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Detroit Lions stock report: O shines, D declines

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Matthew Stafford has the most 4th quarter comebacks in recent history and games like the Detroit Lions victory over the Indianapolis Colts highlight many of the reasons he’s often faced with such adversity.

Detroit Lions v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Almost losing a game is still winning the game and no fan base sighed louder in unison than the Detroit Lions when Matt Prater split the uprights to put the team ahead in the waning moments of their game against the Indianapolis Colts. With four seconds remaining, many weren’t confident in a victory yet, expecting some kind of miracle play from the Colts that, thankfully, never materialized. The offense performed brilliantly against a depleted Colts defense, putting up more points than any other team in week one. The defense, on the other hand, had a much worse outing. You know the routine by now, so let’s jump into our first regular season stock report.

Stock Up: Matthew Stafford, QB

Of course he was going to end up on here. Matthew Stafford is often brutalized by his fan base and is one of the most divisive players of our lifetime. There was some concern with how few passes were thrown to the intermediate or deep part of the field, but almost a third of his total yardage came on those few passes downfield so I’m less concerned. His nearly 80 percent completion and three touchdown day was a testament to what Cooter Ball truly is: Stafford ball. With play design taking an astounding step forward from Joe Lombardi's In-Name-Only "offense" to a quick strike offense more reminiscent of Scott Linehan’s style that saw Stafford put up his best years, the veteran QB was poised and collected, in control of the offense in a way we haven’t seen before. It’s one game, but if this kind of early return stands over the rest of this season, we may have to change his career year from 2011 to 2016.

Stock Down: Ezekiel Ansah, DE

Highly touted as one of the best defensive ends in football, you would have expected a game against a banged up and generally poor offensive line should have led to Ziggy feasting. Instead, he was a ghost for much of the game and didn’t provide any push to the pocket even when defensive coordinator Teryl Austin brought extra help from his side. Ansah was mostly out on an island against the Colts and he was stranded by something called a "Anthony Costanzo".

Stock Up: Kerry Hyder, DE

No longer just a preseason hero, new situational pass rusher Kerry Hyder notched both of the Detroit Lions only sacks on Andrew Luck. The third year defensive end was converted from defensive tackle this offseason, and after some corresponding weight loss, the Lions ended up with a guy for which defenses need to answer. Hyder wore down very quickly after his second sack despite continuing to play, but there are some shades of George Johnson to his level of play that makes me excited to see more of him.

Stock Down: Andre Roberts, WR

The only offensive player (that played) to get a nod in the stock down column, I felt he deserved a quick explanation why. Roberts came out as the team’s first kick and punt returner, which is likely the reason he made the team as the fourth receiver, but didn’t look good at all. He had only two offensive snaps, and had a catch on one of them, but watching Andre Roberts return kicks short of the 20 is going to make Lions fans long for Jeremy Ross. Okay, maybe just Stefan Logan.

Stock Up: Travis Swanson, OC

When I saw Travis Swanson had the highest grade from PFF against the Colts, I thought it was crazy. Not just because their stats are inherently dubious, but because I kept a pretty close eye on the offensive line and didn’t remember much impact of note. The only time I noticed him was when he whiffed on a block. Apparently, I managed to catch one of his only poor snaps in the game as he was mostly brilliant. More importantly than his blocking ability, the former Razorback was seeing the field incredibly well and making line calls easily, communicating with Matthew Stafford in a way I can’t remember even from Dominic Raiola in his 327 years of experience. Again, it was a one-game sample (a trend, I know), but after seeing some of the worst center play from the Lions in 2015, I didn’t leave much hope. Maybe that shoulder injury really was the problem?

Stock Down, Teryl Austin, DC

No one I know, even among fellow Lions writers, has been higher on Teryl Austin than I have. I followed his work all the way back to the University of Florida and kept expecting him to get picked up as a DC somewhere. I was ecstatic when the Lions signed him and felt validated in 2014 when he championed a historic Lions defense. Against the Colts, he had no answer to their offensive game plan and stuck to a scheme that wasn’t working instead of doing something different and adjusting. You may have thought "Why isn’t he blitzing?" in the second half, well he was, it was just predictable. You may also have wondered why Rafael Bush, the team’s worst cover safety, was playing the deep half of the field on third downs instead of, say, literally anyone else. I don’t have an answer to those wonders, but Chuck Pagano did.

