Notes from Lions’ 31-0 thrashing of Buffalo Bills
By Matt Urben
The Lions thoroughly outplayed the Bills from start to finish, 31-0, in Saturday’s preseason finale.
Dwayne Washington set the tone early against the Bills with a 58-yard run for a touchdown and the Bills seemed to check out after that. Jace Billingsley looked like a pro-bowler. Jay Lee looked like he was still at Baylor making plays. And, lastly, Jake Rudock threw for 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. There was almost nothing negative to say about the Lions, except that the Bills didn’t seem to show up. It was a great response after last week’s embarrassment to Baltimore. So here are my notes on each Lions position group.
Dan Orlovsky easily looked the best he has all preseason. He got the start with Stafford and the majority of the starters out. Dan was efficient and didn’t throw an interception for a touchdown, which is an improvement. He made his case for backup in the 1st quarter. Jake Rudock got in at the end of the first quarter and played the final three. He made a terrific throw after avoiding a sack but had a drive-killing delay of game on the following play. Both did a good job of taking what was there. Rudock led a stellar drive in the final two minutes of the first half that was capped off with a two-yard TD pass to Jay Lee. He really reads the blitz well and has deceptive mobility in the pocket and as a runner. Rudock would surely get picked up by someone else if the Lions are crazy enough to cut him. He finished with a 123.4 QB rating. I would peg him as the number-two but Caldwell likes Orlovsky’s experience so it’s a tough call.
Dwayne Washington cemented his role on the team with an amazing touchdown run on the third play of the game. He got the start over Zach Zenner and validated it by taking his first carry for 58-yards to the house. He continues to show excellent vision and burst. His strength is really something to watch. Zenner reminds me a lot of Alfred Morris, a guy who isn’t the fastest or the most explosive but runs tough and always seems to get a few yards. He had a few nice catches in this game, breaking a tackle to get first downs on consecutive drives. George Wynn didn’t seem to do much to stand out this game. He had some good runs but unfortunately for Wynn, Washington likely sealed Wynn’s fate as a cut from the final 53.
Rookie Jay Lee had a nice game, finishing with 6 catches for 78 yards and a TD. He looks very explosive when he doesn’t think too much. When he gets the ball in his hands he’s very fast and showed some versatility catching a back corner fade for a TD. Jace Billingsley was exceptional in the slot, grabbing 7 balls for 80 yards and a TD. He certainly gained some ground with several Wes Welker-like grab-and-goes, plus a pretty TD catch. It will be hard to cut some of these guys after a great battle. Andre Roberts let a ball go through his hands early, but he’s had a very strong preseason. I wouldn’t want to have to make this decision. Qhinshad Davis responded from a drop to make a nice grab on a quick slant. He would’ve had a touchdown catch on the next play but Rudock overthrew him on a deep ball. After Tate, Jones and Boldin, it really is a toss-up as to who they keep.
Cole Wick had a quiet game out there. They were without Eric Ebron for another week with his sprained ankle. Rookie Adam Fuehne caught a really nice touchdown pass from Rudock. Most didn’t know he was on the roster but he made the most of his chance.
The starters didn’t play but the reserves did a great job to start the game. They cleared out the left side for Washington to bounce out and sprint for a touchdown on the 1st drive. They protected Orlovsky well. Brandon Thomas, who the Lions traded for earlier this week, got on the field. Thomas has never played an NFL down in the regular season. He started slowly, but I thought he looked good as the game went on. The group let some pressure get through and caused Rudock and Orlovsky to have to scramble. Joe Dahl had a solid showing on the left side, including a great block to set up Rudock’s scramble TD pass to Jace Billingsley.
Devin Taylor was the only starter to get reps and he clearly was on another level. Like Van Noy, his improved football I.Q. has helped him play much faster. Anthony Zettel continued to look tough as nails and like an NFL player. He speeded around the left tackle and crushed the QB for his second sack of the preseason. Brandon Copeland generated some nice pressure, also grabbing an interception. The starting unit looked dominant early. Kerry Hyder got three impressive sacks and has really made the most of his opportunities this preseason. A’Shawn Robinson was noticeable, he tipped the pass that was picked by Copeland. Khyri Thorton has shown value as a versatile defensive lineman. Caraun Reid had a good showing and there was some very strong play from this group as a whole.
Van Noy looked good again, stuffing a run up the middle early. He is playing much faster than he’s ever played in the NFL, making a strong case to be that third starting linebacker. Antwione Williams jumped off the screen with his explosion, diagnosing and attacking the ball. Williams finished with 7 tackles. The Lions have two of the better starting linebackers in the league — in Tahir Whitehead and DeAndre Levy — but this young group of backups fought hard with the two sitting out.
Darrin Walls made a few nice plays in coverage. The secondary wasn’t really tested early because Bills had virtually no passing game. When they did throw, Lions defenders made it extremely tough. That made it an easy night for the guys on the back end. Alex Carter had a mixed showing. He got burned on a quick pass but recovered, showing great effort to get up and make the play. Rookie safety, Miles Killebrew finished with three tackles.
Prater hit a 45-yard field goal on the second drive of the game and continues to kick very well. Jace Billingsley had a few nice returns, showing some value that the other receivers don’t.