The NFL provides their closest regular season peek during Week 3 of the preseason. As the Detroit Lions gave their starters extended minutes, there were quite a few notes to take away from their 40-9 victory over the New England Patriots.
1. Offense out of sync?
The team made a last-second decision to scratch wide receiver Calvin Johnson from Thursday's lineup. After dominating these past couple seasons and nursing a bruised knee, the NFL's best receiver has nothing to prove during preseason.
With Megatron out of the lineup, the Lions need their complementary receivers to stand out. So far, that hasn't happened.
Franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford fell in love with checking down to running back Reggie Bush. Bush was targeted seven times and hauled in five of those passes for 103 yards. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew also made his opportunities count catching three of his four targeted throws for 29 yards.
Nate Burleson, Tony Scheffler, Patrick Edwards were targeted by Stafford a combined 12 times. However, they each caught only one pass, failing to create separation and get themselves open against New England's defensive backs.
Pettigrew and Bush will be available as safety valves for Stafford, but this offense has to find some sort of flow from their secondary options.
2. Still little discipline
Over the past few seasons, there have been plenty of issues slowing down the Lions' overall development. From injuries to a lack of talent at a particular position, Detroit has had enough trouble on their plate.
However, nothing has been more troublesome for this team than the lack of discipline.
The Lions racked up eleven penalties for 102 yards. The defensive line accounted for four foolish penalties in the first half, including an awful taunting penalty by defensive end Willie Young. Detroit ended up benching Young the rest of the game for drawing the flag.
Detroit applied heavy heat on quarterback Tom Brady and kept running back Stevan Ridley grounded on nine carries for six yards. The Lions also got a star performance from defensive lineman Jason Jones who recorded three tackles for loss, two sacks, and a fumble recovery.
Even with all this success and production, the Lions can't afford to go back to their penalty-plagued ways. You'd rather see a team get all their mistakes out of the way during preseason, but mistakes such as these can't occur at the rate they did Thursday. The Lions averaged 6.4 penalties last season, ranking them in the bottom half of the league.
With new players being called upon to supply leadership, look for Detroit to cut those down on penalties.
3. Unsung heroes
While some major areas need fine-tuning before the regular season, there were some bright moments on Thursday. Players continue to fight for roster spots and show their value to the team.
Second-year quarterback Kellen Moore had one of his best performances completing nine of 12 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. Detroit is still deciding on whether to keep three quarterbacks on the roster, and Moore made a nice case Thursday for joining Stafford and backup Shaun Hill.
Moore, filling in for Hill who was nursing a hurt foot, took advantage of his time on the field.
The Lions' special teams also shined bright during the preseason victory. Rookie punter Sam Martin boomed four punts and averaged 53.5 yards per attempt. The fifth-rounder managed to trap two inside the 20-yard line, including one that died at the 1-yard line. Both kickoff and punt units covered their lanes well and didn't allow the Patriot returners to break anything.
Another unsung hero was running back Joique Bell and the offensive line that blocked for him. Bell doesn't have the flash of Reggie Bush or the power of Mikel Leshoure, but his patience and effort is what will keep him on Detroit's roster.
Bell carried the ball five times for 52 yards, and he bounced off tacklers and earned plenty of hard-fought yardage. Bell also made his presence felt in the passing attack, catching two balls for 49 yards, including a 38-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.
Much credit goes to the offensive line—particularly guard Jake Scott and center Leroy Harris—for opening up some running lanes for Bell and Leshoure in the second half.
Pepsi MAX launched a new commercial today starring Detroit Lions legend Barry Sanders. Details on the ad campaign can be viewed here by the Herald Online.
The new "Disappearing Sanders" commercial advertises the Pepsi's new sweepstakes as on Madden 25 where you can unlock a legend, like Sanders. View the video above.
Nothing wrong with a little rivalry, right?
Well the bad-blood between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians spiked a notch after a dirty shot below the waist.
In the top of the ninth of Detroit's 6-5 victory last night, the fans of Cleveland silenced a "Let's go, Tigers" chant from the away crowd with a strong shot of their own. Indians fans went personal with a "Detroit's bankrupt" chant.
The Indians and Tigers finish their series tonight in Cleveland, but must return to Comerica Park August 30th for a new series. Detroit will certainly take their shot at revenge back home.
General manager Joe Dumars apparently got the message.
Detroit Pistons fans and team owner Tom Gores haven't been happy with the on-court product. The inexperienced rosters over the past five seasons have put together a record of 150-244. The losing and team dysfunction has also resulted in their fourth head coach since 2008 in Maurice Cheeks.
More importantly, it's installed a "win now" mindset for Dumars, and the man has been shuffling for change and improvement. The Pistons made an impact in the draft grabbing first-round guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and hidden gems like Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell in the second round.
Dumars even reached overseas for shooting help when he signed small forward Luigi Datome from Italy.
But the majority of the talk has surrounded the big named faces. Dumars made a big splash signing forward Josh Smith earlier in the month. And now the most recent acquisition of a sign-and-trade bringing former Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings to Detroit. The Pistons sent guard Brandon Knight, swingman Khris Middleton and center Viacheslav Kravtsov to the Bucks.
After demanding big money this offseason, and Milwaukee showing no interest in retaining Jennings, the Pistons broke little blood signing him to a three-year deal worth $24 million.
Detroit made some moves to help shape up their 15-man roster, but it will be quite the challenge managing the playing style and personalities of the new-look Pistons.
With all these changes however, what else could happen in the future of this team? Here are some possibilities.
