Sunday, August 28, the Detroit Lions will play their final preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This game is the end of the road for some players trying to make the team. But, this is also a sign that the regular season is just weeks away. With the starters, except for Jared Goff, set to play a full half, this will be our first good look at a prepared Lions team before week one. What else are we looking for?
Here are my 5 things to note before tomorrow’s game:
Starters Set to Play:
The starters needed to play in this game. Simply, kicking off the rust and getting adjusted to live NFL games is necessary for a team before the regular season. Of course, injuries are a concern whenever the starters take the field in preseason. We all want to see as many players as possible be healthy for week one. This is a necessary risk to best prepare the team for the upcoming season though.
How long will they be out there? We expect a half at the most for the “rehearsal game.” Some teams do like to have their starters play a drive after halftime as well to get that feeling of rebounding from the break. For the Lions’ sake, Campbell should try his best to be conservative with play time on Sunday, not risking any players health.
The All-Mighty Offensive Line:
This group has been fantastic to watch, with even the backups impressing on a consistent basis. They ran all over the Colts last week, without any starters playing, so let’s hope that momentum continues in Pittsburgh. For the main group, getting some work together is important, as they haven’t all played together in full health since last preseason. Live reps together will help sure up any problems that may occur, but with this group, the Lions have a great foundation for success.
Will Dj Chark Produce:
Dj Chark showed up to Lions camp and immediately impressed. His speed and athleticism were put on full display as he made highlight catch after highlight catch. The anticipation for his explosive play built until the Lions faced the Falcons to start preseason. He did not receive a single target in that matchup, but did draw heavy coverage. His presence helped other receivers get open on multiple occasions, but he was locked down completely.
Of course, he did not play against the Colts, so it will be nice to see him back on the field. It’s important to further evaluate how he is meshing into the offense, especially with the role he will be taking on. I expect more out of him against the Steelers. Hopefully, Chark can have another highlight or two before the season begins.
Camp Battles Coming to a Close:
This game is crucial for all involved in a roster or position battle, but for none more than David Blough and Tim Boyle. With the final chapter being played out on Sunday, the two will battle once again for a roster spot and the backup QB job. After the Colts matchup, I believed Boyle’s consistency gave him the edge over Blough. The coaches seemed to agree as they have named Boyle the starter for Pittsburgh.
The final receiver spots are also up for grabs. Tom Kennedy, who has had an incredible preseason, will be competing with Kalil Pimpleton, the undrafted free agent with immense upside. The battle might just come down to whoever can contribute most on special teams, in which case Maurice Alexander, the breakout returning-man, may snag the last spot. Every player will have a chance to prove their worth, but this is the final opportunity for some.
Defensively, Will Harris and Jeff Okudah have battled for the number two corner spot. Harris, who shined during camp, struggled in both preseason games. Okudah, on the other hand, has looked consistent in both coverage and making open field tackles against the run. Okudah is the clear favorite here, so Harris will need to shine bright against Pittsburgh if he wants the job.
Malcolm Rodriguez has been the Lions hidden gem for this draft class. He started against the Colts, and continues to improve every day. Kelvin Sheppard has been extremely high on Rodriguez, even saying he will be given an opportunity to start. Rodriguez will most likely get that chance against the Steelers, where he can prove himself as a week one starter.
Derrick Barnes Rebounding in his Sophomore Season:
Derrick Barnes impressed as a rookie during the 2021 preseason, but struggled the rest of the year. In 2022, he is looking to breakout, earning himself an important role on this team. With Kelvin Sheppard saying, “Derrick Barnes is coming,” he fully believes Barnes is ready to take the next step. He stood-out in preseason against both Atlanta and Indianapolis, and will have around the same playing time against Pittsburgh as he did in the first two games. Barnes is hungry, so look out. Many are talking about Rodriguez starting with Alex Anzalone, but it could very well be Barnes week one.
Year 2️⃣ for @derrickbarnes21 pic.twitter.com/NHLkIIiqHg
— Detroit Lions (@Lions) August 25, 2022
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