MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara's Final Thoughts: Opening day lineup is one of the strongest for rookies in years

Posted Sep 8, 2013

GM Martin Mayhew proved to be prophetic in his statement before the draft in April that the Lions’ rookies would have to play this year

Notable quote – Lions DT and captain Ndamukong Suh on what feeling he has for the start of the season: "It feels good, but feelings are feelings. Feelings can be hurt at any point in time. We don’t want to live off feelings. We want to live off emotion. We want to live off our talent and our work ethic and the way we approach every single week."

Young guns: GM Martin Mayhew proved to be prophetic in his statement before the draft in April that the Lions’ rookies would have to play this year.

In numbers alone, the opening-day lineup is one of the deepest and strongest for rookies in several years.

Darius SlayCB Darius Slay (Photo: G.Smith/Detroit Lions)

Three draft picks are projected starters for the season – defensive end Ziggy Ansah, cornerback Darius Slay and right guard Larry Warford. Ansah did not get the start on sunday, fourth-year Willie Young started in his place at right end.

Sam Martin, a fifth-round pick, showed signs in the preseason that he has solidified and upgraded the punting position, turning what had been a weakness into a strength.

Theo Riddick, a sixth-round pick from Notre Dame, and tight end Joe Fauria, an undrafted rookie, also were active.

Offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle is another undrafted rookie who made the final roster, but it didn’t seem likely that he’d be active.

Another young player who can’t be ignored is wide receiver Patrick Edwards. He also was not drafted last year but spent the season on the practice squad.

Coach Jim Schwartz stressed that the rookies earned their spots. They weren’t just awarded to them.

However, he did not want to evaluate their value.

"It’s too soon to make that assessment," Schwartz said. "Guys that have earned playing time or spots, that has been based on what they did in training camp and what they’ve done in the preseason. The tale of the tape is the regular season, real games.

"Those guys are going to have to prove themselves.

"They’re no different than a lot of vets in the locker room, but they just don’t have a track record. We’re confident in those guys. We have a good rookie class, a good group of young players. We’ll get key contributions out of all of them."

Change in depth chart: Running back Joique Bell has moved up on the depth chart at running back to take over as the backup to Reggie Bush. Mikel Leshoure, a second-round draft pick in 2011, was on the inactive list.

At least for this week, that makes Leshoure the No. 4 back behind Bush, Bell and Riddick. And when Montell Owens comes back from a knee injury sometime after the sixth game, Leshoure could slide further – unless he is traded.

Kevin Williams: The five-time All Pro defensive tackle won’t play because of a knee injury sustained in the preseason, and that should be a relief for the Lions. Since 2009, Williams had three sacks and three pass breakups in eight games against the Lions.

When he teamed with Pat Williams, now retired, they had one of the league’s strongest tackle tandems of the last decade.

Bush-meter: Reggie Bush is facing high expectations, and that could set him up to be considered a disappointment.

Bush’s best season for yards from scrimmage was 2011 with Miami, with 1,382 – 1,086 rushing and 296 passing.

Bush’s best season as a receiver was 2006, his rookie year with the Saints -- 88 catches for 742 yards, both career highs. The 1,086 yards rushing with Miami in 2011 are his most in season.

Based on his career record, anything that adds up to 100 yards from scrimmage should be considered a good game for Bush.

First look: Walking into Ford Field at 9:40 a.m., the first two jerseys spotted were worn by two men walking side by side – 90 (Ndamukong Suh) and  20 (Barry Sanders).

Sanders’ legend lives on. Suh’s is growing.