Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Detroit Lions: Lions Preseason Week 3 Game Preview
The third week of the preseason is where things get interesting. The Detroit Lions will host the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the starters will be looking to put their preemptive stamps on the 2014 season.
You probably already know that the Lions lost their shot at an undefeated preseason. You've probably also forgotten that they're 1-1 because nobody cares about preseason records.
All the fans really want to see is the offense putting points on the board and the defense getting stops. And they want to see progress from the week before, which in this case means making every extra-point attempt.
So before the Lions take the field at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday night, find out everything you need to know for their showdown with Jacksonville.
Detroit Lions Preseason Week 2 Recap
The Lions' dream of an undefeated preseason has been dashed. Oakland Raiders third-string quarterback Matt McGloin threw the game-winning score in the waning seconds against very porous coverage to steal the victory.
And nobody cares.
What does matter is the Lions' first-string offense had no trouble moving the ball. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was nearly flawless, missing just one of his 10 passes, and that single incompletion was a drop by Reggie Bush.
Backup Dan Orlovsky continued the trend with a solid 8-of-12 performance that included 153 passing yards.
Cornerback Rashean Mathis was able to force an interception into the hands of safety James Ihedigbo to stem some early offensive success by the Raiders, and the starting defense stiffened afterward. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin sprinkled in a little more press-man coverage and a few blitzes, giving fans a glimpse of things to come.
News and Notes
Nick Fairley Is Still a Second-Stringer
So long as Fairley continues to come off the bench, it will continue to be a story.
The former first-rounder was the lead story last week, and there haven't been any indications that he'll be rejoining the starters against Jacksonville. In fact, the unofficial depth chart listed on the team's site memorializes the demotion.
Fairley didn't bounce back against Oakland. If he doesn't show serious improvement against the Jags, he'll enter the regular season as a reserve.
Kickers to Rotate Opportunities
While Fairley is facing a spot further down the depth chart, either Nate Freese or Giorgio Tavecchio is looking at the unemployment line.
Thus far, Freese has taken all of the first-half kicks and Tavecchio has handled the place-kicking duties in the second half. Head coach Jim Caldwell saw the flaw in this system, mainly that his backup offenses weren't creating enough chances for Tavecchio to display his goods.
So now they will be rotating with each kick.
It's the right move. There hasn't been much separation between the two. Freese did have a nice 55-yard field goal from the dirt in Oakland, but he also clanged a 33-yard PAT attempt. Meanwhile, Tavecchio knocked in a point after and an even closer 25-yard field goal.
Calvin Johnson Is Playing
No, none of us need to see Johnson play to know what he can do. That doesn't mean it won't be nice.
The starting offense played extremely well with Golden Tate at the top of the depth chart. The ceiling established last week will be blown off when Megatron takes the field.
Johnson probably won't play as long as the other starters, and he shouldn't. His injury history is quite lengthy. Every year, Johnson is often held out of practices to lower the stress on his bothersome knee and any other minor ailments he collects along the way due to his heavy workload.
Still, this is going to be fun. Get ready for the show, Detroit.
|T.J. Jones||Wide Receiver||Out: PUP|
|Montell Owens||Running Back||Probable|
All injury statuses from Rotowire.com.
Luckily for the Lions, the injury report this week includes only two names.
Did you just read that? Did you knock on wood?
A few main keys to any successful preseason include learning the schemes, developing chemistry and executing in preseason games. However, avoiding injuries is usually the chief concern.
Thus far, Detroit has escaped any serious harm.
Rookie wide receiver T.J. Jones isn't likely to be removed from the physically unable to perform list any time soon. He's still hopeful to get on the field at some point this fall, but he's probably going to miss at least the first six weeks, as mandated when a player enters the regular season on the PUP list.
Montell Owens is only listed here due to the knee injury that cut short his 2013 season. There hasn't been any indication that he's suffering, which is good because he'll need a couple of big performances to stick on the roster.
X-Factors and Matchups to Watch
Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin vs. Jags Offense
The third week of the preseason means the coordinators will be showing a few more of their cards. That suits Austin just fine.
Austin's defense will be predicated on moving guys around to put them in the best position to succeed by creating mismatches and confusing the offense. This week's display of odd pass-rushing angles and multiple fronts will be the first remnants of what could be a very good defense come this fall.
Ziggy Ansah vs. Luke Joeckel
Ansah wasn't listed on Rotowire's injury chart because he isn't injured. However, it still hasn't been determined whether he'll play for the same reasons that Calvin Johnson will make his debut this week—caution.
If he does, we'll get to see how far he's progressed since last year as he goes against Luke Joeckel, who was picked three slots ahead of him in the 2013 NFL draft. Joeckel was limited to five games last year with an injury, so both will be testing the waters against supreme but unproven talent.
Detroit's Running Game vs. Gus Bradley
Detroit hasn't been running the ball that well, and people have noticed. As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press pointed out, the Lions are averaging a paltry 64.5 yards per game. A lot of that falls on the offensive line.
The unit wasn't great last year at opening rushing lanes, and the trend has carried over to this year. It would be nice to see the offensive line create some lanes for Reggie Bush and Joique Bell in the only extended action it will see until the opener.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention it's not a huge cause of concern. As Football Outsiders pointed out in its almanac (purchase required), winning teams have large rushing numbers because they run out the clock toward the end of games.
As is often the case for winning teams, the Lions will be looking to set up the run with the pass, something they have done quite well this preseason.
Lions' X-Factor of the Week: Kyle Van Noy
Van Noy's selection in the second round sent shivers of anticipation through the Lions' fanbase. Detroit looked to have acquired that do-everything linebacker that Austin needs to make his defense go.
So far, that hasn't been the case. Aside from his forced incompletion that was close to a forced fumble, he's been largely invisible. But this week's "dress rehearsal" should do the trick, as noted above.
As I mentioned last week, there's no value in trying to predict a winner in a preseason game. It's impossible to presume how long the starters will play, which obviously has a tiny effect on the outcome.
But the preseason is meant for practice. And I'm not one to shy away from hard work, so I'll make a few alternative predictions instead.
- The starting defense will post at least three sacks. The Jaguars are an improving team, but they aren't very polished. The Lions' front seven is much more talented and will finally be unleashed in a creative manner that should take advantage of its physical prowess.
- Sam Martin will only punt once in the first half. I probably should have put bold in the slide title because this limb is a bit flimsy. However, Matthew Stafford is dialed in and will have his best weapon available to pair with the already overflowing arsenal at his disposal.
- Darius Slay makes his mark. The idea of predicting his first pick was enticing, but interceptions are too random. Yet, I have no qualms saying Slay will be in a position to make his presence known. Jacksonville will try to open its playbook a little, meaning the second-year cornerback should actually see a few targets this week. And if the offseason has been any indication, he's ready to pounce.
Enjoy this week's contest against the Jaguars by following along with me in the live blog we'll have up on the site close to kickoff. There, I'll provide some color commentary, crack a few bad jokes, post interesting tweets (from other people, of course) and respond to any intriguing comments.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Detroit Lions Featured Columnist who has written about the Lions on multiple sites. He also co-hosts a Lions-centric podcast, Lions Central Radio. Yell at him on Twitter about how wrong he is @BrandonAlisoglu.