Week 15 snap counts: Despite heavy defensive front, Lions fail to slow down Titans’ run game

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Erik Schlitt
·6 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Detroit Lions’ biggest weakness on defense is stopping the run, and with Derrick Henry on the opposite side of the ball yesterday, the Lions made some adjustments up front to try and slow him down.

The Tennessee Titans got the ball to start the game and methodically marched down the field for an easy rushing touchdown. The Lions were trying to get a feel for how to adjust their defensive line, and when they deployed a 3-3-5 with a JACK linebacker on the edge, the Titans liked the matchup and switched to a no-huddle offense to keep the advantage in their favor.

After that, the Lions went bigger, leaning not only on their defensive tackles to play the interior, but occasionally they would shift out to the edge in big sets.

Despite the extra bulk, the Titans still ran for 195 yards on Sunday, with Henry accounting for 147 of them.

The Lions’ strategy made sense. The issue is, they lack the talent to compete in the trenches right now. With starters Trey Flowers, Danny Shelton, and Da’Shawn Hand are all on injured reserve, along with Everson Griffen out due to a stint on the COVID-19 list, the Lions are asking a lot of their other players and they aren’t able to get it done.

Not much is expected to change over the final two games. Maybe Griffen returns. Maybe Flowers too. But this is an issue that speaks to a bigger issue with the roster that is going to need to be addressed in the offseason.

That and more in this week’s snap count review.

Quarterback

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

  • Matthew Stafford: 56, 86-percent

  • Chase Daniel: 9, 14-percent

Stafford gutted it out once again, putting his health on the line in an effort to play for his teammates. He played remarkably well considering the circumstances surrounding this game, proving once again his fortitude. After the failed fourth-down conversion that led to the firing of special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs, interim coach Darrell Bevell switch out signal callers on the next drive, effectively waiving the white flag on the game.

Running back

AP Photo/Ben Margot

Swift is now fully back into the starting role and the Lions effectively moved Peterson into a goalline back role, while Johnson remains mostly on third downs. Cabinda's usage continues to drop with Bevell calling the shots now.

Wide receivers

  • Marvin Jones Jr.: 58, 89-percent

  • Mohamad Sanu: 42, 65-percent

  • Quintez Cephus: 29, 45-percent

  • Danny Amendola: 27, 42-percent

  • Jamal Agnew: 10, 15-percent

Not much has changed over the last three weeks for this group. Kenny Golladay continues to miss games, Jones quietly had another fantastic day, Sanu has found his groove in Detroit, Cephus is emerging, Amendola regressing, and Agnew is settling into a gadget role. Expect the same over the last two weeks of the season.

Tight ends

AP Photo/Wade Payne

  • T.J. Hockenson: 52, 80-percent

  • Jesse James: 32, 49-percent

  • Hunter Bryant: 7, 11-percent

Hockenson has seen over 80-percent of the offense's snaps for the second week in a row and is really developing into an all-around weapon. Bryant's snaps rose from four last week to seven this week, and he was able to notch his first career reception in remarkable fashion.

Offensive line

AP Photo/Ben Margot

  • LT – Taylor Decker: 65, 100-percent

  • LG – Jonah Jackson: 65, 100-percent

  • C – Joe Dahl: 65, 100-percent

  • RG – Oday Aboushi: 65, 100-percent

  • RT -- Hal Vaitai: 33, 51-percent

  • RT – Matt Nelson: 33, 51-percent

Dahl took over for Frank Ragnow, as expected, and he seemed to struggle to adjust in his first career start at center. It's a tough ask of Dahl, but it may also explain why he has lost his starting job to Aboushi. With Vaitai back, Nelson was relegated to a sixth offensive linemen role. But, halfway through the game, Vaitai went down with a concussion and Nelson found himself on the field for the fourth game in a row.

Interior defensive line

  • John Penisini: 48, 71-percent

  • Nick Williams: 42, 62-percent

  • Kevin Strong: 37, 54-percent

  • Frank Herron: 34, 50-percent

All four defensive tackles played at least half the defensive snaps, but the extra bulk didn't help the Lions execute their game plan any better. Shelton and Flowers (who pushes inside at times) are eligible to return from IR at any time, and the Lions could use their help.

EDGE rushers

  • Romeo Okwara: 58, 85-percent

  • Austin Bryant: 39, 57-percent

Okwara continues to positively build his resume in a contract year. Along with the safety he registered in this game, he has eight sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a pass break up, a punt block, and a field goal block. It took a while to get Bryant on the field but now that he's out there again, he is looking sharp. At a minimum, the Lions should have an EDGE depth piece in him for the next scheme.

Linebackers

AP Photo/Ben Margot

  • Jamie Collins: 54, 79-percent

  • Jahlani Tavai: 31, 46-percent

  • Christian Jones: 29, 43-percent

  • Jarrad Davis: 27, 40-percent

  • Reggie Ragland: 24, 35-percent

After it was clear the linebackers couldn't slow Henry down, their roles were scaled back some, but the distribution stayed relatively the same -- save Ragland's role, which continues to decline.

Corners

  • Amani Oruwariye: 68, 100-percent

  • Justin Coleman: 50, 74-percent

  • Alex Meyers: 28, 41-percent

  • Mike Ford: 15, 22-percent

Ford's foot injury forced him to miss some time, which opened the door for Meyers to get more game action than was expected. Unfortunately, he will be best remembered for the picture above, after taking a poor angle on Henry and being discarded. He's still young and with the Lions' injuries in the secondary, he could get another chance to rebound this season.

Safeties

  • Duron Harmon: 68, 100-percent

  • Jayron Kearse: 67, 99-percent

  • Will Harris: 16, 24-percent

  • Tracy Walker: 13, 19-percent

Like Ford, Walker's injury likely took a toll on his snap counts this week, opening the door up for Harris to get in some more work. Walker did not get an injury designation during the game, so hopefully, this is not a long term issue.

Special teams

  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin: 22

  • Miles Killebrew: 22

  • C.J. Moore: 16

  • Will Harris: 16

  • Jamal Agnew: 16

  • Jason Cabinda: 14

  • Jesse James: 12

  • Christian Jones: 12

  • Romeo Okwara: 11

  • Mike Ford: 11

  • Jahlani Tavai: 10

  • Dan Skipper: 10

  • Matt Prater: 9

  • Hunter Bryant: 8

  • Quintez Cephus: 8

  • Jack Fox: 7

  • Jarrad Davis: 7

  • Duron Harmon: 7

  • Kerryon Johnson: 7

  • Amani Oruwariye: 6

  • Don Muhlbach: 6

  • Jayron Kearse: 5

  • Tracy Walker: 5

The only noticeable change here is that Kerryon Johnson has seen a handful of special teams snaps for the second game in a row -- something he has not done much of his career. Also of note: Assistant special teams coordinator Marquice Williams will take over play-calling duties moving forward.