Dec 29, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson (84) catches a touchdown pass against Detroit Lions cornerback Chris Greenwood (33) in the fourth quarter at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Vikings win 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Browns vs. Detroit Lions: Five Players To Watch In The Preseason Opener

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Thankfully, it’s time for the Detroit Lions to put the pads on and start hitting someone other than themselves, as preseason football begins again.

The first challenge will come from the Cleveland Browns in the battle for Lake Erie. Last season, Cleveland whacked Detroit in the preseason, but got humbled in a rare regular season meeting of the teams.

One year later, the teams are set to test each other prior to the season beginning. Who is worth watching closest for the Lions? Here’s five ideas for game one.

1. Matthew Stafford. Anyone who’s watched closely during camp can see the quarterback has enjoyed a much better start to camp this season than last. Can that improvement in mechanics and confidence carry over to the field? Stafford probably won’t get many series in the first game, but it will be interesting to see if he makes the most of them like other elite quarterbacks do in the preseason.

2. Cornelius Lucas. It’s not often that rookie undrafted free agents garner immediate respect from a coaching staff, but Lucas has done so, getting plenty of snaps with different groups of the offense, including the first team. How will Lucas’s massive frame look at tackle? Will his footwork be good? Most importantly, will some of his early hype be justified tonight?

3. Kyle Van Noy. The rookie linebacker has had an up and down start to camp, but most project him to still emerge as the starter at outside linebacker over Ashlee Palmer and Tahir Whitehead, each of whom have had their positive moments in camp. Will Van Noy look any different during a game situation, and can he showcase the raw pass rush ability which made him one of the better defenders in college?

4. Corey Fuller. During camp, the wideout has leapt back into consciousness as a potential difference maker in a suddenly crowded group. Last season, Fuller didn’t do much in the preseason, leading to him being stashed on the practice squad for later. During that time, he seems to have built up his body and developed his game. As a result, he’s looked great against his own defense, but can that improvement translate one year later against the opposition? It will be a fascinating watch.

5. Young Cornerbacks. Specifically, Jonte Green, Aaron Hester, Nevin Lawson and Chris Greenwood. There’s been a facinating competiton between these players during camp, and any one day, one will stand out above all the others. How will that dynamic play out on the field? There’s plenty of room for multiple players to stand out and compete to make a difference, given Detroit’s need for depth in the backfield.

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