Training camp and the preseason are about preparing a football team for the regular season.
Last week, the Lions conducted joint practices with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots and their future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
In Brady, the Lions’ defense had to prepare for someone with 20 years of experience diagnosing and dissecting defenses. He’s won six Super Bowls, and there wasn’t anything Matt Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni were going to throw at Brady from a defensive standpoint he hasn’t seen.
This week, the Lions head down to Houston to face the Texans. It will be a much different test for Detroit’s defense facing quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Texans' offense. Watson is young and athletic, and brings a different dynamic. Detroit’s defense has to prepare for his ability to take the top off the defense with his big right arm, and how dangerous he can be with his legs as well.
“The part I’m really obviously intrigued for, knowing Coach (Bill) O’Brien and everything he does, is just the difference with the quarterback,” Lions head coach Matt Patricia said.
“I think it just makes a whole difference of how you have to do everything defensively, whether it’s the pass rush, the run game, just basic defensive fundamental and assignments. They obviously have skill players that are a problem too. That’s the part of it to me that really changes and I would say the quarterback position is really key every week so this will be another really good challenge from that standpoint.”
Watson is one of the up-and-coming quarterbacks in the NFL. He guided Houston to an 11-5 record last year completing 68.3 percent of his passes for 4,165 yards with 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. He also rushed for 551 yards (5.6 average) with another five scores.
Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best in the game. This week should be a real test for Detroit’s defense.
To be fair, it won’t be much easier for the offense having to deal with Houston edge rushers J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney.
But this is why coaches love the joint practice setup in training camp, and we’re seeing more and more of it around the league.
View photos from Day 15 of Detroit Lions Training Camp presented by Rocket Mortgage.
The NFL regular season is a week-to-week matchup game. Teams face completely different styles of quarterbacks, personnel groupings and schemes from week to week. These two weeks are providing the Lions a dry run of sorts for the regular season preparing for two very different quarterbacks, personnel groupings and schemes from New England to Houston. It simulates what players can expect once the regular season begins, and is a terrific evaluation tool for coaches at this point in training camp to see who can adapt and make plays.
“Obviously, you saw a set of competition last week and those players are unique to who they are,” Patricia said. “We’ll get an entirely different set of players this week to compete against. So, if you look at it from a standpoint of competing against ourselves, competing against the Patriots, competing against Houston, you really get three good sets of evaluation with different types of players.”