Allen Park — While the Detroit Lions plan to rest many of the team’s projected starters for the preseason finale this Friday against Indianapolis, Penei Sewell is unlikely to get the night off.
As the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft, the expectations for Sewell are sky high. But presently he’s going through some predictable first-year struggles as he adjusts to the elevated level of competition at the professional level and continues to settle into his switch to right tackle.
There have been flashes of dominance, for sure. But there’s also been moments where his inexperience has shown. On the third play of the preseason opener, he surrendered a sack. And last weekend, against the Pittsburgh Steelers, he twice allowed the quarterback to be pressured on 14 pass-blocking attempts.
Detroit’s coaches have been complimentary of Sewell’s ability to adjust and learn from his mistakes, and with so much still to learn ahead of the regular season, coach Dan Campbell sees little reason to hold Sewell back from getting more on-the-job training.
“I think the more that he gets, the better it is for him,” Campbell said. “He got beat a few times, but yet, I’m not discouraged and neither should he be. The important thing is that he learns from that. Every time he gets a fastball from a dang good rusher like (Steelers linebacker) Melvin Ingram — when Melvin wants to turn it up, which he did, he can still bring it, he can throw the fastballs — those are so beneficial for Sewell to see and learn from and adjust.”
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Against the Colts, Sewell will potentially see some reps against a fellow rookie with local ties, former University of Michigan standout Kwity Paye. Selected No. 21 overall in the draft, he recorded his first sack in last week’s preseason win over the Vikings.
Vaccination numbers level
When the Lions opened training camp, Campbell touted more than 80% of the roster had been vaccinated, with those numbers improving daily. But as the weeks have gone on, the team’s vaccination has leveled off.
“It’s better, but only by a couple,” Campbell said. “It’s plateaued because we had a lot of guys that had gotten it done before that time. We’re still trending in the right way but it’s not like we’ve had a huge number of guys who have gotten the vaccine since then.
Since the start of camp, the Lions have had three players land on the COVID-19/reserve list; guard Evan Heim, linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin and defensive tackle Nick Williams. All three have since be reactivated.
Around the league, unvaccinated players are proving to be a liability. A prime example occurred this week when Patriots quarterback Cam Newton was put in five-day quarantine for failing to conduct his daily virus testing at the team’s facility, a violation of the standard the league and players union agreed upon.
And in Buffalo, wide receiver Cole Beasley similarly ended up needing to quarantine after he was exposed a member of the team’s training staff who tested positive for the virus.
Regardless of the issues cropping up around the league, Campbell isn’t stressing the potential impact of the virus on his team in 2021.
“Last year, you have one guy and he tests positive and he’s been next to somebody who has no symptoms and you lose all those guys,” Campbell said. “I mean, we lost all of our running backs last game of the year (in New Orleans). Thank God it wasn’t a get into the playoffs or something. But we went in and our tight ends were playing half back. So to me, when I see that and I think about this year and knowing that we have a ton of the team has been vaccinated, man, it makes me feel pretty good.”
Earlier this week, the FDA officially approved the Pfizer vaccine for all individuals 16 and older, but Campbell noted the unvaccinated players on the roster have essentially dug their heels in on their personal decision.
“If it hadn’t happened by now, they’re pretty dug in,” he said. “Listen, that’s their choice. That’s how they feel and their belief and we gave them all of the resources and all of the research and everything we could that had nothing to do with us, Detroit Lions, or not even the NFL. We try to give them the proper information to where they can make the best judgment possible. That’s up to them.”