Detroit Lions vs. Carolina Panthers: 3 Things We Learned (and Didn’t)

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Matthew Stafford: Reformed, or Back to Old Habits? Sep 14, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) looks to pass as Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (99) pressures in the first quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Against the Giants at home, Matthew Stafford appeared to be past many of his old habits. He stepped into his throws, made good decisions, and had greatly improved pocket presence. He showed some of that against the Panthers, but it seems like pressure makes him break down to his bad habits. There was a play in which he stood perfectly still in a clean pocket for a solid three seconds, then still managed to throw off his back foot (and off target). On top of that, when the going got tough, Stafford again fell into his habit of locking onto Calvin Johnson, despite having success with other targets (especially in the first half). In large part, Stafford looks improved over last season, but it doesn’t mean anything if all his improvements fall apart when the heat turns up. Which Stafford will show up against Green Bay?

Is Right Tackle Okay?

Sep 14, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Lions running back Theo Riddick (25) stiff arms Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (59) during the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

For a guy that wasn’t with the team last week, Garrett Reynolds seemed to play an okay game against a strong Panthers front 7. Reynolds gave up some pressure late when the Lions were in panic-passing mode, but that’s to be at least somewhat expected. The real question mark is the running game, which has had trouble getting its footing so far this season. The gaps aren’t there, even behind the more reliable offensive linemen. For now, it appears the Lions can relax with at least a reasonably competent emergency replacement at right tackle, but that’s only in comparison to the rest of the line, which is a serious question mark.

What is Eric Ebron’s role?

Sep 14, 2014; Charlotte, NC, USA; Detroit Lions tight end Eric Ebron (85) makes a catch in the third quarter. The Panthers defeated the Lions 24-7 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Eric Ebron showed up as a viable target against Carolina, but with only 3 receptions for 38 yards, it’s obvious he isn’t an integral part of anything yet. Any rookie expected to catch passes is generally going to have a steep learning curve, and Ebron’s start, while slow, has been right in line with what you’d expect from a rookie WR or TE. He’ll show up on the stat sheet sporadically as the season wears on, but the question is, what kind of chances will the Lions give him? His competition, Joe Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew, combined for one catch for 20 yards (Fauria) and a drop in open space (Pettigrew). Perhaps with more solid performances like this, Ebron will be in line for more targets, despite being technically third on the depth chart.