With so many players sitting out due to injury and illness on Sunday’s game, the Detroit Lions had to rely on several members of their 2021 rookie class.
While some were already inked into their starting roles, others were put in situations where they hadn’t played before.
On the offensive line, first-round pick Penei Sewell once again put on an elite performance. The rookie allowed no sacks and didn’t commit a single penalty despite going up against the Broncos’ stout defensive line.
Unfortunately the same couldn’t be said for undrafted rookie Ryan McCollum. McCollum was the only center remaining on the roster due to Frank Ragnow being on injured reserve and Evan Brown on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. McCollum allowed a sack on Jared Goff on the very first offensive drive for the Lions and committed a holding penalty later in the game. His snaps were never an issue, but his ability to keep the pocket clean needs a lot of work.
Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown came off a strong performance the week prior and managed to remain a sure-handed target for Goff against Denver. The rookie had eight receptions for 73 yards while aiding a very short-handed offense.
At tight end, the Lions had to rely on not one, but two, undrafted rookies. With T.J. Hockenson out, Brock Wright and Shane Zylstra took over duties at the tight end position. While both have been seen more as blocking options in the past, the two were utilized heavily in the passing game. Wright had three receptions for 20 yards. Zylstra was targeted six times but only came away with two catches. He had an unfortunate drop in the end zone at one point, but that error could be attributed more to a poor decision by Goff.
On the defensive line, third-round pick Alim McNeill came away with his first career sack and had arguably his best game as an interior pass-rusher. Levi Onwuzurike had a fairly quiet game despite being on the field for 40-percent of the defensive snaps. Both rookies came away with four tackles.
Derrick Barnes took 47 snaps on defense as an inside linebacker. The rookie struggled to defend the run and also had a rough outing in coverage, allowing a 32-yard reception at one point in the game. While he has all of the physical tools to play linebacker in the NFL, there’s still much to learn for the rookie.
In the secondary, starting cornerback Jerry Jacobs went down after five snaps after tearing his ACL due to some friendly fire by Will Harris.
Rookie running back Jermar Jefferson was active, but was kept on the bench most of the game. Head coach Dan Campbell attributed this to him missing a majority of practice due to injury and illness.
Offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer only took the field for the field goal and extra point attempt, which were both completed by fellow rookie Riley Patterson.