Saturday, August 23, 2008

(Exhibition) Game day thread: Detroit Lions (2-0) vs. Cleveland Browns (0-2)

Game Information
Kickoff: 4 PM EDT
Television: 8 PM Tape Delay on WWJ-TV 62/CBS
Play-By-Play: Gus Johnson
Color: Desmond Howard
Sidelines: Matt Shepard
Lions Radio Network Flagship: 97.1 FM The Ticket (WXYT-FM)
Play-By-Play: Dan Miller
Color: Jim Brandstatter
Sidelines: Tony Ortiz
2008 Preseason Records: Lions, 2-0; Browns 0-2
2007 Records: Lions, 7-9; Browns 10-6

Here's your Detroit depth chart for today's game between the Lions and Browns (released before the Drew Stanton injury):

Nothing really stands out, save for the all rookie starting backfield of FB Jerome Felton and RB Kevin Smith. Barring injury, that's your starting Detroit backfield combo when the season begins in Atlanta on September 7th.

The 10 things I'm watching, dammit!

1. Health: First and foremost, the Lions desperately need to come out of today's game healthy. With the loss of Drew Stanton, QB depth suddenly looks pretty damn thin. God forbid something happens to either Jon Kitna or Dan Orlovsky. The threat of injury is why I'm sure Kitna won't play deep into the 3rd quarter, which would be the norm for the 3rd exhibition.

As the new 3rd QB is the journeyman/failed Yankee/University of Michigan drop out Drew Henson of 2008, and not the stud prospect Henson of 2000, Lions fans best hope and pray he never sees the field during the regular season. If Henson does see time today, I don't see how he could do much more than hand off. From how he's played throughout his disappointing NFL career, hand offs are all Henson's capable of doing with any degree of competency.

2. Health: It bears repeating, the Lions cannot afford anyone to miss a significant amount of time. They just don't have the depth at most positions. I know the regulars need some playing time at regular season game speeds, but let's be sensible, and get out of the game injury free.

3. Dan Orlovsky: As there is no other fall back plan at QB with Stanton missing a month, the pressure is on Dan O to show he can be a capable backup to Kitna. He looked much better against the Giants than the Bengals. A 50% completion rate (As he had against Cincy) is not going to convince anyone he's ready for prime time. I'm also curious to see if the Lions alter their play calling, keeping bootlegs and roll outs to a bare minimum when the mobile as the "Spirit of Detroit" statue, the Larry "Human Pylon" Murphy-esque, Orlovsky, is under center.

4. Running back bingo: We know Smith and Felton are going to be the starters, and the TE's will backup Felton as sort of an H-back. But the battle to be Smith's #2 is still heated, with no real favorite to step forward.

Tatum Bell, despite his stating otherwise, is playing as if he's rather be anywhere than with the Lions...Or even playing football. Avieon Cason has one foot in the door thanks to his special teams abilities. Artose Pinner has the most yards, but has put those numbers up against never-gonna-be's. Brian Calhoun is little more than an afterthought, with the word "bust" being used in reference to him daily.

Hopefully the RB situation will shake itself out tonight. If I were the man making the call, Bell and Calhoun would be gone with the first round of cuts.

5. Linebacker roulette: We still don't know who will be lining up next to Ernie Sims on opening day. Right now the leaders seem to be Paris Lenon in the middle and Alex Smith on the strong side.

As for the status of rookie Jordon Dizon, Marinelli apparently doesn't want to move him outside, and doesn't trust him enough to play the middle. Leaving us with a pair less talented LB's playing ahead of a 2nd round draft pick. No, it doesn't make sense to me, either.

OLB Leon Joe, a lowly free agent pickup who has impressed during the exhibition season, may solidify his status as a backup/special teams member with another strong performance.

6. Gosder Cherilus vs. George "The Human Yellow Flag" Foster: The rookie 1st round pick has yet to officially beat out "Mr. Can't Remember The Snap Count" at RT, but with a solid game tonight, that could finally change. My fingers are crossed...

7. Shaun Rogers: I'm sure you are as curious as I am to see the fat ass play. The chubby one is already missing practice and game time with various ailments, mostly related to joint wear and tear caused by his love of Twinkies. When Rogers is given the choice of playing football or eating pie, pie wins every time.  So who knows how much he'll actually play tonight.

 We may see the more active version of Big Baby, as he nay want to show up his former team. Though it's much more likely we'll see Rogers on the sidelines, hugging an oxygen tank as if his life depended upon it...Which it likely does.

8. Leigh Bodden: On the flip, we have the CB obtained in exchange for Rogers. So far it's been an uneventful exhibition season for Bodden, which is just how you'd want it for your number 1 corner. Still, I'd like to see him make a couple of plays, like Brian Kelly did against the Bengals. Bodden's being paid like a playmaker, it's time to show why the Lions shelled out the big bucks to keep him long-term.

9. Pass rush: 5 sacks and constant pressure on the Bengals QB's was encouraging to see last weekend. I'd like to see a repeat performance, for a couple of reasons. One, because a pass rush is a requirement if you expect to contend for a playoff spot. Two, Golden Domer, Golden Boy, and gay icon (according to TMZ) Brady Quinn is starting for the Browns. Who wouldn't want to see Quinn knocked into next week? Show of hands? No one? Thought so...

10. Special teams: They've sucked eggs ever since special teams genius Chuck Priefert retired. I'd love to see, and be damn surprised by, even a minuscule improvement tonight, but I have no faith in current special (as in "ride the short bus" special) teams coach Stan Kwan.

"FIRE KWAN" will be the TWFE rallying cry all season. "FIRE MILLEN" goes without question...

I don't plan on doing any live blogging tonight, with the tape delay being a total pain in the ass, and my being addicted to Olympics coverage. But I'll probably stop by to leave comments with this post, and would love to get thoughts from the rest of you long-suffering Lions fans out there in the series of tubes known as the internets.

Sorry for the lateness of getting this posted, but I had a few personal things to attend to today. With the move to MVN, I do plan on having game threads all season, so get used to it. As for live blogging, it'll be a week by week thing. No sellout = no TV = No live blog,  God damn NFL, and their God damn backwards blackout policies..

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