In week two of NFL preseason action, the Detroit Lions took on the Indianapolis Colts. Entering the matchup with more game-specific preparation, the Lions felt much more confident than they did against the Falcons. During media availability on Friday, Head Coach Dan Campbell said, “It gives us a confidence, but you can feel it in our players. Our players have a confidence, they feel we’re getting better. They feel like we stack up against these guys, we’re not out of place and that we are getting better, and that we can do some things in all three phases. It gives our team confidence.” Favored by most sportsbooks at a -1.0 spread and -115 on the moneyline, the Lions looked to wash the bitter taste of defeat from their mouths in Indianapolis. They did just that rebounding on the road. Multiple players helped cement there spot on the roster and some climbed the depth chart.
Here are my takeaways from todays matchup:
Confirmed by Coach Campbell on Thursday, most of the starting lineup sat for this game. Risking injury was a big concern, but Campbell also believed that it would give the depth pieces more time for evaluation. The joint practice against the Colts this week gave the starters plenty of reps, so seeing more of the teams depth was the largest goal for today. “There will be a number of guys that have gotten a load here (Joint Practice) that will still play in this game certainly, we’ve got a lot of battles still going on, but that would be the plan with this,” Campbell said in an interview. Jeff Okudah and Will Harris did receive playing time as they battled for the second corner slot. Okudah had some solid coverage and made a few stops when he needed to. Harris, on the other hand, struggled in both zone and man. He gave up multiple big plays and was bailed out by the safeties making open field tackles. Of course injured players sat, these were:
- Jason Cabinda (PUP)
- WR Jameson Williams (NFI)
- EDGE Romeo Okwara (PUP)
- EDGE Josh Paschal (PUP)
- CB Jerry Jacobs (PUP)
- CB Ifeatu Melifonwu
- EDGE Julian Okwara
- DT Levi Onwuzurike
- TE Devin Funchess
- WR Quintez Cephus
The Battle for Backup Continues:
With Jared Goff sitting in this game, the backup QBs were on full display. David Blough took the start and played the entire first half, with Tim Boyle following. Blough, who looked strong all week despite his game-costing fumble against Atlanta, went 16-22, throwing for 76-yards and a touchdown. His confidence and playmaking ability was especially prevalent. Blough went through his reads efficiently and made quick decisions. When the play broke down, he kept his head up and had solid footwork to get out of the pocket before scrambling. He was especially good at taking what was given to him and not forcing anything. Blough did throw an interception on a tipped ball, but the somewhat forced pass was catchable. He played reliably and smart, the best thing a backup QB can do. If he could finish more drives in the endzone he would be a lock for the backup job.
Boyle, who was mediocre against Atlanta, started hot with a perfectly placed touchdown pass to Tom Kennedy. He was still behind on early reads, but looked to be the more efficient QB once he settled in. Boyle also used his legs to extend plays, including a nice first down run. He went 12-15 and threw for 99-yards.
Rumors have swirled over a potential backup QB trade, but they were quieted to an extent after this game. With one QB sure to go, the battle will continue throughout preseason. Both QBs played to the best of their abilities, but the lead goes to the more consistent Boyle after this game.
Malcolm Rodriguez Highlighted:
Malcolm Rodriguez was a player I was watching closely throughout this matchup. Many know through practice reports and Hard Knocks, that Rodriguez has quickly made an impact on the team. Beloved by the coaching staff, Rodriguez was put on full display against the Colts. It went well to say the least. He was all over the field making stops and supporting on tackles. With Kelvin Sheppard, the linebackers coach, pushing Rodriguez into a starting role, Rodriguez showed the lights weren’t too bright for him. His pass game struggles did continue a little, as he was a little too patient in zone coverage, not pressuring the quarterback enough after receivers got to the third-level. Overall he had a consistent game and showed that he is improving in every aspect of the game.
Linebackers Stuff the Run:
Stopping the run was especially difficult for the Lions against Atlanta and that was put to an end tonight. Jarrad Davis and Derrick Barnes were players who the team needed to help with that aspect of the game. With a weak linebacker core, the Lions need guys like them to step up and lead. Derrick Barnes was the better of the two as he involved himself in the run game more and looked very solid in zone coverage. The linebackers filled the gaps especially well and denied inside runs. The interior defensive line play was especially good as well, with John Cominsky and Eric Banks both having TFLs and creating solid pressure. Demetrius Taylor racked up double teams from the inside, which also helped in the run game. The defense gave up only thirty rushing yards along with 261 passing yards.
The Lions face a run heavy opponent in the Eagles to kickoff their regular season. Fixing these mistakes in the run game is imperative to the teams success. Seeing the team improve, sealing gaps effectively, gives me a little more confidence in the defense as the regular season approaches.
Craig Reynolds and Justin Jackson Run Circles Around Indy:
Craig Reynolds. the former practice squad running back, signed a contract with the Lions midway through last season. Since then, he has played in multiple games as the third running back. Known as Netflix, he was really strong and a physical runner, who dominated the second-level. He leaped over Jermar Jefferson in the depth chart late in 2021 and held that spot for the rest of the year. Reynolds looked to remain consistent and continue his previous success. His patient running style helped him find gaps on inside run plays. Evan Brown and Logan Stenberg did a phenomenal job of opening running lanes on handoffs between the tackles, which Reynolds used to his advantage throughout the game. He had seven carries for thirty-seven yards. He will be a helpful tool this season as an alternate back.
Justin Jackson, the former charger, has been competing for a roster spot after being signed during training camp. He got off to a hot start, utilizing his speed on outside zone plays. Jackson did fumble early, but bounced back with more explosive carries. He had six rushes for fifty-two yards. Jackson looks to be the new RB4 in Detroit.
The Lions offense had many contributors, but running behind their strong O-line was the biggest. The run game finished 175 total yards and a touchdown.
Bubble Players Standout:
Heading into the game, players on the bubble such as Tom Kennedy and Austin Bryant had moved their names closer towards a roster spot. Kennedy, who lead the NFL in reception yards after week one with 104-yards, was less involved against the Colts, but was still very good. He thrived in the red-zone, catching two jump-ball touchdowns. He finished with five catches for twenty-four yards. His downfield presence wasn’t felt as much, but he thrived against man coverage, catching a one-on-one jump-ball for a touchdown that ended the first half.
Austin Bryant, who has moved up the roster in practice despite having little impact against Atlanta, was a standout for me. He had multiple pressures, two sacks, and was strong off the line. His ability to seal the edge and stop the run was highlighted today, but he also impressed with his pass-rushing technique. His fundamental play made much more of an impact against the Colts. Being named defensive player of the game will most definitely help him climb the depth chart.
Their stocks continue to rise after this matchup. Consistency is key to making an NFL roster, so settling into a role will be important for both players. With more significant playing time yet to come, they will closely eyed by the coaching staff before final cuts are made.
Catchup with this weeks events by watching the Lions on HBO’s Hard Knocks, Tuesday at 10pm. The Lions return to preseason action Sunday, August 28, in Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers. It will be there final taste of action before the regular season.
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