ReFo: NYJ @ DET, Preseason Wk 1
There is always discussion about the ‘poor’ quality of preseason games when it comes to fans’ enjoyment, and the League keeps nudging toward shortening the preseason. But with fewer practices than in the past, teams would have even less of an opportunity to evaluate players properly. The reality is that preseason outcomes don’t determine how the team will play in the regular season. Instead, the focus is on how the players perform so that teams can determine each player’s capabilities and help them improve. So let’s take a look at some noteworthy performances for the Jets and Lions.
Jets – Three Performances of Note
Mark Sanchez began the night with poor decision-making. On his third attempt, he was intercepted on a screen pass by rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, who returned it for a touchdown. His intended target, Tommy Bohanon, was stumbling to get out of the pocket and had yet to even turn around. Instead of just throwing the ball into the ground, he forced a pass that wasn’t there. He played better after the turnover, completing 9 of his last 10 passes with one touchdown, albeit on a Lions’ busted coverage. Geno Smith went 6 for 7, with a batted pass his lone incompletion, before leaving with an ankle injury. Smith’s injury could have the biggest impact on the competition as neither Smith’s (+0.1) nor Sanchez’s (+0.0) performance was very remarkable.
The Lions’ defensive line gave the Jets problems throughout the game. Overall there were six Jets offensive linemen who had grades -1.6 or worse, three of which were starters. The Jets’ starting offensive line gave up seven total pressures on their 19 pass plays. Sanchez has been last in Accuracy Percentage when under pressure each of the last three years and Smith is a rookie. In the ground game the Jets managed just 37 yards, an average of 2.3 yards per carry. If the Jets are going to have any success on offense this year, it is crucial that they improve as a unit.
Rookie Dee Milliner played the entire first half of the game over Kyle Wilson, who played in the slot before replacing Antonio Cromartie. Milliner was only targeted four times out of 30 dropbacks. He gave up three receptions, but did have an impressive pass deflection that came on a deep pass in the end zone.
Fellow first-round pick Sheldon Richardson had two tackles on seven run plays, but failed to have much of a presence rushing the QB.
Kellen Winslow (+0.8) caught two passes for 30 yards and looked comfortable in the offense. As a blocker he is well below average, but should still see a fair amount playing time if healthy. He might end up being one of their top receiving threats considering the wide receiver options on the roster.
Lions – Three Performances of Note
Transition on the Offensive Line
Riley Reiff had a decent year as a rookie in limited playing time, but had negative grades in the two games he played the most. Now he takes over at left tackle for the retired Jeff Backus. His performance was concerning as he allowed a sack, a hurry, and was called for a holding penalty in just 21 snaps. His -1.9 grade was the worst on the Lions offensive line. If the Lions continue to pass as much as last year, Reiff will need to be more consistent in pass protection. At the other tackle position, Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard are in a battle for the starting spot. Hilliard started the first series, but alternated drives after that. Fox (+1.6), who outperformed Hilliard (-1.2), could have the advantage at this point.
Dominant Defensive Line
Outside of Ezekiel Ansah’s touchdown, he did not make much of an impact. He didn’t record a pressure in his 14 pass rushes and had just one tackle. Ndamukong Suh (+0.9) and Nick Fairley (+1.4) combined for three pressures in their limited amount of playing time.
While the Lions have one of the better starting defensive lines in the league, it should be noted their backups performed extremely well. Defensive end Willie Young (+4.8) had three solo stops, two hurries, and a batted pass in just 23 plays. Defensive tackles Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Andre Fluellen had four pressures each. Devin Taylor, Ronnell Lewis and Jimmy Saddler-McQueen added in a sack each.
Wide Receiver Depth
The Lions need to find more options for Matthew Stafford besides Calvin Johnson. Having Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles back from injuries helps out, but depth is still an issue. Of the nine other receivers that played, Matt Willis’ performance stood out the most. He made two impressive catches in the second quarter. On the first catch, he made a last-second adjustment to the ball and still managed to get a knee down in bounds. A couple of plays later he ended the drive with a diving catch in the end zone against tight coverage. He finished with three receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown, earning +2.0 receiving grade. Kris Durham was only targeted once, but he made it count with 25 yards after the catch.
– Lions’ kickers David Akers and Havard Rugland were both 2 for 2 on field goal attempts, with Rugland hitting from 49 and 50 yards. Rugland also had one touchback on three kickoffs.
– Greg McElroy, who is not in contention for the starting job according to Rex Ryan, was the highest-graded QB on either team at +2.6.
PFF Game Ball
Matt Willis made the most of his limited playing time with two big catches against tight coverage that required a lot of concentration.