Detroit Lions: The Biggest Winners and Losers of Training Camp, Preaseaon
Through all the offseason drama, the Detroit Lions continue to work hard with hopes of progression. With training camp and the preseason officially underway, the Lions are drawing a brief picture of what to expect this upcoming season.
58,933 packed inside Ford Field to watch the Lions square off against the Cleveland Browns. Lots of stock isn't put into the outcome of preseason games. However, there were bright spots as well as room for improvement during the 19-17 loss to the Browns.
With all the new talent on the Lions' roster, this team will be judged closer than a usual offseason. Here have been the biggest winners and losers from training camp and preseason.
Winner: Riley Reiff
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Line him up at left tackle, right tackle, right guard, it doesn't make much difference to Riley Reiff. The Lions' first-round tackle has lined up at just about every position on the offensive line since training camp. So far, Reiff has been nothing short of impressive.
Head coach Jim Schwartz placed Reiff at left tackle with the second team against Cleveland. Schwartz downplayed Reiff's performance initially after the game, but gave him credit after Monday's practice. It's always difficult receiving postgame credit from Schwartz, but the evidence was clear after Reiff's performance this past Friday.
Reiff was fairly consistent at tackle, providing big running lanes for the Lions' backfield and helped keep backups Shaun Hill and Kellen Moore clean from contact. He showed great mobility along the line and aggression towards defenders.
Reiff continues to get better as the regular season gets closer. As the Lions continue to groom him for the future, Reiff is on pace to see significant playing time this season.
Winner: Willie Young
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If people are still questioning why Cliff Avril didn't receive a long-term extension this offseason, Willie Young should provide some answers. Avril's training camp holdout created a chance to stand out for the Lions' third-year edge rusher. So far, Young has taken advantage of his time to progress as a primary defender.
After Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch both sat out against the Browns, Young took that opportunity to shine. The former seventh-round pick applied constant pressure on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, including a third-down strip-sack where Young also recovered the fumble.
Young wants to be a go-to guy in need of a defensive stop, and he has shown brief glimpses of just that. The Lions have a plethora of defensive end depth with Everette Brown, Lawrence Jackson and Ronnell Lewis. However, the brightest light of potential so far has shined on Young since training camp.
With Vanden Bosch getting older and the risk of Avril not re-signing with the Lions, Detroit needs a breakout season from Young. General manager Martin Mayhew has predicted big things for Young this coming season. If Young flourishes for the Lions, they will have one spot taken care of at defensive end long-term.
Winner: Lions' Run Game
The Detroit Lions remain without their two feature running backs Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure due to health concerns. In their absence, Kevin Smith, Keiland Williams and Joique Bell together shouldered an impressive performance. Granted it was against a less than stout Cleveland defense, it's nice to see some sort of pulse from the Lions' run game.
The Lions backfield racked up 198 yards on the ground. Bell got the majority of the workload, carrying the ball 16 times for 89 yards. Return specialist Stefan Logan was also featured in the Lions' offense in a Darren Sproles-type role. Logan carried the ball three times for 10 yards along with two catches including a three-yard, fourth-down touchdown in the second quarter.
Once Best and Leshoure return, Detroit will have their backfield at full strength. After those two plus Smith, the last roster spot will come down to Williams and Bell. Logan should keep a place on the team because of his special teams explosiveness. Until that spot is decided, each back has presented a strong case throughout training camp and the preseason.
Loser: Jahvid Best
While the other Lions' running backs work there way onto the field, Jahvid Best still remains on the sideline. The Lions placed Best on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list at the beginning of training camp. After saying he's healthy and cleared to play in June, Best still hasn't participated in any contact drills or games with the team.
Nobody has any answers on when Best will return, but he's missing valuable time. The Lions have been without their first-round running back since Week 6 of last season. Because of his troubling concussion history, Best could potentially be cutting his career short if he can't stay healthy.
The Lions have weapons all around the offense, but they are without question a better team when Best is active. His speed and versatility makes him a nightmare matchup for every linebacker or safety that attempts to tackle him. To assure his future in the NFL and to make the Lions' offense even more dangerous, they need Best healthy and on the field.
Loser: Kellen Moore
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Kellen Moore walked off of Ford Field with a performance he'd like to forget. After playing the final seven offensive series, Moore completed four out of 14 passes for 40 yards and a last drive interception. The Lions offense only managed to score three points while Moore was quarterbacking the team.
The Lions did struggle keeping Moore out of trouble. Out of his 14 passes, Moore was under heavy duress five times. The line must give the rookie a chance to make plays, but Moore had his own struggles besides the linemen protecting him.
Moore is competing for the Lions' No. 3 quarterback position. Matthew Stafford will continue his reign as the starter, and Shaun Hill was re-signed back for another two years. Moore will compete for the last roster spot with practice squad quarterback R.J. Archer, who did not suit up this past Friday.
Moore had plenty of success during his days at Boise State with a 50-3 record over four seasons. He must learn to adapt from his spread college system to an NFL-style offense. Performances such as Friday can't repeat if Moore wants to make the final cut.