ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Burning questions for the Detroit Lions –Caution from the start in the final preseason game, Jake Rudock as the backup quarterback, competition for roster spots and a first-half highlight (there was one!!!) for the Lions in Thursday night's 27-17 loss to the Buffalo Bills:
Question: What was the biggest impression made by the Lions' starters?
Answer: Easy. They didn't play. And it was obvious before the opening kickoff that the starters and quite a few key backups were not going to play.
There was no attempt by head coach Jim Caldwell to hide his intention. When the players came out on the field for the opening kickoff, a lot of the starters didn't have their helmets.
Q. Was it the right thing to do?
A. Yes. It's what I would do, and I know the argument about fans paying for preseason tickets. By now most fans know that teams aren't going to play their starters, or many of their backups, in the last preseason game.
It was obvious from the moment Game 3 against the Patriots ended that the focus was on the Arizona Cardinals in the opening regular-season game on Sept. 10. That's the game that counts.
View in-game photos from the Detroit Lions' 2017 preseason finale against the Buffalo Bills.
Q. What was the highlight of the first half for the Lions?
A. Another easy answer. It was Matt Prater's 53-yard field goal with 1:55 left. It was the Lions' only score of the half and cut the Bills' lead to 13-3. The score didn't matter. What did is how Prater made the field goal with yards to spare.
Prater was a potent weapon last year in the eight comeback victories led by Matthew Stafford. In this preseason he has shown that his leg is as strong and accurate as ever.
Q. Backup QB: Jake Rudock started and played the first half. How did he perform, and did he prove that he deserves to be the backup quarterback?
A. There wasn't any rhythm or big-play threats from the cast surrounding Rudock. He completed six of nine passes for 41 yards and scrambled once for eight yards and a first down.
Over training camp and the full preseason, he earned the backup job. However, the value of a backup ultimately is proven over time in regular-season games. And that's not going to happen with Stafford rightfully entrenched as the starter.
Q. Offense, roster battles: Did anybody win a job with his performance Thursday night?
A. As head coach Jim Caldwell says often, it's a body of work, not a one-game performance, that wins jobs. If anyone took a step forward at running back, it was rookie Tion Green. He had five carries for 23 yards in the first half with a long run of nine yards.
He made two big plays in the second half. First was a 38-yard run early in the third quarter, with a sharp cut to the left sideline that got extra yards.
He made the highlight play of the game in the fourth quarter, taking a dumpoff from rookie Brad Kaaya and turning it into a 74-yard touchdown with a twisting, change-of-direction run that easily covered 100 yards overall – at least.
Nobody jumped out at wide receiver, which was a surprise. Up front on the offensive line, rookie free agent Storm Norton continued to get extended playing time at left tackle.
Q. Defense, roster battles: Same question. Did anybody win a roster spot?
A. Pretty much the same answer. Rookie linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin looked good in pursuit at times. He was credited with a statistical sack in the first half when he chased Bills quarterback Nathan Peterman out of bounds for no gain on a scramble, and he also batted down a pass near the goal line on third down, forcing the Bills to settle for a field goal.
Veteran linebacker Nick Bellore was active in his bid to win a roster spot as a backup and special-teams stud.
Q. Defensive line: Did any of the young players stand out?
A. Not really, and that was a disappointment. Kerry Hyder Jr. has set the standard for that in recent seasons. He had three fumble recoveries in Game 4 two years ago and got signed to the practice squad. Last year had had three sacks in Game 4 and made the active roster.
Nobody did anything close to that Thursday night. There were more penalties – with many of them for lining up offside – than big plays up front.
Again, it will come down to body of work in deciding who makes the roster, but it would be nice to have a highlight play or two on your resume.