The time has finally come: the next installment of the vaunted Great Lakes Classic is here. While the pageantry that goes with this game is odd, to say the least, it does mean that we are one preseason game closer to seeing games that actually count in the standings.
To help get you pumped for this epic preseason rivalry, I caught up with Zac Snyder of SideLion Report this week to see what’s new in Lions training camp.
Matthew Stafford will ultimately be the reason that the Lions succeed this season. Do you think he can stay healthy for a full 16 games? How has he looked so far this preseason? He’s already seemingly helped them out by restructuring his contract.
Stafford looked great in the preseason opener. Thanks to a kickoff fumble recovery, Stafford was 6-7 for 71 yards and two touchdowns and done for the night before the Bengals offense ran their first play. The one incompletion was a bullet that went through the hands of Jahvid Best. I am optimistic that he will last through the season and so is the coaching staff. His recovery included a lot of upper body work and he looks quite different.
The restructuring of his contract gave the team over $6 million in cap space that allowed them to sign Stephen Tulloch and others. He’ll get his money, it just will come as a bonus rather than salary, but he is clearly as committed to the team as they are to him.
What was the fans’ reaction to the Lions’ 34-3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals last week?
My SideLion Report poll said that most fans had their expectations exceeded while another big chunk had their expectations met. Only a couple contrarians somehow managed to say the Lions fell short of expectations. I was very happy with the way they played, especially the way they controlled the game from start to finish despite so many different players seeing action. That speaks well to roster depth and preparation.
What are your opinions about Ndamukong Suh being fined $20,000 for his hit on Andy Dalton? Would you consider him a dirty player?
I’m not surprised he got fined and even the amount isn’t particularly surprising considering this is his third fine. He may be developing a reputation as a quarterback menace but he is not dirty. He is aggressive without taking cheap shots and it will be another sign of the wussification of the NFL if what he does is labeled “dirty”.
What are the most compelling position battles going on in Lions training camp so far?
I’m intrigued by the cornerback spot. Chris Houston re-signed with the team and should have one starting spot locked down but playing time is up for grabs elsewhere. The Lions didn’t go after the high profile corners but I think the similar talent level of the group provides for healthy competition. Someone will have to step up to earn their playing time and I think that makes for a good situation for the team. Eric Wright, Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith are three names that, when all healthy, will fight for playing time.
The season ending achilles injury to Mikel Leshoure also means some time at running back is available. Maurice Morris appears the frontrunner to back up Jahvid Best but Jerome Harrison and Mike Bell were brought in following Leshoure’s injury. The Lions haven’t been very good running the ball so that will be something to look for on Friday night.
So here’s the big question: will the Lions contend for a playoff spot in 2011?
Contend? I think so. Make the playoffs? Probably not. The NFC has quite a bit of depth and so the problem with penciling in the Lions for a playoff spot is who to leave out. I’ve maintained that contending for a playoff spot means remaining relevant to the point that the networks list the Lions in the “in the hunt” category when they display their playoff picture graphics. I expect the Lions to finish in the 8-8 or 9-7 range which should be enough to contend, but not land, a playoff spot.