The Detroit Lions collapsed in the fourth quarter resulting in a 27-27 tie with the Arizona Cardinals in the first week of the NFL season. Not the way you want to see it end after such a strong start. There were definitely some bright spots, but plenty of concerns as well. Here are five Lions who impressed and five who did not.
5 Who Impressed:
1. FS Tracy Walker
Walker led the entire Lions defense with nine tackles and well as an astounding toe-tapping interception. Walker has been getting better almost every time out on the field. It would not surprise me at all to see his name throw around in Pro Bowl conversation when the time comes.
2. CB Rashaan Melvin
Melvin played very well for a guy who honestly had low expectations. It is not easy to play on the opposite side of a great corner like Darius Slay. You know you are going to be tested early and often — and Melvin was. Melvin was second on the team in tackles with eight, he also added three pass breakups.
3. EDGE Devon Kennard
Kennard set a career-high in sacks last year, which was also his first season in this kind of a scheme. On Sunday, he picked up right where he left off totaling three sacks — all coming in the first half. Kennard will be one to watch for Lions fans as a favorite to lead the team in sacks this year even after the addition of DE Trey Flowers.
4. TE T.J. Hockenson
Hockenson was more than advertised in his first-ever NFL game. The young tight end set an NFL record for most yards in a debut for any tight end with 131 yards. The previous Lions record for most yards in a rookie tight ends debut was in 2013 by Joseph Fauria with 27 yards. Safe to say Hockenson smashed that record. Hockenson also put up better numbers than Calvin Johnson (70 yards, 1 TD) did in his NFL debut. Not bad for a highly criticized pick in this past years draft. I don’t want to imply Hockenson is better than Calvin, but he looks to be the real deal even after one week.
Hockenson also added his first career touchdown putting the Lions up 17 points at the time.
5. QB Matthew Stafford
Stafford was vintage Stafford with close to 400 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Stafford even sealed the game away with a 4th quarter 3rd down pick up, unfortunately, the play did not count because the coaches called a time out right before the snap. Stafford hit eight different players with a pass as he evenly distributed the ball to the open man. All three touchdowns went to a different player. He shared the ball enough to get two different players over the 100-yard mark including another new member of the Lions, WR Danny Amendola.
5 Who Did Not:
1. LT Taylor Decker
Decker was by far the worst Lions offensive lineman in the game. Decker gave up three sacks on my count, two of those resulted in fumbles, and four additional pressures. In addition to that, he was a non-factor in opening running lanes for Johnson too. If his play was not bad enough, Decker was also the most penalized Lions player in the game with four penalties — two of those were false starts.
I don’t know if he just can’t remember the snap count or just fails for the defense trying to draw him off, but he embarrassed himself on Sunday.
Just a horrific half from Taylor Decker. Back-to-back missed blocks pic.twitter.com/chuRXneDZg
— Isaac (@WorldofIsaac) September 8, 2019
2. PR/KR Jamal Agnew
If you follow me on twitter (@Gullett_James), then you already know just about everything I am going to say about Agnew as I live-tweeted my frustration with him. Agnew should be cut in my opinion after not only a game like this, but an awful preseason as well. Agnew once was a Pro Bowl return man but those days seem long gone.
Agnew can’t play defense as evident by him giving up a long 3rd down conversion in one of the only defensive snaps he played. His return game has disappeared, he muffs what seems to be every third punt, and he returns the ball out of the end zone and never makes it back to the 25-yard line which puts our offense in a bad spot from the get-go. If Agnew could just fair catch a punt, the Cardinals would have 3 fewer points which would theoretically mean a Lions victory.
Cardinals deliberately kicked that kickoff short to make Agnew return it. They know.
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) September 8, 2019
3. TE Jesse James
James was brought in to be a bigger part of the offense. To be fair, those plans changed some when the Lions draft rookie TJ Hockenson with the 8th overall pick. James is still thought of as a reliable target for Stafford and should be doing more than one catch for 15 yards. I understand there is only one ball to go around and other Lions players stepped up and took away a lot of potential targets, but he needs to do more to earn targets by being the open man when his number is called.
4. CB Dee Virgin
In a game where there were not too many penalties called on either side, Virgin was flagged twice on special teams alone. As someone who made the team over special teams ace like Charles Washington, Virgin needs to clean up his act if he wishes to continue to be a Detroit Lion.
5. RT Rick Wagner
Wagner escaped this game with almost no one talking about him but stats don’t lie and as always, fellow Lion Lowdown writer Logan Lamorandier finds them. Wagner allowed seven pressures in the game — the same amount as Decker who has received massive criticism for his play. If the Lions want to do anything of value this season, these offensive tackles need to play much better.