Whew, talk about finding ways to win. It was anything but pretty, but pretty doesn’t matter when you’re fighting for your playoff life. The Lions keep those hopes alive and turn their attention to the Carolina Panthers next week. Before we get to that, though, here are your movers from this week:
Stock down: Evan Brown, G
The Lions have missed their top four guards since Thanksgiving, with Kayode Awosika stepping in admirably over the past month. Evan Brown made his return to the starting lineup Sunday, though, and that was supposed to be good news. Unfortunately, it was not. The Lions were plagued with pressure all day, causing some messy pockets and backfields.
Brown’s presence was made known not once, but twice on a red zone trip for the Lions in the second quarter. Brown was called for a questionable hold on what should have been a Jamaal Williams rushing touchdown. Instead, the Lions faced 1st-and-17. After putting a dent in that distance, Brown would get called for another hold to send the Lions back to 2nd-and-17. On the second hold, Brown grabbed Sauce Gardner by the outside of the shoulder pads, a failure of fundamental offensive lineman technique on Brown’s part that you simply can’t have as an NFL starter.
Stock up: Kalif Raymond, WR/PR
The Jets have one of the strongest one-two cornerback tandems in the league in Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed. That meant Amon-Ra St. Brown and D.J. Chark were blanketed most of the afternoon. The Lions turned to Raymond against his former team to fill the void, and fill the void he did. Raymond ended the day with five catches for 53 yards on six targets.
That wasn’t even the most impressive part of Raymond’s afternoon. He kicked off his Sunday with a 47-yard punt return touchdown to atone for the offense’s inability to punch it into the end zone on the drive prior. It was long overdue for Raymond, who has come so close in recent weeks to breaking a big return. Sunday, he got his due.
Stock down: Jeff Okudah, CB
Okudah started 2022 on a tear, but his level of play has quietly slipped as the season progressed. Lucky for him, it has been covered up by the return of Jerry Jacobs and the newfound support from the Lions pass rush. However, Okudah was tested Sunday and he did not do great. Zach Wilson, returning from his benching because of a Mike White injury, picked on Okudah for much of the afternoon.
In particular, the Jets’ two-minute drill was completed in less than thirty seconds thanks to Okudah’s struggles. He gave up a 50-yard reception to arguably the Jets’ worst receiver on the drive’s opening play to put the Jets in field goal range. Just a couple of plays later, Okudah was covering on an incompletion that could have (and possibly should have) been called as pass interference in the end zone.
Nobody is calling Okudah bad, but Sunday was evidence he can’t play on an island right now. The coaching staff will need to give him more help overtop in future weeks to make sure Sunday doesn’t repeat itself.
Stock up: James Houston, EDGE
Houston has quickly emerged as a fan favorite thanks to his pass-rushing success in limited snaps. I thought it was a fluke at first, and two games was more “right place, right time” for him, but through four games now Houston has proven that he’s here to stay.
With his sack today, @Lions LB @Jthouston_4 now has 5.0 sacks through his first 4-career games.— Detroit Lions PR (@LionsPR) December 18, 2022
This ties for the 4th-most sacks by any @NFL rookie through 4-career games, and is Detroit's record for sacks through the first 4 games of a player's career.#OnePride pic.twitter.com/W2FzRtPP7M
Props to the coaching staff for knowing what they have in him and keeping him in limited snaps to thrive in what he does best. In due time, he’ll get a bigger role, but he has shown that he can make the most of his snaps right now and he is anything but a fluke.
Stock down: Kerby Joseph, S
It was a rough day for Joseph from start to finish. He was always around the ball, as a safety should, but this week he always seemed to be a step too late. In a game where the Lions’ cornerbacks were getting toyed with, it was a bad week for Joseph to be a step late. It resulted in a lot of single coverage opportunities for Zach Wilson and the Jets, leading to chunk plays that were the main reason Detroit was getting beat on defense Sunday.
On the Jets’ last drive, Joseph let Braxton Berrios get behind him on a throw that, if completed, left Berrios with a lot of room to run. That’s a textbook rule of playing safety broken right there, nobody gets behind you.
Stock up: Romeo Okwara, EDGE
Okwara made his season debut last week after recovering from a torn Achilles. Sunday, he got to Zach Wilson for his first sack. Then on the Jets’ last drive, he got home again to set up a 3rd-and-19 for the Jets. As the drive went on he looked winded, which is totally understandable, but it’s really reassuring to see that Romeo has still got it. Welcome back, Romeo!
John Cominsky, DL: While we always give Cominsky credit for his help in run defense, he stepped up big with the game on line Sunday to sack Zach Wilson with 20 seconds left. Huge play from Cominsky, and the ability to do it all when necessary enables this staff to trust him regardless of the scenario.
Brock Wright, TE: Wright has been a stellar blocker and a key part of the run game’s success, but he whiffed on a key block on the Lions’ opening drive fourth-and-goal, likely costing the Lions a touchdown. However, he more than atoned for it with his 51-yard touchdown reception to go ahead late in the fourth, finding more than just his usual way to contribute to the offense.
Penei Sewell, OL: Sewell has struggled all season with penalties, and got called for an ugly hold Sunday.
Jack Fox, P: Fox has been one of the best pin-deep punters all season. On his lone pin-deep opportunity midway through the third, Fox sent a touchback into the end zone. He had an otherwise average day, but in a field position battle you’ve got to be able to deliver on those punts.