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Lions vs. Bills: Top 5 PFF-graded players on offense, defense

To the grades!

Buffalo Bills vs Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Detroit Lions dropped their preseason opener to the Buffalo Bills in a tightly-fought match. We’ve already dissected the game on our own by listing standouts, grading the offense and defense, analyzing the snap counts, and naming whose stock is on the rise and whose is falling after Friday night’s game.

Now let’s look at a (supposedly) more objective breakdown of the game. Over the weekend, PFF revealed their grades from Detroit’s preseason opener and specifically tweeted out the top five players on both offense and defense. Let’s break it down.

Offense

1. RB Craig Reynolds: 90.7
2. WR Javon McKinley: 83.3
3. RB Dedrick Mills: 82.0
4. G Logan Stenberg: 80.8
5. QB Jared Goff: 80.1

It’s no surprise that Craig Reynolds comes out on top for the offense after his electric six carries for 49 yards and a touchdown. He, without a doubt, was the story of the game. But it’s easy to forget that just a quarter earlier, it was Dedrick Mills who was standing out among the running back group. He had five carries for 32 yards, including a huge 20-yard run on a fourth-and-1.

Most promising, Jared Goff cracked Detroit’s top five despite a first drive worth forgetting. The Lions quarterback showed a little bit of everything on Friday night. His pocket presence was good, he showed a little arm with a 20-yard completion to Tyrell Williams, and he snuck a beautiful ball to Darren Fells in tight coverage. Through the five preseason games completed this week by Friday, Goff’s 80.1 grade is third among quarterbacks.

Both Javon McKinley and Logan Stenberg made solid cases for themselves. For Stenberg specifically, it was his first opportunity to shine in an NFL game. He was fantastic as a run blocker—which tracks given Kentucky’s run-heavy scheme—but he still left a lot to be desired as a pass protector.

Defense

1. DT Bruce Hector: 81.6
2. EDGE Austin Bryant: 80.5
3. DT Kevin Strong: 78.5
4. S Dean Marlowe: 77.8
5. EDGE Trey Flowers: 76.1

Before we get into the top five, it’s noteworthy that rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes had the team’s highest PFF grade (93.1), but he didn’t reach PFF’s snap minimum requirement of 10. He played in eight snaps. Still, what a promising start for the Lions’ fourth-round pick.

Friday presented an opportunity for the Lions’ interior defenders to log a lot of playing time and make an impression. With Michael Brockers, Da’Shawn Hand, John Penisini, Nick Williams, and Levi Onwuzurike all out, Bruce Hector and Kevin Strong were the ones to take advantage. Both played over half the snaps on Friday night and made the most of them. They combined for 10 total tackles, with Hector also picking up a sack. It’s a steep climb for either of them to make the roster due to Detroit’s depth there, but they are going to make the Lions’ decision tough if they continue to play this well.

Austin Bryant is another player who saw his first NFL action on Friday, and as a player firmly on the bubble, he couldn’t have done much more to make a case for himself. Though he only played in 18 snaps, he shined as a run defender, picking up one of his two tackles after a gain of just 2 yards (his other tackle came on a passing play of 5 yards).

Dean Marlowe has had a quiet camp and has been assumed to be Detroit’s third defender. He solidified that case on Friday by allowing just a single catch in his 30 defensive snaps—a mere 2-yard gain.