The Detroit Lions wrapped up their first of four preseason games on Friday night when they defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in a meaningless game. There were a few takeaways from the game, although with it being their first of four games, and not their third, these observations could be offseason rust or even time needed for rookies to adjust to the game. These games are less about the veterans than they are about the young guys trying to earn a roster spot (or a practice squad spot even).
The offensive line still needs time. Rookie left tackle Taylor Decker got beat on a critical play as it caused a strip sack of Matthew Stafford on what was otherwise a good first drive for the Lions. He improved every day as camp has progressed so there is no reason to believe that he wont improve as preseason moves along. With the Lions having 3 drafted rookies along the offensive line, and a few undrafted guys to go along with a relatively young veteran core, its likely that they will need to gel together in order to be the unit we want them to be as opposed to what Dallas did by drafting guys who became instant pro bowl caliber starters. Tomlinson and Decker will need to grow together, just as Warford and Reiff will need to mesh well together. While the center position currently belongs to Travis Swanson, Graham Glasgow was drafted to push him and provide solid versatility along the line as a backup in the event that he doesnt win the starting job.
The wide receivers are battling for their spots. If there was anything that was clear from the game Friday night, it was that the receivers know how few spots there are to be claimed. The Lions got touchdowns from Andre Roberts and Jace Billingsley, two players who were thought to be on the outside looking in. They also got a strong one catch performance from Anquan Bolden and Marvin Jones, two players that many think are already locked into roster spots (Jones is). TJ Jones and Andre Caldwell did not help themselves on Friday, with Caldwell being placed on IR early this morning and Jones being a non-factor. One thing is for certain, this group seems to enjoy the competition. As the weeks go on, it will be critical to see who continues to step up and who drops off.
Dwayne Washington would like a roster spot. Detroit Lions seventh round pick Dwayne Washington was, and still is, expected to get cut and land on the practice squad. Washington was drafted due to his speed and ability to catch out of the backfield. the big knock on him is his ability to hold onto the football. He has struggled through camp and many that watch him daily think he just doesnt have what is needed to make the team. He even struggles catching the ball, which was one of his few strengths. The thought was that he could stick if he developed as a special teamer. In working with the Steelers and even just before that, the Lions started experimenting with Washington at kick returner. While he is still a long shot, he helped his case by returning a kickoff for a touchdown in his only return Friday night. If he proves to be a standout returner, the Lions could be forced to make room for him on the roster.
While it was just the first preseason game and these games dont amount to anything, it was good to see the Lions players battling for spots. As the weeks go on and the competition heats up, it will be interesting to see who sticks with the team and who folds under the pressure. The Lions will play their next game at home on Thursday against the Cincinnati Bengals.