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Penei Sewell not pleased with impressive NFL debut: ‘I’ve got to win every rep’

Good, but not good enough for the first-round pick.

San Francisco 49ers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

All things considered, Penei Sewell’s NFL debut went much better than expected.

After a rocky preseason at right tackle, some were questioning whether the Lions seventh overall pick in the 2021 draft was going to hit the ground running at the next level. Things only got more complicated when in the middle of Week 1 Detroit Lions’ starting left tackle Taylor Decker injured his finger. That left a massive hole on the Lions’ offensive line with 49ers star defensive end Nick Bosa ready to jump on the opportunity. The Lions challenged Sewell to move back to left tackle, his college position, just a few days before Sunday’s game.

He responded the exact kind of way you’d hope a top-10 pick would. Lions quarterback Jared Goff had to drop back 60 times in Sunday’s shootout, and PFF credit Sewell with... zero allowed sacks. On the stat sheet, Bosa had one sack and just two quarterback hits. PFF graded Sewell out as a top-10 offensive tackle in Week 1 (MNF permitting) with a solid 75.6 overall grade, even after allowing six pressures.

But don’t tell that to the 20-year-old offensive lineman. He wasn’t all that impressed with his own performance.

“It was alright,” Sewell said after Sunday’s game. “I gotta get better at a couple things. My hands were out of whack, pad level came too high on a couple, so I gotta go back to the drawing board and get better for next week.”

Sewell has been very critical of himself since landing in Detroit. This isn’t the first time he’s mentioned his hand placement or pad level, as those were two things he vowed to work on throughout the preseason.

He also had the right mentality going into the game. He didn’t overthink going up against one of the best pass rushers in the league.

“If I focused on that, it would get to my head,” Sewell said. “Can’t let the name on the back of that jersey beat me. So going in, I just got to focus on looking at him as another person. Go from there.”

It wasn’t a perfect day from Sewell, but even Bosa had to give it up for the rookie.

“He’s going to be good,” Bosa after the game. “He’s more comfortable on the left, and I could tell from the tape I saw of him on the right. I told him after the game he’s better on the left.”

But as admirable as his performance was, it wasn’t good enough for Sewell. When asked if only getting beat once or twice by Bosa helped his confidence, here was his answer.

“I’ve got to win every rep. When you said that, that just kinda triggered in my head. I’ve got to win. Not only for myself, but for the team so we can get that dub in the end so we can have that smile.”

You’ve got to love that attitude.