We have come to the final week of the preseason and that means it’s time for the annual Great Lakes Classic as the Detroit Lions host the Baker Mayfield led Cleveland Browns at Ford Field.
As usual, I will focus on one offensive and defensive player for each team, while also selecting one dark horse. Let’s get started by focusing on Detroit.
Offensively, wide receiver Brandon Powell has been an absolute animal for the Lions. Through the first three preseason games, Powell has recorded 15 receptions for 99 yards. Powell also has shown brilliant flashes on special teams especially against the Buccaneers as he returned a punt 80-yards for a touchdown. If Powell has another good game against the Browns, Detroit practically has no choice but to keep him on the team. Even if Powell does get cut by the Lions, I do believe a team would pick him up almost immediately following the number of plays he has made this preseason.
Defensively, it is an extremely tough decision as both safety Rolan Milligan and linebacker Trevor Bates have looked impressive so far this preseason. Although Milligan struggled hard against the Raiders, missing tackles and getting beat by receivers, he has shown improvement over the last two games on special teams. Bates, on the other hand, is fighting for the roster spot that opened up when Steven Longa suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Bates has the ability to play both the linebacker position and as a member of special teams, which is exactly what Detroit needs. With that being said, Bates still needs a strong performance against Cleveland to help secure the final linebacker spot.
In my opinion, Detroit’s dark horse will be tight end Michael Roberts. I am a huge fan of Roberts not only because he was from the MAC but because he is a versatile player. Roberts can catch passes but also has experience in blocking situations. However, Roberts is on the roster bubble for the second straight season because Hakeem Valles has quickly risen to the occasion. Roberts had battled a leg injury early on during camp and then through three preseason games has only recorded two receptions for 29 yards. If Roberts wants to make the roster then he will need to heavily impress coaches Thursday night against the Browns.
Offensively, rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield looks like he could be an exciting player when his time comes. During his first preseason game against the Giants, Mayfield completed 11-of-20 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Fast forward to the Browns’ loss to Buffalo, Mayfield completed 7-of-13 passes for 75 yards and then most recently against the Eagles, Mayfield completed 8-of-12 passes for 76 yards and an interception.
Mayfield has proven to be a strong offensive leader for the Browns and with his power and accuracy, I have no doubt he can succeed at the NFL level. Just look at the team GM John Dorsey has put together signing Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde while drafting Nick Chubb and Antonio Callaway. The Browns already had talented players on the offensive line and drafting more to secure depth and protection for the quarterback was a smart move.
Defensively, Myles Garrett continues to impress. Against the Eagles, Garrett had two sacks, one of which was a safety. Seeing such a young defensive player possess similar qualities to that of Von Miller, JJ Watt and Khalil Mack is exactly what Cleveland was hoping for when they used the top pick on him last season.
Like the famous saying goes: “Defense wins you championships,” however, in the Browns’ case, perhaps the defense can simply help win a single game after going 0-16 last season.
The Cleveland Browns’ dark horse will be none other than wide receiver Jarvis “Juice” Landry. Arguably one of the most talented slot receivers in the NFL, Landry has given this new look team a lot to look forward to this season. Landry possesses the speed and athletic ability to allow Tyrod Taylor succeed this year. Pairing him alongside Josh Gordan and tight end David Njoku will not only bring more offensive firepower to the offense but also allows for the young guys to learn from some of the best in the game.
The Cleveland Browns will be a much better team this season and winning 4-5 games doesn’t seem completely impossible this season.
Tune into NFL Network at 7:00 PM to watch the Detroit Lions host the Cleveland Browns. And make sure to follow us @FPC_Lions on Twitter!