Five things to watch as Detroit Lions open against the N.Y. Jets

All eyes are on Matt Patricia

ALLEN PARK >> Every move that GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia have made since January has led up to tonight.

The Lions are 6.5-point favorites against the visiting N.Y. Jets. Kickoff is 7:10 p.m.

The pressure is on Quinn who fired Jim Caldwell after last year’s 9-7 season. He said at the time the team was better than their record.

All eyes are on Patricia in his first stint as a head coach at any level. If 9-7 wasn’t good enough for another year for Caldwell, certainly more is expected of Patricia.

“I think external expectations, they are what they are. I can’t control them, there are probably a lot of people outside this building that have no idea what goes on inside the building from that standpoint,’’ Patricia said. “So, we’re just always going to try to take it day-by-day, we’re going to take it game-by-game. That’s the only thing that matters to us. I think to put numbers on what 16 games are going to look like is just unrealistic for anybody. So, we’re going to try to make sure that we do the best job we can with this game.”

A win against the Jets would be a good start for the Lions who play at the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday and return home to the New England Patriots in Week 3.

Five things to watch in the opener versus the Jets:

1. Watch the running backs — either three or four of them will be active. Patricia refused to elaborate on the number in his Saturday morning press conference. He also wouldn’t say if Ameer Abdullah, who is listed as the kick returner on the depth chart, will indeed have that responsibility. Quinn has said during the offseason that three running backs will be active. Theo Riddick? Check. LeGarrette Blount? Check. Abdullah? Probably. So what about Kerryon Johnson? He will be active. Count on it. We’ll know 90 minutes before the 7:10 game time. “We’re going to try to do what we can that particular week to best fit what the game plan is, to go out and execute at a high level,’’ Patricia said on Saturday. “It might be more running backs, it might be more wide receivers, could be an extra lineman. We might have a situation where we need to go in a different personnel group from that standpoint. So, I wouldn’t always just lock in a number from that look.

2. One game doesn’t mean everything, but it could give us a better indication of what to expect from defensive end Ziggy Ansah this season. He seems healthy and is coming off a season where he had 12.5 sacks with six of them occurring in the last two games. It seemed like an off year for Ansah. The pass rush is critical to an improved defense and Ansah should lead the way.

3. Patricia, in his first game as head coach, will leave play calling to his coordinators Jim Bob Cooter and Paul Pasqualoni. Obviously he’ll chip in when he feels a need. Many Lions fans criticized Jim Caldwell for not displaying emotion on the sideline and yet finished with a 36-28 record. Patricia has been more vocal on the practice field, we’ll see how he is on game day.

4. Matthew Stafford enters his 10th season and 113th consecutive start. No doubt he has a handle on the offense which has been tweaked but not overhauled since last season. If the reworked offensive line and the run game are effective, Stafford will look good not perfect. Don’t jump off the ledge if he throws an interception. That happens, especially if the Lions fall behind. He’ll do his part but will everyone else?

5. The new-look defense will feature multiple looks and packages. This has been a focus of Patricia and Pasqualoni. First, watch for pressure up front and contain on the edges. Jarrad Davis will play a key role and needs to step up from his rookie season. Patricia seems to love Quandre Diggs, who was signed to a three-year extension this week. He’s listed on the depth chart as the starting strong safety, but could also play nickel. Glover Quin and Darius Slay are expected to pick up where they left off. Nevin Lawson had a rough preseason game, but he’s a better corner than that. Or is he?

Prediction: Lions 30, Jets 21. Opening at home will be key for the Lions. This is a game they should win. The Jets, coming off a 5-11 season, feature a rookie starting quarterback in Sam Darnold.

(The game will air on ESPN with Beth Mowins on play by play, Brian Griese as analyst and Laura Rutledge on the sidelines.)

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Lions, Diggs agree to $20.4 million extension; Marquis Flowers signed

Flowers played for Patricia with Patriots in 2017

ALLEN PARK — Quandre Diggs got his payday. Today the Lions announced a contract extension for the defensive back through the 2021 season. The three-year deal is worth $20.4 million according to NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport.

The Lions’ made a roster move on Monday morning when they signed linebacker Marquis Flowers. He was at practice wearing No. 59. Flowers spent last season with the New England Patriots where Lions coach Matt Patricia was the defensive coordinator.

“Quandre has developed into one of our core defensive players and we are excited to come to this agreement that will have him as a Detroit Lion for the next four seasons.” GM Bob Quinn said. “I also want to thank Quandre and his representatives for their work in making this extension a reality.”

Diggs, 25, played five games at safety to end last season. He’s expected to play nickel and corner. Obviously his versatility is a huge plus.

“He’s a another guy who’s obviously a critical part of our team defensively. A guy that has worked extremely hard since he walked in the door,” coach Matt Patricia said on Monday. “Someone since I got here who has embraced everything that we’ve been doing and has taken a big leadership role for us.”

Diggs, a sixth-round pick in 2015, has appeared in 44 career games with 19 starts. His career totals include 131 tackles (110 solo), three interceptions, 16 pass defenses, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one sack.

Flowers, 26, was a sixth-round pick in 2014 by the Cincinnati Bengals. He’s played in all 16 games in each of his first three NFL seasons. He started two games for the Patriots in 2017 and finished with 3.5 sacks and 32 tackles.

Latest practice squad roster:

QB Jake Rudock, WR Chris Lacy, OT Dan Skipper, CB Cre’von LeBlanc, CB Mike Ford, S Rolan Milligan, LB Darnell Sankey, DE Alex Barrett, DE Eric Lee and DT John Atkins.