A Quick Preview of the 49ers’ Week 1 Opponent: the Detroit Lions

The Lions finished the 2020 season 5-11, but underwent a major makeover this offseason.
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The San Francisco 49ers found out their 2021 schedule on Wednesday. There’s plenty of time to break down how the 49ers stack up against each team, but let’s start with Week 1 by taking a look at the NFC North Detroit Lions. 

The Lions finished the 2020 season 5-11, but underwent a major makeover this offseason, which started with the solid hiring of head coach Dan Campbell. 

Like the 49ers, Detroit acquired a new “franchise” quarterback this offseason in Jared Goff. The Lions traded 12-year veteran and franchise icon quarterback Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Goff, a 2021 third round pick (Ifeatu Melifonwu), and 2022 and 2023 first round picks. 

Goff should be an extremely familiar opponent for San Francisco, which is a bonus for first-time defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. The former No. 1 pick never panned out in Los Angeles. 

San Francisco already knows what works against the limited quarterback. Goff is 3-5 against the 49ers in his career, 0-4 the last two seasons. 

Goff’s pass-catchers now include elite tight end T.J. Hockenson, and wide receivers Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus, Breshad Perriman, Geronimo Allison and rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown

He joins an interesting offense led by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, which means everyone should expect the Lions to run the ball. A lot. 

The former Chargers head coach struggled during his Los Angeles tenure. Yet, in his last season as an offensive coordinator, 2016 with Buffalo, he led the NFL in rushing yards and was second in rush attempts. 

That poses well for the offensive line, which might be the best unit on the team. The NFL’s highest-paid center, Frank Ragnow, leads the offensive line while tackles Taylor Decker and 2021 first round pick Penei Sewell secure the edges. 

The backfield consists of D’Andre Swift, pass-catcher Jamaal Williams, and 2021 seventh-round pick out of Oregon State Jermar Jefferson

Swift, a 2020 second-round pick out of Georgia, rushed for 521 yards and eight touchdowns on 114 carries in his debut season while splitting touches with veteran Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson (both no longer on the team). 

He’ll likely take a big jump with the running-back centric coaching staff. In addition to Lynn, a 14-year NFL running backs coach, the Lions also hired former Eagles running backs coach Duce Staley in the same role. 

On the other side of the ball, the Lions have a strong defensive line. Brothers Romeo and Julian Okwara, Trey Flowers and Charles Harris come off the edge while Da’Shawn Hand, Nick Williams and the newly acquired Michael Brockers, Alim McNeil and Levi Onwuzurike control the middle. 

The Lions’ secondary should pose an advantage for the 49ers. Jeffrey Okudah did not have the best rookie season last year (42.5 PFF grade), and the veteran Quinton Dunbar (47.7 PFF grade) was not much better in his six games. 

Vegas Insider currently projects the Lions to win five games. They’re in the early stages of rebuilding, but should not be overlooked like Arizona was in Week 1 last season. 

If the 49ers have truly rebounded to their 2019 form, they should have no problem starting the season 1-0. 

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