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Sunday, February 16, 2020

Detroit Lions: Observations from Preseason Week 4

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Logan Lamorandier
Born and raised just outside of Kalamazoo as a die-hard Detroit sports fan. Attended Western Michigan University and moved to Scottsdale, Arizona not too long after graduation. Currently a medical sales rep and unapologetic Lions addict.

It’s the final week of preseason and the last opportunity for bubble players to make their mark. With the 53-roster set to be finalized Saturday afternoon, the Detroit Lions brass probably already has a good idea of who they plan on keeping and releasing. A real special game from an individual could do just enough to persuade GM Bob Quinn in their favor (i.e. Kerry Hyder).

Not many starters played against the Buffalo Bills and with good reason. This last preseason game is not for them. Compared to last week, the Lions looked like a totally different team. Unfortunately, most of the players the Lions sent out in this annihilation will not have a huge impact during the regular season. Here are some observations from the Lions dominant week 4 victory:

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DISCLAIMER: All plays were made against fringe/backup caliber NFL talent.

Dwayne Washington is a roster lock:

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Bye Bye George Winn. Not that it was ever much in question recently, but Washington looks to be a game-changer with the ball in his hands. The 225-pound back got the start and took his first carry 58-yards to the house. He was impressive enough to even begin valid contemplation on if Zach Zenner should even dress on game days come regular season. Coach Jim Caldwell obviously is wondering the same considering Washington earned the start and the first quarter rushes over Zenner. The rookie isn’t nearly as powerful as Zenner with his upright running style but he has better vision and overall quickness.

Antwione Williams Redeems himself:

Outside of taking down a back after the whistle, Williams was living in the backfield early in the game. Filling holes and stuffing the running backs was a nice change of pace compared to his recent performances. He showed some physicality that hadn’t been on display before. He could still react a bit quicker, but that will come with time as his learning curve is greater than most coming from small school, Georgia Southern. He also had plenty of snaps later in the game but the Bills were already in pass mode being down so many points.

Tavon Wilson and Rafael Bush:

Wilson was the starter last week and Bush was in weeks one and two. The only position on the team that is still completely up for grabs is the strong safety spot next to Glover Quin. Wilson may have the upper hand at SS as Bush is in line to be the backup for both Wilson and Quin.

Devin Taylor and Kyle Van Noy play:

Both projected starters, the somewhat unproven duo was out there on the field into the second quarter. Obviously, the Lions staff feels like they could use the extra work before the regular season begins. Neither made any impressive plays despite the lesser competition they faced.

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Free agent fails:

GM Bob Quinn brought in plenty of depth players and a couple look like they are on the chopping block if they haven’t been already. With OL Geoff Schwartz, RB Stevan Ridley and TE Matthew Mulligan already gone, DT Stefan Charles also looks to be firmly on the roster bubble after being outplayed by Caraun Reid. None of these veterans were expected to be world-beaters, but you would think at least a couple of them could make the team. I guess that’s what happens when you bring in legitimate competition at every position.

No Cole Wick, Ebron healthy:

Wick being a healthy scratch is a good indication that he is a for-sure component of the Lions roster. Already thin at the tight end position, they cannot afford the UDFA to sustain any type of injury. It looks as if Eric Ebron will be good to go week 1 as he ran routes and was seen catching passes in pregame warm-ups. He even celebrated towards the end with a somersault. Andrew Quarless and Orson Charles received about equal time filling in. Quarless had a few good blocks but his night was marred with a holding penalty as well.

Quinshad Davis returns:

After being in the first rounds of cuts, the Lions re-signed Davis and released LB Chi Chi Ariguzo in a corresponding move. Davis was one of the first reserve receivers the past few weeks to see the field, that was not the case this week. Jay Lee and Jace Billingsley started with Andre Roberts, the favorite for landing the last receiver spot. Davis saw a majority of his action in the second half and did not impress. Being that he was already cut once, it’s a foregone conclusion he will not make the team.

