The Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts square off Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium for the second preseason game for both clubs. Lions head coach Dan Campbell and Colts head coach Frank Reich told the media this week they agreed weeks ago that after two days of joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday, many of the starters for both teams would sit out Saturday.
It will be a great opportunity for some backups to get quality reps and for those fighting for roster spots to make a good impression with only one more preseason game after Saturday and one more week of training camp left to make their mark.
Here are five things I'll be watching out for in Saturday's Week 2 preseason matchup with the Colts:
View photos from Day 2 of Lions-Colts joint practice on Thursday August 18, 2022.
1. BACKUP QB CONTEST
David Blough has emerged as the leader in the competition with Tim Boyle for the backup quarterback job through the first few weeks of camp and Preseason Week 1.
Both players moved the ball and led multiple scoring drives in the loss to Atlanta in the preseason opener last Friday, but both also had a critical turnover. Boyle had an interception deep in Lions territory in the third quarter that led to a field goal. Blough had a costly fumble late in the fourth quarter with the Lions trying to wind down the clock with the lead.
"They did some really good things and then they had a couple of – each of them really had one costly play which I mean at that position unfortunately, those are the ones that will kill you," Lions head coach Dan Campbell said this week.
"But we see them progressing, they're going to get better, let's see if they learn from it which I think they will. Blough will take the twos for now. And then we let them just keep competing."
It really seems like it's Blough's job to lose at this point. What will we see from each guy on Saturday?
2. RESERVE PASS RUSH
Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris are pretty well cemented as the starters on the edge for the Lions, Hutchinson from the rush end spot and Harris as the SAM linebacker. But who else can emerge to provide depth there?
The Lions like what Julian Okwara was showing before an injury has kept him out of practice for nearly two weeks now. Availability is sometimes the best ability in these camp competitions. Romeo Okwara still looks to be a way off from returning from the Achilles injury he suffered last year. That's given a player like veteran Austin Bryant some opportunities, and Bryant's made the most of them. He's had a great camp.
Players like James Houston, John Cominsky, Eric Banks, Bruce Hector, Jashon Cornell and Isaiah Buggs get a chance Saturday to show that they can be depth players along this defensive line. Who takes advantage of the opportunity?
3. PECKING ORDER AT LINEBACKER
Rookie sixth-round pick Malcolm Rodriguez has been the big story at training camp. He's worked his way into a starting role, which he's earned by being a playmaker every day.
It will be interesting to see what Campbell decides to do in terms of play time for his linebackers Saturday. I'd expect Alex Anzalone to sit out, but he could be the only. Rodriguez is trending toward a starting role, but he's still a rookie and could use the reps. So could second-year linebacker Derrick Barnes.
There's a lot of good competition in that room for roles on defense and roster spots between guys like Jarrad Davis, Chris Board, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Josh Woods and Anthony Pittman. I'd expect most if not all of those guys to play as Campbell and the Lions still try to figure out the pecking order in that group.
4. WIDE RECEIVER DEPTH
Veteran wide receiver Tom Kennedy led all receivers in receiving yards Week 1 of the preseason after an eight-catch, 104-yard performance against the Falcons last week. Kennedy is fighting for one of the last receiver spots, and quite frankly, if training camp were to end today, it would be hard to keep him off the roster with the way he's performed all camp, not just in last week's preseason opener.
Can Trinity Benson make a run at a roster spot? We'll see if Quintez Cephus plays after returning to practice earlier this week, though he was held out of joint practices with the Colts on Wednesday and Thursday as he returns from a left leg injury suffered the second week of camp. Can Kalil Pimpleton or Maurice Alexander toss their hat into the final conversation for a roster spot, or are they more likely practice squad considerations?
5. STARTING CORNERBACKS
I'd expect Amani Oruwariye to get the night off. He's been the most consistent cornerback in camp, and based off last year, he's trending toward being cornerback No. 1 heading into the regular season.
But Jeff Okudah and Will Harris are still competing for the starting job opposite Oruwariye, though I thought Okudah did some nice things this week against the Colts to maybe give himself the edge going into the home stretch. I'd like to see both players start Saturday and see how they perform.
Veteran Mike Hughes worked both inside and outside against the Colts this week. Could he push AJ Parker for the starting nickel spot? If Parker sits Saturday, we probably know the answer to that question. Where do rookies Chase Lucas and safety Kerby Joseph fit into the mix at their respective positions? It's a big week for both those players as they're expected to get quality playing time. Can Lucas make up for the dropped interception that would have sealed the game for the Lions last week?