For many Detroit Lions starters, Friday night will be their last chance to shake off the rust and convince their coaches that they need to be an integral piece of the puzzle this year. For non-starters, it may not be their final chance, but it’s a huge opportunity to showcase their talent.
A handful of players have stuck out through the Lions’ first couple of exhibitions games, but if the Lions are going to excel in 2018, they’re going to need better efforts from a lot more players. So here are five players that really need to impress against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Friday night.
Since the beginning of training camp, Robinson has seen his status as clear starter stolen from veteran Ricky Jean Francois, and things reached an all-time low when Robinson was playing into the fourth quarter of last week’s preseason game. Head coach Matt Patricia downplayed this fact in a press conference this week.
“Just mixing him through. Kind of rolling all those guys through there and trying to see what are the different combinations,” Patricia said. “I think he’s definitely a guy that’s a young guy still in this league, so trying to get as many snaps as possible.”
Twist it anyway that you want, but for a guy that played a similar scheme in Alabama and is entering his third year in the league, he’s behind where he should be. The former second-round pick needs a good performance to convince the coaches he’s on the right track.
For the second week in a row Davis lands on his list. His last preseason game started out just as good as you could expect, tallying tackles on the first three defensive plays, including two run stuffs.
But his night was overshadowed by a play he called “boneheaded.” He was juked out of his jock by a Giants running back, leading to an easy pitch and catch for New York.
Davis’ coverage skills have always been criticized and the complaints have never been louder. A pass defended or two would go a long ways to improving his reputation.
There is little concern about the Lions’ franchise tackle and his long-term fit in Detroit, but last week was one of the worst performances we’ve seen out of the third-year offensive lineman.
Decker needs to prove that he has shaken off his injury-hampered season last year and has the confidence to return to the level he played in his impressive rookie year. Neutralizing the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul would be a nice bounceback and confidence booster for the (just-turned) 25-year-old.
The 28-year-old Lions linebacker was just starting to turn heads in the Lions media when Detroit went out and traded for 49ers linebacker Eli Harold. Now, Bishop’s roster spot is in even more jeopardy with the addition, but he has a couple of advantages in his corner.
It seems highly unlikely the Lions will play Harold on Friday night, so before he enters the mix, Bishop will get an opportunity to put more tape out there, and show his comfort in Patricia’s defense—where Harold has no direct experience.
The Lions didn’t put a lot of resources into getting Harold, so he is by no means guaranteed to make the roster. Bishop can make the Lions’ decision a lot more difficult with a good performance vs. the Buccaneers.
Okay, he’s not a player, but this will really be the first opportunity for Patricia to show why the Lions selected him as their new coach. Patricia has been billed as a master schemer and game-planner. Considering the Lions’ have a somewhat weak defensive roster, Patricia is expected to beat opposing offenses with superior game-planning and utilizing his players to the best of their abilities.
This will be the first week the Lions show any sort of game-planning, as is tradition in the dress rehearsal third preseason game.
“We really have to go off film. We really have to study what they do, see if there’s anything that we can pick up that will give us an advantage in the game,” Patricia said this week. “So, it’s more of a regular season mindset at that point.”
If Patricia and company really give the Lions that advantage, we should see at least a glimpse of it Friday night.