The second preseason game was a weird ball, with not every first-string Detroit Lions player against the first team Pittsburgh Steelers. However, there were enough in action to at least make some semblance of Lions football spark. Our duty now is to read those entrails and try to figure out what exactly we’ve learned from this whole fever dream.
The trenches are fine-ish
With no surprise, the continued project to make the trenches the Lions’ primary objective continues to pay dividends. Although Penei Sewell is still a work in progress to adjust to the right tackle position, the offensive line opened up proper holes for Jermar Jefferson and Dedrick Mills to run through. We’ve yet to see the run game with D’Andre Swift, but after two games the line is proving they can open lanes and ostensibly establish the ground game for Detroit. On pass protection, it was nothing crazy but Tim Boyle remained clean from sacks.
Depth on the offensive line remains an issue, but you knew that by now. The good news is the Lions aren’t going to be flying out of the gate with the third string tackles. The bad news is that the depth is still bad all the same.
On the defense, we got our first look at Levi Onwuzurike and he played as advertised. He caused untold havoc when in the game. The defense repeatedly stuffed the Steelers ground game, holding them to an average of 2.9 yards per carry. However, deficiencies remain in getting penetration on passing downs. Ben Roethlisberger was given far too much time to operate and got the whole team to bite on his pump fakes.
Which brings us to the next mark.
The secondary got tested and found wanting
Last week, the Lions backfield saw little action as Mitchell Trubisky only threw twice, and the Bills ran a ground-heavy attack. We noted that this would be a key position to keep an eye on against the Steelers, who feature a far more dynamic passing game and played multiple skill position starters with Roethlisberger, Najee Harris, Juju Smith-Schuster and Patrick Freiermuth.
This is where the Lions got carved up. Play action, pump fakes, deep strikes, red zone bully ball; the Lions were probed in every facet by the Steelers and failed in all of them. Jeff Okudah looked slow and had little help from Will Harris. When targeted, the Steelers could beat both readily.
Freiermuth ate the Lions’ lunch, their deserts and then had seconds. Diontae Johnson left Okudah in a chemtrail.
Linebackers were atrocious in coverage. Jahlani Tavai got beat and beat, unable to keep up with Steelers receivers running their routes; nor could he bring the tackle home on Najee Harris, resulting in a 46-yard play.
It would behoove the Lions to shake things up and see what they might have with Derrick Barnes and AJ Parker, who both played well, but such an act is merely a patch for the time being on a gaping void.
How much longer will Tim Boyle remain QB2?
David Blough played like the proper backup on Saturday night. Boyle had a chance to play with the top team and overshot his receivers ad nauseum. He nearly got picked clean by Joe Haden early—it wouldn’t be the first time that hellion did that, but the way that Haden jumped the route as Boyle stared it down revealed how damn telegraphed the whole thing went.
The Lions quarterback situation is going to be poor at best for the entire year. But it’s at least still academic to figure out who is going to sit behind Jared Goff. Boyle’s arm might be a laser, but it’s a laser in use for a Led Zeppelin light show, flicking all over the the place. He also struggled in decision-making when the pressure was on. Boyle is not being paid to contemplate the universe, existence and all reality.
Boyle finished the night with seven out of 15 attempts completed for 44 yards. It’s nothing impressive, and David Blough showed that he had a far better command of the offense, throwing for a touchdown and leading the offense to two more scores in the final quarter.
With one game left, we might legitimately have a quarterback battle on our hands for the backup spot. If that doesn’t get the acid rolling in your stomach, I don’t know what will.
Dan Campbell clearly loves working on these late game scenarios
Thank you NFL Game Pass and NFL Network. Thank you for remaining a thorn in my side, a boil, a lesion of ill repute and disastrous creation, birthed of the unholy excess of Badb, Macha and Nemain. I thought I could at least watch the rest of this game in peace, nursing as I am the sins of life and living.
Instead, you saw fit to cut away with over five minutes remaining to other preseason games, depriving me of what is clearly, as I am reading from my social media timelines, the moment in these preseason games where head coach Dan Campbell opens up his briefcase and busts out the gats.
I don’t know what is accomplished with these designs in the final minutes, where Blough is given the option to launch down field, or the continued (and this time, not-in-vain) attempts to recover onside kicks. But I’m not opposed to it either. It’s clear Campbell and his staff wants the Lions work on unorthodox late-game scenarios, and while the return is blunted by the sad fact of third string-on-third string action, the effort to master the intricacies of hellball plays is very much so appreciated. Hopefully, it’ll pay off in the regular season.