The Jacksonville Jaguars are prepping for their “dress rehearsal” game on Friday night against the Detroit Lions as the regular season looms in the horizon. The team will finally get a look at second round pick T.J. Yeldon in live action, although we shouldn’t expect too much in his first game. It’ll be interesting to compare Yeldon and his rookie running back counterpart Ameer Abdullah on the other side of the field.
To get some intel on the Lions heading into Friday evening, we pinged our friends over at SideLion Report and asked editor Nate Williams a few questions. Here’s what he had to say:
1. The Lions lost quite a bit on the defensive side of the ball this offseason, particularly along the defensive line. Who needs to step up on defense to help keep the team competitive?
"The loss of Ndamukong Suh hurt from a talent standpoint, but was necessary to keep this team from being financially crippled. The addition of Haloti Ngata certainly helps, and new comer Tyrunn Walker and second-year player Caraun Reid have shown promise. If these guys can stay healthy along with Ziggy Ansah I think this group will be just fine. Also, don’t forget about the linebackers behind them. They’re a solid group as well."
2. It’s probably fair to say 2014 first round pick Eric Ebron was a disappointment as a rookie. How has he looked so far in year two?
"I wouldn’t call his rookie season a disappointment at all. Entering the league as the 10th overall pick, expectations were high. The Jimmy Graham comparisons only made things worse. People were quick to jump on Ebron for his “drops”, while failing to realize Graham has lead the league in drops on multiple occasions.Furthermore, only 26 rookie tight ends have had more than 500 yards, and none have had over 900 yards. This alone, makes Ebron’s 25-catch 248-yard season look a lot better.Also encouraging was the fact that he had a +.02 combined blocking grade from Pro Football Focus, this proves he can be a serviceable blocker in the NFL — something many didn’t expect him to do.In year two, I look for an improvement in his statistics. Something that may put the national writers giving him so much heat, at ease."
3. Calvin Johnson had kind of an off year (for him anyway) in 2014. Is a return to his dominant form in store this season?
"Calvin remains a physical mismatch against any cornerback in the NFL. The issues lies in his health. He’s missed five games over the past two seasons and was limited in others. If he can stay healthy I fully expect to see him return to the form we have grown to know."
4. Which rookies have stood out in training camp and preseason so far?
"Obviously, I cannot answer this question without bringing up Ameer Abdullah. He has been stellar in workouts, camp and the exhibition games. He’s extremely shifty and has a great first step that reminds me a lot of Jamaal Charles.With Calvin, Golden Tate, and Ebron split out wide, (which they have been doing a lot of in camp) it drops the safeties deep and moves the linebackers out of the box, leaving a lot of room to run.What he needs most at this point, is to work on his pass protection and have the offensive line continue to open up holes for him. Which brings me to my next guy…First-round pick Laken Tomlinson looked solid last week against the Washington Redskins and may eventually see some time back at his natural RG spot due to the injury to Larry Warford."
5. Final score aside, how do you expect the game to play out on Friday night between the Jaguars and Lions?
"This week is considered “dress rehearsals”. Typically the first team offense and defense usually plays the entire first half — giving the coaches a chance to get a good assessment of their starters.For me personally, I’d prefer to see the starters play a series or two and get off the field. If they are however out there the for 30 minutes, I’d like to see the continued continuity from the offense — particularly on the O-line."
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