It’s week 2 in preseason play, and the Detroit Lions are off to Oakland to take on the Raiders in this week’s Friday night match-up. Detroit will be looking to noticeably improve from last week’s performance against the Browns, especially on the defensive side of the ball. The coaches will be expecting the offense to look more in-tune as well, as they will be broadening the playbook a little bit more than last week. The Raiders are coming off of a less-than-stellar preseason opener in Week 1, especially in what they expected out of QB Matt Schaub. Schaub has been looking sharp in training camp, but it didn’t translate in the minimal playtime he had against the Vikings. Granted, it’s difficult to make a clear read on any player after the first preseason game.
As we head into game two, here are five things to keep an eye on during the game:
1. Will the starters get a lot more playtime in Oakland?
It’s more than likely that we will see more playtime from Matthew Stafford, Reggie Bush, and most of the starting O-line as they try to develop a cadence with one another to bring into the regular season. Calvin Johnson, who didn’t play in Week 1, may or may not get as much play time as the rest of the starters. Jim Caldwell is determined to do everything possible to keep key pieces healthy for all 16 games of the regular season, and with Oakland’s difficult field to play on, Johnson may not get more than one or two series. Caldwell may see it as a better option to utilize Megatron much more in Week 3 at Ford Field against the Jaguars.
2. Will we see the defensive playbook open up more than last week?
Tim Twentyman liked to call the defense seen in Week 1 as “vanilla”, due to the basic plays there were called to get the players accustomed to game-speed once again. After all of the talk about how the Lions are planning to blitz more and have the corners play more tight man coverage, it would be nice to see some more intricate plays run by the defense. The D-Line showed depth, but didn’t record a sack against Cleveland’s second and third team offense. Darius Slay allowed a 22-yard catch by Josh Gordon to happen right in front of him, as he was playing a loose man coverage on the star wide receiver. Oakland doesn’t have a receiver like Gordon, so we’ll see if the secondary can tighten up a bit and stifle the passing game.
3. Will the backfield have as strong of an appearance as they did in Cleveland?
There were some surprising performances that came out of the backfield for Detroit in game 1, especially from some of the younger players that are clawing for a spot on the roster. At the same time, there were multiple fumbles and a couple of dropped passes from them as well. This may be a good litmus test for the new coaching staff to see how quickly they can iron out these mistakes.
4. Will Kellen Moore get more reps with the second-team offense after last week’s performance?
It was clear that Kellen Moore had a stronger performance than Dan Orlovsky in the first week. Moore led the game-winning drive, capped off by a 21-yard touchdown pass, and had moved the ball effectively against the Browns defense. He made more than a case to be Stafford’s backup. It will be interesting to see what he can do if he gets the chance to work with the second-team against Oakland.
5. Nate Freese vs. Giorgio Tavecchio
The battle is heating up for who will be the place kicker for the Lions in the regular season. Earlier this week, Caldwell had everyone from the team huddle close to both kickers and make as much noise and disturbance as possible while Freese and Tavecchio tried to knock in field goals from five various spots. Tavecchio made more field-goals than Freese in the training camp kick-off, though Freese was solid in the preseason opener. Tavecchio will most likely get the call more often against Oakland, so we’ll get the chance to see what he brings to the table in-game.