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I usually try to have my thoughts about any Lions game posted a couple of hours after the final gun. With the God damn tape delayed broadcast wrapping up here in the D around 12:30 AM Friday morning, it wasn’t going to happen for the first exhibition.
1. The QB’s played well. Extremely well, in fact. Jon Kitna was extremely sharp in his limited time. Despite the media rumblings in the off season, he’s unquestionably the starting QB. What I really liked from Kitna was his throwing to the big wide outs, Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams, rather than his slot receivers. If this game is any indication (and it’s a bit of a stretch to come to any conclusions after the first exhibition), CJ and Roy are going to have BIG seasons.
In the battle for the number 2 QB, Dan Orlovsky didn’t look quite as good as the Holly Roller, but was better than Drew Stanton. Not that Stanton was bad, far from it. It’s Dan O is more polished at this point of his career. The big difference between Dan O and Stanton was Orlovsky would look to throw downfield while Stanton would dump off or just run.
As for the pride of Sparty grads everywhere, we finally got to see Stanton in action after his being moronically mothballed for a year. He lead the Lions on the game winning drive, and didn’t have any “deer in headlights” moments. Stanton had a solid overall game, but did have the rookie (He’s essentially a rookie on the field) tendency of not looking for other options, while being far too quick to pull the ball down and take off. You don’t want QB to be your leading rusher, as was the case with Stanton. Though you could see what the Lions were thinking in drafting Stanton, as he’s FAR more mobile than either Kitna or Dan O.
I think Dan O is locked in as the number 2. Stanton has to make up for a lost season of doing jack shit. Thanks, Martz!
2. If the Lions commit to the running game in it’s current state, the coaching staff should be committed. The zone blocking scheme was a huge disappointment, as the backs struggled to find holes. A 2.4 YPC is not going to cut it anytime, anywhere. Take away Stanton’s scrambles, and the YPC gets uglier.
Speaking of the backs… In the minus column, Tatum Bell showed me absolutely nothing (as expected) and Brian Calhoun showed me even less. He is not long for this team. More impressive was Kevin Smith, who showed he’s the most talented back on the roster in his limited time. He found cracks and moved piles. (That doesn’t sound good, does it?) Give the kid some blocking, he’ll make something happen.
As for Artose Pinner and Aveion Cason, they are what they are, special teams wedge busters/3rd string backs. The only difference being the Lions (For some ungodly reason) think Cason can return kicks, which is laughable. Pinner played decently, but did get bailed out when replay overturned what first appeared to be a drive ending fumble late in the 4th.
I know it’s early to make conclusions, but I really do think Smith ends up as the starter over Bell by the time the preseason ends.
3. The offensive line is a work in progress. Run blocking was nearly non-existent. The pass blocking was better, but the play calling had much to do with it. The coaching staff seems to realize their line has shortcomings, and mitigated the Giants’ rush by having the QB’s roll out early and often to buy time.
Someone needs to take 1st round pick Gosder Cherilus aside, and inform him that George Foster is NOT someone to model your game upon. A pair of false starts and a holding call made for a very inauspicious debut for Cherilus. Not that Foster was any better, as he was nailed for…you know it, you expect it… procedure as well.
Overall, the o-line was easily the least impressive of the Lions’ units.
4. Defensively, I kept hearing a few names. LB Leon Joe made several tackles, same for LB Buster Davis. Joe is going to have a very tough time making the team, but he did impress last night. Rookie Jordon Dizon had a couple of big hits in what was an OK debut for the LB corps. One eyebrow raiser was the starting LB lineup of Alex Lewis, Paris Lenon and Tony Cannon. Uh, that’s not gonna cut it, guys.
Ernie Sims did not play, and Dizon is currently buried deep on the depth chart thanks to his rookie status, which explains the bizarre starting LB corps. There’s not a playmaker in the bunch when Sims isn’t playing, though Dizon shows promise.
The d-line was less impressive, as the pass rush left something to be desired. The only sack credited to a lineman was by rookie DT Andre Fluellen. Admittedly, it was a big sack, as it came during the Giants’ futile final drive of the game. The other rookie lineman, Cliff Averill, did get some pressure on the QB, but would make the rookie mistake of running himself past the qb, and out of the play The d-line wasn’t much better than the o-line, and considering Marinelli’s background, it’s damn disturbing. The play has got to improve, and soon.
The rebuilt starting defensive backfield held Peyton’s little bro (2-6-19) in check, which was extremely encouraging. Considering the money spent and the talent traded in order to fix the ailing d-backfield, it was good to see.
Unfortunately, the depth isn’t there yet. Anthony Wright (9-13-116) and David Carr (10-13-104) picked apart the 2nd and 3rd teams. (The DB’s weren’t helped by the lack of a pass rush) One player probably packing his bags is CB Devonte Edwards, whom the Giants made a point to continually throw his way over and over and over again, to much success.
After one game, it’s already pretty damn obvious the Lions cannot afford an injury to any of their starting corners or safeties. Their defense is as deep as a kiddie pool.
5. I’ve long railed on Rod Marinelli for his game mismanagement and in-game decision making. Last night was one of his better games on the sidelines. There were no time management issues, an appropriate challenge was made, resulting in a costly fumble being taken off the board and the Lions didn’t abandon their game plan after a handful of running plays failed. Save for Cherilus and Foster, penalties were kept to a minimum. Marinelli may finally be growing into the job. “May”being the operative word.
The (not so) special teams were a major weakness last season, and from what we witnessed last night, is still a weakness this season. The Stan Kwan coached (not so) special teams has major kick coverage issues and the kick returns were laughable.
The Giants’ returners continually made Detroit’s first coverage wave miss, setting up decent field position. As for their own returns, the Lions are DESPERATE for someone, anyone, who could at least be average. They kept throwing different bodies on the field and not a single threat to do anything more than catch the ball was seen. Players like Cason returning kicks will not cut it. For a team with a long heritage of excellent kick and punt returners, it’s sad to see.
Even worse than coverage and returns was the news the Lions’ long-time MVP, Jason Hanson, strained his thigh. No word yet as to how long he’s out. God forbid it’s anything that lingers long-term.
When it comes to the (not so) special teams, all I can say is…FIRE KWAN!