Dan Campbell spoke with the media on Monday morning following the Detroit Lions’ 28-19 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 7. Topics were wide ranging, so rather than having to watch the presser in its entirety (which you can right here), here are the four biggest takeaways from it.
Don’t be surprised if the Lions re-sign Alex Anzalone, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Kalif Raymond this offseason
Though he was prompted by questions, Campbell really expressed his gratitude for three specific players, not only for their performance, but for their attitude and what they bring to the Lions culture.
First was wide receiver Kalif Raymond. While the Lions have struggled to find someone to give them consistent production at that position, Raymond has been the steadiest of the bunch. He has at least three catches in five of seven games this year and nearly set a career high on Sunday with 115 receiving yards.
“I think he was a dang-good pickup for us in the spring. ‘Leaf’ really embodies all that we’re about,” Campbell said.
Some of that spirit includes Raymond’s willingness to block, which Campbell said was on display against the Rams.
“Man, that dude blocks every play. Like he’s blocking somebody every play.”
Campbell said similar things about two Lions linebackers when asked: Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Alex Anzalone. The latter Campbell is familiar with, having spent time with him in New Orleans for the past few years, but the Lions head coach has never seen Anzalone play at his current level.
“Anzalone is playing the best I’ve ever seen him, with more confidence, energy. He’s our bellcow on defense.”
As for Reeves-Maybin:
“When we signed him, we knew the special teams player we were getting, but we were hopeful that he could help us on defense as well. We were intrigued by him, and I’ll tell you what, he’s been all of that.”
Lions looking to feed D’Andre Swift even more in passing game
It feels like this is a weekly occurrence, but after Swift’s impressive performance against the Rams, Campbell said they need to get the Lions running back more opportunities to make plays, specifically in the passing game.
“He’s getting better and he’s improving every week. I think we find runs that suit him best and let him go a little bit, but I also think that we can expand some things in the pass game for him.”
Swift has actually been the team’s most productive receiver this season through seven weeks. He leads the team in catches (42), receiving yards (391) and is tied with three other players with two receiving touchdowns. His value in the passing game was on display with Detroit’s opening score on this 63-yard touchdown on a screen pass.
Factoring into Swift’s playing time has been a lingering groin injury that continues to affect the running back, but Campbell believes the team is managing it in a way that benefits everybody.
“He is getting better, but I know it’s something that I know he feels,” Campbell said. “But we’ve been smart, and he’s been smart. Getting him some practice but being smart with him and then getting him to the game to where we can get a load out of him.”
The struggles only motivate Campbell more
If you’re worried that all the emotions and frustrations of an 0-7 start to his Lions career would be too much for Dan Campbell, you clearly don’t know Dan Campbell. The Lions head coach talked emotionally about how he’s only getting hungrier and more motivated to right the ship.
“I’m frustrated like anyone would be. I’m frustrated like our players are, but it also gives me more motivation and driven anger, if you will, to want to make things right and help these guys as much as I can and help this staff. That’s the way I’m cut, man, it makes me want to dig in more is what it does. Maybe I’m stubborn that way.
“I told the team this before we ever started the season, but I’m built for adversity. This is what I do. I’ve seen it, I’ve lived it, I’ve done it. I’ve been in the high highs, the low lows, so I’m ready for this. I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on any of these guys. I’m not listening to the lack-of-talent talk. I don’t buy into that. We’ve got more to give as a staff, these players have more to give as players, and we’re going to find a way to win a game.”
More insight into the critical interception
On Sunday night, Campbell broke down what went wrong on the play in which Jared Goff threw an interception late in the game when the team was threatening to score down just six points. Campbell took blame for the play design, but appeared content with Goff giving Hockenson the chance to make a play.
On Monday, he broke down why Hockenson wasn’t able to get open on the play, and it seemed to be in part because undrafted rookie tight end Brock Wright didn’t run his route crisp enough.
“We need to open the window more for Hockenson, which really started with our rookie tight end,” Campbell said. “It’s his first start, first game. He can open the window by running a tighter post, taking the guy that’s got him covered and taking the post safety away.”
That’s exactly what our own Erik Schlitt saw after the game, as well.
Next to him, Brock Wright ran a post that was designed to draw the attention of the single-high safety, pulling him towards the middle of the field and, in theory, away from Hockenson. Hockenson was lined up furthest outside and ran a similar post route to Wright, and with Ramsey in off coverage on the outside, Goff was targeting Hockenson on the inside where the safety should have vacated the area.
Of course, Campbell reiterated that Aaron Donald forced a quicker throw than they wanted and prevented Goff from following through—and also that Jalen Ramsey just made an incredible play—but they could’ve done more to help themselves out.