Lions-Bills Final Thoughts: Ty Johnson staying focused, shutting out the noise; Matthew Stafford ready – as always – to play; head coach Matt Patricia on young players; and Random Thoughts on defense, snap judgments and what would be good to see:
Rookie runner: Ty Johnson has drawn the drapes on the outside world to keep his focus on the job at hand – making the most of every opportunity he gets to carry the ball in the Detroit Lions' offense.
The rookie running back smiled briefly – perhaps a half of a nanosecond – when it was suggested to him that he already has caught the attention of fans taken with his potential as a speed back since the Lions drafted him in the sixth round in April.
"There is no outside world right now – for me, at least," Johnson said this week as he prepared for Game 3 of the preseason.
"My Mom (Tracy) texts me and sends me articles. I don't really read them now. I try to stay in the zone."
As a four-year player at Maryland, Johnson rushed for 2,635 yards with an average of 7.6 yards per carry. He never averaged less than 6.4 yards per carry.
There's still a lot for him to prove, but the potential that he could add a breakaway threat to a running back group that includes Kerryon Johnson, Zach Zenner, C.J. Anderson and fullback Nick Bawden has fans excited.
Johnson gave a glimpse of what he might add with a 13-yard run on the first possession of Game 1 of the preseason against the Patriots. It was called back by a penalty, but his speed was evident.
Through two games, Johnson has seven carries for 33 yards, with a long run of 17 yards. He has one reception for nine yards.
There's still a lot to learn, and a lot to accomplish, with two preseasons games left.
"Just being consistent – that's the biggest thing now," Johnson said. "Knowing what I'm doing on the field helps me out. The game is most definitely fast. It's definitely fun. I get to play a kid's game and get paid for it.
"It's the best of both worlds."
Stafford ready: Quarterback Matthew Stafford is ready to play – just as was when he watched the first two preseason games from the sideline.
That was different than anything he experienced in his first 10 seasons, including last year in his first season under head coach Matt Patricia. Stafford sat out the first game and played 13 snaps in Game 2.
It is possible that Stafford will start tonight, but he seems more amused than stressed by the scrutiny of the situation. He feels he hasn't missed anything because of the two joint practices the Lions had before their games with the Patriots and Texans – and the situations Patricia puts the team in at any point in practice.
"When they tell me to go play, I go play," Stafford said this week. "I've played a lot of football. Obviously, I love playing, so whenever I get the chance to go out there and play, I go play.
"We get a lot of that work in during training camp. We run a pretty aggressive, tough ship around here. We get some good action in practice, and obviously the practices we got with the last two teams were really good to me."
Joint practices and being put in situations without warning are beneficial, Stafford said.
"We probably lead the league in forced situations in practice," he said. "We're (in) two-point plays in the middle of practice. We're two-minute here. There's a random fourth and eight when you've got to throw it in there no matter what.
"All that kind of stuff. We're put in situations all over the place at any given moment in practice, and it's good. It's good to practice it and force yourself to be aware of those situations when they come up."
Patricia on young players: I asked him this week about evaluating rookies and the balance of projecting their potential when it comes to making the final roster cuts.
"Sometimes with young people you try to project where they're going to be maybe in October or November," Patricia said. "As far as where they are right now, you have to understand that they're coming into things a couple months behind ... because of the process they have to go through with the draft and free agency and all the rest of it.
"From that standpoint, you are trying to do a good job of projecting where they will be. In the end, you're going to try to go with whatever is best for your team at the time to try to help you to give you chances to win, however it unfolds itself out."
Snap judgments, rookies: It will be interesting to see the playing time tonight of undrafted free agents Anthony Pittman of Wayne State and Birmingham Groves High and Beau Benzschawel of Wisconsin. Both have made some kind of impression, based on their snap counts last week.
Pittman played 47 snaps at linebacker, tied for second most on defense. Benzschawel played 34 at guard, third most on the offensive line.
Snap judgments, QBs: David Fales and Josh Johnson split the 67 offensive snaps as evenly as possible vs. Houston – 34 for Fales, 33 for Johnson. Having a second week of practice should help Johnson, who started vs. Houston seven days after signing with the Lions.
Defensive stops: The defense needs to get them early and help set the tempo after failing against veteran QBs in the first two games.
In Game 1, Patriots veteran backup Brian Hoyer managed one first down on a six-play first possession. He led TD drives on the next two: 47 yards on six plays and 87 yards on 13 plays.
In Game 2, Texans starter DeShaun Watson directed an 11-play, 72 yards TD drive that he finished off with a four-yard pass to DeAndre Hopkins on third down.
It would benefit the Lions to make a stand early, and take command.