O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: Should the penalties be a concern?

Posted Aug 15, 2014

Mike O’Hara on the increase in penalties, Nick Fairley’s situation and more from Friday night’s Lions-Raiders preseason game.

OAKLAND – Burning questions from Friday night’s Lions-Raiders preseason game – a first-half penalty blizzard,  if Calvin Johnson not playing means anything, Dan Orlovsky making a statement as the No. 2 quarterback, a defensive line shuffle and a challenge by Coach Jim Caldwell:

Q. Reverting: In the first half the Lions had seven penalties for 40 yards. Lack of discipline and penalties hurt them last year, and it’s been a focus in training camp this year. Should the penalties be a concern?

A. Everything’s a concern until it’s corrected, and that will be the case with penalties until they’re corrected.

Two crucial penalties against the Lions on one possession in the second quarter gave the Raiders points. They had 12 men on the field on a made field goal from 55 yards. The Raiders took the penalty and a first down instead of the three points and drove to a touchdown.

Later in that drive, Bill Bentley and Rashean Mathis both were called for holding on an incomplete pass on third and eight. Instead of a 48-yard field-goal attempt, the Raiders got another first down.

They continued the drive to a touchdown that cut the deficit to 13-7, instead of the 13-3 it would have been without the penalties. That’s a net loss for the Lions of four points.

Q. Closer calls: Officials have been instructed to enforce some penalties more tightly. Holding and hands to the face are among them. Is that any excuse for players getting called for penalties?

A. It’s a reason for it, but not an excuse. If the refs are going to call it, don’t do it.

Q. Orlovsky: He struggled in the first game against Cleveland but was sharp against the Raiders, completing eight of 12 passes for 153 yards. He led the Lions to a TD and a field goal. Was it important that he rebounded?

A. Absolutely it’s important, and not just for Orlovsky’s personal well being but for the offense. The Lions had a comfort zone the last four years with Shaun Hill as the backup to Matthew Stafford. They have to feel like they can win with their No. 2 if anything happens to the starter.

Orlovsky took a step toward giving them that feeling, but he has to continue it.

Q. Megatron: Johnson was held out for the second straight game. Is that something to worry about, and doesn’t he need game action to get ready for the season?

A. First things first. There is nothing to worry about. If there is a game and a stadium where a star player shouldn’t play in the preseason, it’s Game 2 at Oakland, where the stadium is shared by the baseball and football teams.

There’s no reason to take a chance on Johnson slipping on the dirt part of the infield that covers almost half the field between the 20-yard lines.

The target is the opener against the Giants on Monday Night TV. Everything the Lions do should be directed at that game, and keeping players as healthy as possible is a priority in achieving that.

Protecting the best non-quarterback in the league qualifies as a priority.

Q. Mosley in for Fairley a major move? C.J. Mosley took first-team reps in practice all week in place of Nick Fairley, and Mosley started the game at defensive tackle. Is that a demotion for Fairley?

Nick FairleyDT Nick Fairley (Photo: Gavin Smith)

A. It can’t be construed as anything but a demotion for Fairley, and the outward signs are that he hasn’t handled it well. He was subdued – sulking might be a better word – in practice, and it looks like he’s surrendered in the battle to keep his weight down.

However, defensive tackles don’t need to be svelte to be effective. They need bulk to handle guards and centers blocking them. Conditioning is a bigger issue than weight.

Fairley went in for Mosley on the seventh snap of the first possession and he was part of the rotation. It’s not like he’s been forgotten.

Q. D-line end game: Ziggy Ansah did not play. Is that a concern?

A. Ansah didn’t begin practice until this week because of his recovery from shoulder surgery. He hasn’t had enough practice time to play. There is no concern about him being ready for the season.

Devin Taylor started again in Ansah’s place, and George Johnson was part of the rotation. The Lions need to see how Johnson holds up.

Q. Challenge: Coach Jim Caldwell threw the red flag on a punt early in the second quarter and won the challenge. Officials gave Oakland the ball at the 47 after initially putting it on the 40. Caldwell was disputing the officials’ claim that the ball was first touched at the 47 by a player on the coverage team. Good challenge by Caldwell?

A. Yes. It was obvious that the ball had not been touched before it was downed at the 40.

He lost one later in the game, but if nothing else, it’s good to loosen up his arm for the regular season.