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Lions vs. Saints snap counts: Bruce Irvin makes impact in limited debut

Looking at the notable snap counts from the Detroit Lions’ game against the New Orleans Saints, including Bruce Irvin’s impactful debut.

Detroit Lions v New Orleans Saints Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions eked out a win over the New Orleans Saints in a tightly-fought battle that almost got away from Detroit. Ultimately, it didn’t, as the Lions made enough plays down the stretch to win, 33-28.

Here’s a closer look at the Lions’ personnel decisions that led to them moving to 9-3 on the season.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff: 58 (100%)
Teddy Bridgewater: N/A

Add a couple more victory formation kneel downs for Goff.

Running backs

David Montgomery: 36 (62%)
Jahmyr Gibbs: 26 (45%)
Craig Reynolds: 2 (3%) — 17 special teams snaps (57%)

The Lions clearly thought they were going to be able to ground-and-pound the Saints run defense this week, hence a hefty load for Montgomery after Gibbs had seemingly taken the RB1 role away from him. Unfortunately, that game plan didn’t work for most of the game. Montgomery finished with just 3.1 yards per carry on 18 rushes, while Gibbs was much more efficient on the day (7.5 YPC), but only got 10 touches.

Also worth noting: Malcolm Rodriguez was needed more on the defensive side of the ball this week, so they took away his fullback duties against the Saints. Those snaps actually went to Sam LaPorta, who had five fullback reps on the day.

Tight ends

Sam LaPorta: 47 (81%)
Brock Wright: 23 (40%) — 15 (50%)
James Mitchell: 3 (5%) — 10 (33%)

The tight end group remains unchanged week-to-week, except for the aforementioned move to make LaPorta the team’s fullback. Pretty awesome that LaPorta had the most production of his career on a day he was also playing a whole other position.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 46 (79%)
Josh Reynolds: 44 (76%)
Jameson Williams: 33 (57%)
Kalif Raymond: 13 (22%) — 4 (13%)
Donovan Peoples-Jones: 12 (21%)
Antoine Green: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

Curiously, St. Brown played his lowest percentage of snaps in a game since Week 2—when he had to leave the Seahawks game several times with injury. He has played at least 88% of snaps in every other game, so this was a fairly big anomaly. As a result, St. Brown’s two catches were the fewest he’s had in a game since last year’s game against the Cowboys (in which he was pulled for displaying concussion-like symptoms).

St. Brown’s snaps were seemingly split between Reynolds and Peoples-Jones, who both saw a slight uptick in their playing time.

Offensive line

Taylor Decker: 58 (100%)
Graham Glasgow: 58 (100%) — 5 (17%)
Penei Sewell: 58 (100%) — 5 (17%)
Jonah Jackson: 58 (100%)
Colby Sorsdal: 37 (64%) — 5 (17%)
Frank Ragnow: 21 (36%)
Dan Skipper: 5 (9%) — 5 (17%)
Kayode Awosika: 0 (0%) — 5 (17%)

Ragnow suffered a knee injury in the second quarter. Thankfully, the Lions believe they may have avoided a serious injury with him, but we’ll know more later this week.

Naturally, Glasgow slid over to center when Ragnow went down, and the Lions went back to rookie Colby Sorsdal to fill in at right guard. While Sorsdal has consistently struggled this season, it’s worth pointing out just how many different hats he’s worn so far. Here’s a look at his season-long snap counts by position:

Left guard: 94 snaps
Right guard: 123 snaps
Right tackle: 36 snaps

In the offseason, the Lions were repping Sorsdal hard at right guard, so he was in his more “natural” position on Sunday against the Saints.

Defense

EDGE:

Aidan Hutchinson: 61 (91%)
Josh Paschal: 43 (64%) — 1 (3%)
John Cominsky: 27 (40%) — 4 (13%)
Bruce Irvin: 11 (16%)
Romeo Okwara: 9 (13%) — 8 (27%)
Charles Harris: 3 (4%) — 8 (27%)
Julian Okwara: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

In his Lions debut, Bruce Irvin notched 11 snaps, already jumping the participation numbers of two previous starters: Romeo Okwara and Charles Harris. Some of that is likely due to the Lions getting into a lot of obvious passing downs, but it also speaks to where this team is at with Harris and Okwara. It’s a frustrating fall for Harris, in particular, who entered the season as a primary starter and a captain.

