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5 things to watch: Lions vs. Browns

The preseason finale is upon us, and that means there's one last chance for roster spots and jobs to be won.

The fourth preseason game is all about the young players and backups getting an opportunity to make a good impression with extended playing time.

The players on the field tonight will provide the depth for this football team, so there's plenty to watch for this evening as the Cleveland Browns visit Ford Field.


Jake Rudock has played pretty well for the Lions in the last couple games, and continues to make this a close quarterback battle for the backup job between himself and veteran Matt Cassel.

Each player has received equal opportunity to win the job.

Rudock has completed 72 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 94.5.

Cassel is completing 61 percent of his passes this preseason with a touchdown and an interception for a rating of 70.4.

Both are expected to get extensive work tonight.


Tyrod Taylor has been named Cleveland's starting quarterback for the regular season, and isn't expected to play for the Browns tonight, along with a lot of their other starters.

That means Mayfield, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick, should get the start and play a lot in tonight's contest.

Mayfield has impressed so far this preseason. He's completed 26-of-45 passes (57.8 percent) with two touchdowns, one interception and a passer rating of 89.4. He's also added 32 yards rushing. He's looked poised in the pocket well beyond his years, and he should provide a good challenge for the Lions' defense tonight.


We've seen it in each of the last two preseasons. A fringe roster player has a monster final preseason game and earns himself a spot on the initial 53-man roster. Two years ago it was Kerry Hyder Jr. with his three sacks vs. Buffalo. Last year it was Tion Green's 152 combined rushing and receiving yards with a touchdown also against the Bills.

There are a number of players who have impressed so far this preseason. One last good performance during the extended playing time many will see tonight could propel them onto the roster like it did for Hyder and Green.

"I think it's a great opportunity for these guys to go compete," Patricia said earlier this week.

Tight end Hakeem Valles and wide receiver Brandon Powell are a couple players who have impressed so far. They could really make a case for themselves with another good performance tonight.


The players taking the field this evening provide depth, and most of them will be called upon at some point in the season to step in because of injuries ahead of them.

How does rookie Tyrell Crosby play with an extended look? Can he win the swing tackle role over veteran Corey Robinson?

Things still need to shake themselves out at cornerback opposite Darius Slay. Can someone step forward and take that spot? Nevin Lawson struggled last week. If he plays tonight, can he have a bounce-back performance and win the job? Could someone else emerge?

We'll likely get an extended look at rookie third-round safety Tracy Walker. He recorded an interception last week. We've seen him in some sub packages with the first team throughout camp, but this should give us our first long look at his skillset.

Some of the individual performances tonight are more important than a team win or loss.


Quarterback Matthew Stafford and a lot of the starters on both offense and defense aren't likely to play tonight. The next time we see them should be on Monday Night Football vs. the Jets.

The Lions have avoided any real significant injuries to their major contributors so far this preseason, and they'd like to keep it that way with some of their reserves tonight.

There's nothing worse than seeing players go down in the fourth preseason game, but 60 minutes still have to go into the books before these games start counting for real.

Let's just hope all involved get out tonight healthy and ready to switch to regular-season mode.

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