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Which rookie needs to step up and make a difference for the Lions to salvage their season?
One of Detroit’s biggest needs in the draft was finding impact players to plug and play this season. So far, the Lions haven’t received much of a return on their investment through the first quarter of their season.
Guard Jonah Jackson has undoubtedly been the top performer of Detroit’s 2020 rookie class. Not only was he charged with starting from the jump, Jackson has had to shuffle his way from right to left guard with the injury of fellow guard Joe Dahl and the return of Halapoulivaati Vaitai to the lineup as Detroit chooses to deploy their best five linemen—regardless of position—each week.
Jackson currently ranks 32nd out of 75 qualifying guards according to Pro Football Focus, and while that’s an impressive snag for Bob Quinn in the third round, his first two picks have struggled to step up and contribute.
In the case of third overall pick Jeff Okudah , it’s been about adjusting to the speed of the NFL and falling victim to rookie mistakes. For second-round pick D’Andre Swift , a single dropped pass earned him jeers in his debut, but since then, it’s been consistency in his utilization from week to week by the coaching staff.
Which leads us to today’s question of the day…
Which rookie needs to step up for Detroit?
While I’m all for giving more reps and more opportunities for Swift—after all, he was the team’s second round pick and managed to play just single digit snaps in the Arizona Cardinals game—I think the Lions have enough talent at running back to successfully establish their backfield in any game they play. The improvement we’ve seen in their offensive line, thanks to the likes of the previously mentioned Jackson, Taylor Decker (who’s having a career year), and Frank Ragnow is also much to that credit.
The Lions defense could really stand to benefit from any semblance of a pass rush, but they seem pretty set on not improving it, which essentially eliminates any hope of them making use of Julian Okwara as the edge rush presence they desperately need.
For this thing to get turned around on defense, it has to be Okudah who steps up to the billing of his draft selection. Detroit’s overhaul at the cornerback position was a massive undertaking this past offseason, and through the first four games, it’s been way more bad than good. No more Darius Slay meant Detroit would be in search of a No. 1 cornerback and they thought they plugged that hole with the addition of Desmond Trufant , but their boat’s still taking water.
Now more than ever, Okudah needs to be the solution to Detroit’s sloppy play and poor execution in the secondary. If he can’t step up and be a player over these next seven games, Detroit will once again be picking at the top of next year’s draft.