| Special to The Detroit News
It’s now (nearly) officially evaluation season for the Detroit Lions.
A major part of the Detroit sports fan experience the last decade or so has been waiting out the string.
It was apparent long ago that Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn weren’t the answers for this franchise, but we had to let it play out, give them a fair shot.
Now we move on to another phase of the experience: The new guy who we probably know also isn’t up to the task.
The Darrell Bevell era begins Sunday with a trip to Soldier Field.
Here are five things to watch as the Lions travel to Chicago to play the Bears (1 p.m., Fox):
►1. Mitch missing Matt? Does Mitchell Trubisky now own the Lions, or was that just a Matt Patricia thing? The abysmal Bears quarterback found some of his only success against Patricia. Mitch went 4-0 as Patricia cooked up heaping helpings of man-to-man defense that Trubisky feasted on. We take defensive coordinator Cory Undlin’s point that you can’t entirely remake a defense in one week. However, while success against Trubisky doesn’t guarantee Bevell a serious look at the permanent head coaching job, another loss to this QB probably means he’s disqualified.
►2. Next man up: A couple weeks ago, we discussed Marvin Hall as a possible deep option for Matthew Stafford with the continued absence of Kenny Golladay. Now with Hall released on Saturday, it’s more of an open tryouts feel, buoyed by the coaching uncertainty. Rookie Quintez Cephus and veteran Mohamed Sanu will get looks trying to boost and revive their careers, respectively.
►3. Hunter season: Another shiny new toy! Tight end Hunter Bryant could be a new weapon in the Lions passing attack. Bryant seemed to have a connection with Stafford early in training camp until injury woes set in. Undrafted out of Washington, Bryant is more of a pass-catcher than blocker, and could provide depth behind T.J. Hockenson moving forward.
►4. Underappreciated: Maybe it’s the Detroiter in him that causes him to be overlooked, but Allen Robinson is a legitimate stud. The Chicago Bears top option out of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s has built one of the best wide receiver careers in this era while catching passes from Blake Bortles, Trubisky and Nick Foles. Robinson is on track for his first 100-catch season and should make his second Pro Bowl, according to this reporter.
►5. Stafford swan song? We may be watching the final acts of Stafford as Lions quarterback. It’s kind of hard to wrap your mind around it, as No. 9 has been a staple for this team and community for a dozen years. Along with wife Kelly, Stafford has clearly been a positive presence in the community, recognized by The Detroit News this week. On the field, he’s been a lightning rod that will continue to be debated even when we’re all listening to the sports radio station in the sky. Wherever you stand on Stafford, you might not have much longer to enjoy or critique his Sunday work in Honolulu blue. Either way, you should feel something, which is a bit of a new feature for the Detroit sports fan experience.
Matt Schoch covers sports betting in Michigan for PlayMichigan.com and freelances for the Detroit News.