The Lions have completed two joint practices with the Raiders. Some players shined, others not so much. We discuss that and who we'll be watching in the preseason opener. The Detroit News
Napa, Calif. — If you’re planning on staying up late Friday evening to catch at least the early portions of the Detroit Lions’ preseason opener with the Oakland Raiders, you shouldn’t do so with the expectation of seeing Matthew Stafford slinging passes to Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, or Darius Slay and Glover Quin trying to undercut a Derek Carr pass to Amari Cooper.
After two joint practices between the teams, the established veterans have gotten in the work they needed. Most will take a back seat to their teams’ younger talent, battling for roles and roster spots.
With that in mind, here are five Lions players we will be watching closely Friday night.
RB Kerryon Johnson
Detroit’s second-round pick, Johnson has flashed a little bit of everything during his first two weeks of training camp. His route running and pass catching is probably further along than many expected, and he looks to be a better than advertised when asked to hang back and pass protect, but what everyone understandably wants to see is how the former Auburn standout totes the rock.
Johnson has plus-vision and burst, that much is evident. Will his offensive line give him running room against the Raiders, and even if they don’t, will he be better making something out of nothing than Detroit’s running backs were last season?
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter
A sixth-round draft pick in 2017, Ledbetter had some moments early in his first season before blending into the background down the stretch. During training camp, he’s flashed his explosive athleticism rushing from the inside, a trait that drew the Lions to him in the draft process.
With the addition of veterans Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams, plus rookie Da’Shawn Hand, Ledbetter would benefit from making an impact in the preseason to lay claim to a roster spot.
CB Teez Tabor
There’s a good chance Slay and Nevin Lawson don’t play, which opens the door for extensive playing time for the second-year cornerback. The practice field hasn’t been kind to Tabor during his quest to earn a bigger role in 2018. For every play he makes on a ball, he’s been getting beaten deep on another. And his physicality isn’t playing well with the officiating crews, drawing multiple flags during camp.
LB Freddie Bishop
In many camps, Bishop would be a non-descript journeyman, but the local product has shown enough in camp to generate some intrigue. The 6-foot-2, 260-pound linebacker has shown a knack for working his way into the backfield and has delivered some of the biggest hits since the pads have come on.
The former Western Michigan standout, who spent three years in the CFL and the past two with the New York Jets, has a significant uphill battle to earn a job after signing with Detroit just prior to the start of camp. He'll have the opportunity to build on his positive early impression against the Raiders.
WR Brandon Powell
Quick passes are a staple of the Lions offense and the shifty Powell has the quickness to make things happen in space once the ball is in his hands. Plus, there’s a decent chance he returns punts, which is a highlight waiting to happen.
Lions vs. Raiders
What: First preseason game for both teams
When: 10:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Oakland Alameda Coliseum
TV: Fox 2, NFL Network
Line: Oakland by 3