Jets’ QB race still unsettled, Lions win 26-17
DETROIT (AP) — Ziggy Ansah looked like a natural in his exhibition debut, when the rookie defensive end picked off Mark Sanchez’s screen pass and took it back for a touchdown.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz wasn’t at all surprised.
“I know a lot of people were looking at us sideways when we drafted a guy that didn’t have a whole lot of experience,” Schwartz said after the Lions’ 26-17 win over the New York Jets on Friday night.
“He made plays like that in college. He’s very good on draws and screens, reverses — things that inexperienced players would generally struggle with.”
Ansah didn’t start playing football until three years ago, but his 14-yard interception return was an early highlight. Sanchez played fine after that, but rookie Geno Smith — Sanchez’s main competition at quarterback — hurt his right ankle.
This game was as notable for what we didn’t learn as what we did. Here are five observations:
1. SANCHEZ AND SMITH: New York’s quarterback competition is still unsettled. Sanchez had an interception returned for a touchdown, and Smith hurt his ankle. Smith’s injury didn’t seem too serious, but if he has to miss any time it could set the rookie back.
Sanchez went 10 of 13 for 125 yards and a touchdown. He looked sharp at times, but the screen pass he threw that was intercepted was a flashback to some of the problems he’s had with turnovers.
Sanchez’s interception came at a terrible spot on the field, but his overall numbers were fine. In other words, he looked like he could remain New York’s starting quarterback — while continuing to leave Jets fans frustrated.
2. HELP FOR CALVIN? Detroit’s Matthew Stafford completed three passes to Calvin Johnson for 58 yards. He completed zero passes to anyone else.
Johnson could use some help this year, but Stafford wasn’t able to spread the ball around as much as the Lions would like. That will be an issue to watch in future preseason games.
3. KICKALICIOUS: Havard Rugland — the Norwegian sensation with the nickname ‘Kickalicious’ — looked like more than a sideshow when he kicked field goals of 49 and 50 yards for the Lions.
Rugland posted a YouTube video last year that showed him kicking a football to a friend on a boat in a lake, among other tricks. Now he’s trying to win a job on an NFL roster. His 49-yard kick was particularly impressive, clearing the crossbar with plenty of room to spare.
Not to be outdone, David Akers made a 47-yard field goal for Detroit, which must replace retired kicker Jason Hanson.
Schwartz was happy with his special teams in general. Sam Martin got good distance on his kickoffs, and he averaged 43.7 net yards on three punts.
4. ON THE ENDS: Ansah wasn’t the only defensive end making an impact for the Lions. Willie Young looked good, which is a nice sign for a Detroit team that must replace both starting defensive ends from last season after parting ways with Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch.
5. DEFENSIVE DEPTH: Jets coach Rex Ryan felt his second-team defense was badly outplayed by Detroit’s second-team offense.
“We knew our ones would struggle a bit — we weren’t exactly playing the optimal defense for an all-pro back, an all-pro quarterback and that wide receiver — but the twos need to step it up,” Ryan said.
Shaun Hill, Detroit’s backup quarterback, went 11 of 18 for 136 yards and a touchdown. The Lions outscored New York 10-0 in the second quarter to take a 20-7 lead into halftime.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org