Game 2 of the preseason was an ugly one as the Detroit Lions were defeated by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 25-7. Although preseason records don’t matter, you still want to see successful situations, players winning matchups, and reserves looking ready to step in if need be. Overall, we didn’t have many of those positives, but there were a few bright spots. Let’s take a look and see who were the winners and losers for the game.
Walker was likely going to make the Winner’s circle no matter what just because he was out there on the field. Welcome back! Injuries like ACLs and especially Achilles tears used to be death sentences for athletes. Things have thankfully gotten much better, but the Achilles is still touchy. Walker has been determined to make a comeback on a quick timeline and has obviously put in the work to make that happen. As it stands, it’s starting to look like our starting safeties will be Kerby Joseph and C.J. Gardner-Johnson, but that hasn’t deterred Walker from working hard and still being a vocal leader. As for the game, he looked a little rusty early on running a bad angle that led to a decent gain by Jacksonville, but he bounced back later with smart coverage that almost led to an interception of his own, but instead it was a nice pass breakup/tip that led to a Steven Gilmore interception. If this was hockey, Walker would’ve been awarded an assist.
The door is open for a few outside cornerback spots on the roster. After Cam Sutton and Jerry Jacobs, there isn’t a ton of certainties to start the season. Even if you included Will Harris, there is still room to add more talent there. Gilmore played well today and is trying to stake his claim for one of those spots. He had two really nice passes defended (one was in the end zone) but his biggest play was the aforementioned interception. Overall, he was sticky in coverage. It’s hard to even fault him for the 48-yard reception he surrendered against Tim Jones. When your look at the replay, he was right there all the way. It was a near perfect throw and a great catch more than anything. The Lions have an opportunity to address depth at outside corner in a number of ways such as in-house, free agency, and they could make a trade. There will also be league-wide cuts coming and they could swoop in on some of those players. Gilmore’s continued growth this offseason is making the in-house variety continue to be under strong consideration.
James Houston—and his battle with Julian Okwara
If this was a boxing match, the two defensive ends went the distance and are awaiting the judges’ decision on how they scored. Neither were lights out necessarily, but both did good enough to continue to make the decision hard on Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell about their future. What decision? The Lions’ depth at defensive end is pretty good, so it might come down to one spot being open with Houston and Julian Okwara vying for it. Both gentlemen were active during their time on field creating good pressure. Houston, however, was able to tally a sack. It’s a good problem to have and both seem to be up to the task. Houston’s surprise rookie year makes it likely that he will make the final 53, but the team has been vocal about wanting to see him round out his game. It might take a “knock out” last few weeks from Julian to win this bout.
Lions’ reserve offensive line
This unit is 2 for 2 in the Loser column thus far this preseason. As good as the starting offensive line is expected to be, the reserves have left much to be desired. Teddy Bridgewater and Nate Sudfeld seemed to be under constant pressure all game. They didn’t do themselves any favors with poor play on their own either, but there was little chance for either QB to get in a rhythm due to having constant pressure. The two sacks surrendered didn’t tell the entire story as the blocking was much worse than that. The run game was also stagnant as there were few, if any, lanes for the running backs to take advantage of in this game. This led to a paltry stat line of 19 carries for 35 yards. Aside from Graham Glasgow, who will likely be the next man up in the interior, the rest of the backups should give all of us nightmares if they have to play a large number of snaps during the regular season.
As mentioned above, Bridgewater found himself under duress most of the game due to poor pass protection from his offensive line. He’s also new to this team so the chemistry, timing, and play calling will not be as sharp as someone who’s been around the team since the beginning of the offseason. All that being said, Teddy Two Gloves isn’t absolved from some criticism himself. Several of his passes were off the mark, throwing behind players, over and under throwing. The rust was evident as he was simply not as sharp or accurate as we will need him to be. He finished the game throwing 5/11 passing for 34 yards and no touchdowns. He will likely (hopefully) look much sharper next week against the Carolina Panthers if he plays.
Again, the offensive line didn’t do Nate Sudfeld any favors either. Be that as it may, Nate is fighting for his NFL livelihood. He needs to be near perfect when he is in control of the circumstances on the field. He was far from that. He finished the game completing 9 of 18 passes for 80 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The interception wasn’t on anyone but himself as it was a clear overthrow. That gives him 3 interceptions in an important preseason for his future. His chances of sticking with the Lions took a huge hit with the signing of Teddy Bridgewater but it wasn’t at zero percent. He has a chance to force the Lions into carrying three quarterbacks. Sudfeld also has a chance to put up some good tape for other teams. The clock is ticking—and close to running out—for his time in Detroit.
Starling Thomas V
Much like every player on this list, there were good and bad plays from Thomas, but his stuck out. A huge positive was his role on special teams. With the retirement of Justin Jackson, there is a big hole left to be filled at kick returner. Thomas got an early crack at those return duties and made the most of it with two returns for 66 total yards, including a long of 37 yards. He is also fighting for one of those outside CB spots and having special teams versatility could pay huge dividends. Additionally, he made some nice plays in coverage as well. For the negative, the Jaguars started to pick on him so to speak with many targets thrown his way. He held his own somewhat, but overall it was a mixed bag. The worse of which was poor technique that led to a touchdown surrendered.
John Comisky just keeps on winning. We love Commish and he keeps making plays. That is all.
Overall, the Lions have to be thrown in the “Losers” column this week: they literally lost. Maybe this was a Jaguars revenge game for the 40-14 drubbing they received at Ford Field last year. In any event, the Lions have some film to look at to see the error of their ways and hopefully tighten a lot of poor play up in time for the last preseason game next week against the Panthers. Because after that, we’re off to the races!