As we’ll do every week throughout the season for this Lions team, we have some data we can comb through courtesy of Pro Football Focus that can help us better understand the football the Lions have played thus far—and what to look forward to in the coming weeks. Let’s take a closer look at the Lions by the numbers after their loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL preseason.
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38.7 passer rating against
One of the highlight performances in the lopsided contest came from cornerback Steven Gilmore, the undrafted free agent from Marshall who has certainly made an impression on the coaching staff, including head coach Dan Campbell.
“Yeah, we like Gilly [Steven Gilmore],” Campbell said before training camp on Jul. 29. “We liked his tape too when he was coming out, and he has some awareness about him, he has some instincts, he has ball skills, pretty good movement skills.
“I think for him, it’s going to be—some of it, along with development, is the physical development. He’s not a real big guy. He has to get a little bit of mass on him, get a little bit stronger. I think that will be—that’s kind of going to be part of what, with him, how fast can those things come to really help him, but we see growth out of him.”
Early against the Jaguars, Gilmore was glued to wideout Tim Jones downfield, but he just couldn’t get his head around in time to locate the downfield throw from C.J. Beathard that resulted in a 48-yard gain.
Tim Jones— Fitz (@LaurieFitzptrck) August 19, 2023
Somehow he pulls this one in with a defender in pretty good coverage, except he never gets his head around. Good concentration. pic.twitter.com/tsuLYizZEZ
At the cornerback position, it’s critical to have a short memory and not let a big play snowball into a no-good day in coverage. For a 23-year-old cornerback like Gilmore to bounce back immediately, it showed veteran sensibilities and a level competitiveness this regime has to appreciate. On the same drive as that big completion, Gilmore’s pass breakup on a third-and-9 throw to the end zone forced Jacksonville into kicking a field goal. The next drive, Gilmore’s instincts led to him snagging an interception after Jaguars receiver Kevin Austin popped the ball out of Tracy Walker’s hands.
Despite being targeted seven times in coverage, Gilmore allowed just three receptions for 68 yards—48 of which happened on the completion to Tim Jones. Gilmore’s 38.7 NFL passer rating against was the lowest among cornerbacks with at least one target in Week 2 of the preseason, an impressive mark for a player currently on the roster bubble and battling with fellow undrafted free agent Starling Thomas V.
7 pressures allowed
Detroit’s offense struggled mightily in all phases, and there’s nothing that encapsulates that fact more than Jack Fox’s eight punts for 364 yards in comparison to 131 total yards on offense gained by the Lions. The Lions along the interior of the offensive line played a large part in Detroit’s inability to accomplish much of anything on offense.
Man… check the get off and burst from Jags NG Jeremiah Ledbetter to help cause the fumble here. (Yes I know he was let free but still impressive!) pic.twitter.com/YfTLVZUBJs— Alex King (@AKing_Evals) August 19, 2023
Brad Cecil (3) got the start at center while Colby Sorsdal (2) and Bobby Hart (2) started at left and right guard respectively, and allowed a combined 7 pressures on 51 shared pass-blocking snaps. To help put this kind of pressure into perspective, last year’s Thanksgiving Day game against the Buffalo Bills featured Kayode Awosika and Dan Skipper spot starting for the injured Evan Brown and Jonah Jackson. In a rough outing, Awosika and Skipper combined to allow 4 pressures on 82 shared pass-blocking snaps.
“Yeah, I mean we’re working through it,” Campbell said during postgame media. ” We’re working through it and there again, we’ll look at this tape and find the guys we can rely on and listen, you just never know. (Lions GM) Brad (Holmes) and his crew, they’re looking at everything. And it’s not just our own squad, they’re looking at 31 other teams too, so we’re always evaluating.”
Offensive line depth along the interior will continue to be a concern for a Lions team who missed starting center Frank Ragnow for the majority of 2021 and starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai for all of 2022. Graham Glasgow is a reliable player at center or guard, but Detroit hasn’t had a player stand out for that iOL5 spot.
1.81 yards per route run
Another position wide open for the taking is the RB3 job after the retirement of Justin Jackson. Injuries, however, have piled up for the depth with Jermar Jefferson and Craig Reynolds missing the first preseason game, not to mention the recently waived/injured Ibrahim Mohammed.
Jefferson did return some kicks and led the team with 16 rushing yards on six carries, but Craig Reynolds led the team in touches on offense—eight carries and four receptions. In his career, Craig Reynolds has been used sparingly as a receiver, getting just 18 targets in his two seasons with the Lions. Against Jacksonville, Reynolds had five targets and posted a 1.81 yards per route run, t-ninth among running backs who had at least two targets in Week 2.
It’s not surprising to see Reynolds get an opportunity to show his versatility, something this coaching staff appreciates no matter the player or position. The race between him and Jefferson will continue through this week and the final preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, but much like the wide receiver position, the Lions will be keeping a watchful eye on the transaction wire, looking for a way to upgrade any way they can.