My original intent for this article was to make it a list of Detroit Lions players whose stock is up and down after two preseason games. For anyone who watched the debacle in Cleveland last night, you know that the list of players whose stock is down would be very, very long. That said, here’s an update on some key positional battles through two (meaningless but not really) preseason games.
Matthew Stafford has had good zip on his passes, though has completed a pass to only two receivers. I’ve seen the play calling described by multiple people on twitter as “vanilla.” I agree, and am willing to say that’s why Stafford has looked so unimpressive. Shaun Hill has shown he can still be a serviceable backup. Kellen Moore and Thad Lewis have shown no reasons to keep either of them on the roster.
Reggie Bush was all over the field vs. the Browns, and his hurdle over a Jets defender last week have Detroit fans excited about the new dimension he brings to the offense. Joique Bell, my number two running back all along, has been more impressive than Mikel Leshoure, who has shown little burst and only recorded one carry last night against the Browns. I’m not convinced he’ll be a Detroit Lion for much longer.
While Matt Stafford may be the field general, it is clear that Calvin Johnson is the cornerstone that this offense is built around. Sigmund Bloom said it best:
The #lions offense without Calvin Johnson looks like most NFL offenses without their starting QB.
— Sigmund Bloom (@SigmundBloom) August 16, 2013
Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles are pretty locked in as the number two and three receivers, and Patrick Edwards has emerged as a frontrunner as the fourth. That fifth wide receiver spot, if they keep one (I’ll get to that later) seems to be up for grabs between Kris Durham, Matt Willis and Mike Thomas. Some fans are excited about the idea of Chaz Schilens providing a deep threat opposite Johnson, while others are excited about the speed offered by Corey Fuller. I don’t think either have shown enough to be considered for that fifth receiver spot.
Brandon Pettigrew seems to be picking up where he left off with a drop last night. Tony Scheffler seems to have secured his spot as the second tight end, though he has not done much this preseason. Michael Williams was supposed to come in and fill the H-back role, but it is clear he still has a ways to go. Joseph Fauria has been a popular name in camp as an UDFA to make the team. If he does, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him kept at a fourth tight end, with the Lions keeping only four wide receivers on the roster. Keep in mind, the big knock on Fauria coming out of UCLA was his lack of blocking ability, as he lined up primarily in the slot in college. If the Lions really believe Fauria has the ability to be a threat over the middle, they may seriously consider keeping him along with four receivers.
The offensive line, while talented, has looked like a mess. Riley Reiff seems to be learning on the job, though I believe wholeheartedly that he is a right tackle. Sims and Raiola have looked fine, and Jason Fox has shown that he will serviceable for at least a season. Jake Scott has not shown anything that makes him more deserving of the job than Larry Warford, who has seen more snaps than anyone on the roster through two preseason games. It looks for now that the only spot still up for grabs is at right guard.
Ezekiel Ansah sent his stock up just minutes into the first preseason game with a pick six off Mark Sanchez, and went on to record a tackle for loss as well. He has not done anything to lose his starting spot. Fairley and Suh look to be poised for a dominant season. Willie Young will push for playing time if he continues to play with high energy.
Ashlee Palmer and Tahir Whitehead both look like they are trying to give the other the starting job. Whitehead has been quiet on the field, and Palmer has looked overwhelmed at times. I can’t say there is a frontrunner, but I’d give the Palmer the nod at this point. Stephen Tulloch has looked good, and Levy will clearly be the starter.
The defensive backs still need help. Ron Bartell is not a starting NFL cornerback. Darius Slay hasn’t been terribly impressive, but he was drafted to start opposite Chris Houston, and that’s exactly where he should be. Bill Bentley is going to be a great nickel corner. Glover Quin has shown leadership that is sorely needed. Call me crazy, but I believe Delmas is going to play 16 games this season. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to have to imagine another season of getting beat in the secondary, but I believe Delmas will be there. That being said, Don Carey hasn’t player poorly.
The punting battle is not a battle at all. When you draft a punter in the fifth round, he’s your starter. Period. Sam Martin has also showed promise as a kickoff man. Though Zac Snyder believes any Lions fan with reason knows David Akers will win the kicking job, let me point out that Havard Rugland hasn’t done anything to lose the job. He also comes at a cheaper price than Akers. He’s also younger, and if you believe the Lions are maybe an 8-8 team this season like I do, it may be worth taking a shot on Rugland. Food for thought, but I still think Akers wins the job.