The Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars are set to face off in week 3 of the NFL preseason. Week three has been traditionally when coaches play their starters more to get them ready for the regular season. With that being said, we will be expecting to see two Lions back on the field for the first time this year as Calvin Johnson and Ezekiel Ansah are expected to get some snaps. How many each of them get is not exactly clear, but just getting them on the field should be good for the team. There are a few keys to watch for in this game that are slightly different than usual given when this game falls in the preseason schedule.
Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions Offense
All throughout the preseason Matthew Stafford has looked sharp. He has hit a variety of different receivers and has been successful without access to Calvin Johnson. This week, Stafford will have Johnson back, even if in limited action. He will also play more than he has in the past two preseason games as coach Jim Caldwell speculated that the first team players could get the entire first half. The big question is, will Stafford remain sharp all game? Will he continue to spread the ball around or lock in on Johnson?
Keeping with the theme of offense, which wide receivers will separate themselves from the pack? This is a big week for them as roster cuts are coming up real soon. The Lions will likely only keep 5 receivers. With that being said, you have to figure Johnson, Golden Tate, and Jeremy Ross are locks. So that leaves two open spots for a lot of different players.
Ezekiel Ansah Returns
With Ansah set to return to the field this week, what should be expect from him? The Lions have shown that they have a plethora of guys who can play defensive end, and when healthy, Ansah is one of the best on the team. Will his presence push someone off the roster? George Johnson is considered a bubble player right now even though he’s played real well this preseason. The return of Ansah could be the end of Johnson.
Calvin Johnson‘s Return
Perhaps the biggest adjustment for the offense is what happens with Calvin Johnson. Joe Lombardi, the Detroit Lions offensive coordinator, hinted that Johnson will be used in a variety of ways to get favorable match-ups for him. Any time you have a player of Johnson’s caliber, you game plan around his abilities. All offseason long, we have seen the changes to Stafford, to the other receivers, to the running game, and to the tight ends. While that is all great stuff, everyone knows that the game plan for Calvin Johnson usually impacts the offense more than any other changes. I think we all are ready to see him line up all over, motion, and get free from coverage.
This could be one of the biggest question marks right now. The Detroit Lions have to decide whether to keep Montell Owens, Mikel Leshoure, or George Winn. They could possibly keep two of these guys but I highly doubt they will. Owens seems to be the more versatile player of the three, but Winn showed last week that not only can he play offense, but he can also play special teams. That, I think, gives him the edge over Leshoure if it goes to a decision between the two. This week’s game could be the determinant. Winn needs a good showing both running the ball and playing special teams.
Much has been said this week about Fairley. He’s been interviewed as saying that his eating habits caused his weight gain in training camp. He also seems content to play at his current weight as opposed to getting down to his ideal weight. The coaches are saying that he needs to be motivated to play well. Ndamukong Suh says Fairley is extremely gifted athletically. So which Fairley will we see? Will we see the one that thinks he will be a starter again by week 1? Or will we see the one who ate his way to 320 pounds in just two weeks?
Chris Greenwood and the Corners
Right about now everyone would like to know what the Detroit Lions plan to do at corner. They had signed Drayton Florence leading people to believe he would push the roster bubble players out. He was then released 12 days later. We know that Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis are locks. One could say that Bill Bentley and Nevin Lawson are as well. That is 4 corners already. If the Lions keep 5, that leaves one spot. If they keep 6, that leaves 2 spots. The most likely candidates for those spots are Cassius Vaughn, Jonte Green, and Chris Greenwood. Vaughn played well in camp and other offseason activities. Greenwood has been getting better lately in preseason games. Green just seems to be fading out of the picture. If they keep 5, Vaughn is likely that 5th guy. If they keep 6, there will be some tough decisions to make with Green and Greenwood. This week’s game could sort that out a bit.