Found August 09, 2012 on Fox Sports Detroit:
ALLEN PARK, Mich. The Detroit Lions, coming off their first playoff appearance in more than a decade, open the preseason Friday night against the Cleveland Browns at Ford Field in Detroit. Here are five storylines to follow: 1. Can cornerback Bill Bentley provide some much-needed help to a suspect secondary? There hasnt been much positive coming out of the back end of the Lions defense, but Bentley could be the exception. Some believe the club made a serious blunder by not addressing its defensive needs in either of the first two rounds of the draft. But if Bentley, a third-round choice out of Louisiana-Lafayette, outperforms the cornerbacks who could have been taken earlier, the Lions draft strategy wont look so bad after all. The secondary is without three key pieces. Starting cornerback Eric Wright signed as free agent with Tampa Bay. Wrights heir apparent, Aaron Berry, was released following two arrests. And safety Louis Delmas, arguably one of the team's most valuable players, is out indefinitely following knee surgery earlier this week (eight-year veteran Erik Coleman is expected to replace him). Bentley, meanwhile, is currently projected as a second-team corner, but hes taken some first-team reps on occasion and also gotten time at nickel when the defense goes with five defensive backs. He acts kind of like hes been here before, coach Jim Schwartz said. Hes a top-end energy guy every day, flying all over the field. Hes really, really smart. Hes done nothing but justify that pick. 2. What will be the top contingency plan at running back? The Lions have been severely weakened at the position with the absence of Jahvid Best (ongoing concussion issues) and Mikel Leshoure (hamstring injury following last years surgery for a torn Achilles). Thats forced them to move Stefan Logan, a 5-foot-6 return specialist and receiver, back to running back, where he played in college. Logan is currently projected as the third-team back behind Kevin Smith and Keiland Williams on the clubs unofficial depth chart. The Lions have talked about trying to use Logans versatility in sort of a Darren Sproles-type role. Theyve done that to some extent in the past, but they might have to do it considerably more under the circumstances. The offense is going to need someone else in the mix behind Smith, especially during the first two weeks of the regular season while Leshoure serves a two-game suspension for his offseason marijuana arrests. How the back-up running backs perform in the preseason will help determine whether the club needs to find a better option outside of the current roster. 3. Is projected third-string quarterback Kellen Moore really good enough to make a NFL roster? People like to poke fun at Moores arm strength, but offensive coordinator Scott Linehan seems to be impressed with how Moore can run the offense. Moore became the all-time winningest quarterback in college football history at Boise State. Nevertheless, he went undrafted and was signed as a free agent. Kellens got such a great background and has such a great command of offensive football, Linehan said. Hes taken his game to another level from our offseason program. R.J. Archer, who spent time with the Minnesota Vikings and in the Arena Football League, is also in camp vying for the No. 3 job behind Matthew Stafford and Shaun Hill. Both Moore and Archer should get a chance to showcase what they can do, especially in the first and fourth preseason games. 4. What is going to be first-round pick Riley Reiffs role as a rookie? There was speculation after the draft that Reiff might come in and immediately take one of the starting offensive-tackle jobs, presumably from Gosder Cherilus on the right side. Cherilus, however, has responded to the challenge and refuses to let go. Reiff is projected as the second-team left tackle entering the preseason opener, but hes been practicing on both sides of the line during camp. You see the athletic ability, Schwartz said recently. Look at him now compared to a week ago, and you see him correcting things maybe he gave up a week ago. The more Reiff improves, the more it pushes Cherilus to try to stay ahead. That type of competition can only help this offensive line in the end. 5. Can the first-year linebackers contribute if they're needed? On a team that, when healthy, returns 21 of 22 starters, most of the competitions are for back-up jobs. That includes linebacker, where the Lions must replace top reserve Bobby Carpenter after losing him in free agency to New England. The addition of two draft picks Tahir Whitehead (fifth round out of Temple) and Travis Lewis (seventh round out of Oklahoma) has helped build some depth at the position. Whitehead is listed as the second-team outside linebacker behind Justin Durant. Lewis has showed hes versatile enough to play inside or outside. That is a very difficult position for a rookie to step in, Schwartz said. Those guys have lived up to the expectations.
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