5 Detroit Lions game ball candidates against Bengals

Pride of Detroit

Another week, another pain. Here are the current game ball standings:

Week 1 Game Ball winner: Penei Sewell

Week 2 winner: T.J. Hockenson

Week 3 winner: D’Andre Swift

Week 4 winner: Kalif Raymond

Week 5 winner: Tracy Walker

Let’s get started.


Derrick Barnes

Stats: 9 tackles, 1 pass defended

PFF Grade: 90.5

The nine tackles are a standard stat line for a starting linebacker in the NFL, but I really want to focus on the one pass defended here. Barnes is really starting to hold his own, and it has been a long time since we saw a Detroit Lions linebacker that could cover.

Sure, C.J. Uzomah isn’t George Kittle, but considering Derrick Barnes was barely seeing snaps to start the season, being able to make coverage plays in crunch time are a huge green flag. Barnes finished the day grading out as the Lions’ best defender in coverage with a 90.7 PFF coverage grade.


T.J. Hockenson

Stats: 8 catches, 74 yards

PFF Grade: 73.7

This stat line doesn’t particularly stand out given the bar we hold T.J. Hockenson at, but we have to take into consideration the context here. Hockenson has been hampered for several weeks now with a knee injury that has slowed him down considerably. He has been limited in practice and it shows in games.

This Sunday, however, there was no slowing down to be seen. Hockenson looked back in form, matching his yardage total from the past three weeks combined. More impressive is that the eight receptions came on 11 targets. Jared Goff’s favorite target is back, baby.

Now if only we could fix that whole fall down immediately after catching the ball thing.


Julian Okwara

Stats: 3 tackles, 1 sack

PFF Grade: 69.6

Okwara continues to look more comfortable as the season goes on and he takes on an expanded role, particularly in his brother’s absence. Sunday wasn’t particularly stellar, but of note was that Okwara got his first career sack.

Admittedly, Okwara was left completely unblocked. However, for a guy who has been consistently improving as his role grows, it’s nice to see him get a win like that.

Austin Bryant

Stats: 2 tackles, 1 sack

PFF Grade: 74.7

Austin Bryant was just a replica of Okwara on Sunday, another young buck getting his first career sack in an expanded role, and with an almost identical stat line to Okwara’s.

There’s certainly a lot more to an edge defender’s play than just sacks, but first career sacks for Bryant and Okwara this past Sunday are a huge step forward in their expanding roles. And, for what it’s worth, Bryant’s wasn’t a gimme; he put ex-Lions left tackle Riley Reiff on skates and chased down Burrow for the sack.

Bryant saw about a third of the defensive snaps Sunday, but with more high-motor plays like this, that could increase moving forward. Not bad for a guy who we weren’t sure was going to even make the roster after a quiet start to his career.

Jack Fox

Stats: 6 punts, 55.5 avg, 47.8 net avg

PFF grade: 66.8

Oh come on, don’t roll your eyes at me — I made it six weeks before putting a punter on this list. Jack Fox has hit the ground running in 2021, and Sunday was one of his best performances yet.

The fact that Jack Fox sent the aforementioned ball into the end zone was equally impressive and unfortunate as it really did a number on his net average that would have otherwise been much higher. Nonetheless, that was one of the most impressive punts I have ever seen. Fox continues to be the gold standard of punting across the league, a good thing for what just might be the league’s worst offense.

Let’s vote.

Poll

Who gets the game ball against the Bengals?

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    Jack Fox

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    Derrick Barnes

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    Austin Bryant

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    T.J. Hockenson

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    Julian Okwara

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