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Detroit Lions stock report: Undefeated no more

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After losing to a woeful Bears team last week, the Detroit Lions pulled out an upset victory over one of the league’s hottest teams, the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles.

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Only 11 Detroit Lions players saw their stock moving upwards after a humiliating loss to the Chicago Bears in Week 4. Spoilers for this article- there will be more in that column after Week 5. The team as a whole played an inspired first half of football, but the cracks started to show right before halftime on defense. The second half would see the Lions fall behind as the Eagles drove down the field time and time again to put them ahead. It looked like a miracle would be needed to avoid yet another double-digit blown lead, and one was delivered by air mail from Darius Slay.

Stock Up: Darius Slay, CB

Who else deserved to be mentioned first? Slay had a couple moments in the game that made me shake my head, missing a tackle he should have made and taking an angle on another play that was frustrating. The dude made his presence not only felt late in the game, but roared into the game like thunder by forcing a fumble and giving the Lions a chance to put themselves ahead. After they did so, he picked off not only his first pass of the year, but Carson Wentz’s first interception of his career, to seal the game in Detroit’s favor. The team desperately needed someone to make a play and Darius Slay cashed in not once, but twice when the team needed it the most.

Stock Down: Laken Tomlinson, OG

Tomlinson went out of the game briefly with what was first reported as an injury. It became very clear that he wasn’t coming back in when his replacement, rookie third round pick Graham Glasgow, was playing admirably in his stead. Tomlinson would eventually come back into the game, but losing any amount of playing time to either Glasgow or Dahl could spell the end for the second year guard out of Duke. Tomlinson was highly touted coming out of the draft, but his inability to adapt to two offenses despite finally having strong play on both sides of him is glaring.

Stock Up: Theo Riddick, RB

The Detroit Lions have struggled at times to use their crop of RBs to their strengths. Most of this has been due to injuries, but Riddick hasn’t been shielded from this problem. They found ways early to get Riddick isolated on the outside and due to some spectacularly blocking especially on the left side, and the recently extended back was able to work where he wins best. They tried to rush him up the middle a couple of times with mixed results, getting stuffed badly where it looked like he missed a lane but also fighting with a second and third effort for a crucial first down on fourth-and-short. Ultimately, Riddick was able to showcase the ways he wins more often than the reverse and pulled in two of the team’s three receiving touchdowns.

Stock Down: Thurston Armbrister, LB

It feels a little unfair harping on how bad Armbrister played at linebacker considering he probably should never have been placed in this role to begin with. Still, he was bad to awful on all of his limited snaps, and the team needs to start looking at other players who might be able to provide a spark on a limited number of snaps. For a brief moment I was excited for his play, seeing some closing speed that was lacking in 2015, but when you close quickly only to miss the tackle you aren’t going to get a lot of praise.

Stock Up: Matthew Stafford, QB

Coming off his worse game of the season both statistically and as a leader, we saw a much calmer signal-caller on the field who threw with accuracy and poise. To add to that, Stafford used his underrated mobility to extend plays on multiple occasions and got away from pressure to command the field rather than just run for it. He did scramble, and was effective when doing so, but most of the times he was outside of the pocket he was directing his receivers where to go, what to do and throwing the ball away rather than trying to force plays that didn’t exist. Jim Schwartz knows Stafford’s flaws, and he tried hard to get Stafford to bite and make a mistake. He ended the day with an acceptable 19-for-25 for only 180 yards, but two of his three touchdowns were due in large part to how well he commanded the offense. Riddick’s second touchdown was on a beautifully drawn up play that I can’t recall seeing before, and any time you see someone take that much control over a new play and own it, it’s a good sign.

Stock Down: Struggling Players

Head coach Jim Caldwell has a reputation for putting veterans ahead of younger players, deserved or not. He wasn’t to the extreme that former HC Jim Schwartz was, but Caldwell also tended to keep struggling players on the field longer than they needed to be, benching them far too late. After seeing Golden Tate on the bench last week, there was no time wasted putting players who weren’t playing up to where the team needed them seeing the pine. Nevin Lawson was benched for special teamer Johnson Bademosi and managed to struggle even in spot duty late in the game. Former first round pick Laken Tomlinson saw the bench for a rookie. That’s three players, at least, who have been benched in five weeks. Are there more to come?


