Nobody fell farther or faster than the Detroit Lions last season, who went from a 10-6 season in 2011 to a 4-12 one in 2012. Of course, when they hit bottom, they met the New York Jets, who were already in residence.
Two teams who are looking to get back off the mat and back to competitiveness meet at 7:30pm EST. Here are three things you’ll be watching.
1) When you’re fifth year veteran and you’re fighting for your job in training camp, it’s a bad sign. It might even be a signyou’ve already lost. That’s where Mark Sanchez is though, as he battles with rookie Geno Smith for the starting job as Jets quarterback. Sanchez gets the start tonight, but Smith will be playing with the first team as well. There’s a long way to go, but one of these two can start separating themselvesagainst the Lions.
2) The Lions lost some talent on the offensive line this offseason when two tackles departed the team. Offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus left for Indianapolis while their Jeff Backus retired. Riley Reiff was picked to be Backus’ replacement anyway and he’s had a great camp, but life is a lot different during a game and beyond that right tackle Corey Hilliard is inexperienced and a journeyman at this point. They’ve got a lot to prove.
3) The defenses on both teams have huge question marks, chiefly in the secondary. For the Jets, you can’t get rid of Darrelle Revis—even injured—and not make that position an area of concern. How rookie Dee Milliner does across from Antonio Cromartie is a huge focus for fans and the team. The other question will be the safety play and whether Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen can pick up the slack. For the Lions, they re-signed Chris Houston, but who else do they have? Bill Bentley is coming off an injury, rookie Darius Slay is good but inexperienced and there are a lot of average guys behind them. Who will step up? The safeties are an issue here as well—Louis Delmas is hurt again and Amari Spievey was banged up last year as well. Both teams need some players to provide real solid answers to the questions at the positions.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and an NFL writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.