By Price Burton
The Detroit Lions have their pre-season opener Friday vs. Cleveland at Ford Field at 7:30 p.m. They play the Browns every pre-season as part of the annual Great Lakes Classic. Pre-season can often be misleading because even though your team may be successful, it doesn’t always translate to regular season success. Case in point: when the Lions had the worst season in the history of the NFL in 2008, they went undefeated in the pre-season with a 4-0 record, and then went on to a 0-16 record during the regular season.
You measure the pre-season a couple of different ways including are the starters clicking, staying healthy and if you one is injured, is there quality depth to plug in a player.
The goal of the pre-season is be prepared for the regular season and that’s different for every team in how they do that. With the Lions, they have a fairly veteran roster, but at certain positions they have a very young football team that needs the pre-season as much as anyone. That means they need as many reps in practice and games as they can get.
Certain veteran players don’t need as many reps. Players like Dominic Raiola and Jeff Backus can rest more and don’t need to be beat up as much. Both players have started virtually every game of their careers since they came into the NFL in 2001. Both of these veterans anchor the O-line and look to tutor and help younger players like first round pick Riley Reiff from Iowa.
The 2nd cornerback spot is one of the more interesting battles of training camp, as Chris Houston is a lock to start at one of the corner positions. The other is a very highly contested battle between rookie Bill Bently out of Louisiana-Lafayette and veteran Alphonso Smith. Although this battle will likely come down to Bently vs. Smith, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com is reporting that Bently is likely to get the start vs. the Browns. Even though Bently is getting the start, look for it to be an ongoing battle through all of training camp.
That battle at cornerback is by far the most highly-contested, while 20 out of 22 starters return from last season. This roster is much harder for younger players to make than a few years ago. With the Lions coming off their first post-season trip since 1999, expectations in Detroit have never been higher. Lions fans are curious to see if they can meet them and become a consistent playoff team. Fans will look to see if the Lions have a good pre-season, but there are other factors that will help predict whether the team will have a successful season or not.
Price Burton is currently a student at Northern Michigan University and will graduate in December with a degree in Media Production and New Technology with a minor in Marketing. Burton is currently an intern at CBS 62/ CW50. Burton played football at NMU until a career ending knee injury in the fall 2011 season.