NFL: Lions get rare look at life as favorite vs. Commanders
Of Detroit’s eight selections in the 2022 NFL Draft, six of them were defensive players, including defensive end Aidan Hutchinson — the No. 2 overall pick.
But in its 38-35 opening-game loss to Philadelphia, the restocked unit surrendered 239 yards passing and 216 rushing.
On Sunday, when Detroit (0-1) hosts the Washington Commanders (1-0), the Lions will look for improved defense against another NFC East team that flashed firepower in a 28-22 win over Jacksonville in Week 1.
Carson Wentz threw for 313 yards and four touchdowns (and two interceptions) by spreading the wealth between wideouts Curtis Samuel (8 receptions, 55 yards), Terry McLaurin (49-yard touchdown catch) and Jahan Dotson (two touchdowns), while running back Antonio Gibson added 130 scrimmage yards (58 rushing, 72 receiving).
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said the Commanders’ versatility reminded him of game planning a few years ago against a Carolina offense that included rushing and receiving threats Christian McCaffrey and Samuel. That unit was guided by current Washington offensive coordinator Scott Turner.
“He’s got plenty of weapons. He’s got gadgetry. He’s got slots. McLaurin can play inside, outside. Dotson can do a little bit of both. These guys are explosive athletes and they have speed,” Campbell said. “And with Gibson in the backfield, he’s a big man that can run.”
The Lions’ run defense was lacking against the Eagles, who averaged 5.5 yards per carry and got rushing touchdowns from four different players. Campbell cited poor tackling and a lack of discipline.
In his pro debut, Hutchinson was held without a quarterback pressure (per NFL’s Next Gen Stats) and was ineffective against the run, producing just one tackle. Safety Tracy Walker III had a team-high 11 tackles, including a sack, but was ejected after a late hit on Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts and compounded the mistake by taking a swipe at an Eagles player during an ensuing tussle.
“I was hoping it would show up better than it did,” Campbell said of the defense.
Washington has its defensive concerns as well, especially after surrendering 6.8 yards per carry to Jacksonville, a bad omen considering Detroit’s potent running game led by D’Andre Swift.
Against the Eagles, Swift carried the ball 15 times for 144 yards and a score. But his availability is clouded by an ankle injury, which kept him out of practice on Wednesday as he is listed as questionable.
Three of the Lions’ five starting offensive linemen also missed practice. Center Frank Ragnow (groin, foot) and tackle Taylor Decker (calf) are questionable, while guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai will be out after undergoing back surgery earlier this week. Also questionable is defensive line starter Michael Brockers (knee).
Washington came out of the Jacksonville game relatively healthy with the exception of rookie second-round defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis, who will undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus.
Running back Brian Robinson, who suffered gunshot wounds two weeks ago, returned to practice on Wednesday. Starting safety Kamren Curl (thumb), who missed the Jacksonville game, was a limited participant in practice and is questionable for Sunday along with guard Trai Turner (quadricep).
As the Commanders try to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2011, Wentz is excited about his collection of weapons.
“It’s definitely a dynamic group, an explosive group of playmakers that definitely make my life easy,” Wentz said.
Washington leads the series 28-15, but Detroit has won five of the last six meetings. The Lions also are a favorite after being listed as the underdog for 24 straight games.
–Field Level Media