Lions prepare for matchup against Bills; Dress rehearsal game? Not so much

Detroit Lions coach Matt Patricia

ALLEN PARK — Matthew Stafford may or may not see action against the Buffalo Bills in the Detroit Lions third preseason game tonight.

Stafford hasn’t seen one preseason snap in the first two games (both losses) and coach Matt Patricia is keeping his plans a big secret when it comes to his quarterback. Stafford may or may not know if he will get a chance to give the new offense a whirl at Ford Field. He said earlier this week he’ll go in when he gets the nod.

Not so sure about the plans for the other starters either in the third game that in the past was known as the dress rehearsal preseason game. 

Things have changed under Patricia who has blazed his own path with big influences from his days with the New England Patriots.

So if you’re watching the game tonight, you might not see the starters but you will see guys working their butts off to make the 53-man roster.

Undrafted free agent rookies with a chance include offensive lineman Beau Benzschawel and  linebacker Anthony Pittman.

For nine consecutive seasons the Lions have had at least one undrafted rookie free agent crack the 53-man roster.

 Last season it was wide receiver Brandon Powell who is in a roster battle again this season. In 2017 a pair of defensive ends (Alex Barrett and Jeremiah Valoaga) broke the odds. Neither one is still with the Lions, but running back Zach Zenner remains after making it as an undrafted rookie in 2015.

Late draft picks like running back Ty Johnson (sixth round) and tight end Isaac Nauta (seventh round) could get plenty of playing time. 

“I think the thing for us, especially with young players, there’s still a lot of time left for training camp as we go through, we have to do our due diligence and take our time to evaluate these guys,’’ Patricia said on Wednesday. “There’s certainly going to be some improvement by some players on the roster over the next couple weeks and that’s going to be critically important for us to see some of that consistency right up to the time we try to decide who is going to be on the team to help us in that category.’’

When it comes down to making a roster decision on a veteran versus a rookie, Patricia said there are many issues to consider.

“I would say in general sometimes with the young players you try to project where they’ll be in October or November as far as where they are right now,’’ said Patricia taking into account that the rookies started from behind.  “… But in the end you’re going to try to go with whatever is best for your team at the time to try to help you and give you a chance to win however it unfolds itself out.’’

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Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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