The Detroit Lions defense was one of the worst in the league last year, but there have been reasons to be optimistic about a shift in 2023. Detroit played much better football on that side of the ball in the second half of last season, and they’ve made significant upgrades at every line of defense this offseason.
The first tangible sign of improvement on defense came on Friday night during the Lions’ preseason opener against the New York Giants. Detroit allowed just 5.8 yards per pass attempt and 3.7 yards per carry against the Giants, while tallying five sacks and an interception.
While it was Julian Okwara who posted the most impressive traditional box score (3.0 sacks) two other individual performances were hailed by analytics site PFF. Both defensive tackle Levi Onwuzurike and rookie linebacker Jack Campbell made PFF’s Preseason Team of the Week.
Campbell also received PFF’s “Rookie of the Week” honors, finishing the game with four tackles and a pass defense.
“The former Iowa standout was on the field for 25 snaps in total, finishing the game with two tackles resulting in a defensive stop and not allowing a reception in coverage,” PFF’s Gordon McGuinness wrote.
Lions LB Jack Campbell: 90.6 PFF Grade in Week 1 of the preseason— PFF (@PFF) August 14, 2023
Highest among all first-round rookies pic.twitter.com/ojugikH1Hm
PFF didn’t write up anything individually about Onwuzurike, but he received the team’s second-highest PFF grade (89.3), which also ranked second among all NFL interior defenders with at least 10 snaps in their respective games.
- Speaking of Onwuzurike, Justin Rogers caught up with the third-year defensive tackle about clearing the latest goal of completing a preseason game and coming out the other end healthy.
- Some media shenanigans from Monday between Jameson Williams and Amon-Ra St. Brown:
- If there’s one thing I recommend you read today, it’s this: Ben Solak breaks down how Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson fixed Jared Goff—and to be clear, the article gives Goff his flowers, despite the title.
- If you don’t know Maurice Alexander’s origin story, Peter Schrager from NFL Network has a nice segment on it here:
I also asked teammate Kalif Raymond about Alexander’s punt return touchdown, and this is what he said about the man they call “Hard Time”
“I’ll tell you what. Let me just get two seconds. This may be a little bit of a rant. So this man, we call him Hard Time, he’s been back there just listening. After practice, catching jugs. Walk through, catching jugs, just listening. And then as I’m working, he’s working. And a lot people don’t know his story. This dude’s working another job, got a call from the USFL, balls out for the USFL, becomes a Detroit Lion and then finally takes a punt back in the NFL. There’s a lot of work that went in between that moment–the moment had in that game, and a lot of work that went in between that nobody saw. And that dude works his tail off.
“There’s a time in OTAs, he’s just running routes. He’s tired, he throws up in the huddle, goes and runs another route. I hope every time the ball touches his hands he scores a touchdown, because he works so hard. I love that dude, and I’m so thankful. All it takes is one, you take one and they come in bunches, like snowballs. He put hte work in for that moment to happen so I’m thankful for him, I’m happy for him, I’m proud of him, but I’m not surprised by it.”
- As for Raymond, Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com has a nice write-up on the newly-extended receiver and his gratitude for the team. You can also just watch Raymond’s media session in full here.
- This is neat, from reddit: It appears the Lions are holding a watch party for the season opener against the Chiefs at Ford Field for season ticket holders.
- Good news for you out-of-market Lions fans:
The NFL announced today that the Lions/Jaguars preseason game on Saturday will be nationally televised on NFL Network.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) August 15, 2023
Game is at 1 p.m. ET.