Are both Charles Rogers and Mike Williams headed for the chopping block, or does Lions' head coach Rod Marinelli know something that no one else does? Columnist James Cook shares his thoughts -- and notes -- after Thursday night's preseason loss to Buffalo.
Good thing these games don't count.
There was good and bad in the Detroit Lions' 20-13 loss to Buffalo. Perhaps
more bad than good for a couple of rookies trying to make the final roster.
First off, let me say that I have a sneaking suspicion that neither Mike Williams or Charles Rogers will get cut. None of the young WRs has played so
well that they merit a spot over either of the talented pair, as perhaps
Mike Martz and Rod Marinelli had hoped.
Shaun Bodiford played well at times, but is he any better than Rogers?
Devale Ellis had his moments, but is he really any better than Williams? The
answer in both cases is a simple 'No.' Scottie Vines' health also helps the
former first-round picks' causes.
The opening-day receiving corps could very well be Roy Williams, Corey Bradford, Eddie Drummond, Rogers, Mike Williams and Mike Furrey, with Vines
Seriously, if Roy Williams gets hurt again, who would you want in there as
your No. 1 WR, Charles Rogers or Devale Ellis? The question isn't that hard.
Before you make a big deal about Rogers getting only one catch for three yards,
remember that Terrell Owens had one catch for six yards this week and is also coming off a leg injury. It's quite possible his and Williams' lack of PT is because the coaching staff knows exactly what they can get from Rogers and Williams when healthy and wanted to see if any of the young WRs can justifiably knock them off.
But none of them showed that is a realistic option.
Even only half awake, Mike Williams is a better receiver than Glenn Martinez.
Speaking of Martinez, he pretty much played himself right out of
contention for a roster spot on Thursday. The former practice squad receiver
had two drops, several punt returns for little gain (one was called back by
penalty) and stepped out of bounds in the end zone before going up for a
catch. He'll be lucky to land a practice squad spot this year. Bodiford and
Ellis seem more likely at this point.
Drummond again had a nice game, and this time it was mostly playing out
wide with Roy Williams joining a host of Lions not playing at all in the
Undrafted offensive guard Frank Davis has drawn raves from Marinelli, but
he was beaten badly one-on-one by linebacker Joe Odom on a blitz, completely
whiffing in a fourth quarter play that resulted in Odom getting a sack.
Davis looks like a good bet for the practice squad, but a longshot at the
roster, given the amount of veteran bodies ahead of him.
The backup quarterback situation cleared up immensely, as Josh McCown
showed he is clearly the better QB at this point. McCown's 11-for-14
performance cemented him at No. 2 on the depth chart. Dan Orlovsky's
9-for-14 game was solid, but McCown just looked more in control. Orlovsky's
lack of mobility in the pocket has hurt him, and he takes too many sacks. He
has potential, but needs more work.
Brian Calhoun's 3.9 yards per carry with a workload of 15 attempts
officially signals the demise of Artose Pinner's career in Honolulu blue.
Calhoun showed solid running ability, in addition to the receiving skills we
knew he had. Averaging 21 yards on two kickoff returns diversifies his
games, and flexibility among reserves is something Marinelli covets. His
only poor play was a drop on what could have been a TD on a nicely-thrown
pass from Josh McCown. With Bryson and likely Arlen Harris ahead of him,
Calhoun's playing time outside of special teams might be scarce this season,
unless injuries take their toll.
The Lions starting defense looked suspect at first, as the starting unit
allowed a non-descript Bills offense to march 85 yards on 13 plays and churn
8:42 off the clock on its opening drive. They then forced a three-and-out on
the next drive, before giving way to the backups.
Donnie Henderson added a little flavor to the defense in the fourth
quarter, sending linebackers on blitzes on several occasions, especially
James Davis. The defense was still burned by draw plays. Hopefully,
Henderson has an answer for this, and just didn't want to show it in
exhibition action. Of course, that answer could very well be Shaun Rogers.
Henderson likely has some tricks up his sleeve, like LB blitz packages,
corner blitzes and how he will use pass rusher Kalimba Edwards, that he
didn‘t showcase in the preseason. With all that speed at LB, Henderson has
to be eager to unleash it at the QB.
Cornerback Keith Smith solidified a roster spot with a nice game on
special teams and a solid game on defense, where his presence went mostly
unnoticed (which is good for a cover CB because he didn‘t make any
mistakes). Harrison Smith, will likely get his second pink slip of the week,
after he was torched by Andre Davis for a TD in the fourth quarter.
Guys who may have played themselves onto the practice squad: safety
Marcus Demps, corner Lemarcus Hicks, defensive end Claude Harriott.
Harriott, in particular, had a nice game on Thursday, getting pressure on
the QB on a consistent basis and also holding up against the run.
DTs Damian Gregory and Cleveland Pinckney have both played well enough to
deserve backup spots, but the Lions' depth there will force them to be cut,
and both have too much experience to be eligible for the practice squad.
Either could be back in case of injury.
On the offensive line, Jonathan Scott's tenuous bid for a 53-man roster
spot likely took a hit after he was abused by Aaron Schobel on the Lions'
first play from scrimmage for a sack. Scott has been a major disappointment
in game action so far, and looks like it might be the practice squad for the
fifth-round pick from Texas. Scott was also whistled for a false start. He
and Fred Matua haven't quite lived up to billing, and may be headed to the
practice squad. Neither has looked quite good enough for another team to use
a roster spot on them at this point, so they should slide through waivers.
The Lions' line on opening will feature Jeff Backus, Damien Woody, Dominic Raiola, Rex Tucker, Kelly Butler, Barry Stokes, with Scott, Matua, Brock Gutierrez, Rick DeMulling and Dave Pearson fighting for one or two more
At linebacker, Alex Lewis looked outstanding. He justified a starting
spot with Teddy Lehman out, and could get the nod at strong-side linebacker.
Paris Lenon played well, but is best suited as the first LB off the bench
due to his flexibility and his special team work.