Ten Lions players to watch vs. Washington

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

The Lions had an excellent performance in their preseason opener against the Jets last week, winning 23-3 and dominating on offense and defense for much of the game.

But, teams typically spend little time, if any, preparing specifically for their opponent in the first exhibition, and in Thursday's matchup against Washington (7:30 p.m./Fox 2), the Lions should play a team a bit more familiar with how they play.

"This week, there are no surprises," coach Jim Caldwell said. "Nobody is going to be surprised at how quick Ameer (Abdullah) is, no one is going to be surprised at Laken's (Tomlinson) strength and size as a young guy that they all have seen and looked at him.

"They'll all have made some kind of prep as well in this particular game, so it stiffens a little bit. So, we're going to see how they progress, see how they match up and measure up, obviously, to the competition in this league, (and) it's going to be a great opportunity for us."

Caldwell said he'll be looking for the Lions to "function better" this week than last week in every area. And while the players will try to show that improvement, the road trip to Washington gives some of the younger guys a chance to experience life on the road in the NFL.

Ultimately, though, the game will just be another chance for players on the 90-man roster to show they belong in the top 53 for the regular season.

Here are 10 players to watch Thursday night:

DT Tyrunn Walker: The free-agent acquisition looked like the powerful pass rusher the Lions need on the interior during training camp, but Caraun Reid played better in the first exhibition game. Walker remains the favorite to start next to Haloti Ngata, but strong play Thursday would help his cause.

OT Cornelius Lucas: One of last year's prized undrafted free agents, Lucas has alternated good and mediocre days in camp. He'll be the starter in Week 1 if LaAdrian Waddle doesn't recover from his knee injury in time, and some opportunities to block Washington outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan should be a good test for Lucas.

RB George Winn: Winn is still in good position to make the 53-man roster, but rookie Zach Zenner closed the gap a bit with strong performances in the first preseason game and practices this week. The downhill-running Winn had just 3 yards on his five carries last week, and although his special teams skills make him a strong candidate to be the No. 4 running back this year, a better offensive performance wouldn't hurt.

DE Larry Webster: A fourth-round pick last year, Webster was a disappointment in training camp and often looked overmatched against backup offensive tackles. In 27 snaps last week, he recorded just one tackle, but he should have plenty more opportunities this week.

QB Dan Orlovsky: In the battle for the No. 2 quarterback job, Orlovsky earned an advantage last week over Kellen Moore. Moore actually received the bulk of second-team drills Tuesday, so he might be the second option Thursday as he was last week. But another solid performance by Orlovsky would help keep him ahead of Moore.

LB Travis Lewis: Lewis has been a solid special teams contributor during his three seasons with the Lions, but after missing the last 14 games with a quad injury last year, Josh Bynes filled in admirably and was key asset on defense. Lewis had two special teams tackles last week, and more strong play would help him stay on the roster.

DT Jermelle Cudjo: One of the under-the-radar stars of camp, Cudjo had a tackle for loss and recovered a fumble last week. More splash plays could help convince the Lions to keep five defensive tackles.

WR Jeremy Ross: With Greg Salas and TJ Jones playing well last week, Ross has to step up his game. He had a 26-yard kickoff return last week, but had zero catches on three targets during his 28 offensive snaps.

CB Josh Wilson: His roster spot is mostly secure because of his experience playing inside, but with Nevin Lawson playing well recently, some strong play Thursday would help Wilson remain the top nickel option.

S Taylor Mays: Mays has been mostly unimpressive during camp, so to have a chance at making the roster, he has to start making plays. In 15 snaps last week, he had just one tackle.