As Matthew Stafford laid on his back for what seemed like the 50th time of the night, you have to wonder if, like many fans at this point in the season, he just wanted it all to be over already. The defense was playing with its hair ablaze, finding ways to get after quarterback Jared Goff despite losing Devon Kennard and bottling up one of the league’s most dynamic rushers in Todd Gurley, but the offense wasn’t moving.
It’s not that the offense had stalled, it’s that it had never really gotten going. The team brought out new plays that it hadn’t called previously, and while the Taylor Decker touchdown was a lot of fun, it really signaled that the offense was very close to being completely out of ideas. Then it all fell apart. Like every week, we’re going to take a look at what went right and what went wrong, so let’s dive in.
Stock Up: Levine Toilolo, TE
The Rams just cannot cover *checks notes* Levine Toilolo.— Chris Burke (@ChrisBurkeNFL) December 2, 2018
The Detroit Lions tight end group is the worst in the NFL, and if they moved on from all three that are currently rostered in 2019, they’d probably be better off for it. Still, four catches for 90 yards for Toilolo is nothing to scoff at; dude still has to run the routes, catch the footballs, and run. What struck me the most with his day, however, was what the Lions could do with a dynamic talent at the position. Two of Toilolo’s catches could have been touchdowns if he didn’t have offensive lineman speed, and the other two could have been even longer if he had any sort of YAC ability. I was left wondering what could be, rather than appreciating a pretty good day by the blocking specialist.
Stock Down: Bruce Ellington, WR
Bruce Ellington’s yards per reception is disgusting— Fantasy FB Gawd (@FbGawd) December 2, 2018
I’ll have more on this later, but the Lions’ technique of replacing Golden Tate’s lost production with someone who maybe bears a casual resemblance to the former YAC specialist is having pretty predictable results. Ellington has caught a bunch of passes for the Lions, but for very few yards. He led the team in receptions with seven, nearly twice that of Toilolo who was second with four, but he only had 35 yards on those catches. His inability to cause any real separation or get any yards after making a catch is painful to watch. If you’re in the draft game already, be on the lookout for a Christian Kirk-like receiver rather than the next Kenny Golladay, I have a feeling that regardless of offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter’s status, the team will be looking for someone who can do damage out of the slot. No one on the roster currently fits that bill.
Stock Up: Quandre Diggs, SS
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again... Quandre Diggs is the hardest hitter in the NFL— Connors, M. Kelson (@kelson_connors) December 2, 2018
I’m not sure who in the Rams organization said unkind things about Quandre Diggs’ mother, but he was doing his very best to put every player on that field out of commission. Diggs picked off the normally cautious Jared Goff and put hits on multiple players throughout the game. He did miss a tackle early in the game, but he shrugged it off quickly and played what may be the best game of his career. Final tally saw one interception, two pass deflections, and six total tackles.
Stock Down: Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator
Jim Bob Cooter is a dumpster fire.— Q (@thabigQ) December 2, 2018
After Scott Linehan and Joe Lombardi, we have had a pretty low bar set for offensive coordinator ability in Detroit. Despite a wealth of weapons at their disposals, neither of those two could spark the offense to the NFL’s elite, and Cooter has similarly failed to do anything with every tool he could possibly need. Now, with injuries piled up, he’s floundering even more than usual. Rather than modify his offense to make due with Golden Tate being traded away, Cooter simply tries to throw other players into the same role, hoping they’ll be able to duplicate his results. Cooter has passed beyond complacent from a play-design standpoint and graduated to complete ineptitude. Third-and-long plays are almost certainly draw plays, and if you’re feeling left out he can run them on other downs and distances as well. His offensive linemen were asked to pull across a line that was getting bulldozed by Aarond Donald and Ndamukong Suh, but rather than having other plays drawn up to minimize that, he simply kept calling them. Miscommunication abounds and the next name on the chopping box has to be the team’s second failed offensive coordinator of the Bob Quinn era. Fire him and let Madden draw up the team’s plays for the rest of the year. As dumb as that sounds, it’s probably a marked improvement.
Stock Up: Damon Harrison, NT
Snacks Harrison is tremendous against the run, but he's been better as a pass rusher than I expected too. Now has 3.5 sacks in 6 games with Detroit, and caused the fumble there too.— Kyle Meinke (@kmeinke) December 2, 2018
Okay, we’ve reached critical mass with Harrison. Since coming to Detroit, Harrison has been a force of nature, easily imposing his will on opposing offenses and transforming the Lions defense from laughable to serviceable simply by being on the field. It’s a swift, steep, and noticeable drop in play for the entire unit whenever he’s not in the lineup and he makes both the players around him on the line better as well as those playing behind him. His sack and forced fumble on Jared Goff could have been a turning point for the team’s fortunes if the offense had even a mediocre ability to generate points. Barring a drop, I promise this is the last time he’s getting a long write up. His stock simply can’t get higher.
