BATTLE OF THE WEEK: TE Casey Fitzsimmons vs. TEs John Owens and Matt Murphy. With just one year of experience as a backup to Mikhael Ricks, neither Owens nor Murphy has done a lot to establish himself as invaluable in the Lions offense and Fitzsimmons, an undrafted rookie from Carroll College in Montana, is making a strong push to squeeze his way onto the 53-man roster. Owens is the best blocker and Murphy has shown flashes of all-around ability but Fitzsimmons is a better receiver than either and is not a bad blocker.
OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Coach Steve Mariucci is waiting for one or more of his RBs to step forward to break up the logjam for the backup job to James Stewart. Luke Staley has 45 yards on 12 carries in two games but the Lions want badly to see Shawn Bryson (recovering from last year's knee injury) before making any decisions. The depth at CB is questionable with so many rookies -- Blue Adams, Jemeel Powell, Gerald Dixon -- and Chris Watson competing to back up Dre' Bly, Chris Cash and Andre' Goodman. Also, veteran Tony Semple cannot be considered out of the competition with Eric Beverly for the starting LG job. For most of his 10-year NFL career, the Lions have been thinking they have to replace him but Semple always battles his way back into the lineup.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: QB Mike McMahon seems to be destined to backup Joey Harrington but he has been the more effective of the two at moving the team in the first two preseason games. He was responsible for 10 of the Lions' 26 points in the exhibition opener against Pittsburgh and he led the Lions to all 10 points in the loss at Cincinnati, completing 9 of 18 passes for 94 yards, including the 21-yard TD pass to TE Stephen Trejo. He also ran twice for 17 yards.
ROOKIE REPORT: WR Charles Rogers dropped his first NFL pass -- a 40-yarder early in the first quarter -- but kept his composure and caught two balls for 18 yards while coming back from the dislocated finger suffered early in camp ... OLB Boss Bailey is getting all the playing time he wants -- and even more -- in the exhibition season. He overran some plays at Cincinnati but the Lions haven't lowered their high expectations for him ... DL Cory Redding continued to impress at DT but left the Cincinnati game early with what is believed to be a minor ankle injury ... RB Artose Pinner is on PUP, recovering from a broken leg suffered in the Senior Bowl, and is likely to stay there into the regular season ... With SS Corey Harris still out of action, rookie S Terrence Holt is getting plenty of playing time in the preseason. He played most of the second half at Cincinnati and had six tackles -- five on defense and one on special teams ... LB James Davis didn't start but got nearly as much playing time at MLB as Wali Rainer (starting in place of injured Earl Holmes). He made three tackles and continued to show athletic ability ... WR David Kircus caught just one 3-yard pass but returned two kickoffs for 44 yards against Cincinnati. Very likely to make the 53-man roster ... OT Ben Johnson is learning but will have a hard time making the 53-man roster against experienced offensive line depth ... CB Blue Adams made two tackles but was beaten for a touchdown pass by Bengals rookie QB Carson Palmer on a throw to WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh ... FB Brandon Drumm has good FB size. He will have to excel on special teams to unseat backup FB Stephen Trejo ... WR Travis Anglin catches the ball well but is up against tough competition at the WR position ... RB Avon Cobourne, an undrafted rookie, looked good early in camp but hasn't been able to do much because of a hamstring injury. Did not play at Cincinnati.
INJURY REPORT: The Lions had 18 players inactive in their second preseason game Saturday at Cincinnati but most of them were there as precautionary moves. The major concerns are the three players still on PUP or NFI -- DT Luther Elliss (pectoral muscle), DE Kalimba Edwards (sports hernia) and rookie RB Artose Pinner (ankle). Edwards originally expected to play in the third preseason game but still has not practiced, so that seems unlikely now. Elliss isn't likely to be ready until the start of the regular season, or perhaps later. Pinner will probably go into the season inactive.