Aaron Glenn’s head-coaching star fading fast as Detroit Lions’ defense struggles

Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks down the Detroit Lions’ 48-45 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and looks at players and coaches who helped and hurt their stock Sunday at Ford Field.

Three up

TE T.J. Hockenson: The forgotten man in the Lions’ offense the first three games, Hockenson had a huge day Sunday with eight catches for 179 yards and two touchdowns. His biggest play was an 81-yard catch, when he broke two tackles to turn a short crossing route into a career-long gain. Hockenson appeared frustrated and out of sync with Jared Goff early this season, but Sunday proved he remains one of the best receiving tight ends in the NFL and should get paid accordingly.

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WR Josh Reynolds: Reynolds has revitalized his career since being thrown to the curb midway through last season with the Tennessee Titans. He didn’t have numbers quite on par with Hockenson on Sunday, but on a day when the Lions played without Amon-Ra St. Brown and DJ Chark, Reynolds had seven catches for 81 yards and a touchdown and got good separation on most of his routes. “I trust him,” Goff said. “I trust him a lot and we’re on the same page and our communication is great and he’s playing as confident as I’ve ever seen him. He’s strong, he’s physical. He can win versus anybody right now, and he’s a guy that we trust a lot.”

LB Malcolm Rodriguez: The Lions did not do much right defensively Sunday, but the rookie continues to look advanced beyond his years at linebacker. The sixth-round pick had 10 tackles, including one for loss, when he was quick to diagnose a screen pass to Kenneth Walker III, and he had a quarterback pressure that led to an intentional grounding penalty. On special teams, Rodriguez forced a fumble to set up a Lions touchdown. He missed a few snaps with an apparent shoulder injury that will be re-evaluated Monday, but Rodriguez remains a bright spot on an otherwise desolate defense.

Three down

DC Aaron Glenn: Glenn’s status as a rising coaching star has faded considerably in the first quarter of the season. The Lions are young and thin on defense, but they are allowing an unacceptable 35.3 points per game and there’s little reason so far to believe Glenn can fix the problems. The Lions have one or fewer sacks in three of their four games and they’ve allowed two 200-yard rushing games already this season. Glenn’s job does not appear to be in any danger, unlike former offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn midway through last year. But after interviewing for head coaching jobs in Denver and New Orleans last offseason, he’s trending towards being left off the coaching carousel come January.

K Dominik Eberle: Sounds weird to say after his struggles last week, but, boy, did the Lions miss Austin Seibert on Sunday. Eberle was signed off the practice squad Saturday to handle kicking duties and might be one-and-done in Detroit. He missed two extra points in the first half, putting the Lions in a hole early, and sent a kickoff out of bounds. Seibert is day-to-day with his groin injury, but the Lions should schedule kicker workouts for Tuesday just in case.

S Kerby Joseph: Joseph, who played sparingly on defense the first two weeks, got the surprise start at safety with Tracy Walker out for the season and looked unprepared for the job. The rookie third-round pick out of Illinois was beat by tight end Will Dissly down the seam for Seattle’s first touchdown, and left tight end Noah Fant open for a second Seattle score in the first half. Joseph, who finished with four tackles, including one open-field stop on DK Metcalf, gets a bit of a pass because he’s so inexperienced. But the Lions need him to mature quickly over the final three-quarters of the season if their defense is going to improve.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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