When the Lions enter O.co this Friday, the Raiders and their fanbase will chomp at the bit for kickoff. Throughout the offseason, with rumors swirling, RaiderNation held fast to the belief that football cures stress. With that said, FPC Lions Managing Editor Matt Urben graces the Nation with Detroit insight.
Matt Patricia brings a new mindset into Detroit. What are the early noticeable differences?
Urben: Patricia brings energy and enthusiasm that Jim Caldwell simply did not posses. He is a little bit more of an authoritarian but he is an approachable guy at the same time. Players genuinely seem to like him by all accounts.
He is more determined to run the ball, which you can tell from the team’s investment in an offensive lineman and running back with their first two picks in 2018. Defensively, the team will run more sub packages.
Patricia has avoided identifying it as a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. There are definitely shades of New England’s scheme in terms of the types of players they have acquired, though, without question.
The Lions drafted along the lines. How will the rookies adjust?
The Lions grabbed Frank Ragnow, who has been playing really well at guard during training camp and will certainly start wherever the team feels he fits best. He essentially completes their offensive line overhaul from the past few seasons. In addition, Tyrell Crosby was a steal in round five that should provide some good depth at the very least.
Defensive end Da’Shawn Hand is another exciting prospect that is currently a little dinged up. He can set the edge and Patricia may finally tap into that five-star talent he was once thought to be when he signed with Alabama.
Overall, the Lions will be counting on several first, second and third-year guys on both sides and their growth will likely determine how successful the team can be in 2018.
Which under the radar players do you see flashing big play ability in this game?
There are plenty of guys to watch in this one. Defensive back Nevin Lawson has been playing really well in Patricia’s scheme and may be a surprise gem if he can translate it to the game and avoid penalties.
Fan-favorite Jace Billingsley is undersized but projects to make the team as the fifth receiver. He could really benefit from a big performance.
Also, keep your eye on second-year linebacker Jaylen Reeves-Maybin, a player some consider the team’s best linebacker.
Where do you see the youthful defense improving?
There could be some growing pains as Detroit’s pass rush has not gotten all that much better. Plus, guys will have different duties than last year in a sense. In 2017, they were not very great in this area either, so I would not be shocked to see them take a slight step forward.
Detroit’s secondary was damn good last season, so it is hard to say they will improve, but they have a deep, talented group that should be even better.
The Raiders finally face an opponent. While preseason games do not count, Detroit gives Oakland a shot to hit someone else, finally. After the whirlwind offseason, the Raiders start their second voyage under Jon Gruden.