By day, I live a life very much removed from Pride of Detroit. For those who listen or watch our Twitch channel, my day job is teaching high school here in Michigan. It’s often my night job, too, but when I get a chance to get away from it, there’s Pride of Detroit to scratch that itch of cultivation and creativity.
I only make mention of it because I primarily teach language arts classes, but I often relay the message to students I cannot help them with their math. No way, no how, my best advice is pointing them in the direction of someone who can help. Numbers can be the devil. An algebra textbook looks like satanic scripture when it’s cracked.
However, numbers can do a whole helluva lot to better understand football. And the premier name in football numbers is Pro Football Focus, the sports analytics company that has built a following far and wide across fans, media, and NFL teams alike. Their premium stats are an invaluable resource and an important piece to consider when evaluating a player.
So for this season, I’ll be
venturing to the seventh circle of Hell taking a look at the 2022 Detroit Lions by the numbers each and every week and sharing some of the most important numbers that help paint a better picture of who this football team is now, who they might be moving forward, and what they need to do in order to become the team Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes are hoping to deliver to the city of Detroit.
Let’s take a look at the Lions by the numbers after their Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Detroit’s defense was one of the worst teams in the NFL last season at generating push up front on defense. They were gashed for the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL in 2021, and they generated the second-fewest quarterback pressures (197) according to PFF.
On Sunday against the Eagles, the Lions had 19 quarterback pressures: a number Detroit surpassed just once a year ago—against the Baltimore Ravens (23). The Lions defense looked noticeably more disruptive against the Eagles than it did a year ago, but it often times was all for naught.
Missed tackles were a huge problem for Detroit’s defense at the second level a year ago. Both Alex Anzalone (21) and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (14) were among the league leaders in missed tackles a year ago, and in Detroit’s season debut, those problems look like they could persist into this year.
Linebackers Derrick Barnes (3), Malcolm Rodriguez (2), and Chris Board (1) totaled for six of Detroit’s ten missed tackles in Week 1. The Lions are going to need the linebackers to make plays at the point of attack in order to see their defense give up less than 38 points.
Currently in the running for FedEx’s Ground Player of the Week, D’Andre Swift certainly had a statement game against Philadelphia. After an offseason of him getting both endorsements and challenges from Duce Staley—due in part to just how great Staley thinks Swift can be—Swift went out and ran fast, ran hard, and looked to be a threat each and every time the ball was in his hands.
Swift’s 6.53 yards after contact per attempt (YCO/A) was the second best mark of any running back with at least 15 rushing attempts behind only Saquon Barkley (6.83 YCO/A). If Swift can maintain even three-quarters of his productivity on the efficient usage, we could be talking about—and this is against all my better judgment to even suggest this—a running back who could earn a second contract in Detroit.
Most of the offseason hype surrounding the Lions this year was centered on the potential of their offensive line. With the All Pro potential of Frank Ragnow returning to anchor the unit, and Taylor Decker not on the shelf to start the season, the preseason provided us a first look at what this group could do and it didn’t disappoint.
However, an injury to starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai pushed him out of the lineup, and Ragnow was saddled with a groin injury that left him questionable in the lead up to Week 1. The Eagles defensive front was already fixing to be a challenge, but all things considered, Detroit’s line held up respectably. The Lions gave up just 11 quarterback pressures to the Eagles defense, and four of those pressures came from Vaitai’s replacement, Logan Stenberg—who received a 0.0 pass blocking grade from PFF.
While the offense was struggling to get off the ground in the first half due to some inaccurate throws from Jared Goff—and some head scratching passing concepts from Ben Johnson in his debut as offensive coordinator—the receivers were struggling in their own right.
Detroit’s pass-catchers were credited with four drops—two by Amon-Ra St. Brown and one apiece by Jamaal Williams and DJ Chark—and that was tied for the most drops by a team in Week 1 alongside the New York Jets and Tennessee Titans. Every drop can feel like a backbreaker, especially when the Lions defense was struggling to keep the Eagles out of the end zone. After dropping just two passes all of last season according to PFF, St. Brown will surely be working overtime on the JUGS machine after practice this week.