3 Things to watch for the Lions’ third preseason game vs. Patriots

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The Lions and Patriots are set to meet at Ford Field this Friday, August 25 (7 p.m. ET). This is the game for almost every team where we see some separation in key position battles across the field.

The Lions have a few different areas of interest as the roster begins to take shape. Here are three things to watch over the course of the game.

1. ZETTEL OR WASHINGTON?

With the loss of Kerry Hyder in the Lions first preseason game. we look to a couple of guys who will be battling to take his starting role. The two most likely options will be Anthony Zettel or Cornelius Washington.

Zettel played sparingly last season, grabbing only 13 tackles and 1 sack in parts of 13 games. The second-year player out of Penn State will need to show his ability to pressure the QB if he wants to grab a starting position.

Washington has come over to Detroit after playing parts of his first four professional seasons with the division rival Chicago Bears. The 6-44 280-pounder had 14 tackles and 2 sacks in a situational role last season.

Both of these players project as a sizable downgrade from Hyder. But perhaps the competition will force one of these guys into a breakout season. With Haloti Ngata and A’Shawn Robinson on the inside, these guys can focus on creating pressure.

2. SOLIDIFY THE O-LINE

 

Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang (70) against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 18, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang (70) against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Vikings defeated the Packers 17-14. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive line has a plethora of names floating around. There are multiple options at almost every position. Regardless of who ends up starting, the lions should find themselves with a pleasant amount of depth.

 

As of now, my starting crew would be LT Greg Robinson, LG Graham Glasgow, C Travis Swanson, RG T.J. Lang, RT Rick Wagner. Joe Dahl is the probably the closest to cracking that starting rotation as he and Glasgow have performed similarly. Two big names for the Lions, Cornelius Lucas and Laken Tomlinson, have yet to practice much. Both could end up cut at this rate.

With Taylor Decker on the PUP list, look for a tackle like Storm Norton to fight for a roster spot to start the season. With all this flux, how will the line protect Matthew Stafford? Will Stafford have time to make throws against the Patriots’ defense? It all starts in the trenches and the linemen need to be able to prove their merit to keep their place on the team.

3. DEFENSIVE BACKS vs. PATRIOTS’ WEAPONS

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at Detroit Lions
Nov 24, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay (23) celebrates after making an interception during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field. Lions win 16-13. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Similar to the offensive line, the Lions have a ton of players in the secondary. There’s 20 of them on the roster currently at it’s hard to imagine much more than 10 still being there after the cut date.

Guys like Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson, Glover Quinn, and Tavon Wilson will definitely start. But who will fill in the many open roles behind them? With the Patriots in town, this will be an opportunity to face an offense with a lot more weapons than either the Colts or Jets have to offer.

If the Lions want to keep up the excellent defensive play, they will have to cover a whole different type of receiver corps than they have seen to date this preseason. How will guys like Quandre Diggs, Teez Tabor, and D.J. Hayden play in this matchup? Also keep an eye on special teams performance from guys like Jamal Agnew, Johnson Bademosi, and Don Carey. They have all performed well on special teams and will have the opportunity to keep roster spots if that continues.

The Lions roster will continue to take shape this week. How these three things go, will determine a lot of what players the Lions will take into the regular season.