The Detroit Lions take the field Saturday night hoping to put on a better performance than the preseason opener against the New England Patriots. A preseason blowout doesn’t mean much of anything in the grand scope of things, but Lions fans would like something to cheer about, and I’m sure coaches would like to see a little more playmaking from their depth players.
It’s still unclear who we’ll see play against the Houston Texans, but here are 10 players to keep an eye on Sunday night.
Rick Wagner/Taylor Decker
Last week, we saw how thin Detroit’s depth was at the tackle position. Both Tyrell Crosby and Andrew Donnal struggled against the Patriots’ reserve defensive front. So the play of the Lions’ starting tackles will be extremely important in 2019.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly a week of promising practices for left tackle Taylor Decker and right tackle Rick Wagner. Reports out of Houston suggested that the two consistently struggled against the likes of Whitney Mercilus and J.J. Watt. Sure those players are extremely good, but the Lions are in a division with plenty of good pass rushers. They need Wagner and Decker to be able to handle elite pass rushers.
With the loss of Jermaine Kearse in the preseason opener, it looks like 2018 UDFA Chris Lacy is the leading candidate for the primary backup job at wide receiver. Lacy is a big-bodied receiver (6-foot-3) that has great hands at the point of catch. However, he remains more potential than actual results. It’d be nice to see him make a few plays in game situations.
The Lions’ first-round pick has been absolutely dominating training camp, but we were robbed of the opportunity to see his promise in the preseason opener, where he played for just six snaps.
If he can put some solid tape out there for all to see, he’ll start getting the national attention—and the hype that comes with it—that he deserves.
It’s been an up-and-down camp for Stafford. Obviously, some of that can be explained by a new offensive system and dealing with a lot of new receivers while some starters rest, but for a quarterback in his 11th year, you’d like to hear a little less struggles coming out of camp.
Given the problems on the offensive line—and the fact that they gave Stafford some rest late last week—it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions sit Stafford for another week, but if he plays, he’ll need to show some solid play to ease growing worries.
Speaking of growing concerns, Justin Coleman hasn’t had the best of camps. Considering the Lions handed him a loaded four-year, $36 million contract, they need him to play at an extremely high level as the team’s starting nickel corner. So far, the results haven’t been to promising in training camp.
Houston doesn’t have a great slot receiver (except when DeAndre Hopkins slides inside), so it should be a good opportunity for Coleman to bounce back.
It’s been a quiet week or two from the Lions’ second-round pick. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but Tavai came with a lot of questions with the Lions drafted him so early. He’s shown flashes in camp, but surprisingly, he only played in four snaps against the Patriots.
You’d think a player like Tavai would need all the experience he can get, so I’d expect more playing time Saturday night.
With the Lions’ backup quarterback Tom Savage out for an unknown amount of time with a concussion—his third in four years—there’s a big question as to who will be the team’s backup in Week 1. I’ve already seen enough of David Fales to know that he shouldn’t be the answer.
But is Josh Johnson—a player that has been on literally a dozen teams his entire career—capable of coming in, immediately learning the playbook, finding that chemistry with his receivers and finding himself ready to go by Week 1? That’s a lot to ask of any quarterback, even if he is an 11-year veteran.
With the injury to Crosby, Wiggins has spent the last week taking reps at right tackle with the second team. Is this a bad sign for him winning the starting left guard position or a chance for him to display his versatility.
Obviously, the team moved him, in part, for necessity reasons. The Lions’ third-string tackles have shown they aren’t ready to protect the Lions’ backup quarterback, but if Wiggins can make use of the opportunity, it will boost his value to the team and potentially lock up a roster spot for him.
We have yet to see any of the projected starters along the defensive line play this preseason, and there’s a pretty good chance we won’t for the next three games, either. So it would be nice to see some promise in their depth. Lee has been getting the most playing time at Trey Flowers’ position on the closed end, but his play comes and goes.
He, along with Mitchell Loewen, have probably shown the most promise, but both were extremely quiet in the Patriots game. A good day against a bad Texans offensive line would help build confidence in the depth of the team.