Lions vs. Ravens: Five things to watch

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are five things to watch when the Detroit Lions travel to Baltimore to face the Ravens in the third exhibition contest for both teams.

Safety battle

While most of the starting lineup appears settled, there’s still some uncertainty at the safety position opposite Glover Quin. General manager Bob Quinn named four candidates in the lead-up to training camp, but the battle is down to two – free-agent additions Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson. Will one be able to gain separation in the competition in Baltimore?

Finishing drives

The Lions have had plenty of success moving the ball during the first two exhibition games, but finishing drives has been a struggle. The team has scored just one touchdown in six trips to the red zone and quarterback Matthew Stafford has yet to lead a touchdown drive. It’s not a necessity, but it would be a confidence-builder if the offense can set foot in the painted grass a couple times against the Ravens.

Lions' Washington making most of what's handed to him

Will injured starters play?

DeAndre Levy hasn’t taken a snap in a game since last October and the Lions have been cautious with running back Ameer Abdullah’s surgically repaired shoulder, holding him out of the previous two games. With the regular season fast approaching, and both fully participating in practice, this is a good opportunity to knock the rust off two key starters. Of course, the team could continue to play it safe with a focus on having everyone available Week 1 against the Colts.

Return game clarity

Just like last season, the Lions have been rotating through multiple return men all training camp.  The most popular options in the games have been receivers Andre Roberts and Jeremy Kerley, who are both on the roster bubble and can strengthen their case by standing out on special teams. But other options are still on the table, from TJ Jones and Abdullah, who worked in those roles last year, as well as rookie running back Dwayne Washington, who returned a kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown against the Steelers two weeks ago.

Get ground game on track

Regardless of whether Abdullah suits up or not, the Lions need to prove they can run the ball more effectively. In the first two exhibition games, the team averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Strip out backup QB Jake Rudock’s scrambles and that average dips to 2.9 yards per carry. Yuck. It won’t be an easy task to get going against the Ravens, who are allowing just 3.3 yards per attempt during the preseason.

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