There are three goals for Detroit Lions coaches heading into the preseason finale in Buffalo.
1. Fly out of Buffalo Thursday night with no major injuries on their hands.
2. Get a final picture on a couple starting spots still up for grabs and see players on the 53-man bubble play well.
3. Win the game.
The starters aren't expected to play long, which means there will be plenty of opportunities for players battling for backup roles and inclusion on the final roster to make plays and earn a job.
The Lions have to trim 22 players from the roster by 6 p.m. Saturday to get to the NFL limit of 53. The team can establish their eight-man practice squad starting at noon on Sunday.
There is still something to play for for a lot of players in Buffalo.
Here's a look a 10 players to watch:
Edwards had his best game last week vs. New England, even though it didn't translate to the stat sheet. He was able to separate from defenders a couple of times and could have had an 18-yard touchdown if not for a high throw from quarterback
After two very good performances to start the preseason, the rookie cornerback was picked on a little bit by Tom Brady and Co. last week. Slay had a couple plays of bad technique at the line of scrimmage, and admitted as much to reporters this week. Slay certainly doesn't lack any confidence and it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back vs. the Bills. That is if he plays, of course. It looked like he tweaked an ankle at practice Tuesday.
He's made a strong case for inclusion on the 53-man roster. He had three catches for 44 yards last week, including a 22-yard touchdown. His greatest asset for the Lions could be the matchup problems he could cause for defenses in the red zone. At 6-foot-7, 255 pounds, he's very good at going up and getting the football at its highest point. Imagine for a moment: Johnson on the outside and Fauria on the same side in the slot. How's a defense going to play it?
Greenwood had an up-and-down performance in his NFL debut last week.
“He had a nice play breaking up the two-point,” head coach Jim Schwartz said. “He also had another play that he could've played a lot better. He needs to be more consistent and the only way he can do that is by getting playing time.”
He should get plenty of that in Buffalo. The Lions love his length and athleticism, but they don't have a lot of tape on him. He's one of those players they'll have to decide on when it comes roster cut time.
Is the former second-round pick the No. 3 option in the Lions backfield right now? Leshoure is averaging 4.5 yards per rush and has played well in preseason. It's just that
The competition for that right guard spot is going down to the wire. Warford says the game is slowing down for him and the 106 reps he's received over the last three preseason games have helped with that. Keep an eye on his technique Thursday night, especially in the passing game, and make your own determination if he's ready or not.
The Lions brought in the veteran cornerback because of his versatility to play both cornerback and safety. He's gotten a lot of work in the nickel over the last few weeks. Could he be pushing second-year cornerback
Young had a well-documented taunting penalty last week that earned him a seat on the bench. How does he come back vs. Buffalo? Young is likely to get the start with Ziggy Ansah missing practice all week. Young is expected to get big minutes this year in the defensive end rotation, but coaches have to be able to trust that he'll make plays and not hurt the team.
Not that he was really looking over his shoulder anyway, but with the release of Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland on Tuesday, the Lions have gone all-in with Akers. He's made 7 of 8 field goal attempts this preseason. Punter
The competition to win the kickoff and punt return duties seems to have come down to the undrafted rookie Miller and the veteran Spurlock. Both have shown good ball security, but not much else in terms of explosive returns. Spurlock has the longest punt return of the preseason for the Lions at 15 yards. Miller had a terrific kickoff return called back because of a penalty in Cleveland. A big play in Buffalo could win the job.