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Thoughts On Lions 3rd Preseason Game

The Preseason means very little. I am not even going to mention the score because it doesn't mean anything and does not give a lick of information that is useful. In fact, in all honesty, I do not even know the final score because I didnt bother watching the fourth quarter and I dont care about the final score. The preseason is not about winning or losing. It should only be used to evaluate particular players and situations. With the third week of preseason being through, these are my thoughts on the Detroit Lions before the season starts.

No the fourth week does not matter. The starters will play very little and it will only be used by the coaches to help decide on what players will make the team.

The usual stars will still be the usual stars. Stafford has looked sharp. He has been very accurate and for the most part has made great decisions. Calvin Johnson has shown his dominance throughout the preseason. Titus Young is continuing to grow and he and Burleson should be better compliments to Megatron than they were last year. Broyles has looked decent against back-ups, but I would not expect him to be a big part of the passing game this year. Brandon Pettigrew looks like himself as well and will continue to be a large part of the passing game. All-in-all, the Lions passing game will again be one of the best in the NFL.

Running the ball, however, will again be  nearly non-existant. Jahvid Best will likely start on the PUP list and not play til near mid-season, if at all. Mikel LeShoure will be missing the first two weeks with a suspension, and will then become their best running back by default, even though he has had very little game experience. LeShoure will not be this powerhouse that will drag two players for five yards as it seems many fans fantasize about. He will still need a hole to run through, but at 233 pounds, in his limited action, showed he has quick feet. He ran one play where he sidestepped and made a tackler miss him completely and then turned around and ran another defender over on the next play. Smith has already shown he has not become a tough durable running back. Kieland Williams has not shown anything to make him a ray of hope and none of the other RB's have played against first string defenses.

Overall, I expect the Lions offense to look very similar to last year. A high powered passing game with very little running. Very inconsistent. Keep in mind, as good as he was last year, Stafford only completed 63.5% of his passes. That is a good completion rating for a quarterback, but you need to put it in perspective. He will complete a little more than half of his passes. The running game will not be very strong. When an offense can only be counted on to move the ball on 3 to 5 times every 10 plays, they will have a lot of stalled drives.  Thus, like last year, the Lions offense will have a lot of drives die out early and then hit the big play to move them down field and have a chance to score. They will score a lot of points, but those scores will be quicker drives, leaving the defense on the field too long.

Ah yes. The Defense! The rookie CBs in Bentley and Lacey have both had moments of looking good. They have also been beaten at times. However good they may become in the future, they are not Corner Backs a team would prefer to have to count on this year. Unfortunately, they are the best CBs the Lions have outside of Chris Houston, so they will be counted on. Alfonso Smith has looked, quite frankly, terrible in the preseason and does not give me any hope that he has made any strides in improvement. Louis Delmas is injured again and it is possible he may not be ready for the first game. Amari Spievey seems to have regressed as a Safety. This leaves Coleman and Wendling as the Lions starters right now. Both are decent players and can make some plays, but they seem more suited for stopping the run and making big tackles, but not so top notch in coverage duties. The Lions greatest weakness in 2011 was the secondary. However much you believe they addressed this by drafting three CBs in the third round and later, the fact is, those CBs would not even be starting if Wright or Berry were still on the team. So whether you liked Berry and White or not, this unit is still weaker rather than stronger than last year and their play has not proven that different.

The Linebackers in Tulloch, Durant, and Levy are the same as last year. I have not seen where they are playing much better than last year but again, they have not regressed either. Time will tell what kind of difference they will make this year.

The strength of this defense is definitely, once again, the defensive line. Suh, Williams, Hill and Fairley will continue to pressure up the middle, freeing the defensive ends to get face one-on-one coverage and a chance to get to the QB. Unfortunately, Fairley is not looking like the dominant DT so many presumed he would be, so the D-line with him is not really improved over what it was. Avril will be pushed to duplicate last years performance because Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson look like they are getting better.

Unfortunately, the D-line can only do so much and I think the standard fan expects too much from them. Fans get upset when they dont sack every QB four times and crush him as he releases the ball another six, every game. The defensive line will get to the QB's, and will keep a QB from getting comfortable, but the back seven on the Lions defense will also allow WR's to break free early and often, giving the quarterback somewhere to throw the ball.

