O'HARA'S FINAL THOUGHTS: More time for Moore

Posted Sep 3, 2015

Mike O'Hara shares his final thoughts heading into the Lions-Bills preseason matchup including Kellen Moore's playing time, roster battles to watch and more.

Final thoughts as the Lions and Bills close out the preseason at Ford Field: Kellen Moore Time in the Lions’ offense; tight races for roster spots; offensive line tuning up; defense tightening up; last word from Glover Quin on what’s most important in Game 4.

More time for Moore: Closing day in the preseason is an opportunity for playing time for backup quarterback Kellen Moore.

Kellen MooreQB Kellen Moore (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

Moore made the most of his limited playing time the last three years to keep a roster spot as the No. 3 quarterback, and he can expect extended playing time against the Bills.

Bills head coach Rex Ryan already has said that he won’t play his starters. Fourth-string quarterback Matt Simms will start for Buffalo.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell has not announced his plans, but he did not play starter Matthew Stafford in Game 4 last year.

Moore began training camp in a battle with Dan Orlovsky for the No. 2 job. Orlovsky likely has retained the job with a solid preseason, but Moore still has incentive to make the most of his playing time.

“It’s nice to get out there and play, get into a rhythm, and play possibly for a decent little chunk,” Moore said. “It’s a chance to play multiple series – series after series, build on some drives and all that good stuff.

“Each preseason is different. When you get out there, you hope to take advantage of it. I’ve been fortunate when I’ve been here to play a lot in the fourth game. This one is big as far as getting a lot of playing time, and hopefully, getting a lot of plays.”

Game 4 of last preseason – also against Buffalo -- was typical for Moore. He took over early in the second quarter and played the rest of the way. Moore completed 17 of 28 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His passer rating for the game was 102.1.

Last week at Jacksonville, Moore led the game-winning drive. The Lions got the ball at Jacksonville’s 18-yard line on a fumble recovery and scored on the fifth play -- rookie Zach Zenner’s three-yard run.

Moore’s only pass in the drive was a six-yard completion to Jeremy Ross on third and four for a first down. Zenner scored on the next play.

Roster battles: Jobs are on the line with the final mandatory cut to the regular-season limit of 53 coming by 4 p.m. Saturday. The roster is at 75 players.

Caldwell has stressed that the entire body of work determines who makes the roster, but some races are so tight that performance in Game 4 will be the deciding factor.

“This game is really important because we have a number of guys, because of the competition, that are just kind of right there, packed in there together,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell has singled out wide receiver and running back as positions where the competition is tight, but they aren’t the only ones.

Based on last year’s roster breakdown, here are some positions and numbers to consider:

Running back: Seven on the roster – five tailbacks, two fullbacks – with five spots open.  There could be a sixth, depending on the number kept at other positions.

Receivers: Eight on the roster, six spots open.

Watch list: It’s not foolproof, but players who get the least playing time could be the most secure. Why risk injury to a player who has a roster spot? Zenner, for example, already has 25 carries, six receptions, and he’s played with the No. 1 unit and the reserves. One more carry won’t reveal what the coaches already know about him.

Also, the return job has to be decided. Jeremy Ross and Ameer Abdullah are the top candidates. The job might not be revealed publicly until the regular-season opener at San Diego.

Defensive line: 14 players competing for what were 10 spots last year – six ends, four tackles.

Tight ends: Three spots open, with newcomer Tim Wright suddenly in the mix. It’s hard to imagine that he was acquired in a trade with the Bucs with the intention of cutting him, even though he arrived too late to be a real factor against Buffalo.

Offensive line: Whatever battles remain for the traditional eight roster spots, going against Ryan’s scheme – even if it’s manned by reserves – is a challenging test.

What may look like chaos is really a scheme that is well coached by Ryan and his staff that puts pressure on the offensive line.

“It’s a little bit different of a defense,” said center Travis Swanson. “They’ve got a lot of multiple fronts. They do things differently from what you’re used to on a week-to-week basis. Anytime you face a Rex Ryan defense, it’s going to be a little different.

“But it’s the same thing we do every other game – run the ball well, set the pocket and give the quarterback time.”

Defense: It’s been generally solid, except for the first five possessions of last week’s game at Jacksonville. The Jaguars ran 52 plays and converted 10 of 11 third downs against the starting defense.

“We were fortunate to get that win, only because we had some turnovers,” said safety Glover Quin. “They were down there a lot, but we got some stops in the red zone. Normally, when you go 13 for 17 on third down (for the game), you’re not going to win.

“We definitely can’t have that. It’s definitely something we have to work on.”

Last Word: From Quin, on what’s important in Game 4: “Just execution and health. That’s about it. We want to execute, however long you’re in there, and come out healthy.”