-Two international players with the least amount of football experience, but with the most impressive nicknames delighted Detroit Friday night. Rookie Ezekiel “Ziggy” Ansah of Ghana showed us his size and burst with a pick six on the Jets’ first drive. The number five pick of this year’s draft followed with a nice move on stud left takle D’Brickashaw Ferguson with a run stuffing tackle for loss. Later on in the game 28-year-old YouTube kicking sensation Havard Rugland of Norway, a.k.a. “Kickalicious”, bashed two field goals from 49 and 50 yards deep.
-Nostalgia of last year crept up the throat when Matthew Stafford’s first pass was deflected. While last season is hoped to be an off-year for the 4th-year quarterback he did his best impersonation of the inconsistent, inaccurate passer we had witnessed too often. But just like last year, Stafford found Calvin Johnson when he wanted too. In fact, Stafford’s only three completions were to Johnson for a total of 58 yards.
Stafford only has eyes for his record-breaking receiver and while they make a great couple, he has to get out more and see other friends. His buddies Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles were out of commission tonight, so I will give the former number one pick some slack. However, Stafford’s clinginess must end or else the Detroit Lions will have the same predictable offense they displayed last season.
– Special teams looked great! Just like the aforementioned ‘Kickalicious’, veteran David Akers made both of his field goals. 5th rounder Sam Martin showed off his boot as well. His first punt went for 54 yards with great hang-time and left the Jets behind their own 10-yard line. Patrick Edwards showed a spark in the punt return game with a 25-yard dash that was called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty. While special teams may seem trivial, the Lions lost multiple games last season solely through their ineptness at every aspect. If they can turn those negatives into positives their close losses will become wins.
– Who is Matt Willis? The undrafted 29-year-old with only 30 catches for 385 yards amassed in his career dazzled the Ford Field crowd, grabbing the Lions’ lone offensive touchdown. He caught three balls for 51 yards on the night, not including a spectacular snatch made out of bounds. Willis has been a special teams player for the bulk of his career with the Denver Broncos.
He is highly unlikely to make the active roster, but the Lions’ back-end of their wide receiver depth chart is open for competition as a plethora of no-names try to make their mark in the NFL.
- The offense stalled early and often just like last year’s 4-12 group did.
- The new-look offensive line did just fine in the aerial attack, but lacked any push in the run game. Look for bulldozer Larry Warford to supercede Dylan Gandy at guard to help that issue.
- The defense applied the immense pressure I was hoping for, along with stifling the Jets at the line of scrimmage. One could not help but notice rookie ends Ansah and Devin Taylor shine in their stints.
- The linebackers were porous against the pass just as expected, leaving short and middle routes wide open. Deandre Levy, whom the Lions rely upon for coverage skills, wound up chasing the tails of an inferior Jet offense.
- The secondary had no impact. They rarely blew an assignment but came away with zero turnovers and failed in aiding the linebackers. The addition of a healthy Louis Delmas could do wonders.
One Last Thing
Did we just watch a preseason game? Maybe it was the long layoff from football, but I found myself catch a goose bump from the sheer enthusiasm I witnessed. Ford Field was sold out, the fans were going nuts, and the players looked like kids on Christmas. The camaraderie and joy this team exemplified in early August looked unique to me, so yes I am excited for Thursday.