Takeaways From The Lions Preseason Opener; a 10-16 Loss in Oakland
Out of the gates, this game was bittersweet. The Raiders managed a first down in two plays and then holy cow! Marshawn Lynch can still haul down the field! Lynch exploded past the entire Lions defense for a 60 yard TD run only to have it nullified on a holding call. Following this, the Detroit Lions defense forced their first punt of the Matt Patricia era.
Matt Cassel, not Matt Stafford, came out with the first team offense for the Lions. To nobody’s surprise, Detroit tried to establish the run and LeGarrette Blount managed 21 yards on 5 carries in his first appearance as a Lion. Cassel wasn’t given much of a chance early as he took a sack on his only drop back of the opening drive and finished the 1st quarter 1/5 for 11 yards mostly due to a drop by Kenny Golladay and some nice defensive plays.
Good plays by Glover Quin and Darius Slay held the Raiders to a field goal attempt on their second drive. It felt at times in the first quarter like the secondary was the only line of defense. A’Shawn Robinson let Raiders running back DeAndre Washington slip right through his arms for a first down on what should’ve been an easy stop. In addition, very little pressure was generated by the Lion defense throughout the quarter.
Slow starts may continue to be an issue for this team going forward. The offense struggled and the defensive front did not impress in the 1st, but Frank Ragnow performed well and 2nd round pick Kerryon Johnson took a draw on 3rd & 20 for 12 yards on his first NFL carry.
Connor Cook escaped the pocket left and found Ryan Switzer for the Raiders first TD of the game. There was initial pressure on the play, but there just wasn’t enough pursuit to finish it off after he escaped the pocket. The Lions can’t ask their secondary to stick to receivers that long.
The following drive Ameer Abdullah missed a block on Karl Joseph, which allowed Matt Cassel to be sacked. You could say that Ameer got a bit of it back on the next play when he was smashed and showered with penalty flags, adding 15 yards onto his run. Overall, Abdullah was fairly impressive. He fought into the end zone for the first TD of the year and word out of camp seems true. He has a lot of that wiggle back that he showed in his pre-lisfranc days.
Hakeem Valles ran a nice out route and caught a pass to convert a 3rd & 11. Those are the plays that he has to make if he wants to make the team. With under two minutes left, Kerryon Johnson made a catch for about 5 yards and showed good awareness to get out of bounds, despite not being very close to the sideline. He also did a nice job picking up a rusher on the next play, reiterating an area of high praise for him during camp.
The Lions were outgained by 114 yards in the first half. Normally that’s a pretty bad sign, but they only trailed by six going into the half. The offense was really only able to muster one notable drive. Familiar themes surrounded the first half of this game. Those being the, “bend, don’t break,” defensive approach and the failure to get some offensive continuity going early on.
A “hold your breath” moment occurred as the third quarter began. On the third play of the half, Kerryon Johnson busted it outside for a 50+ yard run which was called back on a debatable hold called on fellow rookie Tyrell Crosby. Despite the yards not counting, the run was exactly what you want to see. On a 3rd and 1 Johnson went up the middle and when nothing was there, quickly shot to the outside, displaying the ball carrier vision that the Lions have sorely lacked in recent years. It was the kind of play that leaves you wanting to see more.
The Lion defense continued to struggle in the third. The Raiders were able to march right down the field on their first drive and although they turned it over, Detroit showed no ability to stop them. At this point, the defense was looking as if they had no ability to stop the Raiders. While there are very few starters playing this late in the game, the failure to slow down any of the Raiders push up to that point makes adjustments from coach Patricia nothing more than a formality.
Kerryon Johnson turned what should’ve been a loss into a no gain play. That was a small victory as he had to make two guys miss just to get back to the line of scrimmage. Watching Johnson was so entertaining that I was dreading the eventual switch to Zenner and Washington. Hakeem Valles was able to haul in another 3rd down conversion later on that same drive.
Jake Rudock was one of the question marks coming into this game and he’s firmly still in that territory. He missed an open Hakeem Valles for a touchdown toward the end of the quarter. There were many plays in the third where Rudock just looked like he didn’t know what to do and the indecision cost him.
Ryan Santoso got a moment in the spotlight. He hit a 24-yard field goal to begin the 4th and bring the Lions within 3. Da’Shawn Hand made a nice play to stuff a 3rd down run on the Raiders opening drive of the 4th quarter. The Lions are hoping that he can develop not only as a run stuffer but as a pass rusher as well.
Zach Zenner struggled to find space against the fourth stringers. That’s my fourth quarter thoughts in a nutshell.
Big Winner – Hakeem Valles
Valles needs to practice well and perform during the preseason in order to have a shot at the roster. He took advantage of his opportunities tonight and displayed some excellent route running for a tight end. He was also the only tight end on the Lions to catch a pass and was a poor throw away from a touchdown catch.
Big Loser – Defensive Scheme
There’s no denying that the defensive front seven struggled mightily when it counted tonight. The first team defense felt like it was Glover Quin against 11 other guys at times. Coach Patricia needs his players to execute better before the regular season comes around. The Lions won’t get away with the porousness that their defense displayed tonight during the season.