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Browns vs. Lions: Detroit's Biggest Winners & Losers

Dean HoldenAnalyst IOctober 9, 2016

Browns vs. Lions: Detroit's Biggest Winners & Losers

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    Just like that, Detroit Lions football is back.

    Though a 19-17 loss to the Cleveland Browns is mildly disappointing, it gets a lot easier to swallow when you remember that the Lions led 14-3 at halftime, when the players that matter were playing.

    Because preseason games are, of course, not at all about winning, losing or how you play the game. It's about finding standouts, both positive and negative.

    Who were those guys in the first game action of the 2012 preseason? Who earned the coaches' attention, and who earned their ire?

    There was a fair share of both instances in this game, some obvious, some subtle. But suffice it to say there are some much better indications of who to watch for in the coming weeks, either because they could bring value to the team or because they just moved themselves a lot closer to the cut list.

    Let's start with the one you're likely to hear the most about this week.

WINNER: Joique Bell

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    We could extrapolate this to the Lions' entire running game.

    Kevin Smith, Keiland Williams, and Joique Bell all had very solid days running the ball, with each of them averaging well over five yards per carry.

    At no point did it seem like the Lions would struggle to move the ball on the ground, and they showed a commitment to the run game that actually resulted in a 50/50 split (33 runs, 33 passes).

    But Bell stole the show with the team's biggest performance at any position all night. The Lions fed Bell the ball 16 times, and watched him run for 89 yards with it, including a fourth quarter possession in which he ran for 14, 21 and 13 yards in consecutive plays.

    You could make the argument that he was rushing against fourth-stringers, and that's fair to an extent. But remember that his blockers were also fourth-stringers, and that nobody is ready to anoint Bell as opening day starter. He's just an interesting guy who had a strong day.

    It may be worth it for the Lions to give Bell some more time in the first and second quarters in the preseason, to see if he has the same success around tougher defenders.

LOSER: Kellen Moore

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    For a guy trying to convince the Lions that they need a third quarterback, he sure didn't bring the proof.

    What he brought was a shaky 4-for-14 night with an interception, though admittedly that interception was on a last-ditch jump ball in the fourth quarter.

    The rough night could have been attributed to poor pass protection in the second half, combined with Moore's apparent lack of ability (or unwillingness) to move in the pocket, but we're talking about Tebow-caliber numbers at 4-for-14.

    At least Moore doesn't have to deal with R.J. Archer, as the Lions brought Moore in with roughly a minute left in the second quarter, and never looked back.

    Moore stayed in the rest of the game, and regardless of his supporting cast being cycled around, he was never able to generate any offense through the second half. That is a dangerous proposition for Moore, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the third quarterback's roster spot.

WINNER: Everette Brown

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    Everette Brown has an uphill climb to make the roster this season, but he could not have had a better start to that climb.

    In limited action, Brown notched a sack and a half and four solid shots on the quarterback, far and away more than anyone else. He practically lived in the backfield, creating havoc all day.

    That's what the Lions look for in their defensive ends, despite Brown not registering a tackle on a ball carrier that wasn't a quarterback. If Brown can replicate this performance in the next couple of games and in practice, he will make a strong case for the Lions to take six defensive ends into the season.

LOSER: Replacement Officials

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    Having seen this game in person, it seems like one area of the game that will suffer the most with replacement officials is pacing.

    The first quarter of this game took just under an hour, and there was only one scoring play. There were a couple of injury timeouts and booth reviews, sure.

    Mostly, it seemed like the game moved slowly because the replacement officials took an unusually long time to deliberate calls, spot the ball and track the game clock (at one point a ref mistakenly attempted to add 1:08 to the game clock, instead of just eight seconds).

    The replacement officials have attempted to stay out of the spotlight by calling as few penalties as possible, but there is little doubt that the quality of the game will suffer with officials who lack the years of experience to keep the game moving fluidly.

WINNER: Bill Bentley

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    The bad news is Bentley gave up a deep pass and dropped an interception.

    The good news is that while Bentley dropped that interception, he put himself in position to make the interception because he read the route correctly, and jumped in front of it. He did the same thing on a later play, and actually came away with the interception that time.

    So, in roughly a quarter of play, Bentley picked off a pass and put himself in position for another. With slightly better hands, he would have been looking at an interception and a pick-six in less than a half of action.

    Even though he made the rookie mistake of letting his receiver get a step on him deep, his performance was overwhelmingly positive, especially for a third-round rookie.

    For a guy like Bentley, you don't expect him to come in and shut everyone down immediately. You look for him to show flashes of ability, some playmaking potential that he can build on and learn from. He most certainly showed that.

LOSER: Special Teams

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    Special teams coordinator Danny Crossman has some work to do.

    Admittedly, the Browns field one of the better special teams units in the game, but that, frankly, is no excuse for Jordan Norwood to be averaging 26 yards per punt return.

    Kick coverage was relatively solid, but it wasn't just the coverage units that struggled. Jason Hanson pushed a 48-yard field goal wide right (though I'm sure he'll be just fine) and Ryan Donahue put a couple of his punts out of bounds between the 20- and 30-yard lines, one of them from the 50.

    This isn't a doomed unit by any stretch of the imagination, because any season-long determinations based on a non-injury preseason event are premature, at best. But special teams struggled in this game, without question, and if nothing else, that means they have something to work on.

WINNER: Shaun Hill

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    Don't put too much stock into Shaun Hill putting up good numbers against second-team defenses, but he was by far the most impressive quarterback on the field in this game.

    Matthew Stafford was a bit shaky, Kellen Moore was awful and R. J. Archer didn't get to play. Hill was 8-for-12 for 83 yards, and led the Lions only two touchdown drives of the day.

    Hill wasn't exactly in danger of losing his roster position anytime soon, but there were some who thought Moore could have been a challenger for Hill's backup role this season. If Friday's game was any indication, that is still a long way off.

    In the meantime, while the Lions' season is in serious trouble without Matthew Stafford, they are at least in better hands than, say, the 2011 Colts.

WINNER: Maurice Stovall

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    Because I felt the game had far more positive performances than negative, I'm going with a bonus winner instead of another loser.

    After all, it's the preseason. Nobody is really a loser.

    Maurice Stovall was a quality special teamer last season, but the question I have most often had is whether he can make a case for his ability as a receiver?

    Last season, Stovall was hardly used as a receiver, but he performed well in that role in the preseason. It seems he's picked up right where he left off last preseason.

    Stovall finished the game as the Lions second receiver, with two receptions for 35 yards (Calvin Johnson had two receptions for 36 yards). He also notched three tackles on special teams, including one that saved a touchdown on a punt return.

    With that kind of production, Stovall may not necessarily become a common receiving target for the Lions in the regular season, but he is at least making a case with his versatility to make the roster and contribute for another year.

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