O'HARA's FINAL THOUGHTS: With Johnson and Bush out, what areas need to be scrutinized?

Posted Aug 29, 2013

Mike O'Hara takes a look at key areas to be evaluated during Thursday night's preseason finale at Buffalo

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson went through a workout prior to Thursday night's preseason finale. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Final thoughts as Lions and Bills end the preseason in Game 4 at Ralph Wilson Stadium Thursday night:

Job market: The old line that preseason games don’t count but they matter is in full effect for many players.

What counts and matters most for the Lions is being in the best shape possible for the regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. To help ensure that, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush were listed as out Thursday night.

Johnson has not played since the first preseason game. Bush obviously has shown enough in practice and the three games to show where he fits.

With those two out -- and the likelihood of Matthew Stafford will play briefly -- here are some areas that needed to be scrutinized:

Running back: Joique Bell was listed as the starter. His stock has risen with a strong preseason. Going into Game 4, he led the Lions in rushing with 11 carries for 75 yards and a 6.8-yard average per carry. He also was third in receptions with seven for 91 yards and a 13-yard average per catch.

Mikel Leshoure, the starting tailback last year, is more of a one-dimensional run specialist. He’s second in rushing with 59 carries for 13 yards but has not caught a pass.

Offensive line: Right guard and right tackle still have to be decided. Based on being named the starter for Thursday night’s game, rookie Larry Warford appeared to have an edge there but had to hold it. Dylan Gandy and Jake Scott both competed at right guard.

Jason Fox was listed as the starter at right tackle, but undrafted rookie LaAdrian Waddle has made a strong push. If Waddle gets extended playing time and performs well, the Lions could be looking at a rookie tandem on the right side against Minnesota. Corey Hilliard was still in the mix at right tackle.

Wide receiver: With Johnson out, Patrick Edwards and Nate Burleson were the starters. With reports circulating that the Lions are trolling the shallows for a receiver with the ability to fit in as one of their top three, it was time for both to step it up.

Burleson had one catch in the first three games. Edwards had four for 16 yards. It would not be surprising if Burleson got more playing time than normal for a veteran starter.

Secondary: What you saw at safety Thursday night definitely is not what you’ll see against the Vikings. Tyrell Johnson and Don Carey were the starters while Louis Delmas and Glover Quin sat out to save it for the opener.

Defensive line: Tackle Ndamukong Suh and right end Ziggy Ansah both were out. C.J. Mosley took Suh’s spot with Willie Young at right end for Ansah.

Young was flagged three times for personal fouls in the last two games. He has made an impact at times but can’t have another spate of penalties.

Return specialist: It’s still open, and no one should feel secure. GM Martin Mayhew is quick to bring in replacements.

In 2010, the Lions landed Stefan Logan after the final cuts, and he was one of the top return men in the league that season on both punts and kickoffs. Logan also was a strong presence on the cover units.