Rudock is improving quickly:

Jake Rudock made a rookie error on fourth-and-one committing a drive-killing delay of game penalty. Just a reminder that he may not be ready for the No. 2 backup job quite yet. At least he didn’t throw a pick-six. Dan Orlovsky played the first quarter before relinquishing the rest of the game to the rookie out of Michigan. Outside of the costly penalty, Rudock easily moved the ball down the field with his arm and legs. He has underrated mobility and knows when to take it down and run. It may not be long before he supplants Orlovsky as the main clipboard holder. It will all depend on the comfort level Caldwell and OC Jim Bob Cooter have with an inexperienced rookie as the sole backup.

4th down:

The Lions and the Bills disregarded the standard rule of always punting on fourth down. It’s a great way to see how the backups play in situational football. Another reminder that preseason is not real football as coaches use it as an evaluation tool more than anything. 

Jay Lee outplays Andre Roberts:

It wasn’t even close. Lee used his strong hands and run after the catch ability to rack up yard while Roberts dropped passes that he should have caught. Lee’s six-catch night would have been much better without an ugly dropped screen pass. Luckily for Roberts, he has return ability which increases his value, but if the Lions have enough capable returners, Lee may push for that last receiver spot. He is younger and has the size/speed you look for in a developmental wideout.

Lee appears to be everything Corey Fuller(PUP) was supposed to be.

Hello Kerry Hyder:

Kerry Hyder, for the second straight week, played before sixth-round pick Anthony Zettel. Zettel did demonstrate some versatility by lining up at DT and making a good third down move to pressure QB EJ Manuel, but Hyder registered three impressive sacks to Zettel’s one. Hyder was the MVP of the entire game far and away. If Hyder doesn’t make the Lions roster, the film he created against the Bills will definitely warrant consideration from another NFL team.

Fun Fact: Hyder is the cousin of former Lions cornerback, Chris Houston.

Newcomer Brandon Thomas lines up at RG:

The Lions traded WR Jeremy Kerley (a future roster casualty), for the 2014 third-round pick OG Brandon Thomas. He was flat-out torched by former Michigan State Spartan and Detroit Lion Jerel Worthy resulting in a tackle for a loss. In fairness, due to the initial line-up, Thomas was not put in the best situation to square up with Worthy’s upfield burst. With his one-shot to impress, he probably didn’t do enough to stick on the roster.

Defensive tackle group taking form:

Gabe Wright, Stefan Charles and Caraun Reid all were on the bubble before the game started. Each received ample opportunity to prove they deserve to be on the final roster. Wright was manhandled on a couple plays and Charles was almost non-existent. Reid flashed his quick first step getting into the backfield and taking down the ball carrier on multiple occasions. Both Reid and Charles have been semi-quiet this entire preseason and don’t have the same athletic ability as Reid. After last night, Reid should be the last DT to make the final roster.

Joe Dahl at LT:

If Dahl can play guard and tackle, his versatility may make Cornelius Lucas or Michael Ola expendable. Behind the starting five linemen, the team usually keeps three reserves. Rookies center Graham Glasgow and OG/OT Dahl are locks due to their draft status. Dahl then moved over to left guard in the second half. Lucas started off at RT and then replaced Dahl on the left side. Lucas is more versatile than Ola but may not be as solid.

Alex Carter disappoints:

Given ample opportunity to justify his third-round selection last year, Carter continued to underwhelm. Carter was perhaps the Lion with the most to prove as he has literally not made any sort of impact while lining up against inferior talent. He didn’t give up any deep passes or get burned, but he continues to allow curls and other intermediate routes to be completed unattested. The only reason he makes the roster is because of potential, not because of his current football abilities.

Sam Martin off-night:

There is no back-up punter so Sam Martin saw all the action. With a history of choking when it matters most, Martin did have a couple of ugly punts. When he is on, Martin is one of the best in the league, but no doubt, his consistency struggles are still apparent. Martin was visibly upset after the ball left his foot on multiple occasions.

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