We got our first look at the 2022 Detroit Lions against another opponent in the preseason opener against the Atlanta Falcons. The Lions dropped an action-packed game, 27-23, when the deep reserves on both sides of the ball couldn’t come through late in the game.
Over 75 Lions saw action in the game, including most projected starters. It was a great chance to gauge where players are at in positional battles and overall roster chances.
Here are the Lions who saw their stock rise in Friday night’s game at Ford Field, and those whose stock fell in the loss to the Falcons too.
Stock up: Starting offensive line
They played just 10 reps. It was all that was needed.
The starting offensive line of Taylor Decker, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai and Penei Sewell took the field together for the first time and proved worthy of the hype. They collectively dominated the Falcons on a 79-yard scoring drive that almost seemed too easy for the blockers.
Stock down: Reserve offensive linemen
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
As good as the starting offensive line played, their backups fared much differently. Atlanta’s defensive front largely dominated the game once the second-team OL entered, and the third-team line was even shakier for Detroit.
Two players in particular stood out for their struggles: tackles Matt Nelson and Obinna Eze. Nelson got caught playing far too upright at right tackle with the second-team line, getting zero push in the run game. Nelson was also guilty of a penalty and gave up a bad pressure on QB Tim Boyle. He was outplayed by newcomer Kendall Lamm on the right side.
As rough as Nelson was as the second-team RT, Eze took it to another level. The undrafted rookie from TCU completely whiffed on two run blocks, unable to fire out his long arms fast enough to engage the quick Falcons end. Eze was on the hook for one sack and can thank QB David Blough for avoiding two others where he was soundly beaten off the line.
Stock up: Devin Funchess
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
In the battle royale for backup tight end spots, Funchess leapt from the top rope and delivered a great blow to the competition. Funchess caught all four passing targets thrown his way, netting 19 total yards and scoring a touchdown on a beauty fade pattern and nice throw from backup QB Tim Boyle.
Funchess played the second-most reps of any TE in the game, behind only starter (with T.J. Hockenson out) Brock Wright. The veteran wideout took a big step toward making the team as he converts from WR and shakes the rust off almost three seasons of not playing in the regular season.
Stock down: Derrick Barnes
(AP Photo/Tony Ding)
The linebackers as a whole did not have a good game against Atlanta, which qualifies as a dramatic understatement. Chief among the LBs who will not like the game film review from the preseason opener is Derrick Barnes.
Barnes got the starting nod along with rookie Malcolm Rodriguez, with veteran Alex Anzalone sitting out. Outside of one fantastic play, a well-timed run blitz where Barnes exploded past a block and wrapped up the ball carrier nicely for a TFL, the second-year LB struggled. He was consistently lost in backside run containment and a step late in coverage situations.
Stock up: Tom Kennedy
Kennedy had a very productive night. He led all Lions with eight receptions on 12 targets and topped 100 receiving yards.
Now in his fourth Lions training camp, the former lacrosse standout at Bryant is making a case to earn a spot on the initial 53-man roster. His toughness after the catch and attention to detail in both route-running and run blocking has stood out all summer, and that manifested nicely for Kennedy in a big game vs. Atlanta.
Stock down: AJ Parker
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The second-year slot corner did not have a good 2022 debut. Parker blew backside containment on two separate runs that resulted in first downs for Atlanta. No. 41 also missed a tackle attempt and got beaten on a crossing pattern (the ball went elsewhere) in an eventful–and not in a good way–10 total snaps on defense.
Stock up: Aidan Hutchinson
(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)
The first-team defense gave up a long touchdown drive to Atlanta, but don’t blame Hutchinson. The No. 2 overall pick had an impactful debut in Detroit.
Hutchinson made the national highlights with a sweet tackle-for-loss where he turned veteran Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews into a matador. The big rookie also drew a holding penalty while aligned at tackle on a third-down rep, something we’ve consistently seen in practice all summer too.