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Detroit Lions stock report: Eric Ebron shines in return

It was a welcome return of Lions weapons Eric Ebron and Theo Riddick, but their spark failed to overcome other limitations in the team’s loss to the Texans.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions hit the road against the Houston Texans coming off a small winning streak, but failed to leave with a winning record. The team fell to 4-4 on the year but are still very much in the playoff race as the NFC as a whole struggled to find much momentum. With only 13 points scored, there is plenty of blame on the offense for the loss, but the defense once again struggled to contain anything in the second half. The story after every Detroit Lions game is how the opposing quarterback had a bounce back week and the team’s sole identity on defense is one of how well everyone looks against them. Let’s dive in once again and see who’s worthy of praise and criticism in this week’s stock report.

Stock Up: Eric Ebron, TE

Ebron registered his second official drop on the season and third by my more critical tally. That was the only piece of rust that showed up as he would finish the game with the most receiving yards of any Lion. With the Texans strong outside pass rush and above average secondary, it was up to Ebron and Theo Riddick to make some magic happen and the pair stepped up big time on the road. Ebron’s biggest play of the game came on a big 34-yard pickup where he was able to separate quickly and haul in a tough pass. Ebron would also draw a pass interference penalty in the end zone, a play that led to a Theo Riddick touchdown soon after.

Stock Down: Josh Bynes, LB

Josh Bynes has been away from football for much of the season due to injury and he was brought in to replace the traded Kyle Van Noy. Unfortunately for the Lions, Bynes managed to look even worse than Van Noy despite the trust the team put in him in terms of snaps. Bynes isn’t a quick nor fast player, which often led to troubles in coverage, but an area he rarely struggled was tackling. Physicality, normally a strength, was awful in his first game back and he was beat about like a man half his size when matched up against Houston’s tight ends.

Stock Up: Theo Riddick, RB

The Detroit Lions de facto leading rusher returned and managed a respectable 56 yards on 11 carries to go along with his team-leading eight receptions for 77 yards and the lone TD grab of the game. Like Ebron, Riddick managed a drop in his first game back, but he was able to make up for it with excellent play throughout the rest of the game. With another week of this offense relatively intact, it’s going to be tough to stop the Detroit Lions if they get going.

Stock Down: Riley Reiff, OT

Reiff has had an inconsistent year: at times appearing brilliant and others terrible. This was a case of the latter against the Texans and prior to leaving sick you could sense the frustration at how frequently and quickly he was beaten. I’m still of the mind that Reiff, not Warford, is prioritized in free agency but games like this one are making a case for a sweep this offseason.

Stock Up: Khyri Thornton, DT

He of the much hyped preseason, Khyri Thornton has mostly been invisible during the regular season. He was much more disruptive against the Texans and seemed to find a rhythm quickly when he was on the field. The heavy rotation and short offensive drives kept the defensive line so gassed that they often looked uncomfortable, but Thornton and Stefan Charles seemed to do a good job when they were on the field, keeping blockers occupied long enough for the linebackers to screw up the play. That last part isn’t Thornton’s fault.

Quick Hits

Stock up

Johnson Bademosi, CB: Bademosi has been abused at corner until this week, where he fared pretty well considering his draw. Notched his first pick and covered well.
Johnthan Banks, CB: He’s not in Tampa anymore, that’s worth a shout out.
Adairius Barnes, CB: We finally got to see him on defense! Barnes may not have broken the game, but he did defend DeAndre Hopkins in the red zone, preventing a TD. We await news of his injury.
Don Carey, SS: Carey continues to play strong on special teams, and did good work on return units despite his normal strength being as a gunner.
Stefan Charles, DT: Charles was rotated often, but made the most of his snaps when he had them. Much of his good work was undone by the linebackers.
Joe Dahl, OG: He was active on gameday! And had snaps! Only on special teams, but trending in the right direction at least.
Taylor Decker, OT: Decker had a good game despite a tough draw. It wasn’t a great day, but he continues to impress in his first season as an NFL tackle.

Kerry Hyder, DE: Another good, consistent game from Hyder. It tapered off towards the end, but he’s made a lot of money this season.
Miles Killebrew, SS: He didn’t get as much usage on defense, but made a big play on special teams to take down a returner who had broken free.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Lawson has gotten plenty of criticism this season, mostly warranted, but he looked good in action against whichever receiver he covered.
Khari Lee, TE: Lee got time as a blocking tight end, finally. I’m not sure how long it will last, though, with Matthew Mulligan back in town.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: Robinson was gifted a sack when Brock Osweiler stepped up right into him, but with his run defense evening out over the game, we’ll give him a nod up.

Antwione Williams, LB: Williams had a pretty decent game. Like the rest of the LBs, he had struggles, but he was the best of a sorry bunch. Noteworthy for a rookie.

