Roster spots and jobs were up for grabs last night as the Lions hosted Buffalo in the final preseason game and when the night was over, there was plenty for the coaching staff and personnel department to chew on.
1. Matthew Stafford's command and accuracy is at an all-time high. Last night, he told us about a conversation he had with Calvin Johnson before the game, suggesting if they faced a specific 3rd down situation, he would look to run a certain play.
Sure enough, faced with 3rd and 10 from the Buffalo 24, Stafford nodded to Johnson, who knew exactly what was coming. After the touchdown strike, which once again showed the strength of Megatron's hands, Stafford and Johnson chatted on the sideline, with Stafford acknowledging that he placed the ball high and wide over Johnson's left shoulder on purpose - because nobody else could reach it.
That's precision. That's chemistry. It was the perfect end to a highly efficient preseason for the first offensive unit.
2. Mikel Leshoure got a heavy load of work, which is exactly what was needed. The fans wanted to see it. The coaching staff wanted to see it. Leshoure himself wanted to see it. He's not going to have the same explosiveness out of the backfield that we've seen from Jahvid Best, but Leshoure will give you that threat on a swing pass to go along with his ability to muscle through tight spaces in short yardage situations.
Leshoure will be allowed to work in the facility throughout his suspension - meeting with the team and lifting - but he will not be allowed to practice. When asked how he'll handle watching until week three, he said, "I did it all last year."
3. The effort from Ricardo Silva to get back on the field after suffering what appeared to be a stinger injury last night is commendable. Silva is a guy who's very intense and conscious about what his responsibilities are.
During the game, if he's not playing, you might see him mouthing to himself what his duties on the play would be if he was in the game. He had trouble extending his right arm last night and it seemed the focus of the attention was on his right bicep. He tried to get back on the field, but unfortunately aggravated the injury later.
4. Shaun Hill proved again that he's a capable backup who can move the offense. He's also very well liked by his teammates, who came to his defense after Buffalo took some cheap shots after his touchdown plunge. Coaches don't want to see penalties, but they love seeing teammates come to the defense of each other when necessary - especially a quarterback .
5. Ryan Broyles took a nice step forward, coming up with some solid catches in various situations. He caught a ball on the sideline and also worked his way across the middle for a pair of grabs. It makes you look forward to what we'll see over the course of a full game.
1. First Defensive Unit - In many ways, this is unfair because Stephen Tulloch, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Corey Wililams and Louis Delmas were all missing from last night's starting lineup. However, Ryan Fitzpatrick picked the Lions defense apart on the opening drive, methodically moving the Bills down the field en route to a 7-0 lead. Frustrating? Yes. Troubling? No.
2. Kick Coverage - I'll give this unit a break because they were very tired. Schwartz conceded as much after the game last night. Surrendering a kickoff return touchdown is bad enough, but when it happens on a second chance, that's enough to really tick you off. Carmen Messina is fighting for a job and taking an offsides penalty on a kickoff won't do him any favors.
3. Maurice Stovall is one of the nicest guys you'll meet but his preseason hasn't been good. He's struggled to make some catches and had a tough time on special teams, as well. Keep your eye on whether Stovall makes the cut today.
4. Defensive Backfield - It was a mess last night because guys were out with injuries and Kevin Barnes is still getting used to the system. Alphonso Smith - who didn't get the start - played safety toward the end of the game due to attrition. It's tough to critique a skeleton unit other than to say they better get it all together by September 9.