The Lions played their starting defense, or what was active of it, for much of the first half, and they not only struggled to get pressure on Watson but on backup Texans quarterback Joe Webb, too.
Houston converted a fourth-and-1 on its opening drive (when the Lions had 12 men on the field) and Watson had time to shave on each of his first four pass attempts, which went for gains of 13, 13, 12 and 18 yards. Webb wasn’t nearly effective, but he had plenty of time in the pocket, too.
The Lions did play two linemen who’ll be at least rotational players for them this fall, Romeo Okwara and A’Shawn Robinson, so they weren’t totally bare up front. If their defense is going to be top-10 material this year, as they think it can be, they need to bring more heat in the regular season.
• The Lions played most of their starters who made the trip to Texas, but they held Matthew Stafford, Danny Amendola and Kenny Golladay out of action. I get why Stafford didn’t play. You can flush this season down the toilet if he gets hurt. But he could use a few reps as he hasn’t been particularly sharp this preseason, and had a recent six-day break from throwing. We’ll have to wait till next week to see him on the field.
• The Lions didn’t muster any offense in the first quarter, or early in the second quarter, for that matter, until Tommylee Lewis drew a pass-interference penalty on a deep shot down the sideline.
Quarterback Josh Johnson put together a nice drive late in the first half that eventually came undone on a bad snap by Luke Bowanko. Lewis threw a bad interception on the Lions’ final drive of the first half, when he had to step up to evade pressure. But given David Fales’ struggles last week and with Tom Savage in concussion protocol, Johnson has a real shot to be Stafford’s backup.
• One huge positive to come from Saturday’s first half was the fact that the Lions forced a pair of Texans turnovers. The Lions finished 31st in the NFL in takeaways last year, and improving that number has been an emphasis this preseason. Okwara forced a fumble that Will Harris returned for the Lions’ only touchdown of the first half when he was the third man in on a tackle and came punching at the ball. Andrew Adams, who’s been a ball magnet all of training camp, had a red zone interception on Webb.
Adams was in deep safety help on Webb’s touchdown pass to Vyncint Smith just before halftime, and couldn’t quite cover the ground he needed to make the play. But he has at least five interceptions in practices this summer and uncanny nose for the ball.
• Okwara, by the way, did have a sack in the first half, though he came through the line unblocked to throw Webb for a loss.
• Jalen Reeves-Maybin deserves mention for another nice performance, too. Matt Patricia singled out Reeves-Maybin for his play in the opener, and the third-year linebacker had five tackles, including one for loss, and a pass breakup in about a quarter of work in the first half. Reeves-Maybin had his pass breakup one play after his tackle for loss, when he came off a slot receiver to knock down a pass to an open tight end.
• Joe Dahl got the start at left guard but didn’t exactly help his chances of winning the starting gig full-time. Dahl was called for two penalties in the game’s first 26 minutes, a hold and a false start. Kenny Wiggins played the second quarter at right tackle, but I’d give him the slight edge to be the Week 1 starter for now.
• First-round pick T.J. Hockenson had a 22-yard catch on a well-designed play, when he faked a block on a play where the pocket rolled right then released to the left flat where no defender was around. Hockenson also drew a penalty flag for an illegal crackback block, but I didn’t see the penalty on the play. He appeared to whiff on his block.
• Last thing: Kerryon Johnson looks regular-season ready. He had three carries for 16 yards before calling it a night with the Lions trailing 17-10 at halftime.
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions observations: Dormant pass rush, poor offense