Hunt Report: Lions’ Gamble on Young Secondary Shows Flaws

Trent Sherfield

Getty Trent Sherfield makes a catch in front of a pair of Lions defenders.

The Detroit Lions had several soft spots on their roster heading into the 2021 season, and quite possibly one of the biggest was in the secondary.

Before the year, the Lions committed to a young group. With that, they had to understand that ups and down would come, but it’s likely few people expected the team to look as bad as they did right off the bat in Week 1. Detroit allowed 311 passing yards and 2 passing scores on the day, and struggled to get meaningful stops. The opposition’s wideouts seemed to run freely and wide open much of the afternoon.

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While Jeff Okudah was the lightning rod in Detroit’s closer than expected 41-33 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, he was hardly the only inconsistent young player on the day. Safety Will Harris struggled at times, as did other Lions cornerbacks. The group struggled with taking the right angles, assignments and tackling. Okudah himself may now be dealing with a potentially serious injury.

If there’s a positive for the Lions, it’s the fact that the group can continue to learn and grow as they get more reps. Still, it’s hard not to wonder what a veteran or two could do for the group. Amani Oruwariye is the elder statesman, and he’s only been in the league for three seasons. That puts plenty of pressure on fast development for others.

The Lions won’t stop believing in the young players they have, but this season, they are going to need to grow by leaps and bounds if the first week was any indication. That’s a clear concern for the team at this point in time on defense.

What else was learned from the team in Week 1? Here’s a look at some takeaways.

Lions’ Running Backs Were a Positive

It was easy to pick out negatives on the afternoon, but one major positive for the Lions other than the play of tight end T.J. Hockenson was the way the running game looked. Most of the day, the Lions were able to impose their will on a solid San Francisco front. Jamaal Williams ran for 54 yards and 1 touchdown, while D’Andre Swift, who was admittedly still getting his legs under him for the season, rushed for 39 yards. As a team, the Lions ran for 116 yards. Williams and Swift were also dangerous in the passing game, with a total of 121 receiving yards and 1 touchdown between them. Finally, it appears the Lions have the type of backfield they can build around.

Jared Goff Was Serviceable During Lions’ Debut

While Goff didn’t have his most consistent day throwing the ball and ended up tossing an interception for a score which cost the team in the first half, he still put up 338 yards and 3 touchdowns including a pair of successful two point conversions. Goff moved the ball well and had good command. He’s not going to be the reason the Lions lose many games, though many would argue his interception cost the team dearly. It was not a bad debut for Goff in the least bit, especially when things could have went off the rails in the second half. Give him credit for doing whatever it took to try and will the team to a win.

Penei Sewell’s NFL Debut Was Encouraging

Many folks worried about the rookie and how he would look considering a bumpy preseason, but Sewell had a solid day in spite of having to deal with the difficult circumstance of playing left tackle and also not having veteran support from the injured Taylor Decker. Still, he was active in the passing and running game and even got down field to throw some key blocks. All told, it was the kind of building block game the Lions had to like from Sewell for his future moving forward.

Give Lions Credit for Almost Coming Back

It seems likely most folks will write off a feverish comeback in the late stages of the fourth quarter as pointless, but for the Lions, it was very important. The team is trying to build a culture, and in the loss, they showed that they would not stop fighting whatsoever. The Lions are going to be a tough team to play against because unlike past editions of the squad, they’re not going to quit. They proved that again this week, and it was good to see the team not pack it in down big at halftime.

Lion? Jamaal Williams, Running Back

Tough not to appreciate Williams, who finished with a solid 110 yards and 1 touchdown in the game. Other Lions free agents have had way worse debuts, so it’s clear Williams can continue to be an important piece for the offense in Detroit as the season moves on. It was a positive first game for Williams in terms of making his presence felt for a new city.

Lamb? Detroit’s Entire Defense.

It wasn’t a consistent enough effort from the team on that side of the ball, and allowing 31 points by halftime as well as 41 total points and expecting to win is a fool’s errand. Things got much better the second half, but the Lions have to find a way to force more turnovers and improve against the run while generating more pressure. As a whole, Detroit allowed 131 rushing yards and 2 scores, including letting unknown rookie Elijah Mitchell to erupt for 104 yards. The Lions have to tighten the screws on defense and fix plenty of things that have gone wrong in the opener.

Lions’ Stat to Note:

57, the number of total passes from Jared Goff. The Lions aren’t going to win many games throwing the ball 57 times, something Dan Campbell was quick to point out after the game ended. The Lions have to find a way to get a better defensive effort in future games so they aren’t forced to play from so far behind. This team isn’t geared to win many shootouts or have Goff throwing the ball around this much.

Lions’ Quote to Note:

“Everything we said we needed to do to win this game, we didn’t do.” -Dan Campbell. That’s an honest take from Campbell, who is known for honest takes in bunches. Campbell did admit he was pleased with the second half, but also said there is plenty of things that the Lions have to clean up in order to have success.

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