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Detroit Lions Week 1 rookie review: Only 3 first-year players see the field vs. Eagles

Examining how the Lions 2022 rookie class performed in Week 1 of the regular season.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

Now that we have had a few days to let things marinate, Detroit Lions fans should be feeling a bit more at ease, despite opening the 2022 NFL season with a record of 0-1. Coach Dan Campbell has already said it—there are no moral victories in the NFL, and that holds true in his team’s Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. After trailing 31-14 with 10:21 remaining in the third quarter, the Lions found life and were able to get within striking distance, ultimately falling to the Eagles 38-35.

Heading into the week, most understood this was going to be a tough matchup for the Lions and their young roster. The Eagles have a uniquely high-powered offense that boasts one of the league’s best offensive lines, with many of their concepts working off of quarterback Jalen Hurts’ ability as a runner. On the other side of the ball, their defense has well-established veteran leaders like defensive tackle Fletcher Cox and cornerback Darius Slay. It was a tall task from the jump, and even though they came up short in the end, there is plenty to be positive about moving forward.

Let’s take a look at how each member of the Lions’ 2022 draft class fared in their first regular season game of their careers.

Aidan Hutchinson, DL

69 snaps (90% of total defensive snaps) — 6 special teams snaps (19%)
PFF defensive grade: 56.3

As mentioned earlier, Philadelphia’s offense poses a specific challenge for defenders, especially those in the front seven. Coaches like to call it “eye candy” but in other words—all of their motion, both pre-snap and post-snap, delays decision making, and aims to put defenders in a bind. Rookie defensive end Aidan Hutchinson was no different against the Eagles and their vaunted ground game.

Hutchinson was credited with one tackle and three hurries on the day, often getting a hand on Hurts as the Philadelphia quarterback was escaping the pocket. Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn moved Hutchinson around, having him rush off the edge, as well as over guards on more obvious passing downs. Still, Hurts evaded the Lions’ pass rush time and time again, converting third downs at a near cyclic rate. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for Hutchinson and the rest of the defensive line moving forward.

“I’m not even worried about him,” coach Dan Campbell said. “He’s going to adjust from this. He’s prideful, he’s a pro, I already know that about him as a rookie, I think we all do. So, he’s going to want to better himself. He’s going to learn from this and he will be better.”

Against some of these extremely mobile quarterbacks in the NFL, sometimes pressure off the edge isn’t necessarily what you want, and staying more disciplined in rush-lanes may prove to be more effective. Gradually collapsing the pocket around a passer, similar to the way they played Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15 of the 2021 season.

Jameson Williams, WR

DNP: Recovering from knee injury suffered in January

Josh Paschal, DL

DNP: Recovering from sports hernia surgery

Kerby Joseph, S

0 (0%) — 15 (48%)

Joseph was limited to special teams duty against the Eagles. He was called for one holding penalty that erased decent field position.

James Mitchell, TE

DNP: Was inactive for Week 1

Malcolm Rodriguez, LB

46 (60%) — 17 (55%))
PFF defensive grade: 73.4

Nobody on the defense (outside of cornerback Jeff Okudah) deserves much praise after their showing in Week 1. That’s what happens when you give up 216 yards on the ground, and allow an offense to convert on 10 of their 17 third down attempts.

Despite the gaudy statistics, rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez had a solid showing, finishing his debut with six total tackles, including one for loss. All of the misdirection can be difficult to work through for even the most experienced of linebackers, so expecting perfection from Rodriguez, or any of the other linebackers for that matter, was never realistic. But Campbell actually said that Rodriguez was perfect in terms of his assignments for the day.

“There’s a couple of plays I know he wishes he could have back, but for a rookie who went in there and a played a substantial role for us, I thought he did a nice job,” Campbell said. “He was physical, he was aggressive, zero [missed assignments], I mean he was on top of it now. So, that was good to see.”

Rodriguez will continue to improve with experience, but in the meantime, enjoy moments like this one. Tossing one of the best centers in football is an impressive feat for anyone, but even more so for the linebacker they call “Rodrigo.”

Chase Lucas, DB

DNP: Was inactive for Week 1

Undrafted Free Agents

Demetrius Taylor, DL

DNP: Was inactive for Week 1