It certainly wasn’t a pretty start to Friday night’s dress rehearsal between the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots, but the Lions nearly managed to pull out ahead before falling just short by a score of 30-28. Here are 10 things we learned from the Lions’ first defeat of the preseason.
1. Injuries are piling up, but no major injuries still a good sign
We learned after the game that Zach Zenner and Miles Killebrew missed Friday’s game due to injuries and we also saw Tahir Whitehead and Cole Wick leave the game and never come back. Of course, we do not know the full extent of these injuries and it would be unwise to speculate, but none of these injuries appeared to be too serious aside from maybe Cole Wick’s heavy hit to the ribs. The Lions are already getting quite thin at tight end right now, so hopefully we see Wick back soon.
2. Jarrad Davis is still a rookie, let us not forget that
Davis isn’t just a rookie linebacker. He’s a rookie linebacker that’s being asked to control and lead an entire defense, and it’s very unrealistic to expect him to look sharp out there at all times during his first year in the NFL.
Though Davis shined against a couple mediocre-at-best offenses in the first two weeks of the preseason, he was clearly in over his head against an all-time great QB in Tom Brady, a freak of nature at tight end in Rob Gronkowski and a deadly slot receiver in Julian Edelman. It wasn’t pretty for Davis, who gave up a few catches in the first couple of drives, but now he can go back, watch the film and maybe learn a lesson or two against a top offense in the NFL. He will bounce back from this.
3. Jake Rudock is Detroit’s backup quarterback, and that’s a good thing
Look, I’ve never been the biggest Jake Rudock fan, I will be the first to admit it. It has nothing to do with my Michigan State fandom. From evaluating him as a prospect coming out of Michigan, to watching him in training camp for two years, he had done nothing to prove that he belonged as a backup QB. But man, this kid is a gamer.
This was Rudock’s most impressive performance yet. He may not look very good on the practice field, but when he’s out there on the field with the lights on, he looks like he belongs as a backup QB. I was especially impressed with his poise and ability to create away from the pocket against the Patriots.
Top Graded #Lions on O vs NE:— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) August 26, 2017
Jake Rudock- 82.9
Matthew Stafford- 82.1
Tim Wright- 79.1
Jared Abbrederis- 78.5
4. The defensive line simply isn’t doing their job
The front four were unable to sack the quarterback, and the rest of the defense suffered as a result. Without creating any pressure, the Patriots were able to spread the ball out with ease, especially in the first quarter. It was an ugly sight to see and with all the time in the world, Brady looked invincible up until his final throw of the game (an interception).
Rushing four guys just isn’t going to work that often for the Lions, and Teryl Austin will have his hands full trying to implement different blitz patterns just to create some pressure on opposing QBs.
5. The running game hasn’t really gotten any better
The offensive line has struggled to create for the running backs so far and even though Abdullah had himself a nice game overall, the running game struggled to get things going in the first quarter with just five yards on four carries. This is not an encouraging sign.
6. Ameer Abdullah continues to ball out
Even with poor blocking, Abdullah manages to pull out a five or six-yard gain on occasion that any other running back on the roster would struggle to net a positive gain. Against the Patriots, Abdullah had a nice reception from Stafford where he was lined up as an outside receiver on the play. He can do it all.
7. Dwayne Washington is making the team
With Zach Zenner sidelined, Washington and Matt Asiata were given the chance to duke it out for possibly the last running back spot on the roster. Though Asiata had the higher yards per carry on the night, Washington made the most of his opportunities by scoring two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) and has done much more this preseason to impress coaches than Asiata. There is still a chance that coaches want Washington on kick returns as well, though I would not condone that decision.
8. The Lions are bringing Theo Riddick back slowly
Lions first half HB snap count: Ameer Abdullah 20, Theo Riddick 8— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) August 26, 2017
Riddick would go on to touch the ball just once for zero yards in the run game. They know what they have in Theo, and I would be surprised if he saw much, if any action during Detroit’s fourth preseason game. I’d expect Theo will be close to 100 percent for Week 1 if he isn’t already.
9. Jalen Reeves-Maybin is having a heck of a preseason
Against second and third-string offenses, Reeves-Maybin looks like a young, healthy DeAndre Levy out there. He even saw plenty of action in the first quarter against the ones.
We’ve seen Reeves-Maybin run from sideline-to-sideline to make tackles and blow up screens in the backfield, and now, with the possibility of Tahir Whitehead missing some time, he may get some more opportunities at WILL linebacker for the Lions.
10. The Cardiac Cats are back!
Preseason or not, coming back from a 24-0 deficit, scoring 28 unanswered points to steal the lead and then giving up a game winning field goal to the Patriots with two seconds remaining is pure, unadulterated, Detroit Lions football.