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5 things to watch: Lions at Ravens

The midway point of the preseason is here, and the all-important Week 3 regular-season tune-up game is up next. The Lions' starters are expected to get their most extensive work of the preseason tonight in Baltimore and could even play into the second half.

Here are five things to watch for:

**1. Can the first-team offense finish off a drive with a touchdown?


Matthew Stafford and Co. have moved the ball pretty consistently through the first two preseason games, but they have yet to get the ball into the end zone. They're 0-2 punching it in for six points from the red zone.

"At the end of the day they don't give you any medals for having more yards or whatever than the other team," offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter said this week. "We've got to score points."

In the past, it was easy to line Calvin Johnson out wide in the red zone. And when only one defender went out with him, that's where the ball would go. Cooter is still trying to find his go-to plays and go-to guys in the red zone.

2. Do DeAndre Levy or Ameer Abdullah play?

Both have lobbied for reps in the preseason as a chance to get themselves ready for the season opener Sept. 11 in Indianapolis.

Levy is a seven-year veteran, and despite the fact he only played 17 snaps all of last season due to injury, he probably doesn't need the reps.

Abdullah didn't take part in the offseason training program and began training camp in a red "no contact" jersey that just recently came off. He's in just his second season, and running backs usually benefit in the preseason from being banged around a little bit -- Even if it's just a few reps.

"You look at a guy who's been in the league eight, nine years, those reps aren't as valuable because they've been through it all," head coach Jim Caldwell said this week.

"You look at a guy who's only been in it one or two, they are valuable because you're constantly learning and you don't perfect your craft for awhile in this business and so it takes you a little bit."

We'll see if either player straps it up tonight.

3. Does the run game get going?

This was obviously an area of concern coming into this season after the team finished last running the football in 2015 at just 83.4 yards per game.

The fact that the team has come out and averaged 3.1 yards per rush through their first two games doesn't exactly give fans a lot of hope. It should be noted that those totals don't include any rushes by Abdullah, the team's top running back.

Still, if the Lions are going to be a more balanced football team offensively, they'll have to establish more consistency running the football.

4. Do some looming tough roster decisions get a little easier?

This game is a good opportunity for players fighting for starting jobs all the way down to the last couple roster spots to separate themselves from the pack.

Which receivers emerge for those last couple roster spots? TJ Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Andre Roberts, Jace Billingsley, Quinshad Davis and Jay Lee are all in the mix right now.

Can Rafael Bush fend off Tavon Wilson, Miles Killebrew and Isaiah Johnson for the starting strong safety spot?

Who emerges from the group of defensive tackles looking to fill a rotation behind starters Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker? A'Shawn Robinson, Stefan Charles, Khyri Thornton, Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright are all jockeying for position.

"I think these next couple of games in terms of evaluation are going to be very important for those gentlemen," defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said of the DT competition.

Who can impress on special teams? That just might be the way onto the roster for players 51, 52 and 53.

All things to keep an eye on tonight in Baltimore.

5. Can rookie running back Dwayne Washington keep it going?

Washington (6-2, 226) has been a pleasant surprise so far for the Lions. The seventh-round pick out of the University of Washington has shown off his speed, power and elusiveness in back-to-back games via a 96-yard kickoff return touchdown, a 5-yard touchdown run late vs. Cincinnati and a two-point conversion run where he made a defender miss in the hole. The one pass thrown his way in two games went for 15 yards.

The Lions released Stevan Ridley Thursday morning, which gives Washington a terrific opportunity to step up and claim one of the final roster spots at the position behind Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.

"I've been impressed with some of the things he's done," Cooter said of Washington. "You know, when the guy gets the ball he does impressive things. That's a good trait to have."

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