4 Lessons Learned from the Detroit Lions' Preseason Action
Unwritten NFL laws state not to put too much stock into the preseason. Players who seem to be stars in preseason play sometimes don't pan out correctly, and vice versa. But with the Detroit Lions coming off their first playoff performance since 1999 last season, it's hard not to take heavy note of anytime they take the field.
The Lions are approaching the 2012 season with a chance to prove they belong in the elite class of the NFL. With a year of success under their belt and a stronger NFC North division, serious implications ride on this season.
How Detroit will truly respond is yet to be seen. It's hard to predict a team's future based on preseason play, but here are the most important notes thus far from the Lions.
1. Key Injuries
The Lions weren't in much of a spot to lose vital players at important positions like the secondary and running back. Losing cornerback Chris Houston, safety Louis Delmas and running back Jahvid Best exposed Detroit to a bad extent. Not so much the running game, but the explosive play of Best out the backfield will greatly be missed in the Lions offense.
Delmas was forced to undergo knee surgery in August, hindering the Lions secondary greatly. Without one of Detroit's biggest leaders and playmakers, the defense looked very slow and out of sync at times. Replacements Erik Coleman and John Wendling will be forced to fill the void of Delmas. Neither have the talent or ability of Delmas, but they'll have to step up to the curb immediately.
With the Lions drafting three rookie cornerbacks, releasing the trouble-prone corner Aaron Berry and cutting Alphonso Smith, Detroit needs Chris Houston. He's produced a respectable amount of consistency since coming to Detroit. As the only returning starter in a contract year, this is a statement season for Houston.
The Lions got a small scare when quarterback Matthew Stafford injured his hand against Oakland. Luckily, it wasn't serious, and he returned to vintage form. Detroit's offense lies heavily on the arm of Stafford, and the defense will certainly miss Houston and Delmas while they're gone.
2. Mikel Leshoure Looks Legit
Plenty of hype surrounded running back Mikel Leshoure this preseason. After missing all of last year because of an Achilles' tear and a hamstring injury during training camp, everyone was eager to see Leshoure during Week 3 against Oakland. His numbers of five carries for one yard didn't paint a promising picture. However, Leshoure bounced back in Week 4 versus Buffalo with 15 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown.
Leshoure displayed a diverse range of moves in open space, making defenders miss tackles. He ran hard with power and always fell forward after contact. Leshoure might not look like a Pro Bowl back right away, but he certainly has shown the ability of being the feature back of the Lions future.
After a marijuana-possession charge this offseason, Leshoure is forced to miss the first two regular season games. The Lions should be able to succeed against the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 action without Leshoure, but he will certainly be missed against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.
3. The Willie Young Hype Is Real
General manager Martin Mayhew predicted a breakout season for defensive end Willie Young this year. After a strong preseason, it was very clear why.
Young is becoming a monster steal of the 2010 draft after being selected in the seventh-round. He was selected as a project player, but he's now eyeing plenty of playing time in 2012.
Young provided some nice preseason highlights, including a strip sack and fumble recovery against the Cleveland Browns in Week 1. The 6'5" defensive end from North Carolina State showed a great combination of bull rushing and speed rushing against offensive tackles.
The future has never looked brighter for Willie Young. If Cliff Avril decides to leave the team after this season, the Lions seem confident enough in Young to replace him. Kyle Vanden Bosch is also getting older considering he turns 34 in November. Either way, if Young succeeds this season, the Lions will look to invest in him for the long-term on defense.
4. Kellen Moore Still Needs Work
It's quite confusing, but somehow, inconsistent left-handed quarterbacks find a way to dominate news headlines.
Kellen Moore, welcome to the club.
Moore has stirred quite a bit of chatter since the Lions signed him as an undrafted rookie from Boise State. It hasn't been followed with great production, but he was good enough to make the 53-man roster as the Lions third-string quarterback.
During the preseason, Moore struggled heavily to find any kind of consistency. Moore displayed weak arm strength, missed too many open receivers and displayed other questionable decision making under center. He also looked very uncomfortable adapting to a pro-style NFL offense after playing in the unique spread style at Boise State.
Moore produced a stellar career at Boise State, but he's taking on a whole new level in the NFL. It's clear he's not ready for the pros, and learning behind Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill should help him improve.
As a young and unpolished quarterback, Moore has plenty more strides to take to perfect his game.