Stock Down: Frank Ragnow, OG
Aaron Donald absolutely skinned Frank Ragnow alive today.— Andy Goeddeke (@agoeddeke) December 2, 2018
We don’t award brownie points for having a hard matchup, and Ragnow got his biggest baptism by fire against the Rams front. He actually handled Ndamukong Suh quite well on most of his snaps, but any time he faced Aaron Donald he was smoked off the line the moment the ball was in motion. He struggled mightily with quickness on the inside and if it weren’t for Kenny “Turnstile” Wiggins, he would have been the worst lineman on the field for either team.
Stock Up: Mike Ford, CB (Bonus!)
Rough game for Mike Ford.— Alex Reno (@alex_reno) December 2, 2018
Look, Ford didn’t play well. He had six tackles, and while I’m not positive he gave up a ton of yards and catches, I know that he was in position to give up a ton of them. With his improved play last week, I paid a lot of attention to Ford and what I saw was, unfortunately, exactly what I expected to. Ford has a ton of potential, but his ability to intuitively cover his assignments is almost non-existent. It wouldn’t be a big deal, but his ability to quickly react to what is in front of him is also poor. The good news here is that Ford has been a huge improvement over having Nevin Lawson constantly play outside and having Teez Tabor on the field at all, so his role in 2019 will be an interesting one to follow.
Ezekiel Ansah, DE: Ansah didn’t suck, and with how the game went at the end that’s notable.
Marcus Cooper, CB: I don’t know if he did anything, but he was active in his first week on the roster.
Tyrell Crosby, OT: If the offensive line continues to play like it did in this one, Crosby is going to be on the field very soon.
Joe Dahl, OG: Further showcasing his versatility, Dahl did a little bit of everything in this one in a fullback role. If Nick Bellore’s injury is ongoing, could see more of that.
Jarrad Davis, LB: We got good Jarrad in this one and Davis got to showcase more of his explosiveness as a blitzer. He did whiff on one tackle attempt I saw, so that issue hasn’t disappeared.
Taylor Decker, OT: Decker actually played quite badly from what I saw as a blocker, but he got to score a touchdown, and a receiving one at that, so he’s probably happy.
Andrew Donnal, OT: Donnal must have been terrified when he was activated. He didn’t have to take any snaps, though, so he won the day. No chance they cut him if they’re doing this little with him on the roster.
Nicholas Grigsby, LB: Grigsby was active recently after being signed. I didn’t see him, so I don’t know if he did well, but I like to think it’s a positive sign.
Eli Harold, LB: Harold was one of the guys playing out of his head until late in the second half. After Kennard went down, it looked like Harold was auditioning.
Ricky Jean Francois, DT: I didn’t notice RJF in this one, and considering how he’s mostly played poorly of late that’s probably a good sign.
Christian Jones, LB: Jones started out the game pretty hot and while he tapered off as the game wore on, it was still a better showing than what we’ve been seeing from him.
Romeo Okwara, DE: Okwara didn’t have a great game, but he played some smart ball and showed why he’s useful in a defense. Plays some very assignment sound football.
Matt Prater, K: One of the only players still doing his job at the highest level on this roster.
Theo Riddick, RB: Riddick whiffed badly on a block, normally a strength of his, but he showed some nice things as a runner and, of course, receiving option.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT: Robinson is thriving alongside Snacks, and he really does seem to be getting better each week.
DeShawn Shead, CB: Another one I’m not confident in, in a game with a lot of big plays by receivers, I barely saw Shead. Doing his job well enough?
Luke Willson, TE: Willson didn’t do much, but he played some fullback, and after thinking on it, I think he should stay there. Not making an impact at TE, so try something new.
Tavon Wilson, SS: Wilson didn’t stand out to me, though I did see him on the field. That’s usually a good thing for a safety.
Zach Zenner, RB: Zenner is currently averaging 7.0 yards per carry! *on 4 carries
LeGarrette Blount, RB: Blount had a great week against the Bears, and while he wasn’t terrible in this one, it was an obvious step down from the week prior.
Graham Glasgow, OC: Glasgow had his worst game of the year. Not a surprise given the competition, but still a bad day all around.
