The Detroit Lions don’t have much to play for when it comes to 2021 accomplishments. At 0-10-1 with six games remaining, even a 6-10-1 record wouldn’t be anything to write home about.
That being said, there are still things to accomplish this season. Head coach Dan Campbell said on Monday he wants to play spoiler the rest of the season, but a secondary goal should be to evaluate the young players and give them some meaningful playing time to help them progress. One player who could benefit from some extra playing time is third-round rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu, who returned from injured reserve on Monday.
However, Campbell noted that the plan at corner will remain unchanged, with undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs currently holding down the outside corner spot opposite Amani Oruwariye.
“We see Jerry staying put,” Campbell said. “Jerry will stay in there and keep doing what he’s doing. We’ve got Iffy available and we’ll work him in a little bit, but I think right now it’s just about getting Iffy back.”
It’s an interesting decision but also a good sign that they really like Jacobs and he may not just be a one-year fling. But what will that mean for Melifonwu’s development?
In fact, there are a lot of rookies who, despite the team’s lack of talent, may not be getting as much playing time as they should for a helpless 0-10-1 team. So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Lions rookie should get more playing time in the final six games?
My answer: The easy answer is “everybody.” Rookie development—or, at the very least, rookie evaluation—should be near the top of this team’s priority list right now. But if I had to choose one, it would be second-round defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike. This season, Onwuzurike has played in just 206 snaps—an average of just 20.6 per game. Meanwhile, players like Nick Williams (422 snaps) and Michael Brockers (466) are outsnapping him more than two-to-one.
I know it wouldn’t be an easy conversation with veteran players like Williams and Brocker, two players who not only have a lot of pride but are considered leaders on that defense, but they know what this is. They know this is a rebuild that they’re only a part of to help lead the way for the future. And if we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s not like Brockers or Williams are playing so well that you can’t take them off the field. Brockers’ PFF grade is 43.8 (114th out of 123). Williams isn’t much better at 52.8 (85th).
Let’s see what Onwuzurike has got before it’s too late.