The Detroit Lions didn't open their regular season in the winning fashion they hoped for. After losing a close one to the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 last Sunday, they turn their attention to another tough NFC East matchup against the Washington Commanders this week.
Detroit will be without arguably their best player center Frank Ragnow due to a groin and foot injury. Their offensive line continues to look shaky with injuries as guard Jonah Jackson has been downgraded to doubtful and tackle Taylor Decker is listed as questionable. One of their breakout candidates running back D'Andre Swift has been on limited practice time dealing with an ankle injury.
The Commanders have their own injury concerns on the injury report, but they don't seem as troubling as the Lions. Most of their injuries participated in full practice Friday and should be in line to play come Sunday.
Starting with a 0-1 record is not ideal in the NFL, especially with a trap game to follow on the schedule. It may be dramatic to call this a must-win, but the Lions have to start building proper momentum if they want to show they're for real.
Here are three players who need a standout game for a Lions victory this weekend:
TE T.J. Hockenson
The fourth-year tight end had an underwhelming Week 1 performance with only four catches and 38 yards against the Eagles. His Week 2 responsibility has elevated tremendously for the Lions this weekend. Considering the injuries they're weathering, Hockenson needs to be dominant to give Detroit a chance this week.
Hockenson has a habit of disappearing occasionally in games. Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson needs to make a Hockenson a priority in their attack on offense.
Quarterback Jared Goff will be facing a fierce pass-rush from the Commanders, meaning he'll have to get rid of the ball quicker. That should require some quick passes to Hockenson for catch-and-run opportunities. The Lions also need their No. 1 tight end as a reliable red zone target to keep Washington off-balance.
We have talked about the injuries to the offensive line a lot already. That means Hockenson needs to be active in run support and pass protection. He isn't known as an elite blocker but he'll have to be on his A-game when facing this aggressive rush attack from the Commanders.
The rookie edge rusher made his way on the list last week and is back against this week. Hutchinson is yet to record his first NFL regular season sack and should have a favorable opportunity this week.
His ability to get home and make sacks against the Eagles was limited due to facing a mobile quarterback like Jalen Hurts. New Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz is nowhere close to the mobile threat that Hurtz is. That should create plenty more opportunities for the Michigan product to be a big play threat come Sunday.
If Hutchinson can't get to the quarterback on his own from double teams, hopefully, that means the rest of the defensive line can take advantage of their one-on-one matchups. There will be plenty of attention paid to limiting the first-round selection. The Commanders only surrendered one sack last week to the Jaguars last week.
Expect the Detroit Lions to move Hutchinson all over the line to create different stunts. This should be the week we see the Billie Jean sack celebration on a couple of different occasions.
OT Penei Sewell
Detroit landed an absolute gem with their second-year tackle. Sewell was rated as the Lions' best offensive lineman and their second-best offensive player according to Pro Football Focus. He has been everything advertised for the Lions and he arguably hasn't been at his peak courtesy of the offensive line injuries.
The Commanders have a lot of talent on their defensive line with rushers like Montez Sweat, Daron Payne, and Jonathan Allen. Sewell will likely see lots of isolation matchups against Sweat and he has to be a winner in this battle. Detroit cannot survive this Week 2 home game if Goff constantly has pressure in his face.
The Detroit Lions will likely use lots of double teams against the interior rush due to their injuries. Sewell has to be able to hold his own if he lines up at right tackle or even left tackle if Decker can't go.