Three Cups Deep: Preseason Week 2, Lions at Browns

>> 8.22.2011

Let’s review my Great Lakes Classic preview:

How the Lions’ front seven looks against Joe Thomas & Co. will be telling; the Browns completely neutralized the Packers’ pass rush.

As I said in the Fireside Chat, the difference between the Bengals’ and Browns’ offensive lines was breathtaking. Instead of relentless dominance, the Lions’ starters were merely effective, and Colt McCoy had time to make good decisions and get rid of the ball. Sometimes, only by a split-second—but that can be the difference between a sack and a six-yard completion for a first down.

If Stephen Peterman, Dom Raiola, and Rob Sims can’t open up any space for Jahvid Best tonight, that will also spell trouble.

“Trouble” with a capital T. Browns were getting into the backfield on nearly every running play, and Raiola’s second-level blocking was uncharacteristically bad. It doesn’t matter how quickly you get to the second level if the a linebacker can blow you up once you get there. Best was swarmed until they knocked him out of the game with an apparent concussion.

I’m hoping to see another two-great-drives-and-out performance from Matthew Stafford, then big doses of Drew Stanton and Zac Robinson.

Yes, this happened. Not quite as “great” as last week from Stafford, but no negatives and bountiful positives. It looks as though Stafford’s for real. Stanton, in my mind, clearly separated himself from Robinson (if he hadn’t by, you know, starting and winning real games for the Lions). He made some flat-out NFL throws Friday night, and looked dominant against the Browns’ threes—the clear mark of someone who belongs on the roster. We’ve yet to see any of those awful misfires he’s always had hidden in his ammunition, either; in my mind he’s making a solid bid for the long-term backup gig.

I want to see Jahvid Best run well inside and out, and then I’d like to see either Aaron Brown or Jerome Harrison make a resounding statement.

Eeeerrrgh. Best had no room inside, made a few nice plays in space, and went out with what looked like a mild concussion; the leopard has not changed his spots. Until he has holes to hit and hits them, this will remain a concern. Brown, Harrison, and Bell had a little more daylight to work with once it was two vs. twos or threes vs. threes, but still none look to challenge Maurice Morris for a backup spot. I’d like to see them replace Bell with someone else’s training camp cut.

The Lions can’t completely sell out contain on the running lanes to get to the passer.


I’ll be more concerned about the halftime score than the final tally. Word is the Browns will play their starters for most of, if not all of, the first half, and I want to see the Lions’ twos hold their own.

They didn’t. Now, it wasn’t awful and—as I said on the podcast—there were simply too many sloppy penalties, sloppy turnovers, and minor injuries to major players to get much worthwhile evaluation out of this game. For the most part, the stuff we knew was working (the quarterbacks, Burleson, the D-line) was working and the questions we had (run O, run D, pass coverage) remain questions.

The game was a mixed bag, with a mixed result. Going into an always-serious third preseason game against the Patriots . . . I’ve got mixed feelings.


5Bakerstreet,  August 22, 2011 at 8:31 PM  

How far has Stanton progressed under coach Linehan?

Lions recover a Browns fumble deep in Browns territory late in the game.

The first play Linehan sends in goes for the kill, and Stanton threads a perfect pass to Joe Jon Finley for the TD. Lions down 28-27.

Two things.

1 - the coaching staff now has enough confidence in Stanton to call plays like that while Stanton is under center.

2 - Stanton has improved his skills to the point where he can make those throws and the coaching staff has full confidence Stanton can succeed in those situations.

If I understand the contract signings of Hill and Stanton, both are signed thru 2012.

Hill probably has maxed out his skill set, while Stanton's skill set continues to trend up. And if Stanton's skill set continues to trend up under the watchful eyes of Lions management and the outstanding guidance of coach Linehan, then Stanton, this year waits in the wings to inherit the backup qb position on the depth chart.

Not likely the Lions will be able to hide Zac Robinson on the practice squad this year as so far this preseason, Robinson's skill set seems to have improved as well.

SportsGuy,  August 22, 2011 at 9:34 PM  

First commenter beat me to it. Though I was ready to say the same thing after Drew's work against the Bungles. Just look at how quiet his lower body is now. None of that Nervous Nellie priming himself to rabbit out of the pocket at the drop of a hat.

Right now, this very moment I think he is a stronger #2 than Hill.

Ty,  August 22, 2011 at 10:06 PM  


Those are two fantastic points. Right now I completely agree; if you're choosing between extending one or the other, Stanton has far more upside (and, of course, is quite a bit younger). You're right that Robinson won't hide on the PS long . . . I hope he's the one they trade, though I wouldn't be stunned to see either Stanton dealt to a team in desperate need of an upgrade at #2 backup.


randomguy313,  August 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM  

Ty, I think we should start charting the screen game and swing passes as runs. As long as Raiola is at center a power run game will not be present.

Sure, Mo Morris popped some runs against Tampa but that performance was also sandwiched with 1.8 yards a carry performances.

The biggest thing the Lions need to accomplish is to slow the defense on the pass rush and the aforementioned screens and swings with a draw thrown in there will suffice.

The tough part will be the 4 minute drill to kill the clock and that is the step the Lions need to take to be considered as contenders.

randomguy313,  August 23, 2011 at 10:25 AM  

RE: Stanton

As much as Killer wants to indicate that Zac Robinson has put himself into the discussion for the 3rd QB, it is my opinion that it is not even close.

Stafford has to show that he can navigate through a season without getting dinged before the Lions can consider that 3rd string as a developmental option.

Hill and Stanton provide a unique advantage for the Lions as most NFL teams cannot speak to the depth the Lions have.

Going into next year I think Stanton will secure the back up position because I think there will be opportunity for Shaun Hill as a starter; you can't tell me he would not be an upgrade in Miami (unless they are in line to get Andrew Luck).

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