldn’t have gone better. He still needs work to make an impact on this team, but made a convincing case in his first game.

Stock Down

Devon Bell, K/P: Missing an XP when you’re trying to audition for other teams isn’t ideal.
Rafael Bush, SS: Only really tested once in coverage, he undercut a route to go for the pick but gator handed it. The pass was luckily dropped, but would have been a big play.
Crezdon Butler, CB: It was a bad day for Butler against his old team. Gave up a TD without turning his head and had a bad interference penalty.
Andre Caldwell, WR: The timing of his hand injury has allowed players like Andre Roberts and Quinshad Davis to outwork him. Unfortunate after a strong camp.
Alex Carter, CB: A bad missed tackle undid much of his good coverage in the game. Progress.
Orson Charles, TE: Had a couple catches, but can’t seem to get out of his teammates’ way. Did that in camp, too, an odd problem that persists.
Wallace Gilberry, DE: Got the start with Ezekiel Ansah out, but did very little in his Lions debut.
Zaviar Gooden, LB: Camp was rough, but a possible concussion could completely derail any chance he had to make an impression.
Isaiah Johnson, SS: He caused Zaviar Gooden’s injury and was already trending downward. Not a good way to make a case.
Jeremy Kerley, WR: If anybody needed a good game to bounce back from a bad camp it was Jeremy Kerley. Had a drop and generally wasn’t very good.
Jay Lee, WR: A ghost after a strong camp, Lee wasn't targeted despite playing a ton of snaps in the second half.
Ben McCord, TE: Firmly behind Adam Fuehne and Orson Charles, did nothing to change that.
Theo Riddick, RB: What a bad day for Riddick. Blown block, dropped pass, and missed lane as a rusher. 
Stevan Ridley, RB: Ridley didn't get any work until the third team took the field. He is clearly well behind Zach Zenner and possibly behind George Winn as well.
Travis Swanson, OC: Still only the starter by default, he didn't have a good showing.
Dan Orlovsky, QB: Actually didn’t play terrible aside from one play. You know which one. It’s why he’s down here.
Cole Wick, TE: He had a nice catch, but was pretty bad as a blocker. Had an opportunity to shine and while he didn’t blow it, he didn’t do much with it.

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