TAMPA – Lions-Buccaneers Final Thoughts: Offense at center stage in show time in the “dress rehearsal” third preseason game; Matthew Stafford meshing the new with the old; Jarrad Davis doing film study on himself; Bucs’ stars test O-line and Random Thoughts.
Matthew Stafford’s only appearance in the Detroit Lions’ first two preseason games was brief and largely unproductive. He completed two of five passes for 51 yards without a touchdown or interception in last week’s loss to the Giants. He was sacked twice.
In that regard, his brief stint closely represented what the offense has done overall in the first two games.
The offense scored one touchdown in the first seven quarters with Matt Cassel and Jake Rudock dividing playing time in the battle of the backups. Rudock led two TD drives in the fourth quarter against the Giants to pad the stats.
That should to change tonight.
Stafford and his receivers form a productive group that has run the same basic system since Jim Bob Cooter took over as coordinator midway through the 2015 season. With quality upgrades on the offensive line and at running back, there should be some balance to what has been a pass-oriented – and sometimes pass-only – attack.
Based on what the offense has done, there should be no cause for concern from the first two games. If it continues tonight, then we might start to wonder.
It’s not a critical night for the offense, but it’s time to show something.
In with the new – and old: There’s a bit of a dilemma in scripting a game plan for the offense. How much do they go with what’s tried and true? And how much do they look at some new stuff?
“We’re still implementing some stuff that we’re trying to see if we’re good at or not,” Stafford said at his midweek presser. “Week 3 is always the dry run for regular season ... and to some extent that is true.
“But there’s a delicate balance of, ‘Hey, let’s run our core stuff and get better, let’s try some new stuff, let’s make sure we don’t show this or that.’
“There’s all sorts of stuff that goes into it, whereas a regular season game all bets are off. But we’re preparing to go out there and play good.”
Jarrad Davis, teaching point: The best and worst of the second-year middle linebacker were on full display against the Giants.
The best: Davis dropped running back Jonathan Stewart for a one-yard loss on the Giants’ first offensive play last week, then shot a gap on third and one to nail Stewart again, this time for a five-yard loss.
The worst: Wayne Gallman beat him for an eight-yard TD catch on third down early in the second quarter. Davis’ reaction made it obvious that he was at fault on the catch.
The goal: To improve and be a productive three-down middle linebacker. Davis works at his craft. He studied video of the Gallman catch to see what he did wrong and correct it. He took last week’s play as a teaching point, to correct what he called “a bonehead mistake.”
O-line test: Assuming they play, defensive linemen Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul will be a tough matchup for the Lions’ pass protection. The Lions have given up eight sacks in the first two games.
McCoy is a dominant interior defender with 48.5 career sacks the last six seasons. Pierre-Paul is an edge rusher who was signed as a free agent. He has 58.5 sacks in eight seasons, all with the Giants, with 8.5 in 2017.
Pass rush, helping Hand: Having another good game could keep rookie defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand’s stock rising. Hand was promoted to the starting lineup for last week’s game and played 25 snaps, mostly on the interior, after playing 29 the previous week in a similar role.
One start doesn’t guarantee anything, but Hand has shown an ability to get penetration, which shouldn’t be a surprise given his Combine times of 4.83 and 4.84 seconds for the 40-yard dash. And he has a nasty streak.
Quick and nasty isn’t a bad combination.
On the run: It’s still a work in progress for the Lions, with occasional flashes. But the bottom line for the first two games is 77.5 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. That represents a gain of 1.2 yards over last year’s average and the same average per attempt.
Power play: Just guessing, but if the Lions are in field-goal range on fourth and one in the first half, Patricia will go for it instead of attempting a field goal, as he did last week on fourth and one against the Giants. Converting in short yardage was a weakness last year.
Talking points: Defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois embraces the leadership role he’s gained in his first nine seasons, and having spent part of last season in New England under head coach Matt Patricia.
“I have to sit down and talk to guys,” he said. “I am an open book. I’m going to sit here and talk to you. I don’t care if I have to sit there until late at night. I’m in no big rush to go home. I’ll sit here and talk to you.”