There’s excitement in the air, and anticipation anywhere you turn. The Detroit Lions kick off their preseason on Friday night, and if you’re like me, you can’t wait to simply watch this team take the field for the first time.
But if we’re being honest, we aren’t going to get a ton of answers from Friday night. There’s plenty we want to see—like schematic answer or an insight into Matt Patricia’s game-planning—that we won’t really even get a glimpse at against the Oakland Raiders. So here’s what you can expect to see on Friday night, along with some other things you probably won’t see.
What you will see: A long look at Kerryon Johnson
If you’re expecting the Lions to protect their second-round pick and barely play the former Auburn running back, I think you may be in for a surprise on Friday night. Kerryon Johnson still needs to earn his way to the top of the depth chart, while guys like LeGarrette Blount and Theo Riddick have little to prove.
I think we could see a lot of Johnson in the first half of the game, perhaps splitting carries with Ameer Abdullah. Though in the last two quarters, I fully expect Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington to take over.
What you won’t see: Matthew Stafford playing more than a series
If you’re hoping to see what Stafford looks like with a brand new offensive line and a (fingers crossed) respectable running game, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure. If Stafford plays at all, don’t expect him to play anything more than a single series.
What you will see: Teo Redding Hype Train
I mentioned it in Friday’s open thread, and I’ll mention it again, I think for at least one night, Redding will live up to the hype. He’s bound to get a lot of playing time, as I’m sure the Lions have little interest in giving Marvin Jones Jr., Golden Tate or even Kenny Golladay much playing time.
That means we’re going to see Redding pretty early and often, and if training camp was any indication, he’s going to do pretty well against a thin Raiders secondary. Perhaps I’m just swept up in the hype at the moment, but I’d be pretty surprised if Redding doesn’t catch at least three or four passes.
What you won’t see: An answer to our defensive scheme questions
In preseason games, you rarely gameplan for your opponents, and that means we’re not going to see much from this defense against the Raiders. Head coach Matt Patricia has emphasized all offseason that the gameplan will change drastically on both sides of the ball depending on their opponent.
So even if Patricia does have a specific scheme for the Raiders Friday night, it won’t tell us much about his long-term plans for 2018. Instead, expect to see the Lions in a lot of four-man fronts with five defensive backs playing pretty vanilla defensive plays.
This week, Patricia joked with the media about how much he’ll reveal on Friday, and it pretty much tells you everything you need to know about drawing too many conclusions.
“I think you guys will have a full understanding of everything we’re going to do for the entire season when we get done with that game on Friday,” Patricia joked. “I think that’s pretty much what my plan is, to just give you guys everything.”
What you will see: The new helmet rule rear its ugly head
The NFL is going to use the preseason to feel out this new rule, whether they want to admit it or not. It’s already been a big headline for the prior preseason games this week. In fact, on Thursday we saw our first ejection based on the new rule:
While this example is pretty straightforward, most of the infractions are not going to be this cut and dry. I expect to see at least one instance of this penalty on Friday night. We’ll see if it’s the right call.
What you won’t see: Ezekiel Ansah
Ansah came off the Physically Unable to Perform list this week, but for such a fragile and important player to the Lions, it would be risky and reckless to rush him back so quickly. I do think we’ll see Ansah at some point this preseason, but this is way too early for a guy who wasn’t even going through full team drills this week.
We’re all eager to see if Ansah can ever return to his former self, but don’t expect to get any answers on Friday.