Detroit Lions: Week 2 report card

The Detroit Lions got their first win in week 2, here's how they graded out.

16 Min Read
Highlights

The Detroit Lions earned their first win of the season 36-27 over the Washington Commanders. The game was truly a team victory as all three phases had big impacts on the win. The defense started off strong holding the Commanders to only 1 first down in the first half en route to a first-half shutout. In the second half, the Commanders were finally able to get going a little bit. However, the offense responded multiple times, keeping the Commanders at bay. Here is how each position group graded in the big win

Quarterback: A-

Key Stats: Jared Goff –  20-34 256 yards 4 TDs

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In the first half, Jared Goff played okay. He avoided mistakes (there was a dropped interception) but missed a few throws that could half put the Lions up big. In the second half, Goff stepped up big time. Washington got going offensively, but Goff did a great job responding with some big-time throws to keep the ball moving. Goff especially stepped up with pressure in his face. The Commanders were getting pressure up the middle against the Lions’ reserves. Goff either avoided the pressure or stood tall and made some nice throws with people in his face. If Goff can do that consistently and make a couple more big throws, he could have a chance to stick around as a starter in Detroit or elsewhere.

Running back: A

Key Stats: D’Andre Swift – 7 touches 87 yards TD; Jamaal Williams – 13 touches 60 yards

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Another game and another 50-yard rush for emerging star D’Andre Swift despite a bum ankle. The best part, this wasn’t even his best play of the game. Swift scored on a crucial 3rd and 15 where he was on his face near the line of scrimmage. At this point, the Lions should expect one or two splash plays a game from the young back. With Swift limited, Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds got more run and delivered. Both backs did not have any explosive plays but seemed to always be making positive plays in the run game averaging 4.4 and 5.3 yards per carry, respectively. With Swift making huge plays and the backups churning out yards, the running back room looks to be the strength of the team.

Wide Receiver: A-

Key Stats: Amon-Ra St Brown – 11 touches 184 yards 2 TDs; Josh Reynolds – 3 catches 38 yards TD;
DJ Chark – 0 catches

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This grade is highly influenced by one player, but Amon-Ra St. Brown was that good. The whole game, he was an absolute nightmare for the Commanders. He kicked off the game with a 49-yard reception and didn’t slow down from there. After that, he added a tremendous jump ball touchdown and a second one on a great out route. St Brown’s route running and quickness allowed him to grab 9 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns on way to an NFL record. If that wasn’t enough, St Brown added a 58-yard run when the Lions really needed a jolt after giving up 15 unanswered points.

Outside of St Brown, Josh Reynolds continued his solid rapport with Goff grabbing a nice touchdown. DJ Chark had a drop on a deep ball and wasn’t able to pull in any of his other 3 targets. Hopefully, with more time, he can establish a better relationship with Goff. If Chark gets it going with Goff and Jameson Williams returns, defensive coordinators will have nightmares game planning for this receiving core.

Tight End: C+

Key Stats: TJ Hockenson – 3 catches 26 yards; Brock Wright – 1 catch 25 yards

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In a nice team performance, TJ Hockenson had a slightly disappointing performance. Hockenson had two rare early drops in the first half. Afterward, he did rebound and had a nice catch to move the sticks on the third down. Also, he did not allow his receiving struggles to affect him as a blocker as it did not appear he missed any assignments. Behind him, Brock Wright had a solid game. Looking good as a blocker at both fullback and tight end, he added a big 25-yard grab on third down. The Lions will need Hockenson to play better if they are going to beat the better teams in the league, but with the receiving options on the team, he might have some quiet games.

Offensive Line: B+

Key Stats: Lions – 24 carries 191 yards 8 YPC, 3 sacks allowed

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Adjusted for injuries, this was as good a performance as could be expected from the offensive line. They entered Sunday missing their starting interior three and their top reserve. If that wasn’t enough, they were facing a talented defensive line headlined by Daron Payne. In the run game, the Lions did not miss a beat. The offensive line destroyed Washington’s front 7, opening up gaping holes for the their backs. Frequently, backs were going untouched until they reached the secondary.

Pass blocking wasn’t quite as sharp. The Commanders were able to get some pressure up the middle. Daron Payne spent a lot of time in Goff’s face, especially when going up against Logan Stenberg, but that is a tough matchup for even starting guards. Overall, hard not to love what the backup trio of Dan Skipper, Evan Brown, and Logan Stenberg produced on Sunday. Offensive line coach, Hank Fraley deserves love for turning this rag-tag offensive line into a run-blocking juggernaut.

Defensive Line: A

Key Stats: Aidan Hutchinson – 6 tackles 3 sacks 2 TFLs; Charles Harris – 1 sack 1 FF; John Cominsky 1 sack 1 TFL

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The big story of the game was rookie Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson burst out of the gate grabbing 3 sacks in the first half. He relentlessly pursued Wentz and made sure to finish plays by bringing down the decently mobile QB. In addition to the pass rush, Hutchinson played great against the run. He made two tackles for loss and shutdown several rush lines for Washington’s backs. A really well-rounded game for the rookie and hopefully a sign of great things to come.

