It seems like just yesterday we were lamenting the close of another regular season. The Detroit Lions, fresh off more accomplishments than they have enjoyed in recent history, now embark on another tune up slate for 2012. First up are the Cleveland Browns in the annual preseason "Great Lakes Classic." Hopefully for Cleveland fans, the Browns aren't as pathetic as the Indians have been late this summer.
As the Lions leave the practice field and start to hit players other than their own teammates, here's five things to watch when preseason play begins Friday:
1. What's The Situation Like At Running Back? Kevin Smith will draw the start, and it doesn't look like Mikel Leshoure or Jahvid Best are close to getting back into action. Can Smith be the guy in the meantime, or will he need to be replaced by another veteran free agent or trade acquisition? The Lions famously didn't get much out of their running game last year, so a repeat of that in the preseason opener won't help fans feel any better.
2. How Will The Lions Fare Without Louis Delmas At Safety? This week, Delmas was shelved after getting knee surgery. He's gone for the time being, which means Amari Spievey and Erik Coleman must step up. How will each of them play? If they struggle, will the Lions make a corresponding move in the coming weeks? It's just another reason for fans to lend a watchful eye to the secondary during a game.
3. Riley Reiff. So far, from all indications, the report is "so far, so good" as it relates to Reiff, the Lions' first round draft choice on the offensive line. He's listed second on the depth chart, which means he'll see plenty of action against the Browns. How will he do in a game? Will his solid practice play translate into full game speed? Maybe the Lions have finally found themselves a solid, young tackle who can evolve into a great professional.
4. Will Brandon Weeden Live To See The Regular Season? That's a serious question, considering Detroit's defense has made no bones about harshly welcoming rookie quarterbacks into the league during preseason play. It happened to Andy Dalton last season, and previously, it happened to veteran Jake Delhomme. Both incidents were courtesy of Lions' tough guy Ndamukong Suh, so it will be interesting to see if things are scaled back significantly during preseason play this year as it relates to going after the opposing quarterback.
5. What Rookies Will Emerge? As always, the most fun part of preseason play starting up is getting a look at all the newly drafted and signed players. Reiff is only one rookie to keep your eye on. Others include Ryan Broyles, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, Travis Lewis, Tahir Whitehead, Patrick Edwards, Kellen Moore and Tracy Robertson. Chances are, someone out of that group is going to make a big impression right away.
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