O’HARA’S BURNING QUESTIONS: Where was the offense until the game-winning drive?

Posted Aug 9, 2014

Mike O’Hara on the Lions’ seemingly sluggish offense, Johnny Manziel’s NFL debut and more.

Burning questions – on the Lions’ sluggish offense, the defense that kept the Browns out of the end zone without a sustained pass rush, Johnny Manziel’s NFL debut and other issues, players and the rookie class in Saturday night’s 13-12 victory over the Browns in the opening preseason game at Ford Field.

Q. The offense: where was it until the game-winning drive?

A. A big part of it was sitting on the bench all night. Calvin Johnson didn’t play, and it was apparent last year what his absence means to the offense. But not having him active doesn’t explain why the offense couldn’t sustain drives.

The No. 1 unit played only the first possession and did reasonably well – a mini-drive of 32 yards on 8 plays to a field goal and a 3-0 lead. After that, the reserves took over on offense.

Q. How did Matthew Stafford play, and was he in long enough to make any judgment?

A. I wouldn’t draw any conclusions from one possession. Stafford threw four passes, completed two for 18 yards and had one drop on a short throw to Reggie Bush.

Q. What do the Lions have to do better immediately in the next game at Oakland?

A. Simple answers: score on offense, get turnovers on defense, don’t allow any big returns on special teams. The offense in particular was a concern after Stafford went out. Dan Orlovsky didn’t generate much.

Kellen Moore finally got it going in the fourth quarter with two good drives. The first ended on a fumble, but the second won the game when Moore hit Corey Fuller with a 21-yard TD pass with a little over a minute to go.

Q. What did that play do for the status of Moore and Fuller? They’re fighting for roster spots.

A. It didn’t hurt. Moore was the No. 3 quarterback last year, and he did some good things Saturday night. Fuller was on the practice squad all last year, but he’s shown a spark this year in camp. Catching a TD pass helps his cause, too.

Q. There’s been a lot of talk about the offense having a new look, and the addition of Golden Tate and Eric Ebron to the offense. Did anything stand out in that first possession?

A. A few things, considering it was only eight plays. On one play, tight end Joseph Fauria was split wide left. On another, Stafford was in the shotgun flanked by a running back and tight end. It almost looked like the old T-Formation. Also on that possession, Stafford hit Tate up the right seam for a 15-yard gain. Later, Joique Bell found room in some small creases to gain 11 yards on a run.

Q. How would you rate Ebron’s play overall?

A. The interesting part was how he was used in so many different ways. On offense, he lined up in the slot and split wide and as a blocking tight end. On special teams, he was on the protection teams for punts and field goals.

Q. Ryan Broyles had three catches in the second half. What does that mean for him?

A. There’s a battle for jobs at receiver behind Johnson, and production means something. Broyles caught the ball well – 3 catches for 27 yards – but he hasn’t shown a lot of speed. This is the third straight year that he’s coming back from a season-ending injury. It was a good start for him.

Q. What about defense? Where was the pass rush?

A. The No. 1 defense played two of the first three possessions and never got to Brian Hoyer, the Browns’ starter. Hoyer had a 28-yard completion on the second play, but the defense held after that, forcing a punt. He had a 15-yard completion on the second possession to set up a field goal.

The Lions played pretty basic on defense. I think next week’s game at Oakland will be a better test to see if they’ll have a more attacking defense, which is the expectation.

Q. How did this year’s draft picks perform?

A. Ebron had one catch for two yards. He had a chance to make another catch, but it looked like the ball got stripped away on a short crossing pattern. Regardless, he didn’t come up with the ball.

Kyle Van NoyLB Kyle Van Noy (Photo: Detroit Lions)

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy knocked the ball loose on a pass play when the Browns were driving in the first half with first and goal at the 9. It looked like it might have been a forced fumble, but the officials ruled it an incomplete pass. Cleveland had to settle for a field goal.

Swanson, the third-round pick, got a lot of work at center after the No. 1 offense went out. It’s hard to rate offensive linemen, but he held up well enough until the fumble on the fourth-quarter snap.

Two rookies in the secondary who flashed in spots were cornerback Nevin Lawson, a fourth-round pick, and safety Jerome Couplin, an undrafted free agent.

Q. What about Johnny Manziel. He took over for Hoyer in the second quarter and played into the third. What did he show?

A. Johnny Football generated excitement. That doesn’t win games on its own, but he has a real presence. On his first run, he got drilled by two players and didn’t gain the first down on a third-down play, forcing a punt. Later, he had a 16-yard run and managed to get down before he got hit.

His stats weren’t great: 7-11 passing for 63 yards, 6 runs for 27 yards, but he was playing mostly with second- and third-stringers. I’d be more surprised if he isn’t Cleveland’s opening-day starter than I would be if he is.