Rookie Bill Bentley showed up big in the Lions 19-17 loss to Cleveland
The preseason is indoctrination by fire for NFL rookies. Coaches spend the first two weeks of training camp preparing themselves to take both the good with the bad with their rookies.
When it comes to Lions rookie cornerback Bill Bentley, Lions coaches saw both the good and the bad in a 19-17 loss to the Browns in Friday’s preseason opener.
The Browns welcomed Bentley to the NFL on just his third play as a professional by completing a 34-yard pass from quarterback Brandon Weeden to receiver Travis Benjamin down the left sideline right over the top of the rookie. Bentley repaid the Browns with an interception two possessions later, though. The interception set up the Lions’ first touchdown of the game.
“They got me on that one, I didn’t do my proper techniques on that one and got beat,” Bentley said of the early lapse on the 34-yard completion. “I always try to come back and respond every time I get beat to let them know that I let it go and try to come back the next play and make a play.”
Bentley also made a good open field tackle on a third down play early in the second quarter, which forced a punt. Bentley really should of had two interceptions and a touchdown on the night. He dropped an interception after making a terrific break on an out-route and had nothing but open field in front of him. The miscue prompted Bentley to immediately put his hands on his helmet in disgust.
“It’s too inconsistent play for a cornerback,” Schwartz said of Bentley. “Give up a deep ball – that’s something that we shouldn’t allow to happen – and we were 50-percent on making interceptions.
“I don’t think that’s a good day at all for what he can do. I mean, he has a chance if he knocks the deep ball away and makes two interceptions in this game to have done something for himself.”
Bentley was the only Lions rookie to start Friday and he was certainly one of the good stories on the night for the Lions.
But there were others.
Defensive end Willie Young, who was getting the start in place of Cliff Avril, had a sack and fumble recovery. He also forced a holding call on a quarterback pressure a little later that almost resulted in another sack.
Running back Keiland Williams had 71 rushing yards and a touchdown on nine carries (7.8 yards per rush) and running back Joique Bell finished with 89 yards on 16 carries (5.6 average).
Quarterback Matthew Stafford and the first-team offense didn’t have a whole lot of success in their three series on the night. Stafford finished 4-of-7 passing for 51 yards with an interception. The interception was a particularly poor throw by Stafford thrown off his back foot as he was being pressured. Browns defensive back Sheldon Brown was gift-wrapped an interception on the play.
“Obviously would have liked to have not turned the ball over and scored a touchdown,” Stafford said. “But moved the ball pretty well there for a couple drives. We just have to come out with a little bit more energy, a little bit more urgency and execute at a little bit of a higher level.
"I had to cut it loose a little earlier than I wanted to (on the interception). Pettigrew and I just kind of weren’t on the same page as far as that coverage and his route, but it happens.”
The first-team offense finished the game with two punts and an interception.
"We didn't score." Schwartz said of the first-team offense's performance. "That's the name of the game is scoring; we didn't score. Couldn't keep drives alive, didn't do a good job."
The second-team offense led by quarterback Shaun Hill has much more success against the Browns second unit on defense. Hill set up the game’s first score with a 21-yard pass down the seam to tight end Will Heller. Williams punched it into end zone from five yards out on the game’s next play to give the Lions an early 7-0 lead.
The Lions extended the lead to 14-3 late in the second quarter when Hill found Stefan Logan for a 3-yard score. It was an easy pitch-and-catch for Hill and Logan against Brown linebacker Craig Robertson.
The health - or lack there of - at running back has been a big storyline through camp. With running backs Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure (hamstring) in street clothes Friday night, Kevin Smith, Williams, Bell and the rest of the reserve running backs made a case that the Lions are deeper than some might suspect at the position.
Smith churned up runs of nine and 11 yards on his first two carries and finished with 25 yards on five attempts (5.6 average). In all the Lions rushed for 198 yards in the game, more than they passed for (174).
“We focus on not having a dropoff when someone comes out of the game,” Williams said. “When Kevin came out I wanted to come in and play well. When I came out Joique wanted to play well. It’s just kind of what we focus on.”
Rookie kicker Derek Dimke hit a 40-yard field goal for the Lions’ other points.
The Browns got two second-half touchdowns and kicked a 45-yard field goal with 33 seconds left in the game to squeak out the victory.