It was a tough loss for the Detroit Lions Sunday in Arlington, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 24-6. It was a fairly ugly showing from start to finish, and often felt like it was more lopsided than the score indicated. However, by way of injury or necessity, the Lions got extensive looks at some fresh faces as well as some forgotten ones, and they sure did impress.
Stock up: Josh Paschal, DL
What an NFL debut for Paschal. After a hernia sidelined him through training camp and the first chunk of the season, Paschal made his debut without a proper offseason under his belt. That didn’t stop him from making a splash, though. Paschal wowed from the start, generating pressure from the interior and the edge, and bringing life to the defensive line that we haven’t seen in a while. It didn’t always result in tackles, but it clogged the interior in run defense and flushed the Cowboys to the edges for much of the day.
Stock up: Kerby Joseph, S
To say Joseph looked rough in the preseason and his first start would be an understatement. The rookie looked lost, befuddled, and a step behind everyone. In the weeks since then, however, he has consistently shown great strides. On Sunday, Kerby Joseph looked like he belonged in the starting safety spot.
He would finish the day with four tackles, a pass defense, and a quarterback hit. Off the stat sheet, Joseph found himself in perfect position to come down with two interceptions. He wouldn’t come down with either, unfortunately, but being in position to make those plays is a huge step forward from recent weeks. On one of the drives where he dropped an interception, Joseph would make up for it a few plays later by forcing a red zone fumble on Cowboys receiver Noah Brown, a crucial play to keep a stagnant offense in the game.
Stock up: Jeff Okudah, CB
We know Jeff Okudah can cover by now, but boy can he do it all. The Lions spent much of the first half Sunday lining him up closer to a linebacker position in zone, enabling Okudah to find the line of scrimmage and the backfield on multiple occasions. He would finish the day with 15(!!!) tackles, including a tackle for loss.
It wasn’t all pretty, as the Cowboys picked up on the tactic and took advantage of the mismatch by sending tight ends to block Okudah on run plays. Ultimately it’s not something we’ll likely see Okudah doing every snap or every week, but he’s showing his versatility and a willingness to step up in run defense that this team sorely needs right now.
Stock down: Ben Johnson, OC
Do not interpret this the wrong way—Sunday’s offensive shortcomings do not fall entirely on Johnson. Players need to do their jobs and the majority of the offense did anything but that Sunday. That being said, this Lions team has fallen stagnant the last two games, not scoring a touchdown in either after tying a record earlier in the season for most consecutive quarters with a touchdown.
There’s something to be said about missing players, but this roster isn’t much less talented, if at all, compared to what the Lions and Johnson were working with in 2021. This team needs to find ways to score, and that starts with the offensive play caller. While he can’t control fumbles and drops, he can control an inside run on third-and-7, and many head-scratching calls like that from Sunday.
Stock up: Kalif Raymond, WR
This is a friendly reminder that Kalif Raymond had 369 career receiving yards in five seasons when the Lions picked him up. He continues to be one of Brad Holmes’ best finds, stepping up in 2021 amidst a wide receiver room devoid of talent. Sunday, the Lions lost Amon-Ra St. Brown to a concussion and were already without DJ Chark after he went on IR earlier in the week. That left Raymond and Josh Reynolds vying for the number one receiver spot, and Raymond claimed it definitively.
He finished the day with five receptions for 75 yards as the primary receiver against a stout Cowboys defense. For context, all other Lions wide receivers would combine for 26 receiving yards. In spite of a clown show of an offense Sunday, Raymond stepped up and continues to do his part and then some.
Michael Badgley, K: Badgley connected on both of his field goal attempts Sunday, the first from 40 and the second from 53 yards. The latter was at the edge of his range, and it was nice to have a little kicker luck for the first time this year and see him convert.
Aidan Hutchinson, DE: Hutch’s disappearance since Week 2 was widely attributed to the thigh injury he had been nursing since then. After having the bye week to recover and avoiding the injury report this week, Hutch made his presence known with 1.5 sacks and three quarterback hits. That’s 4.5 sacks through a third of the season, a strong pace for a rookie.
Jared Goff, QB: I don’t know how many times I can put Jared Goff on this list, but he continues to underwhelm no matter how low the bar. Two ugly interceptions and two uglier fumbles rounded out a pitiful day from the man who I hope Brad Holmes realizes isn’t the future of this team.
Jamaal Williams, RB: Williams fumbled a crucial carry inside the 1-yard line that was a painful step back for the offense just as they were set to take the lead. Tough break for him after otherwise being very reliable in goal line situations this season.
Alex Anzalone, LB: Anzalone was strong in the run game Sunday, making some nice plays including chasing down Tony Pollard to the edge. Everywhere else wasn’t as pretty, however, particularly on the touchdown drive that put the Cowboys ahead 17-6 late in the fourth. Anzalone was tagged with a holding call and then jumped offsides just three plays apart, keeping the Cowboys’ drive chugging along.