Four Downs: Dan Campbell vows to probe Lions’ offensive woes, but a remedy will be elusive

Detroit News

Allen Park — Here are four observations after having a night to ponder the Detroit Lions’ 44-6 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

First down

It’s tough to know where to start when you’re dominated so thoroughly by an opponent, but Lions coach Dan Campbell knows exactly where he’ll begin his bye week review of his winless club.

“I do see this, offensively we are very anemic,” Campbell said. “And so, if you were going to ask me, ‘Where are you going to look this week?’, that’s the first place I’m looking. I’m going to look at it three times before I look anywhere else.”

Bad news, Dan, I’m not sure there’s much you’ll be able to uncover. There isn’t much mystery to Detroit’s offensive woes, which have been accurately projected since this roster was constructed during the offseason.

The offensive line was supposed to be the strength, but that went out the window with injuries to the unit’s best two players, Frank Ragnow and Taylor Decker, the latter who might end up not seeing the field this year based on the way things are trending.

In terms of weapons, the Lions have two really good ones in T.J. Hockenson, who is on pace to top 100 catches, and D’Andre Swift, who could conceivably finish with 1,500 yards from scrimmage and double-digit touchdowns.

Beyond them, quarterback Jared Goff is exactly who we thought when he landed here, with confidence as limited as his skill set. He’s a game manager on a team not in enough games to manage, and his outside weapons fall woefully short of being able to cover up his deficiencies.

Asked what more he hoped to get from the personnel that’s led the Lions to this point, the first name Campbell pointed to was receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. Sure, he had some moments Sunday, but if you’re hoping a fourth-round rookie is going to be the key to a turnaround, you’re likely to end up disappointed.

Then again, falling short of irrational expectations is kind of a theme here.

Injuries aside, this is the bed the Lions made with their roster decisions this offseason. Yes, general manager Brad Holmes had limited resources, and there was no way he was going to fill all of the roster’s holes. But what was said then remains true now: He acquired a quarterback in need of rebuilding and didn’t come close to giving him enough to succeed. Failure was always the likely outcome and it’s not surprising they sit bottom-five in scoring and are steadily tracking toward the cellar.

More: Four Downs: Goff doesn’t have enough to overcome Lions’ roster deficiencies

Second down

Of course, for all of the offense’s woes, Detroit’s defense is equally deserving of criticism. What’s frustrating about the unit is the issues seem to be different each week, so when coordinator Aaron Glenn seemingly plugs one leak in the boat, two more spring up. And oftentimes one of those new leaks was one that had been previously plugged.

Glenn meets with the media weekly, and he likes to open those sessions with something positive about his defense. Early in the season, it was Detroit’s performance on third down. Last week, it was how well they stopped the run. Both, at the time, were true statements, but those success stories haven’t generated happy sequels.

In the past two games, the Lions have been torched on third down, allowing conversions on 14 of 23 attempts. In Sunday’s loss, the play that seemingly broke Detroit’s defensive will came early in the third quarter, when Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts scrambled for 20 yards on third-and-12 deep in his own territory. That series-extender kickstarted an 11-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that pushed the lead to 24-0.

Hurts ended up pacing the Eagles with 71 rushing yards, part of a 236-yard team effort on the ground. With the quarterback runs, it was often a lack of discipline. That’s something that can be corrected in the film room and on the practice field.

But with the yardage racked up by Philadelphia’s backs, the Lions were overpowered, down after down. Whether that’s effort, strength and conditioning or simply talent, it’s far more troubling because of the investments the Lions made to the interior of their defensive line this offseason.

Third down

The NFL’s trading deadline is Tuesday and the Lions aren’t really in a position to be making any moves. Sure, if a legitimately interesting receiver hits the block for the cost of a late-round draft pick, it’s worth exploring. Of course, the Lions already tried that once this year and the result was Trinity Benson.

Speaking of Benson, after being a healthy scratch the previous two weeks, he was back in a starting role for Sunday’s game. He ended up playing 45 snaps and wasn’t targeted once. Gross.

As far as tradeable assets, the Lions have a couple who could draw interest, like outside linebacker Charles Harris, but it’s a layered conversation. Basically, it boils down to how important is avoiding an 0-17 season? If you deem that mission critical, trading away one of your few contributing pieces for a late-round draft pick doesn’t make much sense.

Fourth down

Late in the fourth quarter, with the Eagles up 38-0, a chunk of the limited crowd remaining started chanting for Goff to be replaced by backup David Blough.

They weren’t wrong. There’s no value to keeping the starting quarterback in the game at that point. But there’s also a small, growing segment of fans who would like to see the Lions bench Goff in favor of Blough to start a game.

I’m here to remind you that’s almost certainly not going to happen, and it also wouldn’t make the team any better. Goff, for all his flaws, is unquestionably a better option to win you games compared to Blough, who has completed 54.3% of his passes with more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (four) in seven career appearances.

On top of that, Blough might soon be ceding the backup job to Tim Boyle, who based on his pregame warmup routine, looks to be close to returning from the thumb injury that’s sidelined him since the preseason.

Honestly, if the Lions were going to make a change at QB (still not likely sans injury), I’d be way more interested to see what Boyle could do. He’s got the best arm on Detroit’s roster and probably the most mobility of the trio, although that’s not saying a lot.

 jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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