Five things to watch as Detroit Lions face N.Y. Giants at Ford Field

After three straight losses, the Lions face a must-win situation when they face the New York Giants on Sunday at Ford Field.

Must-win in October? Absolutely.

The Lions (2-3-1)  are in the NFC North basement, with two straight division losses. Also they hit the road for the next two weeks — at Oakland on Nov. 3 and at Chicago on Nov. 10.

The Giants (2-5) have won just as many games as the Lions. Think about that.

“We have a big challenge in front of us. I think this is a really good Giants team and I think they’re building confidence as the season goes, and certainly they create a lot of problems on both sides of the ball,’’ Lions coach Matt Patricia said. “Offensively, they have some skill players that are just so dangerous, starting obviously with the running back (Saquon) Barkley and the tight end position (Evan) Engram – when you watch him more and more, his speed is really a major issue – especially, down there with a size matchup and stuff. Defensively, the packages that they mix and the pressures, and things like that they are bringing down in the red (zone) area are really hard …’’

Five things to watch:

1. Detroit’s defensive line must play better, get some pressure on rookie quarterback Daniel Jones. Damon “Snacks” Harrison took the blame for the poor play of the defense this week, but it is not just him. Communication and technique are issues that certainly can be fixed, the question is how quickly can this defense turn around. It is ranked 31st overall (allowing 428.7 yards per game.) Patricia is a defensive specialist which makes this all the more surprising. Mike Daniels (foot) remains out, but Da’Shawn Hand is expected to play his first game this season.

2. The Lions secondary will be forced to make adjustments with Darius Slay (hamstring) sidelined and the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs. Look for Tavon Wilson, along with rookie Will Harris and, possibly C.J. Moore, to see more snaps. Diggs was a leader on and off the field, so his presence will be missed all-around. Patricia mentioned that Miles Killebrew, who mostly plays special teams, could get involved in the defense. They must contain Golden Tate, former Lions’ wide receiver. You can bet Tate will be looking to have a great game. Patricia noted this week that he’s one of the toughest guys in the NFL to tackle. 

3. The Giants’ rookie quarterback Daniel Jones could cause real problems. He’s young so he’ll make mistakes. His stat line of six touchdown passes against seven interceptions is hardly impressive. Still, he should be taken seriously. Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni on Jones: “He’s very, very athletic, he has a very strong arm, he can make all the throws. He can do some real damage – he can do some real damage scrambling and running out of the pocket. They are running the zone-read play. He did do that against Tampa and had one heck of a nice run in the red zone for a touchdown. He’s a really, really, really good player, and I think it’s just he’s a little bit young and trying to get used to playing quarterback in the pocket with the speed and the violence of the game in the NFL.”

4. Matthew Stafford and the Lions offense has been solid but will be challenged without running back Kerryon Johnson who was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic will pick up the slack. Maybe fullback Nick Bawden could get more involved too. Johnson has almost half of the team’s rushing yards — 308 out of 619 — and both of the Lions’ rushing touchdowns. He also ranks sixth in receiving yards with 126. The Diggs trade took much of the spotlight off the bad news regarding the run game which has struggled at times with Johnson healthy. He’s a big loss and coordinator Darrell Bevell must come up with a way to compensate and in a hurry.

5. The fourth-quarter letdowns must end. The Lions have been outscored 38-16 in the fourth quarters of the last three games, all losses. 

PREDICTION: Lions 31, Giants 24 (No excuses, the Lions have to find a way to win this home game.)

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Detroit Lions Matt Patricia looks to youth to replace safety Quandre Diggs

ALLEN PARK — Coach Matt Patricia said despite the trade of starting safety Quandre Diggs the Lions’ goals remain the same for the final 10 games of the season.

That starts Sunday against the N.Y. Giants at Ford Field.

Certainly, those decisions are very difficult. They’re not taken lightly. There are certainly things that we try to do to help the team get better in the long run for us, and certainly in a situation where we think moving forward hopefully, we have some players that can still help us, even if we do make a move like we did yesterday’’ Patricia said at his Wednesday press conference.

Diggs, a former sixth-round draft pick, was shipped to the Seattle Seahawks along with a seventh-round pick for a fifth-round pick in 2020.

The Lions’ goals have not changed, Patricia said they want to win every week.

“I think those guys in the back end have all been working really hard and developing, and some of those guys have had to really play in the last couple of weeks, and in some of those bigger games that we’ve had so far this year,’’ Patricia said on Wednesday. “Will Harris is someone that’s has to step into some roles, Tracy Walker plays more for us in some of those roles, Tavon Wilson who has been a good solid player for us for a long time. 