Quick Hits

Stock Up

Anquan Boldin, WR: No screens this week, Boldin was used as he ought to be and he thrived in that role.
Armonty Bryant, DE: Bryant wasn’t a pickup I liked, but he came into the game and contributed. He notched a sack that wasn’t his doing, but caused pressure that led to someone else’s sack later so it’s even.
Taylor Decker, OT: Decker continues to impress and even in a strong offensive tackle class could end up being the best left tackle of the group.
Graham Glasgow, OCOG: Glasgow got the nod when Tomlinson saw the sideline and wasn’t awful. Promising for long term prospects, since with Swanson playing well he’s likely out to guard now.
Kerry Hyder, DE: My complaint about Hyder has been a lack of consistency. He’ll have a good play and 10 bad ones. Against the Eagles, he was on almost all game. More of that, please.
Steve Longa, LB: Called up from the practice squad, so worth mentioning, but as health improves I expect to see him moved back down. Gotta note when he’s up, though.
Glover Quin, FS: Quin played a lot better this week, but he’s up here for taking a hell of a shot to the domepiece by his teammate Tahir Whitehead and popping right back up. Tough dude.
Travis Swanson, OC: After some struggles, Swanson seems back on track and is playing like a top guy again. Still amazed by this.
Golden Tate, WR: A Tate gimmick play actually worked! Add to that some solid RB usage and the most crucial catch of the game by someone not wearing #23.
Devin Taylor, DE: Taylor was a ghost last week, but it was he that pressured Carson Wentz on Armonty Bryant’s sack, then got one himself later.
Tavon Wilson, SS: Wilson being back on the field clearly helped with play-calling, but he only just made this side of the list.
Anthony Zettel, DE: A heads up play on the sideline to salvage a Darius Slay fumble from going out of bounds was a close call, but smart play.


Stock Down

Don Carey, DB: Carey almost had a fantastic special teams play on a punt, but let his foot hit the end zone unnecessarily, putting the ball out to the 20.
Stefan Charles, DT: From highly lauded free agent signing to game day scratch.
Marvin Jones, WR: Jones is here through injury, less than play. He wasn’t used much, and played hurt. Admirable, but notable.
Khari Lee, TE: Tight ends had no impact in this game despite plenty of opportunity to do so.
Don Muhlbach, LS: I know it’s almost blasphemy to say, but Don Muhlbach hasn’t been on target all game in any game this season. Making Martin work for his extension.
Haloti Ngata, DT: Ngata went down with injury, despite playing well in the first half. Not sure of the severity, but Ngata doesn’t play through injury well.
Andre Roberts, WR: Last week was fool’s gold. Back to running out when he shouldn’t, added a drop on offense.
Corey Robinson, OT: This isn’t all his fault, but Robinson’s only use was on plays where it wasn’t useful to use an extra blocker. Pointless usage isn’t a good sign for the second-year tackle.
Tyrunn Walker, DT: Probably deserved a longer write up for how bad he looked, but I’m going easy after a win. He was bad, though.
Larry Warford, OG: Getting your lunch stolen is a common term for being bullied. Warford was giving away his lunch for free.
Zach Zenner, RB: The line didn’t do him many favors, but he’s really here for running the wrong route in the second half, earning some of Stafford’s ire.

Unchanged

Quandre Diggs, CB: Diggs had some good plays, but also had some bad ones. Really struggled with where to put him, up or down, so he’s here.
Miles Killebrew, SS: Killebrew gave up his first TD, and it was mostly on him, but for a guy that wasn’t expected to get any work early he’s doing pretty well otherwise.
Riley Reiff, OT: Reiff was inconsistent this week. After a hot start to the season, he was bad last week, and though inconsistent is an improvement on that, I’m cautious.
Kyle Van Noy, LB: I have trained myself not to get excited when Van Noy makes a play, because he usually follows it up with some gaffe. He plays so very soft for his size.


Coaches

Stock Up: Jim Caldwell

The second half was a disaster for Jim Caldwell, and he deserves a lot of criticism for how he called it. Why he’s stock up, though, is for his team holding together despite that second half collapse. Caldwell lost the team very early against the Bears last week, but managed to rally them early to push ahead and then held them together even as the walls started to crumble. He’s still probably out of the door in 2017, but deserves credit when he earns it.

Stock Down: Teryl Austin

The first half was well called, but I have some questions about how the second half was handled. Austin went into soft zone coverages after halftime, despite the team’s notoriety in struggling there. He failed to adapt throughout the second half, and if it wasn’t for some heads up individual play, this game likely would have been a loss. If your play makers aren’t making plays, you need to manufacture some instead of hoping they will just do so on their own eventually. Austin more than anyone needs to be giving Darius Slay gift baskets and praise today.

Stock Down: Jim Bob Cooter

There were some plays of sheer brilliance in the first half of this game. I’m going to go into greater detail in a standalone piece, but Jim Bob Cooter seems to be building his playbook as he goes. That’s nice because it offers some original plays that no one has seen before, throwing defenses for a loop. It’s bad because his filler plays are telegraphed, generic high school plays. The second half of this game is as good evidence as anything you could show that Cooter isn’t quite there yet as an offensive coordinator.

Stock Up: Joe Marciano

I put his stock up somewhat ironically last week, but it feels important to note it seriously this week. He still insists Andre Roberts bring the ball out when he shouldn’t, but there appears to be a limit to that. It’s an obvious sign, but it’s one that Marciano seemed to have missed in previous games. Adding to that several heads up plays by his gunners, though one wasn’t executed correctly, and Marciano’s group as a whole was on point.