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Packers-Lions First Look: Six Things to Know About the Foe

Introducing the Week 2 opponent, the Detroit Lions, a group that includes quarterback Jared Goff, running back Jamaal Williams and a shaky secondary.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers will host the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football. Here are six things to know about this week’s opponent.

No. 1: Jared Goff at Quarterback

The quarterbacking matchup pits a couple of former Cal Bears who led their teams to the Super Bowl in their third season as the starter.

Jared Goff, of course, did that with the Los Angeles Rams. This offseason, he was traded to Detroit in the blockbuster Matthew Stafford deal. Stafford won NFC Player of the Week for his performance against the Chicago Bears in Week 1. Goff had a big week, too, in attempting to rally the Lions against the San Francisco 49ers.

Goff finished 38-of-57 passing for 324 yards and three touchdowns, but a lot of that came after his pick-six helped put the Lions in a 31-7 hole at halftime. Goff’s yardage total ranked fifth through Week 1 but, of 31 quarterbacks with at least 20 dropbacks, he was fifth-from-last with 5.9 yards per attempt. The average length of his completions went 3.9 yards, second-shortest.

Goff led the Rams to the playoffs last season. In the divisional round at Lambeau Field, Goff again completed a high percentage of his passes (21-of-27) but for minimal yards (174).

No. 2: Jamaal Williams Part of Potent Backfield

D’Andre Swift and former Packers runner Jamaal Williams form a quality two-man backfield. Against San Francisco, Williams rushed nine times for 54 yards and one touchdown and added eight receptions for 56 yards. Swift rushed 11 times for 39 yards but added eight receptions for 65 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown. Together, they accounted for 214 yards and two scores.

Williams, Ezekiel Elliott and Alvin Kamara are the only players in the NFL with a four-year streak of 450 rushing yards and 200 receiving yards. Williams’ 6.5 yards per touch last week ranked third among running backs.

“Jamaal Williams is a great person,” Packers right tackle Billy Turner said. “He was one of my favorite teammates that I’ve ever probably played with. He’s just a great dude, not only on the football field and in the locker room, but off the field, as well. I loved talking to Jamaal, just about life and I love watching him go out on the field on Sunday and play because he plays the game the right way. Him and Aaron Jones are very, very similar. They play the game hard and they give it their all every single play.”

Swift was a second-round pick last year out of Georgia. As a rookie, he rushed for 521 yards (4.6 average) and added 46 receptions to total 878 yards and 10 touchdowns from scrimmage. He was high school teammates with Packers guard Jon Runyan.

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No. 3: T.J. Hockenson Top Receiving Threat

Swift, Williams and tight end T.J. Hockenson each caught eight passes against San Francisco. Hockenson turned his opportunities into 97 yards and one touchdown. Of that total, 68 yards came on first down and seven of his receptions created first downs. Since entering the league as the eighth pick of the 2019 draft, he is eighth among tight ends in receiving yards.

“T.J. did a great job,” Goff said after the game. “It’s a chemistry that I’ve spoken about that we’ve been building I think ever since I first got here that me and him have been working together. There are a lot of things today that showed up that are from all that work and from that chemistry that you’re talking about. I think specifically the touchdown, just being a player there and kind of adjusting his route to make it work. It was good and we made it work.”

Hockenson’s production is a necessity because the receiver corps isn’t great. Last week, Kalif Raymond (69 snaps), rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown (59 snaps), Tyrell Williams (39 snaps before a concussion) and Quintez Cephus (32 snaps) were the primary receivers. They combined to catch 10 of 18 targets for 99 yards and one touchdown (by Cephus). St. Brown is a fourth-round pick and the brother of Packers receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Cephus, a former Wisconsin star, was a fifth-round pick in 2020. The other two went undrafted.

No. 4: In the Trenches

With veteran left tackle Taylor Decker on short-term injured reserve, No. 7 overall draft pick Penei Sewell moved from right tackle to left tackle to start against San Francisco. One of the top offensive line prospects in years, he allowed zero sacks but six pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Matt Nelson, a defensive lineman at Iowa, got the start at right tackle and allowed one sack and six pressures.

The unit’s best player is center Frank Ragnow, who signed a contract extension during the offseason that’s worth $71 million and ties him to the Lions through the 2026 season.

On the other side of the ball, the Lions moved to a 3-4 defense under new coach Dan Campbell. Alim McNeill is the nose tackle, and he’s flanked by veteran ends Michael Brockers and Nick Williams. In his 10th season, Brockers has started 137 of a possible 145 games in his career. With the Rams last season, he had one of his best years with five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. The group provided next to nothing for a pass rush last week; Williams had the only pressure, according to PFF.

The ends in the old 4-3 alignment, Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara are the starting outside linebackers now. Flowers is a quality player – over the last five seasons, he is one of five players in the NFL to accumulate at least 195 tackles, 23 sacks and 10 forced fumbles – but he was skunked by the Niners. Okwara, though, had four pressures.

No. 5: Short at Cornerback

Detroit’s struggles to defend the pass last week was a group effort. The 49ers gained 22-plus yards on eight passes and Deebo Samuel piled up nine receptions for 189 yards and one touchdown.

Last year’s top draft pick, Jeff Okudah, suffered a season-ending Achilles tear last week and will miss the rest of the season. Without him, Amani Oruwariye and rookie third-round pick Ifeatu Melifonwu will be the starting tandem. Oruwariye gave up touchdowns to Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the December matchup at Ford Field. A.J. Parker, an undrafted rookie, manned the slot against the 49ers. He wasn’t targeted in 11 coverage snaps, according to PFF.

No. 6: The Lions Snapshot

Graphic from NFL Communications

Graphic from NFL Communications