Detroit Lions

Which Lions Players Deserve An Extended Look In the Second Half?

Photo credit: Junfu Han (Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Sports)

Wins will likely continue to evade the Detroit Lions this year. Then again, nobody expected them to compete for a playoff spot. It was always going to be a transition year for the Blue and Silver after trading long-time quarterback Matthew Stafford and giving head coach Matt Patricia the boot in 2020.

Regardless of when they get their first win of the season, the Lions need to assess their current roster as a part of building their long-term future. The team needs to figure out what they have in players like wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, but in order to do so they are going to have to start increasing the playing time of players who deserve an extended look.

Here are a few Lions who are worthy of that look.

The recent waiver claim

Jared Goff has already shown he’s not the answer at quarterback. But to be fair, his supporting cast has been far from great. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see the Lions claim wide receiver Josh Reynolds off waivers. The 2017 fourth-round pick could give Detroit’s wide receiver corps an immediate boost. He signed with the Tennesse Titans this offseason but didn’t do much of note with Julio Jones and A.J. Brown firmly entrenched as the top receiving options. However, he proved he could be a reliable target last year, hauling in a career-high 52 receptions for 618 yards and two touchdowns with Los Angeles Rams.

Reynolds may get a lot of playing time right off the bat. The Lions lack weapons in the passing game outside of tight end T.J. Hockenson. If he doesn’t play against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he may make his debut in Week 11, when Detroit faces off against the Cleveland Browns. Either way, the Lions are better off giving the wide receiver a significant role early on.

Detroit may have a keeper in running back Jamaal Williams

The Lions haven’t had a 1,000-yard running back since Reggie Bush in 2013, but Jamaal Williams has provided a spark to their backfield and could become a key cog on offense beyond this year. Even though he’s gotten fewer carries than D’Andre Swift, he’s been the most productive of the two.

Williams has tallied 71 touches for 312 yards and two touchdowns, while Swift has racked up 90 carries for 289 yards and three touchdowns.

A fourth-round selection by the Green Bay Packers in 2017, Williams has never been a workhorse back, but the Lions would be wise to give him an increased workload. He’s their most productive running back right now and deserves a chance to show what he can do.

The Lions’ secondary is getting reinforcements

The Lions have been marred by injuries in 2021, losing several key contributors, including left tackle Frank Ragnow, edge rusher Romeo Okwara, and cornerback Jeff Okudah. Fortunately, reinforcements are on the way. The team activated Ragnow from the injured reserve list during the bye and expect him to join the starting lineup soon. Also, rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, along with Corey Ballentine, returned to practice this week.

Melifonwu hurt his thigh in Week 2 and landed on the injured reserve list not long after. He was poised for a significant role in the secondary before he got hurt, making one start and playing 42 defensive snaps.

The Syracuse product may not return right away, but it’s an encouraging sign that he has returned to practice. The Lions have 21 days to decide if they will activate him or keep him on IR. The coaching staff needs to give Melifonwu as much playing time as possible as soon as he can play. He needs to pick up where he left off before his injury.

Detroit has a young defensive front

The Lions’ 2021 draft class could turn out to be pretty good. Penei Sewell started the season at right tackle but is currently lining up on the left side in relief of Ragnow. On the other side of the ball, defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill haven’t gotten much playing time, but they should.

Onwuzurike has played 28% of the Lions’ defensive snaps this season. He has logged 13 total tackles and one pass defended. On the other hand, McNeill has appeared in 37% of the team’s defensive snaps and made four starts. Neither of them stands out on film, but that could be due to a lack of experience. Coincidentally, giving them more playing time would help the coaching staff determine if they deserve more time in the defensive line rotation.

The Lions are still trying to win games, but they also need to evaluate their current roster. That’s why it would make sense to give more snaps to their young players.

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Photo credit: Junfu Han (Detroit Free Press via USA TODAY Sports)

In what has otherwise been a disaster of a season, the Detroit Lions can at least say they’ve found a couple of long-term pieces of the puzzle. […]

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