Grading the Detroit Lions: Week 1 vs. Arizona Cardinals

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WOOOOOOOOOO, DNL! Different New Lions! That was the feeling around the Motor City after the Detroit Lions put a sluggish first half behind them and exploded for 26 points in the second half of a 35-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

There was A LOT to hate early on, and a lot to love overall, so without further adieu, here are the Detroit Lions grades (by position group) for week one.

OFFENSE

Offensive Line – D+

  • To put it lightly, the offensive line wasn’t good. While to their credit, they only gave up one sack, the Lions averaged just three yards a carry, and quarterback Matthew Stafford was under constant pressure. Run blocking was a huge question mark coming into the season and between three runningbacks (Ameer Abdullah, Dwayne Washington, and Theo Riddick) the longest rush was seven yards.

Running Backs – C+

  • Ameer Abdullah was disappointing in his return, and the Lions failed to get anything going on the ground. What stops this grade from being harsher is that both Abdullah and Riddick were effective receiving weapons, with Riddick even catching a touchdown.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends – B+

  • After a few drops early, the receivers really answered the bell. Golden Tate caught 10 of 12 passes for 107 yards, rookie Kenny Golladay had two highlight reel touchdown catches, Marvin Jones had a touchdown, and T.J. Jones made two big drive extending catches. Tight end Eric Ebron looked sluggish coming off an injury, but that was more or less expected.

Quarterback – A

  • Outside of his first pass since signing the largest contract in NFL history, Matthew Stafford was exceptional. After shaking off that season-opening pick-6 Stafford went on to complete 70.7% of his passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns. On top of extending plays outside the pocket and fitting his throws into uber-tight windows, Stafford also had the Lions longest rush of the day.

DEFENSE

Defensive Line – B

  • The pressure the Lions got on Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer was decent, and while they only managed to sack him once, they did tally up seven QB hits. Where the defensive line really earns its grade here though, was the job they did against Arizona’s rushing attack. David Johnson might be the biggest offensive threat in the entire league, and the Lions held him to just 23 yards rushing on 11 attempts, rendering him a non-factor in the run game before leaving the game with an injury in the third quarter.

Linebackers – C+

  • The linebackers played about as well as could be expected, but unfortunately, the group isn’t a strength, so the best of their abilities still leaves a lot to be desired. They did a great job plugging holes against the run, but coverage of the aforementioned Johnson was definitely a problem. While Johnson struggled mightily in the run game, he ran rampant as a receiving weapon catching six passes for 68 yards and very well could have eclipsed 100 yards receiving had he not gotten injured. The linebacker play for Detroit was encouraging, but also put their limitations on full display.

Secondary – A+

  • What other grade do you give a unit that came away with three interceptions and a touchdown? No Cardinals receiver had more than 75 yards, and they only allowed one touchdown through the air. The secondary was everywhere. Perhaps the most impressive part of their three interceptions was the each went for more than 20 yards on the return.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Matt Prater – A+

  • Prater was fantastic as always connecting on a 58-yard field goal with room to spare, and coming in as the emergency punter after Kasey Redfern went down with a torn ACL/MCL.

Everybody else – F-

  • I understand this is not a real grade, but if there was one position on the field where you thought a high-school team could legitimately perform just as well or not better it was everything that wasn’t Prater. Terrible decisions to take the ball out the zone, botched snaps, etc. the Lions didn’t look good at all on special teams.

TEAM

Final grade – B+

  • All in all, this was a really good week one win for the Lions. Their offense looked in control of the game once it got going, and the defense was dominant. There are still a few kinks to work out in terms of special teams and penalties, but when was all said and done not many teams had as impressive a week one showing as the Lions did.