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Detroit Lions news, articles and opinions

Detroit Lions Matthew Stafford hands off to Theo Riddick Photo: Raka18 via Flickr

The Detroit Lions took on the Washington Redskins in their second preseason game, ultimately falling 21-17. The Lions first team offense looked sharp again and the defense generated a lot of pressure, eventually knocking out Robert Griffin III after several brutal hits. Here are some players who stood out in the loss.

The Obvious – #41 Zach Zenner, RB

Last week, I mentioned Zach Zenner as a possible underdog candidate to make the Lions roster. Against the Redskins, he emerged as a standout as one of the better performers on either team.

Entering the game in the first half ahead of his roster spot competition, George Winn, Zenner led the Lions in both rushing and receiving on the day. He finished with 4 rushes for 22 yards and 5 receptions for 59 yards and a TD and also had a 20 yard run negated by a holding call. Zenner looked much more comfortable running the ball tonight, maintaining steady balance, running hard through the end of his runs and displaying his sharp cutting ability.

Zenner’s performances in the preseason and throughout training camp have probably all but guaranteed him a spot on the practice squad, but with current starter Joique Bell battling an injury, the Lions might opt to keep him on the roster when they trim down to 53 players.

In my eyes, I’d be much more comfortable seeing him with the ball in his hands than Winn and I’d bet he leapfrogs him before the end of camp.

The Underdog – #58 Phillip Hunt, DE

Hunt was one of the many Lions defenders who made Robert Griffin’s day a miserable one. On the stat sheet he only finished with two tackles but he was a key factor on two Lions sacks, creating pressure and getting his hands on Griffin as he attempted to scramble away from pressure.

Undrafted out of Houston, Hunt spent his first two years of professional football playing in the CFL, where he led the league in sacks with 16 in his final year before joining the Philadelphia Eagles in 2011. Injuries have plagued him throughout his career and he hasn’t really seen the field in the NFL. Hunt showed the burst off the line that contributed to his CFL success and if he can hold up, he could be a wildcard for the Lions.

If the Lions opt to keep an extra defensive end, look for Hunt to be a candidate. With little to be seen from former fourth round pick, Larry Webster, it’s possible that the former CFL standout could bypass him on the depth chart. The next few weeks will determine Hunt’s fate.

Under the Radar – #2 Kyle Brindza, K/P

I wrote about Brindza in this same section last week as he emerged with a serviceable NFL leg as a place kicker. What caught my eye in the second preseason game was that Brindza is not only an NFL caliber kicker, he’s also an NFL caliber punter!

Brindza averaged over 50 yards per punt in the second half while giving Sam Martin the rest of the night off. Imagine an NFL team eliminating the need to keep two legs on the roster by having someone like Brindza who excels in a hybrid kicker/punter role. I’ve seen some kickers forced into punting duties during games due to injuries to the punter and I’ve never seen one look as natural and fluid as Brindza did today.

On the Bubble – #17 Kellen Moore, QB

This one is going to sting for many Lions fans who make a habit out of calling into sports radio shows lobbying for Kellen Moore over Stafford.

Kellen Moore can’t throw.

In limited time in the Lions second preseason game, Moore had trouble even reaching his targets on his throws, finishing 3/7 for 31 yards. His wide receivers were often forced to come back on balls and make catches at their feet. Some of the blame could be spread to an inexperienced line in front of him and a lack of protection but Moore’s arm strength has been suspect since coming out of college and the four year veteran out of Boise State hasn’t shown much improvement since then.

There are many players battling for roster spots this preseason. With so many fringe players performing well, the Lions have to keep the best 53 men on the roster. That might mean opting to carry two quarterbacks into the season to free up a spot for someone. With Dan Orlovsky fully entrenched as the backup, Moore could fall victim to the numbers game.

Injury Watch – Larry Warford, Caraun Reid

The Lions came away from the preseason opener relatively unscathed, however the injury bug bit them when both Larry Warford and Caraun Reid were forced to end their nights early with ankle injuries. The severity of the injuries are unknown but what is known is that the Lions can’t afford to lose either player. Let’s hope it was just a precautionary move to take them out.

While the depth along the offensive line has improved with the additions of Laken Tomlinson and Manny Ramirez, neither offers what Warford brings to the table. The opposite is true for the defensive tackle position, where the Lions are pretty thin and Reid was being talked about as a possible breakout candidate for the team this season. Tyrunn Walker did look great tonight and Haloti Ngata should be back on the field soon, leaving Reid to serve in a depth role should he miss any extended time.