The one thing no coach wants to see in the preseason is one of his starters go down with an injury. But that was the situation Lions head coach Matt Patricia found himself in Friday night during Detroit's Week 3 preseason matchup with Buffalo. And not once, but twice.
Starting MIKE linebacker Jarrad Davis was rolled up on from behind by teammate Devon Kennard while chasing Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy on the second play of the game. Davis couldn't put any pressure on his right leg as he was helped off by trainers and was eventually carted off the sideline to the locker room. Davis, a former first-round pick, is the heart and soul of the Lions' defense, and one of the most respected players among his teammates. He was one of only two players in the NFL last season to record at least 100 tackles and 6.0 sacks.
Midway through the second quarter, center Frank Ragnow was rolled up on by a Bills defender. He too needed to be helped off the field, putting little weight on his right leg. Ragnow was Detroit's first-round pick last season. He played all but one snap for the Lions as a rookie at guard. He made the switch to his more natural center position this year and was playing well there before the injury.
View photos from the Detroit Lions vs. Buffalo Bills Preseason Week 3 game at Ford Field on Friday, Aug. 23, 2019 in Detroit.
In one half Friday night the Lions lost two important pieces in both the middle of their offense and defense. Patricia said both players would be further evaluated Saturday, and he had no update on their status or availability moving forward.
Rookie second-round pick Jahlani Tavai and third-year linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin stepped into the MIKE role in place of Davis the rest of the game with the first-team defense. If Davis' injury keeps him out any extended period of time, Tavai and Reeves-Maybin could be thrust into a huge roles on defense.
Graham Glasgow, who started at center last year for the Lions, replaced Ragnow at center for the rest of the first-team offensive reps. His move to center, for however long, would weaken an already thin guard position with Joe Dahl, Kenny Wiggins and Oday Aboushi now needing to step up there.
Ragnow played 1,074 offensive snaps (99.9 percent) last season and Davis played 976 snaps on defense (98.9). Those were the most snaps on offense and defense for Detroit last season, proving how valuable Ragnow and Davis are to this team, and how big any extended absence for both would be.
REGULAR SEASON FORM
Matt Prater is definitely ready for the regular season.
The Lions place kicker was 2-for-2 kicking field goals Friday night, including a 61-yarder to end the first half.
It was the longest field goal in the preseason since Broncos kicker Ola Kimrin booted a 65-yarder vs. Seattle back in 2002.
"Happy to make that kick but still have a little ways to go," Prater said after the game about being ready for the regular season. "But it felt pretty good hitting that one."
Prater connected on 28-of-32 field goals and 30-of-30 extra points to produce 114 points in the 2018 season. Of kickers who attempted at least 30 extra points this season, he was the only NFC kicker to not miss a single point after attempt. He was fourth in the NFL last season in points scored.
Prater ranks second in NFL history with a conversion percentage of 75.4 on kicks of 50-or-more yards. He ranks third with 46 field goals converted from at least 50 yards out.
FALLING TO 0-3
It's never smart to overanalyze the preseason, especially when the starters have played roughly one half of football in three games, but Patricia did seem to lament the fact that the Lions couldn't come away with a win after Friday's 24-20 loss to the Bills that dropped them to 0-3 in the preseason.
"Got to eliminate the poor fundamentals and obviously the turnovers," Patricia said. "Those are just plays that are going to cost you games and we have to go out and execute at a high level.
"Some of the guys out there that have opportunities to make plays have to make them and we have to continue to coach better and teach it."
The Lions had nine penalties totaling 81 yards in the game, including some key ones on defense that led to Bills' scoring drives. Rookie wide receiver Travis Fulgham fumbled at the Buffalo 15-yard line with less than three minutes to go, stalling a potential go-ahead touchdown drive late.