Previewing Preseason Week 3: Lions

In which we look ahead to the Detroit Lions' third preseason game tonight:

Opponent: New England Patriots

Location: Ford Field

Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Personnel notes: Most starters will play the first half and possibly into the third quarter. … Safety Louis Delmas has said he wants to make his preseason debut, but considering how cautiously the Lions have mapped out his practice schedule -- including a 10-day break during training camp -- it seems hard to believe that they would risk a setback in a game that doesn't count. … Whether or not receiver Calvin Johnson (knee) plays, the Lions need to establish their receiver pecking order behind him. Is Patrick Edwards really ready for regular playing time? Are they fully satisfied with the health of Nate Burleson and Ryan Broyles? … It will also be fun to watch rookie cornerback Darius Slay, elevated this week to the first team, play against Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Of interest: For many teams, the preseason is a time of sloppy play and natural consequences to unsettled lineups. In that context, the middling performance of the Lions' offense this summer isn't unusual. It has been noticeable to many of us, however, because of how much it differs from the past two summers. Quarterback Matthew Stafford had a 116.9 preseason rating in 2012 and 154.7 in 2011. Does this summer's 73.6 passer rating (132 yards on 24 attempts, no touchdowns, interceptions or sacks) bode a less dynamic start to the regular season? Not necessarily. It's just different than what we've seen in the past. With that said, if the Lions are going to compile any offensive rhythm or momentum this summer, it'll need to come Thursday night against the Patriots. The first-team offense won't be together much, if at all, in the preseason finale.