Nick Bosa beat Penei Sewell with an inside pass rush on Sewell’s first pass-block snap of the game, and he drove the rookie offensive tackle back into quarterback Jared Goff’s lap for a sack another time.
But Bosa, one of the best defensive ends in the NFL, left Sunday’s season opener saying what a lot of people were thinking — that Sewell looked more natural playing left tackle in his Detroit Lions debut than he did playing right tackle all preseason.
“He’s going to be good,” Bosa told reporters after the game. “He’s more comfortable on the left. I could tell. The tape I saw on the right was … I told him after the game, he’s better on the left and he’s more comfortable on the left. He’s going to be a solid player, for sure.”
Sewell’s debut was a lot like the Lions’ 41-33 loss — far from perfect with some promising things to build on.
The 20-year-old No. 7 pick of April’s draft became the youngest player in NFL history to start a game at left tackle after working exclusively at right tackle throughout the preseason.
Sewell, who played left tackle during his two college seasons at Oregone, switched sides midway through the week after Taylor Decker suffered a finger injury.
The Lions placed Decker, their starting left tackle since 2016, on injured reserve Saturday.
Lions coach Dan Campbell toyed with the idea of keeping Sewell at right tackle Sunday, and playing swing tackle Matt Nelson at left tackle, but ultimately decided the Lions’ best chance to win was having Sewell block Bosa.
“We just felt like, athletically, he was the best matchup for him knowing he would get a dose of him, and he is,” Campbell said. “He’s powerful, he’s big, he’s explosive, I’m talking about Sewell, and he’s played some left tackle in college. I mean, that’s what he had done and I know he embraced it. Like, he was really excited to go back to left. So it just felt like the right move and from that standpoint, we felt like he performed pretty well.”
Sewell, who opted out of the 2020 college season, said he felt “really comfortable” at left tackle Sunday.
“I mean, there was no other choice,” he said. “I was going to play it come game time, so I had to be ready.”
The Lions gave Sewell and Nelson, who started at right tackle, plenty of chip help with their running backs and tight ends Sunday, though Campbell said the lopsided start — the Lions fell behind 31-10 at halftime — forced them to change their game plan.
“It was probably towards the end of the second quarter and we’d gone in to this game plan wanting to take care of our tackles, even when Decker was playing,” Campbell said.” We wanted to take care of both of them just to be smart, Game 1, and we were going to be very mindful of him. It was late in the second and I remember I was going to say something into the headset like, “This kid’s playing pretty good. Like, I feel like he’s holding his own.” I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to jinx him, but I felt like from afar he really did. When you don’t even think twice about (it) at a certain point and you’re thinking about everything else, that’s a good sign.”
After the game, Sewell, who helped pave the way the Lions’ 116-yard rushing performance and was in pass protection for all 57 of Goff’s pass attempts, went to great his family in the stands and received a congratulatory lei from his mother.
He said he played “all right” Sunday, but acknowledged he did well enough against a good pass rusher to gain confidence.
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“I got to get better at a couple things,” he said. “My hands were out of whack, pad level came too high on a couple, so I got to go back to the drawing board and get better for next week.”