The Detroit Lions are currently in California, preparing for the first of two joint practices with the Oakland Raiders. Not only will this be an opportunity for the team to measure themselves against another NFL franchise, but it will be a chance for these players to finally go up against an unfamiliar face. For the past two weeks, players have been taking reps against the same set of guys, and that can get redundant after a while.
The Raiders are an interesting team, because no one knows exactly what to expect of them. They already have a franchise quarterback in place, but new head coach Jon Gruden is an absolute wild card. Their overall roster is up and down, with some strengths in the defense and some vulnerabilities at the skill positions. ESPN ranks their overall roster as just 24th, but that doesn’t mean there are no talented players on the roster.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
What are the best matchups between the Lions and Raiders this week?
My answer: I’ll give you one for each side of the ball.
When the Lions have the ball, I’m very interested in how their running game will look against a fairly stout run defense. Last year, the Raiders allowed just 108.9 rushing yards a game (12th) and 4.0 yards per carry (t-10th) thanks in large part to space-eating defensive tackle Justin Ellis. I’d love to see how rookie guard Frank Ragnow holds up against the 335-pound nose tackle who earned a solid 80.5 Pro Football Focus grade last season.
When the Raiders have the ball, the secondary will be tested. Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson and Martavis Bryant against Darius Slay, Quandre Diggs and DeShawn Shead/Nevin Lawson should be a ton of fun to watch both during practice and the preseason—if they play at all in the exhibition game.
The Lions secondary has held up very well at training camp, so there’s reason to believe they can win this matchup against a pretty solid receiving corps. However, it’s a new set of receivers with a completely new set of moves. You never know how players will react to a change in routine.