The Lions’ starters most likely finished their action in the pre-season through 3 games. Let’s take a look how the starters performed.
The Lions offense with Stafford scored 23 points (with a missed extra point) in 7 drives against starting defenses for the Jets, Redskins and Jaguars. The Lions moved into the opponents’ territory in two of the three non-scoring drives. The Lions started hot with a TD and a field goal against the Jets and Redskins. They finished hot with two TDs against the Jaguars on the road.
The Lions had 308 yards of passing and 3 passing TDs. The Lions gave up one sack on a nickel back blitz against the Redskins. Detroit had 97 yards of rushing on 18 carries (5.2 YPC). This does not include Abdullah’s 45 yard carry against the Jets’ first team to set up a field goal.
The Lions starting defense was a mixed bag and played without many more starters than the offense did. We have still yet to see Haloti Ngata and Jason Jones for Detroit. Weakside LB DeAndre Levy and DE Ziggy Ansah missed the Jaguars game. Despite the missed starters, the Lions defense held the opposing offenses to 20 points on 10 drives. They had a terrible day against the Jaguars allowing 17 points (plus a goal line stand) on 5 drives, but held the Jets and Redskins to 3 points total on the other 5 drives. The Jets 3 points came after a big kickoff return as well.
The Lions had good run defense against the Redskins and Jaguars but allowed Ivory to do some damage for the Jets on his one drive. The Lions were carved up the middle by Blake Bortles and allowed Bortles some big first down scrambles on two drives. The Lions allowed one passing TD to Bortles and one rushing TD (though the rushing TD was questionable that Yeldon crossed the goal line before a fumble).
The Lions got great pressure on RG3 hitting him on almost every drop back (6 of 8) and notching 3 sacks. Pressure was almost non-existent against the Jaguars other than Tyrun Walker and Phillip Hunt. However, Ansah, Jones, Ngata and Levy didn’t play in that game.
Starter Tyrunn Walker had 1 sack and 4 hurries and looked stout against the run this pre-season. It is all good so far on the free agent addition to replace Fairley. Backup DE Phillip Hunt made a case for a roster spot with 5 QB hits and 4 hurries (mostly against the ones). Could Hunt be the next George Johnson (6 sacks in 2014) for Detroit? The other backup DES and backup DTS struggled this pre-season especially Devin Taylor, rookie Gabe Wright and Larry Webster.
The Lions allowed opposing QBs to completed 24 of 37 pass attempts for 269 yards with 2 TDs and no interceptions. The Lions did notch 3 sacks against RG3.
Slay has been very strong in coverage in every pre-season game (+2.5 coverage). Slay is primed to be a stud number 1 corner. Mathis and Quin struggled against Jacksonville in coverage and Mathis had a PI and allowed the lone passing TD to Allen Hurns on a post route with no help from Ihedigbo. The LB coverage was atrocious against Jacksonville but good in the other five drives as the Lions got pressure in those games.
The run defense has been strong for Detroit other than rookie Gabe Wright, backup Jermelle Cudjo and Devin Taylor. Daryl Tapp has been great against the run (+3.0). Tulloch is back to form with very strong run defense performances (+2.6) but struggled in coverage (-2.7 coverage). Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo were solid players filling against the run (+.4 each).
Matt Stafford looks incredible in year 2 of the offense even without Calvin Johnson. Stafford went 19/25 (76 percent) for 308 yards and 3 TDS. Stafford notched a cool QB rating of 156. The Redskins, Jaguars and Jets are terrible on defense though.
Abdullah and Zenner
Abdullah had the incredible 45 yard run in the first game versus the Jets. Abdullah has cooled off since that run. Abdullah gained 82 yards on 12 attempts for a 6.8 average. However, 37 yards on 11 carries for a 3.3 YPC without the big run is not a good mark. Abdullah had a nice first down on 4 yards against the Jets with a nice juke move and caught a 21 yard screen play to set up the final Stafford TD. Abdullah went deep on a go route against Jacksonville and had his man beat. Stafford missed him on the 3rd down throw resulting in the only punt in the Lions’ own territory of the pre-season.
Zach Zenner has run very well but mostly against the 2s and 3s. Zenner had a nice 41 yard run against the Jacksonville ones on a 3rd and short. Z2K is carrying over his college success in the pre-season. Zenner should make the Lions roster and backup Bell as the big back.
Weapons featuring Tate
Tate is a big reason Stafford has been amazing. Much like 2014 with Calvin out, Tate boomed with production. Tate had 7 receptions for 169 yards and 2 TDS (35 and 62 yards) in 7 drives. He also drew a PI for a first down against Jacksonville. Tate is a first down machine and a playmaker.
Ebron has 2 catches for 26 yards (1 catch for 13 each game) and missed the 5 drives in the Jaguars game. Pettigrew added a 20 yard catch and a drop. Fuller caught the third Stafford TD pass on a four yard slant. Lance Moore, Greg Salas, Jeremy Ross and Abdullah on the screen rounded out the production.
The Lions offense has plenty of weapons for Stafford and will get start playing Calvin Johnson at San Diego. The second year Lombardi offense can be explosive.
The Lions looked good overall despite the Jacksonville coverage woes and injuries. The final score was the Lions’ starters 23 and the other starters 20. The Lions starters get a true win for the pre-season. Unfortunately, pre-season doesn’t mean anything for the regular season. Bring on real football.