It’s been a rough preseason for any Detroit Lions fans. Entering the preseason with the optimism from a second straight winning season, a brand new head coach, and a few exciting draft picks, it was easy to be optimistic about this 2018 team. However, the past three games have tested the limits of that faith and has led to a pretty significant increase in concern across Detroit.
So let’s try to focus on the positive for a day. There have been some individuals who have stuck out this preseason, some surprising, others expected. So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Detroit Lions player is having the best preseason thus far?
My answer: I’ll go with one on offense, one on defense.
Offensively, wide receiver Brandon Powell has been extremely impressive. Towards the end of training camp, Powell started to stick out as a pretty solid special teams returner. He proved he wasn’t just a practice phenom this preseason by looking like a legitimate option there. He has the most punt returns yards of anyone in the preseason—thanks to his 80-yard touchdown—and he’s also in the top 20 in kick return average (26.0).
And I haven’t even mentioned his offensive prowess, where he leads the league with 15 receptions. Granted, he has only turned those 15 catches into 99 yards, but what exactly is he supposed to do about that? Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel have been allergic to throwing the ball downfield this preseason, and Powell has done a pretty good job getting the most out of each reception.
Powell has made it a tough decision for the Lions, and while I still think they carry just four receivers on the roster, leaving Powell as the odd man out, the rookie receiver has done enough to make the Lions seriously consider him.
Defensively, I have to give it up to Ricky Jean Francois. Considering he bounced around teams last year, I thought when the Lions signed Francois, it was mostly to a mentorship role. I figured he’d be a big help on the practice field and the locker room to get this team up to date on Matt Patricia defensive scheme.
While he has undoubtedly taken that role with the team thus far, he has also put his money where his mouth is. He has been one of just a few players who has created pressure from the interior and has been a solid run-stuffer. When he finally played an entire half last week, he impressed with six total tackles, the second highest on the team.
It’s pretty amazing that Francois came in just before camp and took a starting role after just a week or two of practice. While that’s equally disappointing for a guy like A’Shawn Robinson, the fact is Francois has already been one of the Lions’ most important offseason signings and the regular season hasn’t even started yet.