For the fourth straight week I’m opening this article with a paragraph on how the Lions sputtered through yet another preseason game. This week’s game ended in a 35-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns that saw the team get booed off of the field to end a 25-0 first half. The Lions finish the preseason with a 1-3 record and will be more than happy to put this month behind them to focus on the games that matter starting next week. Here are a few things we learned in the Lions preseason finale:
Ameer Abdullah is all but a roster lock
The Lions rested all of their key players Thursday night, and that included running back Ameer Abdullah. Detroit’s former starting tailback was held out of the game – a signal from the Lions that they don’t need to see anything else from him.
Abdullah’s two rivals for the final roster spot at running back did not impress either. Zach Zenner ended up leaving the game with an early injury after carrying the ball once for -1 yards. Dwayne Washington was the bell cow for the night. While he played decently and finished the night with 67 yards on 20 carries, his fate was most likely sealed before the opening kickoff.
One of the most interesting storylines of Lions preseason wrapped itself up before the start of the final game. Abdullah is the fourth running back on the roster, and it would be hard to justify keeping either Washington or Zenner behind him.
We may be at the end of the Jake Rudock era
There was a lot of excitement surrounding Jake Rudock when the Lions selected him in sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The Michigan product earned the back up role when he was promoted for the practice squad in 2016, and then defended his title as the back up quarterback in 2017 when the Lions added Miami’s Brad Kaaya. It seems that his competition this year may have been a little too much for him as it appears that veteran Matt Cassel will walk out of the fourth preseason game with the back up role all but locked up.
Rudock had a rough night overall but did lead an impressive late game touchdown drive. It will be hard to imagine that the one drive will be enough to overwrite an entire month’s worth of struggles, though.
Neither Rudock not Cassel really impressed this month, but Cassel has at least looked more confident and poised running the offense. Rudock looks like he has regressed from his great 2017 preseason and with quarterback talent more abundant around the league than ever at the moment, it is unlikely that he wins a roster spot anywhere outside of Detroit either.
Anthony Zettel still had something to prove
While all of the key players sat out Thursday night, defensive end Anthony Zettel was surprisingly on the field. The defensive end was a projected starter for the Lions entering training camp but hasn’t done anything to impress this preseason. Zettel played into the second half against the Browns, showing the Detroit’s coaching staff still want to see a lot more from him.
Unfortunately, he had a poor night. He was getting brutalized in run defense as he almost always does and not doing enough as a pass rusher to really make up for it. It would still be incredibly surprising to see Zettel not make the final 53-man roster, but with Kerry Hyder, Devon Kennard and Eli Harold all around to play an EDGE role for the team it is possible that he has dug himself into a hole in the depth chart this preseason.