Quick Hits

Stock Up

Ameer Abdullah, RB: Fear Ameer, baby! The second year tailback was toxic to Colts defenders and he even had a vintage Barry -2 yard run for big yards.
Johnson Bademosi, CB: Bademosi and his fellow gunner made it clear early why they are in Detroit. Both were fantastic and the Colts had nothing to return.
Adairius Barnes, CB: Though he never saw the field, being active for his first NFL game is a big sign of confidence from the coaching staff.
Anquan Boldin, WR: The long time vet showed just why he’s important with several important catches to move the sticks.
Michael Burton, FB: Only in on less than a dozen snaps, Burton played well in all of them. Considering how depleted the Colts secondary was, it was surprising that Burton played as much as he did.
Don Carey, FS: Carey always seemed to have a bad year after a good one on ST, so my expectations were low, but he showed out in his debut. Welcome back Don Juan Carey.
Brandon Copeland, DE: Copeland may have lost his job to Kerry Hyder, but he showed why he was kept when he nearly blocked a punt on special teams.
Taylor Decker, OT: I only use three players in my detailed write up, but I almost made an exception for Decker. His first game at OT was great despite playing against a future HOF pass rusher Robert Mathis and another wily vet in Trent Cole.
Eric Ebron, TE: Received one of the worst grades from PFF despite catching all five of his passes and getting tough yards after all but one of those catches. He’s good.
Marvin Jones, WR: Jones had the only incompletions Matthew Stafford threw in the game (aside from throwaways). He also had the most yardage. Going to be high risk throws to Jones all year and he justified those throws against Indy.
Sam Martin, P: Sam Martin is the best punter in the NFL. Watch the Colts game again if you want to challenge that statement.
Haloti Ngata, DT: Ngata played so well you would be surprised looking at the box score and seeing just how little pressure the team had.
Riley Reiff, OT: The team’s new starting RT didn’t have much trouble during this one and only had one bad block of note. OL as a whole had a good day.
Theo Riddick, RB: None of his runs made sense. Bad decision? No problem, cut, missed tackle, boom yardage. Not sure it’ll carry over all season, but a good sign. Still a boss as a receiving back.
Laken Tomlinson, OG: His start to the second half was dreadful, but it doesn’t overshadow a strong first half showing and recovery after those bad drives.
Kyle Van Noy, LB: Kyle Van Noy was covering T.Y. Hilton on an intermediate route. The pass was deflected on perfect coverage. No idea why that was a thing, but he nailed it.
Larry Warford, OG: Warford doesn’t get enough credit for how well the team played. No missteps, no mistakes, he was fantastic.
Dwayne Washington, RB: Washington was the goal line back and got a TD. Questions about his ability to run with power persist--he was stood up on one snap, his TD was nearly untouched--but the team may not need a power back if he can find holes.
Tahir Whitehead, LB: I expected the best LB on the field to be Levy, but it was Whitehead. He was also shredded on passing plays, just less so than his bearded counterpart.
Antwione Williams, LB: No, he didn’t do anything of note. He did have a single snap on defense, though, which is more than Tahir Whitehead had in either of his first two seasons.

Stock Down

Thurston Armbrister, LB: The team’s recent acquisition didn’t dress for the game, which may mean he’s not ready but could also be that he’s behind Antwione Williams.
Rafael Bush, SS: After losing his starting job to Tavon Wilson, I expected him to be used only on obvious run downs. Austin put him in a bad spot and he responded in kind.
Orson Charles, TE: Inactive, the team used both Khari Lee and Corey Robinson in the situations we expected Charles to be used for. He’s got a week left before he’s cut, at best.
Stefan Charles, DT: Many were surprised when he was kept on the roster, but despite his cost as a FA he was inactive for the team’s road opener, putting him at the bottom of the depth chart.
Joe Dahl, OG: The team kept their two top reserve OL inactive and that’s confusing. Not sure why Dahl was out, but it’s likely not a good sign. Uncertainty is generally bad.
Quandre Diggs, CB: Andrew Luck beat on the team’s cornerbacks and one of his victims was Quandre Diggs who simply lost his battles. His college grabbiness, often used by smaller, less athletic corners, crept up and he was clearly frustrated with his inability to cover.
Wallace Gilberry, DE: I had to remind myself that he played nearly half of the team’s snaps. No push, no pressure, no impact. He was bad.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Being the opposing QB’s favorite target isn’t a good thing, and while he had a few good moments, it was mostly terrible.
DeAndre Levy, LB: Levy wasn’t terrible and at moments was even good. He was brutalized in coverage, however, which was once his biggest strength. Now it's an area he needs to improve in, specifically with the quickness.
Cornelius Lucas, OT: I was more excited to see Corey Robinson make the team than Lucas, but despite personally having Robinson higher on the depth chart, I didn’t think the team did. They do.
Don Muhlbach, LS: Remember how badly people skewered Jimmy Landes? Don Muhlbach nearly muffed the snap on the kick that won the game. Saved by Sam Martin.
Matt Prater, K: Made the game winning field goal to redeem himself, but missed an extra point earlier which is inexcusable.
Glover Quin, FS: Quin’s job is to control the defensive backs and it was easily the worst unit on the field for both teams.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: Robinson had a batted pass that showed some good awareness, but wasn’t providing any push on a pocket that rarely collapsed, even a little. No push, no pressure, no impact as a pass rusher.
Darius Slay, CB: While Riddick and Martin justified their paydays, Slay struggled against Hilton and Phillip Dorsett and could cover neither. He also tripped on one completion he gave up, which isn’t the first time that’s happened on a blown play by Slay this year. Bad habit to have picked up.
Golden Tate, WR: No, he didn’t play poorly, but how Tate was used in the offense doesn’t look good for his prospects if that’s how they use him all year. Screens don’t work consistently and those stupid gimmick plays they try never do.
Devin Taylor, DE: Taylor was active in the run game but a non-factor against the pass. Considering most plays were pass plays, that’s a net negative.
Khyri Thornton, DT: Strong preseasons only get you so far. Once you get those regular season snaps you have to do something with them. Anything. Preferably positive. Thornton was bullied all game.
Tyrunn Walker, DT: I’d like to say his job isn’t safe after this showing, but nobody played well enough to threaten him as a starter. Say it with me, no push, no pressure, no impact.
Cole Wick, TE: Wick finally got his chance to get in the game and even had a short catch on the old Pettigrew routes. He was hurt, however, so future snaps are uncertain.
Tavon Wilson, SS: After winning the job, we expected a little bit better from Wilson. He was misused, as Bush was, but you still expect execution and not giving up touchdowns to tight ends.
Zach Zenner, RB: With how Abdullah and Riddick are playing, the third man in the RB rotation won’t get a lot of work (Washington had only two snaps). Zenner was inactive for Week 1, meaning he is likely the fourth back and thus even less likely to see snaps.