Justin Rogers’ Lions grades: Few chances taken, no reward reaped

Detroit News

Cleveland — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions’ performance in their 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns. 

Quarterback

You might think this grade is too generous for a quarterback who threw for just 77 yards, while getting picked off twice. That’s a reasonable opinion. But Tim Boyle felt like the prisoner of a conservative game plan. The one deep ball he launched was actually a pretty nice throw, where the receiver didn’t do a good enough job finishing the play, resulting in an interception. Boyle’s other pick, throwing to where running back D’Andre Swift had been instead of where he was going, falls more on the QB.

One under-the-radar positive was Boyle’s ability to get the aggressive Browns to jump offsides three times, utilizing cadence at the line of scrimmage. He credited Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers for helping master the skill.  Grade: D

Running backs

Following up his career-best performance a week ago, D’Andre Swift topped that rushing mark with 19 fewer carries. His 133-yard effort in the loss way highlighted by a 58-yard touchdown run where he made not one, but two defensive backs miss in the open field.

Jamaal Williams didn’t do much in his return after a two-game absence, gaining just 11 yards on seven carries, while fullback Jason Cabinda converted one of two short-yardage runs, bursting through the line for a 21-yard gain in the first half.  Grade: B+

Wide receivers/tight ends

Josh Reynolds’ debut couldn’t have been more disappointing. The veteran receiver dropped his first target, got called for offensive pass interference that wiped out what would have been first-and-10 in the red zone and had a disappointing effort on Boyle’s deep interception. He finished without a catch on three targets.

T.J. Hockenson, one week after getting shut out on the stat sheet, rebounded to pace Detroit with six catches for 51 yards on eight targets. The receivers were led by Amon-Ra St. Brown’s 18 yards on four receptions. No other non-running back saw more than one throw their direction. Grade: D

Offensive line

In the same way we can’t throw all the blame on Boyle for the conservative plan, it’s equally difficult to shower the offensive line with praise after limiting the Browns to zero sacks and two quarterback hits. The Lions were getting rid of the ball far too quickly for the pass rush to realistically get home.

The Browns did tally seven tackles for a loss, and outside of Swift and Cabinda’s long runs, the ground game had minimal success. Plus, all attempts to set up screen passes fell flat.

The group got hit with just one penalty, but it was a devastating blow. Guard Jonah Jackson’s unsportsmanlike conduct in between quarters knocked the Lions out of Browns’ territory and killed a drive early in the fourth quarter. Grade: C-

Defensive line

The defensive interior did a decent job limiting the damage Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb was able to do between the tackles, while the pass rush found a way to start affecting quarterback Baker Mayfield down the stretch.

One of the worst plays of the game was the Browns’ first touchdown, when Michael Brockers burst through the line, but got tripped up by a play fake, allowing wildcat quarterback Jarvis Landry to waltz through the middle of Detroit’s defense for a 16-yard touchdown. Grade: C+

Linebackers

Alex Anzalone had a strong start and finish, but was routinely out of position and overpowered through the middle of the game. That said, his pass deflection from a intermediate zone drop led to a critical interception late in the contest that gave the Lions a chance to take the lead.

Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who continues to see the larger part of the timeshare with rookie Derrick Bares, was regularly around the ball on Sunday, racking up seven tackles.  Grade: C-

Secondary

Amani Oruwariye snagged his fourth interception of the season, but it was more the matter of good fortune than skill. We say that because the veteran corner had been badly beaten on the route, only for Mayfield to overthrow his target.

Oruwariye struggled much of the day, giving up multiple first-down catches, while also committing a pair of penalties on third-down that led to the Browns second touchdown.

Safety Tracy Walker, meanwhile, continued his strong season with nine tackles, including one for a loss, showing no hesitation coming up in run and screen support, while rookies Jerry Jacobs and AJ Parker got their hands on two passes, with the latter scoring his first interception on Anzalone’s deflection.  Grade: D+

Special teams

Jack Fox had another busy day, punting six times. His season net average took a bit of hit with a third of those efforts bouncing into the end zone and his coverage unit allowing a 12-yard return.

On the other side, Detroit continued to get an occasional spark from their return game as Kalif Raymond brought one back 17 yards in the second half. Kicker Aldrick Rosas, making his Lions debut, did what he was brought in to do, nailing his lone field goal, 43-yard kick in the fourth quarter.

It didn’t end up mattering, but rookie Levi Onwuzurike blocked an extra point. That gave Detroit’s coaches flexibility with their end-game strategy.  Grade: B

Coaches

Mayfield’s struggles made Detroit’s defensive performance look better than it was, but coordinator Aaron Glenn’s group still deserves praise for keeping an opponent off the scoreboard in the second half. He showed touch with his third-down play calls down the stretch, leading to both a sack and a turnover.

Dan Campbell’s showing was a bit more perplexing. He was overly conservative with Boyle, resulting in a non-threatening pass game that limited Detroit’s abilities to put points on the board and ultimately cost the Lions a chance to win.

On top of that, the typically aggressive Campbell turtled in this contest, punting on fourth-and-1 near midfield in the first half and settling for a field goal when facing the same down-and-distance in the fourth quarter.

The defense unquestionably earned the coach’s trust the past two weeks, but the offense simply isn’t finding itself in scoring range enough to give away those limited opportunities to capitalize. Grade: D

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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