When the Detroit Lions selected Penei Sewell early in the 2021 NFL draft, many folks lost their mind about the tackle’s potential. What followed was the usual cacophony of early praise for prospects who become media darlings during the draft process.
Sewell was called the next big thing, hyped as an All-Pro, Pro Bowl player or even a future Hall of Fame player. All of this happened before the rookie even had a chance to take a single snap on the field. Once he did hit the field, some early “trouble” began right off the bat.
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First, Sewell had to miss rookie minicamp after contracting COVID-19. That put him behind his peers temporarily considering he had already skipped his entire senior season in college, but once he got to work, the traits that made Sewell a top 10 pick were firmly on display in camp. Size, fluid movement, physicality and a veteran mindset were the tangibles and intangibles that cemented Sewell would be an immediate success
After that point, though, the team revealed Sewell would be playing right tackle, a departure from the left side, which was he only spot he knew in college. In the first preseason game, Sewell struggled. He continued to show his warts during the preseason, leading folks to question whether he would be a bust. Once the season came, he had to play left tackle in an emergency role and managed to excel there, leading some to question if he was being misused.
Now, though, Sewell is getting the last laugh. Since his return to the right side, Sewell has been just as invincible as he normally is on the left. As Pro Football Focus pointed out, Sewell has only allowed 5 pressures in his last 174 pass blocking attempts. By any measure, that’s impressive.
Sewell has said that adjusting to the speed of the game over time has proven to be a huge advantage for him, and that’s true no matter what side he has played on. Statistically and otherwise, Sewell looks like a force who is here to stay in the league. That’s something many folks may have questioned openly a few months back.
Sewell Proved Mettle During Aaron Donald Confrontation
It’s been a bumpy road for Sewell early in his Lions career, but the overreaching point is how much of a fool’s errand it has become to judge draft picks before they have a chance to showcase their goods or grow on the field. Throughout it all, Sewell was still going to be 21 years old. He remains a kid by most standards, and still has a chance to grow even more regardless of what has played out between the lines. The fact he is playing well so far while allowing all of this to maturely roll off his back only serves to prove what a quality pro he could grow to be in time.
Years from now, fans might look back on one particular moment to point out when Sewell officially arrived. In a much-anticipated matchup with Los Angeles and their ferocious defense, Sewell refused to give an inch, and even stood face-to-face with Aaron Donald after some heated moments on the field with the Rams:
Sewell didn’t back down from Donald when it would have been easy for a player like him to do just that. This confrontation proved Sewell doesn’t care about labels, but merely wants to win first and foremost and is burning to be the best.
Fans Must Shelve Every Current Label for Sewell
No matter what kind of a finish to the season Sewell enjoys from here on out, all fans need to take a step back and realize he’s still a player trying to adjust to one of the most difficult leagues in the world. As such, everyone has to resist temptation to label him one way or another. Right now, Sewell is neither a bust nor is he a future Hall of Famer playing up front for the team. He’s simply a player who is learning the league and figuring out how to hold his head above water and be a successful pro.
In the hot-take society in which we live, it’s always easier to come up with flashy titles for players, but in Sewell’s case, there is no need. All anyone can do is watch him continue to grow, and continue to silence those who dare label him early on.