2021 Detroit Lions Quarter-Season Review

Now we're four games in, it seems an apt time to take an early look at how things are going - with the playing personnel and the staff.


Results

Well, the Lions are 0-4. Who could have seen it coming? However, as predictable as that is, the Lions have shown a lot of promise on both sides of the ball, which makes the record even harder to stomach.


Offense


Overall

Let's have a look at the total numbers thus far. The Lions have scored 81 points (20.3 per game) which is good for 24th in the NFL. They have 1407 yards of total offense (18th) at 5.3 yards per play, made up of 1000 yards of passing offense (15th) (110/162, 7 TDs, 2 INTs) and 407 yards of rushing offense (20th) (95 carries, 4.3 y/a). They also have 5 turnovers on offense, which is 19th in the NFL.


All in all, that doesn't look bad, about the middle of the pack everywhere, even when taking into account fumble city. But let's delve deeper:


QB

Players: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle (IR), David Blough.


Jared Goff is the starter and isn't really at any risk of that changing. We've heard nothing about Tim Boyle's injury since it happened, but I don't think that would change much particularly.


For Goff himself, his stats are fine. 110/161 (68.3% - highest of his career), 7 TDs, 2 INTs. However, his average depth of target (min 50 attempts) is 4th last in the NFL (6.5ypt), just ahead of Garoppolo, Cousins and Ryan, yet somehow it's slightly higher than last year with the Rams (6.2). His QBR is the lowest since his rookie season (40.6).


The biggest issue for me is the eye test. Goff has been able to make some really good passes so far, but it's been intermixed with some really bad inaccurate throws, and the majority of them are very short. If teams were worried about losing to us, them playing Cover 0 or 1 and playing closer than 20 yards of the line of scrimmage to me would give the Lions a big problem. This biggest issue so far is not one he's had through his career, he's choked in the larger moments. He's shown enough to say that he's got the ability, but he's definitely not yet shown the consistency you'd hope for.


RB

Players: Jamaal Williams, D'Andre Swift, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike, Jason Cabinda (FB).


Overall: Williams and Swift have effectively shared reps throughout, with Williams getting the starter reps and playing the power back role and Swift serving as an outside runner and receiving, elusive back. Jefferson has yet to be active for a regular-season game, while Godwin Igwebuike started as the kick returner but has lost that job to Corey Ballentine, however, he continues to contribute on special teams. Cabinda has had only limited opportunities to contribute on offense but has performed well on special teams.


On Jamaal, he's been a revelation, both on and off the field. His charisma and smile is infectious, and on the field, he consistently runs between the tackles knocking guys over, consistently falling forwards. Having been sold to us in the off-season as someone who will be effective in the passing game, I'm disappointed that he only has 14 targets through 4 games. He's been a good pass blocker too.


For D'Andre, he started out the season hot, becoming a weapon on the ground and through the air, before being stymied in week 4, especially running the ball. He suffered a bad groin injury in the off-season which has been managed all the way through the season and fingers crossed he'll be even better once back to full fitness.


WR

Players: Tyrell Williams (IR), Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy


Overall: Coming into the season, with Williams at WR1 and Perriman at WR2, this was already regarded as maybe the worst WR corps in the entire NFL. So when Williams goes on IR after 2 receptions on the season and Perriman is awful and is cut, you'd be forgiven for thinking that this group would be atrocious. And yet, that's not quite come true. Separation has been hard to come by, but both Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond have been productive so far, and St. Brown's most recent game was his best. Hodge, Benson and Kennedy I'm left wondering why they're still on the roster almost, the former two have been here long enough now but still aren't being given enough of a chance and Kennedy, after being the offseason MVP for the third year in a row continues to be a forgotten man.


Cephus has 12 receptions on 19 targets in 4 games for 166 yards and 2 TDs, both in the first two games of the season. The early 46-yard reception against GB in a scramble drill was a particular highlight. He's show good improvement on last season but needs to sharpen his route running given his relative lack of speed if he wants to catch on long term in the league.


Raymond has been the real surprise so far. 14 receptions on 22 targets for 182 yards and 2 TDs, both against Chicago in the most recent loss. He's been one of Goff's go-to guys, receiving WR screens, slants and drag routes to get him the ball quickly and in space where he can use his short-area quickness to full effect. He is suffering from his size and a lack of top-end speed by having to play outside receiver when to me he seems like a natural slot receiver.


St. Brown has been somewhat underwhelming so far, with 12 receptions on 18 targets for 113 yards, but before week 4 this was only 6 receptions for 43 yards. For all the preseason promise and designed plays, none of that was really on show until week 4 against Chicago, going off for 6/8 for 70 yards. Potentially at fault for running a lazy route on the 4th & 1 late in the game, which was one of his scouting report issues out of college, he needs to become consistent all the way through the 60 minutes.


TE

TJ Hockenson, Darren Fells


Hockenson entered the league as one of those tight-ends on the cusp of the 2nd-tier, along with Mark Andrews et al, with aspirations of breaking into the top tier and through two weeks he appeared ready to fulfil that promise with 16 receptions for 163 yards and 2 TDs. Since that point, teams have specifically schemed for him as one of the main threats on the team, and he's seen his production fall as a result. He still needs to stay on his feet more instead of going to ground but he has improved in that aspect of his game and his route running has improved, but he needs to show some more physicality - I want to see him really take over a game.


Fells, given that we don't run with a TE3 should have seen some significant playing time as both a premier blocker and red zone receiving threat, and yet he only has 3 receptions for 37 yards. While he didn't have the best season, I'm surprised he isn't being leaned on more. Goff could do with another legitimate red-zone threat alongside Hockenson and Cephus and given the Lions' propensity to run the ball, especially with the number of O-line injuries suffered - expect his reps to go up in the coming weeks.


OL

Players: Taylor Decker (IR), Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow (IR), Halapoulivaati Vaitai, Penei Sewell, Matt Nelson, Logan Stenberg, Evan Brown, Will Holden, Ryan McCollum.


Decker and Ragnow could be regarded as Detroit's two best players, and having them both injured for any period in the one area Detroit need to be successful in to win games is pretty sickening. Ragnow especially had a terrific start to the season In their place, Sewell had a great start to the season at LT before a couple of poor games, while Matt Nelson did the reverse - starting poor before stymying Khalil Mack for the second time in his career?! Evan Brown performed admirably in relief of Ragnow against Chicago and Jonah Jackson has improved massively through the season, allowing no pressures against the Bears fearsome front - a big contrast to the 9 in week 1.