The Lions will finish their second week of training camp with two practices today and a walk-through tomorrow before traveling to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers.
The chance to play against live competition you don’t share the cafeteria with is sure to be welcomed opportunity. By now the Lions have endured two weeks of training camp, much of it in high temperatures and humidity, and are surely growing tired of lining up against the same guy rep after rep. It is time to get out and hit somebody in a different colored uniform!
The final practices before the game will be tailored to help the team prepare for facing the Steelers. With the team gameplanning, the Lions took the opportunity to rest Louis Delmas as he eases his way back from his groin injury. Delmas has been ruled out for Saturday.
The game against Pittsburgh will be an important opportunity for a number of players to showcase their talents. Cornerback Jonathan Wade has reportedly looked good in practice and could help make his case for a starting job with a strong effort. That might represent a best case scenario for the Lions and would allow veteran Dre Bly to be used in nickel situations. Wade and fellow corner Chris Houston have had their work cut out for them by taking on Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson in practice. Wade believes that should work to their advantage:
"Our receivers are so good that they can prepare us to go up against anyone, but you don’t really know how far you’ve come until you go out there and perform in a game. We know we haven’t come far enough, but this will let us find out how far we’ve still got to go."
The Lions suddenly find themselves with a stable full of running backs that should lead to a number of tough decisions when rosters are trimmed down later in camp. Jahvid Best and Kevin Smith are sure bets to make the 53-man squad but Maurice Morris, DeDe Dorsey and Aaron Brown can’t waste any opportunities to make favorable impressions.
It doesn’t appear that Jon Jansen or Gosder Cherilus has emerged as a leader to land the starting right tackle spot. A mistake free effort against the respected Steeler defense will help Gosder’s chances.
One might think that a surprisingly impressive effort might be a welcomed development but head coach Jim Schwartz offered some interesting insights regarding player performance:
"If a guy isn’t practicing well and suddenly turns it on in the game, that’s a bad sign. On the other hand, if a guy has been playing very well in camp and then struggles in the game, it shows you that you’ve still got a lot of work to do with them. We expect players to perform in the games like they perform here and to strengthen the opinions we are already developing about them."
It sounds like Schwartz has a pretty good idea of what he should see on Saturday. Any variation, seemingly good or bad, reveals some sort of problem. Whatever the case, we are sure to have plenty to talk about heading into next week.