Allen Park — The Detroit Lions didn’t have anyone selected to the Pro Bowl this season, but a handful of players were chosen as alternates for the league’s annual all-star game. Among them was guard Jonah Jackson, who in his second season, was named a second alternate for the NFC squad.
Jackson wasn’t among the top-10 in the fan balloting, meaning he drew much of his consideration from the league’s coaches and players, who make up two-thirds of the selection process.
“It’s definitely a big honor,” Jackson said. “It means a lot. People are taking notice of the style I play. It’s definitely exciting and a stepping stone of where I want to be. I appreciate it, big time.”
There was a lot of hype surrounding Detroit’s offensive line coming into the season, but Jackson was more of an afterthought in those conversations, well behind Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow, left tackle Taylor Decker — who was coming off his best season — and first-round draft pick Penei Sewell.
But early season injuries to Decker and Ragnow, and some initial inconsistencies with Sewell’s performance, opened the door for Jackson to be a stabilizing force up front, despite his own relative inexperience entering his second season out of Ohio State.
“He’s been very valuable,” offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “Just his whole mentality that he brings to the offensive line room. His mindset, he’s very aggressive and on game day, he plays really aggressive. I don’t want to say dirty, but he plays really aggressive. He just brings that grit that you want in the offensive line. That’s part of his intangibles and his leadership.”
Jackson put in a lot of extra work this offseason, with an emphasis on his hand placement and striking under the tutelage of assistant strength coach Morris Henry, who is a black belt in Taekwondo. That’s paid dividends, particularly in the run game, where Jackson has made his biggest strides.
But as Jackson stated, he views this season as a stepping stone to even loftier goals.
“Shoot, the top, be at the top, All-Pro, Pro Bowl, whatever it is,” Jackson said about his personal goals. “And hopefully the other four (linemen) with me there, too.”
Hoping to return
If the second half of this season was an audition for receiver Josh Reynolds, the midseason waiver claim has shown he deserves serious consideration for a longer-term contract with Detroit.
Since getting acclimated with the offense and his new teammates, Reynolds has averaged four catches for 64.8 yards the past four games, scoring twice during that stretch. Averaged out over a 17-game season, Reynolds would be on pace for an 1,100-yard campaign with eight touchdowns.
Serving as a featured player in the pass game for the first time in his career, Reynolds said in an interview with Fox 2 Detroit, he’d love to stay with the Lions beyond this season.
“I would love my future to be here with Detroit,” Reynolds told Fox 2. “Man, being able to just kind of continue to grow with this team and help this organization win. I mean, it don’t get no better.”
After converting from safety this offseason, Godwin Igwebuike looked like a natural at running back, averaging better than 11 yards his first eight carries thanks to a 42-yard touchdown run. He also added five catches for 57 yards, including a critical 13-yard catch-and-run reception during the closing seconds against Minnesota that helped set up a game-winning touchdown for the team’s first victory of the year.
But Igwebuike has run into some recent adversity the past couple weeks as the Lions have had to lean on him more with D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (COVID) out of the lineup.
With just 12 touches in those two games, Igwebuike has had the ball knocked free from his grasp three times, losing a pair of fumbles.
“He’s going through a rough patch and we’re going to figure out how mentally tough he is,” Lions offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn said. “Our philosophy has always been when a running back is going through a rough patch like that, keep giving it to him. That’s the best way to have him come through this. We have all the confidence in the world in that young man and I just believe he’s going to come out the other side a better running back than he is right now.”
Lynn, a former running back, said Igwebuike’s struggles have been because of poor fundamentals.
“It’s just carrying the ball too low,” Lynn said. “We’re teaching him to get it up higher and do all those things. (Running backs coach) Duce (Staley) is doing a good job with that and I think he’ll come through it just fine.”
A prime opportunity
The Lions previously coached a team at the Senior Bowl in 2010 and 2020, providing those coaching staffs with an early, advantageous close-up look at the incoming class of draft prospects. And with one of the worst records this season, and a coaching staff that isn’t in jeopardy of being replaced any time soon, there’s a strong possibility Detroit could be asked to coach one of the two teams in Mobile, Ala. once again.
“I’ve thought about it, and actually, (general manager Brad (Holmes) and I have talked about it,” Lions coach Dan Campbell said. “Look, I’d be open for it, we’d be open.”
Campbell said the one reluctance he and Holmes have is the personal experience could potentially sway them toward a prospect who might not ultimately be the best choice for the franchise.
“Yes there’s an advantage, but you also have gotta be careful that you don’t get swayed by it either,” Campbell said.