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FOUR DOWNS: Pass protection a problem in preseason loss to Giants


The offensive line was a major point of emphasis this offseason after inconsistent play upfront last year.

Injuries certainly played a factor -- the Lions started 11 different combinations upfront -- but those players have talked all through training camp about having a chip on their shoulder and wanting to play better in 2018.

Friday night's second preseason game wasn't a sign they're headed in the right direction. Granted, it's still the preseason, but there were breakdowns in protections against the Giants, and a number of times players upfront simply got beat by the guy across the football.

The Giants recorded three sacks and six quarterback hits in the contest. Two of those sacks came vs. the first unit, and involved quarterback Matthew Stafford. That's two sacks too many.

Left tackle Taylor Decker, Right tackle Rick Wagner and swing tackle Corey Robinson looked to give up sacks. Reserve lineman Joe Dahl didn't have a particularly good game, and there were other suspect performances mixed in there as well.

"Our execution has to be better overall," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said after the 30-17 loss. "I think we have to go back and really try and improve and get better. Obviously, we didn't perform very well and it's going to start with the coaching and they're going to do a better job."

View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions preseason game against the New York Giants.


Patricia hates losing. Even in the preseason.

Losing in the way the Lions lost Friday night didn't sit well with the first-year head coach.

"It starts with me," he said. "We have to coach better. I have to coach better. And we have to do a better job getting these guys ready to play."

The Lions came out of the gates flat on both sides of the ball. They didn't protect Matthew Stafford (two sacks and two quarterback hits), and didn't generate enough pressure themselves on Giants passers. There were too many mistakes, too many penalties and not enough big plays put on the board.

Patricia took full blame for the performance afterward, and wasn't happy about the way he and his staff had their team prepared.

"Overall, definitely for me, we have to do a better job and it starts with me," Patricia said. "I have to do a better job coaching and we have to get these guys ready to go and hopefully do a better job executing out on the field."

The Lions are running out of preseason games, and the regular season is fast approaching. They begin a regular season schedule next week, and the expectation is to be much better in Tampa Bay.

"Obviously, we have a lot of work to do," Patricia said. "It's the time of the season in the preseason where we have to get going. We have to see some of that consistency and some of that production. We have a big job in front of us."


The Lions have been trying to mix backup quarterbacks Jake Rudock and Matt Cassel into different situations, which is why each player has been brought back into the game in the fourth quarter in each of the team's first two preseason contests.

Cassel started the first game in Oakland with Matthew Stafford getting the night off, but was put back in the game late in the fourth quarter in a two-minute situation down a touchdown.

Rudock was the second quarterback off the bench Friday night vs. New York, but after giving way to Cassel for three series in the third quarter, Rudock went back into the game in the fourth quarter.

"You're trying to mix those guys into certain situations and obviously rotate them and make sure they get a good amount of reps that you can evaluate," Patricia said. "If it tilts one way or the other, you have to change it up and make sure you get back into those situations."

Patricia said he wanted to give Rudock an opportunity to get some two-minute situation reps in the fourth quarter being down a couple scores, similar to what Cassel got last week in Oakland.

"Coach just says be ready," Rudock said. "Be ready and when coach says, 'Go in there,' we go in there and try to do the best of our ability. And that's all you can do and that's what we're going to do."

So far throughout training camp and the preseason this has been a fair competition. There are two more weeks and two more games for one to rise to the top.


It wasn't all bad for the Lions Friday night. Here are three players whose stock is on the rise:

Rudock: He led two fourth-quarter scoring drives. He was active in the pocket, and used his legs to extend plays. He finished 23-of-30 passing for 171 yards with a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown and passer rating of 100.8.

WR Brandon Powell: Powell showed off a terrific ability to make the first defender miss both as a pass catcher and return man. He caught four passes for 20 yards. He also returned two punts for eight yards, and returned two kickoffs for 49 yards. He had a solid night.

DT Ricky Jean Francois: He had a forced fumble taken away from him on a close review, but was also in on another tackle in the backfield, and recorded a quarterback hit. He got some early reps over A'Shawn Robinson, which speaks to the kind of camp Jean Francois has been having.

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