Home Sports 10 players to watch in Lions’ preseason opener against Patriots – MLive.com

10 players to watch in Lions’ preseason opener against Patriots – MLive.com

44

By Kyle Meinke | Posted August 08, 2019 at 06:10 AM | Updated August 08, 2019 at 10:18 AM

DETROIT — Football is back! … sort of.

The Lions will kick off the preseason on Thursday night with an exhibition against the New England Patriots at Ford Field. They’ll be in uniform and everything. And after going 222 days without that Honolulu blue, it’ll be refreshing to see some professional football in Detroit.

Then again, if Matt Patricia’s first preseason opener is any indication, don’t expect to see much of anyone who will actually be playing in the fall. That includes quarterback Matthew Stafford.

But there are plenty of rookies and bubble players worth watching, as they wage their battles across the roster. Here are 10 to keep an eye on.

TE T.J. Hockenson

Photo by Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

TE T.J. Hockenson

OK, so not exactly a bubble player. But on a night when almost every player of any consequence will either play very little or not at all, Hockenson could be among the biggest names to actually see the field. He has been terrific in camp, sure, but is still a rookie playing one of the game’s most difficult positions. So he could use the work. He’s also going to be an important blocker in the running game, and those situations can be difficult to simulate at full speed in practice. I think Hockenson will get in a little work, giving fans their first opportunity to see Detroit’s first-round pick.

QB Tom Savage

Photo by Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

QB Tom Savage

Patricia held out Stafford in last year’s preseason opener against Oakland. Then again, Stafford used to get one series under Jim Caldwell, and is learning a new scheme this year. Perhaps the Lions will use the opportunity for him to see some live bullets, and get a better evaluation of how far along this installation is. Either way, this game is going to be all about the backups at quarterback. Savage has been the No. 2 throughout most of camp, and should see most of the first half. 

WR Travis Fulgham

Photo by Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

WR Travis Fulgham

He has a flair for the dramatic on deep balls, so if you’re looking for some fireworks, the sixth-round pick might be your guy. But Fulgham hasn’t exactly been consistent in camp either. In a fierce receiver competition that has guys like Fulgham, Brandon Powell, Jermaine Kearse, Andy Jones and Tommylee Lewis fighting for about two or three jobs, balling out when those lights go on will go a long way. And vice versa.

WR Brandon Powell

Photo by Mike Mulholland | MLive.com

WR Brandon Powell

 The former UDFA was one of the biggest stars of the preseason last year, catching a league-high 16 passes for 103 yards. But he didn’t do much in the regular season, and now finds himself straddling the roster bubble more than just about anybody in Detroit. Expect to see him used in the backfield at some point as well as at receiver, as Detroit searches for ways to replace Theo Riddick. He also is a candidate for the return jobs, where he was electric in the preseason last year. He averaged a league-high 15.7 yards per punt return and housed one for an 80-yard score, the longest return by anybody in the league. More of that, and he’ll be in good shape.

RB Ty Johnson

Photo courtesy Detroit Lions

RB Ty Johnson

In a post-Riddick world, I’m curious to see what that means for Johnson more than anyone else. He caught just 29 passes in college, but don’t let that fool you. He’s shown much better route running than I expected at the outset of camp, and his hands seem good too. It’s hard to say much about him a rusher because there’s been no tackling to the ground in camp, so he has something to prove there. The good news is with Kerryon Johnson not expected to play against New England, and probably not C.J. Anderson either, Johnson should get a long burn on opening night. He could also see time as a return man, where he’s competing with Powell and Jamal Agnew. 

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link