Jared Goff’s conviction to play and more from Lions’ 27-23 preseason loss

DETROIT — Perhaps more was learned about Jared Goff from what happened in the days prior to the game than the 10 plays he was on the field on Friday night.

Coach Dan Campbell was going to keep the quarterback out, but when Goff found out the offensive line starters were in, that is where he wanted to be.

“I didn’t want those guys out there without me,’’ Goff said following the 27-23 preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

Goff and the offensive starters played the opening drive which was capped off by a 9-yard touchdown run by D’Andre Swift.

“I will say this about Goff. I was proud of him. We didn’t intend to play him. He came into my office and said, ‘I want to play.’ And I said, ‘You’re not playing.’ He said, ‘If they’re playing, I’m playing.’ So I said, ‘OK.’ I appreciate that about him,’’ Campbell said, noting that he liked Goff’s conviction.

Except for a scratchy throat, Goff was healthy. Campbell was just going to let him rest.

Starting left tackle Taylor Decker said he was fired up when he heard that Goff wanted to play. 

Goff went 3 of 4 for 47 yards on that drive.

“He went out there and ran the offense. That’s really what you’re looking for in your ‘ones’. You want to see them play fast and efficiently down the field and score a touchdown,’’ Campbell said.

The five offensive line starters never got a chance to play one game together due to injuries last season so they were happy to be out there together.

Decker said he thinks the line played with a bit of swagger. He attributed it to open communication and comfort playing with each other.

Backup quarterbacks: Tim Boyle (9 of 16, 111 yards) got off to a rocky start on his first drive but the offense scored a field goal and he passed to Devin Funchess for a touchdown during his time on the field. Early in the third quarter he threw an interception, giving Atlanta the ball on Detroit’s 15, but the Falcons had to settle for a field goal.

David Blough made his case to be the No. 2 quarterback when he came out hot – passing for 26 yards on his first throw and leading the offense down the field for a field goal late in the third quarter. He was 6 of 9 for 59 yards on that drive along with a 9-yard keeper.

More impressive were his pair of fourth down passes on a drive in the fourth quarter that ended in a field goal. A fumble and loss with two minutes left ended the game for him but overall it was a good performance. He finished 18 of 28 for 141 yards.

“I’m not displeased with those guys at all,’’ Campbell said of Blough and Boyle.

Hutchinson debuts: Of course, all eyes were on rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson. The Michigan product did not disappoint. On his first two snaps he had back-to-back tackles, the second one for a 2-yard loss. 

“It was awesome. I’m glad I got the opportunities and plays came my way,’’ said Hutchinson who finished with two tackles.

“Obviously no game is perfect. I was out there for a few plays, I’ve got to clean some things up.’’

The music: “Billie Jean” was played at Ford Field late in the second quarter while Metallica’s “No Leaf Clover” was blared over the speakers to start the fourth quarter. Both songs figured prominently in the first episode of HBO’s Hard Knocks. Hutchinson was shown singing the Michael Jackson hit and Campbell quoted from “No Leaf Clover” speaking to the team.

Next up: Friday night was Lions’ only preseason home game. Next they’re on the road at Indianapolis on Aug. 20 (1 p.m.) and at Pittsburgh on Aug. 28 (4:30 p.m.) Detroit’s regular season opener is on Sept. 11 at Ford Field against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Lions were 0-3 in preseason in 2021 with two of those games at Ford Field.

Lions CB Jeff Okudah needs reps as he returns from Achilles injury

Jeff Okudah has worked hard on getting his speed back after tearing his Achilles in the season opener a year ago.

The Lions cornerback traveled around the United States and ventured into Canada seeking out the best specialists to help get him back on the football field.

Friday night’s preseason opener could be a big step in the process. For many players coming back from a lengthy injury taking that first hit is big. But it’s more than that for Okudah who the Lions drafted with the third overall pick in 2020.

