It’s finally here, Motown. Coming off a productive offseason, the new-look Detroit Lions take the field Friday night in their preseason opener against the Buffalo Bills. Along with that, fans will get their first glimpse at a Dan Campbell-coached Lions team. Locally, fans are anxious to see how this team will perform. And they have many questions as well.
How will Jared Goff look, and can he be better than Matthew Stafford? Who are the Lions’ starting wideouts? What’s up with the secondary? Is Penei Sewell a “generational talent”? And, could the Lions shock people and make the playoffs?
Now nationally, especially in the media, the only question they’re asking is whether the Detroit Lions will bite kneecaps in a game. They care nothing about the on-field product.
All of these questions, if any, will be answered on Friday now.
However, before the Lions face the Bills, here are several things that I’ll be paying attention to, based on what I’ve seen in training camp.
Pay close attention to the flow of the Lions’ offense. Will it be more run or pass-based?
Based on what I’ve seen in camp, if Detroit Lions fans expect Jared Goff to air it out like Matthew Stafford, think again. He’s not that type of quarterback. Goff struggled at times throwing downfield, often throwing behind wideout or overthrowing. And part of that could be rust and getting comfortable with a new system. After all, everything in Detroit is foreign to Goff, from the city to most of his teammates.
Despite that, Goff has shown tons of promise at times. He’s been good on check-downs and throwing across the middle. His on-field bond with T.J. Hockenson is evident. That’s the target he’s looked the most comfortable finding, as their chemistry is there. Additionally, as mentioned, Goff looks good throwing short passes over the middle. During camp, I witnessed Kalif Raymond and Amon-Ra St. Brown catch lots of those passes.
Fans should expect to him connect with those targets heavily.
With injuries to D’Andre Swift and Jermar Jefferson, expect the Lions to be pass-heavy this game. However, once those guys return, this could be a run-heavy offense. Right now, Swift is nursing a groin injury. And Jefferson suffered an ankle injury during Monday’s practice.
The Detroit Lions’ secondary will turn some heads.
Jeff Okudah. Will Harris. Tracy Walker. Amani Oruwariye.
During training camp, those players have sung the praises of new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and secondary coach Aubrey Pleasant. In different ways, they’ve detailed how the new staff has helped them see the game of football differently. And the players are buying in. As safety Will Harris told reporters several days ago, “it’s easy” to listen based on Aaron Glenn and receive his coaching based on his background.
“When he [Glenn] came in, that was the first thing that we knew. Like ‘Dang, that’s Aaron Glenn.’ you what I mean?” Harris said. “[He] came in, we watched all his YouTube highlights and whatnot. But all that being said, when he comes in and says something, that does hold a lot of weight.”
“He’s just a smart and intelligent guy, and he was when he was playing.”
Before beginning his coaching career, Glenn had a 14-year NFL career as a cornerback, earning three Pro Bowl selections.
The secondary will be a high IQ unit based on what I’ve witnessed in camp so far. Both coaches, especially Pleasant, have drilled their philosophy into players during practice. While they praise the unit for performing will during drills and offense vs. defense drills, they’ve even louder when they mess up.
On several occasions, I caught Glenn and Pleasant sprint onto the practice field, grilling players such as Tracy Walker. And to their credit, they responded accordingly with the desired effort. The unit has flustered Jared Goff a lot during camp, with Jeff Okudah being one of the main culprits.
Expect to see the Lions’ pass coverage take a significant leap this season. But for Friday’s game, fans should plan to see a respectable unit that’s growing. There is still room for them to grow, but they’ll fluster Josh Allen and Mitchell Trubisky on Friday.
The Battle for the No. 2 backup QB position will be interesting.
Jared Goff is the Detroit Lions starting quarterback. There’s no mystery there. However, Tim Boyle or David Blough will have to answer the question of who his backup will be over the next few weeks. From what I’ve seen in practice, Blough looks good in the context of being a backup QB.
But TB12, I mean, Tim Boyle? He’s looked better.
Boyle has connected with Lions wideouts on deep passes that I’m not sure Goff could make. His command in the pocket is good, and he appears to be a great decision-maker. I expect him to have at least two touchdowns during Friday’s game.
Prediction: Detroit Lions 28, Buffalo Bills 24
The Detroit Lions will send their fans home happy with a close victory at Ford Field. As mentioned, I expect backup QB Tim Boyle to throw at least two touchdowns. Additionally, Jamaal Williams will break loose for a touchdown on the Lions’ offense’s opening drive. He’s a high-energy guy. And he’s going to feed off the fans in Ford Field.
Follow Kory Woods on Twitter at KoryEWoods.