When the Detroit Lions play the Cleveland Browns in the preseason opener for both team tonight at 7:30 at Ford Field, a sense of excitement will be in the air. And no, not just for backup Browns’ quarterback Johnny Manziel. Both teams will be hitting the field for the first time under their new coaches.
Here are five things to expect from the Lions:
1. Few turnovers on offense with the defense creating turnovers. Ball protection has been an emphasis from Jim Caldwell since he was hired. The Lions were minus-12 in turnover ratio last season which was a big reason they lost six of their final seven games. Matthew Stafford hasn’t thrown an interception in seven-on-seven or team drills throughout training camp.
2. Assignment and alignment are buzz words for Caldwell. Many of the players repeated them this week. With new schemes on offense and defense it’s critical each player knows his role well.
3. Efficiency on offense and defense. Caldwell said that’s a key thing he wants to see.
4. While there will likely be penalties, Caldwell wants to see very few of them. A few rule changes — jersey pulling will be called more closely as holding — will make that tougher. The Lions had NFL officials at camp for three days calling the new rules so no excuses.
5. A win. Caldwell wants to win to set a good tone. Yes, we all know that the Lions had a 4-0 preseason record in 2008 and then set an NFL record with a 0-16 season. This is a different bunch. The only leftovers from 2008 are Calvin Johnson, center Dominic Raiola and long snapper Don Muhlbach.
(Tonight’s game will be televised on WXYZ-TV in Detroit. Outside of the Detroit and Cleveland areas, it will be shown live on the NFL Network.)