On Saturday night, the Detroit Lions defeated the Cleveland Browns 13-12 on a touchdown pass from Kellen Moore to Corey Fuller with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter. In the preseason, getting the win is not as important as watching guys compete, evaluating their abilities, and determining who makes the team and who does not. Because of this, instead of breaking down the game, drive by drive, we will look at who played well and who did not.
Dan Orlovsky was signed in the offseason to a one year deal to be the team’s backup quarterback when Shaun Hill left to sign with the St Louis Rams. Many fans grumbled at the thought of Orlovsky being back in Detroit. The last time he was here, the team went o-16 and he is remembered for running out of the back of his own end zone to avoid a safety (which is hilarious given that the result of running out of your own end zone is a safety). The mental lapse he showed there is how he will forever be remembered by Detroit Lions fans. He had a chance Saturday to come out and show something different. Instead, he looked just terrible. He completed 52% of his passes for 89 yards and was the only Detroit quarterback to get sacked. Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell barely defended Orlovsky’s performance by saying “Orlovsky did some decent things” instead of the usual line coaches use of “he did some good things out there”. Caldwell was clearly not happy with his backup quarterback’s performance, but stopped short of publicly trashing him.
Kellen Moore however stood out and drew some praise from coach Caldwell. Moore did have a fumble on a bad center-quarterback exchange, but that is to be expected with a rookie center and an inexperienced quarterback. He shook that though to go 11 of 13 for 121 yards and a game winning touchdown pass. Moore, while playing against lesser competition than Orlovsky, looked fantastic. While he did play well, fans need to caution the performance. It was one preseason game and against players who likely will not make a roster. Still, Moore took a big step toward earning his roster spot. If he continues to play well, he may get a chance to challenge Orlovsky for the number two quarterback position.
Corey Fuller played well. While he only had one catch, it was a 21 yard touchdown. He was only targeted once, and caught his one pass. He was open on another but was not targeted on that play. Given that he was a Detroit Lion draft pick last year, it is good to see him perform well and while still unlikely, it would be nice to see him make the team.
George Winn drew some praise from coach Caldwell as well. While Winn did fumble once in the game, he still played well. He finished the game with 6 carries for 39 yards, included in that total was a 16 yard run. It sounds as if his hit on Couplin in practice was more an indication of Winn’s talent and not Couplin’s lacking.
The safeties as a group played better than expected. How much of that is due to the coaching staff is yet to be seen, but it was definitely nice to see the position of least change get better as opposed to staying stagnant. The defense showed some good things, including a variety of quality pass rushers. While all of this is just base defense and vanilla playbook right now, it is nice to see that players are being put in positions to play to their strengths instead of playing to a coach’s philosophy. For years, Detroit has been plugging round players into square positions and expecting them to fit without gaps. Now, Detroit seems to be playing players in positions made for their abilities.
The offense showed quite a variety of alignments. It will be interesting to see who makes the active roster week in and week out given how versatile the alignments have been. We saw running backs, receivers, and tight ends line up all over the place. While the offense did basically nothing all game, much of that is on the players and not the coaches. Like was said earlier, Orlovsky, who played the majority of the game, looked terrible. Starter Matthew Stafford played one drive and was pulled. Kellen Moore played a decent amount and performed well. The running game showed it was solid and the receivers played as expected. The only major disappointment was Eric Ebron. Ebron, who was banged up a bit in practice, only had one catch and it was just for two yards. I would expect we will get to see more of him later on in the preseason.
Overall I thought the Lions played about like I expected of a team getting into their first game since last season. While the offense did not perform to the expectation we all had going into this season, the defense played better than we expected. Detroit surrendered 12 points, all field goals. They, for the most part, contained Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer. They limited Josh Gordon, last season’s leading receiver, to two catches on four targets. Next up is the Oakland Raiders on Friday night.