FIRST DOWN: RAGNOW VS. MCCOY
Lions head coach Matt Patricia said this week it would be good to go against Bucs All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy for everyone but one person.
"Yeah, I mean, it's a real good time as long as you're not the right guard," Patricia said.
"I don't think you'd want to go out there against McCoy either. But it's a good time for us to get an evaluation of some really good players."
Patricia is all about getting as much from the preseason from an evaluation standpoint as he can, and pitting his rookie guard Frank Ragnow against All-Pro veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is good evaluation.
"I think that's always something that you always try to take advantage of when you have that opportunity," Patricia said after Detroit's 33-30 victory over the Bucs.
"Certainly you want to find out all the information you can before we get to the regular season, so I thought it was a good situation for us to get into."
As expected, we saw both some good and some bad from Ragnow in that matchup, who was told earlier in the week he'd being playing on the right side in the game. He held his own pretty well, but the veteran McCoy did get the best of him in the second quarter. McCoy was able to burst out of his stance and get by Ragnow on the outside to sack quarterback Matthew Stafford on a 3rd and 5 play at the Bucs' 37-yard line. The sack forced a Lions punt after the loss back to the 44-yard line.
That play, and really the whole night, will be a teaching moment for the rookie going up against one of the best interior defensive linemen in the game.
"He's a good football player," Ragnow said of McCoy afterward. "It was a great learning experience to see where I am and where I stack up against one of the best in the NFL. I think the best way to look at it is I have to learn from it. Learn and move on."
SECOND DOWN: LAWSON STRUGGLES
Nevin Lawson led the Lions' defense Friday night with eight tackles. The bad thing about that is most of the time when a cornerback leads a team in tackles, it usually means they've allowed a lot of completions in front of them.
The Bucs targeted Lawson early and often Friday night, completing a high percentage of the passes targeted at him, including a 19-yard touchdown from Bucs reserve quarterback Ryan Griffin to reserve receiver Freddie Martino to open the third quarter.
"We're trying to put guys in tough situations and see how they do and evaluate it and see if we can improve it," Patricia said after the game when asked about Lawson and the cornerback play overall.
"That's really the point. To see if it gets better from week to week."
The Lions have had an open competition for the right cornerback spot opposite All-Pro Darius Slay. Lawson, DeShawn Shead and Teez Tabor have all gotten a chance with the first-team this offseason and in camp.
The time to impress in that competition is running out. Friday night was a tough game for Lawson.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
THIRD DOWN: RED ZONE EXECUTION
On both of the first two possessions of the game, Matthew Stafford and the first-team offense navigated their way down into the Buccaneers red zone. Twice they had to settle for short Matt Prater field goals.
On the first Stafford thought he could have had a touchdown to tight end Michael Roberts in the back of the end zone had Golden Tate not gotten a hand on the ball on third down. On the second, again on third down, Stafford threw a ball too high intended for Kenny Golladay in the left corner of the end zone.
But afterward Stafford didn't seem too concerned about those two red zone trips not concluding in touchdowns, especially since the Lions ranked sixth in the NFL in red zone scoring efficiency (91.3 percent) last year and 11th in red zone touchdown efficiency (56.5 percent).
"We just have to throw and catch," Stafford said. "If we're running the ball, we have to try and run it in a little better.
"We just have to execute a little better, put some better throws out there and we'll come down with them. I'm not too worried about it."
FOURTH DOWN: RESERVES LEAD COMEBACK
A lot of the talk Monday at the water cooler regarding Friday's regular season tune-up will center around the starters failing to execute at some critical times and falling behind Tampa's starters 27-6 early in the third quarter.
Some will say what happened in the second half, which was the Lions second and third-string players battling back to win the game, 33-30, doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things.
Those people have to remember it's not a matter of if injuries are going to happen in the NFL, but when. Some of the second-team players Friday will be counted on at some point in the season to start and make plays. It's inevitable that a practice squad player will be called up to the active roster and potentially play on Sunday.
The reserves on offense scored three touchdowns in their four series after Stafford left the game. The reserves on defense forced three punts, a field goal and ended the game with an interception on their final five defensive series. While the focus will be on how inconsistent the starters played, it was good to see the backups compete and make plays.
"Obviously good to see those guys come out and compete in those situations," Patricia said. "They played extremely hard. They were challenged to go out and try to do a tough task, I think. I thought they did a real good job.
"They were into it. Execution, Communication. Understood the situation and how we had to play it. I think all three sides did a good job."