The Detroit Lions dropped their preseason opener to the Atlanta Falcons Friday Night at Ford Field, 27-23, but there were still some positives that came out of the contest.
"Well we got a lot of good looks at our guys," head coach Dan Campbell said after the game. "We got a lot of situational football in there which was good – you know. I certainly wish we would have finished that out the right way, but we didn't do that. But it was good to get a good look at our guys."
There were a number of players who stood Friday night, so let's take a look at five who had really nice preseason debuts:
1. Quarterback Jared Goff
Goff wasn't supposed to play vs. Atlanta, but once he found out the starting offensive line was going in, he went to Campbell and insisted he play with them. Campbell allowed it.
Goff led a 10-play, 79-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a D’Andre Swift 9-yard touchdown run. Goff was 3-for-4 passing on the drive, hitting tight end Brock Wright for 18 yards, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown for nine yards and Brown again for 20 yards down to the 9-yard line to set up Swift's touchdown. Goff's only incompletion was a drop by running back Jamaal Williams.
Goff was efficient and accurate, and that is in line with everything we've seen from him in practice to start training camp.
2. Wide receiver Tom Kennedy
Kennedy had a game-high eight catches on 12 targets for 104 yards.
"Yeah, I would just say I'm not surprised," Campbell said of Kennedy's performance after the game. "That's Tom Kennedy. He's just dependable, that's all he is just dependable."
Kennedy played 43 snaps, which tied for the team lead. Seven of Kennedy's eight catches were for first downs with three of those coming on third-down plays and a 23-yarder on a late second-and-17. He just has a knack for getting open.
There's a few guys vying for the last couple spots at wide receiver with Jameson Williams potentially starting the season on NFI. Kennedy is a Campbell kind of player, and he certainly helped his cause Friday night.
3. Starting offensive line
It's hard to single out just one player from a starting unit that marched down the field and scored on their one possession of the game. It was certainly good to see all of those guys on the field together.
"They're gelling, I think I said this last week but it's coming together for them for sure," Goff said of the starters upfront. "As you expect it to at this point in camp and where they're at. But yeah it's been fun to watch and obviously fun for me to be behind them and see them come together."
Center Frank Ragnow had a couple crucial blocks to spring some good runs. Right tackle Penei Sewell had a nice pancake. Detroit ran the ball effectively and protected Goff on the first drive and really made it look easy marching the field and scoring against the Falcons' first-team defense. It's going to be fun to watch those guys upfront play together all year. They have a chance to be really special.
4. Tight end Devin Funchess
Funchess is looking to catch on in Detroit as a tight end after not playing in a regular-season game since 2019. He was drafted out of Michigan as a receiver in 2015, but is trying to make the transition to a pass-catching tight end in Lions camp.
He's off to a great start after one preseason game. Funchess caught all four targets for 19 yards, including a 1-yard fade in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown. He also flashed some athleticism, hurdling a defender in the open field while fighting for extra yardage. T.J. Hockenson and rookie James Mitchell didn't play Friday, so it's always good to see a player take advantage of an opportunity.
5. Defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson
The No. 2 overall pick only played 11 snaps, but he showed why the Lions are so high on him early on.
He made a hustle play seven yards downfield on the opening play of the defensive series to knock Falcons quarterback Marcus Mariota out of bounds. On the very next play, Hutchinson got in the backfield and took down running back Qadree Ollison for a two-yard loss.
Hutchinson has a motor that never quits and can make plays in the backfield.
He and the rest of the defense need to clean up some things in the run game, particularly setting the edge, but it was a good debut for Hutchinson with a lot more to come.