The Detroit Lions remain a work in progress.
To tell the tale from Monday night’s loss to the Green Bay Packers, 35-17, it was truly reminiscent of Week 1’s matchup against the San Francisco 49ers but flipped on its head. Jared Goff and the Lions' offense took advantage of an undermanned Packers defense as defensive coordinator Joe Barry had no answer for Detroit’s passing attack in the first half. Leading 17-14 at halftime, it was clear the Lions needed to go blow for blow with the Packers offense.
Detroit, however, couldn’t weather the storm—literally—as their warts on defense and offense were on full display last night.
Let’s check in on some players who saw their stock rise—or fall—in the Lions first divisional matchup of the season.
Stock Up: T.J. Hockenson, TE
Hockenson was making an impact all over the field in this one. One minute he’s stepping in-line to contribute as a blocker, the next he’s hauling in a beautifully thrown ball from Goff for a touchdown.
Finishing the night as the team leader in targets (9), receptions (8), and yards (66), Hockenson is clearly this team’s biggest and most productive threat in the passing game.
Stock Down: Trey Flowers, EDGE
The highest-paid defender on this roster, Flowers needs to be a catalyst for the Lions on defense. He needs to be strong in defending the run, he needs to make opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable in the pocket, and now with his new duties as an outside linebacker, he needs to hold up in coverage in spots.
Flowers generated just one quarterback hurry according to Pro Football Focus, gave up a reception to Aaron Jones that resulted in a first down, and wasn’t much of a factor in stopping the run. The Lions will need Flowers to play better on all fronts if they want this defense to improve.
Stock Up: Quintez Cephus, WR
Not exactly the most talented wide receiver room in the NFL was at a further disadvantage heading into Monday Night Football: Detroit would be without their No. 1 wideout in Tyrell Williams.
On the first drive of the game, it was Quintez Cephus who looked ready to step up to the challenge.
Just before Anthony Lynn schemed up this great route concept here at the bottom of the screen between Amon-Ra St. Brown and Cephus for an easy touchdown, it was also Cephus who helped kick-start the Lions offense with a 46-yard reception earlier on that same drive.
Stock Down: The inside linebackers
Things looked rough at the second level for the Lions throughout the preseason and into Week 1. It was much of the same in Week 2, but things managed to get even worse.
With two high safeties the majority of the game, Alex Anzalone and Jamie Collins both had their hands full last night. One less defender in the box put the brunt of stopping the run on the front seven, and while the defensive line didn’t do much to help stymie the run, Collins and Anzalone struggled mightily in run defense.
To make things worse, the two had a helluva time trying to stop the Packers' running backs and tight ends in the passing game. Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, and Robert Tonyan combined for 10 catches, 108 receiving yards, and four touchdowns.
Nick Williams, DT: While the Lions' run defense really needs to improve along their front line, especially on the edges, Williams was a bright spot. He contributed to a sack, a tackle for a loss, and he even drew a holding penalty against Packers guard Royce Newman—before Aaron Rodgers made those lost yards irrelevant.
Jared Goff, QB: The difference between Week 2 and Week 1 for Jared Goff was how consistently good he was in nearly all aspects. He displayed escapability which led to big-time throws. He looked more than comfortable stepping up into the pocket to evade the pressure—when Green Bay managed to muster a pass rush. And he displayed more touch and accuracy when throwing the ball downfield.
Then, the second half happened. A costly fumble at the end of the third quarter with the Lions down 11 sealed the game, but there was more good—Goff played a nearly perfect first half of football: 13 of 16 for 137 yards and two touchdowns—than the bad that started up when the weather got wet.
Romeo Okwara, EDGE: Okwara’s presence as a pass rusher is legitimate, and that’s good news for someone who signed a rich contract in the offseason after some uneven play in his career.
Frank Ragnow, C: The man in the middle made a huge difference for this Lions offensive line up front. He was absolutely man-handling Tyler Lancaster all night.
Penei Sewell, LT: Sewell continues to look like he’s in a comfort zone at left tackle. Along with Ragnow, Sewell stood out as someone who helped keep the heat off Goff in pass protection.
Halapoulivaati Vaitai, RG: Credit where credit’s due, Vaitai had an improved performance from a week ago, especially in pass protection.
Charles Harris, EDGE: Harris, a situational pass rusher, got home for a sack late in this one. Always a good thing when you do what you’re on the roster to do.
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: An absolute ace on special teams, Reeves-Maybin continues to make plays for this team in his limited role.
Matt Nelson, RT: Regardless of where you think Penei Sewell should play on the offensive line, you have to believe the Lions getting Taylor Decker back and healthy will make this offensive line better simply by the subtraction of Nelson from the starting lineup.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB: After using his head to break up a pass early on, Melifonwu gave up a 50-yard pass to Davante Adams on third-and-12 with the Lions still in the lead. On that same play, he suffered an injury that Dan Campbell called “a bad one.”
Amani Oruwariye, CB: Jeff Okudah’s Achilles injury put him on the shelf for the rest of the 2021 season, so the Lions were left to turn to a group of young cornerbacks with little NFL experience. Detroit needed Amani Oruwariye to show up in a big way against Green Bay on Monday night, but the longest-tenured cornerback on the roster instead had a performance that leaves the backend of the Lions' defense without a No. 1 corner.
Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR: As the starting slot receiver in this offense, the expectations for St. Brown have increased in a hurry for the rookie. Two drops and just 18 yards on three catches is a performance he’s going to want to forget in a hurry.
Jamaal Williams, RB: It could have been because Williams was returning to the home of his ex, it could have to do with his performance from a week ago, it’s almost certainly a combination of both those things, but Williams just couldn’t get going in this one—seven carries for just 25 yards against a Packers defense that gave up 171 rushing yards a week ago.
Levi Onwuzurike, DT: Only earning 10 snaps when the interior of this defensive line wasn’t very productive isn’t encouraging for the second-round pick.
Trinity Benson, WR: Just one catch in garbage time, Benson cost the Lions a fifth-round draft pick in 2022. Here’s to hoping he’s still playing catch up with the playbook and Goff.