MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara's Final Thoughts: Lions' defensive line should be challenged vs. Richardson

Posted Aug 15, 2013

After a successful preseason performance vs. the Jets, the Lions' defensive line will meet a bigger challenge with Browns RB Trent Richardson playing

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Browns' decision to play Trent Richardson for the first time in the preseason should make things tough on the Lions' defensive line.

And that should be good thing for the Lions.

The front four is the strength of the defense, and it starts inside with tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. The Jets were held to 37 yards on 16 carries in the opening preseason game.

Sun and Fairley got limited playing time against the Jets -- 19 snaps for Suh, 13 for Fairley -- but they shut down the running game. They gave a sign of what was to come early. The Jets' first running play gained two yards. The second one lost two yards. The Jets broke an 11-yard gain later.

The Browns held Richardson out of their first preseason game, but not because of any injury. They are saving him for the regular season. He's worth saving.

The Browns drafted him third overall out of Alabama last season, and he showed promise of being a power runner with speed. He rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns and had 51 receptions.

A good night's work early is a good test for any defense.

On the clock: The Lions' offense should try to do what the defense did against the Jets -- score early. Rookie Ziggy Ansah returned an interception for a TD on the Jets' first possession.

Slow starts plagued the offense all last season. The Lions scored 20 points -- two field goals, two TDs, two extra points -- in the first quarter.

Tackling: Coach Jim Schwartz is looking for it to improve over last week. Schwartz made a point of expressing his unhappiness over how the team tackled, saying Lions defenders failed to get proper leverage in many situations.

That meant they didn't have the right position, which allowed the Jets to gain extra yards.

Joseph FauriaTE Joseph Fauria prior to the Lions' second preseason game. (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

Numbers game: It's too soon to start predicting who'll make the final 53-player roster for the regular season, but the number of players kept at some positions will be determined by overall strength or weakness at the position.

Wide receiver and tight end could be impacted. Typically, the Lions keep five receivers and three tight ends.

Call this pure speculation, but if eight players make the roster at tight end and receiver combined, why isn't a 4-4 split at the positions possible instead of the usual 5-3?

Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are the top two tight ends. Mike Williams, a seventh-round draft pick from Alabama, is developing as a blocker, who could fill the role held in recent seasons by Will Heller.

And Joseph Fauria, an undrafted rookie, is a 6-foot-7 target with hands as sticky as a Venus fly trap coated with pine tar.

Scheffler has the speed to run routes as a receiver. He has played the position in the past when the Lions are short-handed at receiver.
Imagine a receiver set with Calvin Johnson, Scheffler and Pettigrew at 6-5 and Fauria at 6-7.