O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: Intriguing rookies to watch

Posted Aug 15, 2014

Mike O'Hara shares his final thoughts going into Friday's late night Lions-Raiders game.

OAKLAND– Final thoughts going into Friday’s late-night (10 p.m. kickoff Detroit time) Lions-Raiders game:  Reggie Bush’s views, including on rookie tight end Eric Ebron’s development, position battles and rookie reviews and a Raiders report:

There is an important balance point between getting starters and key rotation players ready for the regular season and using playing time to settle a few battles for starting jobs and many more for roster spots.

Nothing happened in last week’s preseason opener against Cleveland to draw firm conclusions about the state of the Lions’ offense at this point in the preseason. The No. 1 offense – without Calvin Johnson – was on the field for seven snaps in an opening possession that ended in a field goal.

Bush wasn’t looking for extended playing time for himself or the other starters against the Raiders, although it seemed likely that they’ll play more than seven snaps.

“Obviously, I’ve been in this league going on nine years now,” Bush said before the Lions left for Oakland. “In the first preseason game, you usually get a few touches, a few carries a few plays.

“We’ve got a lot of guys trying to make this team. It’s important for these guys to get their reps so the coaches, the GM (Martin Mayhew) and other guys can make their decisions.

Reggie BushRB Reggie Bush

“For me, I just try to make the most of the opportunities when I get them. Preseason is preseason. You’re just looking to improve from Week 1 to Week 2.”

Rookie matchups: Again, it’s only a preseason game, but there’s an intriguing matchup of high-profile rookies – Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack, drafted fifth overall, and Ebron, drafted 10th overall.

Mack started at strong-side linebacker last week and had one tackle for loss. He should be matched up on Ebron on some plays.

“Yeah, two rookies, two guys who are trying to make a name for themselves in this league,” Bush said. “It’ll be a good battle to see both of them get after it.”

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, drafted in the second round by the Lions, made a good play in coverage against the Browns. He stripped the ball to force an incomplete pass when the Browns had first and goal early in the second quarter. The defense kept the Browns out of the end zone, forcing a field goal.

Offensive linemen Travis Swanson and Cornelius Lucas had the most snaps in Week 1. On defense, three drafted rookies – cornerback Nevin Lawson and linemen Caraun Reid and Larry Webster – got substantial playing time and made their presence known.

One man’s opinion, based on one game: do not discount Lawson making a run at playing time.

Bush on Ebron: Ebron’s athletic ability is apparent, but so is his need to adjust from the college game to the NFL.

Ebron has dropped some balls in practice, but Bush says that is not an indication of bad hands, but rather part of getting familiar with the pro game, and the many ways the Lions expect to use him.

Ebron had one catch for two yards against the Browns.

“It’s concentration,” Bush said of catching the ball. “That’s all it is – concentration, and familiarizing yourself with different balls, different placements.

“They’re going to come at you a lot faster in this league, a lot quicker. You have to get used to Matt (Stafford). That’s what it comes down to, getting used to that rhythm with your quarterback.

“He’s coming along. As a rookie, it’s taking him a little time.  It’s understandable where he’s at right now. But he’s a great player, and there’s no denying that. Just seeing him run, he doesn’t run like a tight end. He runs like a wide receiver.

“He’s very shifty. He has great hands. He’s coming along. It’ll take him a little time, but he’ll get there.”

Raiders report: Coaches and management felt their offense and defense benefitted from practicing against the Cowboys on Tuesday and Wednesday to close out training camp.

According to reports by the Oakland media, the defense forced three incomplete passes and had an interception against Cowboys starter Tony Romo in one series of plays. Wide receiver Denarius Moore had two TD catches in one team period.

Coach Dennis Allen told reporters that he liked how the running game and pass rush have developed. The Raiders had six sacks in last week’s 10-6 loss at Minnesota.