Kenny Golladay, WR: Golladay did fine, and had some of the game’s best plays, but he’s languishing with an inept offensive coordinator who seems to forget he’s on the roster half the time. No fault of his own.
Da’Shawn Hand, DL: Hand struggled more often than I’d like to see, and with how he’s playing this year I have to call this a bad game. Maybe even his worst of the season.
Kerry Hyder, DE: Gotta think Hyder’s time in Detroit is wrapping up as he was once again inactive. Never really bounced back from his injury and never gelled in the new scheme.
Andy Jones, WR: Jones is on the roster only until they can replace him.
TJ Jones, WR: Jones may be playing some of his final snaps as a Lion. He’s eating way too many snaps to be as unproductive as he is; a purely replaceable piece.
Devon Kennard, LB: Kennard got hurt and if they didn’t mention it over and over on the broadcast you wouldn’t have even noticed.
Nevin Lawson, CB: Lawson’s penalty-prone ways returned. He’ll probably be better as CB4 next year, though his pay will be high for that.
Sam Martin, P: Martin was asked to do more in this game than he has all year, but his onside kick attempt was laughably bad. It’s already a low probability play, but you can’t do it any worse than he did.
Brandon Powell, WR: Lions are fielding a group of WR who couldn’t separate two slices of bread, but Powell can’t even find his way onto the active roster?
Glover Quin, FS: Not confident he had that bad of a game, but he was trailing on a lot of bad plays so putting him here. Going to be an interesting rewatch.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB: What role does JRM have in this defense going forward? He’s barely a rotational piece as it is and there’s bound to be a ton of turnover.
Michael Roberts, TE: Inactive again and likely looking at what uniform he’ll look best in for 2019.
Kelvin Sheppard, LB: I’m certain that somewhere, though I don’t know where, Kelvin Sheppard exists and is doing football things. Not at Ford Field, but somewhere.
Darius Slay, CB: I’m going to chalk it up to the injuries this year, but Slay has been struggling and needs to figure it out. Maybe he needs some time off, but the team can’t afford to lose him for any length of time.
Matthew Stafford, QB: Stafford was efficient for the most part, but for the second week in the row it was a late, costly turnover that crushed any chance of victory.
Rick Wagner, OT: Wagner got smoked several times in this one. We’re nearing the point of the season where we shelve guys like him to give the younger guys playing time.
Tracy Walker, FS: I didn’t see Walker at all, and wonder if he had any impact at all.
Charles Washington, SS: Washington plays exclusively on special teams, so the mistakes stand out. Took some questionable angles on returns.
Kenny Wiggins, OG: I had thought that it was impossible to take a step down from how Wiggins had been playing. He’s living proof that as bad as you think something is, it can always be worse.
Hit the Ceiling
Gonna add this section in the second half of the season from now on. It’s for players simply doing too well to put stock up any more. Will be starting next week.
Have to add one for this, as well. For players that have likely reached the bottom and can’t go any further.
Matt Patricia, Head Coach: Stock Up
It all fell apart late in the game, which is a ding for any head coach win or lose, but there were a lot of positives to take away from this one and I think they outweigh the negatives. The Rams rank as the second-best offense in the NFL. Todd Gurley is one of the best running backs in football. Jared Goff has been a legit MVP candidate the past two seasons. Yet, facing the Lions in the middle of a losing season, the held that offense at bay for nearly 60 minutes. Had the team played mistake free, they could have beaten a far superior team in terms of talent, but came up short. Patricia’s biggest test is going to be his move at offensive coordinator, and a game like this one will certainly try his patience.
Jim Bob Cooter, Offensive Coordinator: Stock Down
Cooter is only the second-worst coordinator in the last decade for the Lions, but he has to be very close to being fired. He’s obviously dragging down the offense and it’s an insult to the players to keep him designing and calling plays.
Paul Pasqualoni, Defensive Coordinator: Stock Up
Pasqualoni called a very clean game with few gaffes. He alternated between cautious and reckless with his blitzing and it kept the potent Rams offense on their heels for most of the game. He also dealt with losing one of his best pass rushers, and seemed to seamlessly move from Kennard to Harold and others. Despite the loss and score, it may have been his best game from a design standpoint.
Devin Fitzsimmons, Special Teams Coordinator: Stock Down
We thought many of these mistakes had been cleaned up on special teams, but here we are looking at more mistakes on teams. Fitzsimmons was put in a bad spot taking over a mostly talentless group outside of the specialists, but he’s done little with little.