It’s kool-aid season and if there wasn’t enough to be excited about already, “Hard Knocks” has given me a double dose of hope. There’s a lot of potential on this Lions team and tonight we get to see where their strengths lie against a new opponent.
I think we’ll see lots of expected outcomes, like a strong offensive line performance and a solid showing from Aidan Hutchinson; hopefully, a flashy catch from D.J Chark sprinkled in there somewhere. But where I really see a surprise coming is on the defense, particularly the back end.
Bold prediction of the week: Lions defense holds Falcons offense to less than 10 points.
Heading into training camp, the Atlanta Falcons had a quarterback competition between Marcus Mariota and rookie Desmond Ridder. That competition ended relatively quickly with Mariota being named the starter, indicating Ridder didn’t put up much of a fight. Mariota, with all due respect to him, has been a streaky player for most of his NFL career, and I think the Lions’ first-team defense will halt him admirably.
Speaking of that Lions first-team defense, I’d expect a solid showing both in the trenches and on the back end. Perhaps I’m just reading too much into the emphasis on pursuit and tackling we saw in “Hard Knocks”. A lot of eyes will be on rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, but I’ll be watching how the secondary situation plays out. While Jeff Okudah and Will Harris have been battling it out for CB2, it sounds like Okudah is running away with it, potentially even as CB1. That’s great news on the back end and I’m hoping to see some synergy between Okudah, Oruwariye, and Walker.
That’s not to discount Harris at all, who has really stepped up at CB since being thrust into the new role mid-2021 season. He’ll surely get his chance, if not against Mariota then against Ridder.
I’d expect Ridder to eventually get significant playing time, but I don’t expect too much from him in his preseason debut. The Lions have some formidable depth on their defense with lots of players who started games last season now sitting on the bubble, and that could spell trouble for Ridder.
It would take a consistent performance across the entire depth chart, but the puzzle pieces might just fit well enough for the Lions to get a shutdown defensive performance on Friday night.