1. More trades?
You can't help but wonder how long the Pistons will tinker with the experiment of playing Josh Smith and Greg Monroe together. Despite the fact that Moose will start at power forward, expect Monroe and Smith to interchange a lot in the front court. With no backup center, Monroe will see plenty of time at center and Smith will rotate with the second unit at power forward.
Playing in a contract year, are the Pistons looking to extend their young big man's contract? Dumars has only deemed center Andre Drummond "untouchable" but not Monroe. Plus his name as been mentioned enough as a landing chip for Boston guard Rajon Rondo.
With the possibility of Monroe already reaching his ceiling, he's expendable. For the right price, the Pistons could definitely be in the hunt to move Moose, especially if he struggles to succeed next to Smith.
Don't forget the expiring deals of guard Rodney Stuckey and forward Charlie Villanueva. The Pistons already offered both players to Toronto for forward Rudy Gay. There's still a possibility they look to dump at least one of those contracts by the start of the season.
Playing in the Eastern Conference is a gift and a curse for teams like the Detroit Pistons. With this new core of talent, the Pistons are now good enough to slide into the postseason.
The gift is playing in a lack-luster conference ran by only a couple elite teams (Indiana, New York) and one super team in the two-time defending NBA champions. After Chicago and maybe Brooklyn, the rest of the East is far more inferior opening up the possibility of making the playoffs. The curse becomes playing the sacrificial lamb to teams like the Heat or the Pacers in the first round.
Detroit should be able to score a lot more points and certainly improve defensively. They could be working with an average ceiling and only seeing the first-round of the playoffs as no higher than a No. 6 seed.
The Pistons certainly have added enough fire-power to boost their low number in attendance as well as fall into the playoffs. Seriously contending for a title is still years away in their rebuilding plan.
3. Clash of the Lefties?
Detroit already had enough on their plate in finding a way to make forwards Josh Smith and Greg Monroe work together on the court. The best answer to those two gelling would have been the addition of a pass-first Rondo-esque point guard, or the departure of Monroe.
Instead of finding a sure equalizer, Dumars took another gamble on another lefty in guard Brandon Jennings. Him being left-handed isn't an issue, but his playing-style could be hazardous to the Pistons' development.
The majority of Detroit's offense will come from their lefty trio of Jennings, Smith and Monroe. Jennings has averaged over 15 shots in his four seasons with Milwaukee, Smith's averaged just over 14 in his past seven seasons in Atlanta, and Monroe has averaged 10.5 in three years in Detroit. Monroe averaged a career-high 13.1 points-per-game last season.
While Monroe has been consistent and efficient shooting just over 51-percent, Smith and Jennings have been headaches with their shot selections.
Jennings has averaged 17 points and 5.7 assists with Milwaukee. He's a talented passer but not an efficient enough distributor, especially since he's a shoot-first point guard.
Jennings' biggest issues and scariest concerns were his high-volume and inconsistent shooting. His 39-percent average from the field and 35-percent from three-point-range certainly scared some teams away this summer. He's also a tremendous liability on defense due to size and poor discipline. BBallBreakDown.com created an in-depth video showing the inefficiencies of Jennings' game that kept him on the market for so long.
He's not much of an orchestrator or leader for that manner. Demanding the money he wanted, as well as his lack of leadership as a point guard also played a role in Jennings' long stay on the market.
With Monroe out of the lineup, the Pistons can run and show off a bit of their athleticism with Jennings, Smith, and Drummond. Detroit can possibly exploit their shooters as well like veteran guard Chauncey Billups, Luigi Datome, and Kyle Singler.
The scary thought however is Jennings and Smith get too trigger-happy, especially behind the arc. The new Piston guard can show his explosiveness by driving and creating in the paint for guys like Drummond and Smith, instead of settling for fall-away threes.
Maybe Mo Cheeks can find a suiting rotation where these new pieces can fit together, but it doesn't seem so certain at the moment. It will be enough to find a comfortable enough fit playing together. The new coaching staff with Cheeks and different faces like Rasheed Wallace could have a difficult time keeping the personalities of Jennings and Smith in line.
Better days are on the horizon for the Pistons, but how good is the question. Time will tell as the productive offseason continues and Dumars continues to shake things up.
Before heading to training camp, Detroit Lions' defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh hosted a special camp of his own.
Madison High School was the venue of Suh's Pro Camp this afternoon sponsored by Meijer and the YMCA. Over 150 kids around Metro Detroit between the ages of 7-14 participated in the charitable event today. The camp helped provide scholarships to underprivileged children in school.
Plenty of amusement was brought to the field with football drills, autographs, pictures, and other fesitivies from Suh. Click the link below for photos along with video footage at the top.
It's no secret that Detroit Lion Nate Burleson invests lots of time into his fashion sense and style. But now the flashy wide receiver has branded the catchy hashtag into a new clothing line.
As lead designer and co-founder, Burleson launched the Lion Blood line with fashion partner Robert Montalvo. The clothing is featured on the website www.lionblood.com which just debuted this year.
Burleson is no rookie to the fashion game. 2011 marked the beginning of the B-Line suit collection founded by Nate and his brothers Alvin, Kevin and Lyndale.
There have been numerous pictures posted on Burleson's personal Instagram account supporting the new label. The photos consist of fans as well as other Lions like Dominic Raiola sporting the new gear.
Lion Blood carries t-shirts and tank tops for men and women. There is also a contest every two weeks where fans can be featured on the website in their Lion Blood tees.
Click here to browse the page and get your hands on the stylish Lion Blood apparel.