Regardless, Irvin made his impact felt. Not only did he almost immediately notch a sack, but he provided a few other pressures in the game. That said, the roughing the passer call was absolutely the right call and can’t happen again—particularly on a third-and-long.

Elsewhere, Josh Paschal continues to be the most trusted edge defender opposite Aidan Hutchinson on neutral downs, and his play is slowly getting better.

DT:

Alim McNeill: 47 (70%) — 3 (10%)
Benito Jones: 45 (67%) — 9 (30%)
Quinton Bohanna: 25 (37%)
Levi Onwuzurike: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)
Isaiah Buggs: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)
Brodric Martin: INACTIVE (healthy scratch)

The Lions have an interesting decision ahead of them. They have elevated Quinton Bohanna from the practice squad for the maximum of three times this season. That means if they want to continue to play him ahead of Onwuzurike, Buggs, and Martin, they will need to sign him to the 53-man roster.

If they do that, who gets cut?

Martin will be safe as a developmental draft pick. But what about Onwuzurike—a former second-round pick? What about Buggs, a player they raved over and inked to a two-year, $4.5 million deal this offseason? Either it’s time to unleash Buggs—who has been inactive for four of the last five games—or it’s likely time to let him go.

Linebackers

Derrick Barnes: 56 (84%)
Jack Campbell: 53 (79%) — 5 (17%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 31 (46%) — 21 (70%)
Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 20 (30%) — 25 (83%)
Anthony Pittman: 0 (0%) — 25 (83%)
Trevor Nowaske: 0 (0%) — 16 (53%)
Alex Anzalone: INACTIVE (hurt)

Some fascinating personnel decisions here with the absence of Alex Anzalone. Before we even get into the specifics, it’s worth noting that the Lions played a lot of three linebacker sets—far more than a typical week. With the Saints down a few outside receivers and Alvin Kamara/Taysom Hill being New Orleans’ biggest weapons, it made sense.

Unsurprisingly, Barnes and Campbell led the way. In fact, Campbell’s 53 defensive snaps were his second-highest total of the season, with the Baltimore game barely edging this one out.

And while we all expected Rodriguez’s role to grow, it was surprising to see Reeves-Maybin out there for 20 defensive snaps. Previously, he only had seven defensive snaps on the season. This was truly only his third significant defensive performance over the past two years. And to his credit, he made the most of them. While still being an absolute beast on special teams, Reeves-Maybin added two defensive tackles, a pass defended, and a quarterback hit to his day.

Cornerbacks

Brian Branch: 64 (96%) — 4 (13%)
Cam Sutton: 64 (96%)
Jerry Jacobs: 64 (96%)
Will Harris: 3 (4%) — 21 (70%)
Khalil Dorsey: 0 (0%) — 25 (83%)
Chase Lucas: 0 (0%) — 25 (83%)
Steven Gilmore: INACTIVE

Nothing too surprising here. The Lions starting cornerbacks started. Again, the Lions tried to keep Brian Branch on the field for every defensive play, as he’s played the best amongst this group despite being a nickel/safety—and a rookie.

Safety

Kerby Joseph: 64 (96%) — 7 (23%)
Tracy Walker: 46 (69%) — 7 (23%)
Ifeatu Melifonwu: 1 (1%) — 13 (43%)

Walker’s playing time dipped again this week, as the Lions are often more comfortable to keep Branch out there over Walker. However, this unit continues to struggle overall. Detroit has ceded far too many deep shots on third-and-longs, and safety coverage has been consistently late to help.

Special teams

Jack Fox: 17 (57%)
Jake McQuaide: 10 (33%)
Riley Patterson: 5 (17%)

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