The Detroit Lions closed out the preseason with an offensive bang on Thursday night, scoring early and often and doing just enough on defense to hold off the pesky Bills. The starters looked solid, many second stringers looked solid and the team ended things on a high note. The preseason hunt as a whole was average at 2-2, but the Lions will enter the regular season with late momentum, which is never something to sneeze at.
What lessons can be taken from this final dress rehearsal?
Mikel Leshoure Looks The Part Of A Quality NFL Back. Leshoure contributed several nice runs, a touchdown and also was explosive in the passing game, rumbling for a 33 yard reception. Fans didn't know what to expect from Leshoure because he was injured, but there are definite signs which make it appear that Leshoure can be the guy to take pressure off Jahvid Best. He's explosive into the line, with plenty of breakaway speed in the clear and always runs hard. Especially impressive is how Leshoure consistently manages to put his head down while rumbling in traffic.
Jonte Green Made A Name For Himself, As Ryan Broyles Reestablished His Identity. The final preseason game is all about giving coaches something to think about. With his excellent interception on a jumped route for a touchdown, Green made up for getting torched by Stevie Johnson early. The fundamentals are there for Green, who is a quick and smart player. With one touchdown, he might have made enough of an impression to stick around in the young cornerback shuffle. Broyles, meanwhile, reminded folks with a solid night catching the ball why he was a second round pick. Once he gets to see the field with Matthew Stafford, Detroit's offense could get even scarier.
Kellen Moore Should Be The Third String Quarterback. He's improved in every single preseason game, and last night, Moore looked confident and strong. He completed 17-30 for 211 yards, and used an excellent run fake to score a touchdown. As he's gotten games under his belt, Moore has shown the ability to be confident and lead drives. Out of a third quarterback, greatness can't expected. However, for a steady option, the Lions should keep Moore around and let him be tutored by Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill.
Run Defense Is Still Largely Atrocious. Against C.J. Spiller and Tashard Choice, the Lions run defense looked like it did much of 2012. Either Buffalo running back ran straight through the line and did whatever they wanted, helping the Bills set up the pass which led to the game's first score. If the Lions can't keep teams honest by stopping the run or get to the quarterback in time, a young secondary will be tested and might be victimized. Though the Lions only allowed 77 yards on the ground, things didn't look good early with the starters in. The moral of the story? There could be plenty of shoot outs this fall.
Lions? Leshoure was excellent, showing he could be a difference maker on the ground, Broyles had some nice catches, and might quietly become a weapon for Stafford as he gets back into action. Green made the big play on defense, and Ashlee Palmer was solid on special teams forcing a fumble. Give Carmen Messina credit for having a nice preseason.
Lambs? Without the starters playing much, a solid effort didn't leave many lambs to be singled out. At this point, it's obvious who should and shouldn't be making the roster. Some fat will have to be trimmed at cornerback and receiver.
What About The Five Things? Entering the preseason finale, we said it was important to watch the injured Matthew Stafford. He played, and whatever ill-effects there may have been following injury were barely noticeable as he tossed a touchdown and quickly sat on the bench. Neither Chris Houston nor Bill Bentley saw game action, which was smart. Leshoure looked excellent, Kevin Barnes didn't stand out much either way in his first game, and crispness was there, allowing the Lions to steal the victory.
Stalking The Next Prey: The regular season begins as the St. Louis Rams visit Ford Field for the home opener on Sunday, September 9 at 1 p.m. on FOX.
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