DETROIT -- They stood on the sidelines in baseball caps and jerseys. None of the Detroit Lions starters on offense played a down Thursday against the Buffalo Bills -- and really, none of them were expected to.
But the concern still remains for the Lions as they transition from the preseason to the regular season. This is an offensive unit that didn’t score a touchdown in the preseason. For all of their talk of being an offense that Matthew Stafford feels comfortable in, the group has struggled with penalties and with offensive blocking consistency.
And that has to be worrisome with Week 1 against the Indianapolis Colts 10 days away.
“We have a chance to be very explosive this year,” Lions receiver Anquan Boldin told Fox 2 WJBK-TV during the game Thursday night. “We have a lot of weapons outside, as well as in the backfield. Matt does a great job of getting us in and out of the right plays, so I’m looking forward to it.”
If that happens, the Lions have a chance to be potent on offense, but so far, it hasn’t been what they have shown. And Thursday night gave no indication of anything offensively, as beyond the starters in Detroit’s 31-0 victory over Buffalo, the Lions didn’t play key offensive reserves such as Theo Riddick or TJ Jones, either.
Those who played, though, made impressions.
QB depth chart: Stafford didn’t play. Dan Orlovsky had a couple of series, completing 5 of 10 passes for 42 yards before giving way to rookie Jake Rudock. Rudock played the rest of the game, finishing 14-of-23 for 171 yards and three touchdowns.
Dwayne Washington likely sealed a roster spot: The rookie from Washington earned the start for the Lions ahead of Zach Zenner and George Winn since Ameer Abdullah and Riddick didn’t play. While it was mostly against backups, Washington flashed rare speed, taking a handoff off the left edge. He showed enough patience to find the seam, and when he did, he didn’t let anyone come close to touching him. It was a 58-yard touchdown run. Combined with his kickoff return for a touchdown against Pittsburgh, Washington has made two explosive plays for Detroit. He finished with seven carries for 68 yards before being pulled.
Maybe the last receiver spot is open: Last season, it seemed as though the last two receiver spots were really determined during the final game. While it seemed more than likely Andre Roberts would be the fifth receiver for the Lions entering Thursday's game, two rookies made substantial cases for the job. Jay Lee played almost the whole game and caught six passes for 78 yards, his most productive preseason game. Lee also had a strong effort on his catch in the end zone over Sammy Seamster late in the first half. Remember, he was an early-camp star for Detroit. Jace Billingsley, who has made a strong ascent the past two weeks, was used everywhere. He was Detroit’s primary returner and slot receiver with the Lions’ top four receivers all sitting. He had seven catches for 80 yards, a touchdown and 37 return yards.
Rise of Kerry Hyder: Throughout the preseason, reserve defensive lineman Hyder kept getting random reps with the top unit. He didn’t always do much with them, but he has made plays here and there. He had a few big plays against the Bills, notching an unofficial four sacks and a few pressures. While he’s still an underdog to make the roster, he did earn the start and might have made the cut-down conversation a bit more difficult among himself, Brandon Copeland and rookie Anthony Zettel, who also had a sack.
Sorting the defensive tackles: Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker didn’t play. A'Shawn Robinson played a bunch early and looked dominant, often breaking through the line. Those three are locks. Robinson was partnered with Khyri Thornton, yet another sign he is going to make the roster since the Lions like to rotate their tackles. The fifth tackle spot is a pretty open competition among Caraun Reid, Stefan Charles, Gabe Wright and possibly Hyder, who can play inside and out. Reid had three tackles for loss and stood out more than Charles or Wright.