The pads come on tonight and the tackling is finally real. For some players on the following list, it'll be their first game action in the NFL. For others, it'll be their first game wearing a Detroit Lions jersey.
Here's a batch of players I'm excited to watch in the preseason opener vs. the New York Jets tonight:
One of the big reasons tonight's game is sold out is because of the excitement that was built back in March with the offseason additions the Lions made, including Bush. He's the explosive element the Lions backfield hasn't had since Jahvid Best last played in 2011. He's looks good in training camp and we'll see how the Lions plan to use him, starting tonight.
Ziggy Ansah, DE
The team's No. 1 pick is as athletically gifted as any player on the Lions defense. It'll be interesting to see how his game has developed over the last half year throughout the offseason training program and the first 12 practices of training camp. The last time he was on the field in a game, he dominated the Senior Bowl.
The rookie second-round pick took a lot of first-team reps on defense Thursday. Could he start tonight? He's got good size and speed and fit right in on the outside when practices began this summer. His quest to win the other cornerback spot opposite
Quin, like Bush, was a major priority for the Lions in free agency. He's had his hands on a lot of passes in training camp and always seems to be in the right spot. Does that continue tonight?
Leshoure has received a lot of flak over the last year for his lack of explosiveness in his game last season. The former second-round pick told Detroitlions.com this week that he felt his legs were back under him and he was a more explosive runner. Tonight will be his first chance to prove it.
The Lions ranked dead last in the NFL in punt average last year at 41.4 yards. Martin has shown a big leg in camp, booting some balls as far as 70 yards. The Lions need their special teams to become a weapon and not a liability. Martin can flip the field.
The second-year receiver is my breakout performer for the Lions this year. He's well ahead of schedule in ACL recovery and should be 100 percent by the beginning of the season. It's unclear if he'll play tonight after sitting out of practice the last couple days with some soreness, but if he does, marvel at how he operates in the middle of the field.
Bentley has been one of the better surprises in camp. A shoulder injury limited him to only four games last year, but he's really taken to the slot corner position in camp. Let's not forget it was his early preseason performances that earned him a starting spot last year. He had an interception in his first preseason game. Don't be surprised if he has one in the slot tonight, too.
There's no denying the power in that left leg. Can he do it with the lights on and the rush bearing down on him?
Edwards has been getting a lot of reps with the first-team offense in three receiver sets during camp. He was terrific in camp last year, too, but disappeared in the preseason. Will 2013 be different?
Fairley put pressure on himself this offseason when he said he and fellow defensive tackle