Penei Sewell played mostly well in his preseason debut last week, but the Detroit Lions’ first-round pick said he has a lot to improve on before Saturday’s exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’ve got to get my hands right,” Sewell said after practice Monday. “Right now they’re way too wide, especially going against the people in the league now. So I just got to lock in on that, fine-tune on my pad level, too, getting my knee bend back. Just those two things I think will separate myself.”
Sewell played 22 snaps — the entire first quarter — during the Lions’ 16-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills in their first preseason game.
He allowed a sack on his third play from scrimmage, when fellow rookie Gregory Rousseau beat him with a power move, but had one pancake block in the run game and earned praise from Lions coach Dan Campbell for the in-game adjustments he was able to make.
“It really shows up, the way he’s grown,” Campbell said. “There are things that he gets beat on the day before that, it’s not happening the next day or the next rep. Just to be able to go out there and face a new opponent, like the other day, he didn’t throw his hands like he had been and then you see him in the next rep and he does it.”
Sewell has taken every first-team rep at right tackle this summer in preparation for the Lions’ Sept. 12 season opener against the San Francisco 49ers.
He said he has not thought about what it will be like to play in his first NFL game, but was bursting with excitement for his preseason debut last week.
“I felt like a little kid out there for real,” he said. “To put on that helmet, run out that tunnel with the smoke and all the lights, man, it just gave me a different type of energy that I missed and again, just felt like a kid out there having fun and enjoying the game.”
Before facing the Bills, Sewell, who opted out of last season, had not played in any game in more than 19 months, since Oregon’s Rose Bowl win over Wisconsin on Jan. 1, 2020.
He said he was ready for the speed and intensity of NFL football, thanks in part to the tutoring he’s received from Lions right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai and the rest of the team’s veteran offensive line.
“There’s always more to improve on, there’s always something to improve on,” Sewell said. “Whatever that is, everybody on the O-line knows the standard, everybody knows the culture, so just kind of feed off that.”