Snap count observations: Reserves play huge role in win over Commanders

Pride of Detroit

Let’s take a closer look at the Detroit Lions Week 2 snap counts from their 36-27 victory over the Washington Commanders.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff: 61 (100% of offensive snaps)

Running backs

D’Andre Swift: 31 (51%)
Jamaal Williams: 21 (34%)
Craig Reynolds: 9 (15%) — 11 special teams snaps (34%)
Justin Jackson: 0 (0%) — 22 (69%)

The Lions did indeed limit Swift’s pitch count due to his injured ankle, but maybe not as much as you’d think considering he only had seven touches in the game. He still played over 50 percent of the snaps on Sunday.

Jamaal Williams led the group in touches, getting 13 in just 21 snaps—a ridiculously high percentage for the Lions’ backup running back.

Notably, Craig Reynolds was the team’s RB3 on Sunday, and he was efficient (5.3 YPC) in his three touches.

Tight ends

T.J. Hockenson: 54 (89%)
Brock Wright: 22 (36%) — 12 (38%)
Shane Zylstra: 10 (16%) — 13 (41%)

The Lions went a little more tight end heavy this week, and the reasoning is likely obvious. For one, Detroit was likely looking for some extra help on their beat-up offensive line. Secondly, the Commanders are a team that doesn’t cover the middle of the field particularly well, so Detroit likely believed their tight ends provided a mismatch for them.

The production in the pass game was a bit underwhelming (four catches, 51 yards), but they remain an important part of this team’s identity, both in the passing game and as run blockers.

Wide receivers

Amon-Ra St. Brown: 52 (85%) — 1 (3%)
Josh Reynolds: 44 (72%) — 1 (3%)
DJ Chark: 40 (66%)
Quintez Cephus: 6 (10%) — 15 (47%)
Kalif Raymond: 6 (10%) — 8 (25%)

St. Brown continues to lead the way in snaps among wide receivers, and he continues to warrant every single one of those. It may be surprising to see Chark have such a limited involvement, but it’s clear he’s still finding his way in this offense and developing chemistry with Goff.

That said, kudos to both Quintez Cephus and Kalif Raymond for making the most of their opportunities. Cephus not only had a key block on St. Brown’s huge end around but tallied two special teams tackles, as well. Raymond’s big punt return sparked Detroit’s first touchdown drive. Both got a shoutout from coach Dan Campbell after the game, which could warrant more playing time down the line.

Offensive tackles

Taylor Decker: 61 (100%)
Penei Sewell: 61 (100%) — 6 (19%)
Matt Nelson: 10 (16%) — 6 (19%)

Nothing new here. The Lions continue to regularly use Matt Nelson as the sixth offensive lineman, and that was likely even more important on a day in which the Lions started three reserve interior offensive linemen.

Guards/centers

Logan Stenberg: 61 (100%) — 6 (19%)
Dan Skipper: 61 (100%) — 6 (19%)
Evan Brown: 61 (100%) — 6 (19%)
Kayode Awosika: 0 (0%) — 6 (19%)

Game ball to this entire group. It wasn’t the prettiest performance from this trio, but they played far above expectations against a talented group of Commanders interior defenders.

Mildly interesting: the Lions used Kayode Awosika—added just this week—over Drew Forbes on special teams. That’s probably not a great sign for Forbes’ future on this team.

Defense

EDGE:

Aidan Hutchinson: 60 (81%) — 2 (6%)
Charles Harris: 52 (70%) — 2 (6%)
Julian Okwara: 33 (45%) — 2 (6%)
John Cominsky: 31 (42%) — 2 (6%)

That’s a pretty huge workload again for Aidan Hutchinson, despite the fact that he was clearly playing on an injured leg for the majority of the second half. But it’s also worth noting the increased playing time for the reserves. The reason for that is pretty obvious: Detroit found themselves in a lot more obvious passing situations, allowing them to utilize their NASCAR package—which basically means throwing every passer rusher you have out there in one formation.

The team didn’t really ease Julian Okwara in, giving the third-year outside linebacker a healthy 33 snaps in his 2022 debut.

DT:

Alim McNeill: 44 (59%)
Isaiah Buggs: 40 (54%)
Michael Brockers: 25 (34%)
Benito Jones: 22 (30%)

In case you were wondering if Michael Brockers’ decreased role last week against the Eagles was a game-plan-specific anomaly, this pretty much confirms that Brockers—despite being a captain of this team—is essentially a role player right now. While that should certainly be considered disappointing considering how much the Lions are paying him, it should also be considered a feather in the cap of nose tackle Isaiah Buggs, who is playing pretty darn well.

Linebackers

Alex Anzalone: 67 (91%) — 2 (6%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 54 (73%) — 10 (31%)
Chris Board: 16 (22%) — 25 (78%)
Anthony Pittman: 2 (3%) — 13 (41%)
Josh Woods: 0 (0%) — 23 (72%)
Derrick Barnes: 0 (0%) — 13 (41%)

After playing 22 snaps last week, Derrick Barnes was relegated to just special teams on Sunday, with even practice squad elevated Anthony Pittman getting a couple snaps in the game. While that has to be considered disappointing for the Lions’ 2021 fourth-round pick, it also speaks to the continued rise of “Rodrigo,” whose stellar play has essentially earned him a fixed, full-time role on defense.

It’s also interesting to see Chris Board with a significant role. The Lions like him best as a third-down option, capable of both blitzing (1 QB hit on Sunday) and dropping into coverage.

Cornerbacks

Will Harris: 74 (100%) — 8 (25%)
Mike Hughes: 67 (91%) — 1 (3%)
Jeff Okudah: 63 (85%)
Bobby Price: 15 (20%) — 25 (78%)
Chase Lucas: 2 (3%) — 13 (41%)

The Lions were in nickel for nearly the entire game, which is notable for two different reasons. For one, it shows that the Lions had confidence in their defensive front stopping the run without committing extra resources to it. Of course, the Commanders spent most of the day playing from behind in obvious passing situations, so that likely dictated some of Detroit’s strategy.

With Jeff Okudah dealing with cramps again, Bobby Price stepped in and played admirably, even notching an interception on one of Washington’s two-point conversion attempts. And a big congratulations to Chase Lucas on his first career NFL game, and he even got two defensive snaps out of it!

Safety

Tracy Walker: 74 (100%) — 8 (25%)
DeShon Elliott: 73 (99%) — 1 (3%)
JuJu Hughes: 0 (0%) — 21 (66%)
Kerby Joseph: 0 (0%) — 16 (50%)

After getting ejected last week, Walker made for certain he wasn’t going to leave the field in Week 2. Elliott wasn’t far behind, missing just a single snap.

One thing to keep in mind about this group is that Ifeatu Melifonwu is likely very close to returning to the lineup. It will be interesting to see how he fits into Detroit’s weekly game plan with them relying so heavily on their two starters. Will they carve out a role for him, or will he have to earn his way onto the field through special teams?

Special teams

Austin Seibert: 13 (41%)
Jack Fox: 11 (34%)
Scott Daly: 11 (34%)

Special teams are a thing, too.

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