Analyzing Detroit Lions' First-Team Performance Against Cleveland Browns

Andrew Kulha@@AKonSportsSenior Analyst IIIAugust 13, 2012

DETROIT, MI - NOVEMBER 24: Calvin Johnson #81 of the Detroit Lions warms up prior to the start of the game against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field on November 24, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

There’s a ton that can be taken away from watching the Detroit Lions’ first team play against the Cleveland Browns in their regular-season opener.

While many are under the impression that the preseason doesn’t matter, I would argue that repetition is the name of the game at this juncture of the 2012 season, so the more reps the first team gets the better.

We saw the first-team offense for two series against the Browns, and the defense played about two as a unit. Here’s my analysis on the starters for your Detroit Lions:


Offensive Series 1

I wish I could give you something here, but the Lions didn’t give me anything to talk about. It appeared as if the offensive game plan was to run the ball and play it close to the vest. I anticipate trying to build up the running game is going to be a focal point this preseason.


Defensive Series 1

Lions fans have to be thrilled about the defense at this point. Sure, I’m not 100 percent sold that a safety unit of Erik Coleman (Isn’t he a basketball player? Oh, wait that’s Derrick.) and John Wendling (Who?) is going to get the job done, but right now the only thing that matters for the Lions is one simple word—pressure.

If the front four can get after the quarterback, the secondary is going to benefit greatly, and at least for the first defensive series, they accomplished their goal. Willie Young got after rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and forced a fumble. Forcing opposing offenses to drop back on 3rd-and-long is going to be the key for Detroit in 2012.


Offensive Series 2

Disaster. The end of the world. Stafford throws a pick. Oh no…

Okay, let’s calm down and look at this.

While watching your franchise quarterback give the ball away is never a good feeling, don’t forget that this is only the preseason, thus it can be boiled down to a learning experience. I slowed down the video to check out what really happened, and here is what I came away with:

Anytime there’s a pick I feel it’s smart to look first at the offensive line, and that is indeed where the problem may have originated for Stafford. Jeff Backus simply got burned to the inside by the defensive end, who consequently put pressure on Stafford and caused him to rush his throw, or at the very least rush his read.

Speaking of reads, it appeared as if Stafford was looking for Brandon Pettigrew to run some sort of skinny post, but instead Pettigrew stayed well outside the hash and never broke to the middle. This could have been a mistake on Pettigrew’s part, but Stafford also made a poor read himself. The cornerback, Sheldon Brown, was on the inside of the route and there was a safety on top of it. Brown eventually made the pick, and the rest is preseason history.

Like I said, it’s never fun to watch your starting quarterback throw a pick, but this is an easy fix with film study and more repetition. I wouldn’t be worried just yet.


Defensive Series 2

What I noticed the most this series was the play of Ndamukong Suh, and this is something that will have to be a consistent point if the Lions want to have success in 2012. He looked very quick and agile getting horizontal down the line after the ball-carrier, and he was able to get some good pressure on Weeden while simultaneously making an NFL guard look like he was stuck in superglue coming out of his stance. Suh looks quick, and that’s a great sign for the Lions.


Offensive Series 3

Calvin Johnson makes life easy for Stafford. His size and speed allow him to create crazy amounts of separation, and corners have no choice but to respect his vertical game, thus giving him a ton of room to work with. It’s easy to play pitch and catch with a 6’5", 236-pound football catching machine like Johnson, and that was evident to me on this series.

Oh, Pettigrew dropped a pass, but let’s not harp on him just yet….


Defensive Series 3

It seemed like most of the starters were out at this point on defense, but there is one potential starter that deserves his moment in the spotlight. Cornerback Dwight “Bill” Bentley, Detroit’s third-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, came away with a pretty nifty interception, and he did a lot to impress me in this game.

Yes, he got burnt pretty badly on the first defensive series, but he bounced back with a near interception and then the actual interception. He displays good closing speed and he doesn’t appear to be shy when it comes to taking chances and going after the ball. For a rookie, he looked like he belonged out there on the field with the first team.


What To Take Away as a Fan

Remember that this is a work in progress. The preseason may seem boring and useless, but it is anything but for a football team. The first squad showed moments of promise, but they also showed us that they still have a lot to work on, but that’s okay.

Repetition is the name of the game, and the more the Lions' first team plays together in practice and gets different looks from other teams in preseason games, the better they will be once the season officially kicks off.

It is what it is at this point, but anybody with a football eye will tell you the same thing: There’s always something to learn and notice when watching the game—preseason or not.

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