‘Whole mode changes’ for Lions with shift to regular season

By Eric Coughlin
Special to The Detroit News
Jarrad Davis

Allen Park — Preseason results might not mean much in the NFL, but after a 1-3 record and a minus-34 point differential, Detroit Lions players are ready to move on to the regular season.

"Preseason's preseason," second-year Lions linebacker Jarrad Davis said after practice Monday. "You're going to get a limited number of reps (in preseason), so it's nice to be able to go out and play and practice for a new team and somebody that we want to go beat and it's actually going to count."

The Lions open the regular season Monday night against the New York Jets at Ford Field.

Rookie running back Kerryon Johnson doesn't think the players' mindsets change much with the transition to the regular season.

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"We practice through fall camp with the mindset that we're trying to get better every day, and we're keeping that mindset," Johnson said. "It's really kind of similar. We're trying to get better at our craft and we're trying to carry that through the season. Get up, eat breakfast, come to practice, give it your all and go home. Wake up the next day and do it again. It makes the game easier that way."

Davis likes to utilize preseasons as an intermediate mode to smooth out the transition between the offseason and regular season.

"It helps me mentally, preparing and getting ready for what's coming, knowing the grind and knowing what it takes," Davis said. "I use the preseason as a stepping stone to get ready for the regular season and knowing how to prepare for games, get in a routine."

For coach Matt Patricia, the first week of regular-season practice signals a transition from evaluating his team to evaluating the first opponent.

"The whole mode changes, really," Patricia said. "We’ll still be, obviously, working the roster the best we can. We’ll be bringing guys in. There are a lot of guys that have been released here over the last couple days and there will be more to come, so we’ll continually try to look at those players to see if they help upgrade us on our roster. But really at this point, we start to transition into the next phase, which is specifically trying to game plan for an opponent, the Jets here, on a long week."

As a rookie, the preseason was Johnson's first taste of NFL-level football. In four games he ran 15 times for 68 yards, a 4.5-yard average, with no touchdowns. He also caught five passes for 43 yards. The Lions run game has struggled for years, and the selection of Johnson in the second round was seen as an attempt to get Lions rushers on track.

"I showed what the drafted me for," Johnson said of his preseason performance. "They drafted me to run the ball, they drafted me to be a complete back. I gave it my all."

Eric Coughlin is a freelance writer.