LIONS INSIDER

Lions vs. Jaguars preview

Posted Aug 22, 2014

Tim Twentyman takes a look at five storylines to follow as the Lions take on the Jaguars at home for their third preseason game.

The third preseason game is here, which means we’ll get our best look yet at the 2014 version of the Detroit Lions.

Teams use this third preseason game as a dry run for the regular season. The starters play into the third quarter, coaches game plan for the opponent and everyone treats the week leading up to this game as they would if it were a regular-season week of preparation.

“Part of it is it’s a bit different because you get a chance to at least see how they responded to the way in which we organize the week, because it’s different for them,” head coach Jim Caldwell said.

Calvin JohnsonWR Calvin Johnson (Photo: Detroit Lions)

So what are some storylines heading into Friday night’s regular-season tune-up vs. Jacksonville?

ALL HANDS ON DECK

All Pro receiver Calvin Johnson is playing for the first time this preseason, which means we’ll get our first look at Joe Lombardi’s offense with all of its parts.

Lombardi's offense features lots of formations, personnel groupings and movement. Expect to see Johnson line up in a lot of different spots and for the Lions to utilize motion with him to get some favorable matchups.

This is also a good opportunity to see how quarterback Matthew Stafford functions within the offense with all the weapons at his disposal.

This will be the first time we see how a defense reacts to Johnson in this offense and what that will mean for Golden Tate, Eric Ebron and the other Lions weapons.

How does having Johnson change the way this offense looks and operates?

NEW KICKING ROTATION

The Lions don’t seem a whole lot closer to choosing a new place kicker than they did a few weeks ago. In fact, the competition between Nate Freese and Giorgio Tavecchio looks as close as ever.

As such, the Lions are changing the way they rotate their kickers into this game. During the first two preseason games vs. Cleveland and Oakland, Freese played in the first half and Tavecchio the second.

The plan vs. Jacksonville is to rotate the kickers by every kicking opportunity.

“I think there’s some fairness there,” Caldwell said. “So it gives both guys an opportunity, you know, to kick in a portion of the game that is similar. We just think we can probably do a little bit better job evaluating if we do it that way. So that’s the reason why.”

Freese is 3-for-3 kicking field goals (32, 37, 55) this preseason. Tavecchio is 1-for-1 (25). Freese did miss a 33-yard extra point last week in Oakland, however.

Remember the extra points have moved back to the normal spot at the 2-yard line for the rest of the preseason and regular season.

ANSAH DEBUT?

The offense is getting an explosive weapon in Johnson back on the field, but could the defense be getting one too?

Second-year defensive tackle Ziggy Ansah has yet to play this preseason because of offseason shoulder surgery. He was activated from the PUP list last week and coaches have been putting more and more on his plate during practice this week.

Has it been enough for him to play Friday night?

The goal is for the Lions’ best pass rusher to be ready for the regular season opener vs. the Giants. If Ansah does play, which is still a big if, it’s unlikely he’d see extended action.

PENALTIES

In their preseason opener against Cleveland, the Lions had just five penalties for a total of 32 yards.

Both of those numbers more than doubled the following week in Oakland. The Lions were flagged 11 times for 74 yards in a 27-26 loss to the Raiders.

The Lions won the turnover battle, 2-0, but ended up losing the game, in part, because of a few crucial penalties at inopportune times.

Officials are calling the bumping, grabbing and holding on receivers down the field very tight this year and the Lions’ secondary is still learning to adjust.

“You have to adjust,” cornerback Rashean Mathis said. “There are a couple things you can fight in life, rules and laws are not one of them. It’s a lost cause when you do that.

“We have to adhere (to the new rules) and we have to play around them and find a way to play fast along with it.”

Let’s see if the Lions learned anything from last week.

UNDERDOGS

There have been some underdog-type performances over the first two weeks of the preseason from a couple players fighting for roster spots.

Running back George Winn has flashed both as a rusher and special teams performer. Winn is fighting for a roster spot at running back and his performance in practice and the preseason has gotten him in the conversation.

Ryan Broyles has had a very good training camp in his own right. He has five catches for 69 yards for a 13.8 average in the preseason. He’s shown terrific explosion as runner after the catch, a good sign he’s all the way back from his various leg injuries.

Broyles’ play so far has likely earned him a roster spot in a very tough competition to make this team as a receiver behind Johnson, Golden Tate and Jeremy Ross.

Can these two continue to impress? Can some other underdog throw their hat into the mix?