Lions rookie expectations for the Week 11 matchup with the Browns

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With an injury-riddled roster and not much left to lose, the 0-8-1 Detroit Lions are set to take on the Cleveland Browns with the hopes of finally earning their first win of the season.

Detroit has several starters and other key players who are either ruled out or questionable to play, opening the door for some of the younger players to step in and prove themselves. There are currently 12 rookies on the active roster for the Lions and many of them are expected to have a role in this matchup against Cleveland.

(AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Detroit currently has three first-year offensive linemen: tackle Penei Sewell, center Ryan McCollum and guard Tommy Kraemer.

Sewell has been a starter for every game this season either at left or right tackle. Starting left tackle Taylor Decker is officially listed as questionable for this game, but is expected to play. This means that Sewell should be the Lions’ man on the right side of the line. Right now the rookie is playing the best he has all season – not allowing a sack or committing a penalty since before the bye week.

As for McCollum and Kraemer, the two rookies have taken just four offensive snaps each and shouldn’t be seeing the field unless injuries force them into the action.

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For rookie wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, it’s a little more unclear how he will perform in this game. With Jared Goff out, the Lions will be relying on backup Tim Boyle, who was recently activated off of injured reserve. In two seasons for Green Bay, Boyle has completed three passes for 15 yards. With such uncertainty over what the backup quarterback is capable of, it is hard to know if St. Brown and the rest of the receiving corps will have opportunities in this game.

Going off of that, it seems almost certain that the ground game will be a big factor for Detroit’s offense against Cleveland. Unfortunately, rookie running back Jermar Jefferson will be sitting out for this game while he recovers from a knee and ankle injury.

Assisting with the run game will be backup tight end Brock Wright. As the only other tight end on the roster, Wright’s sole duties will be to run block – something he has done exceptionally well thus far. He did finally get some use as a receiver last weekend, but it’s fair to assume that he will be a non-factor in that aspect of the offense.

On the defensive side of the ball, there are several other rookies that should see significant playing time.

Defensive linemen Alim McNeill and Levi Onwuzurike both have been rotated into the game on a fairly frequent basis. While neither of the rookies have made any big plays, they have created pressure and racked up their fair share of tackles. McNeill will share his reps with John Penisini at nose tackle while Onwuzurike will have to split time with Michael Brockers, Da’Shawn Hand, and Nick Williams at the 3- and 5- technique roles.

In the defensive backfield, three rookie cornerbacks have begun to make names for themselves. AJ Parker has been the starting nickel/slot cornerback for most of the season and has shown more and more improvement as the season has progressed. Jerry Jacobs will start at outside cornerback and Mark Gilbert will be his backup. Jacobs has only allowed one touchdown while also breaking up five passes and making 20 tackles. Gilbert showed a flash of real potential after forcing a fumble on Diontae Johnson last Sunday.

The final rookie on this list is a newly-signed kicker, Riley Patterson.

Patterson was just signed off of the Patriots’ practice squad. The rookie from Memphis will be the starter for Detroit. What makes his situation interesting is that the Lions also just elevated Aldrick Rosas to the active roster, giving them two options at placekicker for this game. The team will have to decide if they want to roll with the rookie who has yet to take an NFL snap or the former Pro Bowler now on his fifth team in his six-year career.