Each spring and summer, every team has reason to be optimistic. Each team brings in new free agents and rookies, and hopes that those players can turn their franchise around. One of the most exciting aspects of football in August is seeing these players with their new teams for the first time. In this game it was almost exclusively the new additions that shined.
For a preseason game it was about as exciting as it gets. The Lions with their starters had fireworks early after playing just one drive the previous week. The Oakland backups slowly mounted a comeback which culminated with a game winning touchdown with 12 seconds to go. One could argue what made the difference is that Oakland was able to make all of their 33-yard extra point’s, where the Lions missed one.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Stafford’s New Targets
Over the last few years Matthew Stafford has had Calvin Johnson to throw to, and not much else. They addressed this in the offseason by adding Golden Tate in free agency and Eric Ebron in the draft. The Lions starters stayed in for three drives which included 10 passing plays and two touchdowns. Three of those pass plays went to Tate (+1.1) who caught each pass for 41 yards and a touchdown. Ebron (+1.4) brought in another two of those passes for 36 yards. Part of why the passing game was so successful was that Stafford had a perfect Accuracy Percentage as his only incomplete pass was dropped. It’s only a matter of time before we will get to see this new and improved offense with Calvin Johnson and the real damage will be done.
Nowhere to Run
As a team, the Lions weren’t able to have any success against the Oakland run defense. As a group they averaged 2.0 yards per carry, and never had a run more than 8 yards. On the bright side there were more problems with the backups than starters. Reggie Bush had runs of 8, 5 and minus-6 yards. The biggest concern with the offensive line was with LaAdrian Waddle (-1.1). Once he became the starter at right tackle in run blocking he was a star for 2013. Then his play took a turn for the worse late in the year and his run blocking continued where he left off. When it came to the backups the problem was also the run blocking. When something went wrong for one player it was generally enough to derail the entire play. This led to nine of 26 runs ended with a loss or no gain. This should only be a problem if an offensive linemen or two gets hurt, but it’s rare for a team to start all five players all 16 games, so chances are at some point, one of the backups will need to step up.
Each of the last two years Jonte Green (-4.0) has been somewhere on the Lions depth chart. After a few free agent additions, his roster spot is now in jeopardy. For one reason or another, late in the game the Raiders choose to target Green relentlessly. In his 17 plays in coverage, his receiver was targeted 11 times. While his numbers will show he only allowed four completions, that doesn’t include a few times where he was beat in coverage but there was a bad throw or a dropped pass. Those account for a number of the incomplete passes and not strong play from Green. He had the redeeming quality of having a pass defended and didn’t allow much YAC, but he was the one to allow most of the yards on the game-winning drive by Oakland.
Oakland – Three Performances of Note
Quarterback Matt Schaub (-0.9) received all of the snaps with the starters, but didn’t look impressive in that time. He didn’t attempt a single pass that was in the air beyond 8 yards, and only completed half his passes that were in the air beyond 3. With the starters he was able to quarterback one drive ending in a touchdown, but they drove down the field with rushing, yards after the catch, and defensive penalties.
It’s always hard to compare when one quarterback has starters around him and plays against starters, while the other has backups around him and plays with backups, but Derek Carr (+1.9) looked more impressive. While not every one of Carr’s throws were perfect, he had four completed passes on balls that were in the air for at least 10 yards. This led to completions of 38, 29, 17 and 16 yards. The only problem is that he might not be any better under pressure than Schaub is. Over his two games he has been under pressure five times. He has one completion, two incompletions and two times getting sacked. While Carr might not be the starter on Day 1, he showed a lot more in this game than he did in the previous game and could see playing time in 2014.
The New Offensive Line
The Raiders offensive line at both the guard position and tackle were points of weakness for the Raiders in 2013. Two cheap free agent moves they made this offseason was adding left tackle Donald Penn (+2.0) and right guard Austin Howard (+1.6). They were also the two highest-graded starters on the Oakland offense. While most starters in this week of the preseason will typically play anywhere between 10 and 30 snaps, both players played 38 snaps giving them a nice sample to analyze. Penn didn’t allow a single pressure and looked decent in run blocking. Howard on the other hand did a great job in run blocking although he allowed a single hurry. On top of that, the backup offensive linemen did a nice job keeping their quarterbacks clean during the Raiders’ comeback. The additional starters and quality depth should only help the team in 2014.
While the defensive backs were a sign of strength for the team last week, outside of Carlos Rogers it was a point of weakness this one. Seventh-round rookie T.J. Carrie (-2.6) has a strong showing last week, so he received the starting nickel snaps as well as other second-team cornerback snaps. He was beaten in two completions including a touchdown. Cornerback Tarell Brown (-1.0) was supposed to come in and be the top one on the team, but for the second straight week he allowed all three passes thrown his way to be caught. Both starting safeties also had below average games in coverage. On the bright side, Carlos Rogers (+2.4) allowed two catches, but both were for short gains and he also had a pass defended.
– Of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew’s 14 combined carries, only one went outside of the left guard. All 13 others went to the right side of the field, or between the left guard and center.
– After not playing in last week’s preseason game, Kaluka Maiava had five run stops on just 14 run snaps giving him a Run Stop Percentage of 35.7.
– Kickers in the NFL keep getting better. In this game Nate Freese and Sebastian Janikowski made 55- and 56-yard field goals, respectively, although Janikowski’s was nullified by a defensive penalty which kept the drive going.
PFF Game Ball
When you have a quarterback with perfect accuracy, it’s hard not to give Matthew Stafford the game ball in this one.
Follow Nathan on Twitter: @PFF_NateJahnke