Let’s take a closer look at how the Lions 2021 rookie class performed on the way to their first NFL victory.
Penei Sewell, OL
Snap counts: 72 (100%)
I think people can relax on the whole notion that moving Sewell to right tackle would impede his development as a player?
Penei Sewell since Week 6 among Tackles:— PFF (@PFF) December 7, 2021
86.6 PFF Grade (2nd)
259 pass-blocking snaps
1 sack allowed pic.twitter.com/6Hd2Nb8b9c
Those numbers are especially mind boggling when you stop and consider what this staff has asked of Sewell this year. They ask a lot of him in both the run and pass game. Whether it’s being on an island against some of the premiere edge rushers in football, or executing reach blocks in the screen game, Sewell does it all.
Against Minnesota, Sewell was credited with one sack and one pressure, per PFF. His development over the course of this season is definitely something to be really excited about.
Excited enough to jump and shout.
Levi Onwuzurike, DL
Snap counts: 48 (63%) — 3 (11%)
With veterans Michael Brockers and Nick Williams both dealing with injuries, Onwuzurike saw a big uptick in playing time against Minnesota.
He finished the day with three tackles, including one tackle for loss.
Alim McNeill, DL
Snap counts: 43 (57%)
Like Onwuzurike, McNeill received more playing time with second year nose tackle John Penisini on the sideline with an injury.
He recorded two tackles and helped limit the Vikings to 3.7 yards per attempt on the ground.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB
Snap counts: 10 (13%) — 9 (33%)
It seems as though this coaching staff wants to bring Melifonwu along slowly, after recently returning from a thigh injury that kept him sidelined for several weeks.
During the 10 snaps he was in for Jerry Jacobs at outside corner, Melifonwu registered two tackles.
With Jacobs and third-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye on the outside, maybe Melifonwu gets a shot at nickel in the coming weeks.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR
Snap counts: 69 (96%) — 7 (26%)
St. Brown was finally featured on the outside more against the Vikings, something head coach Dan Campbell alluded to a while ago.
The rookie receiver by far had his best day as a pro, finishing with 10 receptions, 86 yards and the game winning touchdown as time expired.
He showed poise down the stretch and a calmness that is not common among rookies. The more rapport and trust St. Brown can develop with quarterback Jared Goff, the better this passing game looks down the final stretch of the season.
Derrick Barnes, LB
Snap counts: 35 (46%) — 1 (4%)
This is probably where most fans will have an issue with snap allocations.
With Jalen Reeves-Maybin out, many would assume Barnes would take the majority of those snaps. Instead, three-year veteran Josh Woods played more than the rookie.
This could be the coaching staff going with the more experienced player in Woods, or they view Barnes more as a MIKE and eventual successor for Alex Anzalone.
Either way, while Barnes was on the field, he made some really nice plays.
And what an absolute gorgeous run fit on a two point conversion late in the game.
Jermar Jefferson, RB
Snap counts: 8 (11%)
While Jefferson only played eight offensive snaps, he did carry the ball five times for 18 yards.
Jerry Jacobs, CB
Snap counts: 66 (87%) — 5 (19%)
Jacobs had another strong showing against Minnesota, particularly when it came to pressing up near the line of scrimmage and getting receivers on the ground.
He finished with seven total tackles, including two for loss. He would have had a third tackle for loss if it weren’t for Justin Jefferson somehow getting the ball off on a botched trick play.
I think one of the things Lions fans like so much about Jacobs is that you can see his progression on a weekly basis. He has continued to grow, and as the game slows down for him even more, he will make more plays like we saw against the Vikings.
Mark Gilbert, CB
Snap counts: 1 (1%) — 2 (7%)
With Melifonwu back, Gilbert saw a decrease in his special teams snaps.
Brock Wright, TE
Snap counts: 29 (40%) — 15 (56%)
Wright is another Lions rookie who definitely had his biggest day in the NFL, finishing with two catches for 28 yards and his first career touchdown.
On the score, Wright successfully navigated the seam and came down with a difficult catch in traffic.
And while he has been featured as a blocker in recent weeks, this was the first time Wright was really incorporated in the passing game.
Impressive stuff from yet another UDFA rookie.
Tommy Kraemer, OL
Snap counts: 0 (0%) — 5 (19%)
Kraemer was relegated to special teams duty with Halapoulivaati Vaitai back in the starting lineup.
Riley Patterson, K
Snap counts: 5 (19%)
Signed off of the New England Patriots practice squad in November, Patterson has done everything asked of him since arriving in Detroit. Against the Vikings, he hit both extra points, as well as field goals from 31, 41 and 49 yards.
It’s early, but maybe the Lions have found something here to solidify their kicking situation.
Other rookies of note: CB AJ Parker is on IR for at least two more weeks.