Detroit Lions veterans like Matthew Stafford, Glover Quin and Darius Slay aren't likely to see much action Friday in Detroit's preseason opener in Oakland, so the last two days of joint practices with the Raiders have been invaluable for them to get hours of competitive situational football against another opponent on film.
"It's good for us," Stafford said after Wednesday's joint practice. "Our defense is a little bit different style than their defense is here in Oakland, so it's good for our guys to have to adjust. In the grand scheme of things in a season, you're going to play defenses that have a bunch of different personalities and a bunch of different styles. It's nice for us to get a little bit of a taste for that."
There's a huge amount of learning, competition and evaluation that goes into preseason games, but early on, that's moreso for the younger players on the roster and those fighting for roster spots. These last two days offered Lions coaches an opportunity to evaluate the whole roster in a controlled and competitive setting.
The Lions had an opportunity to look at another team and how they do things, and hopefully they've grown and learned a little bit about their football team they didn't know on Monday.
"It's really the wholistic kind of approach of growing as a team, letting our guys have a chance to compete and get better," head coach Matt Patricia said. "There's a good element, too, where we can take a look at some things here through the course of practice that we might not necessarily look at on Friday night."
Mostly, in a practice setting, coaches can control the situations they want to see or feel they need to see.
Tuesday, they worked live goal line situations. That's obviously an area the Lions need to improve from a year ago. You hope that comes up in a game situation in the preseason, but there's no guarantee. They worked on two minute offense and defense on Wednesday, and also red zone periods.
The first-team offenses and defenses got more quality work fit into the last two days of practice than they'll probably see throughout the entire preseason, even the third preseason game, which teams usually treat as the regular-season tune-up with the starters playing a half or more.
"You go into the No. 1 preseason game Friday night and you're not going to play your starters," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday. "If you do, you're not going to play them very much.
"They got quality reps (the last two days). You're seeing Derek Carr vs. Matthew Stafford, blitz pickup, 9-on-7, two minutes drill, move the ball, and this is as close to the real deal as you're going to get. You get a lot of work done and now you taper it off for the first-team guys and you get a chance to really isolate who you want to see in the preseason game."
Fortunately for the Lions, they come back to Allen Park next week and have joint practices set up with the New York Giants ahead of their second preseason game at Ford Field. It will be just another opportunity to get quality work in that teams just don't get in the preseason, which is why more and more teams are setting up these joint practices in training camp.
"It's fun for us to go out there and compete against other guys," Stafford said. "We have a full spring of competing against each other and then we come in to training camp and compete against each other for a couple weeks.
"It's nice to kind of mix it up and go out there and see something new, see something fresh, go out there and see where we are."