Detroit Lions: Waving goodbye to preseason football

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

It’s finally time to put the preseason in the rearview mirror as the Detroit Lions shift their focus to games where the score actually matters.

As the Detroit Lions are well aware, the preseason is a necessary evil. Sure, it gets football fans excited for the regular season. They get a taste of their favorite players in the first half and then watch the battle for roster spots while hoping for a win.

Teams are working hard to implement systems, test them in real-game environments and evaluate players at every position as they build the best roster they can. But the preseason also allows the opportunity for injuries before the game results even matter.

The Lions lost 2016 team sack leader defensive end Kerry Hyder to injured reserve. Linebacker Tahir Whitehead and wide receiver T.J. Jones both had to deal with injuries of their own this preseason. While Jones is expected to be available, there’s still uncertainty around Whitehead’s availability for Week 1. And those are just a few of the team’s injuries this preseason.

Every team in the league is going through their own injuries and will continue to deal with them throughout the season. Nobody is going to feel sorry for the Lions for what they have to overcome. On a week-to-week basis and through every injury, “next man up” has to be the mantra. Injuries are a part of the game which is why roster depth is so important.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn immediately started creating depth and competition across all roster positions. The best evidence of this was drafting long snapper Jimmy Landes in the 6th round of the 2016 draft. Landes was a victim of roster cuts this weekend as Quinn proved he will move on from players he’s drafted if someone else is better at the job.

These preseason games are integral at finding out which player can perform better, not only on the practice field but also during live game action. Important roster decisions are made based on performance. A perfect example is Lions running back Tion Green.

An explosive touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night led to Green’s spot on the 53 man roster as the fifth running back. Knowing how deep the Lions were forced to dig into their running back stable last year may also have played a part in their decision. But Green taking a screen pass 74-yards to the end zone certainly helped his case.

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While other roster moves may still be made, it’s finally time to wave goodbye to the preseason and shift focus to games that count. The Arizona Cardinals are first up on the Lions schedule this Sunday. And a nightmare matchup with dual-threat running back David Johnson is a tough test to start the season. The Lions are lucky to have this game at home inside Ford Field where the fans can create a positive environment for the team.