ReFo: DET @ BUF, Preseason WK 4
As evidenced by the final score, this game was about as one-sided as it can get with the Lions dominating the Bills from the start. Perhaps an unusual move for a team with an established and entrenched quarterback, Detroit gave its starters some early action in this fourth preseason game, while the Bills elected to play with a more limited roster — one consisting of mostly backups and those competing for the team’s final roster spots.
What really stood out is how dire the Buffalo QB situation is behind the injured EJ Manuel and IR’d Kevin Kolb, though there were a number of impressive performances from the Detroit defense.
Detroit – Three Performances of Note
Strong Day in Coverage
Buffalo didn’t exactly trot out Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees at quarterback, but several members of the Detroit secondary put together impressive performances, nonetheless. None were better than the CB duo of Dwight Bentley (+3.4) and Rashean Mathis (+2.4), who each feasted on the poor decisions of Matt Leinart. Bentley struck first when he picked off the Buffalo QB on his second drive, after he read and broke perfectly on a short out route over the middle. Mathis was not far behind, however, as he made a similarly impressive read and break to cut off and intercept a corner route from his underneath coverage. Overall, Bentley allowed just a single catch for 1 yard, while adding a pass defense to go along with his pick. None of the four passes thrown into Mathis’ coverage were completed, and he also broke up a second pass.
Rookie corner Darius Slay (+1.3) was not bad himself, his day highlighted by a pass defense of his own on a Leinart deep ball.
Under the Radar
While most of the talk has been about Ziggy Ansah, fellow rookie defensive end Devin Taylor has quietly put together a solid preseason, grading at +2.7 in four games, though that’s nothing new for the man nicknamed “Don’t Say Nothin’” by his college teammates. Lining up primarily at DRE, he picked up a trio of QB hurries, all three coming to the outside, as well as a batted pass — a play on which he put his 6’7” frame to full use. While his work in run defense wasn’t spectacular — he was sealed to the outside on one run and lost outside contain on another — Taylor did make three stops. One came in pursuit for a tackle for short gain at 9:20 in the second quarter, another a little later at 4:10 when he stood up and beat his blocker to stop a run for a loss.
After a shaky start in the first two games, Kellen Moore (+1.8) bounced back nicely to close out the preseason. The numbers certainly aren’t spectacular — 10 of 18 for 78 yards, two TDs and an interception — nor was any particular play, but Moore did very little to hurt the team. Three of those incompletions were dropped passes, while his lone interception, and negatively graded play, came on a pass batted just beyond the line of scrimmage. Safe, but unspectacular may not be such a bad thing at QB for Detroit behind Matt Stafford, who for all his brilliant plays, too often borders on recklessness.
To back up Stafford, however, he’ll have to beat out Shaun Hill (+1.7). In just five drop-backs, Hill amassed a perfect QB rating, completing 4 of 5 passes for 69 yards and a pair of TDs of his own, no play better than his 39-yard strike to Matt Willis at 3:38 in the first quarter.
Buffalo – Three Performances of Note
Leinart vs. Lewis
This was not only a final battle for a roster spot but, with E.J. Manuel’s status uncertain, also an opportunity to see the field when the regular season gets underway. Matt Leinart (-3.0) seemingly did everything he could to not win that battle from his first drive, which was highlighted by a 1-yard pass on 3rd-and-10. Aside from a perfectly thrown deep ball, unfortunately misjudged by Marquise Goodwin, you could argue that was the highlight of Leinart’s day. The veteran QB finished his day 3 of 11 for 11 yards, yielding a pathetic 1.1 YPA, with two horribly forced interceptions, one at 8:17 of the first quarter, the other at 12:21 in the second.
Given Leinart’s play, perhaps the best thing that can be said about Thaddeus Lewis was that he didn’t do anything horribly wrong. There were some misfires, he finished just 7 of 16 passing, but also some impressive throws — most notably his last of the game, a deep ball that hit Marcus Easley in stride and went for a 79-yard touchdown. However, perhaps what really may win Lewis the roster spot — aside from his counterpart’s incompetence — is his running ability. He finished with 51 yards on seven carries, making several nice runs both with the zone read and scrambling.
Blown Coverage and Opportunity
From the first offensive play of the game, it was clear T.J. Heath (-3.9) would have a rough day in his last opportunity to make the Buffalo 53-man roster, as he was burned on a go route and saved only by a slightly overthrown pass. The Bills gave him every opportunity — he was the only player to play the entire game — but the rest of his 66 snaps did not go much differently than the first, as the third-year DB showed why he’s only played a single regular season snap to this point in his career. Though only four of the nine passes into his coverage were completed, he benefited from two drops and two overthrows when beaten. Heath also missed a tackle on a wide receiver screen which ended as a TD, and was flagged for facemask penalty.
Gilbert Comes up Just Short
From two players who squandered their final preseason opportunities in Leinart and Heath, to one who made the most of it in Jarron Gilbert (+2.7). Lining up all over the defensive line in both three- and four-man fronts, Gilbert was a load to handle. While he picked up two hurries rushing the passer, his best work was done in run defense, working primarily against tackles LaAdrian Waddle and Kevin Haslam. On several occasions, Gilbert beat both to the inside to force cuts, with his best work coming at 4:41 in the fourth when he beat Haslam to the inside for a tackle for loss, his lone on the day.
Unfortunately, even a preseason in which he finished with a total +5.8 rating, 10th-highest among all 3-4 defensive ends, was not enough to earn Gilbert a spot among the 53 for the Bills.
– The Lions missed just three tackles on defense after missing 23 combined through their first three preseason games.
– Buffalo’s quarterbacks didn’t complete a single pass when blitzed or pressured.
– Just one of Kellen Moore’s 18 pass attempts went to the right side of the field (outside the numbers).
PFF Game Ball
With a hat tip to Leinart’s quarterbacking, this one goes to Dwight Bentley.
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