Snap count observations: Alim McNeill sees incredibly high usage vs. Vikings

Pride of Detroit

Let’s take a closer look at the Detroit Lions Week 3 snap counts from their 28-24 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Offense

Quarterbacks

Jared Goff: 78 (100% of offensive snaps)

Running backs

Jamaal Williams: 35 (45%)
D’Andre Swift: 32 (41%)
Craig Reynolds: 13 (17%) — 8 special teams snaps (29%)
Justin Jackson: 0 (0%) — 16 (57%)

Swift entered the game nursing an ankle injury, then suffered a shoulder injury, further limiting his availability. That expanded the need for the reserve backs to step up, with Williams leading the way in most categories. He finished the day with solid numbers across the board, but he has his limitations and lacks Swift’s game-breaking capabilities, which was noticeable in the team’s overall running game success.

Tight ends

T.J. Hockenson: 59 (76%)
Brock Wright: 30 (38%) — 11 (39%)
Shane Zylstra: 3 (4%) — 11 (39%)

A pretty standard reflection of tight end usage from previous weeks, and despite the extra opportunities for the group, the numbers were less than impressive. Hockenson caught three of the four passes thrown his way—including a touchdown grab—but the other two were blanked in the box score.

Wide receivers

Josh Reynolds: 62 (79%)
DJ Chark: 62 (79%)
Amon-Ra St. Brown: 57 (73%)
Kalif Raymond: 13 (17%) — 3 (11%)
Quintez Cephus: 10 (13%) — 11 (39%)

The Lions saw an uptick in usage of their outside receivers this week, which seemed like a pre-planned decision based on other roster moves, and more closely reflected their Week 1 numbers when the Lions were more passing-focused.

St. Brown briefly left the game with an injury, which allowed Raymond and Cephus to get slight bumps in their snap counts this week.

Offensive tackles

Taylor Decker: 78 (100%)
Penei Sewell: 78 (100%) — 6 (21%)
Matt Nelson: 14 (18%) — 6 (21%)

Nelson’s usage as a sixth offensive lineman continues to increase. In Week 1, he saw five snaps in the role, which was doubled in Week 2 (10 snaps), and this past Sunday it once again saw an uptick.

Guards/centers

Frank Ragnow: 78 (100%)
Dan Skipper: 78 (100%) — 6 (21%)
Evan Brown: 78 (100%) — 6 (21%)
Logan Stenberg: 0 (0%) — 6 (21%)
Kayode Awosika: 0 (0%) — 6 (21%)

Ragnow returned from injury and played every snap, which freed up Brown, and he replaced Stenberg at right guard. The Lions wanted to focus on their passing attack this week, and Brown has been significantly better than Stenberg in pass protection. It appears that the Lions did miss Stenberg’s contributions in the run game, though.

Defense

EDGE:

Charles Harris: 66 (92%) — 6 (21%)
Aidan Hutchinson: 57 (79%) — 6 (21%)
Julian Okwara: 20 (28%)
Austin Bryant: 19 (26%) — 6 (21%)

Harris saw his snap counts increase in this game, typically living in the 70-80% range, while Hutchinson continues to roll out snaps near the 80-90% range. Hutchinson was a bit subdued this week, likely due to injury, but he still got plenty of playing time.

Okwara saw his numbers dip as the Lions didn’t find themselves in very many obvious pass-rushing opportunities. Bryant replaced John Cominsky in the lineup and like Okwara, saw his role scaled back due to game situation.

DT:

Alim McNeill: 58 (81%)
Isaiah Buggs: 38 (53%)
Michael Brockers: 19 (26%)
Benito Jones: 13 (18%) — 6 (21%)

McNeill is a freak. At his size, he should not be able to stay on the field for 80 percent of the defensive snaps, but that is a reflection of how good of shape he is in because he was still impactful at times. His 58 snaps were a career high and double what he was averaging in his rookie season.

Buggs continues to out-snap Brockers, who appears to be relegated to McNeill’s backup at the 3-technique.

Linebackers

Alex Anzalone: 71 (99%) — 6 (21%)
Malcolm Rodriguez: 55 (76%) — 3 (11%)
Chris Board: 23 (32%) — 22 (79%)
Anthony Pittman: 2 (3%) — 22 (79%)
Josh Woods: 0 (0%) — 16 (57%)
Derrick Barnes: 0 (0%) — 13 (46%)

Anzalone has played on at least 90% of defensive snaps every week, while Rodriguez has slowly seen his percentages increase each game, expanding from 60% to 73% to 76%. Board continues to be the third option for the Lions and Barnes has not played a snap on defense since the opener. A disappointing turn of events for the 2021 fourth-round pick.

It will be interesting to see how the team replaces Pittman next week, as he has exhausted his game-day elevations for the season.

Cornerbacks

Jeff Okudah: 72 (100%)
Amani Oruwariye 71 (99%)
Mike Hughes: 44 (61%) — 10 (36%)
Will Harris: 20 (28%) — 17 (61%)
Bobby Price: 0 (0%) — 22 (79%)

Okudah appears to have his cramping situation under control, and he was arguably the Lions’ best player on the field on Sunday. Oruwariye returned from injury, but he looked like he was still dealing with back issues, as he was caught grabbing and holding all game.

With the Vikings success in the run game, Hughes saw his time reduced in favor of Harris, who is the more physical of the two.

Safety

DeShon Elliott: 72 (100%)
JuJu Hughes: 63 (88%) — 13 (46%)
Tracy Walker: 8 (11%) — 1 (4%)
Kerby Joseph: 0 (0%) — 14 (50%)

Just eight snaps into Week 3, Walker went down with an injury that “doesn’t look real good”, according to coach Dan Campbell. He was replaced by JuJu Hughes, who figures to be the first man up to replace Walker if his injury is indeed long-term.

Joseph, a third-round rookie, has yet to see a snap on defense this season, but he has desirable ball-hawking range which could get him some opportunities to compete for a role.

Meanwhile, Ifeatu Melifonwu was a healthy inactive, but he may get a shot next week if Walker’s injury is indeed long-term.

Special teams

Austin Seibert: 11 (39%)
Jack Fox: 9 (32%)
Scott Daly: 9 (32%)

The Lions special teams are typically a strength of the team but they struggled mightily in this game. Seibert missed two of his three attempts and Fox didn’t quite have his usual pop in his kicks, averaging 44.7 yards per punt, but only placing one of his three inside the 20-yard line.

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