What did we learn about the Lions after their Week 2 loss?
Things started well for the Detroit Lions, but a third-quarter collapse let the Green Bay Packers run away with a victory. The Lions once again showed flashes of brilliance, but self-destructive plays cost them dearly at critical moments.
What can we take away from their Week 2 loss to the Packers?
Derrick Barnes needs to play more
It is only Week 2, and perhaps this is too early to jump to a conclusion like this, but Jamie Collins and Alex Anzalone are major liabilities on defense. Aaron Jones tore up the Lions' defense as a runner and receiver, and the two linebackers were victims on multiple plays. The speed and awareness aren’t there, and it is hurting an already struggling defensive line.
An obvious solution is there, but the Lions aren’t playing him: Derrick Barnes.
Barnes has the speed the Lions desperately need, and there is no reason not to play him. Anzalone is signed on a one-year deal. Cutting Collins next offseason would save $7 million. Barnes is the future, and the future is now, old man.
The blocking is ridiculously good
Even without Taylor Decker, the offensive line has been outstanding through two games. The pass blocking was a bit sketchy in Week 1, but Jared Goff had hours to throw tonight. Penei Sewell is looking like a star at left tackle, while the interior is still a demolition unit led by Frank Ragnow. The weakest link, however, is Matt Nelson, and he had a few bad reps on Monday Night Football. He will return to his backup role when Decker returns, but you have to wonder if moving Sewell to right tackle would be a mistake after another great start.
The Lions are dangerously thin at corner
Entering the regular season, the secondary was a significant weakness for Detroit. Exiting Week 2, and it is more barren than the Sahara. After losing Jeff Okudah for the season, the Lions also lost Ifeatu Melifonwu to a thigh injury. It was a good outing for the rookie, but he pulled up on a deep pass to Davante Adams and left right away. If he has to miss time, it seems like Bobby Price, the 2020 UDFA safety-turned-corner, will be next in line. Given that the Lions are already starting a UDFA in AJ Parker, it is a cornerback group with very little pedigree.
If the Lions fall behind, they’re in trouble
It was another week where the Lions looked competitive early, only to lose the lead and eventually the game. This time, the collapse happened in the third quarter, but unlike last week, there was no late comeback. After putting together some surgical touchdown drives, a pair of turnovers—a failed fourth down and a fumble—sunk the Lions. The Packers turned their first three second-half possessions into touchdowns, and it was never close again.
The Lions' strength is their run game. Not only is the offensive line dominating, but an effective run game opens up the passing attack. When the Lions fall behind, Goff is forced into comeback mode, and that’s a tough task. The defense isn’t playing well enough to keep games close, and the offense has to play perfect football as a result. When the offense is making key mistakes like they did tonight, winning is an uphill battle.
Quintez Cephus, WR1?
WR1 in Detroit is more of an empty title, but with Tyrell Williams missing this game, Quintez Cephus stepped up. He finished with just four catches, but turned them into 63 yards and a touchdown. Cephus nearly came up with an Odell Beckham-like touchdown catch, and I have to give credit for even making it close.
In Week 1, Goff rarely threw to his wide receivers. D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams were targeted 20 (!) times, while the receivers were quiet until late in the game. Tonight was a different story with Cephus getting involved for seven targets. If Goff can build some rapport with Cephus, he could emerge in a receiving group that has otherwise underwhelmed.
AJ Parker deserves praise
When a cornerback goes unnoticed in a game, that is usually a good sign. Undrafted rookie AJ Parker earned the second-highest PFF grade for his showing in Week 1, and his game against the Packers will likely earn him another solid grade. Undrafted rookies rarely start, and when they do, they are often abused by opposing defenses. Parker has held his own through two games, and you could argue he is the best player in the secondary. Parker has been quiet on the stat sheet, but that doesn’t tell the whole tale. If teams aren’t throwing your way, you are doing something right. This is some impressive growth from the rookie.