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3 takeaways from Lions preseason opener vs. Falcons

Lions, Tom Kennedy, Jared Goff, Aidan Hutchinson

The Detroit Lions kicked off their preseason campaign on Friday night against the Atlanta Falcons. The Lions are looking to take another step in turning the franchise around in the upcoming season.

Detroit finished 3-13-1 in 2021 but fought to the last play in the majority of their games. They even had a few surprising performances of their own. For example, the Lions beat the Arizona Cardinals last year at home 30-12. It was an outcome no one truly expected.

In 2022, no one expects the Lions to make a ton of noise. The team just has to get better. Friday night’s showing against Atlanta was their first opportunity to gauge their progress.

Detroit fell short of winning the game. A Desmond Ridder touchdown pass with 1:30 left in the game sealed a 27-23 loss for the team.

However, there were plenty of things to take away from Detroit’s performance. Let’s look at three such takeaways, and what they could mean for Detroit for their two remaining preseason matchups.

3 Detroit takeaways following Lions-Falcons preseason game

3) Tom Kennedy makes an impression

Perhaps the best performer for the Lions on Friday night was wide receiver Tom Kennedy. Kennedy, a former lacrosse star, caught eight passes for 104 yards in the loss.

Kennedy’s performance paced the Lions revamped receiving core. The 26-year-old has played 19 games for the Lions in his career and has received rave reviews in camp recently.

The Lions receiver loved the opportunity to test himself against a defense other than his own. And he obviously made the most of that opportunity.

“It was just fun to be out there competing with somebody other than our defense,” Kennedy said. “Obviously it would have been a lot better if we won the game, but yeah, it was just a lot of fun to go out there and compete.”

Lions head coach Dan Campbell told reporters the performance did not shock him. He said this performance encapsulates who Kennedy is as a player.

“That’s Tom Kennedy. He’s just dependable. That’s all he is. He’s just dependable. He’s just very dependable. That’s all he is,” Campbell said.

Kennedy’s performance significantly increases his likelihood of making the roster. However, it is just one preseason game. Time will tell if the former lacrosse star can keep up the momentum.

2) Jared Goff, offense flash potential

The Lions went into the game thinking starting quarterback Jared Goff would sit this one out. However, he insisted on playing once he heard the first team offensive line would see action.

“Just didn’t want those guys out there without me,” Goff told reporters following the game. Campbell had initially refused to allow Goff into the game, but his quarterback wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Well if (the offensive linemen) are playing, I’m playing,” Goff insisted.

With that, the entire first-team offense, save injured rookie receiver Jameson Williams, took the field. And they not only played, but they also thrived.

Detroit’s highly touted offensive line dominated in the trenches. They moved guys around with ease, giving Goff enough time to make plays.

Goff went 4-for-7 on Friday for 47 yards. Running back D’Andre Swift picked up 20 yards on four carries. The first-team offense averaged nearly eight yards a play.

The performance showed the potential the Lions’ offense has. Especially the offensive line, who didn’t play a single snap together in 2021.

“They’re jelling,” Goff said. “It’s coming together for them, for sure, as you’d expect it to at this point in camp. It’s been fun to watch and obviously fun for me to be behind them and watch it come together.”

Campbell told the media he was proud of his quarterback on Friday night. Furthermore, he revealed why he changed his mind about Goff’s status for the game.

“I think it’s trust,” Campbell said. “I think it’s about trust. He (Goff) trusts them (offensive line), I trust him, and I trust that O-line. And I trust (offensive coordinator Ben Johnson), who’s going to put in him the right situations. So look, we did what we needed to do, and there is always stuff you can work on — we can be better with our tempo — but at the end of the day, they played pretty good for the first one out. I was pleased.”

1) Aidan Hutchinson shines bright

The Lions selected Aidan Hutchinson with the second overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. The hope was the hometown kid would provide a spark to a defense sorely needing one.

The Michigan product didn’t disappoint. He provided two tackles in his limited time on the field, but one of them was for a loss, which got Ford Field on its feet.

Hutchinson told the media following the game that it was nice to get the first big play out of the way early. “You always want a lot of TFLs,” the Lions rookie said. “It was really cool. The fan reaction was great. I’m just having a lot of fun out there.”

“It was awesome. I’m glad I got the opportunities, and I’m glad the plays came my way,” Hutchinson continued. “I’m always grateful for that. It’s my job to make (those plays).”

It was obviously a small sample size, which Hutchinson recognizes. He wasn’t perfect, either, and wants to focus on getting better week after week.

“No game is perfect, and I gotta clean some things up. I need to trust my instincts a bit better,” he offered as a point of self-criticism.

While it was one small sample size, the second overall pick showed why fans in Detroit are excited about what he brings to their team.