Just who is and isn’t on the Detroit sidelines tonight against the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium will be one of the story lines of an otherwise blase final preseason game.
Jim Schwartz, who was fired as the Lions head coach after a disappointing 7-9 season in 2013, is now the Bills defensive coordinator. Jim Caldwell, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl champion 2012 Baltimore Ravens, is the Lions’ head man now.
Most of the Detroit regulars were drafted during Schwartz’s reign and many of the Lions have some attachment to their former coach.
“It’s going to be an emotional event for him, I can only imagine,” Lions cornerback Rashean Mathis told the Detroit News this week. “But that’s part of his character, that’s who he is and that’s what drives him. That’s why he’s been successful, because of his emotion. So it’s definitely not a bad thing. It’ll be fun to see him.”
Schwartz made himself scarce with Buffalo media this week, obviously an attempt to keep his situation from becoming a major topic.
Tonight’s game is the 34th preseason meeting between the Bills and Detroit. The Lions lead 21-11-1, including the 35-13 romp here last year.
One reason behind the longtime relationship between the franchises was the friendship between the late Ralph Wilson Jr. of the Bills and the late William Clay Ford, the owner of the Lions.
Wilson had a minority interest in the Lions and was a longtime fan of the team before he founded the Bills franchise in 1959. The Lions, an NFL power in the 1950s, strongly influenced the Bills in their early years.
The first Buffalo coach was Buster Ramsey, a former Lions playing standout and assistant coach. Initially, the Bills even mimicked Detroit’s Hawaiian blue uniforms and silver helmets before going to the now-familiar red, white and blue motif in 1962.
The Lions’ regular season opener is a Monday nighter at Ford Field against the New York Giants on Sept. 8.
Detroit’s offensive stars, quarterback Matthew Stafford, running back Reggie Bush and wide receiver Calvin Johnson, are not expected to see much – if any – playing time tonight.
Stafford has thrown only 30 passes, completing 21, in the preseason. Johnson had two receptions for 27 yards in his first preseason action against Jacksonville last week. Bush is averaging 15.0 yards on seven rushes. That includes an 86-yard touchdown run against the Jaguars.
Dan Orlovsky, a 10-year-veteran, and second-year man Kellen Moore are expecting to do most of the quarterbacking for the Lions. Since Caldwell has carried only two quarterbacks as a head coach or offensive boss in the NFL, it’s leading some Lions observers to wonder whether Moore will not be kept as the third quarterback after Saturday’s cutdown. The former Boise State star could be eligible for the Lions’ practice squad.
Detroit reportedly is in the market for defensive backfield help because of injuries. That has renewed criticism in the Motor City of the Lions’ drafting of North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron.