COMMENTARY | The third game of the NFL preseason is when the first-team units play deeper into the game to set the tone for the upcoming season.
For the Detroit Lions, they will test their talents against the consistently contending New England Patriots. They don't have to necessarily win the game, but there are five questions they must answer if the 2013 season is going to be successful.
Can Matthew Stafford Lead a Scoring Drive?
The starting offense has yet to score a point this preseason. For a team that has sunk almost $27 million into two offensive positions, the embarrassment should be palpable
While the Lions' defense should improve from last year, the offense will still be the piston that drives this season. Not scoring against the Cleveland Browns without Calvin Johnson can be excused, but it's time to see this team break through. Otherwise, this season could carry on a long tradition of face-hiding brown bags and anguish.
How Will the Offensive Line Handle the Pats' Talented Front Seven?
Most conversations about the Patriots rightfully center on the offense. New England has been a point powerhouse for at least the past five years.
But there's a good chance that the discussion shifts toward the Pats' defense. Head coach Bill Belichick has quietly assembled a devastating front seven that can cause problems for the stoutest offensive lines.
Obviously, one of the larger unknowns for Detroit is its offensive line. The franchise is breaking in three new starters, but whom they will be hasn't been settled. Here's betting that the Lions brass is going to show its hand and trot out the starters this week. How that group fares against the Patriots' defensive front will be a good barometer of where the line is and how far it has to go.
The Lions supposedly turned the secondary into a strength with their offseason acquisition of Quin and the retention of Delmas and cornerback Chris Houston. However, questions regarding the dynamic safety duo linger because they have yet to line up together.
The secondary has struggled in Delmas' absence. Fans have been praying that his return will settle the shaky backfield, regardless of how far-fetched that may be.
But Delmas is supposedly going to make his 2013 debut against the Patriots. The theory is that his aggressive playing style will match Quin's coverage skills perfectly, creating problems and turnovers for opposing offenses. A good performance against Tom Brady would go a long way toward lending credibility to that hypothesis.
Can the Lions Keep Their Cool?
Head coach Jim Schwartz has been under fire for years regarding his team's lack of discipline. Pundits and fans have declared that he's too emotional to be an effective leader. That his fiery approach causes players to play with too much abandon resulting in lost tempers and personal fouls.
The Lions' "Bad Boy" image began with a Week 3 preseason matchup with the Patriots in 2011. It was a statement game that put the league on notice. Now, it's time to for the team to contain that aggression within the rules and leave the immature attitude behind.
Will Mikel Leshoure Fight for His Job?
It's a certainty that Leshoure will make the final 53-man roster. There isn't anyone available that could replace him. But don't take that as a compliment toward the struggling backup.
The third-year running back missed his rookie year due to an Achilles injury, and he was mediocre last year. His nine touchdowns throw people of the scent. His longest run in 2012 went for 16 yards, and he averaged a meager 3.7 yards per carry.
Leshoure is in real danger of losing a meaningful place in the offense if he doesn't rebound from his one-carry, 0-yard performance against the Browns. The clock is ticking for the former second-rounder.
Brandon Alisoglu is a Michigan native and has been covering the Detroit Lions for two years. He has been published at Yahoo!, Bleacher Report, CNN and other websites. He also co-hosts a podcast called Lions Central Radio with Nick Kostora that can be found on ITunes and Stitcher.
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