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5 Things To Look For Against Cleveland
Who's ... On First?
1. Jim Schwartz is playing Detroit's quarterback quandary aloof, refusing to acknowledge any exhibition quarterback as a "starter " (despite the very vivid definition), but the declaration of Matthew Stafford as -- for lack of a better phrase -- the "first quarterback" against Cleveland on Saturday might make the ad hoc status permanent. But it's completely up to the rookie to make it happen. Against Atlanta last week, Stafford demonstrated a stronger arm and more fluid knowledge of Detroit's offense than Daunte Culpepper. Whereas Culpepper seemed to be playing not to lose whatever grasp he has on the starting role, Stafford was obviously playing to win it outright. If Stafford can show improvement and have another strong outing, Schwartz's future refusals to name a starter until the fourth preseason game would be ambiguous at best.
Stafford will enjoy the entire first and part of the second quarter at Cleveland.
2. The Lions harbored possibly the worst secondary in league history a year ago, and while it has been revamped in aesthetics and scheme, it's difficult to gauge whether it's been improved. The team still has two aging, mid-tier cornerbacks that may or may not fit the defensive blueprint, but the silver lining is rookie Louis Delmas. Delmas has had an outstanding camp, but swelling in his knee forced him to miss over a week of action, including the win over Atlanta. With the hard-hitting former Western Michigan standout starting his first professional tilt, it will be interesting to see his impact on both the defensive backfield, and opponents.
3. The Lions blitzed 19 times against Atlanta and still failed to record a sack. Given Gunther Cunningham's penchant (and, quite honestly, his personal joy) for batting around opposing quarterbacks, expect him maximize the use of Julian Peterson and others. Detroit will also be lining up Shaun Smith and veteran Grady Jackson; Smith, a former Brown, will start, and it will be Jackson's first preseason appearance. The Lions are still ironing out the rotation amongst the defensive linemen, so finding the value with specific lineups and packages is key to preparing for the regular season.
More Carries for Smith
4. After touching the ball just five times before disappearing last week, expect starting RB Kevin Smith to at least double that total against Cleveland. Detroit's coaching staff wants to get a longer look at last year's rookie sensation, which might involve leaving Smith in for the entire first quarter. "I’d like to double his touches," explained Schwartz. "He had a good first series, that’s what we had targeted for him as far as number of touches, and then took him out after that.”
Offensive Line Continuity
5. The Lions didn't yield any sacks against Atlanta, but that doesn't necessarily quell the concern across the offensive line. Although the team pretty much has an idea of whom the starters will be, continuity is still necessary. Cleveland and former Lion Shaun Rogers will challenge the core of Detroit's line, along with a 3-4 defense that the Lions haven't seen since the 2007 season.
"We’re going to see pretty much every form of a 3-4 defense this week that you can possibly see, which is great," said offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. "It’s going to be a great test for us; we’re also going to see it during the season and we’re going to need the work, and it’s nice to have some time to at least prepare for it here in the preseason.”