The Detroit Lions will kickstart their preseason against the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field on Friday night. The kick-off time is set for 7:00 p.m. EDT. For many fans, this will be the first time they’ll get to see their new-look team in action.
New head coach Dan Campbell has said that the starters are expected to play for at least a quarter. With that in mind, here are five things we’re looking forward to seeing in the preseason opener.
Jared Goff. Period.
Make no mistake. Of all the changes made this offseason, the most impactful one was under center. The Lions’ new regime traded quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and a trio of high draft picks.
From all accounts, Goff is having a good training camp and we want to see that narrative continue in the team’s preseason opener against the Bills. We also want to see how well he implements new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn’s scheme and would love to see it result in points on the board.
But most importantly, we’d like to see this group having success moving the chains on a consistent basis and being efficient in the red zone. Winning the exhibition isn’t necessary, but showing progress and potential that builds fan faith is.
You have to start off the Jared Goff era in Detroit right.
Who will emerge at wide receiver?
One of the biggest keys for Goff finding success in Motown is having someone emerge out of this unknown wide receiver group. The Lions know they have a top offensive weapon in third-year tight end T.J. Hockenson coming off his first Pro Bowl nod.
Detroit also has a nice one-two punch at running back in D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Both of them are stellar receivers out of the backfield.
But the real question is do the Lions have any real receiving options … actually at receiver. Detroit certainly has provided itself with several candidates. Someone out of this group has to stand out against the Bills.
Our money is on first-year wideout Amon-Ra St. Brown. The rookie is making early headlines due to his heated head-to-head battles with 2020 first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah at training camp. We want to see that bravado spill over in St. Brown’s preseason debut, with the rookie emerging as a playmaker for the team that fans can get excited about.
Does Jeff Okudah look legit?
We mentioned rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown battling the Lions’ third overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft in camp. Now, we want to see proof that cornerback Jeff Okudah has turned a corner from what was a sour rookie season.
As the highest-drafted defensive back in years, Okudah came to Detroit with All-Pro expectations. Unfortunately, he joined the team in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that destroyed any chance he had to properly develop in his first season.
That same excuse can’t be used this year. And now it appears the new regime in Detroit, including new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, a former NFL Pro Bowl cornerback himself, are pinning their hopes on Okudah stabilizing this secondary.
If Okudah continues to look shaky and gives up a big play or two against the Bills, expect those bust murmurs to start up again. If the former first-rounder looks like the player he was coming out of Ohio State, prepare for his Hall of Fame induction. Honestly, we would just love to see signs he’s playing better than last year.
The Lions invested much of their 2021 NFL Draft class into improving their trench play along both their offensive and defensive lines. Friday night is the first chance for fans to see what the team got for that investment.
Detriot’s offensive line should be the best one they’ve fielded in years with highly-touted first-round rookie Penei Sewell manning the right tackle position. And the defensive line should be much improved as well.
And that’s not only due to the additions of rookie defensive lineman like second-rounder Levi Onwuzurike (who has a back injury but should return to practice next week) and third-rounder Alim McNeill. But also a trade that now has veteran Michael Brockers on the defensive line in Detroit.
A semblance of defensive improvement
Last season, the Lions fielded the worst defense in the NFL. They ranked dead last in both yards allowed and points scored. That needs to change. And the implementation of a new 3-4 scheme that has defensive ends Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara shifting to linebackers is expected to do just that.
On Friday night against the Bills, we’ll finally get a chance to see this new-look Detroit defense in action against someone other than their own teammates. A solid performance from this group could go a long way to calming fan fears that this isn’t just the same old Lions again.
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