Seasoned reporter John Maakaron covers the Detroit Lions for All Lions. Pulling back the curtain to look at the upstart team, he answers five questions heading into Sunday's Week 4 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks.
1. How significant will the absence of D'Andre Swift and Amon-Ra St. Brown be on Detroit's top-ranked offense?
Dan Campbell's team will be without two players responsible for nearly half of the offensive production this season. Despite the injuries, the team still has weapons to turn to this week, including tight end T.J. Hockenson and running back Jamaal Williams. I would expect the team to turn to their offensive line to shoulder the load again, with the hopes of controlling the game on the ground.
2. What has been the biggest difference for this Lions offense compared to a year ago? Where have they grown the most?
Offensive coordinator Ben Johnson has breathed new life into this offense. The ability to rush the football early in the season has opened things up completely for the offense. Jared Goff worked extensively with Johnson this offseason to install a scheme that highlighted his strengths, including being more effective utilizing play-action passes. The team has grown the most in the red zone, scoring touchdowns in 18 consecutive quarters before their streak was snapped in the fourth quarter against Minnesota.
3. What has been the biggest culprit for Detroit's defensive struggles?
There is simply not enough high-end, impactful talent on Detroit's defense. Missing two second-round picks along the defensive line cannot be understated, as rookie Josh Paschal and Levi Onwuzurike have not been available to aid Aaron Glenn's defense and remain sidelined. The goal this year was to pressure the quarterback much more, but the play of the defensive line has been inconsistent to start the 2022 season.
4. Who are the X-factors to watch for the Lions, particularly with all the key players sidelined?
I think wide receiver Quintez Cephus will get an opportunity to showcase what he can bring to this team. With the No. 12 overall pick, Jameson Williams, waiting in the wings to return, Cephus could find himself on the outside looking in if he does not prove he can make plays when called upon. On defense, Jeff Okudah has performed at a high level to start the season. He has been able to, within the parameters of the defensive scheme, limit the productivity of quality wideouts. The defense will need another solid performance this week from the former No. 3 overall pick against DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
5. How did you foresee this contest playing out at Ford Field?
The Lions defense has not proven their ability to limit their opponents on offense. The Vikings showed how to attack the defensive line to open up their run game. I expect the Seahawks rushing attack to approach the game in the same way, trying to use cutbacks and zone blocking to open up rushing lanes. Running into the interior of the Lions defensive line up the middle might not be the best approach. Detroit's offense will look to slow the game down, rush the football and take calculated risks. I see this being a lower scoring game, as both teams will focus on defensive stops. I see the Lions offense being the difference in this game in a 23-20 win.
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