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Lions Grades: Defense Flops, Offense Gives Reason for Hope

Here are the Detroit Lions' offensive and defensive positional group grades, after their preseason loss to the Atlanta Falcons.

The Detroit Lions’ preseason opener was a mixed bag in terms of evaluating the roster. 

In losing 27-23 to the Atlanta Falcons, there were plenty of positive and negative moments. 

The first team offense drove straight down the field on the opening drive and scored a touchdown, but a costly fumble later in the game and an inability to get key stops on defense ultimately doomed the Lions.

Here are position grades from Friday’s loss:

Quarterback: C

Goff was nearly perfect on his only possession. He went 3-for-4 on that possession, with his only incompletion a drop by running back Jamaal Williams. The second-year Lion looked comfortable on bootlegs and play action passes designed by offensive coordinator Ben Johnson.

Backups Tim Boyle and David Blough both produced inconsistent results. Boyle made a spectacular back-shoulder throw to Kalif Raymond in the second quarter and a nice toss to tight end Devin Funchess for a score.

Boyle’s night ended with an interception, however. Blough entered and was impressive making plays on the move, but fumbled a snap that led to Atlanta’s game-winning touchdown.

Running backs: C-

D’Andre Swift scored Detroit’s first touchdown on a nine-yard spurt. Both he and Jamaal Williams benefitted from running behind the stout first team offensive line.

Once the offensive line departed, the running backs weren’t asked to do a ton. Jermar Jefferson led the team with nine carries but only managed 19 yards. Craig Reynolds carried three times for 13 yards and Godwin Igwebuike managed just four yards on three carries.

Wide receivers: B

Amon-Ra St. Brown started his second season with a bang, hauling in two passes on Detroit’s first scoring drive. One of those was an impressive catch and run down the sideline that set up Swift’s touchdown.

Raymond made a nice reception on the throw from Boyle and Trinity Benson had a 24-yard catch, but it was Tom Kennedy who stole the show. The New Jersey native finished with eight catches for 104 yards.

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Tight ends: B-

Starter T.J. Hockenson didn’t play, leaving the starting role to Brock Wright. The Notre Dame product reeled in Goff’s first completion, an 18-yard connection to set the tone for the opening series.

Elsewhere, Devin Funchess stole the show with his performance. Looking to resurrect his career after not playing in a regular season game since 2019, he finished with a touchdown catch from Boyle and a hurdle over a defender.

Backups Garrett Griffin, Nolan Givan and Shane Zylstra each also had catches.

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Offensive line: A-

Friday marked the first time that Detroit has had its core five starters on the offensive line start together in a game. They made their presence felt, as the offense marched 79 yards on 10 plays on its way to a touchdown.

The second and third groups were quick shaky at times, giving Boyle and Blough time to throw, but also collapsing under pressure. Boyle was sacked on the game’s final series. Matt Nelson had a penalty for holding declined, but the unit stayed penalty free for the rest of the night.

Defensive line: C-

The Lions’ defensive front was able to get pressure early on in the matchup but couldn’t capitalize. Aidan Hutchinson made a big play early, tackling Qadree Ollison for a loss on the first series.

Ultimately, the game was defined by the unit’s inability to bring down Atlanta’s mobile quarterbacks. Starter Marcus Mariota ran for a score and backup Desmond Ridder finished with 62 yards on the ground.

On Atlanta’s game-winning score, Ridder was pursued by several defenders but escaped and launched the touchdown pass.

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Linebackers: C-

With Alex Anzalone not playing, Derrick Barnes and Malcolm Rodriguez got the start at linebacker. Rodriguez started his career with a thud, smacking kick returner Avery Williams on Detroit’s first kickoff.

However, the linebackers were fooled on the first play from scrimmage as they bit at a run fake instead of pursuing the quarterback.

Chris Board made one tackle in his Lions debut, with Shaun Dion Hamilton and James Houston each adding one. Josh Woods led the position group with four tackles.

Secondary: B

Detroit had opportunities to make plays in the secondary. Ridder finished 10-for-22 as the Lions made it difficult to hit deep passes all night. Bobby Price intercepted a pass, but it was negated by a roughing the passer penalty.

The Lions had a chance to secure victory late in the game, but cornerback Chase Lucas dropped what would’ve been the game-winning interception. Two plays later, Ridder hit the game winning pass to Bernhardt, who shook Cedrick Boswell to get open.

Specialists: B+

Both Austin Seibert and Riley Patterson made all of their kicks. Seibert hit from 46, while Patterson had a long of 28. Jack Fox had a booming kick, as his only punt went for 65 yards.

The return game was mostly consistent. Undrafted rookie Kalil Pimpleton let a punt drop, which allowed it to roll deep into Detroit’s own territory. Benson was the team’s starting kick returner and totaled 75 yards on three returns.