The 2021 season has been a rough one for the Detroit Lions. Multiple season-ending injuries to top players, multiple games lost on last-second field goals over 50 yards, and while things look bleak after Week 5, there are still some bright spots on this roster.
Let’s take a look at a handful of Lions’ players that saw their stock rise or fall in Week 5.
Stock up: Tracy Walker, S
“That’s the Tracy we know and have been waiting for him to come out of his shell,” coach Dan Campbell said of Walker at his Monday press conference. “He played confident, he played physical, and he communicated well. It was great to see because he played like a top-notch safety yesterday and he was a factor—you felt his presence.”
Statistically, Walker had a team-leading nine tackles, including one for loss, and a pass deflection that led to an Alex Anzalone interception. His PFF grade of 88.1 was the third-highest mark among NFL safeties that played at least 20 percent of their team’s defensive snaps in Week 5.
Walker’s play on the ball during Anzalone’s interception was indicative of his overall play on the day. Watch the right side of the screen as Walker shadows Vikings’ slot WR KJ Osborn, closes on the ball, breaks up the play, and nearly makes the interception himself.
Walker’s play in Week 5 was sensational, but he has quietly been putting together a very productive season. Through five weeks, Walker has graded out as PFF’s No. 2 safety (20 percent of defensive snaps minimum) overall, including being the third-best safety against the run and seventh-best safety against the pass.
Walker looks rejuvenated under the new coaching staff.
Stock down: Jared Goff, QB
Quarterback stats can often be misleading, and many of them can be spun in a way to fit a narrative. But the good folks over at Next Gen Stats have a few statistical categories that paint a clearer picture of quarterback play, that I tend to lean on for evaluations. Let’s take a look at the three main Next Gen Stats I prefer and where Jared Goff lands on them:
- Intended air yards in Week 5: 6.7 (4th worst n NFL), on the season: 6.8 (tied, 5th worst)
- Completed air yards in Week 5: 2.5 (worst), on the season: 3.7 (worst)
- Air yards to the sticks in Week 5: -1.5 (7th worst), on the season: -1.9 (7th worst)
To elaborate, the intended air yards (IAY) are how far on average Goff throws the ball to his target (regardless of if it is completed or not), and it doesn't take yards after catch into account. Completed air yards (CAY) is exactly like IAY but it only focuses on completed passes. Air yards to the sticks (AYTS) focuses on any pass and its relation to the first down marker.
You can see with IAY, Goff is not throwing the ball down the field that often, and when he does, he is not completing many of those attempts, as evidenced by his CAY being the worst in the NFL. To make matters worse, his average AYTS is nearly 2 yards short of the first down marker, meaning he is far too often getting the ball to his pass catcher and asking them to do the majority of the work to earn first downs.
We saw all of these themes in Week 5, and each of them was especially glaring on third downs when Goff routinely threw the ball to the receiver short of the sticks.
Another stat that is telling is turnovers, and once again, Goff had multiple this week: one critical interception and one fumble. When asked about Goff’s turnovers at his post-game press conference, Campbell didn’t mix words:
“It’s killed us a couple weeks in a row”.
Stock up: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB
Since Jamie Collins was benched three weeks ago (and eventually released), Reeves-Maybin has been steadily improving his defensive outputs and on Sunday his strip/fumble recovery was a massive tide-turning play:
“It’s outstanding... he goes after the football,” coach Dan Campbell said in his post-game press conference. “He makes a conscious effort to punch the ball out. And that becomes contagious when you get more than a few guys doing that. And he earned that. He earned it for us. It was big, it was huge when we needed it most.”
There are still parts of his game that need improvement, but he is making the most of his opportunities and earning more playing time.
Stock down: Kalif Raymond, WR
Last week, Raymond was a stock up player after a two-touchdown performance, but after producing zero receptions on two targets this week, he finds himself on the opposite side of the list. With Quintez Cephus likely done for the season and Tyrell Williams still in concussion protocol, Raymond needs to find a way to get involved again.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR: Back-to-back weeks of St. Brown’s stock moving up on our POD stock watch. This week he led the team in receptions (seven) receiving yards (65), and snaps at wide receiver.
Trey Flowers, EDGE: After missing the last two weeks, Flowers returned to the starting lineup and secured five tackles, a tackle for loss, a QB hit, and a sack. His presence brought some much-needed stability on the edge and allowed for other edge players to have successful games. Speaking of which...
Charles Harris, EDGE: Four straight games with a sack ties him for the longest current streak in the NFL, per the Lions' PR department. In total, Harris was credited with four pressures on the quarterback and he is having one of his best seasons as a pro.
Alim McNeill, NT: McNeill made his presence know as a pass rusher in this game, ragdolling Vikings offensive linemen several times on his way to pressuring the football. Both he and fellow rookie Levi Onwuzurike had several disruptive plays that should keep their snap counts increasing.
Jerry Jacobs, CB: A lot was asked of the UDFA rookie this week, as the team was desperate for a starting outside corner. Jacobs didn’t have a clean game, but his coverage responsibility was only targeted three times and he only allowed two receptions, one each to WR Adam Thielen and TE Tyler Conklin.
T.J. Hockenson, TE: He entered the game with a knee injury and serious questions about if he would even be able to play. While he was able to put in a full complement of snaps he didn’t do too much with them, notching two receptions for 22 yards on three targets. He needs to be more involved, hurt or not.
Penei Sewell, LT: He also entered the game with an injury (ankle), and maybe that played in to his production, but this is the second week in a row where he gave up two sacks. If the Lions want to have any hope of Goff having enough time for Hockenson to uncover, Sewell needs to keep taking steps forward.
Matt Nelson, RT: Another four pressures given up on Sunday, bringing his five-game total up to 22 for the season. I’m not as high on Nelson as others, and while I do think he has developed enough to be a solid reserve swing tackle, he’s struggling as a starter.
Amani Oruwariye, CB: Vikings’ WR Justin Jefferson is a handful and the task of covering him fell on Oruwariye shoulders, often with no help. Jefferson caught five of the six passes thrown his way while Oruwariye was in coverage, amassing 101 of his 124 receiving yards on the day.
Trinity Benson, WR: Maybe the expectations for Benson were set too high—in fact, they surely were—but he is failing to separate, resulting in lower targets (just two this week) and his drops are becoming an issue. After giving up draft capital to acquire him, coaches/front office is surely hoping he will find a way to produce.