Here is a random assortment of thoughts I have about the Detroit Lions heading into Week 11 of the 2022 NFL season.
1. The Lions run game needs help
I pointed it out in last week’s On Paper, but the Lions run game has been pretty inefficient over the last five games. Here’s a look at the splits between the first four games and the last five games:
First four games: 112 carries, 656 yards (5.86 YPC), 7 TDs
Last five games: 133 carries, 512 yards (3.85 YPC), 4 TDs
That’s a full 2 yards PER CARRY the Lions are missing in the past five-game stretch. Part of that is due to the lack of big plays: the Lions had four rushes of over 50+ yards in that four-game stretch and zero since. But teams are also playing them differently.
With a depleted receiving corps, opponents simply are not respecting Jared Goff and the Lions passing attack. Last week, Jamaal Williams faced an eight-man box on 50 percent of his rushes—the third-highest of any back in Week 10. For the season, he is ninth in that statistic at 28.9 percent. Compare that to D’Andre Swift, who saw an eight-man box just 6.67 percent of the time in Week 1 (he didn’t have enough carries to qualify any other week). Simply put, Jamaal Williams isn’t versatile enough to keep defenses honest, and it’s impacting the entire offense.
Of course, the other side of that is if Goff can prove he’s a deep-ball threat, that could help out, too. Sunday’s game against the Bears was a step in the right direction for the Lions quarterback, but even after completing a couple of downfield shots, his intended air yards of 4.9 yards was the lowest of any quarterback in Week 10. For the entire season, Goff ranks 17th in that stat (7.6), but he’s been among the lowest over the past few weeks:
Week 7 vs. Cowboys: 5.9 (fifth worst)
Week 8 vs. Dolphins: 7.1 (18th)
Week 9 vs. Packers: 4.8 (third lowest)
Week 10 vs. Bears: 4.9 (last)
This is why players like DJ Chark are so important—even if he’s not out there catching a lot of passes. He’s a deep threat, and the Lions need a deep threat to keep defenses honest.
2. The Chicago Bears panicked
A really good point brought up by Erik Schlitt during our Midweek Mailbag podcast on Tuesday: on Chicago’s last possession, they absolutely panicked in terms of play-calling. The Bears had all three timeouts and 2:17 left to just get in field goal range. Starting at the 20 and with Cairo Santos’ long being 55 yards, they needed about 45 yards.
Up until that drive, here’s a look at Chicago’s offensive efficiency:
Runs: 34 rushes, 253 yards (7.44 YPC), 2 TDs
Passes: 18 pass plays, 160 yards (50 on one play), 1 TD
They had just been dominating the Lions on the ground, and yet, they chose to run the ball just once on the entire drive: a decent 5-yard QB keeper to open the drive. The rest of the way, the Bears went pass, and it resulted in one catch for 7 yards, two sacks, and two incomplete passes.
Good on the Lions for making plays, but the Bears need to reconsider their game plan with so much time left on the clock.
3. Just kick it through the end zone
Touchbacks are at an all-time high throughout the league as teams realize that forcing your opponent to start at the 25-yard line is better than risking a big return. The Lions are not following that trend as they have touchbacks on just 51.2% of kickoffs, ranking 25th in the league.
While it hasn’t hurt the Lions too much overall (they rank 16th in kick coverage average — 21.9 yards per return), it did on Sunday against the Bears. Kalil Herbert returned a kickoff for 50 yards, and while Detroit’s defense thankfully got a stop, it was an unnecessary risk. The chance of stopping a returner a few yards shorter than the 25-yard line does not seem worth the risk of a big return.
4. I’m super happy for Aaron Glenn right now
Glenn has been a target of many angry Lions fans over the past couple months and for understandable reasons. The entire time, though, Dan Campbell stood by his side and insisted he was the right guy for this job.
The jury is still very much out on that, but Glenn is undoubtedly a smart football mind, and an incredible leader. Maybe he’s more fit to be a positional coach or even a head coach with his skill set, but I still believe Glenn deserves more time to prove himself. He’s dealing with a young core of players and a constantly rotating set of injured defensive backs.
So when Glenn got the game ball last week and was doing this after the defense won the game in Chicago...
Okay, one more.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) November 14, 2022
Aaron Glenn wildin’ pic.twitter.com/jr4eEPA3Qf
... it’s hard not to be happy for him.
5. Aubrey Pleasant
I never really got to say my piece when the Lions let go of Aubrey Pleasant, and I wanted to now. I don’t want to talk about whether or not he should have been fired, but rather about how the firing was another stark reminder of how cruel this business can be.
The Friday before the Seahawks game that would eventually lead to his firing, Pleasant was in front of the media being his typical affable self. Even though Pleasant came under scrutiny from the media after literally his first game in Detroit following the sideline spat with Jeff Okudah, he was always nothing but respectful to beat writers.
Maybe it was because the Lions media is nearly always standing where the defensive backs were practicing, but Pleasant was the kind of person who would check in with you if you were within a 10-yard radius, closing out with a “Hope y’all have a blessed day” before he got back to work.
But in this business, you can be exchanging pleasantries one day, and never see the person again. It’s easy to get numb to it when every year teams cut nearly 40 players in a span of a month, but Pleasant will be one of those I won’t forget. I hope he finishes the year strong with the Packers and finds a promotion somewhere in the AFC next season.
6. Amon-Ra St. Brown is back
Hopefully, his late injury against the Bears wasn’t too serious because this felt like the first time St. Brown was 100 percent again. Not just because he caught 10 passes for 119, but because the Lions clearly felt comfortable using him all over the place and making him the centerpiece of their offense. St. Brown took two snaps in the backfield—his first snaps there since Week 5—so the ankle must be feeling better at this point. That’s obviously huge news for the Lions offense, and it would be even better news if Detroit can get Josh Reynolds and/or DJ Chark back.
7. Keep kicking ass in our Movember campaign
On Tuesday, we crossed over $8,500 raised for the Alzheimer’s Association, which is an awesome pace so far. If you aren’t aware of the campaign we have going on, you can win a bunch of great raffle prizes and get myself to do a bunch of embarrassing stuff, too. Like this:
After raising $6,000 for @AlzheimersAssociation, Jeremy has to spin the wheel of pain and this happened. #detroitlions #NFL #charity #PepsiApplePieChallenge♬ FEEL THE GROOVE - Queens Road, Fabian Graetz
For more information on how to donate and what your donations could get you—including an appearance on our PODcast or even getting to write an article for us—check out our Movember post here.
In addition, we have an online auction full of great prizes that ends in a week. All of those proceeds are going to the Crisis Text Line. The auction includes an Aidan Hutchisnon signed football, a signed Jeff Okudah rookie card, and some amazing original Lions art. More info here.