Lions vs. Bills Report Card: Grading Detroit’s preseason opener

Ifeatu Melifonwu, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Ifeatu Melifonwu, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Lions
Detroit Lions linebacker Jahlani Tavai (51) (Syndication: Detroit Free Press) /

Defense – 3.5/5 Stars

Overall this was a really solid game for the Lions as the defense only allowed 16 points, 209 total yards, and even notched a couple of sacks.

The run defense was pretty poor early on, but the backups actually did a really good job. And the defensive line did a really good job at getting pressure all night, the Buffalo quarterbacks were forced to throw the ball away multiple times to avoid getting sacked.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, after three straight stops to open the final drive the Lions gave up a fourth-and-10 as safety Bobby Price got beat up the sideline, and the Bills made a couple more plays to get further into field goal range and end the game.

Really quick note I just wanted to say how much I loved what rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes did in limited action, he showed a flash in every area, in run defense, in pass coverage, and as a blitzer, he won me over very quickly and I can’t wait to see more of him.

Best defensive player: Kevin Strong

This could have easily gone to edge rusher Julian Okwara, both were great in this game but ultimately I gave the nod to defensive tackle Kevin Strong. He was in on seemingly every single run stop, made a few tackles for loss, and even forced a fumble.

Strong was everywhere on Friday night whether he was playing with the starters or the backups. These are the types of games that will solidify his spot on the roster, and Strong will certainly get his fair share of snaps this year if he’s going to play like that.

Worst defensive player: Jahlani Tavai

Here we go again. Linebacker Jahlani Tavai didn’t have an absolutely terrible night, but there were two really bad plays that landed him in this spot.

The first was on a third-down where he stopped moving his feet and completely whiffed on a tackle attempt, the second was on the Bills touchdown where it looks like Tavai should have been in coverage on Devin Singletary, but got caught with his eyes in the backfield. You would like to see him play better than that for a guy who is firmly on the roster bubble.