While their play this preseason has been called ‘uninspiring’ by some, there are still a lot of positive takeaways for the Detroit Lions from Saturday night’s 30-23 loss to the Houston Texans. Many players proved they will make an impact this season. We will highlight three of those players below.
Beau Benzschawel, Rookie Offensive Guard
One position group whose weaknesses have plagued the Lions for years is the offensive line. The mistakes of the unit have contributed to their running game being nonexistent for the majority of this decade.
Luckily for Detroit Lions fans, that unit showed some consistency in Saturday’s loss, with a lot of it coming from undrafted rookie guard Beau Benzschawel. He was moved up to the second team due to injuries, but he might be there to stay based on a run of excellent plays highlighted on Lionswire’s Erik Schlitt’s Twitter feed.
Finding undrafted gems to fill out the roster is crucial for NFL teams. Dynasties such as the New England Patriots have been able to thrive for so long because they can find overshadowed players and keep them on cheap contracts. Based on his play so far this preseason, it’s looking like Detroit found one of those gems in Benzschawel.
Will Harris, Rookie Defensive Back
Similar to the offensive line, the defensive backfield’s lack of talent and depth has lead to the Lions’ downfall in recent years. For the first time in a while, this unit may be a strength in Detroit. The Lions’ only Pro Bowl players last season were cornerback Darius Slay and strong safety Quandre Diggs.
While the Lions finally have some star power in that group, they also gained some depth at safety when they drafted Will Harris out of Boston College. Known as a hard-hitting safety in his college days, Harris has a knack for flying to the football, which helped him make the biggest play of the night on Saturday.
In the second quarter of the game, Harris recovered a fumble and pulled off a classic scoop-and-score maneuver, converting the first touchdown for the Lions this preseason. His ability to stay around the football on plays like this will make him valuable to the Lions. If he stays on his current track, he’s bound to start for the Lions two or three years from now.
Travis Fulgham, Rookie Wide Receiver
Benzschawel and Harris were not the only rookies who were able to impress in the Texans game. Former Old Dominion Monarch Travis Fulgham was able to contribute on offense, racking up 52 yards with his three catches.
The most impressive of those catches came in the middle of the third quarter. Fulgham was able to evade his defender and make a diving back-shoulder catch down the sideline in what was the most athletic play made by a Lion on the night.
Lions fans should be happy to see that Fulgham has a lot in common with Kenny Golladay, who is now Detroit’s No. 1 option in the passing game. Both pass catchers came from small schools and earned the Lions’ attention due to their unique combination of speed, crisp route running, and length to succeed against pro corners.
Fulgham still has an uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, since he will compete with fellow wide receivers Jermaine Kearse, Andy Jones and Brandon Powell for one or two backup receiving spots. However, solid performances like Saturdays combined with the fact that Fulgham has consistently been the last Lion to leave the practice field, and it’s looking like this small-school product will able to make a big impact in 2019.