“C.J. Moore, you’ll see him, he’s been mixed out there actually in some of these games, too in some other aspects. We have some depth too, with guys that have played for us in the past – (Miles) Killebrew would be another one. With those guys, they’ll continually push to get better, and they understand that maybe they have to take on maybe a little bit more work load or job responsibility. They’re good with that challenge, they’ll accept that challenge and kind of go forward from there.”

So far this season Tracy Walker has started all six games; Tavon Wilson who had started three games and played in all six.

The trade shows the Lions have faith in rookie Will Harris, a third-round pick, who has played in every game.

Killebrew who plays almost exclusively on special teams has played sporadically on defense in his four seasons with the Lions.

Moore, a rookie, has played just five snaps on defense in the first six games, contributing mostly on special teams.

Being a young NFL safety has its challenges. This is where the coaches need to step up.

“I would say that’s probably the biggest challenge for us. Especially as we go through the season and we’re starting to see different looks or multiple looks from teams, and especially good quarterbacks and good offensive schemes, just the experience part of it,’’ Patricia said. “Those guys are going to have to catch up on that stuff really quickly. The good thing for us is Tracy (Walker) played in a lot of critical situations last year. He played in those maybe situations that you don’t have an opportunity during the game to talk about, they happen, and you have to react to them. His ability to be able to communicate with the less experienced guys that are on the field at that time, and certainly Tavon is someone that has great experience playing this game and can see some those situations happen pretty quick.’’

Diggs had played in 65 regular season games and was very much a student of football growing up watching his brother Quentin Jammer, who played for the San Diego chargers. 

Replacing Diggs in midstream will certainly have its challenges.

Lions draft safety Will Harris after trading up in third round

He says Friday was best day of his life

ALLEN PARK — Will Harris said Friday was the best day of his of his life.

In fact, to make his point, he repeated it several times.

Harris, a safety from Boston College, was drafted in the third round by the Detroit Lions who traded up to grab him. Detroit dealt picks 88 and 204 to the Vikings for the 81st pick.

“I’m ready to rock,’’ Harris said in a conference call late on Friday night.

He will be reunited with Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni who coached him at Boston College. “I can’t wait to get back to work with him. I’m familiar with the things we’ve done in the past it’s really exciting to be able to play under him again,’’ Harris said.

That familiarity may have played into the decision to key in on Harris, but it wasn’t the only factor.

“I remember going to (Boston College) practice, and like I said, I know a bunch of staff members, honestly probably 15 or 20 years. And you go there and Boston College had a pretty good list of prospects this year,’’ GM Bob Quinn said. “… Really, the first guy that a lot of guys mentioned to me was this guy. Like, ‘This guy’s like the heartbeat of our team.’ Not that those other guys were bad, they weren’t, because they have a lot of good football players and a lot of good leaders. But this guy was voted captain on that team, on that defense. So, that spoke volumes to me.”

Harris started at strong safety for the Eagles since late in his freshman year. He started all 12 games as a senior, finishing with 75 tackles and one interception.

CBSSports.com reported on Harris: “Active, run-support specialist safety who’s best when he can flow toward the line of scrimmage after the snap. Hips are a little stiff but his range is above-average, and because he’s decently explosive, he can close on the ball in a hurry. Good No. 3 safety with starting upside.’’

Harris’ father, Will, played receiver at Mississippi State from 1989 to 1992 and was drafted in the seventh round by Buffalo in 1993.

“Ever since I could remember, ever since I was really young, since I was able to even pick up a football, I’ve always been enamored by the game,’’ Harris said. “He grew up playing receiver. So, naturally I wanted to follow in his footsteps, but also at a young age I fell in love with defense. So, switched over to the defensive side of the ball in college and one of the best things I’ve ever done.

“He played an integral part in my football career and in my life. That’s my father. That’s my guy. He’s been there every step of the way. He’s been my coach growing up, my trainer, my mentor, above else, my father. He’s been a great father. It meant the world for me, for him to be here and see our culmination of work finally come down to this day. So, this is the best day of my life,’’ Harris added.

Earlier on Friday night, the Lions drafted linebacker Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii) in the second round, 43rd overall.

The Lions drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson In the first round on Thursday night with the eighth overall pick.

The 2019 NFL draft wraps up starting at noon on Saturday. The Lions have one pick in each of the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, and two picks in the seventh round.