Stock down

Thurston Armbrister, LB: Armbrister is now a full time special team only player. That’s a downgrade from sometime defender, where he struggled.
Anquan Boldin, WR: Boldin didn’t make any impact as a receiver and was even worse in his normal strong suit, blocking.
Armonty Bryant, DE: Bryant’s previous sacks were largely due to the work of others, but his sack against Houston was a one man show. Sadly, he’s now suspended 3 games.

Rafael Bush, SS: If it wasn’t for Josh Bynes, Rafael Bush could have contended for softest defender on the field against Houston.
Brandon Copeland, LB: Copeland played Sam linebacker most of the game and was terrible for all of it.
Justin Forsett, RB: After working his way up last week, Forsett was active over rookie Dwayne Washington. He never took an offensive snap, however, showing his real value.
Graham Glasgow, OG: Glasgow blew up his first couple games, but it came to a head against Houston. Frequently bullied, he didn’t stand much of a chance and never recovered.

Clay Harbor, TE: After looking like he might see some more usage, Harbor was dropped to third tight end when Eric Ebron returned.
Marvin Jones, WR: Jones has had some bad weeks this season and this was one of those. Failed to gain separation or give reason to target him.
Cornelius Lucas, OT: It’s hard to move down from the low expectations we have for Lucas, but here we are. He has been awful even in limited action.
Sam Martin, P: Routinely good punting finally hit a snag and Martin had a couple poor ones in Houston.
Matt Prater, K: Bad snap or hold can’t be blamed for his whiff this week. Made some later, but his miss didn’t look good at all.
Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford wasn’t bad, and didn’t turn the ball over, but he was off-target all game and seemed angry at his offense’s futility instead of composed.
Devin Taylor, DE: Taylor continues to look like he can’t be relied upon as a starter.
Dwayne Washington, RB: Many expected Washington to get more time with the scheme the Lions ran against Washington. Different game plan, he was a healthy scratch.
Tahir Whitehead, LB: One thing that stood out throughout the game is how often Whitehead was in the wrong place or missed his opportunity to stop they play when he was in the right spot.
Zach Zenner, RB: Zenner took over full-time number two duties against Houston, but ran poorly and mostly into his own linemen.
Anthony Zettel, DE: Zettel was inactive despite a reportedly good game last week (which I disagreed with).
Cole Wick, TE: Wick’s season is over. The undrafted rookie ends the season with only two catches for 18 yards.

Unchanged

Ezekiel Ansah, DE: He clearly isn’t 100 percent yet, and it really shows on the field. Houston was content to let him charge upfield and showed no fear he’d get home.
Michael Burton, FB: Burton excels when he’s on the field, but continues to be sparsely used. Still needs to expand beyond just being an excellent blocker.
Quandre Diggs, CB: Diggs has had struggles this season, but got a bit of a break with the QB targeting the tight ends so much.
Glover Quin, FS: The Texans didn’t go deep, but Quin didn’t do anything of note that I saw.
Andre Roberts, WR: Roberts had some fine work as a kick returner. He was helped by his blocking, but did some nifty stuff on his own. No impact as a receiver and negative impact as a punt returner keep him here.
Travis Swanson, OC: It didn’t manifest in any tangible way, but Swanson continues to play well.
Golden Tate, WR: Tate did well in his own right, but the opportunities simply weren’t there for him this week.
Tyrunn Walker, DT: He looked good in the first half, less so as the game wore on. Need more than just an occasional splash run defense.
Larry Warford, OG: I didn’t see anything of note from Warford one way or the other.
Tavon Wilson, SS: There were some good and some bad. All in all, I think it was a net of no movement for Wilson this week.

Coaches

Jim Caldwell, HC: Stock Down

Not for the iffy call for an onside kick, which I get more and more when I think of it. No, this was just a poorly coached game all around. Conservative play calls all game, particularly on second and third downs, led to a slew of failed drives where the execution would barely have mattered. This could be a showcase game for how to call a game while sleeping on the sidelines.

Jim Bob Cooter, OC: Stock Down

After a week of nifty play calls interspersed with conservative calls, you could have told me Joe Lombardi returned this week and I would have believed it. Whereas last week the drives sometimes didn’t work but the gameplan was very clear throughout the game, this week I couldn’t even put my finger on what Cooter was trying to do. It looked more like a bunch of plays he wanted to run, rather than a cohesive gameplan with an end game in mind.

Teryl Austin, DC: Stock Down

Another week, another failed second half. After making Case Keenum look competent, is it really a surprise Brock Osweiler looked better? Austin once showed a brilliant defensive mind, but his inability to run a passable defense without elite talent is glaring. He’s likely the first coach cut when the season ends, assuming he makes it that far.

Joe Marciano, STC: Stock Up

I’ve been a noted critic of Joe Marciano, whose scheme seemed vanilla and whose demeanor came across as complacent. I didn’t see any of that this week as the blocking on kick returns was spectacular. Some good individual work by the Texans special teams units is the only reason Roberts was unable to break it to the house at least once on kick returns. The blocking as well as judgement from Roberts on punts in this game left much to be desired to put it lightly, but Roberts made much better decisions on which returns to take and which to pass on. There’s a lot of potential in this unit.