O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: How Lions' preseason opener was Kids Night

Posted Aug 11, 2014

Further review of Saturday night's game pointed out how two rookie offensive lineman got extended playing time.

The Monday Countdown:How Game 1 of the Lions’ preseason opener was Kids Night; what Kellen Moore’s fine performance really means for a backup quarterback; why preseason games frustrate Golden Tate; what Corey Fuller was thinking as he lined up for what would be a game-winning TD catch; what to like and not like about Saturday night’s game; a clutch extra point; and a little more on Johnny Manziel.

We start with the kids – and not just the drafted rookies – who as a group held up well:

1. OT for OL: Further review Sunday pointed out how two rookie offensive linemen – one drafted, one signed as a free agent --- got extended playing time.

Travis SwansonTravis Swanson (Photo: Gavin Smith)

Center Travis Swanson, drafted in the third round out of Arkansas as the eventual replacement for Dominic Raiola, took over when the first unit departed after the seven-play first possession.

Once in the game, Swanson never left. He played the last 62 snaps, more than any player on either team.

Swanson’s only obvious mistake was a low snap from center late in the fourth quarter that Moore could not handle and was recovered by the Browns, killing the threat.

Cornelius Lucas, signed after going undrafted, played 54 snaps at tackle – the second most of any player on either team.

Obviously, the Lions didn’t draft Swanson and sign Lucas to stand on the sidelines holding their helmets by the chin strap. Both are getting a long look to show what they have. That doesn’t make either one an immediate starter or guarantee anything, but they must have something that makes the coaches want to see more.

2. More on Lucas: The Lions showed interest in Lucas before the draft, and when he wasn’t one of the 17 tackles taken in May, the Lions showed their interest again where it counted most – with a $20,000 signing bonus.

That’s big dough for a free-agent lineman. By comparison, it was twice as much as LaAdrian Waddle got in 2013, and he wound up starting eight games at right tackle.

Lucas started every game at left tackle the last two years for Kansas State. At 6-8 and 316 pounds, and with good athletic ability, he could be a free-agent find – like Waddle and Joseph Fauria were last year.

3. Preseason quarterback stats: Kellen Moore’s stats Saturday night were eye-popping: 11-of-13 passing for 121 yards, a 21-yard TD pass to Corey Fuller with 1:05 left and a passer rating for the game of 131.1.

There was nothing not to like about the way Moore played, and it’s possible that he might be a more serious contender for the backup position.

However, preseason games are set up for quarterbacks to do well  – especially ones who’ve been with a team for a year or two. Defenses don’t blitz or use exotic coverages as much as in the regular season.

So far in this year’s preseason, 31 quarterbacks have passer ratings of at least 100. That includes everyone from Scott Tolzien of the Packers (100.7) to Kellen Clemens of the Chargers (158.3) with the likes of Austin Davis, Tyler Bray, Matt Scott and Logan Thomas in between.

There is nothing bad about playing well, but take it for what it is.

4. Tate’s frustration: Golden Tate played the first series and had one catch for a 14-yard gain. But that’s not what made the most impact on him. It bothered him not being able to play longer.

Tate goes through the same routine for every game, whether it’s preseason or regular season. He gets to the stadium three hours before kickoff to get ready.

Playing one series and watching the rest of the game does not make for an enjoyable evening.

“I love to play,” Tate said. “When I walk into that stadium, I get chills.”

Even when he has to chill out.

5. Corey Fuller: Fuller and Moore both saw press coverage from the Browns when he lined up split left on the play that resulted in Moore hitting him with a 21-yard TD pass to win the game. Moore said Fuller was his first option.

“I’m glad he did that,” Fuller said. “I got press coverage the whole game. Just throw it.”

Fuller spent his rookie season on the practice squad after being drafted in the sixth round. He has been a different player than last year, when he didn’t show much in training camp or the preseason.

The Lions like size and speed, and Fuller has both at 6-2 and with a track background. He ran 4.32 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

6. Four things to like about the rookie class on defense:

-- Tackle Caraun Reid, a fifth-round pick, had two tackles for loss.

-- End Larry Webster, a fourth-round pick, had one tackle for loss and a hit on Johnny Manziel just as he released a pass that fell incomplete in the second half. After that possession ended, Manziel was talking to a Browns trainer on the sideline.

-- Linebacker Kyle Van Noy had a pass breakup in the second quarter. Van Noy might need time to develop in the Lions’ 4-3 scheme from playing in Brigham Young’s 3-4 alignment.

-- In the secondary, cornerback Nevin Lawson was aggressive on defense and special teams. Safety Jerome Couplin, an undrafted free agent, had a hit on a long incompletion on Cleveland’s last possession.

7. Three things not to like about the offense:

Three trips to the red zone failed to produce a touchdown. The Lions had two field goals and a lost fumble on possessions that reached the Browns’ 19, 14 and 8.

8. Honestly, a clutch extra point: There was nothing conclusive that gave an edge to Nate Freese or Giorgio Tavecchio in their battle for the job.

Freese made his two field-goal attempts, from 37 and 32 yards.

Technically, Tavecchio won the game with an extra point after Fuller’s TD catch.

And not technically, but actually, his extra point was longer and was under more pressure than Freese’s 32-yard field goal.

The line of scrimmage for extra point kicks has been moved from the two-yard line to the 15 for the first two full weeks of the preseason. That meant Tavecchio converted from 33 yards.

Making a 33-yard field goal would have seemed a lot more dramatic than an extra point from the same distance.

9. Manziel: I like what he brings to the game – the name Johnny Football, the confidence and the skill set that make him unpredictable. And I think he can win, if he’s surrounded by more talent than the Browns currently have on offense except from center to left tackle, where they’re good.

If it’s my call, Manziel starts the next game – at Washington on Monday Night TV.

Manziel vs. RGIII is ratings gold.

10. Next – Lions at Raiders: The Raiders had six sacks, eight tackles for loss and 13 penalties in Friday night’s 10-6 loss at Minnesota.

Get ready for mayhem.