What we know about the Lions after 2 preseason games: Rookies look ready to go


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Win or lose, starters or no starters, there’s a lot to learn about your roster during the NFL preseason. At least that’s Dan Campbell’s mindset.

“You try to keep into perspective that it is about evaluation and trying to put these guys into position to where you can find out about them a little bit,” Campbell said Saturday. “And I felt like we found out about a few guys today.”

Campbell’s Detroit Lions are 1-1 this preseason. His starters have been rested and limited. Even so, the work is more important, and Campbell recognizes that. These games help determine what areas of the roster need work, which reserves can step up in the moment and, ultimately, which players are asked to stay.

Campbell and company have one more preseason game Friday night at the Carolina Panthers before the roster is finalized. But in the meantime, here are a few things we’ve learned.

The Lions used joint practices to prepare their starters

The Lions rested a majority of their starters in the preseason, perhaps more than other teams. At this point, consider it by design.

The Lions scheduled two joint practices this offseason against two very comparable teams. The New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars each ventured to Allen Park, Mich., to see how they stacked up against Detroit. It allowed the coaching staffs to control the setting, incorporate situational drills and get their starters some meaningful preseason work. Don’t be surprised if this becomes the norm.

“When you’re doing these, you wanna trust the partner you’re with, or otherwise, you never know what can happen,” Campbell said a few weeks ago. “I do believe we’re going to get great work but we’ll be smart about it.”


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Jack Campbell and the rookies look ready to go

No early-round Lions draft pick played more snaps than linebacker Jack Campbell. There’s a reason for that. The Lions are looking to get their 18th overall pick some meaningful work, as he navigates a position where live reps matter more than others.

“Let’s let him go a little bit,” Dan Campbell said. “Let’s let him play. He is — man, speed of the game, picking it up, playing faster and we feel like the more he plays, the more we’re going to see out of it.”

The Iowa product looks more and more comfortable with each rep. In joint practice versus the Jaguars, Campbell looked like he was processing the game faster, getting to his spots and making plays. In the game, he followed up an excellent preseason debut by leading the Lions in tackles (seven) and looking fluid in coverage. The Lions like their depth at linebacker, and Derrick Barnes could ultimately begin the year as a starter. But Campbell looks capable of starting Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Lions also played running back Jahmyr Gibbs, tight end Sam LaPorta and defensive back Brian Branch in the opener. All three sat in Week 2, which is a sign of how important those players are to the Lions. Can’t risk injury.

The Lions brought back Sudfeld this offseason because of his familiarity with the offense. They were eager to see what he could do with a full offseason with the team, and for stretches, he looked like a capable backup quarterback.

But he simply hasn’t helped his case in these games.

Through two preseason games, Sudfeld has completed 52.2 percent of his passes for 274 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 50.5. To be fair, Sudfeld hasn’t been helped by shaky offensive line play and some drops by his receivers, but even then, his play hasn’t done much to inspire confidence.

It’s possible the Lions keep Sudfeld as QB3 to open the season, with Hendon Hooker expected to begin the year on the non-football injury list. However, with Teddy Bridgewater in the mix, the Lions could also roll with Jared Goff and Bridgewater as their two QBs, which would open up a roster spot elsewhere.

“I thought Teddy was solid,” Dan Campbell said after Saturday’s loss to the Jaguars. “I mean, look, there’s always going to be stuff to clean up, but in my head, it was always about getting him in a flow. Let’s get him in there, let’s get him used to how we run our offense, our cadence, our formations, our shifts, our motions and just go play a little bit. … And look, there’s some throws you wish you had back, a couple of things, but also, I thought he made some really good throws, too. We probably had three drops there that could’ve been for conversions, so I thought it was solid.”

The more acclimated Bridgewater gets, the more expendable Sudfeld becomes. Especially when he plays like he has.



Lions’ Teddy Bridgewater addition helps more than just the quarterback room

The Lions are still sorting out the back end of their offensive line

Each year, the NFL reminds those watching that quality offensive line depth is few and far between. The Lions have been no exception.

It has been a struggle for Detroit’s reserves, to a point where you wonder if their play is hurting the evaluation process. When the new backup quarterback gets sacked on his very first play and tackled on run plays before the exchange, what can you really evaluate?

Per Pro Football Focus, 10 of the 14 pressures allowed against the Jaguars were from the interior offensive line. Not the best day for Bobby Hart or Brad Cecil.

“We’re working through it,” Campbell said, when asked about Detroit’s offensive line depth. “There again, we’ll look at this tape and find the guys we can rely on and, listen, you just never know. (Lions GM) Brad (Holmes) and his crew, they’re looking at everything and it’s not just our own squad, they’re looking at 31 other teams, too. So we’re always evaluating.”

At this point, the majority of the offensive line roster spots can be reasonably assumed. Frank Ragnow, Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Graham Glasgow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai are locks. Colby Sorsdal likely is, too, as the Lions look to develop their 2023 fifth-round pick. From there, Detroit could add two more to get to nine offensive linemen. One of Matt Nelson or Germain Ifedi makes sense at tackle, and another guard with some game reps like Kayode Awosika could also work. Or maybe, as Campbell suggested, the Lions add a player from another roster. We’ll see.

The pass rush has a wealth of depth

It’s not exactly a new development, but these preseason games have offered Detroit’s defensive line a chance to flex its collective depth.

Without Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris, Detroit has relied on its second and third units. John Cominsky, one of the most underrated players on the team, has looked excellent. His combination of play recognition and motor helps him maximize his talent and it’s shown in these games — whether you see him in the backfield for a tackle for loss on a screen play or chasing down a defender in the open field. Romeo Okwara has gotten some good reps in, further removed from an Achilles injury that slowed him last season. James Houston has looked great in each of Detroit’s preseason games. Per PFF, Houston has recorded four stops, seven hurries and eight total pressures in 29 pass-rush snaps. With the Lions playing him at Sam linebacker in addition to edge, that’s good progress from a young player who’s far from a finished product.

The Lions have so much depth at edge that Julian Okwara, who has three sacks this preseason, might not even make the team. Is some of their play a product of the bad offensive line depth across the league? Sure. But it does feel like the Lions have six edges they’d be comfortable trotting out during the regular season. It’s an enviable position to be in.

(Photo: Mike Mulholland / Getty Images)

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Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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