FIRST DOWN: JARED VS. JACE
It was clear from the get-go Thursday night in Buffalo that Lions head coach Jim Caldwell wanted to get a very good look at receivers Jace Billingsley and Jared Abbrederis.
Both young pass catchers played a lot of snaps on offense, and alternated every kickoff return and punt return. Both players have been battling pretty closely dating back to the spring for a roster spot, and it appeared Thursday was being used as a final "show me what you can do performance" for both players.
Unfortunately, neither player stood out for anything positive. Instead of making a case for being the fifth receiver, it might raise the case whether a fifth receiver is needed altogether.
Billingsley caught two passes for two yards. He also returned a punt he originally muffed for three yards. He had two kickoff returns for 43 yards (21.5 average).
"I wanted to make a few more plays out there today, but sometimes that's the way it goes," Billingsley said after the game. "I left it all on the field. Me and Jared are rooting for each other and hope for the best outcome for both of us."
Abbrederis caught one pass for 16 yards, but right after making that catch he fumbled it away. He returned two punts for 14 yards (7.0 average) and had two kickoff returns for a total of 45 yards (22.5).
"Obviously they were taking turns in terms of the return game," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said. "They got quite a few snaps from scrimmage as well. I think we were able to get a good look at them."
We'll know Saturday if either did enough to make the roster.
SECOND DOWN: LONG LOOK FOR WILLIAMS
In a game where all of Detroit's starters on offense and defense sat out, second-year linebacker Antwione Williams played all the way into the second half. Is it a sign his roster spot is in danger? Did the Lions just want a young player to get more reps?
Williams didn't mind too much after the game. He said he's always down for getting an opportunity to hit someone.
"There's always some things to work on," Williams said. "To be able to go out there and put your hands on people and get run fits. Each team does things differently. The more stuff you get to see, it broadens your horizons to what teams are out there doing. I don't take it as a negative thing. I'm still developing. So, I'm excited."
Williams has appeared to be right in the mix all spring and camp for a starting spot at the SAM.
"There were a lot of guys that we had in similar situations that played a lot of football in there for us," Caldwell said when asked about Williams after the game. "Some cases, we had some guys in there because they needed the work. But every case, there's still an evaluation process going on all the way down to the end. This was our last opportunity to do so. So, we wanted to get a real good look at a number of different guys."
THIRD DOWN: GOOD FOR GREEN
Tion Green cut left, he cut right, then he sprinted down field before cutting right one last time and into the end zone for a 74-yard touchdown on a one-yard screen pass.
"To me, it was just a blur," he said of his long touchdown after the game. "I just remember one cut, another cut, and just saying to myself, 'pick my knees up and keep on going,' especially after that 35-yard run (earlier in game) I got run down."
Green finished his preseason finale with 63 rushing yards on eight carries (7.9 average), and led the team with 87 receiving yards for a total of 150 total yards, nearly half of Detroit's team total (317) for the contest.
So how much does Green think he helped himself Thursday?
"That's a good question," he said. "I don't know what's going on upstairs, but I can only control what I can control, my attitude, my effort and just working hard and competing."
Up to this point Green was leading the Lions in special teams tackles in the preseason, so if anything, he's shown over the course of the preseason he can be a core special teams guy. Thursday's offensive explosion adds to his resume.
It's yet to be determined if the Lions keep more than four running backs – Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington – but Green certainly gave GM Bob Quinn and Co. something to discuss over the next two days.
FOURTH DOWN: TOUGH DECISIONS
Caldwell was asked after the game which position groups might be the hardest to make cuts on over the next two days.
"There's a lot of them," Caldwell said.
Receiver, defensive end, cornerback and safety are just a few of the tough decisions Quinn and Caldwell will have to make by Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline to trim the roster down to an initial 53.
"I mean we're deeper than we have ever been I mean at a number of different places," Caldwell said. "We're much, much deeper. So, it's going to make it tough."