It’s the third exhibition game, which means more playing time for the starters, the closest the preseason comes to simulating the regular season.
The Detroit Lions take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Thursday night at Ford Field.
The Lions would like to see the first-team offense come to life and score its first touchdown of the preseason while the defense needs to upgrade its tackling from last week’s lazy loss at Cleveland.
Here are five storylines to follow:
1. Two years ago, the Lions used this third preseason game as a springboard to a 10-win, playoff season by routing the Patriots, 34-10, at home.
“I definitely think it gave us some momentum for sure,” left guard Rob Sims said. “They’ve been a great team over the last decade. Whenever you can play somebody that’s going to go deep in the playoffs every single year, yeah, it was a good feeling.
“I don’t think it dictates how the season is going to go either way, but it definitely does not hurt.”
Could there be a little deja vu Thursday night?
2. The competitions for starting jobs at right guard and right tackle apparently remain unresolved.
Even Sims, the team’s top offensive lineman, insists he’s not sure how they’re going to play out.
“We think about it the same way you guys do,” Sims said of the uncertainty. “We see a couple guys at both of those positions that are really fighting for that starting job. It’s been a great competition to watch.”
The rotations continue on a daily basis. Dylan Gandy started the first game at right guard, Jake Scott the second. But rookie Larry Warford is also in the mix.
Over at right tackle, Corey Hilliard started the opener, Jason Fox last week.
This is the game where the coaches should tip their hand a little bit more on what they plan to do for the regular-season opener in a couple weeks.
3. Will he or won’t he play?
The Lions aren’t expected to make an announcement on whether safety Louis Delmas is going to make an appearance until game day.
Delmas continues to rehab a chronically injured left knee. The objective from the start of training camp was to get him healthy for the regular season, which is why he has practiced so infrequently.
But Delmas has tried to talk his way into the lineup for this one.
“That’s my goal,” he said. ” I think I need it. I don’t think there’s one athlete that can just sit back and not play any games and go out there and have a successful game. I did it last year (against Philadelphia after being out a couple months). I’m not going to say that was luck.”
It’s very unlikely Delmas will play in the final exhibition so this is his one shot to get some live action before the September 8 opener against Minnesota.
4. Despite a new group of receivers and tight ends, Brady already appears to be in midseason form.
He’s completed 18-of-20 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, no interceptions. His quarterback rating is off the charts at 135.8. He finished last season at 98.7.
“That dude there is like God on the field,” Delmas said.
It will be a good test for a defense that has to start wrapping up on tackles if it’s going to be improved at all from last year.
“This one will definitely show how we are as a defense and how we accept pressure,” Delmas said.
5. Cornerback Chris Greenwood, a fifth-round draft pick last year out of Albion College, could make his Lions’ debut.
He missed all of last season following abdominal surgery and missed much of this camp because of a hamstring injury.
Three other newcomers – defensive back Rashean Mathis, defensive tackle Justin Bannan and linebacker Rocky McIntosh – should also get playing time after being added to the roster in recent days.
Mathis, who already has taken some first-team reps at the nickel (fifth DB), was released by Jacksonville after nine years with the Jaguars. He called coming to the Lions “a breath of fresh air” for him.