Detroit Lions Preseason Wrap-Up: You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet
Last week I wrote an article regarding what we haven’t seen from the Detroit Lions offense in the preseason. Then came the blowout victory over the New England Patriots, who might have been more surprised at what they experienced than I was.
Check that. After all, I didn’t get the snot knocked out of me—the Patriots did.
In the first half of the Patriots disembowelment, we witnessed the realization of what, and who the Lions can be on offense during the regular season. While I hesitate to proclaim that the Lions have reached the zenith of their potential, the impressions that emerged were both indelible and noteworthy.
On offense, the Lions looked potent and poised. They didn’t target any Patriots defenders for abuse—they abused them all with equal aplomb. We saw two-tight end sets in an unbalanced offense where Tony Scheffler scored a touchdown on a seam route that appeared almost too easy.
We saw Matt Stafford threading a needle to Nate Burleson for another TD amidst three defenders. We saw the dangers of single coverage on Calvin Johnson, who, in a cameo appearance, stretched the field on CB Devin McCourty only to turn and make a play on a ball that only he was in a position to make.
So much for ESPN analyst Cris Carter's scouting report on Johnson, eh? Don’t worry, this writer will have many opportunities to remind Carter of the error of his ways.
We saw a running game that holds the promise of being modestly productive when it is set up by the passing game. Trap blocks, zone blocking on the edge, play-action fakes and pulling linemen were the order of the day.
Yes, the Lions pulled back the veil on their offense and served notice on NFL defensive coordinators—scheme this!
So, what about the defense? I had my mental list of the things that I hadn’t seen in training camp ready to go. In retrospect, I’m glad that I waited until this dress rehearsal to post these observations.
The defensive line did more than show their prowess as individual disruptors. We got a true glimpse of how the Lions will use their personnel in a rotation for the first time.
We saw DT Corey Williams attacking both sides of the center-guard gap, DE Willie Young coming off the right and left edges, DT Sammie Lee Hill playing both tackle positions and DE Lawrence Jackson working both edges ala Willie Young.
Ndamukong Suh was the only defensive lineman who played one position. This will undoubtedly change as the season progresses.
The Lions did remain in their base 4-3 defense throughout the game. Not much of a surprise here, but I am waiting to see some of the more exotic looks that popped up from time to time last year, like the 3-4 looks that confounded the Rams and Redskins.
One is only left to imagine how the dynamics of the defensive line play will be impacted when rookie behemoth DT Nick Fairley makes his debut.
The starting linebackers are looking a bit more comfortable with each other than they have in camp. Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy switched off at MLB after each series. Ultimately, it will be Tulloch calling the plays as the regular MLB.
One thing that I think we will see during the regular season that we aren’t seeing now is the insertion of Bobby Carpenter for Justin Durant on passing downs. Carpenter has proved to be more active and reliable in coverage than Durant, by far.
Again, this is not news. Durant came to Detroit with a well earned reputation as a run stuffer who was soft in coverage.
We didn’t see a lot of blitzing in the Patriots game, but that’s understandable given the outstanding pass rush put on by the defensive line. Will we see more blitzing during the regular season? I’d hedge my bets on this one.
We did see some wrinkles from the secondary that I haven’t seen in the preseason thus far. On first and ten, the Lions switched from their usual cover 2, to a cover 1 with safety Louis Delmas coming up into the “hard” box. This I have only seen in a 3rd-and-3 situation during camp.
Another thing I noticed was the RCBs playing some press coverage on the Patriots wide receivers. This is something that we seldom saw in recent years, and I never saw in training camp. The play of RCB Eric Wright, along with the much improved play of safety Amari Spievey in the deep half, might account for this.
Now, if we can get the secondary to stop biting on play action fakes (you know who you are), the Lions secondary will give a good account of themselves week in, and week out.
Overall, we are seeing more in the way of pre-snap motion out of the entire defense than we have in seasons gone by. Shifting linemen into different gaps, bringing LBs and DBs up to the line and otherwise disguising the defense on any give play is becoming the rule, rather than the exception.
Yes, the Lions opened up the offense and defense during the first half of the preseason game against the hapless Patriots. The Lions coaching staff is already scheming for the opening game at Tampa bay.
The way that the Lions played in that so called dress rehearsal, it’s easy to understand why fans are looking forward to this season with eager anticipation. You can count me in.
In any event folks, we ain’t seen nothing yet.
Mike Sudds is a syndicated Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.
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