School starts a little earlier here at Pride of Detroit as we hand out some grades for the Detroit Lions’ 27-23 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in Preseason Game 1. I think most fans of the squad walked away “preseason happy” with the overall performance. The first team offense was crisp and we saw our shiniest new toy; 2nd over pick Aidan Hutchinson, shine. But every unit isn’t walking away with a report that would make Coach Campbell proud. Let’s take a look at how the team graded out.
Note: Despite the starting offensive and defensive units only having one drive, we graded at a slight curve giving the starters a tad bit more emphasis in our evaluations.
Jared Goff alone would’ve been given a strong A grade as he was near perfect. Even his lone incompletion was a drop that Jamaal Williams should’ve brought in. We saw glimpses of a style of offense tailored to his preference with a heavy dose play action passes all night. Tim Boyle and David Blough looked like… Boyle and Blough, interpret that however you’d like. We saw Boyle flash his big arm and also show inaccuracies along with a bad throw that led to a turnover.
Running backs: B-
I’m trying my best not to mention the offensive line yet but, spoiler alert, they’re getting an A. D’Andre Swift showed why he’s possibly the most dangerous weapon on this offense by utilizing what the defense gave him for a few solid runs and then showing some of his elite traits with the 9-yard touchdown run. The backups were solid but did not turn any heads. We saw the backs used sparingly in the receiving game but that is sure to change. Lions running backs rushed for just 79 yards on 24 carries at a poor 3.3 yards per carry. But the starters—Swift and Williams—combined for 32 yards on six carries (5.3 YPC).
Tight ends: B+
No T.J. Hockenson, no problem. Not one TE stood out too much but they all produced. After Hockenson and likely Brock Wright the last tight end spot(s) are up for grabs. Devin Funchess showed off why he was a former receiver with a combination or athleticism, size and an impressive touchdown catch. Brock Wright’s lone reception looked like he was channeling Hockenson working the middle and getting open. The unit also chipped nicely with protection.
Wide receivers: A-
The ball was spread around and, in all, everyone looked good. Tom Kennedy made his usual strong preseason argument to make the 53-man roster with eight receptions and 104 yards. A couple of nice receptions from Amon Ra St. Brown (with some nice YAC to go with it) was a pleasant reminder of how good he looked to close the season last year. There might be only one WR spot in question for the 53-man roster, and even that’s a stretch so it’ll be important for players like Kennedy and Trinity Benson to make as big an impact as they can.
Offensive line: A
As mentioned during the broadcast, we saw zero regular season snaps from the first unit OL last year. They only played one drive last night but were as good as advertised. Goff had a clean pocket, and they continued to open up holes for the run game. This is the best unit on our team and have a chance to be one of the best lines in the NFL. Let’s hope they stay healthy and dominate all year long.
Defensive Line: D
Aside from Aidan Hutchinson, the defensive line was a disappointment. Not a ton of pressure and they did our linebackers no favors in run defense either. The DL and LBs were a subpar 1-2 combo that allowed the Falcons to run the ball effectively (168 yards, 5.8 YPC). The edges weren’t set and not enough attention was given to the Falcons QBs in the run game. Some of that could be the scheme not emphasizing this in the preseason but either way the DL was not good.
I was tempted to grade this unit lower but they had a few splash plays from Malcolm Rodriguez, Jarrad Davis and Derrick Barnes that helped slow down or halt drives. Davis interrupted the QB pocket a few times and even showed a few signs of life in coverage. He was penalized on a questionable roughing the passer that negated a would-be interception by safety Bobby Price.
Overall, the linebackers still had issues with filling the right gaps, poor tackling and taking bad angles. They also were just as big a culprit if not worse than the DL with stopping the Falcon QBs from scrambling all night. It’s likely the worst unit on the team. (Projected starter Alex Anzalone did not play)
The secondary held the Falcons to 50 percent on completions and only 139 yards. Several of Marcus Mariota’s and Desmond Ridder’s QB scrambles weren’t designed and came as a result of good coverage. However, despite those bright spots there were some missed opportunities to get turnovers, and they gave up a few crucial third downs with receivers being wide open. The biggest blunder came in the form of Cedric Boswell giving up the game-winning touchdown. On the play, Ridder was out of options and under duress, but he found his one opportunity and took advantage of it. The safeties also seemed to be late getting to plays which has been an issue.
Those are the grades and we are sticking to it! How do you think the boys did in their first preseason game? Let us know with a comment below.