The Detroit Lions will host the Jacksonville Jaguars for the second preseason contest for both teams Saturday at Ford Field following a week of joint practices between the two clubs in Allen Park this week.
It's another opportunity for young players to get game experience and for coaches to try and get a clearer picture about some roster spots and position battles.
Here are five things to watch out for later this afternoon at Ford Field:
1. NO STARTERS
Head coach Dan Campbell said this week he doesn't plan on playing the starters, much like we saw last week in the preseason opener against the Giants. The big reason for that, along with trying to keep everyone healthy for the regular season, is the joint practice work the starters have received the last two weeks.
Coaches love the joint practices because they can give their starters 40 to 50 great reps against different competition and different looks but without the worry of their quarterback getting hit. They can also control physical contact and live hitting periods. It's great work in a controlled environment.
Campbell also said there could be some select rookies who don't play today. The Lions have a number of rookies already playing big roles with their respective first-team units, including running back Jahmyr Gibbs, linebacker Jack Campbell, tight end Sam LaPorta, defensive back Brian Branch and defensive tackle Brodric Martin.
2. STACKING GOOD PERFORMANCES
What can separate young players vying for the last few roster spots is their ability to stack good performances on top of each other. There were five players I highlighted for their performance last week in the preseason opener vs. New York: Defensive back Brian Branch, outside linebacker Julian Okwara, wide receiver Chase Cota, tight end James Mitchell and wide receiver Maurice Alexander.
Campbell said this week the last couple spots at receiver are wide open, so Cota, Alexander, Antoine Green and Dylan Drummond have a particularly great opportunity to make a big impression today among the young players.
Showing consistent playmaking ability day after day, week after week and game after game is the best way to earn the coaches' trust and subsequently a roster spot.
3. BRIDGEWATER REPS
The Lions signed veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater last week to compete for the role of backup to starter Jared Goff. Bridgewater got his first practice action this week in a team practice Monday and then in the joint sessions Wednesday and Thursday with the Jaguars.
The expectation is for Bridgewater to get some game action today as he tries to get the playbook down and feel more comfortable with the personnel around him.
4. SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLES
The kicker competition between Riley Patterson and Parker Romo still appears to be too close to call, so today's contest and the next couple weeks will be vital in determining that role to begin the season. Will Romo get a chance to show off his big leg and make an impression on a job that appears to be leaning in Patterson's favor?
What about the kickoff return job? That's wide open heading into the final two preseason games as the Lions look to fill the roll left vacant by the recent retirement of running back Justin Jackson. Will anyone step up and claim it?
5. EDGE RUSHERS
This is a really intriguing group. It's a versatile and deep unit where some tough decisions could be on the horizon for GM Brad Holmes. Julian Okwara had a terrific three-sack performance in the preseason opener. Older brother Romeo Okwara added another sack and had a good game all around. Second-year outside linebacker James Houston had some terrific rushes off the edge.
Not only are the Lions trying to figure out the final roster spots along the edge but also the pecking order and play time reps behind starters Aidan Hutchinson and Charles Harris. There's still a lot that needs to be figured out along the edge of the defensive line and it will be interesting to watch how it plays out over the next couple weeks.