Ameer Abdullah spoke out this week about racism and Charlottesville, Va. When asked if he and his teammates discuss the issues in the locker room, he was quick to say they are focused on the N.Y. Jets, the opponent in the Lions’ second preseason game at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at the newly renovated Ford Field.
The Lions won their preseason opener handily 24-10 over the Colts at Indianapolis on Sunday. Adjustments will be made for the Jets. Some changes are forced due to injuries, some will happen because of performance in the opener.
Here are five things to watch:
1. Johnson Bademosi stands out for his special team play. It’s all good and was the reason he was signed in 2016. In training camp Bademosi has also been strong defensively. “He is playing much better (on defense) than he’s played at any other point in time through practice,’’ coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s always been outstanding in terms of special teams, he’s rare in that regard, particularly covering punts. Between him and Don Carey, one of the things we used to say a long time ago, if you find a guy who can beat double press and force a fair catch, that it’s more than likely he’s going to be on somebody’s team. Both those guys have that kind of ability. So, that’s been part of his (skillset), but he’s becoming better in terms of his coverage skills, and I think that’s because of familiarity with the system, he’s gotten a little bit better feel and he’s got length and he’s got speed. Those are the things that you really like about him, and he’s rugged. He’ll get his hands on you and he’s pretty physical, so he’s making good strides I think.”
2. Safety Miles Killebrew, who also excels at special teams, got a good long look at Indianapolis on defense. Look for more of the same this week. Killebrew, in his second year, is one tough dude and has a better grasp of the defense.
3. Without Kerry Hyder and Brandon Copeland, the other defensive ends will get more reps. Jeremiah Valoaga had a good game against the Colts. Can he keep it up? Don’t forget to keep an eye on veteran Cornelius Washington (he practiced this week so may play Saturday) and also undrafted rookie Alex Barrett who has had a good training camp. Barrett was on the Lions’ radar on draft weekend but they passed as did the other 31 NFL teams. “Obviously, our scouts had seen him earlier and he had just a number of the traits that we were looking for. He’s very, very active. He’s got power, got speed, he’s got a variety of moves and he’s one of those guys that you knew was going to help you,’’ Caldwell said. “So, we tried to do as good a job as we possibly could making certain he knew we were interested, and were fortunate to get him.”
4. Greg Robinson proved that GM Bob Quinn knew what he was doing when he signed the veteran just after discovering Taylor Decker will miss the early part of the season after shoulder surgery. Robinson, who was the second overall pick by the Rams in the 2014 draft, has a little something to prove. He’s never lived up to his billing but sometimes a change of scenery can extend a career. Will be interesting to see if he can build on what he did against the Colts. He said the coaches graded him hard but he was not complaining he knows he has work to do. (If it seems like there are plenty of Robinsons on the Lions’ roster, you are correct. Along with Greg, there’s defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and tackle Corey Robinson. Together they weigh 966 pounds — that is indeed a lot of Robinson.)
5. Ameer Abdullah was so happy to get back on the field after missing the last 14 games of 2016. He wants more playing time this week. He needs to get hit a bit to get back in the flow. It’s a fine line though. A healthy Abdullah for 16 weeks could make a huge difference in the offense.