We got a tease of what to expect when they hosted the Detroit Lions in Week 3 of the NFL preseason.
As is to be expected, there was a lot of youth on display as those players with niggles weren’t put in situations to make them any worse, and some young players took the opportunity with both hands.
Others? Less so.
Let’s look at some of the talking points from this game.
Detroit Lions – Three Things of Note
1) Getting Young-er
I know I’m not alone in thinking that Willie Young is in for a lot more playing time in 2012. Last year his limited snaps saw him designated our Lions secret superstar, and he’s been building on that with some excellent work in preseason. This continued when he was matched up against one of the league’s best young left tackles, Jared Veldheer. On back to back plays Young gave him what for, beating him with speed off the edge, then getting the big guy back-peddling on a bull rush. Kyle Vanden Bosch is a favorite of Jim Schwartz, but in terms of what Young offers there’s no denying who is more productive. The only concern is that in his efforts to get up the field he leaves himself extremely vulnerable to being down blocked when teams run toss plays, as was evident on one more than once occasion here.
2) No Push up Front
What do I remember about the Lions rushing attack from 2011? Aside from its impotence, it was those shotgun draws that went nowhere. Well the impotence and shotgun draws were back in full force here, with the Lions line giving Mikel Leshoure absolutely nothing to work with. It’s not often I commend a back for bouncing it outside, but the Lions did a horrible job up front of opening up running lanes. They tried pull blocking and misdirection, but so manhandled were they (none made a positive impression) that there were always extra Raiders’ defenders running free. Can they improve on this? It would be hard to be much worse, but this looks like a team that needs to be pass centric.
3) Embracing Preseason
After watching the entire first half I was kind of hoping to have more to say about the Lions. As it is they were extremely conservative on offense, opting to have Matthew Stafford get rid of the ball quickly (even when he got hit that was the initial plan) and making no use of Calvin Johnson until Shaun Hill came into the game. On defense it looked like more of the same, with the unit getting up field quickly but susceptible to the usual misdirection plays that have been their downfall in the running game. I walked away feeling like the Lions hadn’t shown me anything I didn’t already know–if other NFL teams feel the same, then I guess in some respects that’s mission accomplished by Detroit.
Oakland Raiders – Three Things to Note
1) No Run Zone
I’m developing a little man crush on the run defense work of Matt Shaughnessy. It was a shame for him to miss so much of the 2011 season, because there may not be a defensive end more disruptive when teams run the ball. He was too powerful for Jeff Backus on multiple occasions, standing him and driving him back. This was a key part of why the Raiders were able to force Mikel Leshoure to bounce so many runs outside, and was a real joy to watch. As a uni,t the Raiders defense is built to stop the run, with other contributions from players like Lamarr Houston, who is a bit more penetrative than Shaughnessy while also offering more in the pass game. It’s just a shame the work in the pass game doesn’t quite mirror what they can do in the run game.
2) A Star is Born?
It’s always hard not to root for an undrafted free agent, especially when they perform the way Rod Streater did in this game. He doesn’t just look like a lock to make the roster, but a guy who could see considerable playing time as a receiver operating on those intermediate routes that are key to success in the NFL. He walked away with 56 yards on seven targets, and would have had more but for two errant Carson Palmer throws. He even showed a willingness to get involved in the run game with a nice block on Chris Houston with 11:41 to go in the second. Plenty of preseason revelations have come undone once the games start counting for something, but he’s an exciting prospect to follow.
3) Issues on the line
While replacement center Alex Parsons didn’t cover himself in glory on the Lions’ goal line, he wasn’t the biggest issue. Indeed, the problem here seemed to be that someone replaced Mike Brisiel’s cleets with skates, so often was he sliding backwards to his quarterback. You like to see your linemen anchor at some point, but Brisiel just didn’t seem capable of it when Ndamukong Suh (or Nick Fairley and others) were over him. They rarely needed to do anything other than bull rush, and while Palmer got rid of the ball quickly to prevent a host of pressures, it’s worth noting there was a ton of ‘nearly’ pressure coming from the Raiders’ right guard.