Hutchinson played great, but he was not the only one. All game, the Lions’ front completely shut down the Washington rush attack. Washington running backs combined for 17 carries for 31 yards for only 1.82 yards a carry. That is a truly dominant performance in stopping the run. Against the pass, the rest of the front disrupted Wentz as well. Charles Harris got a big strip sack leading to a safety, and John Cominsky pressured Wentz all game and finally was rewarded with a sack in the fourth. The defensive line stifled the Washington offense leading to a dominant first half. In the second half, Hutchinson had a slight limp, which may have contributed to the Commanders finally moving the ball.

Linebackers: B

Key Stats: Malcolm Rodriguez – 8 tackles 1 QB hit; Alex Anzalone 6 tackles

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After only two games, it is clear that Malcolm Rodriguez is the best linebacker on this team. His game is already incredibly well-rounded. In the run game, he does a great job finding the ball and tackling. This week, we saw him a bit more in coverage, and he held his own, nearly grabbing a pick. This week, he even showed up as a pass rusher, nearly getting a sack. Next to him, Alex Anzalone looks improved as well in both the pass and run game. There still were a couple of missed tackles and a few coverage errors that need to be worked on. Despite that, the linebacker core looks much better this year because of stud rookie “Rodrigo”.

Secondary: B-

Key Stats: Carson Wentz – 30-46 337 yards 3 TDs 1 INT

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The secondary talk has to start with third-year player Jeff Okudah. Returning from injury, Okudah has played great to start the season shutting down DeVonta Smith in week 1. This week, he lined up against another former Buckeye, Terry McClaurin. Okudah did a great job limiting “Scary Terry” to zero big plays and making sound tackles whenever he caught passes underneath. In addition to Okudah, Tracy Walker continues to play well. His ability to play everywhere in the defense really helps the rest of the defense function. If we do have to ding Walker, he does need to bring down an interception on the gift Wentz threw him on the flea flicker.

The rest of the secondary does need to improve. Curtis Samuel and Jahan Dotson had productive days across from McClaurin. Will Harris, Mike Hughes, and DeShon Elliot seemed responsible for a few of the big plays in the second half. This unit and Okudah will really be put to the test next week, going up against superstar Justin Jefferson providing a great barometer for their development.

Special Teams: A

Key Stats: Austin Seibert – 2/2 Jack Fox – 55.4 punt average

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A really great day for special teams all around. In the kicking game, Austin Seibert was perfect on both field goals and extra points. Jack Fox also was great, booming the ball all game and giving the Lions a nice field position advantage. In the return game, the Lions continued their field position advantage. Off the safety, Kalif Raymond had a huge return setting up a Lions touchdown, and on kickoffs, the Lions did a great job stopping the Commanders before the 25. Any special teams advantage is a huge help in the NFL, and the Lions won the special teams game this week.

Coaching: A

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Not a perfect day for the Lions but still a good coaching performance in the win. On offense, Ben Johnson already looks like a great hire. He did a great job of moving St. Brown around and using motion to get him open and in favorable matchups. He also deserves credit in the run game for drawing up an effective game plan to pick up 8 yards a carry and 191 rushing yards with all backups on the interior of the offensive line.

Defensively, the Lions don’t have the most talent, but Aaron Glenn continues to do a solid job. The Lions mix it up defensively and create confusion for the offense. Glenn seems to do a great job drawing up the pressure as it seems like every blitz he draws up almost gets to the QB. If the D-line continues to improve and can generate more pressure, this defense could be scary.

Dan Campbell was aggressive despite putting up a big lead. The Lions went for multiple times on 4th down and did not convert on either, but in hindsight, both were still the right decision. In the first quarter, the Lions were stopped at their own 3, but after the turnover on downs, the Lions sacked Wentz scoring a safety. The next time, the Lions went for it on fourth and short in the final two minutes to end the game up nine. It was incomplete, but it makes sense to try and end the game then. Also, there are fewer chances for a crazy block and return on an offensive play verse a punt or field goal. This week in the NFL, proved how hard it is to keep a lead, but staying aggressive was the right strategy to keep the Commanders out of it.

Conclusion

Lions fans are optimistic and rightfully so after a nice win despite dealing with a bevy of injuries. This team is fighting through adversity and having depth players step up big time. The offensive looks really great so far. They are averaging 35.5 points per game, which is tied with the Kansas City Chiefs and a measly half-a-point behind the Buffalo Bills, and they have left some points on the table. If they continue at this pace, the Lions should compete for a playoff spot, and Ben Johnson should get some head coach opportunities. Defensively, emergences from young players like Hutchinson, Rodriguez, and Okudah feed optimism for that side of the ball. As they grow, the Lions’ defense should aim to be a league-average defense, a big improvement from last year. Either way, the Lions are becoming one of the most exciting young teams in the league and should look to keep the positive momentum.

All stats via ESPN

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