A Preview Of The Detroit Lions Pre-season Game Against The New England Patriots.
The third week of the NFL pre-season is always the most entertaining game of the four game pre-season. The starters typically play through the first half of the game and it is usually a better showcase for what the team will look like during week one of the regular season. The Lions get a great test for their team this week as they face the reigning Superbowl champion New England Patriots at Ford Field this Saturday.
The Patriots have debatably gotten even better this off-season, adding players like Brandin Cooks and Stephon Gilmore while retaining defensive back Malcolm Butler whom they were rumored to be losing this off-season.
It’ll be important to see how the Lions fair against the Patriots this week. If the Lions are able to show up and play well for the first two quarters against the Patriots starters, it will be a good sign of this team’s ability to succeed this season. The Lions may have a hard schedule this year but it is unlikely that they will face a team as good as this one. Success in this game would be a great confidence to a Lions team looking to win the division for the first time in team history. Let’s look at the areas the Lions could show improvement in this game.
Matthew Stafford vs Patriots Secondary
Whether or not the Lions will make the playoffs or not will determine on how Matthew Stafford plays in 2017. When Stafford suffered an injury on his throwing hand in week 14 against the Bears, the Lions were 9-4 including this game. However, Detroit would go on to lose the next three games and the division following this injury.
Many Lions fans are waiting for Stafford to take that fabled “next step” into the realm of unquestioned elite quarterback play. Stafford has flashed this elite ability in stretches but has yet to put it together consistently.
It will be hard for Stafford to prove that consistency is here to stay in one pre-season game. But, what he can do is show he has improved parts of his game that he struggled with in 2016. Look for Matthew Stafford to show more precision in the end zone. The Lions were a team that struggled to capitalize on red zone opportunities last season, often forced to kick field goals instead of touchdowns. If Stafford can improve in this area it could help the team not be forced to come from behind as they had to do so often in 2016.
Lions Rookie Defenders vs Tom Brady
What better test could their be for a rookie than to be put against one of the best to ever play the game in Patriots quarteback Tom Brady? The Lions short passing defense was attacked a lot in 2016 and for good reason. The unit allowed quarterbacks like Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, and Brock Osweiler over 75% completion last year.
The main issue here was the linebacking corps. was very poor in coverage as a unit last year. Tight ends on short curls or over the seam, as well as short slants worked very well against Detroit last year. This success played a large role in how the Detroit Lions found themselves down so often in games last year.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn addressed this issue in both the linebacker and cornerback positions this off-season. Quinn drafted linebackers Jarrad Davis and Jalen Reeves-Maybin as well as cornerbacks Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew.
All four of these players have something they can bring to the Lions in 2016. Teez Tabor can help bring in interceptions as he displayed great ball skills in his time at Florida. This helps a Detroit unit that struggled to generate turnovers last year. Jamaal Agnew will likely make an impact as a kick returner this season, but has really flashed ability in the nickel corner spot so far this camp.
Jarrad Davis a do-it-all three down back with athleticism and instincts to cover any tight end in the NFL with the right technique. Jalen Reeves-Maybin has the longest shot to make an impact but could see some time on third downs as he acceled in coverage and blowing up screens at Tennessee. However, look for Reeves-Maybin to make an impact on special teams until he can make onto the field.
How these rookies play against Brady on Saturday could be a good showcase for how much they will be able to help Detroit stop the pass in 2017. Improvement in this area through these rookies would be a great sign that the Lions defense is ready take a step forward in this area in 2017.