The Detroit Lions decided to play their franchise quarterback and the rest of the starters during their Week 3 “dress rehearsal” game against the Buffalo Bills. It was a bittersweet result, as the starters looked mostly solid on both sides of the ball, but came away with some unfortunate injuries to a couple of their key players.
Here are your winners and losers from the Lions’ 24-20 loss to the Bills.
Winner: Matthew Stafford
Stafford—for whatever reason—played a lot more than one would expect in this one, and he looked really sharp. Aside from a pass that should have been a touchdown to Marvin Jones Jr. had he pulled the trigger slightly sooner, it was a near perfect performance for Stafford.
Stafford finished the night with a passer rating of 102.3. Hopefully this will quell the concerns of the conspiracy theorists that were spreading rumors of Stafford missing reps and not playing because of an injury.
Winner: Ty Johnson
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Johnson is having himself a great training camp and preseason. Speed often translates to results in the preseason, especially when going up against second- and third-stringers, but Johnson has proved that he can make plays no matter what the situation.
Johnson wasn’t targeted often in the passing game at Maryland but has proven to be a solid receiving option for the Lions so far. He may not see a ton of targets in the regular season, but fills a role with Theo Riddick gone and gives the offense speed, which is something they’ve been lacking for years.
Loser: Matt Patricia
It’s pretty inexcusable to keep the starters in as long as Patricia kept them in. Rotating interior linemen with Stafford still on the field is a great way to get him killed, and they’re lucky it didn’t happen. Now, the Lions are likely down two of their starters in Jarrad Davis and Frank Ragnow, who could be dealing with serious injuries.
Also, I’m hoping this is just because it’s preseason, but punting TWICE in opponent’s territory on fourth down is very disappointing to see. One can only hope that the overly-conservative nature of Patricia dissipates as soon as possible.
Winner: Jalen Reeves-Maybin
If Reeves-Maybin wasn’t already a lock to make the roster before, he most certainly is now, and will likely see a lot of action in Davis’ absence, however long that may be. Reeves-Maybin has really stepped up his game during training camp and has seen that carry over into the preseason. He has been the Lions’ best coverage linebacker and will see most of his time at the WILL linebacker position.
Winner: T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson’s strong training camp has been well-advertised, but up until now, he hadn’t had much of a chance to show off his skills during the preseason. On four targets, the Hock God himself made the most out of his time on the field with Stafford and hauled in three catches for 52 yards, including this 32-yard catch-and-run.
Hockenson’s performance wasn’t completely blemish-free, however. On a Stafford side-arm throw, Hockenson dropped possibly his first pass ever while wearing a Lions uniform, which probably would have been a touchdown had he caught it. It’s just one drop and there shouldn’t be any cause for concern about it whatsoever, but it was certainly one that should have been caught.
Loser: David Fales
After gaining some momentum and landing himself in the “Winners” column last week, Fales was back to his normal self against the Bills reserves. The offensive line certainly didn’t do the quarterback many favors, but holding onto the football for too long continues to be Fales’ Achilles heel. On eight attempts, he completed just three throws for 22 yards and was sacked twice before handing the keys off to Josh Johnson.
Winner: Josh Johnson
With Fales struggling, it only makes sense to label Johnson as a winner. He showed a lot more promise than he did last week and outperformed Fales by a wide margin. Johnson has a much stronger arm than Fales, is faster than Fales and gets the ball out way quicker than Fales. I still think Tom Savage is the best backup QB on the Lions’ roster, but if he doesn’t recover from his concussion in time to make the final 53-man roster, then I think Johnson is the next best choice.
Loser: Travis Fulgham
Fulgham fumbled and turned the ball over on his only catch against the Bills.
You’ve got to make the most out of your limited opportunities when you’re as low on the depth chart as Fulgham is. As a late-round pick, there is no guarantee that Fulgham makes the final roster, but at the very worst, he will land a spot on the practice squad.
The battle for the WR4 and WR5 (maybe WR6?) job is still wide open, but if Fulgham wants a spot, he’s going to need to show up big in Week 4.