The 2021 Detroit Lions kicked off their season with a thrilling 16-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills. Dan Campbell’s first game as Head Coach of the Lions ended up being a great one. Even though preseason play calling is vanilla and the first team only played two drives, there is still a lot to look back on from this game. Here are my observations:
Kevin Strong was everywhere. The 2019 UDFA out of UTSA has shown flashes throughout his Detroit Lions career. If this preseason performance is any indication of how he’ll play this year, it’ll be hard to keep this guy off the field. Even while facing constant double teams, he always seemed to be where the ball was. Because of this pressure, he was constantly disrupting the Bills’ rushing attack.
Tom Kennedy is a guy I’ve been rooting for since he signed as a UDFA who quit lacrosse to play football. Seeing him play like this was amazing. He showed a great rapport with second string quarterback Tim Boyle, as he finished as the leading receiver with 46 yards on 4 receptions.
Have a day, Julian Okwara! The brother of Lion fan-favorite Romeo had himself a coming-out party after an underwhelming, injury-riddled rookie season. I counted six pressures and one sack for the kid out of Notre Dame. He showed what he could do with his speed off the edge and recorded a pressure with his signature spin move. It’s hard not to get excited by this performance, even if it was only the preseason.
Fight for 4th-String Running Back
Dedrick Mills is a UDFA out of Nebraska. Craig Reynolds went undrafted out of Kutztown (KUTZTOWN!) in 2019 and hasn’t had an NFL snap. Oh, did I mention he also signed earlier this week? Those two players stole the show on the offensive side of the ball. Mills had two big runs to set up a field goal at the start of the fourth. Reynolds had the only touchdown of the day and averaged 8.2 yards a carry. Overall, this battle looks like it’s gonna be fun as both these guys make a push for the 53 man roster.
The beginning of the game felt like I was watching the 2020 Detroit Lions all over again. The Bills rushing attack constantly had huge holes and was gashing the front seven of the Lions. The run defense tightened up after the second team was put in for the Bills, but the introduction to the 2021 Lions defense was far from encouraging.
Fourth Down Pass Coverage
On 4th-and-10 with the game on the line, Bobby Price stood in press coverage across from Marquez Stevenson. Price pulled out his best Kevin King impression and gave up a 42-yard catch. I don’t know if this was coaching or Price, but overall it was a pretty stupid way to give up the game-winning play.
Second Team Offensive Line
Boy, do I feel bad for Tim Boyle. He had no time in the pocket to throw, ever. It was a miracle he was even able to get a pass off standing behind that offensive line. Based on their play tonight, if anyone on the first-string offensive line (even Hal Vaitai) gets hurt, the replacement will be a huge downgrade.
“Jahlani Tavai dropped weight and is playing much quicker,” they said. Tavai is a guy who is notorious for always being on film for the wrong reasons. With this game, he added more flame to the fire that is his NFL career. This pick will always go down in Lions history as one of the most laughable decisions made by a hilariously bad regime. The fact he hasn’t been run out of Detroit still baffles me.
Other Quick Observations
Amon-Ra St. Brown lived up to the training camp hype. It was clear he and Goff developed a good rapport.
Tyrell Williams looks like he’s embracing his role as the WR1 for this team. He looked great.
Derrick Barnes is FAST! He was able to show off that speed for the first time tonight.
Aside from the sack, the first-team offensive line looked great in pass protection. On the contrary, their run blocking left a lot to be desired, as shown by Jamaal Williams’ 1.7 YPC.
Bruce Hector made a name for himself. He put up a sack and had some nice penetration in the run game. As a result, he may become a name to watch as the 53 man roster is rounded out.
Alim McNeil had a disappointing introduction to the NFL. Although he only played two drives, he didn’t show up much on the box score or to the naked eye.
Blough to McKinley was a nice connection at the end of the game. Blough outplayed Boyle, and McKinley is the WR6 right now on my depth chart.
Jack Fox is the best punter in the league and he showed why again. Punt coverage also showed out, aside from the targeting call against Jerry Jacobs.
Bullock went 3/3 on field goals. Hallelujah!
It was fun to see the new Lions defensive scheme after being stuck with Matt Patricia for 3 years. Also, Dan Campbell’s two-point try added some spice to the game. Another breath of fresh air coming off the Patricia-led teams.
Overall, seeing the boys in Honolulu Blue and Silver again felt great. Offensively, it became obvious that there wouldn’t be many jaw-dropping plays. The offense will dink, dunk, and run their way down the field, but that was expected. On the other side of the ball, the defense is gonna have a difficult learning curve. For most players, this is their first time in a complex scheme like Aaron Glenn’s and it won’t come easily. This will be something to watch for the rest of the preseason and the regular season.
TL//DR: Detroit Lions
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