I’ve still not had time to watch more than highlights of the first half. The video below is a good highlight of the scoring (mostly) but still… it is enough to keep a Lions fan excited that is for sure! I especially can see Stafford roping those passes out to CJ instead of Colbert…which would mean more than a 25% chance he catches it.
As I was watching this (particularly the Turner run), and looking over the topics of conversation on the first preseason game, I realized that many of us were either missing, or not honing in on one very important fact: The starters on Defense especially that the Lions put out there are not likely to be starting opening day. Same with the WR on the offense to a lesser extent, but that was mainly due to injury.
On the defense, it was — I am now sure — completely intentional. We know Grady Jackson was still not ready to start, and that Landon Cohen was making progress but did you really expect that Sammie Hill and Landon Cohen would be the starting DT’s versus the Falcon’s 1st team offense? That Hunter would be the starting DE? That Hicks and Pearson would be the starting safeties? Being as they were playing the Falcons, an image of birds crossed my mind…
My office is half in the ground — so essentially when I am sitting at my desk, if I look out of the window over my computer monitor, my eyes are at ground level. Between the building and the parking lot next to it is a row of bushes (the leafy kind) and in the spring, the birds build their nests in there and they are flying back and forth. Since they don’t realize I’m there (the glass is solid) I can see the nests that are hidden there — including the little baby birds that stick their heads out of the nest and tweet incessantly. (okay, so nature isn’t always fun — I have work to do after all). At some point, the birds basically are either shoved or jump out of the nest and try to fly. The main point is, they won’t know if they can fly (or how well) until they do it. Which means leaving the nest and giving it a go, no matter how ugly it turns out.
Starting the players they did on defense was tough love little birdie pushing. Hill has been labeled a project, and he knows it. Everyone says the game is faster. Size isn’t enough. Use that leverage. But until he hit real NFL linemen in a real game situation, he could only visualize. Like a little bird thinking about flying. Cohen, likewise, has bulked up and was doing good in drills, but would it translate to the field? How could they get him even more confidence to be even more aggressive and know what he needs to work on?
How about throwing both of the out of the nest at the same time and going “give flying a try — the ground isn’t that far away if you screw it up.” Both Cohen and Hill got something on Saturday far more valuable than the Atlanta starters got, or a Mike Turner TD: Experience. Experience against a very very solid Atlanta starting offensive line, RB, QB… Experience that will do more to not only guage their progress — but move it along at a swifter, clearer, pace.
Nothing like getting your butt handed to you on a platter by a veteran savvy O-Lineman to bring some lessons home and motivate you to get better and kick his backside next time you get action. They call it getting schooled for a reason. Cohen held his own, while Hill had some trouble. But if they paid attention to their “schooling” they will be better — and hungrier. You can’t tell me watching himself get pushed back on film won’t make Hill want to get out there, get low, and take someone down.
While I can quibble about some of the decisions made (why was Buchanan back to return a punt, and why in the heck was Cason getting so many carries – though I’m glad they saved Smith), overall you can see this pattern. Guys that they know what they have, or that they didn’t feel needed as much evaluation didn’t see a whole lot of plays — and it was planned that way.
It is nice to see the Lions’ staff using the preseason to…you know…actually evaluate and teach players instead of just going through the motions like it has felt so many times in the past. I think that they get it…and IF that translates to better prepared players, and a better prepared team on Sundays, then I think we will all be pleasantly surprised by how well these baby birds have learned how to fly.
IF…season. Preseason is 25% over, and in a few weeks we will get to see the real season unfold as the IF’s slow, and the Film prevails. As hopefully do the Lions!!