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Panic watch: Grading the panic level for Detroit Lions’ 4 biggest issues from Patriots game

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Your guide to Lions-related anxieties.

NFL: Preseason-New England Patriots at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Any time an NFL team tanks a preseason game, it’s a whirlwind for fans. For some, it completely sucks out the optimism in the room and deflates all the excitement that comes with an incoming season. You could certainly sense that at Ford Field on Thursday night, as patrons donned in Honolulu Blue walked into the building full of cheerful hope and left with an uneasy feeling of deja vu.

But there’s another subset of fans that refuse to take anything from the preseason. Vanilla scheme, backup players and coaches that are just trying to feel things out mean that literally nothing can be gleaned from the preseason, they argue.

Of course, the real answer lies somewhere in the middle. The preseason isn’t make-or-break, but it isn’t ignorable. So let’s look at the four biggest problems from the Lions’ performance against the New England Patriots, and measure how much of a panic they should cause in Lions fans.

The concern: The Lions offensive line allowed 9 sacks

Why you should be concerned:

This was the team’s biggest concern going into training camp, as the Lions did very little to fill T.J. Lang’s spot on the roster. With Detroit still not settled on a starting five, plenty of players that could be starting in 2019 played deep into the game, and things never seemed to gel.

Additionally, Thursday proved that the Lions’ depth is a major area of concern, especially at the tackle position. Tyrell Crosby has long been assumed the primary backup at both tackle positions, and he arguably had the worst night of anyone.

Why you shouldn’t be concerned:

When it comes to the performance of the actual projected starters, the Lions actually fared fine on Thursday. Taylor Decker, Frank Ragnow and Rick Wagner only played five snaps, and while that unit allowed a sack, that was mostly on Tom Savage for holding the ball too long on a three-step drop. Their performance can’t really be graded after just five plays.

As for the guards, Graham Glasgow and Kenny Wiggins were fine. Each played 14 snaps, and aside from Wiggins tripping over his teammate on one play, I didn’t see anything egregious from either player.

Overall panic level: 8/10

The likelihood that the Lions stay healthy on the offensive line all year is doubtful. That just doesn’t happen much in this league, and the Lions currently look ill-equipped to deal with an injury at literally any position.

Additionally, anyone worried about whether Taylor Decker will finally rebound or if Frank Ragnow will thrive in his new role didn’t get an answer on Thursday. Those are all valid concerns, and watching the Lions’ backup quarterbacks get pummeled didn’t help me feel any better.

The concern: The Lions’ backup quarterback situation looks dire

Why you should be concerned:

With the injury to Tom Savage, David Fales stepped in and proved why most beat writers believed there wasn’t a serious backup quarterback battle in Detroit. He wasn’t helped by his offensive line, but Fales still played poorly, completing just 5-of-14 passes for 62 yards, half of which came on one pass.

The fact that the Lions are signing Josh Johnson may be a bad sign for Savage’s long-term availability, and they’re not only getting a subpar quarterback, but they’re getting one that is months behind learning the playbook. His history with Lions quarterback coach Sean Ryan helps a little, but it’s still a new offense.

Why you shouldn’t be concerned:

The signing of another quarterback could simply mean the Lions need someone taking reps in training camp. As long as Savage avoids IR, there’s reason to be hopeful he’ll be okay by Week 1. If it is indeed a concussion Savage is dealing with, the recovery time could vary significantly. But to be safe, the Lions would likely hold him out of the rest of the preseason regardless.

Additionally, Matthew Stafford has started every game in the last eight seasons. So no need to freak out about a backup who may never play (KNOCK ON WOOD).

Overall panic level: 6/10

I’ve actually liked how Savage has played thus far in camp and the preseason, so as long as he’s okay in the long term, I don’t think there’s that much reason for concern. That being said, his diagnosis right now is completely unknown, and if he finds himself in a long-term recovery, the Lions’ backup situation will be worse than it has been in the past couple years, and that’s saying something.

The concern: The Lions’ defense couldn’t stop anyone

Why you should be concerned:

Again, the Lions’ depth proved to be less than advertised. Detroit’s secondary looked no different than the one that allowed the third-highest passer rating in 2018. Additionally, the Lions continued to show almost no pass rush, another carry-over concern from last year.

Why you shouldn’t be concerned:

The Lions played almost nobody that will get significant playing time this year. Some of their best defenders—Trey Flowers, Da’Shawn Hand, A’Shawn Robinson, Devon Kennard, Mike Daniels, Quandre Diggs—didn’t play a single snap, and the few that did—Darius Slay, Romeo Okwara, Tracy Walker—played just one series and a forced a punt.

Additionally, there was even a positive to pull from the defensive performance. The Lions’ run defense remained fairly stout despite the fact that they were without their top six defensive linemen.

Overall panic level: 2/10

You would’ve like to see better performances out of guys like Amani Oruwariye and Jamal Agnew, but most of these guys won’t see the field unless the Lions suffer a lot of injuries.

The concern: The coaches won’t have this team ready for the regular season... again

Why you should be concerned:

This game looked almost identical to a 2018 preseason game. The offense was ineffective, the defense looked lost, and the Lions were outclassed in all three phases of the game. No matter how you spin that, that should be concerning.

The Lions took that lack of confidence from the preseason last year into the regular season and dropped one of the worst eggs I’ve seen on an opening night game against an inferior opponent. It’s really impossible to ignore just how identical this game felt to last year.

Why you shouldn’t be concerned:

To begin with, it’s just one game. If the Lions’ performance continues throughout the entire preseason with more starters entering the fray, that’s another story.

But for many players, this is the second year under Matt Patricia, the second year under the new defensive system, and the roster is undoubtedly better than it was at this point last year. Players know what to expect from the schemes and the coaches, so there’s no reason for a slow start this year—something many of us saw coming anyways last year.

Overall panic level: 5/10

Matt Patricia has lost the benefit of the doubt after an ugly season as a first-time coach. There are signs this year is different, sure. But Thursday’s performance set back some of the optimism that things would be different. Still, I’m in wait-and-see mode here.