“That’s always big making that first play, but I think it’s getting out there and participating just being out there with the crowd’s energy. I think that will be big for me as well,’’ Okudah said after Wednesday’s training camp.

He said as far as physically he thinks everything has gone smoothly in training camp.

“I’m my toughest critic but trying not to be too hard on myself after not playing in 11 months,’’ Okudah said. 

The cornerback is listed behind Amani Oruwariye and Will Harris on the depth chart that coach Dan Campbell calls “unofficially official.”

“The way I approach it, I always feel like there’s competition so even when there wasn’t really a competition I always take everything as competition,’’ OKudah said. “I always demanded that out of myself.”

Campbell said they have no concern about Okudah’s Achilles.

“Physically he looks great. He needs reps. He needs reps, he needs to play, I mean that’s the thing that we can never lose sight of. I mean, he’s going into Year Three and he really hasn’t played. I mean he just hasn’t had significant playing time,’’ Campbell said.

In his rookie season Okudah struggled through a variety of injuries and only played nine games. In 2021 he was lost for the season in the opener.

Friday night’s preseason game should provide a clue about where Okudah stands with the regular season about a month away.

(The Lions open the preseason at 6 p.m. on Friday against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field.)

Lions competition for backup QB takes next step with preseason games

In his previous six NFL seasons Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff has never been in a quarterback room with the same three guys two years in a row — until now.

This training camp he’s working with David Blough and Tim Boyle once again. All three are 27 and get along fine on and off the field. 

“It’s been fun with those guys, they keep it light, they keep it fun, they’re both extremely competitive and it’s fun for me to have guys like that to be competitive on the field,’’ Goff said after Tuesday’s training camp practice.

While Goff has more starting experience (83 NFL games), he learns from both of them.

“They both have had their fair share of playing time and they’ve both played around really good quarterbacks as well so I’ll bounce things off them all the time,’’ Goff said.

Goff, who is entering his second season in Detroit, is expected to start Friday night’s preseason opener against the Falcons at Ford Field. But the game will be more important for Boyle and Blough who are vying for the backup role.

“I feel both of those guys had a good week last week — Boyle and Blough. I feel that they’re both better than they were in the spring and I’ll just say it’s still somewhat early in camp until we get these preseason games. I think that will tell a lot for us,’’ Lions coach Dan Campbell said on Tuesday.

If Goff went down, Campbell said he feels both of them could step in and take over the offense.

“I think they’re both different in what they do. Blough is a little scrappier, he’s going to find a way. That’s what he’s about. He can certainly run the offense,’’ Campbell said.

“Boyle has got all the gifts, all the traits and he’s consistently doing it. Again, he’s got to do this in preseason games. Let’s see where he’s progressed from last year,’’ the coach added.

Last season, Boyle was No. 2 and got three starts. Blough had five starts in 2019 and none last season.

“Getting some game reps last year allowed me to settle into my routine, pre-snap. Every play I feel like I have a certain checklist for pre-snap. Playing those games last year helped me formulate that process,’’ Boyle said. “I feel really comfortable, I love the offense, I love where we’re heading. It’s been a good camp so far.’’

While preseason games aren’t as crucial for guys who have nailed down starting roles Blough and Boyle know it’s their time to prove themselves.

“I’m excited. Every opportunity you get whether it’s the preseason or regular season game to go and play against other guys who have the same dream we do,’’ Blough said. “You want the ball in your hands with two minutes to go to win the game. I think that’s how a lot of the preseason games come down, it will be fun on Friday night.’’

Each game – even if it’s preseason – provides a learning experience for all three

When Goff is in the game, the backup provides another set of eyes.

“I think there’s a lot of things that go into it,’’ Blough said. “It’s seeing looks. I got to see Chase Daniel do it for a year as the second guy (in 2020). He was as prepared as our starter (Matthew Stafford) was.’’

Campbell said it’s too early to know if they will keep two or three quarterbacks on the roster. The decision will be more about the numbers at the other positions.