The Detroit Lions use the third week of the preseason to try and best simulate what a regular season work week will look like. Part of that process is taking a closer look at this week’s opponent, the Buffalo Bills, when it comes to film study and player evaluations.
“We did actually start that (Monday) night from a meeting standpoint and squad where we go through the overview of the Buffalo (Bills) organization,” head coach Matt Patricia said. “Along with that, trying to prepare those guys to hone in on the exact players to study.
“For us something that we try to go through a normal week and say, ‘Hey, this is what a Monday would look like for you. This is what a Tuesday would look like for you. This is what a Wednesday looks like for us when we get back into the building, and this is what we have to study and these are the areas that we’re going to look at.’”
The team begins the week watching game tape on Buffalo. Then they go into a cut up mode, where they’re watching very specific areas of an opponent, then transfer back into game tape mode later in the week.
Patricia continues to run practice working on third-down situations, red zone, two-minute and early-down work, and encourages players to study the night before on what the focus for the next day will be so they can hit the ground running. Patricia described it as an “intricate” process blending film study, homework, meetings and practice.
For rookies, it can overwhelming at first. Football is their job now. Patricia said the the sheer amount of film and study time is much more of a workload than they had in college.
“It’s a huge jump coming in from college, and it’s probably a huge jump coming in from different programs too,” he said. “We’re trying to do everything we can to maximize the amount of time they have to look at it.
“I think with the college restrictions that they have today, and the amount of hours they are allowed to spend in some of those situations, it’s very different for them when they come to the NFL as far as – they have to just understand the time they would spend on school work or things like that are now studying football.”
Patricia said it’s all part of the evaluation process with young players. It’s not only about what they can do on the field -- though that’s a big part of it -- but how do they prepare? Can they take what they learn in the meeting room and film study and translate it to the field?
“You have to study ahead before you walk in the next day and understanding how important that is so that when we get into the building, you can just – we’re going to move at a very fast pace,” Patricia said.
“If it’s an early down day, there is film that needs to be watch the night before you come in so that you’re prepared for that day. The issue that we just run into that we have to try to explain to the guys is there is not really an opportunity to go back and redo something.
“So when we do it once during the week it has to be at the highest level because we’re just going to move into another area, whether it’s early down, third down, red area (zone), two-minute. It just builds as the week goes. That kind of pre-next day preparation is really critical for our players to understand.”
Patricia began the week breaking down Buffalo to the players, including a thorough breakdown of their coaching staff, their schemes, and how there might be some similarity that they’ve seen from previous teams.
For instance, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was a former New England offensive assistant when Patricia was with the Patriots. His offense is going to be similar to what the Lions faced the last two weeks against New England and Houston.
Defensively, however, Patricia said Leslie Frazier’s defense is different than what Detroit’s faced the last two weeks. He said it was similar to what Carolina runs. Detroit played Carolina last season.
“You have to start doing a lot film study,” Lions rookie third-round pick Will Harris said. “You have to know your opponent and how they’re trying to attack you.
“I’ve definitely done a lot more studying and I thought I did a lot of studying at BC (Boston College). Now, with the level of talent, everyone on the field is good. With this heightened level of talent in the NFL, you have to know how you’re being attacked, what guys’ strengths and weaknesses is and how you can come out on top in your individual matchups depending on what situation you find yourself in. You have to do that.”
This week is as close to a regular season week as these rookies and young players will get before it starts counting for real. When that time comes, it’s full speed ahead. This is an important time for coaches and front office personnel to get an idea of who can handle the work, who they can count on, and who can help them in the regular season.