The Detroit Lions will finally be kicking off their 2019 season on Sunday, when they travel to Glendale, Arizona to take on the Cardinals. It is the first game of a long season, and our first look at the full team in action since last December.
Here are a few storylines to keep an eye on this week:
Can the Lions handle Kyler Murray?
It is fair to say that nobody on the Lions defense has played against a football player like Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray before. The first overall pick in the 2019 draft is undersized, yet still can generate the strength to heave balls downfield. He is quick and slippery and made a name for himself torching Big 12 defenses in 2018—eventually winning himself a Heisman.
While he is not the most talented player Detroit will run into this year—not even the most talented player they will run into this week — he is certainly the most dynamic. Murray is an unknown quantity at the moment, and in a league where preparation is everything, that is a scary prospect.
Can Detroit take advantage of the Cardinals corners?
The Cardinals will be without their top two cornerbacks on Sunday, as Patrick Peterson is set to miss the first six games of the year due to suspension, and Robert Alford will be starting the year on injured reserve. This shoves backup corners Tramaine Brock and Byron Murphy into starting roles they might not be prepared for. The combination of Matthew Stafford, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. should be able to take advantage of this, and if they can, the Lions offense may have a huge day.
What about Detroit’s defensive backfield?
Detroit’s defensive backfield gives us a few reasons to be excited this year. Tracy Walker looks like he has the tools to be a star one day. Rookie Will Harris is an exciting high-ceiling prospect as well. Both have a lot of potential and could be huge players for Detroit this year, but is this the year they will live up to their potential? Will Week 1 give us an indication as to how far along they are in their development?
There are a few questions at corner as well. While Darius Slay is a rock at CB1, can Rashaan Melvin put the demons of 2018 behind him at CB2? A great Week 1—if he isn’t an injury scratch—will help him going forward, while a poor performance against Arizona may make the team nervous about his future. While Justin Coleman is one of the league’s better nickel corners, can he instantly translate his success of the past into the Lions defense?