Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Preseason games get a bad rap. Sure the outcomes are pretty meaningless, as Lions fans who watched a 4-0 preseason morph into a 0-16 disaster know all too well. Yet there is a lot of reason to watch the games.
This particular contest is the first look we get at the rookie class. It’s a chance to evaluate Jake Scott, CJ Mosley, and other free agents in the Lions uniform for the first time. Here are a few things I’ll be watching intently:
–Right guard. Dylan Gandy somewhat surprisingly sits atop the depth chart right now, which is as much an indictment of rookie 3rd round pick Larry Warford’s rough camp than greatness by Gandy. I will be watching how quickly Gandy engages the defender and how well he stays square to his target. Stephen Peterman–who will be on the field for the Jets–struggled mightily at both a year ago. Jake Scott figures to get some reps, and I’m curious about his ability to create running lanes. As for Warford, I want to see if he is playing with confidence. It cannot be easy for him to go against Suh and Fairley in practice every day, but he needs to keep his head up and take out his frustration on the Jets. I am looking for the stud at Kentucky that kicked 1st round pick Sharrif Floyd’s tail last year. If you like to get more advanced in your own viewing, watch Warford’s feet, especially when he has to venture to his outside right.
–Kickalicious. Frequent readers know my strange football man crush on Harvard Rugland, and this is our first chance to see Kickalicious in action. I expect loud cheers when he takes the field, and I’m really hopeful he gets a shot at a 50+ yard field goal. As this is his first time facing a live enemy, I hope he doesn’t wilt.
–Kellen Moore. He’s in a real battle for the 3rd QB spot with Thaddeus Lewis. I make no secret about it, I strongly prefer Lewis. That doesn’t mean I want Moore to stink, however. He’s worked very hard at getting stronger and becoming a better thrower. It would be great if OC Scott Linehan called on Moore to unleash a couple of downfield routes, ideally a corner route to blazing rookie Corey Fuller. It’s not Moore’s game, but if he can’t demonstrate any ability to get the ball down the field, defenses are going to crowd underneath the way they did to post-shoulder surgery Chad Pennington. That scheme rendered Pennington, whom I once described as Peyton Manning without the rifle arm strength or pre-snap histrionics, effectively useless and forced him into retirement.
–Sam Martin. I am not a fan of drafting punters, so Martin needs to “wow” me right away. Camp indications are that the Appalachian State rookie will do so. If he wants to earn my seal of approval, I want to see him pin a ball deep on the sideline inside the 20. Seeing him confidently boot a ball from his own end zone would be nice too.
–Penalties. Last year the Lions continually committed stupid penalties. Those self-inflicted wounds cost Detroit several potential wins. You cannot blame the officials, other than the inexplicable inability of any official to see Justin Forsett’s knee clearly hit the ground in the Turkey Day debacle, but I digress…There is allegedly a team-wide emphasis on being mentally tough and playing with discipline. If there are personal fouls or offsides and false starts, I’m going to be very disappointed. That disappointment will center squarely on Jim Schwartz as the head coach and leader of the team. He’ll be upset beyond printable words himself too, but I am a firm believer that mental error penalties like those are a direct function of the tone set by the coaching staff. Don’t let me down, Coach!
–Darius Slay vs. Dee Milliner. Both teams have a prominent rookie CB. Many Lions fans wanted the team to draft Milliner at #5 overall. The Jets took him a few picks later at #9, while the Lions waited a round and took Slay. They play with different styles and will be asked to do different things for their teams, but wouldn’t it be rewarding to see Slay play at least as well, if not better than Milliner?
–Mark Sanchez. The curiosity factor with The Sanchize is huge. This is a quarterback that a lot of people thought would be a better NFL player than Matt Stafford when both were prospective draftees. Sanchez started stronger, winning multiple playoff games in his first two seasons, but now you’d be hard pressed to find any fan of any team that would take Sanchez over Stafford. If you are looking for a poster child for lack of improvement from rookie year to veteran, watch Sanchez continue to make the same forced throws, missed reads, and timid demeanor in the pocket. Hey, sometimes it’s nice to get a reason to appreciate exactly what the Lions have and so many other teams lack.