The final preseason game is upon us as the Lions play host to the Indianapolis Colts tonight at Ford Field. This is an opportunity for young players to continue to develop and get ready for the regular season, and for players on the roster bubble to make one last good impression.
Here are five things to look out for tonight as the Lions wrap up the preseason:
1. FINAL TUNE-UP
The Lions have a number of rookies who are expected to play big roles as early as Week 1 vs. San Francisco, including right tackle Penei Sewell, defensive end Levi Onwuzurike, nose tackle Alim McNeill, wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, linebacker Derrick Barnes and possibly cornerback AJ Parker.
For a player like Sewell, who's played 43 snaps in the first two preseason games, a little bit more time tonight would amount to a full game's worth of snaps for the preseason, and that's pretty good work to get ready to anchor the right tackle spot when the reps count for real.
Can Barnes continue his playmaking? Same with Parker. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week he's not afraid to play young players and is expected to work some youngsters into the mix early on this year. Tonight is one more opportunity for them to get better and prepare for that.
2. WIDE RECEIVER ROOM
Head coach Dan Campbell said this week he has a pretty good idea what about 80 percent of the 53-man roster will look like, but there's still some battles coming down to the wire, and he mentioned receiver among them.
Tyrell Williams, St. Brown and Kalif Raymond are likely safe. If the Lions keep five receivers on the initial 53, it will be interesting to see who the odd man out would be between players like Breshad Perriman, Quintez Cephus and Tom Kennedy, who coaches and teammates have raved about in camp. Could someone like Javon McKinley or Sage Surratt make a final push?
Which pass catchers can come up with a big play or two tonight to make a final case for inclusion on what's likely to be only two open spots?
3. PRATER REPLACEMENT
Randy Bullock and Zane Gonzalez have competed for the opportunity to replace Matt Prater as Detroit's placekicker this season. Bullock has been the more consistent of the two throughout camp, but he's also struggled at times on distance kicks.
Prater went six seasons without ever missing more than five field goals until going 21-for-28 last season. He was mostly consistent, especially from 50-plus yards. It would be nice for Bullock and Gonzalez to get into some pressure situations with a couple long kicks tonight to see how they respond.
4. BACKUP QUARTERBACK JOB
Tim Boyle and David Blough have battled to be Jared Goff's backup all camp, and both have done some good things along the way.
Boyle has the size and arm strength that really jumps out in practice. He's 15-of-30 passing for 82 yards in the preseason with no touchdowns or interceptions playing against first and second-team units.
Blough has a little more experience and is quick to get the ball out of his hands. He's completed 17 of his 23 passes for 219 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions playing against second and third-team units on defense.
Maybe the coaches already have an idea of who the backup will be. Campbell said he's fine with keeping three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, and it wouldn't be surprising if that's the case, but credit Blough for making this a close competition through camp and the preseason. Tonight is one more opportunity for both players to make their case.
5. OTHER COMPETITIONS TO WATCH
It's not a matter of if injuries are going to happen, but when. The reason why the final preseason game is significant to pay attention to, even with most of the starters sitting out, is because there's going to be a week midseason when a couple players are banged up in a particular position group and a reserve player is going to have to step up. A backup cornerback could have to play a significant role. A third running back might be asked to carry the load. Maybe the backup quarterback is called upon to steal a game.
There are some terrific position battles to watch tonight at running back, quarterback, wide receiver, nickel cornerback, linebacker and safety.