The Detroit Lions are headed to Washington this week for their 2015 pre-season match up against the Redskins. As with last week, we will be highlighting some keys to watch. I do not expect the starters to see much time if any Thursday. Below is a list of five keys to watch Thursday night.
Ameer Abdullah – After Abdullah’s big game against the Jets last week, many are calling him the fantasy sleeper at running back this season. There has been a lot of hype all off-season about him as well. The big question, now that teams have seen him, is whether or not he can follow up last week’s production with another solid week. If he can, he will be a major key to the Lions success this season. If he cannot, he will be one we need to continue to watch. Consistency is key for the running backs this season.
Zach Zenner vs George Winn – While I do not want to discount Dez Martin just yet, I feel like this competition between Zenner and Winn is more about whether to keep Winn around or let him go than it is about who makes the 53 man roster. I get the feeling that Martin is getting strong consideration for the practice squad as long as he plays well. I think Zenner will either hit the 53 man roster or the practice squad depending on his performance. The key is whether George Winn has enough to make the team or not. Detroit’s backfield is getting better and mediocre performances by Winn are not enough to keep him around any more.
Detroit Lions Run Defense – Detroit struggled against the run when they played the Jets last week. Last season, the defense was stout against the run. This season they will need to be in the top ten in the league against the run in order to see a playoff berth in a strong NFC. Losing Suh and Fairley have been major blows to the defensive line, but Caraun Reid is stepping up in a big way. Look to see if the Lions get better against the run this week versus last week’s performance.
Greg Salas and the Wide Receivers – Before last week’s game, we wondered who would step up as the team’s third receiver. While there is reason to believe it will still be Lance Moore, Greg Salas threw his name into the competition with an excellent performance against the Jets. He is continuing to have a strong training camp and spent some time with the first team offense this past week. The big question is, was Salas’ performance a mirage or is he a real threat to take a roster spot? Also, while Ryan Broyles and TJ Jones did not do much on offense to warrant consideration for a spot, Jones did show he can play special teams, something he will need if he wants to lock up a spot. If Jones can outplay Ross as a returner, watch for Ross to lose his roster spot and Jones to be a lock.
Joseph Fauria – Fauria was a touchdown machine as a rookie for Detroit. Last season injuries limited his production, but in the last game he played last season, he scored a touchdown, showing he can still produce. While he is not in much danger to lose his roster spot, he is returning from injury and likely to see the field some Thursday. Watch to see if Fauria is back to his old self or if he is still limited by nagging injuries. If Fauria appears healthy, the Detroit offense will be getting a big red zone boost this season.