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Detroit Lions Week 15 snap count observations: Craig Reynolds leads the way

Storylines galore after an improbable win.

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s take a closer look at the Detroit Lions Week 15 snap counts from their 30-12 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff: 64 (98%)
Tim Boyle: 1 (2%)

Goff had to leave the game for one play after taking a late hit. When he returned, he was welcomed back by an overwhelmingly positive cheer from the home crowd—a deserved recognition of what was a terrific performance by the quarterback.

His best game as a Lion. Easily.

Goff stood tall in the pocket and took his lumps, but that willingness to sacrifice his body for the team paid off in a big way. Per PFF, while he was only pressured on six of his 26 passing attempts, he completed passes on five of those throws for 86 yards and two touchdowns.

Typically a weakness, Goff turned being pressured into a strength, and it resulted in a passer rating of 139.7, as well as a QBR of 93.9, leading the Lions to a convincing victory.

Running backs

Craig Reynolds: 42 (65%)
Jason Cabinda: 23 (35%) — 23 (92%)
Godwin Igwebuike: 12 (18%) — 17 (68%)
Jermar Jefferson: 6 (9%)

For the second game in a row, Reynolds tore up the turf, this week to the tune of 112 rushing yards (remember when the Lions couldn't get a running back over 100 yards for like two decades? Good times). Per PFF, 92 of those yards came after contact and he forced nine missed tackles. His 195 rushing yards over the first two games of his Lions career is the second most achieved in team history.

Maybe he’ll earn a spot on the 53-man roster now (he’s been a COVID-19 elevation from the practice squad the past two weeks).

Igwebuike and Jefferson were sprinkled in but were less effective than Reynolds, and the Lions kept riding the hot hand—and rightfully so.

Cabinda works his tail off (92 percent of special teams, my goodness) and he was rewarded for his efforts this week with a touchdown catch.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 45 (69%) — 4 (16%)
Kalif Raymond: 45 (69%) — 4 (16%)
Josh Reynolds: 41 (63%) — 1 (4%)
Tom Kennedy: 15 (23%) — 1 (4%)
KhaDarel Hodge: 0 (0%) — 10 (40%)

So, we all agree Amon-Ra St. Brown has arrived, right? Not only did he top the receiver group in snaps for the fourth game in a row, but his stat output is proving it’s a wise decision to keep him on the field as much as possible.

With St. Brown thriving and Josh Reynolds providing a threat on the outside (he also scored a touchdown again this week), Raymond has quietly slipped into a productive gadget role defenses need to account for. Raymond hurt his wrist fighting for a fumble but didn’t miss much time.

Another subtle move that isn’t talked about much is Kennedy working his way into a WR4 role. The production hasn’t shown up yet, but he is getting opportunities to see the field. Meanwhile, Hodge continues to be a valuable asset on special teams.

Tight ends

Brock Wright: 49 (75%) — 12 (48%)
Shane Zylstra: 29 (45%) — 4 (16%)

With the Lions opting to run the ball more, Wright was deployed on the majority of snaps, but he, unfortunately, took a few penalties in the process. Zylstra caught his third pass of the season. The overall impact from these two wasn’t huge, but it’s important to remember they are both UDFA rookies and are gaining valuable experience.

Offensive tackles

Taylor Decker: 65 (100%)
Penei Sewell: 65 (100%)
Matt Nelson: 18 (28%) — 6 (24%)
Dan Skipper: 0 (0%) — 6 (24%)

While Goff performed exceptionally well on six pressures, it shouldn’t be overlooked that he had a clean pocket on his other 20 passing attempts, and Decker and Sewell were a big factor in keeping him clean.

Nelson once again was deployed in his familiar sixth offensive lineman—or as Dan Campbell called it, a “Jumbo tight end”—and once again he put people on their butts. The Lions aren’t backing away from their heavy sets, and honestly, there’s no reason to... they’re working.

With Nelson and Skipper active, the starting tackles took the day off from special teams.

Guards/centers

Halapoulivaati Vaitai: 65 (100%) — 6 (24%)
Tommy Kraemer: 65 (100%) — 6 (24%)
Evan Brown: 65 (100%) — 6 (24%)
Ryan McCollum: 0 (0%) — 6 (24%)

Brown returned from the reserve/COVID-19 list, and Kraemer replaced Jonah Jackson at left guard. Neither looked to be rusty after not playing in a few weeks.

