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Detroit Lions Week 8 rookie review: Penei Sewell continues to show growth

Examining how the Lions 2021 rookie class performed in Week 8

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Week 8 is (mercifully) over and the Detroit Lions are headed into their bye week. After losing 44-6 at home to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, it couldn’t come at a better time for this team, coming off of their eighth straight loss on the year. The Lions showed more than a glimmer of competency last week against the Los Angeles Rams before coming completely unglued seven days later.

Despite all of the ugly on the field, there were a few bright spots among the “sea of trash”.

Penei Sewell, LT

58 offensive snaps (94%) — 1 special teams snap (4%)

One positive this week was once again the play of seventh overall pick, Penei Sewell. He finished with a 80.4 pass blocking grade from PFF and was only credited with one pressure surrendered.

Sewell continues to do things like this (below) to other grown men, despite being just 21-years-old. Initially, he is caught off guard, but uses his out-of-this-world athleticism to recover in an instant. Really impressive stuff from the rookie.

And even though this season has been a disaster in just about every conceivable way, the future on Detroit’s left side is bright.

Levi Onwuzurike, DL

29 (45%) — 9 (36%)

A slight uptick here in snaps for Onwuzurike but nothing really of note on the field. He was credited with three total tackles, and other than getting too high in his stance after the snap, he didn't do much to stand out on defense. But, to be fair, the Lions were so bad defensively against Philadelphia, standing out was next to impossible.

Alim McNeill, NT

27 (42%)

Similar story here for McNeill. He saw a spike in his snaps, likely due to the Eagles’ run heavy offense. But, like his rookie counterpart Levi Onwuzurike, he was mostly a non-factor. He was credited with one hurry and one tackle on the day.

Quite simply, the Lions are going to need more from their pair of rookie defensive linemen (and veterans if we are being honest) if they hope to win a game this season.

Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR

45 (73%) — 9 (36%)

Sadly, the story of utter incompetence rang true for the offense as well, making life even harder on rookies like St. Brown. He finished the day with three catches for 46 yards on five targets. Those final numbers would have eclipsed 80 yards if it weren’t for a mental error and penalty committed by running back D’Andre Swift, negating a nice chunk play by St. Brown.

Derrick Barnes, LB

24 (37%)

Since the focus against the Eagles was to load up and stop the run, the Lions opted to go with one linebacker (Alex Anzalone) for most of the day, but Barnes did split LB2 duties pretty evenly with Jalen Reeves-Maybin.

And to Barnes’ credit, he made the most of those snaps, finishing as the Lions' highest-graded defensive player (77.7), per PFF. If he can continue to become more comfortable over the second half of the season, that would be huge for this defense’s growth as a unit.

Jermar Jefferson, RB

11 (18%)

Jefferson saw his first offensive snaps of his career last Sunday and he made the most of them, touching the ball on over half of them. On just 11 snaps, Jefferson had four receptions on four targets, gaining 23 yards. On the ground, he had two touches, one for a negative two-yard loss and the other an eight-yard scamper on a draw play that resulted in his first career touchdown:

Jerry Jacobs, CB

56 (86%) — 10 (40%)

The secondary was largely untested since the Eagles were able to get whatever they wanted on the ground. Jacobs was targeted only once and didn’t allow a reception, but the Eagles only threw the ball 16 times, which tends to happen when your defense gives up 5.5 yards per carry on 43 attempts.

Mark Gilbert, CB

14 (22%) — 2 (8%)

Gilbert saw the first regular season action of his career on Sunday, entering the game when things were already decided. Depending on how long rookie AJ Parker is sidelined, the coaching staff may want to get more of a look at Gilbert after the bye.

Other rookies of note: CB AJ Parker was inactive with a shoulder injury. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu remains on injured reserve with a thigh injury.

Tommy Kraemer, OL

4 (6%) — 1 (4%)

Like Jefferson, Kraemer saw his first offensive snaps of his career last weekend. He came on the field at right guard for the Lions' final drive and actually kept the drive alive recovering a David Blough fumble after a sack on second down. On the next two plays, the Lions ran Godwin Igwebuike directly behind Kraemer for gains of nine and four yards.

Despite a decent, but limited showing, Kraemer was waived on Tuesday in order to make room for Taylor Decker’s return from injured reserve. If Kraemer clears waivers, expect him to be re-signed to the practice squad.

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