The Detroit Lions will take the field for their penultimate preseason game this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and while many will contend this game will be boring or useless, there are several compelling reasons to pay close attention to this contest as it happens.
Both teams could elect to play things differently in terms of who starts and who sees significant time, and that will be a key variable to watch when the game gets going on Saturday night that could play a role in the eventual outcome.
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What will be the most important variables to watch for the Lions this week? Here’s a look at the biggest questions fans should remember during the game.
How Much Will Detroit’s Starters Play?
Based on what Dan Campbell told the media at the end of the week of practice, it seems several key Lions are on track to miss the action this coming week. Names like Jared Goff, T.J. Hockenson and D’Andre Swift all figure to be grabbing spots on the bench during the early stages. That will mean fans can go into this game not expecting to learn much about the regular season, but folks should get a good idea of what’s really happening at some of the backup spots. Seeing if any starters make it into the game and for how much time will be a good watch for fans. It’s a tough juggle for a new staff to figure out how to properly manage things, especially given the season is approaching fast and players could need to shake off rust, get reps or get right ahead of a new season. Still, don’t expect much of that to play out this week for the Lions.
Will Detroit’s Solid Mindset Carry Over?
One of the best things about the narrow loss to the Buffalo Bills last week was how the Lions fought throughout the game, remained passionate and didn’t seem to give an inch. They didn’t get embarrassed or blown out, and it was a solid physical affair from start to finish for the team. Some mistakes happened in crunch time, but overall, the team’s new mindset seemed to shine through in a major way with everyone looking engaged start to finish. It will be important for the Lions to have that once again, and if they do, Dan Campbell’s new culture will truly start to take hold. Consistency, especially on the road, will be very important in helping to build this.
Who Asserts Themselves Within the Bubble Watch?
This year’s roster bubble could be tighter than many other seasons given a new staff and a new preseason approach from the league. With that in mind, time is running out for folks to make an impression across the roster at a bunch of spots. The Lions will want to see if they can iron some things out at quarterback, and also perhaps generate more buzz at some other spots on offense and defense. To some fans, the preseason might be mundane, but to several Lions, this game represents a life or death situation for their professional careers. Who will make the most of the opportunity?
Does Anything Get Ironed out at Kicker?
In spite of abruptly signing him to the team just days before, the Lions elected to let Zane Gonzalez be a bystander last week as Randy Bullock went 3-3 on short field goals and nearly won the game with his final kick in the late stages. While that was a good start for Bullock and the team, it was nowhere near enough to learn about where an uncertain kicking game could be heading this fall. Seeing if the Lions can get their kickers some longer and more pressure-packed looks is important, as will be seeing if Gonzalez has anything to offer the competition, or if Bullock is still the guy the team is locked in on as the potential starter.
Where Is Scott Daly at as Lions’ Snapper?
Daly is the only snapper on the roster and is looking like a sure bet to be the guy who replaces Don Muhlbach, who was released in a bold roster move this week. In spite of that, Dan Campbell and Daly himself have talked about the constant need to earn this job every single day. Will he do that in his first game without anyone else around him? Daly is being handed a golden ticket at a job that hasn’t come open in over two decades, so seeing if he can remain flawless and as potentially good as advertised with the pressure largely off will be significant in this game.