FIRST DOWN: QB BATTLE
Matt Cassel or Jake Rudock?
The competition to be Matthew Stafford's backup this fall has come down to the wire with both players given one more opportunity to impress in Thursday night's preseason finale vs. Cleveland.
After the game, Cassel deferred any questions about the competition, or his standing within it, to head coach Matt Patricia.
Rudock said he planned to stay by the phone Saturday, when the Lions have to trim their roster from 87 to an initial 53 by 4 p.m., and "see what happens."
Both players got extensive playing time in Thursday's 35-17 loss to Cleveland with Matthew Stafford sitting out. Rudock led his fourth and fifth fourth-quarter touchdown drives of the preseason, and finished 14-of-24 passing for 112 yards with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Chris Lacy and a passer rating of 84.0.
For the preseason, Rudock completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 425 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 91.6 passer rating.
Cassel entered late in the second quarter and was leading a nice two-minute drive to end the first half, but he threw a bad interception right to Nate Orchard resulting in a long pick-six. He completed four of his 11 passes for 64 yards with that one turnover for an 18.8 passer rating.
For the preseason, Cassel completed 55.1 percent of his passes for 247 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a 58.8 passer rating. He was sacked five times to Rudock's two.
"I would say we have a good sample size of both guys," head coach Matt Patricia said of the battle between the two veteran passers.
"But the situations that they've been in have been completely different. So, we tried to balance that out a little bit and try to get Jake (Rudock) some, call it regular situations maybe, as opposed to some of the others that he's been in and get Matt (Cassel) maybe in more of a situational drive and kind of see how that went so that we would have equal, I would say, areas to evaluate. So, that was kind of a big thing for us tonight. Absolutely."
The Lions will make a decision about the quarterback position this weekend, and Patricia didn't rule out the waiver wire being a factor as well.
"We're always looking at the waiver wire," he said. "That's what we do. We have to check it out and evaluate all those guys that will be released here, that's part of the process. That will be at every position.
"So, we'll do that. And again, we'll look at the tape and we'll put all this together and try to make the best decision we can."
SECOND DOWN: ABDULLAH'S NIGHT OFF
It's typically a good sign in terms of a player's roster footing when he's given the final preseason game off. We'll see in the next 36 hours what that means for running back Ameer Abdullah.
Patricia has had nothing but good things to say about the veteran back and what he's shown the coaches in his fight to join LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson and Theo Riddick as part of Detroit's 2018 backfield.
"I think Ameer has done a really good job here competing through camp," Patricia said. "I would say that room has definitely been a very competitive room. It was set up that way from the start, from the spring, to have a good competition. And I think he did a great job."
Patricia put Abdullah through a lot of different situations, including both punt and kickoff return duties, and thought he competed hard.
Abdullah finished the preseason with a 4.1 average per rush on 13 carries. That's better than his career average of 3.8, and more in line with what coaches typically like to see from backs.
We'll know Saturday afternoon for certain if Abdullah is among the initial 53 players on the Lions regular season roster.
THIRD DOWN: ROOKIES REST
First-round pick Frank Ragnow and second-round pick Kerryon Johnson didn't take part in Thursday's game. They were the only rookie draft picks to sit it out.
Johnson got his most extensive work in the preseason opener in Oakland. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry and caught another four passes for 33 yards in that contest. His reps were cut the next two weeks as the Lions looked at some of their other backs, apparently happy with what they saw from Johnson in that first performance. Johnson carried the ball just eight more times in the preseason and caught one pass.
Ragnow was solid his first two preseason games starting at left guard. He learned a few things playing right guard opposite Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy in Week 3, but he held his own just the same.
Both Ragnow and Johnson should be big contributors starting next Monday night at Ford Field when the Lions kick off their regular season hosting the New York Jets.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason game against the Cleveland Browns.
FOURTH DOWN: SHEAD STAYS IN
Don't look too much into veteran cornerback DeShawn Shead getting a lot of run in Thursday's game. Shead, who missed most of last season with an ACL injury he suffered in the playoffs the year prior with Seattle, also missed two preseason games and a chunk of camp with an undisclosed injury this August.
"Yeah, I missed (time), I wasn't able to play two games and just to get back out there, and just play and have fun with my teammates was the biggest thing," Shead said of his extended run on defense vs. Cleveland. "And get that communication going, talking and trying to put everything together. So, just to get back out there and play was the biggest thing."
Shead, who signed as an unrestricted free agent this offseason, is one of the players, along with Nevin Lawson and Teez Tabor, competing for a cornerback job opposite Darius Slay.
"I want to make sure we give him a good opportunity to go out and compete and look at him in a couple different positions and situations," Patricia said of Shead. "You know, we actually moved him around different positions defensively, I would say special teams-wise, there were some things in there we really wanted to get a good evaluation of with him that we haven't had the opportunity to do yet."