Defense

EDGE:

Charles Harris: 64 (85%) — 2 (8%)
Austin Bryant: 44 (59%) — 2 (8%)
Jessie Lemonier: 43 (57%) — 2 (8%)
Rashod Berry: 20 (27%)

Harris continues to trend up and has now recorded 7.5 sacks on the season (more than he had in his previous four seasons combined). He also recorded 12 tackles, a terrific mark for an EDGE, proving his value in multiple areas. What a redemption story he is weaving in Detroit.

Bryant returned to the starting lineup but essentially split time with Lemonier, who had been filling in for him. Neither were overly impactful, but they will need to step up their games when offenses start dedicating assets to stop Harris.

DT:

Nick Williams: 44 (59%)
Michael Brockers: 32 (43%)
Levi Onwuzurike: 26 (35%) — 2 (8%)
Alim McNeill: 17 (23%)
John Penisini: 11 (15%) — 2 (8%)

This is pretty much what we have seen all season, with a slight decrease in numbers across the board, as the Cardinals were forced to move away from the run and the Lions countered with quicker athletes to defend the pass.

Linebackers

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 72 (96%) — 5 (20%)
Derrick Barnes: 47 (63%) — 13 (52%)
Anthony Pittman: 11 (15%) — 18 (72%)
Alex Anzalone: 5 (7%)
Josh Woods: 2 (3%)
Curtis Bolton: 0 (0%) — 13 (52%)

Last week, Anzalone hurt his ankle and was forced from the game. He worked his way back from injury during practices, only to injure his shoulder in this week’s game and was once again forced out of action. Woods was also hurt after just two snaps, leaving the Lions to lean on their youth at the position.

Reeves-Maybin was back in the lineup after missing the past few games, and with injuries at the position, he elevated his game, registering five tackles and two pass deflections.

“It was good to get 44 (Jalen Reeves-Maybin) back,” Campbell said in his post-victory presser. “It was real good to get him back.”

Barnes is still learning, and it’s evident he needs to improve in several areas, but man can he fly to the ball.

Cornerbacks

Amani Oruwariye: 75 (100%)
Will Harris: 75 (100%) — 10 (40%)
AJ Parker: 68 (91%) — 2 (8%)
Ifeatu Melifonwu: 5 (7%) — 3 (12%)
Bobby Price: 0 (0%) — 15 (60%)
Saivion Smith: 0 (0%) — 10 (40%)

With most of the Lions' secondary missing the entire week of practice, coaches were forced to make some hard decisions on where they were going to play personnel. One of those key decisions was to play starting safety Will Harris at outside corner.

“So, now you’re like, ‘Alright, what’s going to give us the best opportunity?’ And we felt like, ‘Hey, let’s give Will a shot,’” Campbell said in his post-game press conference.“Will, safety to nickel, and for what we were going to try to do defensively, we were like, ‘You know what? We can—this will be good for him game-plan-wise. Let’s see if he can go out there and play a little bit and let him be aggressive.’ It’s a credit to him, and by the way—he is like, ‘Coach, what do you need?’ AG (Aaron Glenn), AP (Aubrey Pleasant) talked to him and he’s like, ‘Coach, I’ll do whatever you need.’ And that’s a credit to him.”

Harris was tested early, as the Cardinals targeted him right out of the gate, but they quickly found that fruitless and went in other directions. Per PFF, Harris was targeted only six times, allowed just 24 yards, and was credited with a pass breakup—which led to a cool story about the Seatbelt gang.

Oh, and Oruwariye did this:

Parker returned from injured reserve this week and played nearly the entire game. He was injured and replaced by Melifonwu—who didn’t practice all week due to COVID-19 restrictions—for five snaps in the slot.

Price, like Melifonwu, was removed from the reserve/COVID-19 list on Saturday. His ability to contribute on special teams was a nice bonus. Newly claimed Smith also chipped in on the special teams unit and made a great play late in the game with a big hit/tackle.

Safety

Dean Marlowe: 75 (100%) — 11 (44%)
C.J. Moore: 75 (100%) — 9 (36%)
Brady Breeze: 14 (19%) — 13 (52%)

With Tracy Walker ruled out with an illness, Harris at corner, and Jalen Elliott on the reserve/COVID-19 list, that left Marlowe and Moore to fill the starting roles, and newly claimed Breeze contributing in three safety sets—which the Lions used late in the game.

Overall a solid day from a group of players that needed to step up when their number was called.

Special teams

Jack Fox: 16 (64%)
Scott Daly: 9 (36%)
Riley Patterson: 6 (24%)

All three special teamers were on the field for Patterson’s three field goals and three extra-point attempts. Daly and Fox saw another three on punts. While Fox had seven kickoffs on his own—which happens when your offense scores six times.

The Lions have only scored six times in a game twice this season. Unsurprisingly, they are the two games the Lions won this season.