It’s time to break out the red marker again for another year of report card grades for the Detroit Lions. Each week, I’ll be handing out your normal A through F grades for each position on the roster. Based on the Lions’ Week 1 performance against the New York Jets, I think I’m going to run out of red ink before the bye week.
There is no excuse for the game Matthew Stafford had. I don’t care if the Jets recognized his hand signals. I don’t care if the play-calling was predictable. I don’t care if there was a sleeper-cell agent inside the Lions huddle (my money is on Luke Willson). You can’t make the kind of mistakes Stafford did all game.
Stafford made some extremely poor reads, and looked completely flustered when pressured. I haven’t seen him play that badly in a long, long time.
Running backs: D
LeGarrette Blount looked completely ineffective, rushing for -3 yards on four carries. He was effectively benched in the game after nearly fumbling, and it didn’t seem like he could break a single tackle.
The Lions decided to ride with Theo Riddick for most of the game, and outside of a bad drop, Riddick didn’t do horribly, but he certainly still doesn’t look capable of being a lead back.
As expected, Kerryon Johnson looked the best of the group, but the guy only got eight touches and turned them into 37 yards.
Tight ends: F
Equally surprising:— Michael Rothstein (@mikerothstein) September 11, 2018
Levine Toilolo 20
Hakeem Valles 18
Luke Willson 14
Michael Roberts 14
Total catch production: 4 targets, two catches, 12 yards. https://t.co/nlRTmj3YAU
If Monday is any indication, tight ends are not going to figure into the Lions’ passing offense game plan. Pure blocker Levine Toilolo led all tight ends in snaps, and considering the Lions’ couldn’t run the ball and Stafford got hurt twice, I think it’s fairly safe to say the tight end game plan didn’t work all that well.
Michael Roberts and Luke Willson are continuing to have an extremely disappointing two months to start the year.
Wide receivers: C-
Just about every wide receiver had a bad in this game, but this unit did also produce the only player worth talking about in a positive fashion: Kenny Golladay.
Not only did Golladay surprise with an extremely efficient game (after a quiet camp and preseason) but he also had the hit of the game:
This might be the best play you'll see from a receiver his week, and it has nothing to do with catching the ball.— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) September 11, 2018
Golladay finished with seven catches on 12 targets for 144 yards, and there’s the end of nice things I’ll be saying for the rest of this article.
Offensive line: C
Okay, maybe one more nice thing. Despite Stafford getting beat up, I thought the offensive line pass blocked relatively well. Stafford didn’t take a single sack in the game, and at times, he had an extremely long time to throw. There were some mistakes made. Frank Ragnow had a very up-and-down NFL debut, but overall, I think the Lions offensive line did much more good than bad when it came to pass blocking.
The problem is we were all promised an improved run blocking performance this year, and that obviously never materialized. Detroit was pretty much forced to abandon the run halfway through the game, so maybe better things are on the horizon in games that don’t get way out of control, but for one night, it looked like more of the same.
Defensive line: D-
For a brief moment, it looked like the defensive line may have been better than advertised in the preseason. The Lions notched two first-quarter sacks after only have two total during the entire exhibition season.
But then Ezekiel Ansah predictably went down with an injury, and Sam Darnold had all day to pick apart the Lions secondary for the final three quarters.
The interior of the line, led by two aging veterans, failed to provide any push nor did they plug any running lanes. They are who we thought they were.
I’m not really sure what unit I should give credit for Devon Kennard, but since he’s listed as a linebacker, I guess I’ll give it to them. Outside of Quandre Diggs’ pick-six, he was the only notable positive performer on the defensive side of the ball. Missed tackles, poor angles, bad play recognition: it was all there.
They weren’t helped out by a poor pass rush, but the Diggs’ interception was long forgotten by the second quarter. Nevin Lawson was punished, as predicted. Tavon Wilson failed to make a play on Darnold’s 41-yard touchdown bomb, and the secondary was completely ineffective in run defense. Quin continues to look his age.
Special teams: F-
I rarely pull out the F minus, but the Lions’ special teams unit fully earned it on Monday night. Former Lions punt returner Andre Roberts just annihilated the Lions’ special teams units, and averaged FORTY-FIVE YARDS PER PUNT RETURN.
Meanwhile Matt Prater missed a couple kicks.
I don’t know if the Lions offense is tipping plays, and at this point, I don’t really care. The offense is inefficient and it’s clear the same problems that have plagued the unit for years remain. This offense looks absolutely no different after an entire offseason to adjust. That’s poor coaching whether the defense knows your plays or not.
On top of that, there were some seriously puzzling personnel decisions that appears to have backfired. Bradley Marquez was kept on the 53-man roster specifically for his special teams acumen, and his punt return coverage was especially bad on Monday.
A’Shawn Robinson was a healthy scratch, and with only two defensive tackles dressed, Sylvester Williams and Ricky Jean Francois looked dead tired in the second half—each posting over 75 percent of snaps.
Also, can we unleash Kerryon Johnson next week, please? I love you, Theo, but you should never be getting carries inside the 10-yard line.