Here are five Detroit Lions we’ll be watching closely against the Bears in Week One.
It’s finally here. After months full of several unknowns, the Detroit Lions are less than a week away from the start of the NFL regular season. And they’ll face a familiar foe to kick things off.
The Lions will face off against the Chicago Bears in Detroit’s home opener at Ford Field on Sunday. Here are five Lion players we’ll be watching closely in their regular-season debut.
Matthew Stafford, QB
After missing eight games last year due to a back injury, quarterback Matthew Stafford will finally make his debut. And there are mounting expectations for the 32-year old quarterback to return to the MVP-level form he displayed in 2019. With plenty of offensive weapons surrounding him and another season under offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s scheme, Stafford’s play is the linchpin to any sort of resurgence that will take place in the Motor City this season.
Adrian Peterson, RB
This entire offseason, all we’ve written about is the new rushing attack spearheaded by the duo of Kerryon Johnson and second-round rookie D’Andre Swift. But Johnson’s inability to stay healthy during his first two seasons in the league plus a leg injury suffered by Swift during training camp now has newly-signed veteran running back Adrian Peterson set to see significant snaps against the Bears. The 35-year old proved during his two-year stint in Washington that he still has plenty in the tank.
T.J. Hockenson, TE
During his rookie debut against the Arizona Cardinals last season, tight end T.J. Hockenson put up a record-setting performance recording six receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. But it was downhill from there for the eighth overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Entering Year Two, fans have to hope Hockenson has turned a corner in his development despite the stunted offseason and can take his rightful place among the league’s top tight ends.
Jamie Collins, LB
Last season, New England Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins put up the kind of numbers you’d expect to see from a future Hall of Famer. Collins posted an incredible stat-line of 81 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 10 QB hits, 7.0 sacks, seven pass deflections, three interceptions, and three forced fumbles as a 14-game starter.
Unfortunately, Collins achieved this career performance at 30-years old and coming off an underwhelming stint with the Cleveland Browns. In Detroit, head coach Matt Patricia surely hopes that his former player can return to the form that made him a Pro Bowler in 2015 and lifts his defense to new heights after a disappointing 2019 performance.
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Jeff Okudah, CB
As the Detroit Lions’ highest draft selection in a decade, all eyes were on cornerback Jeff Okudah during training camp. But the fact the Lions have yet to award him a starting role is concerning, although understandable due to the lack of a proper offseason training program.
And while the third overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft may not start against the Bears on Sunday, he should still play a significant role in his professional debut. Okudah getting an interception or a key defensive play in his first NFL game would go a long way in calming those early concerns.