The Detroit Lions received plenty of reps against the Indianapolis Colts this week as they traveled there days prior to their Saturday afternoon game for joint practice sessions. As the days progressed, the Lions seemed to improve and it all came together nicely for the actual game as they edged out the Colts 27-26. Let’s see how each unit graded out for the game.
David Blough got the start this week as Tim Boyle waited until the second half to take the reigns. Their receiving options and offensive lines were close to the same, so they had similar circumstances to work with. Blough dinked and dunked most the game but also used his legs for the second straight week. He must be trying to make his ‘“Hard Knocks” dream of being more mobile become a reality. This led to him leading the team to 3 scoring drives (2 FGs and a TD). His interception wasn’t egregious but still wasn’t the best decision. Tim Boyle moved the ball better going 12-of-15 for 99 yards and 1 TD (also no turnovers). They both took advantage of superior offensive line play and a nasty run game.
Running backs: A
Speaking of taking advantage of superior offensive line play… the running backs showed out vs. the Colts. In all, the RBs amassed 148 yards on 28 carries (5.29 YPC). Each of the four running backs carried the ball seven times—In order of when they appeared in the game: Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Justin Jackson, Godwin Igwebuike.
The Lions completely controlled how they wanted to execute this week’s offense by being nearly unstoppable on the ground. Justin Jackson made a strong case for the fourth running back spot with his performance. He was a key backup for the Chargers last year. Next week should be a big opportunity for him.
Tight Ends: C-
The tight ends were very pedestrian in the receiving game with only Shane Zylstra making any noise (five catches for 34 yards). They also regressed in pass blocking from the previous weeks as you could point to this unit for a few of the QB hurries forced by Indy and at least one sack given up by Detroit.
Wide Receivers: B
Tom “Mr.” Kennedy might be the recipient of a speech similar to to what Malcolm Rodriguez received last week as he’s making it very hard for the team not to include him on the 53-man roster. He hauled in two touchdowns and continues to be the guy the backup QBs look to when a crucial play needs to be executed. Trinity Benson made a little noise this week also, and Maurice Alexander was superb in special teams averaging a whopping 38 yards on four kick returns. Each player still has a shot to make the team but it won’t be easy.
Offensive Line: B
The reserve offensive linemen were stout in the run game, opening up hole after hole for the running backs. Evan Brown played a key starting role last year and with attrition being the norm in the NFL, there is a chance Brown or any of these players might have to play significant time this year. Jared Goff can probably rest easier after seeing them today.
They did give up three sacks but it seemed to be a combination of offensive line mistakes, tight ends missing assignments, receivers not getting open, and quarterbacks not doing the line any favors.
Defensive Line: A
And the most-improved unit goes to the defensive line! The Lions dominated the trenches on both sides of the ball, and the defenders might have even outplayed the offensive line. The Colts couldn’t do anything on the ground. How bad was it? It was 18 carries for 30 yards bad. The run defense was elite all game with players like Eric Banks, John Cominsky, and Demetrius Taylor contributing all day.
As the game progressed, we started to see the pass rush come alive also, as Detroit ended the game with 3.0 sacks. Austin Bryant lived up to the praise he’s been getting this offseason by getting involved in two of those sacks, though he was only credited with one.
The LBs played better this week. Derrick Barnes flashed his combination of speed and power on a number of plays. The unit filled the gaps nicely in unison with the defensive line to help stymy the Colts running game. Mr. “Rodrigo” flashed on screen for a nice play before being pulled not too long thereafter. It felt like he was getting the treatment of a starter (!!!). We even saw a second week in a row of Jarrad Davis with a solid play in coverage. That has to be a record.
There was still some cleaning up to do with underneath routes and getting home when called to blitz but overall they showed some nice progress from the previous week.
The secondary was bad. The Colts QBs combined to go 21-for-28, 261 yards, 3 TDS and 0 INTs. Indy’s complete lack of a run game is the only reason they didn’t put up a 40-burger on Detroit. We saw communication and mental lapses numerous times that left Colts players wide open for big gains. Will Harris was often seen coming into a play AFTER a huge chunk of yards was given up. Kerby Joseph at times looked mixed up and, once again, Cedric Boswell gave up a huge TD that could’ve cost Detroit the game. Aside from the pass rush altering throw, we didn’t see Detroit offer much resistance via the DBs.