Allen Park — The Detroit Lions will host the New York Jets at Ford Field Saturday evening in the second preseason game for both teams.
The Jets are coming off an offensive struggler in their opener, squeaking by the Tennessee Titans, 7-3. The Lions went on the road and drubbed the Colts, 24-10.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he’s looking for more precision from this team in this contest.
“A little bit more efficiency, play better than we played the week before,” Caldwell said. “I could give you a whole litany of things that we didn’t do well in that game. Those things we want to see some improvement in.”
Here are seven players we’ll be watching.
■ Defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga
The undrafted rookie out of UNLV had quite a debut, racking up six tackles and a sack against the Colts. With Kerry Hyder and Brandon Copeland out for the year, the door is open for one, possibly two of the team’s young defensive ends to claim a roster spot and role to start the season. The 6-foot-6, 275-pound Valoaga will need to continue to build upon his performance if he hopes to seize the opportunity.
■ Running back Dwayne Washington
A seventh-round draft pick in 2016, Washington flashed tantalizing big-play potential last preseason, but a lack of feel and patience as a ball carrier was apparent when the Lions needed to lean on him early in the regular season.
There’s been praise for his improvement this offseason, and although the sample size is tiny, he did a better job identifying his lanes against the Colts, gaining 34 yards on six carries. With Theo Riddick still being eased back into contact following wrist surgery, Washington should continue to see a healthy amount of snaps against the Jets.
■ Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Reeves-Maybin is already starting to show up on special teams, racing down the field and gliding around blocks on punt and kickoff coverage. The rookie also impressed on defense in his debut, routinely showing up around the ball and tallying six tackles. Pro Football Focus graded him just ahead of Valoaga as the team’s best performer against the Colts.
Reeves-Maybin is firmly behind starter Tahir Whitehead on the depth chart, but injuries hit the team hard at linebacker last season. It would be comforting to know the Lions have more reliable depth on the roster this season. And even if Reeves-Maybin isn’t needed much this year, he’s a strong candidate to start in 2018.
■ Guard Graham Glasgow
The concerns at left tackle haven’t completely evaporated, but Greg Robinson is showing steady improvement. He played the first half against the Colts and only allowed pressure to get to the quarterback once. The bigger issues could be found in the middle of the line.
Glasgow, in his second season out of Michigan, looked primed to take a big step forward at the start of camp, but things haven’t been as promising the past week. Whether it’s communication errors or physical breakdowns, it’s frightening to see rushers come through clean up the middle. He’ll be tested by the Jets’ front, which starts three former first-rounders.
■ Tight end Michael Roberts
Roberts, a big-bodied dual-threat capable of serving as a red-zone weapon or blocking in-line, was drafted to help stabilize the tight end group. But it’s been a rough start for the rookie, both as a blocker and pass-catcher. His ball security issues are almost inexplicably, given his mammoth hands, but he’s consistently put catchable balls on the ground. He dropped one against the Colts, and had two more balls pop free post-whistle.
There’s a ton of talent here, but he’s a long way from being able to be trusted and the season is fast approaching.
■ Linebacker Steve Longa
A tackling machine in college, Longa averaged 111 tackles his three seasons at Rutgers. The Lions stashed him on the practice squad last season with a focus on developing him in the scheme. He’s shown solid improvement within the defense, and also appears to have the makings of a quality special teams performer. With Copeland out, there’s a clearer path to a roster spot for the Cameroon native.
■ Wide receiver Jace Billingsley
Between the mock game at Ford Field earlier this month and the preseason game against the Colts, Billingsley continues to showcase his quickness in the open field. He had two catches for 30 yards last week.
The competition for the fourth and fifth receiving jobs remains wide open, and Billingsley also remains locked in a battle to return punts, along with rookie cornerback Jamal Agnew.
Lions vs. Jets preseason
Kickoff: 7:30 Saturday, Ford Field, Detroit
TV/radio: Fox 2/760 AM
Preseason records: Lions 1-0; Jets 0-1