A lot of coaches and front office members like to evaluate their team after each quarter (four games) of the season. We’ve reached the end of the first quarter and the Detroit Lions are already 3-1—well above most people’s expectations for their first four games of the 2017 season.
So let’s do our own evaluation of the team by handing out some First Quarter Team Awards.
Best offensive player - Matthew Stafford
It hasn’t been Stafford’s best string of games through four weeks, but he’s still the heart and soul of this offense and he’s still doing more than enough to win these games.
His outstanding play in the first half against the Giants (12/17, 107 yards, 2 TDs) allowed the Lions to utilize their run game in the second half. He showed us some vintage comeback Stafford, both against the Cardinals and the Falcons.
But perhaps most importantly, Stafford has been pretty careful with the ball. Despite nearly throwing a couple picks in Minnesota, Stafford has a 7:1 touchdown to interception ratio, helping Detroit lead the NFL in turnover margin with a whopping +9 through four games.
Honorable mention: Ameer Abdullah - 257 rushing yards, 1 TD, and 3.9 yards per carry aren’t outstanding numbers, but they’re better than the Lions are used to.
Best defensive player - Glover Quin
This is an easy choice. Quin is the bonafide leader of the defense, and while sometimes he leads with his voice and his command of the defense, this year, he has been leading by example. Quin has two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and is the highest graded safety in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Honorable mention: Darius Slay - Larry Fitzgerald, Stefon Diggs, Odell Beckham Jr., and Julio Jones all had relatively pedestrian days against the Lions, thanks partially to Slay’s shutdown corner abilities.
Best special teamer - Matt Prater
Prater could very well be the best kicker in the league right now. Take away his missed 58-yarder in Minnesota, which was apparently caused by an errant use of smelling salts, and Prater would be a perfect 8-for-8 this year, including four from 55 or more yards. He also did some punting, because Prater will kick whatever ball you present to him and kick the hell out of it.
Honorable mention: Jamal Agnew - Agnew has been up-and-down as a kick returner, but his 88-yard punt return touchdown was a game-sealer in New York and one of the biggest plays made by anyone on the team.
Best rookie - Jarrad Davis
This is a tough category, because, in all honesty, the Lions’ rookies haven’t been all that impressive so far. Kenny Golladay, Jamal Agnew, Jeremiah Ledbetter and Jeremiah Valoaga have made plays here and there, but none have played at a high level consistently yet.
However, in his two games thus far, Davis has displayed his importance to the Lions. He hasn’t been perfect either—he could really use some improvement in pass coverage—but he has been a solid tackler and an excellent run defender. Hopefully we see him back out on the field soon.
Honorable mention: Kenny Golladay - That four catch, 69 yards, 2 TD performance against the Cardinals feels like months ago. Come back to us, Kenny G.
Breakout player - Anthony Zettel
While Lions fans were desperately searching for some optimism along the defensive line, Anthony Zettel’s name rarely came up. He was doomed to be buried under the depth chart behind Cornelius Washington and Kerry Hyder. But when Hyder was lost for the season, Zettel stepped up in a huge way.
Through four games he leads the team with 4.0 sacks, but his pass rushing efficiency goes well beyond that. According to Pro Football Focus, he is the second-most efficient edge rusher in the entire NFL through four games.
Your weekly reminder that no edge defender has been more productive on a per snap basis so far this year than DeMarcus Lawrence pic.twitter.com/ZGPNGcJiOO— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) October 3, 2017
Honorable mention: Darren Fells - Fells has done just about everything the Lions have asked of him, whether it’s being a sixth offensive lineman, sealing rushing lanes from the edge or going out and catching passes. He’s been the Lions’ forgotten utility guy on offense, and has done a pretty good job in every role asked of him.
Best coach - Teryl Austin
This defense was the biggest concern going into 2017, and not only has Austin wildly improved the unit from 2016, but now the Lions’ defense is arguably top five in the league.
They’ve managed to accomplish that in spite of a defensive line full of no-names and a linebacking corps that has been devastated by injury. Throughout it all, the Lions are allowing the fourth-fewest points per game (17.5) and have the most takeaways (11).
Honorable mention: Jim Caldwell - Caldwell has run a tight ship, and it’s clear he has everyone believing in his message. His game management has been fine, even if it was a little conservative in the Falcons game.
Best play - Glover Quin’s pick-six against Matt Ryan
Read my full breakdown of why this play was so magnificent.
... or just watch it again:
Glover Quin, pick-six.— Michigan Sports Zone (@MichSportsZone) September 24, 2017
Honorable mention: Jamal Agnew’s 88-yard punt return - Yeah, let’s just watch this one again, too:
HE. COULD. GO. ALL. THE. WAY.— NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2017
Rookie @jamalagnew goes 88 yards on the punt return TD! #OnePride #DETvsNYG pic.twitter.com/Qj9waGRlBD
Best overall game - Lions 24, Giants 10
This is a game in which the Lions showed up in all three phases of the game. Stafford dominated in the first half. Ezekiel Ansah made mincemeat out of Ereck Flowers and special teams made a few big plays to seal the victory. Some would argue that the Lions even had a running game against the Giants, allowing them to play comfortably with a lead and pick up a big road victory.
Honorable mention: Lions 14, Vikings 7 - This wasn’t a flashy win, but Detroit played pretty well on both sides of the ball. Detroit’s offense wasn’t phenomenal, but it was efficient when it needed to be and the defense came up with play after play. Winning a divisional game on the road is no minor accomplishment.