The Detroit Lions don’t have much left to play for in 2021 after an 0-2 start, and with the season looking like it’s getting away already, the team needs to empty the bench and develop young players for the future.
During a blowout 35-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the Lions struggled on defense to stop anything. Perhaps the biggest question about the game revolved around why the Lions didn’t play rookie linebacker Derrick Barnes during the game.
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On a bad night for the Detroit linebacking core, the chance existed for the Lions to get one of their youngsters some meaningful experience. Instead, they continued to play players who weren’t getting the job done at the position, which was a disappointment. After the game, Dan Campbell admitted that he is thinking about when to get Barnes on the field.
While Barnes probably would not have made a difference between a win or a loss, the only way the rookie is going to get comfortable is if the Lions turn him loose and let him go on the field. Doing so in big games will get him to the point where he can be comfortable for the team and grow as a linebacker in the league. The Lions should probably stop thinking about what Barnes can do and turn him loose in the game. It’s the only way he is going to improve, and the Lions’ defense might find something along the way as well.
What else was learned in the game? Here’s a look.
Detroit’s Defense Needs a Complete Overhaul
It isn’t just at linebacker where the Lions are struggling. The team doesn’t seem to be able to generate much meaningful pocket pressure. Up front, the Detroit defense still cannot stop the run with any consistency, which was one of their biggest problems during the 2020 season and other years. On the back end, the Lions aren’t disciplined and struggle with depth in the secondary. These problems are going to have to find a way to be remedied in a major way in the offseason in order for the Lions to turn things around. The team needs horses plain and simple in order to compete.
Jared Goff Continues to Be a Gamer
Goff had a red-hot start to the game and in the first half, did a decent job to move the ball. Again, he had a few mistakes, but they were not the reason for the loss with the game snowballing away from the Lions. Goff had a decent game with 246 yards and 2 touchdowns in the game. Goff does enough to keep the Lions in the game and could even do enough to win the game with a better defensive effort. He will continue to help the team and may even help win a game or two on his own eventually.
Dan Campbell’s Fourth-Down Call Was a Mistake
The game may have turned on Detroit’s decision to go on fourth down in the second half. It wasn’t a mistake to go, though, but rather the play call that was made was a mistake. The Lions have pushed teams around at times on the ground early this season, and running the ball or doing a quarterback sneak would have seemed to have been the play on a wet night. Instead, Detroit threw the ball and it was an incomplete pass. That was bad news, and the moment the game turned as Green Bay would quickly score. The Lions have to find a way to play to their strengths, and it was a struggle in this game.
Lion? T.J. Hockenson
Once again, Hockenson looked like one of the best players on the field and a top tight end in the league. Hockenson bailed the Lions out with a nice touchdown in the first half and would finish with a solid 66 yards and 1 touchdown on 8 receptions. Hockenson continues to be a solid security blanket for the Lions and is looking like one of the top tight ends in football through the first two weeks of the year.
Lamb? Alex Anzalone
Not only did Anzalone have a tough night in coverage and moving around the field, but he was not able to get anything done in coverage and had an untimely penalty on the field. Anzalone is one of the veteran linebackers the team signed this offseason, so it’s troubling to see him struggling in such a big way early in the year. He hasn’t been good to start, and that’s bad news for the Lions.
Lions’ Stat to Note: 4
That’s the number of touchdowns Aaron Jones had in the game. The Lions have had no answers for Jones the last few seasons, which is bad news for the team. Detroit needs to find a way to stop Jones not only on the ground but through the air, and they did neither. The team needs to find a way to stop Jones, or at the very least, limit him in future matchups.
Lions Quote to Note:
“Defensively, we’re going to improve and we did improve in small areas. I put this on our offense. Offensively, we have to be able to outscore a team like this.” -Dan Campbell. Perhaps stunningly, Campbell didn’t have much blame for his team’s porous defense in this game, instead turning his focus to the offense. It’s an interesting thought, especially with how bad the Detroit defense has been.