Live updates: Lions win, 22-17, on late Zenner TD
The Lions play the Jaguars in the third exhibition game of the preseason at EverBank Field (Channel 62). Kickoff is 8 p.m. Follow Rod Beard's updates throughout the game.
Lions win, 22-17, on late Zenner TD
Zenner had an impressive game before the final Lions drive, but he added a bonus with a nice touchdown run to give the Lions a 22-17 lead with less than two minutes left.
It's a nice story for the undrafted free agent who is trying to get a roster spot against the odds. Even if he somehow doesn't make the Lions roster, he'll draw some attention for his play tonight and throughout the preseason.
Zenner dragged the pile a couple yards after initial contact and finally got the go-ahead score.
Lions going for the win late
After a 51-yard field goal by Kyle Brindza closed the Lions' deficit to 17-16, the Lions are looking to close it out with a win after getting a fumble recovery by Corey Wooton inside the 20-yard line.
The Lions have adjusted their playcalling accordingly, choosing to run during the last three minutes to try to milk the clock and not leave enough time for the Jags to possibly mount a drive after they potentially score. Even in preseason, the strategy card is big.
Zenner looks to lock up a roster spot
Throughout training camp, rookie running back Zach Zenner has churned his way through drills, looking like an unlikely choice to make the roster, with the running backs seeming to be Joique Bell, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah and George Winn.
Maybe not so fast.
Zenner has looked good in the preseason games -- albeit against some second- and third-team opponents -- but he's been productive. He's had a few long runs and has been tough to bring down, whether in the open field or between the tackles. He has 76 yards on five carries tonight and hasn't done anything to hurt his chances, though he's made the decision tougher for the coaching staff.
The tough part about trying to stash Zenner on the practice squad is that he likely wouldn't make it through the process without another team picking him up. That means the Lions would probably have to keep him on the roster and risk maybe losing another player (Winn? or maybe another position) to balance things out.
Bortles looking better than last year
Though Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles was a first-round pick, the plan wasn't for him to play as extensively as he did last season. But he ended up doing pretty well as a rookie, with 2,908 yards, 11 TD and 17 interceptions in 13 starts.
But tonight against the Lions, he's looked very poised and has made some good decisions with the ball. Bortles had a couple of good scrambles out the pocket to avoid pressure and hasn't turned the ball over. It's a good sign for a franchise that needed a playmaker at the position, but his learning curve may be shorter than they thought initially.
Lions rally to cut deficit before halftime
Just before halftime, the Lions added another touchdown, on a nice slant play by Corey Fuller on a 4-yard pass from Stafford. The offense has looked better in the second two drives, after fizzling in the first two possessions. Stafford has been better, passing for 173 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 62-yard score to Golden Tate. The offense will be fine.
The defense had some troubles to work out on the first couple drives, but got a stop on the last long drive, forcing a turnover on downs inside the 5-yard line and another stop just before the half.
It's been a good outing for Zach Zenner again, with a nice 41-yard run and for Phillip Hunt on defense, as both are making their case for a roster spot as the first cuts are looming.
Lions show some life in 2nd quarter
Following a lackluster first quarter and a couple sloppy defensive possessions, the Lions turned things around, with Stafford finding Golden Tate for a 62-yard pass play, closing the lead to 14-7.
On the third offensive possession for Jacksonville, they converted a few more first downs, but the Lions finally got a stop on a third down in the end zone and finished with a fourth-down stop after the Jags got to the 5-yard line. It's a nice reprieve for a group that had been beaten on a couple plays with mental mistakes.
Jaguars running through Lions defense
Although the Jags offense struggled last season, they are effective and efficient tonight, working through the Lions defense for a pair of scores in the first half. Blake Bortles looks a lot more composed and has good pocket presence, breaking out for scrambles when he feels the pressure coming to him.
The addition of T.J. Yeldon could be big for the Jags, who relied mostly on Denard Robinson (Michigan) after Toby Gerhart was out because of an injury. The Lions haven't blitzed a lot tonight, so there are reasons for the miscues, but there are also some breakdowns among the linebackers and the corners.
Lions offense looking for rhythm
After two drives, the Lions don't have any points to show to show. What's more, they haven't run the ball effectively, nor passed it very well either.
On the second drive, Golden Tate had a nice catch and run on a pass from Stafford, but there doesn't seem to be a flow to the offensive drives. Stafford doesn't have Calvin Johnson, which could make a lot of quarterbacks look less than ideal.
Zach Zenner is taking most of the reps at running back, which could bode well for his chances to make the roster. He'll almost assuredly make the first cut to 75, but after that, it's anybody's guess.
First drive ends in a punt
After getting a first down on a third-down run by George Winn, the Lions had a chance to move the ball, but a penalty pushed them back behind the sticks and the drive ended with a punt. Matthew Stafford had a 7-yard pass to Golden Tate and an incompletion trying to hit Ameer Abdullah on a wheel route on the final third down of the series.
There are enough starters out that it's hard to take too much from that drive, but it's a missed opportunity to score.
No Calvin, no problem
For the third straight preseason game, Calvin Johnson won't play for the Lions -- and I have no problem with that. Looking around the NFL at some of the preseason injuries, for example the Packers' Jordy Nelson, it's hard to imagine that the Lions will put Johnson in harm's way in the preseason. The hidden benefit in that is it gives more opportunity to evaluate some of the other receivers who are on the roster bubble, such as Jeremy Ross, Greg Salas, Ryan Broyles and Andrew Peacock.
The Lions are expected to have some of their starters in for the full first half, giving them a chance to prepare physically for the grind of a regular-season game. Next week won't present those options in the final preseason game, as it'll likely be a quick look and having the starters out without much hoopla. There are plenty of chances for some of the second- and third-team players to get some good reps on film and to have those evaluated.
With plenty of other starters on the shelf -- including Ziggy Ansah, LaAdrian Waddle, Larry Jones, Haloti Ngata, Jason Jones and Joique Bell -- the Lions won't try to put players in a position to aggravate injuries and not be ready for the regular-season opener. Again, good decisions by the coaching staff. The preseason games won't mean much and if they're able to get back to the field in time for the opener, that would bode well.