Here’s what I want to see from the Detroit Lions in their second NFL preseason game

Detroit Free Press

I used to think the NFL made its teams play too many preseason games. Out of four preseason games, I thought each team played roughly … four too many.

Just a bunch of meaningless fodder for football-starved fans and television audiences, I thought.

But I found myself strangely intrigued by the Detroit Lions’ preseason opener last week,  a 16-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills. After watching the game, I realized why.

This is the start of something we haven’t seen in a long time. New general manager, new coach, new quarterback — all at once. With no ties to the previous regime, either. The closest we’ve come in a couple decades? When QB Matthew Stafford and coach Jim Schwartz arrived in Detroit in 2009, then-general manager Martin Mayhew was a holdover from Matt Millen’s staff, promoted in the middle of the Lions’ 0-16 run in 2008.

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Even with the specter of Millen still looming, it felt new then. But it feels even newer now. I think that’s the reason I felt compelled to see how Campbell and his staff would use their players against Buffalo. I’m just as curious to see how the Lions look Saturday for their second preseason game against the host Pittsburgh Steelers.

I certainly helps that are now only three preseason games we have to endure — I mean, enjoy.

So here are a few things I want to see from Saturday night’s game.

Penei Sewell

No sacks! Yeah, yeah, I know he’s a rookie. But allowing a sack on the third play from scrimmage — against a fellow rookie in Gregory Rousseau, no less — is unacceptable for the seventh overall pick.

Sewell improved as the game went on. He said this week he has been working on his hand technique, pad level, knee bend and a bunch of other boring stuff that only interests unique individuals who like studying offensive line play, doing their taxes early and standing in line to renew their driver’s licenses.

I want to see a clean sheet out of Sewell. And a few more pancake blocks, please.

Levi Onwuzurike

The defensive lineman and second-round pick from Washington has been the forgotten man after missing most of training camp with a back injury. He’s on track to make his preseason debut and I just want him to get his a bit of playing time. His back injury has nagged him since college, so there’s no need to push it and risk further injury. Two or three series should be perfect.

Craig Reynolds

I love it when running backs make their own yards. It’s always great to have solid blocking, but a good back must have the instincts and elusiveness to gain a few yards without anyone’s help.

Reynolds did exactly that in his impressive Lions debut, which came less than 48 hours after he flew in from North Carolina for his tryout. At one point, he got stuck in a pile, then miraculously wiggled out of it to gain 10 yards. His big highlight came a few plays later when he changed direction near the line of scrimmage and scored on a 24-yard run that ended with a dive over the pylon.

Reynolds could make a good case for nabbing the fourth or fifth running back spot with another strong performance.

First-team offense touchdown

Jared Goff led an 18-play, 75-yard drive that lasted almost 10 minutes in the first quarter against the Bills, resulting in a field goal after the referees missed a pass interference call in the end zone. In my mind, the Lions scored a touchdown on that drive.

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And we need to see that again because the Lions’ only TD came with the third-stringers on the field late, on Reynolds’ big run. Goff (and D’Andre Swift) likely won’t play, but I’d still like to see the first-team offense score an actual touchdown on a long, sustained drive. Since Campbell said there will be more game-planning this week, it’s a reasonable goal.

Long field goals

It’s early, but it already looks like a bit of a mistake not to have re-signed kicker Matt Prater, who was impressive in the Arizona Cardinals’ 19-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys, also on Friday night. Prater converted all four of his field-goal attempts, including a tying kick from 48 yards and the winner from 47 yards as time expired.

Randy Bullock converted all three of his attempts last week for theLions, but none was longer than 28 yards. Whether it’s Bullock or Zane Gonzalez attempting field goals this week, I want to see them convert something in the mid-40s range. This team is going to need every point it can get this season.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.

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