The preseason opener is now officially in the rearview mirror, and unlike last year, the Detroit Lions came up on the short end of the stick and tasted adversity right away. The first team offense struggled mightily, and the Browns won the battle of the backups by sneaking in a late field goal for a 19-17 victory at Ford Field. Though this initial exhibition hunt was wildly unsuccessful on the scoreboard, there were still several positive elements to take away when all was said and done.
Here's some things we learned from football's triumphant return to the Motor City:
Everette Brown Could Be The Next Successful Reclamation Project. As I hinted months ago, the Lions love Brown, a former first round pick. Friday, Brown looked good off the end, pressuring Brandon Weeden and forcing an early fumble. He stayed nearly unblockable most of the time when he was in, and looks to have found a second life with the Lions. Given up on several times before, it will be interesting to watch if Brown can carry this play through the rest of the preseason. If so, the Lions may have found yet another fearsome pass rusher to throw at teams. As a whole, the defensive line played excellent. They were paced by Brown's tenacity early.
The Running Game Has Several Options. In the absence of Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best, Kevin Smith wasn't great early, but Keiland Williams scored a touchdown and looked serviceable. Also running hard was Joique Bell, who exploded through the line multiple times in the second half and made plenty of good things happen with his cutback ability. Perhaps the Lions have an internal answer to fill in for Leshoure and Best. If tonight's performances were any indication, there are a few options that can remain in play for the next preseason contest.
Dwight Bentley Is As Advertised. The rookie cornerback was all over the field tonight, breaking up a pass which should have been intercepted and picking off another Weeden throw. Coming into the game, everyone was cautiously optimistic about the small school product's toughness and game ability, and he showed big against the Browns statistically. Bentley will be all over the game film, and Jim Schwartz will be pleased about that.
The First Team Offense Just Needs To Settle Down. From the get go, Matthew Stafford looked jumpy and uncomfortable in the pocket. The offensive line looked out of place. Timing seemed off with receivers on pass plays. On his interception, Stafford needed to eat the ball and take a sack. There were times he should have just thrown the ball away. In the first game, things like this will happen. The Lions need to focus on relaxing and getting their game speed timing back down pat. Much of this will come in time.
Lions? Brown was in Cleveland's backfield all night long, while Bentley secured a big interception and played well. Bell ran hard and looked to have extremely quick feet. In the backup role, Shaun Hill played a good game and Jason Fox had a good night of protection on the offensive line.
Lambs? In the second half there were plenty of candidates. Tonight, the biggest lamb was Jason Hanson for missing a field goal he usually makes indoors. That three points would have forced Cleveland to go for a touchdown late instead of simply kicking a field goal to win. Rookie kicker Derek Dimke made his kick look easy, and made Hanson look over his shoulder just a bit. Maybe that's not true, but the rare miss was shocking for a dependable veteran.
What About The Five Things? We said that it would be important to watch the running back situation, and there were several good things that happened with Lion ball carriers Friday night. The safety position didn't appear to be a glaring concern just yet. Riley Reiff wasn't great, but wasn't terrible either, which made for a pretty average to below average debut. Weeden will live to see the regular season, but was pressured all night long when he was in and appeared intimidated at times by Detroit's defensive attack mentality. Out of the rookies, Bentley was perhaps the most impressive first year player on the field tonight.
Stalking The Next Prey: The Lions head to Baltimore next week to take on the Ravens. The game will start at 8 p.m. and be broadcast nationally on FOX.
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