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Lions vs. Bears snap counts: Detroit shakes things up in secondary

Looking at the notable snap counts from the Detroit Lions game against the Chicago Bears in Week 14.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Chicago Bears Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions continue to try and shake things up on defense, looking for the right mixture of player to accomplish their weekly game plans. In Week 14, a loss to the Chicago Bears, the Lions adjusted for injuries on their defensive line, increased their bulk in the box, and gave opportunities to new faces in the secondary, including Kindle Vildor cutting into corner reps and Ifeatu Melifonwu getting the start at safety.

Here’s a closer look at the Lions’ personnel decisions that led to them moving to 9-4 on the season.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff: 65 (100%)
Teddy Bridgewater: N/A

The Lions offensive snap counts were back on track after a down game in New Orleans, but the increased opportunities didn’t help them much on the scoreboard. Like in the Packers game, Goff wasn’t able to make the most of his possessions, and it limited the Lions offensive output.

Running backs

Jahmyr Gibbs: 41 (63%)
David Montgomery: 23 (35%)
Craig Reynolds: 1 (2%) — 17 special teams snaps (71%)

While the Lions would prefer to split the running backs as evenly as possible, game situations over the previous few weeks have altered that approach. Last week in New Orleans, the Lions leaned on Montgomery to drain the clock as they kept their lead. This week, Gibbs—who was the more productive of the two—was utilized more as the Lions played from behind.

Tight ends

Sam LaPorta: 56 (86%)
Brock Wright: 24 (37%) — 16 (67%)
James Mitchell: 11 (17%) — 17 (71%)

The Lions tight end usage went up a tick as they attempted to establish the run, but they were largely ineffective with their extra opportunities, both on the ground and through the air.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 57 (88%)
Jameson Williams: 38 (58%)
Josh Reynolds: 35 (55%)
Kalif Raymond: 23 (35%) — 3 (12%)
Donovan Peoples-Jones: 9 (14%)
Antoine Green: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

Williams continues to see over 50% of the team's offensive snaps and out-snapped everyone except for St. Brown. But the extra time on the field only resulted in one target and it’s beginning to raise questions about when he will be more than just a fast weapon to distract defenses. He’s been on the verge of a breakout game for a few months now but the dots are still not being connected.

Offensive line

Taylor Decker: 65 (100%)
Jonah Jackson: 65 (100%)
Graham Glasgow: 65 (100%) — 2 (8%)
Kayode Awosika: 65 (100%) — 2 (8%)
Penei Sewell: 65 (100%) — 2 (8%)
Dan Skipper: 6 (9%) — 2 (8%)
Colby Sorsdal: 0 (0%) — 2 (8%)
Frank Ragnow: RULED OUT (injured)

With Ragnow out due to injury, Glasgow moved over to center and Awosika got the start at right guard, jumping over rookie Sorsdal on the depth chart. Skipper saw the field six times in big sets as the Lions continue to shift Sewell around and try to throw different offensive line looks at defenses.

Defense

EDGE:

Aidan Hutchinson: 64 (90%)
John Cominsky: 50 (70%) — 5 (21%)
Josh Paschal: 31 (44%) — 5 (21%)
Julian Okwara: 17 (24%)
Romeo Okwara: 8 (11%) — 8 (33%)
Charles Harris: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

It’s not clear if the plan all along was to increase Cominsky’s snaps in this game, but his production on the field earned him the extra snaps regardless. After turning to Bruce Irvin against the Saints, the Lions opted to go back to Julian Okwara against the Bears. It’s unclear if that decision was due to Irvin’s ankle injury, him only having two elevations remaining for the rest of the season, or if Julian’s history vs. the Bears (two sacks in 2022 at Soldier Field) came into play.

DT:

Benito Jones: 45 (63%) — 7 (29%)
Isaiah Buggs: 43 (61%)
Levi Onwuzurike: 14 (20%)
Brodric Martin: 6 (8%)

With Alim McNeill on injured reserve and Quinton Bohanna out of elevations, the Lions opted to keep Buggs, Onwuzurike, and Martin active, after all three were healthy scratches the week prior. Buggs got the start and took on the majority of the workload, a role he could foreseeably keep over the next three weeks while McNeill recovers.

Linebackers

Alex Anzalone: 68 (96%)
Derrick Barnes: 62 (87%)
Jack Campbell: 42 (59%) — 11 (46%)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 11 (15%) — 22 (92%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 1 (1%) — 22 (92%)
Anthony Pittman: 0 (0%) — 22 (92%)
Trevor Nowaske: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

The Lions deployed a heavy amount of linebacker usage as they attempted to load the box and stop Justin Fields from running. While Field still had 58 yards on the ground, it was the first time in the last four meetings that they kept him under 100 yards rushing.

With the extra usage, we saw the linebackers settle into some specific roles. Campbell was primarily at the MIKE when on the field, Barnes split between the MIKE and SAM, while Reeves-Maybin was an option on third-downs.

Cornerbacks

Cam Sutton: 71 (100%)
Jerry Jacobs: 53 (75%)
Brian Branch: 37 (52%) — 5 (21%)
Kindle Vildor: 17 (24%) — 7 (29%)
Will Harris: 1 (1%) — 22 (92%)
Khalil Dorsey: 0 (0%) — 22 (92%)
Chase Lucas: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)
Steven Gilmore: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

With the Lions deploying extra linebacker usage, Branch was the player who ended up coming off the field to make room for that strategy. Add in the Lions decisions at safety and Branch saw his opportunities cut nearly in half from previous weeks.

Vildor—who was promoted to the Lions roster last week after another team attempted to poach him off the practice squad— cut into Jacobs starting reps. This will be an interesting situation to monitor moving forward.

Safety

Kerby Joseph: 70 (99%) — 5 (21%)
Ifeatu Melifonwu: 70 (99%) — 3 (12%)
Tracy Walker: 0 (0%) — 13 (54%)

Melifonwu got the start and Walker found the bench in this game, as the Lions tried to shake some things up in their secondary. Melifonwu’s presence not only kept Walker from seeing a single snap on defense, but he also took opportunities from Branch, who had previously been seeing some reps at safety.

Special teams

Jack Fox: 9 (38%)
Jake McQuaide: 6 (25%)
Riley Patterson: 2 (8%)

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