It’s been so long, I’d almost forgotten. Real football been so far removed from my train of thought; the courtroom antics and traded barbs and season review and number crunching and shopping lists and salary cap numbers almost made me forget about real football. I almost forgot how close it was, how little time there’d be between the figurative kickoff of the league year, and the literal first kickoff.
Two days from now, the Lions will play the Bengals, and all these players, these search keywords, these post tags, these names—mere labels for collected notions of “size” and “instincts” and “experience”—coalesce into people. Men. Players will don pads and jerseys, taped fingers will lace up cleats. Underneath the laundry cynics say we root for, sweat will bead and stomachs will flutter. From the inside the foundation of the old Hudson’s warehouse, they’ll emerge to smoke, music, fireworks, and crowd of thousands of screaming, cheering Lions fans. Then, they’ll go to work.
The Bengals are an interesting opponent. Looking to break in rookie quarterback Andy Dalton and rookie superwideout A.J. Green, we may see their starting offensive line and receivers a little more than usual. Fittingly, they’ll be stress testing the Lions’ weakest unit, the back seven, while providing opportunities for the Lions’ second-strongest unit, the defensive line. Zac at SideLion Report had a nice Q&A with Bengals blog Stripe Hype, if you’re looking for more.
The Lions’ strongest unit is quarterback; while I hope we’ll see at least two series from Matthew Stafford, I’d also like to see Drew Stanton in the whole second half. I doubt Shaun Hill will be interested in re-upping as a long-term backup, so the Lions have to find out if Drew Stanton is capable of taking his place. Elsewhere offensively, I’m hoping to get a long, long look at Johnny Culbreath at LT, and Derrick Williams at WR. Don’t think I won’t be watching the tailback situation with interest, too; I expect Harrison to get a lot of work.
On the defensive side, I hope to see very little Ndamukong Suh. I want Sammie Hill, Andre Fluellen, and Quinn Pitcock in and causing havoc. I want a BIG dose of The Great Willie Young. I hope to see the starting linebacker trio in for as many snaps as possible. I hope to see a lot of Aaron Berry working against A.J. Green. I want Amari Spievey in there as much as possible, too; I’m convinced that more reps will help him develop quickly into a force.
Really, though? I just want to see who beats who in a fight between lions and tigers.