Wide receivers play well and struggle at the same time

Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett breaks it down The Detroit Lions’ 38-35 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and a look at the players who helped and hurt their stock Sunday at Ford Field:

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RB D’Andre Swift: When running backs coach Duce Staley told Swift this summer that he could be the best running back in the NFL, Sunday’s performance was what he had in mind. Swift ran for 144 yards on 15 carries, scored a touchdown and had another 31 receiving yards. He’s a big threat every time he touches the ball, which probably wasn’t enough on Sunday. And if he can stay healthy, he could be in for a monster year.

LIONS GRADES:D’Andre Swift shines, run defense an issue against Eagles

COLUMN:The near loss to the Eagles is the improvement it sounds like for the Lions

Lions WRs as blockers: Swift got a lot of help on his big day from the Lions’ offensive line and other skill-blocking players on the team. Amon-Ra St. Brown had a key block on Swift’s 50-yard run early in the game (tight end TJ Hockenson had another) and DJ Chark helped open up Swift for his 7-yard TD.

The Lions have a physical receiving room, and if they get involved both on the perimeter and near the line of scrimmage like they did Sunday, this should be one of the best rushing offenses in the NFL.

Detroit Lions rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez lines up against the Philadelphia Eagles during the first half at Ford Field, Sept. 11, 2022.

LB Malcolm Rodriguez: One of the stars of “Hard Knocks,” Rodriguez was just as good in the regular season as he was in training camp. The rookie sixth-round pick out of Oklahoma State started and played most of the game as the second linebacker next to Alex Anzalone (who had his own strong day).

Rodriguez wasn’t perfect, but he had six tackles, including one for a loss, and looks like he’ll be a disruptive player for years to come.

Stock down

CB Will Harris: Harris didn’t play much as the Lions’ No. 3 outside cornerback, but he did throw a 54-yard pass to AJ Brown late in the first half on an Eagles field goal.

Brown is one of the best receivers in the NFL, so there’s no shame in beating him in a game. But the shot of Harris being beaten off the line and not turning his head to make a play on the ball while starter Jeff Okudah was on the sideline dealing with cramps is a reminder of the lack of depth in the Lions’ secondary.

MITCH ALBUM:Lights, Cameras Gone, Lions Return to Real Heavy Hitting: Close Losses

S Tracy Walker: Walker was trending toward “stock” until he was ejected for two personal fouls in the third quarter. Walker had 11 tackles and the Lions’ lone sack, but the Lions were without one of their defensive leaders late in a close game when he couldn’t control his temper.

First, he hit a sliding Jalen Hurts near the head, then shoved Dallas Goedert in the helmet when Goedert rushed to defend his quarterback. As Dan Campbell said, the second penalty was “unacceptable and he knows it”.

SHAWN WINDSOR:These are not your ‘Same Old Lions’. The home opener showed that.

Lions safety Tracy Walker III, left, and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson celebrate after Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is sacked during the first half, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, at Ford Field.

Lions safety Tracy Walker III, left, and defensive end Aidan Hutchinson celebrate after Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts is sacked during the first half, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, at Ford Field.

Lions WRs as pass catchers: As much as the Lions receivers were blocked on Sunday, they also had a bunch of uncharacteristic drops. Sure, quarterback Jared Goff could have been sharper with his throws. Goff had a down day, completing 21 of 37 passes for 215 yards with one interception, but St. Brown, Chark and Reynolds all had passes that couldn’t be hauled in.

Maybe not all of these projects are categorized as drops. Goff’s ball placement was a tick on several shots. But on a day when their quarterback needed help from his receivers, they didn’t deliver enough.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: Detroit Lions stock watch: Reasons rushing attack should be strong

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