The Detroit Lions came up short in Week 1, but it was another story against the Washington Commanders in Week 2. With back-to-back weeks scoring 35 or more points, the Lions offense is looking dangerous. The defense is still experiencing its fair share of ups and downs, but as a whole, the Lions look like a totally different team from last season.
With their first victory in the books, here are a few takeaways:
D’Andre Swift has taken the next step
Through his first two seasons in the NFL, the story of D’Andre Swift was flashes and injuries. He often had flashes of game-changing talent, but getting that performance on a week-to-week or play-to-play basis proved challenging. Sprinkle in some injuries, and he couldn’t quite make that jump into the tier of elite running backs in the NFL.
Is it too soon to say he made that jump in 2022?
He entered this game against the Commanders with an ankle injury, so there was some speculation that he might have a limited role this week. Boy, he made the most of those snaps. Swift had another fantastic game. He didn’t reach the 144 yards from his performance versus the Eagles, but Swift was electric in what amounted to just seven touches.
Jamaal Williams will likely continue to vulture touchdowns—sorry, fantasy players—but Swift has a firm grasp on the title of RB1. The question now is if he can stay healthy, and if he can keep this up. At this rate, an All-Pro nod could be possible.
The pass rush looks legit—and it isn’t even at full health
Aidan Hutchinson came out of his rookie debut without a sack, but there was plenty of promise. He didn’t even need a full half to make his mark against Washington. Not one, not two, but THREE first half sacks set the tone for the team as a whole: dominant. Charles Harris also added a sack, while Alim McNeill was providing interior pressure all game long. Carson Wentz really struggled with pressure, and credit to Aaron Glenn for dialing up some great calls.
Things slowed down in the second half, though there are a few reasons why. Halftime adjustments by Washington should obviously be credited. The Commanders began to exploit the short-to-intermediate routes with quick hits in the second half, preventing the pressure from getting home. A banged up Hutchinson was likely a factor as well—his thigh was notably wrapped up in the fourth quarter.
There is a lot to be excited about with this defensive line, and it could get better. Assuming Hutchinson is okay, you have a Defensive Rookie of the Year frontrunner. Harris is looking like 2021 was no fluke. When the Lions get Romeo Okwara and Josh Paschal back into the lineup, they will suddenly have a deep and talented group of linemen. This isn’t even including John Cominsky, Julian Okwara, or Austin Bryant, the latter of whom was inactive mainly as a victim of the numbers game.
That being said, I apologize on behalf of Pride of Detroit for uttering the phrase “Hutch Daddy.” The responsible party shall be reprimanded. Unless they were my boss, of course.
St. Brown has ascended
We’re running out of things to say about Amon-Ra St. Brown. He has developed into a genuine star, and the question isn’t if he’s a top-10 wide receiver in the league, but how high he is on that list. You cannot even argue that the quarterback play is elevating him, unlike when Matthew Stafford turned Kenny Golladay into an elite receiver. If anything, St. Brown is elevating Jared Goff.
The Lions offense is at its best when St. Brown is on the receiving end of Goff’s passes. DJ Chark has had a bit of a slow start to his Lions tenure, while Jameson Williams is still waiting in the wings. If the Lions can get all three receivers clicking at the same time, holy cow.
Admirable replacements, but replacements nonetheless
Missing your entire interior offensive line is a recipe for disaster, but the Lions managed to weather the storm. Replacing Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, and Halapoulivaati Vaitai was no small feat, but Dan Skipper, Evan Brown, and Logan Stenberg performed surprisingly well.
Brown was a phenomenal replacement for Ragnow in 2021, and he didn’t skip a beat in his first taste of 2022. He has proven to be a starting-caliber player, and I would be surprised if he isn’t a starter somewhere else next season. He won’t dominate a game like Ragnow, but he is an excellent insurance policy to have.
Skipper, having last played left guard way back in the 2018 preseason, was a massive success—literally too, because he’s the tallest guard in NFL history. After allowing an early sack, Skipper was lights-out for most of the game, including some key blocks in the run game:
Taylor Decker and Evan Brown blew open the hole for the 51-yard run by Swift, but credit to Dan Skipper for a massive second-level block. Nice bounce back from a rough start for Skipper— kyle meinke (@kmeinke) September 18, 2022
Stenberg, too, was a mauler in the run game, and he was a reason why the Lions finished with 191 rushing yards. That being said, pass protection is a significant problem for Stenberg. If Jonah Jackson is good to go next week, Skipper will obviously be bumped out of the left guard position. However, the coaching staff might have to seriously consider giving him the nod over Stenberg. Stenberg had a PFF pass blocking grade of 0.0 in Week 1, and I doubt his Week 2 grade is much higher. If Skipper can adequately slide over to the right side, he could be an upgrade over Stenberg.
Isaiah Buggs: an underappreciated acquisition
I feel bad for having Buggs as “OUT” on our Bubble Watch for as long as I did, because his early play has not only warranted a roster spot, but also praise. Even though the Eagles gashed the Lions’ run defense in Week 1, Buggs wasn’t primarily at fault. The run defense rebounded nicely against the Commanders, with Antonio Gibson recording just 28 yards on 14 carries. The early deficit played a role, but so too did Buggs.
McNeill played a part in that success as well, but I want to shine a spotlight on Buggs as an unsung hero. Going from a random training camp signing to playing 39 and 40 snaps in the first two weeks is notable, and he is earning those snaps as well. Buggs isn’t the quickest of guys on the field, but he often stood out to me for the right reasons.