Detroit Lions snap count analysis: 6 rookie draft picks play over 50% of snaps vs. Seahawks

Pride of Detroit

Let’s take a closer look at the Detroit Lions’ Week 17 snap counts from their 51-29 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Tim Boyle: 63 (100%)

Running backs

D’Andre Swift: 36 (57%)
Jamaal Williams: 20 (32%)
Craig Reynolds: 14 (22%) — 19 special teams snaps (59%)
Godwin Igwebuike: 0 (0%) — 19 (59%)

D’Andre Swift saw the most playing time among Detroit’s tailbacks, but that appears to only be related to game situation. When it came to carrying the ball, the Lions rode primarily with Jamaal Williams (11 carries) and Craig Reynolds (four carries). Swift only touched the ball six times in this game, and five of those touches came with the Lions already down over 20 points.

Meanwhile, with the Lions running back group back to full health, Godwin Igwebuike was back to just special teams but managed to make an impression on kick returns. Rookie seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson was a healthy scratch.

Tight ends

Jared Pinkney: 28 (44%) — 4 (12%)
Ross Travis: 14 (22%) — 14 (44%)

Pinkney, who was added to the roster on Tuesday after an earlier stint on the practice squad in October, made his NFL debut on Sunday after going undrafted in 2020. Travis, too, was added on Tuesday and came with a little more NFL experience but a lot less knowledge of Detroit’s offense. So it was little surprise Pinkney got more looks.

However, the Lions obviously didn’t utilize a tight end very often against the Seahawks, often preferring to add an extra offensive lineman instead, as we’ll see.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 53 (84%)
KhaDarel Hodge: 48 (76%) — 11 (34%)
Trinity Benson: 48 (76%) — 2 (6%)
Tom Kennedy: 24 (38%) — 10 (31%)

With both Kalif Raymond and Josh Reynolds out, it was a unique opportunity for Detroit’s depth to make an impression, and—surprisingly—they did. KhaDarel Hodge has only logged more than 48 snaps once in his career (Week 6 vs. Bengals), and he took full advantage by pulling in a career-high 76 yards. Trinity Benson, too, made a few plays in the biggest opportunity he’s had in his career.

But, of course, the story of the wide receiver group was Amon-Ra St. Brown and his 111 receiving yards and two touchdowns. The Lions utilized St. Brown all over the place. Of his 53 snaps (per PFF), 38 were in the slot, 13 were out wide, one was in the backfield and one was as an inline tight end.

With St. Brown locking down the slot for most of the game, there wasn’t much of an opportunity for Tom Kennedy to increase his workload.

Offensive tackles

Taylor Decker: 63 (100%)
Penei Sewell: 63 (100%)
Matt Nelson: 22 (35%) — 4 (12%)

With the Lions lacking depth at tight end, they utilized Matt Nelson more than they have all season as sixth lineman, and as you’ll see from the next section, Nelson wasn’t the only lineman they used to help accommodate a shorthanded roster.

Sadly, Nelson couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity of a lifetime to catch an NFL touchdown, but Taylor Decker had his back.

Guards/centers

Jonah Jackson: 63 (100%) — 4 (12%)
Evan Brown: 63 (100%) — 4 (12%)
Tommy Kraemer: 63 (100%) — 4 (12%)
Parker Ehinger: 8 (13%) — 4 (12%)
Ryan McCollum: 0 (0%) — 4 (12%)

Tommy Kraemer filled in for Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who was placed on reserve/COVID-19 earlier in the week. Parker Ehinger saw his first offensive snaps of the season on Sunday, lining up as an extra tackle/tight end.

Defense

EDGE:

Charles Harris: 64 (89%) — 9 (28%)
Austin Bryant: 46 (64%) — 9 (28%)
Julian Okwara: 30 (42%)
Jessie Lemonier: 13 (18%) — 12 (38%)

Julian Okwara saw a pretty significant amount of playing time in his first game in a month. However, he only tallied three tackles and a QB hit. Detroit’s best performance from this group was Austin Bryant, who had five tackles, a tackle for loss and a QB hit.

DT:

Alim McNeill: 39 (54%)
Nick Williams: 38 (53%)
Levi Onwuzurike: 36 (50%) — 9 (28%)
John Penisini: 26 (36%) — 9 (28%)
Bruce Hector: 21 (29%)

With no Michael Brockers, several players saw a boost in playing time. Most notably, Levi Onwuzurike saw the second highest percentage of defensive snaps in his young career. Bruce Hector, for just the third time this year, logged defensive snaps and had three tackles to show for it.

Detroit also decided to go heavy in a failed attempt to stop the Seahawks running game. Nose tackles Alim McNeill and John Penisini were on the field collectively for 65 of 72 defensive snaps.

Linebackers

Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 72 (100%) — 9 (28%)
Derrick Barnes: 40 (56%) — 13 (41%)
Anthony Pittman: 21 (29%) — 28 (88%)
Tavante Beckett: 0 (0%) — 19 (59%)
Curtis Bolton: 0 (0%) — 16 (50%)

After it looked like Anthony Pittman had jumped him on the depth chart, rookie Derrick Barnes nearly doubled him in snaps this week. But it was a rough day from this linebacking crew overall.

Cornerbacks

Ifeatu Melifonwu: 72 (100%) — 10 (31%)
Will Harris: 67 (93%) — 5 (16%)
AJ Parker: 50 (69%)
Bobby Price: 5 (7%) — 18 (56%)
Mark Gilbert: 0 (0%) — 1 (3%)

Ifeatu Melifonwu not only played in every snap for the second consecutive game, but he also played a significant role on special teams. He had the tough responsibility of facing D.K. Metcalf and it didn’t go particularly well.

Unfortunately, with the Lions’ rookie class—Melifonwu, McNeill, Onwuzurike and Barnes—taking on a bigger responsibility this week, it was also one of the team’s worst defensive performances. Hopefully, this was a valuable learning experience for them all.

In fact, every Lions draft pick outside of seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson played a key role on Sunday:

  • First-round pick Penei Sewell: 100% of offensive snaps
  • Second-round pick Levi Onwuzurike: 50% of defensive snaps
  • Third-round pick Alim McNeill: 54% of defensive snaps
  • Third-round pick Ifeatu Melifonwu: 100% of defensive snaps
  • Fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown: 84% of offensive snaps
  • Fourth-round pick Derrick Barnes: 56% of defensive snaps

That also doesn’t include the significant contributions the Lions got from undrafted rookies like AJ Parker (69% of snaps) and Tommy Kraemer (100%).

Safety

Tracy Walker: 72 (100%) — 5 (16%)
Dean Marlowe: 70 (97%)
C.J. Moore: 10 (14%) — 28 (88%)
Brady Breeze: 0 (0%) — 25 (78%)

No surprises here. Brady Breeze, though, continues to make a positive impression on special teams.

Special teams

Jack Fox: 10 (31%)
Scott Daly: 7 (22%)
Riley Patterson: 6 (19%)

Though Jack Fox continues to take kickoff duties, it was Riley Patterson who was responsible for both onside kicks, one of which was recovered by Detroit. The second one was pretty close to a Lions recovery, too. A nice feather in Patterson’s cap, despite missing a 55-yard field goal in the game.

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