As we've all seen from this past weekend's Detroit Lions-Denver Broncos game, the Lions appear to be a highly evolved team from what we have seen in recent years.
Tempering enthusiasm is a must though in the preseason, as us Lions fans know all too well that it doesn't really matter if you win or lose in the preseason. After going 4-0 in 2008, and then going 0-16 in the regular season, we know very well that nobody cares about starting off 4-0 that year.
With that said, there are some very strong signs pointing towards a highly productive season for the Detroit Lions, let's take a look shall we?
Going back to before the draft, I (like many of you) was drunk on enthusiasm about the prospect that Detroit would draft Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick. Now that we've had a chance to see a few preseason games of Suh playing against NFL caliber talent, I think it's safe to say that none of us have over-estimated this young man's ability to alter the course of a football game from the defensive tackle position.
Even the guys at profootballfocus.com have noticed his stand out performance thus far, as they wrote up an entire article just about his performance against the Broncos.
Ndamukong Suh was not only double teamed again, for the entire time he was in the game, but he was also moved around the line this time, as I had projected he could be before he was drafted.
The best way to avoid a double team is to move the guy getting double teamed somewhere else right? Well that's exactly what Detroit coaches did with Suh, and it was obviously an effective way to thwart the would-be double teams against him.
His performance was outstanding for a first half preseason game, and all though this is just the preseason, and we should again temper our enthusiasm, I can't help but ask my self, “what will Suh look like in November when he really starts to get the hang of things?"
Now Suh was great, but you have to give a shout out to everyone on the Detroit Lions defensive line, even the second string units, since they all did a great job. The Lions notched four sacks and had both QB's running for their lives much of the evening.
Even the Broncos broadcasting staff were commenting on the dominating, fast, and aggressive play of the Detroit Lions defensive front four that started the game.
Now here is some sour in your Kool-Aid, the Lions were playing against an offensive Line that is as young and inexperienced as any offensive line they will see in the NFL, including two rookies. So although the defensive front-four looked incredible, we have to take that with a grain of salt, considering the line they were playing against was hardly a stout one.
In the end though, it's still very encouraging that two preseason games down and we've seen the Lions front-four get some serious pressure on opposing QB's, without committing linebackers or extra men to the effort.
Last week, after the Steelers game, I gave a kudos to Chris Huston for being able to play the ball, but this week I have to take that back. He was consistently playing the man, not the ball, and was consequently called for pass interference on it once.
This is not a good sign and I hope that he either gets his act together and realizes he has to play the ball, or that one of the other corners on the roster can pick up his game and get with the program.
Jahvid Best is exactly what many of us hoped he would be; explosive, elusive, powerful, fast, and a home run threat in the backfield. He has proven that he can beat people with moves, with speed, with change of direction, and with flat out power running between the tackles.
Best is another guy who I can't help but wonder how he's going to look in November, assuming he stays healthy, when he really starts to pick up the nuances of the NFL game and develop as a running back in this league.
Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford have obviously developed a significant chemistry over the offseason. These two should be a very entertaining duo to watch this year, and for many years to come. Is it just me, or does every pass to Megatron from Stafford come out hot and high?
Speaking of Stafford, did anyone else notice the fact that his jersey was bright white at the end of the second quarter? Bite your tongues and cross your fingers, the offensive line appears to have figured out how to block!
Can you even remember a time when Detroit Lions fans weren't complaining about the performance of the offensive line? I can't.
Even the Denver Broncos broadcasting staff was commenting on how clean his jersey was nearing the end of the second quarter, and I have to agree the protection he enjoyed was superb to say the least.
Not to mention we saw no major penalties by the unit, so not only were they giving him solid protection but Jim Schwartz is obviously doing a great job of preparing them to play clean mistake free football which is another thing we're not used to seeing in Detroit.
My big gripe of the Lions vs. Broncos game comes against the officiating crew. Ed Hochuli, you may have big guns, but man you were blind on this one!
The unstoppable front four linemen for Detroit lined up with 13:16 remaining in the second quarter, and once again got a massive bull rush from Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Williams, and Cliff Avril. Williams and KVB hit Orton and stripped the ball and as he was coming to the ground, and while the ball was clearly out of his hands and as Orton was still on his feet, Avril picked up the ball, only to hear the whistles blow, calling it a dead ball.
I'm sorry but if this was a regular season game, this call would have been considered a massive coup d'état by the refereeing staff. It would have been on a highlight reel on ESPN all week long, and the fact that Hochuli was on the officiating crew makes it all that much worse.
You would expect a clean called game from a crew with him on board. I mean doesn't he threaten to beat up the other refs if they make a bad call or something?
Finally, I doubt they will keep him, but I have to throw it in there. Stephen Hauschka was incredible in his debut as a Detroit Lion kicker. However, we all know who stands in your potential roster spot to actually make this team.
So I'm placing a challenge to one guy on the Lions Roster for next week in Detroit. Stephen Hauschka, I don't care what you have to do, but next week prove to us Detroit Lions fans that you can boot seven out of seven kickoffs into the end zone at sea level.
This past week was great but everyone knows that kicks fly with some extra distance when you're in the thin air of Mile High Stadium. But if you can really do that day in day out at sea level, the Lions need you on this football team.
I know it's probably a remote wish, but man, it was nice to watch every nearly every kickoff end as a touch back. I just don't see how the Lions could pass up having a guaranteed touch back on kickoffs.
No offense Jason Hanson, but once upon a time, your kickoffs were the same way, and even though I know we all love Hanson, we really need a guy who can boot the kickoff like Hauschka has shown he can. It makes a huge difference in special teams when your coverage units don't even have to cover because there is no return.
Having made that last wish, I have to admit one thing right here and now. I do not envy the Detroit Lions coaching staff right now. They have a lot of tough choices to make when they trim the roster to the 75 man team after next week. And they will have an even harder time trimming it to the final 53 man roster before September 12th season opener in Chicago.
Sure there are lots of guys that I don't expect to make this team. But I can tell you now, this is one year that I'm pretty sure we will all have favorites who get the boot before the regular season opener. There is actually a lot of talent on this roster, and I just hope the coaching staff chooses wisely as to who will stay and who will pack their bags and hit the road.
Well that's all Lions fans. I'll post again next week, after the Lions make Jake Delhomme shriek in fear. If only we had real grass to make his jersey dirty after they take him to the ground a few times.