The Detroit Lions first team offense had a bounce back game in a big way against the Oakland Raiders Friday night. Both sides of the ball got more action early on than they did last week against the Cleveland Browns. While going over my game notes there were several things that stood out. Here are my type five observations from last night’s game.
1. The Matthew Stafford to Golden Tate connection is real.
Maybe for the first time ever, the Detroit Lions were able to field a competitive offense without Calvin Johnson. The Lions first drive took only two plays and 45 seconds before Stafford connected with Tate for a 28 yard touchdown. It was a nice change of pace to see a legitimate weapon make plays downfield not named Calvin Johnson. For far too long the Lions were hamstrung to Megatron’s ability. Fans should be excited to Stafford seeking out Tate. In previous years he would default to just throwing it up to Calvin Johnson, but now the team has surrounded him with legitimate playmakers. This is the most talented offense the Lions have ever had.
2. Ryan Broyles keeps making his case.
Through two preseason games Broyles has five catches for 69 yards. Last night he continued his strong push back from last year’s injury with a 34-yard gain, including 32 yards after the catch. That’s where Broyles excels. He won’t be consistently catching the ball 15 yards downfield, but he has the skills to turn a two yard catch into a 20-yarder. So far this preseason whenever Broyles has gotten the ball he’s made plays. There’s going to be a tough fight for that fifth or even sixth receiver spot, but if Broyles continues to trend up he should be a lock.
3. Mikel Leshoure’s days could be numbered.
Unlike Broyles, Leshoure has shown little with his opportunities. He’s even being pushed by George Winn, a 2013 undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati. Through two preseason games Winn looks to be winning that battle. After a strong showing in week one, the Detroit Lions gave Winn a long look throughout last night’s game against Oakland. He played on first team kick and punt teams, making two tackles. This is where he’s going to win the job. Leshoure has provided little value on special teams throughout his career. He’s got an uphill battle to make this team at this point.
4. The secondary made some plays.
They didn’t play a perfect game, and gave up some big plays downfield, but overall the Detroit Lions starting unit and backups made some solid plays against the Raiders. Rashean Mathis made a great play to break up a pass that lead to a James Ihedigbo interception. Chris Greenwood also had a nice defended pass to prevent a touchdown in the end zone. What’s encouraging about the Greenwood play is that he not only broke up the pass, but he located the ball in the air and timed the break up perfectly. This is the exact type of play that Greenwood needs to have to show his growth and make his case for a roster spot.
5. Eric Ebron had a big catch.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Ebron. After only making one catch for two yards last week he came back and made a big catch downfield from Matthew Stafford. He did juggle it a bit as he went to ground, but he did a nice job of adjusting to pass and coming down with the catch. That type of play is exactly why the Lions drafted him. It was a good sign to see him making plays down the field with the first unit. I hope we see that trend continue next week against Jacksonville.