LIONS INSIDER

Lions at Bills preview

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Tim Twentyman takes a look at five storylines to follow as the Lions wrap up their preseason in Buffalo.

The preseason concludes for the Detroit Lions in Buffalo tonight, and it provides players who are fighting for a starting spot, and others a roster spot, an opportunity to impress head coach Jim Caldwell and general manager Martin Mayhew one last time ahead of Saturday’s roster trim down.

“Well this game is really important to a lot of our guys, (especially) to those that are in tight battles,” Caldwell said. “This is kind of the point of the roster where these games count heavily for the individuals that are playing in the games.”

So what should we watch for Thursday night?

WILL STAFFORD PLAY?

There will be some key starters in street clothes for the Lions, but it hasn’t been made public by Caldwell if quarterback Matthew Stafford will be among them.

“That remains to be seen yet,” Caldwell said Tuesday.

“We haven’t made a declaration in terms of who’s playing. In this case, it’s not going to be across the board with any particular position or individual. It’ll be depending upon who we want to see and need to see and who we don’t need to see at this particular time if that indeed happens. The great majority of the guys will probably get some playing time.”

It would be surprising if Calvin Johnson played. Same thing with running back Reggie Bush.

If Stafford does play, don’t expect more than a series, which is typical for this fourth preseason game. The Lions wouldn’t mind getting a close look at backups Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore for an extended amount of time.

WHO IS THE RIGHT TACKLE WEEK 1?

LaAdrian WaddleT LaAdrian Waddle (Photo: Detroit Lions)

One of the best competitions in all of training camp has been the fight between veteran Corey Hilliard and second-year pro LaAdrian Waddle for the starting right tackle spot.

According to Caldwell, the competition is still too tight to call and Thursday night’s game could be the deciding factor.

“At this point in time obviously the guys have been battling for it and doing a great job and we haven’t named one as of yet,” Caldwell said.

“We’ve got a while before our first game. The guys are doing a tremendous job I think of working and challenging one another and we’ll get a chance to see how they end up.”

Because Hilliard and Waddle are so close, the Lions feel they’re in good shape at right tackle with either player.

LAST CHANCE TO IMPRESS

Has Moore proven that he’s among the top 53 players on the team and the Lions should keep three quarterbacks?

Did Mikel Leshoure show enough in OTAs, training camp and the preseason to secure that fourth running back spot behind Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick?

Who will stand out one last time between Ryan Broyles, Kris Durham, Kevin Ogletree and Corey Fuller to earn those last couple receiver spots?

These are all things to keep an eye on in Buffalo Thursday night. Jobs will be won and lost.

Who wins the last safety spot? Is it the veteran Isa Abdul-Quddus or the undrafted rookie Jerome Couplin?

Is the sixth cornerback on this roster, or will the Lions go shopping once cuts are made. It wouldn’t hurt Chris Greenwood to have a big game.

STAY HEALTHY

The worst-case scenario came to fruition in St. Louis last week when the Rams lost starting quarterback Sam Bradford for the season to a torn ACL in a meaningless preseason game.

The Lions want to get some good evaluation in Thursday night so they can have a better idea of who the 53 best players on the roster are going to be, but coming out healthy is just as important.

Back in 2003, running back James Stewart injured a shoulder in first quarter of the fourth preseason game in Buffalo. He missed the whole season and never played football again.

In 2005, quarterback Jeff Garcia broke his leg in the fourth preseason game, also in Buffalo, and missed the first five games of that season.

This Lions team can’t afford history to repeat itself in Buffalo.

FREESE FRAME

Rookie Nate Freese beat out Giorgio Tavecchio for the Lions kicking job.

He becomes just the third rookie to start a season as the team’s kicker since 1980 (Eddie Murray, 1980; Jason Hanson, 1992).

Thursday night in Buffalo will be his first game action as the Lions’ only place kicker on the roster. It's his show.

There’s still a bit of trepidation by this fan base heading into the season with a rookie kicker. Freese can help alleviate some of that with a perfect showing in his final tune-up for the regular season in Buffalo.