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Lions' Grades after Preseason Win over Colts

Read more on the Detroit Lions' grades, after their win in Week 2 of the preseason over the Indianapolis Colts.

It wasn’t always smooth and it was far from guaranteed, but the Detroit Lions emerged victorious when the clock hit triple zeros in their second preseason game.

The Lions, led by second-year head coach Dan Campbell, beat the Indianapolis Colts, 27-26, Saturday. Both teams rested a plethora of their starters, meaning the game was a showcase for those who are on the fringe of making the final 53-man roster.

Without further ado, here are the grades for each position group’s performance in Saturday’s win. 

Quarterbacks – B

With Jared Goff out of action, the onus fell on David Blough and Tim Boyle to perform, as they continued their battle for the backup quarterback position. It was Blough getting the start, while Boyle played the entire second half.

Both were good in the eyes of their head coach, as Campbell expressed his pleasure after the game. Blough made the lone mistake, an interception that came off a deflection. Meanwhile, Boyle produced the team’s only two three-and-outs.

Yet, each signal-caller did a good job leading the offense. Blough led three scoring drives, including a well-timed two-minute drill to end the first half that concluded with a touchdown pass to Tom Kennedy.

Boyle, meanwhile, led the team to a touchdown on his first drive, and then did so again in crunch time. With the game tied at 20 in the fourth quarter, he led an 18-play, 9:00 odyssey that ended with Godwin Igwebuike’s game-winning score.

It wasn’t perfect, as neither topped 100 yards through the air. But, it was enough to get the job done. Blough looked to have the upper hand in the battle after his first-half performance, but Boyle may have closed the gap with his showing.


Running backs – B+

Craig Reynolds got the start, but the touches were distributed evenly amongst the running backs. Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Igwebuike and Justin Jackson carried the ball seven times apiece.

Jackson was the most explosive, breaking off a 19-yard run on his first carry and later notching 21 yards on a dash, to finish with a team-high 54 yards. Reynolds, meanwhile, displayed his power, while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

Igwebuike scored the team’s only touchdown on the ground, and finished with 32 yards on his share of carries. Jefferson, meanwhile, totaled 25 yards on the ground and negative one yard on two receptions. His stock may have been hurt the most, due to the performances of those around him.

All four running backs are making their case for the third spot behind starters D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams, which could lead the Lions to allocate an extra spot on the final roster.

Wide receivers – B+

Campbell said Saturday during the Lions pregame show that he hoped Trinity Benson would show up “when the lights come on.” As the starters at his position watched from the sideline, Benson gave his best performance to this point as a Lion.

Though it’s just the preseason, the former Denver Broncos wideout hauled in four passes for 44 yards, and displayed the athleticism that Detroit general manager Brad Holmes saw when he traded for him before last season. 

Perhaps the factor most detrimental to Benson’s performance was the showing from Tom Kennedy, another wideout battling for a roster spot. Kennedy caught two touchdown passes in the game, finishing with five catches for 24 yards.

Undrafted free agent Kalil Pimpleton dropped a fade route in the end zone, but bounced back to have a nice performance. Meanwhile, Maurice Alexander caught three passes, while having a nice day as a returner.

Tight ends – B

Shane Zylstra was a top target throughout the afternoon, tying for the team lead in catches with five, and securing 34 receiving yards. He showed some ability as a blocker, too, helping to pave the way for Detroit's running backs.

Rookie James Mitchell, recovering from a knee injury suffered in his final college season, saw his first action as a pro, and made two catches for nine yards. Derrick Deese Jr. also had a reception in the win.

Starter T.J. Hockenson will be a much more vital part of the Lions’ passing game once the regular season begins. But, with him and Brock Wright out, the Lions weren’t asking their tight ends to do a ton. Still, they were reliable when called upon in the passing game.

Offensive line – B+

If not for the three sacks allowed, Saturday was as good a performance as Campbell could’ve asked for from his second-team offensive line. With Evan Brown at center, Logan Stenberg and Tommy Kraemer at guard and Matt Nelson and Dan Skipper at tackle, the Lions moved the ball at will early.

Each of Detroit’s first two drives lasted at least five minutes, and ended with field goals. For the game, the Lions averaged 5.3 yards per carry. When the protection around Blough broke down, he extended plays with his mobility.

Boyle, too, showed mobility late in the game, with a nine-yard scramble on a critical third-and-6 play. The big battle is between Kraemer, whom the current Lions brass really likes, and Stenberg, a fourth-round pick of the previous regime, for the backup guard spot. Both helped their cases.

Defensive line – A

No, Jonathan Taylor didn’t play for the Colts Saturday. Still, the Lions’ defensive line, made up mostly of second-teamers, stonewalled Indianapolis on the ground for most of the day.

Eric Banks and Isaiah Buggs plugged running lanes early, allowing Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez to shoot through and make tackles. Banks left later in the game with an injury, but the momentum continued throughout the day.

The Colts ran the ball 18 times for a total of 30 yards, finishing with a long run of just five yards. John Cominsky, a waiver-wire addition, finished with a team-high six tackles, and was credited for a sack that Austin Bryant had a hand in, as well.

Bryant had an excellent day, as well, finishing with a sack of his own, in addition to the one he helped Cominsky with. When the Colts elected to go for two and try to win the game, this unit generated the pressure that forced the game-deciding incompletion.

Linebackers – B

Malcolm Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes once again got the start at the linebacker position. The former, who has generated plenty of hype during training camp, finished with two tackles while the latter had four.

Barnes had a stretch in the first half in which he made back-to-back tackles at the line of scrimmage. This is optimistic, as he had struggled finding run fits as a rookie last season.

This unit was sound throughout, as James Houston IV, Anthony Pittman and Josh Woods all got in on the action throughout the afternoon. Houston made a tackle at the line of scrimmage, while Pittman blew up a screen pass early in the game.

Secondary – D+

Though the Lions’ front seven held tight for most of the afternoon, the secondary surrendered too many big plays when their counterparts couldn’t generate pressure.

Early on, Mike Hughes took the bait on a fake bubble screen and allowed a big completion from Nick Foles to Dezmon Patmon. The Colts hurt the Lions with crossing routes on which the corners and safeties couldn’t make plays in the open field.

Mark Gilbert was beat for Indianapolis’ first touchdown, though replays showed that receiver Mike Strachan indeed pushed off.

Later in the game, Patmon’s crosser confused cornerback Bobby Price and safety Kerby Joseph. This allowed the receiver to run wide open and eventually catch a 50-yard scoring strike from Sam Ehlinger.

The Colts got within a point on the final drive of the game when Samson Nacua got behind Cedric Boswell for a 26-yard score with 38 seconds remaining. It’s the second consecutive game in which Boswell has been beaten late in the game for a crucial score.

Jeff Okudah and Will Harris got the start and were of little concern, though the physicality of receivers such as Alec Pierce and Patmon caused problems early on.

Special teams – B+

Alexander was the star of the show on this unit, staking his claim as a returner. He took all the reps in the return game Saturday, and averaged 38 yards on his four run backs.

His shining moment came on his second return, as he shifted his way through the defense for a 61-yard return. The Lions couldn’t capitalize, however, as kicker Austin Seibert missed from 55 yards out.

Seibert finished two-for-three on the day, with a long of 40 yards. His counterpart, Riley Patterson, didn’t attempt a field goal, but nailed both of his extra-point attempts. On the punting side, Jack Fox hit two punts, with a long of 62 yards.