Overall, the Lions defense will not be shutting opposing offenses down, but on the other hand, they have shown they look better against the run than they did last year. If the Defense stays healthy, they will be a middle of the road to half way decent defense in the NFL. If there are injuries mounting up, they will drop to a bottom feeding unit in the league, as they did late last season.

On the other hand, I have seen the special teams make improvements in the third week of the preseason, as they were pretty dominant against the Raiders. However, I could not make up my mind whether the Lions special teams were playing so great, or Oaklands Special Teams was so bad. I tend to believe the Lions special teams are improved but not great. Still, they will be better than last year and that might make some differences in the win loss record.

My fears for the coming season is that if LeShoure actually shows he can run well, Linehan will once again fall into his rhythm of running the ball on first down nearly every play. Which would nearly counter the improvement of the running game. He needs to be smart and mix things up. He needs to let the great passing game set up the run rather than trying to make the so-so run game set up the passing game.

From the preseason, I have realized the Lions still have not figured out how to blitz very well. I saw one blitz that was well played, when the safety came in on a disguised blitz. Unfortunately there were several other times when the Lions simply had a linebacker or safety jog upt o the line and wait for the ball to be snapped before charging in. This does nothing but let the opposing offensive line know they need to block the extra rusher and thus, the Lions blitz rarely reaches the QB before he gets rid of the ball.

Some fans like to point out the easy games of the schedule and say they are playing an easier schedule. I disagree. Yes the Lions have some bad teams they will be playing, but keep in mind that last year, all ten wins came against teams without winning records.

I would logically expect the Lions (from what I have seen) to win 9 or 10 games this year. With the problems they have and the weaknesses that were not addressed, I think fans who predict 12 wins or more are just the typical fans who always believe their team will be great and refuse to look at the facts.

The Detroit Lions will once again, be a very exciting team to watch, but they will just as likely, not be a Superbowl contender. They could make the play-offs, but I do not expect it this year. I hope for it, but I do not expect it at this time. However, as the real season comes and I see the schemes they use when games count, that opinion could change. Or be enforced.


Bill Bentley has Good First Test

The Lions drafted CB- Bill Bentley, in the third round of April's NFL Draft. Many think he will be the answer to the CB woes opposite Houston. Many think he wont be that good. One thing almost all Lions fans will agree on, is that if he is not, the Detroit Lions might be in trouble for the upcoming season. On Friday night, Bentley had his first test with the Detroit Lions, and passed it with flying colors.

Lions Rookie, Bill Bentley, after his first NFL interception.
Early on, Bentley made a mistake, and was beaten by a step down the left sideline for a long completion. Given, it was a well thrown ball, but it does not change the fact he was beat by a step. Soon after that, the rookie gave the fans a few reasons to have hope.

Bentley had two excellent breaks on passes in the game. Reading the QB, he broke in and beat the WR to short sideline pass and would have had a pick-six, if he would have caught the ball rather than let it bounce off his chest. The other, however, was a very athletic play where he dropped low and took the pass in mid roll before coming up to his feet and running a few yards before tripping up and going down. Later on, Bentley also had a good wrap up tackle in the middle of the field.

SO a day later, there are many fans who believe they saw the bright future with Bentley as the every week starting CB. Even I must admit that I am a little high on the young player. But as hard as it is to do, I must warn you to take this for what it is. A test that the rookie CB passed. He may have aced it, but it was only one test, and a fairly easy one at that.

Keep in mind that Bentley had this good game against the Cleveland Browns. A team with bad receivers and a rookie QB.  A good QB or veteran WR might have written a very different outcome.  Bentley is showing he is willing to gamble and break in on the pass. What would happen if a good quarterback was to pump fake and the WR broke deep with a double move? Bentley may very well then go from being up and coming bright star, to "Oh my God, it's Wright all over again!"

The rookie had an easy test for his first action. He did very well and gave us reasons to hope. Let him pass a few more tests before you are ready to name him the player who must start opposite Chris Houston.