With any NFL rookie, there figures to be peaks and valleys in development, and such has been the case for top Detroit Lions draft pick Penei Sewell.
At times early this season, Sewell has looked great. Once in a while, though, he has struggled. During Week 4, there was some signs of growing pains again for Sewell against the Chicago Bears, and that led the rookie tackle to slip a bit in the rankings for Pro Football Focus.
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The site has been ranking all of the rookies from the 2021 draft, and at this point, Sewell only place in the seventh spot out of 14 offensive tackles. He’s been given an overall grade to this point of the season of 56.8, and he is coming off a very bad performance against the Bears in Week 4 where he was rated 46.3 by the site.
Writer Sam Monson credited Sewell for being a solid run blocker against Chicago, but said that he had a bad day in pass protection for the team after being bested by Robert Quinn a few times.
At this point, though, more than a few rookie tackles are trending ahead of Sewell, including Rashawn Slater, who rates first for the site out of all offensive tackles. There’s time for Sewell to rebound for the Lions the rest of the year, but as for now, he is in the middle of the pack for rookies according to Pro Football Focus.
Sewell Struggled Against Bears Week 4
Football is a “what have you done for me lately” sport, so with this in mind, it was always going to be tough for the rookie to keep trending in a perfect direction for the team. There are going to be bad weeks and good weeks, and while Sewell’s transition to the league had looked flawless thus far, it hit a road block against the Bears. Robert Quinn terrorized Sewell a couple of times for sacks and big plays, and it was easily the rookie’s worst game as a pro thus far all things considered.
Chicago has one of the best fronts Sewell will see all year, so it wasn’t a shock to see him put through the ringer against the Bears whatsoever. With this in mind, it will be interesting to see if Sewell is able to improve at all for Detroit in coming weeks and bounce back.
Former Offensive Linemen Proclaim Sewell ‘Left Tackle’ for Lions
In terms of former linemen, the opinion seems to be concrete about what the Lions should do with Sewell, and that’s keep him right where he is. NFL Network analyst and former league offensive lineman Brian Baldinger hopped on Twitter and provided a quick analysis on what makes Sewell so good up front. Specifically, he said he believes Sewell looks more comfortable on the left side than the right side thanks to his play against Nick Bosa and the San Francisco 49ers.
“Penei Sewell looks just so much better on the left side than he does on the right side,” Baldinger says in the clip. “He’s going agains Nick Bosa here and he had some rough moments in the game but this is Penei Sewell at his best right here. Bosa’s got a little leverage on him but he’s got his hands in the right spot, digs them out. (Jared) Goff is throwing the ball and look where Bosa’s at. He’s got him on the Lions logo right there and he stays with him. Sewell, I know they got him on the right side and I know why he’s over to the left. But that natural kick, athlete, using his strength right here, dropping the anchor. No doubt he had some rough moments, but he also had some good moments like that one.”
Baldinger is far from the only one who believes Sewell should be playing the left side of the line in Detroit. In the opener, Lions had to move Sewell over in an emergency to left tackle, his natural position in college. According to former offensive lineman and analyst Geoff Schwartz, they may have found something with this switch. After a mere quarter played out for Sewell, Schwartz had seen enough to say that he believed the team had their new left tackle of the future in the former Oregon Duck.
What the Lions decide to do with Sewell will remain a question, because the team does have Taylor Decker entrenched on the left side, and Decker just signed an extension with Detroit last year and played well in 2020. Decker has only played the left side since being picked by Detroit in the 2016 NFL draft, so whether or nor he would move at this stage of his career remains to be seen. It is an interesting thought to remember nevertheless, though.
Sewell’s Week 4 struggles might be a sign that the team can afford to move him back to right tackle once Decker is healthy and off injured reserve in a few weeks time. Even such, many love what he brings to the mix at left tackle.