Detroit News reporter Justin Rogers shares his thoughts on the Lions' preseason loss to the Houston Texans. The Detroit News
Houston — Following the Detroit Lions' second preseason game, a 30-23 loss to the Houston Texans, and a second viewing of that contest, here’s who is trending up and who is trending down coming out of the contest.
►STOCK UP: Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Playing most of the first half, Reeves-Maybin maximized his opportunity, pushing for a bigger role in the defense once the regular season rolls around. Known primarily for his instincts and range, the third-year linebacker was flying around the field Saturday night, recording five tackles on 25 reps. He showed an impressive knack for shooting gaps and disrupting plays in the backfield, recording one tackle for loss and creating a second by slowing up the back behind the line. He also broke up a pass.
The top of Detroit’s depth chart at linebacker is suddenly looking pretty solid.
►STOCK DOWN: Wide receiver Chris Lacy
With the Lions looking for a receiver to step up following the season-ending injury to Jermaine Kearse, Lacy didn’t do enough to signify he’s the guy for the job. He was targeted three times, catching just one ball for eight yards. To be fair, he was open on the second, finding second life on a scramble drill, but the QB missed him while on the move.
Additionally, Lacy was hit or miss with his blocking and in special teams. He whiffed on a Kerryon Johnson run in the second level, freeing up a defender to make the stop, and despite a nice recovery and tackle as a gunner, often didn’t maximize his frame whole blocking or in coverage on kickoffs and punts.
►TREADING WATER: Linebacker Jahlani Tavai
Throughout this game you saw Tavai doing a better job with his leverage, sinking his hips and getting low contact on Houston’s blockers. That advantage helped the rookie push back and disengage with more consistency. He finished with four stops in 21 snaps, but unlike Reeves-Maybin, Tavai’s tackles were more of the clean-up variety in the second level.
►STOCK UP: Quarterback David Fales
What a performance for Fales, who has clearly been the worst quarterback in camp this offseason. He put previously unseen deep ball accuracy on display and was even better than his stat line — 12-19 for 226 yards and a touchdown — would indicate because of a pair of drops late in the contest.
If we were resetting the race for the backup job, we’d probably still slot Fales behind Tom Savage, but the performance is enough to put Fales back on even footing with veteran Josh Johnson.
►STOCK DOWN: Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
At this point, it’s difficult to imagine Melvin not starting opposite Darius Slay, but he hasn’t quelled any concerns about a spot that has long been an issue on this roster. Melvin got easily beat for a touchdown by Deandre Hopkins, which isn’t all that surprising since the All-Pro receiver can work over most corners, but the veteran defensive back also let a couple other receivers get behind him deep, even though the damage was limited by subpar throws.
►TREADING WATER: Joe Dahl
From a blocking perspective, Dahl was solid as he continues his pursuit of the vacant starting guard job. He largely kept the pressure off the quarterback and even got some movement in the ground game. But penalties are a quick way to kill drives, and kill your individual momentum when fighting for a job. The fourth-year guard drew flags for holding and a false start in 25 snaps.
►STOCK UP: Defensive end Romeo Okwara
Okwara was a force throughout the evening, generating a steady amount of pass-rush pressure in 31 snaps, while recording a sack and two quarterback hits. He also forced a turnover, punching the ball free from a receiver tied up near the sideline, leading to a scoop and score by rookie Will Harris.
►STOCK DOWN: Quarterback Josh Johnson
Given he’s only been with the Lions a week, this might seem a bit harsh, but Johnson's unfamiliarity with his receivers and the scheme showed up a number of times on Saturday. There were multiple times he didn’t appear on the same page with his targets, he held on to the ball too long in the pocket on one snap and fumbled when the pass rush got home, and when leading a 2-minute drive at the end of the first half, Johnson made an ill-advised throw directly to a defender resulting in an interception.
►TREADING WATER: Safety Will Harris
This was a much better showing than Harris’ practice performance would have suggested, and you can see things starting to come easier for the young safety. His strength against the Texans was coming forward and making clean tackles. He led the team with six stops. He also came up with a pass breakup on a route coming back to the quarterback.
Harris counted his successes with lingering struggles in coverage, whether it was late help from his zones or sticking with his assignment in man coverage. He got beat for a touchdown in the second quarter by tight end Jordan Thomas, but was bailed out by a holding call in the trenches.
►STOCK UP: T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson had his first catch of the preseason, a 22-yard gain on a backside throw, but where he stood out was with his blocking. He showed the ability to get in space and mark a target on the move just as well as he did at keeping edge rushers away from his quarterback.
Hockenson was assessed with an illegal crack-back block, which was more about his positioning than the force with which he delivered the offending blow. If anything, it will serve as a teaching moment about the techniques required to meet the NFL rule.
►STOCK DOWN: P.J. Johnson
Johnson is a big man who needs to be reliable with his gap assignments while defending the run, but he was too easily pushed around on what ended up being the game-winning drive for the Texans. On the final five plays of the series, the offense ran the ball up the gut, bullying the young, raw rookie.