5 things to watch: Lions at Texans

After completing two joint practices with the Houston Texans on Wednesday and Thursday, the Detroit Lions prepare for their second game of the preseason schedule tonight against the Texans at NRG Stadium.

Detroit will no-doubt be looking to have a better showing than they did in last week’s 31-3 preseason opening loss to the Patriots.

We’ll see how much – or if it all – some of the starters play tonight. Lions head coach Matt Patricia said play time for some of the starters would depend a little bit on the work they thought those players got in the joint practices. Patricia didn’t devalue the importance of tonight’s game, however.

“Games are always a big deal to me – we got to go compete,” he said after Thursday’s joint practice.

Here are five things to watch out for tonight in preseason game number two:

OFFENSIVE BOUNCE BACK

Whether it’s starters, backups or third stringers, the Lions will look to be much better on the offensive side of the ball tonight than they were in the preseason opener. Detroit managed just eight first downs, 93 total net yards in that contest. They also gave up nine sacks.

Their drive chart last week went punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, punt, punt, punt, field goal.

The Lions are installing a new offense under veteran coordinator Darrell Bevell, and last week wasn’t a great debut. Whoever the Lions play on offense, they’ll be looking for a much better performance vs. the Texans.

JOSH JOHNSON & QB COMPETITION

Veteran quarterback Josh Johnson, who was signed after Tom Savage suffered a concussion in the preseason opener, will get a chance at his first game action with Detroit. He’s looked good in practice over the last week, and will try and separate himself from David Fales in the quarterback competition.

Johnson played for current Lions quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan when he was in Houston, so there was some immediate familiarity there. If Johnson plays well tonight, he could potentially put himself into the conversation to compete with Savage to be Matthew Stafford’s backup.

“That’s a great example of a guy that’s – he’s a veteran player, but who’s been able to go into an organization, acclimate very quickly and get up to speed,” Patricia said this week.

“I think he’s done an unbelievable job at that for us. I think that’s been huge and now he can settle in and go out and show us the skill set part of it and the command that goes along with the quarterback, but his approach, his mentality, that’s been awesome. Just being able to come in and do it.”

DOES SOMEONE STEP UP AT WR?

Jermaine Kearse had the inside track on the No. 4 wide receiver job, but he was placed on IR last week after injuring his leg in the preseason opener.

That’s given players like Chris Lacy, Andy Jones, Brandon Powell, Travis Fulgham, Tommylee Lewis and others an opportunity to step up and earn the job.

I don’t expect to see Marvin Jones Jr. or Danny Amendola play tonight. Kenny Golladay won’t play much, if at all. That gives a lot of opportunities to the eight receivers currently on the roster vying for what may end up being just one or two spots after the top three of Golladay, Jones and Amendola.

ENCORE PERFORMANCES

There weren’t many good performances for the Lions in the preseason opener, but Patricia did single a few out after watching the tape. Patricia complimented the play of linebackers Miles Killebrew and Jalen Reeves-Maybin, as well as rookie running back Ty Johnson.

Johnson has been pretty good throughout training camp, and another strong preseason performance might really put him in the conversation to not only be a lock for the initial 53-man roster, but a player the Lions have to find a way to get some playing time. He might be the fastest player on the team (don’t tell Darius Slay), and that speed has jumped out in practice and in the first preseason game.

As for Killebrew and Reeves-Maybin, they are smaller and faster linebackers that have shown they can run and play in space. They provide the depth at the position, and are core special teamers. A couple more good performances from them, and Detroit’s depth at linebacker is looking pretty good.

LOOKING FOR MORE PASS RUSH

The Lions weren’t doing much in the way of scheming on defense vs. New England last week, but coaches probably would have liked to see more pressure generated from their front seven in that game.

Detroit had just one sack late in the fourth quarter (Fred Jones), and they hit Patriots quarterbacks just five times total. New England threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns in the game.

Defensive coaches would certainly like to see a few more pressures and impact plays from the defense.

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