The Detroit Lions wrapped up their first preseason game early Saturday morning for those on the east coast. There was some good, there was some bad, but it is only the preseason after all. Here are some observations from the 16-10 Oakland Raiders victory.
No. 2 QB:
With Matthew Stafford having the night off, Matt Cassel got the starting nod over Jake Rudock. The backup QB battle is fierce, but if either has to play for an extended period in the regular season, it’s over. Rudock had multiple overthrows. Even more discouraging for Rudock, HC Matt Patricia chose to put the ball back into Cassel’s hand in the final two minutes with the game on the line. Neither QB had more than 90-yards passing or a touchdown.
— NFL (@NFL) August 11, 2018
Also sitting out was RG TJ Lang. Third-year handyman, Joe Dahl, took his starting spot and allowed a sack on the first dropback. Cassel didn’t do Dahl any favors though either. Rookie OG Frank Ragnow played some extra snaps with the second team and had a solid night overall.
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) August 11, 2018
Drops were an issue for the first team. TE Luke Willson wouldn’t have gained much, but he put his first target on the turf after a nice defensive play. WR Kenny Golladay also had two passes that could be considered catchable but couldn’t come down with the tough grabs. Perhaps a low key and unwanted statement, Golladay has struggled with drops at times in training camp and had four drops on 48 targets a year ago. His big plays should offset his occasional mistake though.
Will a 5th WR step up?
Speaking of receivers, Jace Billingsley was the first to enter the game outside of the top four wideout options. Bradley Marquez was next in line. Darkhorse favorite Teo Redding didn’t see action until late and wasn’t targeted too often. Fellow UDFA, Brandon Powell, outplayed Redding in my personal opinion. Both Powell and Redding have been camp darlings but will have to step up in prime time to make the final 53-man roster.
Rushing attack shows signs of life:
LeGarrette Blount saw a majority of the first-team reps in the backfield. He didn’t have a ton of room to move but was able to break a 13-yard run. Once Ameer Abdullah entered the game, he injected some electricity into the rushing attack. Somewhat surprisingly, Abdullah had the first crack at both kick and punt return duties. He looked very agile. It does make you wonder just how much that foot injury hampered him a year ago.
Not to be outdone, the second-round rookie, RB Kerryon Johnson, stole the show. His highlight run of 57-yards was called back on a soft holding penalty. He consistently made people miss, demonstrated reliable hands, solid in pass protection, and was just very difficult for the defense to get on the ground. Yes, it was against inferior competition, but he did lead the Lions in rushing with 34-yards on seven carries. Add in the 33-yards of receiving on four catches and he led the team in yards from scrimmage.
Blount, Abdullah, and Johnson all averaged at least four yards per carry with the rookie leading the way at 4.9-yards per attempt. RB Zach Zenner averaged 2.8-yards on four carries.
Holding penalty or not (cough….not) #Lions rookie RB Kerryon Johnson is looking impressive. 4 broken tackles so far, 5 if you include the long run called back on penalty.#OnePride @AyeyoKEJO pic.twitter.com/Kb1cXudO7U
— Logan Lamorandier (@LLamorandier) August 11, 2018
All three safeties (Glover Quin, Tavon Wilson, and Quandre Diggs) were on the starting defense. Diggs lined up more as a slot corner but moved inside to cover tight ends against heavier formations. Whatever you want to label Diggs, Jamal Agnew was the next corner inside. Darius Slay and DeShawn Shead were the outside corners. Oddly enough, despite Shead starting, he played deep into the game and plenty of special teams. Not exactly the starter treatment.
It might be time to also start wondering if Miles Killebrew is even considered a safety. Rolan Milligan and Charles Washington were the second group of safeties behind the starting three. Killebrew saw a majority of his action at linebacker.
This year’s third-round safety, Tracy Walker, was quite a ways down the depth chart and didn’t necessarily do anything to really grab your attention. He did have a couple nice open field tackles. Look for Walker to be brought along slowly.
Pass Rush Worries:
Outside of one LB Devon Kennard quarterback hurry, the defense did not do much of anything in regards to pressuring the quarterback. DE Ziggy Ansah sat out and it is clear he is the Lions best pass rusher– that’s not saying much. No Lions player recorded a sack in Oakland.
I highly doubt Patricia would show his blitzes and stunts he is known for concocting in just a preseason game anyway. Just rushing four down lineman will not get the job done with the defensive talent.
It really wasn’t a great night for the defense overall. Jarrad Davis was getting caught up on blocks and frequently being taken out of run plays. Jalen Reeves-Maybin had understandable difficulties covering shifty backs one on one in open space. There just really weren’t many splash plays in general from a group that is supposed to always be around the ball. Freddie Bishop did rack up five tackles– second most on the team.
The Raiders combined for 147-yards and 4.7-yards per carry.