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5 things to watch: Lions at Raiders

The Detroit Lions kick off the preseason portion of their schedule tonight in Oakland against the Raiders. It’s an opportunity for fans to see head coach Matt Patricia’s Lions team in game action for the first time.

It’s unlikely we see the starters very long, if at all, which means there will be plenty of playing time available for the youngsters and those players fighting for roster spots.

“That’s obviously a great opportunity for us to just get into that mode where we have to get to the stadium, we have to get into our routine of getting yourself ready to go,” Patricia said.

“Warmups are obviously a little bit different from the pregame part of it, the pregame stretch, kind of mentally and emotionally getting yourself ready to go.

“And then obviously handling the situations. We try to replicate as much as we can with the changing of periods from offense to defense to special teams, just like it is in the game, but you really can’t get that until you get to the actual game experience.”

There will be adjustments that will come up in-game, and the sideline procedures will be on display with this new coaching staff for the first time.

Here are five things to look out for in tonight’s preseason opener:

RUN GAME IMPROVEMENTS

This obviously was a big focus for GM Bob Quinn and his staff to improve this offseason. The Lions were last in the NFL in yards per game and average yards per rush last season.

We’ll get our first look at some of the new blocking schemes, and the expectation is for Lions fans to get their first glimpse at rookie running back Kerryon Johnson, who has looked good throughout the course of training camp so far.

What will the running back rotation look like? Ameer Abdullah has also looked good in camp. How will he perform in his first game action of the preseason?

BACKUP QB JOB

Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel are likely to see a lot of playing time tonight. The Lions have given each quarterback pretty equal reps with the second team in training camp, and appear to be making this a fair competition with the opportunity for someone to rise to the top.

Rudock has more experience in Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. Cassel has 81 NFL starts under his belt. Who will make the best first impression to be Matthew Stafford’s backup?

DEFENSIVE LOOKS

Some of the biggest changes this offseason have come to the defensive side of the ball. Patricia and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni plan to run a multiple scheme on defense in 2018, and we’ll get our first look at some of those concepts tonight.

“We’ll see what that looks like,” Patricia said of his defense. “I think you guys will have a full understanding of everything we’re going to do for the entire season when we get done with that game on Friday. I think that’s pretty much what my plan is, to just give you guys everything. We’ll go from there, OK?”

Patricia was obviously having a little fun with the media there after Wednesday’s practice, but it will be interesting to see the first glimpse of this defense and how they perform against a good Raiders offense. Fans should notice some of the differences on defense right away.

SURPRISE PERFORMERS

There always seems to be at least one player who catches the eye of coaches, media members and fans during the early stages of training camp and the preseason.

Rookie wide receiver Teo Redding has been that player for the Lions early in training camp. Will he continue to be a playmaker for this team in the preseason, or will someone else catch our eye tonight?

Last year in the first preseason game in Indianapolis, undrafted rookie defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga made a nice first impression with six tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss and a deflected pass. He ended up making the Lions' 53-man roster out of camp, and played in nine games as a rookie.

SECONDARY DEPTH

The secondary and receiving corps are arguably the deepest and most talented position groups on the Lions roster at the moment. We know Darius Slay is one starter at cornerback. We also know Glover Quin is starting at one of the safety spots. All the other spots seem pretty open for competition.

At cornerback, Nevin Lawson, DeShawn Shead and Teez Tabor have been battling it out for that starting outside spot opposite Slay.

Tavon Wilson and Quandre Diggs have spent a majority of the time at safety next to Quin, with Diggs also getting a lot of run at nickel cornerback as well.

What will things look like in the backend of the defense to start? Can those players continue to be the playmaking bunch we watched last year, and have observed so far in training camp?

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