The 2010 NFL preseason is off and running and Saturday's game against the Steelers gave Lions fans their first look at this year's edition of the team. Although the preseason can only reveal so much with starters not getting a ton of playing time and backups playing against other backups, it was nice to get a chance to see what players brought to the table, even if the game doesn't really count.
For the Lions, quite a few players stood out on Saturday, although for some it was because of negative things rather than positive. In this week's Top Five, however, we are going to focus on the positive, because the players that did show some serious promise deserve to be recognized for their effort. Sure, the images of Gunther Cunningham chewing out a player who got burned in coverage are tough to forget, but for this week's Top Five let's look at the Lions players who were most impressive on Saturday night.
No. 5: S Randy Phillips
With Louis Delmas out, Phillips got a chance to step into the starting lineup. That alone is pretty impressive considering Phillips was signed by the Lions as an undrafted free agent and didn't even officially join the team until after training camp already began. He quickly showed he was deserving of a promotion in practice, and we all got a chance to see why he was running with the first team on Saturday, as Phillips was all over the field, making quite a few plays against the Steelers. His play alone was impressive, but when you consider he wasn't even drafted and only recently signed, that only adds to how well he played.
No. 4: WR Calvin Johnson
Seeing Johnson's freakish athleticism was nothing new for Lions fans, but it was nice to be able to watch him without two or three guys following his every move. With the likes of Tony Scheffler and Nate Burleson on the field, Johnson had more space to work with, and he made the Steelers' defense pay, especially in the red zone. The Lions' lone touchdown of the game came on a quick pass to Johnson in the end zone from two yards out, and he made it look effortless. On the play before, the Lions wanted to get him the ball on a fade, but the pass was underthrown and Johnson actually played a little defense to keep an interception from happening. He just does it all.
No. 3: QB Matthew Stafford
The best part about Stafford's game on Saturday was how comfortable he looked in the pocket. His offensive line gave him time to throw and he calmly stood back there and waited for a receiver to get open. This allowed him to pass the ball around to a variety of targets, as he was looking all over the field in order to make a play. Yes, he did throw an interception on one of the few passes where he rushed things a little bit, but I'm going to put that on Jahvid Best because he should have caught the ball.
No. 2: DE Cliff Avril
With one of the defensive end positions locked down as far as the starting job is concerned (see the No. 1 player on the list), Avril was looking to make an impression so he can lock down the other starting job. Well, I would say Saturday's game was mission accomplished for Avril, as his play was absolutely tremendous. Avril wreaked havoc with the Steelers' offensive line and made Flozell Adams look like a rookie on one play where he blew by him and quickly took down Byron Leftwich. Avril was just one part of the Lions' revamped defensive line, but he definitely helped it live up to the hype on Saturday.
No. 1: DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
Another part of the Lions' impressive defensive line was Kyle Vanden Bosch. He has his own hype to live up to after receiving a nice payday in the offseason to join the Lions, and so far, so good. Vanden Bosch put pressure on Leftwich seemingly every time he stepped back to throw, and every play seemed to involve him one way or another. There's no doubt that having a guy like Ndamukong Suh drawing double teams helped Vanden Bosch quite a bit, but he, like Avril, was just making the Steelers' offensive line look silly on Saturday night. Hopefully that is only a sign of things to come.