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O'Hara's Burning Questions: How much does this 35-13 win mean going into the regular season?

Posted Aug 29, 2013

Mike O'Hara looks at all three phases of the Lions' game, position battles and more following Detroit's 35-13 win at Buffalo

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Burning questions – Lions’ offense, defense, special teams and Bills lack of all three – and position battles that have developed as the Lions closed out the preseason with a 35-13 victory over the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Thursday night.

Q. Bottom line: How much does a lop-sided victory mean in sending a team into the regular season?

A. It depends on the team. If it’s a consistent Super Bowl contender, the result doesn’t mean much, especially against a team like the Bills that was short-handed at quarterback and on defense.

For the Lions, it was good to end the preseason on a winning note, but how they played was more important. They had the advantage in almost every area and maximized it.

Q. Matthew Stafford: He played the first two series and completed one of six throws with an interception. Any worries about him?

A. Zero. Absolutely none. He didn’t connect on two long sideline throws to Patrick Edwards, and he had two drops – one by Edwards on a pass that hit him in the shoulder pads, and another that deflected off Nate Burleson’s hands for an interception.

The pass to Burleson was chin-strap high. He should have made the catch, and he usually does.

Q. Position battles – receivers: They’ve been in the spotlight and under the gun since training camp opened, and there are reports that the Lions are looking to add a quality receiver. The last preseason game doesn’t count for everything, but who helped his status?

Kris DurhamWR Kris Durham (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

A. I’d say Patrick Edwards treaded water. He broke even with three catches. On an eight-yard catch for the Lions’ first TD, he made a nice move after the grab. But the drop on a sideline route would have been a first down, and he couldn’t quite chase down two long throws by Stafford.

Kris Durham had a TD catch, and Matt Willis had a long catch for a 39-yard gain. Willis has been a little better throughout the preseason. That might be his edge in making the roster, but it won’t keep the Lions from looking to upgrade the position.

Ryan Broyles was inactive again. His position is secure, but how ready he is to make any impact is questionable.

Q. Running back shuffle: Reggie Bush didn’t play, leaving more time for Joique Bell, Mikel Leshoure and Theo Riddick. Did anything happen to change the order of the depth chart?

A. There’s a tough call to be made here. Bush is safe, obviously. Bell has moved up steadily. He showed speed and good vision on a 23-yard TD run.

Riddick ran for a TD in the last game, and he had two TD catches against the Bills. He also had a 14-yard run. He showed quickness and the ability to get open and catch the ball.

Leshoure had six carries for 20 yards and three catches for 15 yards, but he also lost a fumble that set up a field goal for the Bills.

Q. What’s the big issue in deciding how many backs to keep on the final 53-player roster?

A. Bush, Bell and Riddick all have basically the same style, although Bell is the biggest of the three at 220 pounds. They’re all quick backs with receiving ability. Leshoure is the only one in the group who could be considered a power back.

Bush, Bell and Riddick all have experience as kick returners. And Shaun Chapas could be in the mix because he can play fullback and on the hard-core special teams.

Q. Trade winds: Could any of the backs be used as trade bait?

A. If the Lions decide to cut Leshoure, for example, they might offer him in a trade and add a draft pick to sweeten the offer before the cuts deadline at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Q. It sounds like you’re pretty sure the Lions will trade for a receiver.

A. I’m sure they’ll try. Whether they land one remains to be seen.

Q. Defensive play-makers – What did interceptions by Bill Bentley and Rashean Mathis mean? And evaluate Willie Young.

A. Bentley and Mathis put the offense in position to score touchdowns. Both got in position to make a play, and they both caught the ball. That’s critical, and it didn’t happen often enough last year. The ball is gold. When the other team throws the ball to you, you have to catch it. Bentley and Mathis did that.

As for Young, what he did does count. That was getting two sacks. And what he didn’t do counted. He didn’t get a penalty.

Q. Return specialist: has anyone locked up that job?

A. Not yet. This is another position that requires a lot of evaluation. Steven Miller started the game with a 34-yard kickoff return and had a couple of nice gains as a running back in the second half, but that might not have been enough to clinch the job.

Q. Offensive line: Did anything happen to decide who’ll start at right guard and tackle?

A. It looks like rookie Larry Warford is clear-cut to start at right guard. He started and played with the first unit. Right tackle isn’t as certain. Jason Fox started, but rookie LaAdrian Waddle and veteran Corey Hilliard got extended time.

Q. Couldn’t Waddle be a starter eventually?

A. Yes, but the season doesn’t start eventually. It starts Sept. 8 against the Vikings, and it’s as important as any opening game I can remember in eons.

We’ll get to that next week.

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