Things are not going so well in 2021 for the winless Detroit Lions through the season’s first seven games. We understood that this would be another rebuild, and Lions fans would need to continue being patient. I don’t think many of us thought it would quite be this bad, though.
Under head coach Dan Campbell the Detroit Lions have been relatively resilient despite failing to win a game. Detroit gave both Baltimore and Minnesota all they could handle yet eventually lost on last-second field goals, plus took a lead into the fourth quarter this past Sunday in Los Angeles against the Rams despite being significant underdogs.
Quarterback Jared Goff is far worse than I anticipated. I always expected Goff to be a bridge option at the position until the organization committed to their next franchise signal-caller. Still, he’s a bottom-of-the-barrel starting quarterback, not say, 20th best in the league.
It’s certainly not like Goff has much help, but that’s not an excuse; he’s struggling to see receivers running the intermediate and deep routes when they flash open. Goff is settling for the check down early and often, only making fantasy football managers who drafted D’Andre Swift happy.
During a press conference, Campbell recently mentioned that the Lions are what their record says they are, meaning 0-7, as he refuses to make any excuses. I admire that in Campbell, but the fact is he’s playing with a short deck.
The Detroit Lions didn’t project to be very good as they began the year healthy. It’s been nothing but an uphill climb after sustaining an avalanche of injuries to significant pieces throughout their roster.
The organization has been forced to play without their starting left tackle, Taylor Decker, for the entire season to date. They’ve also been without second-year starting corner Jeff Okudah who suffered a severe Achilles injury, plus their Pro Bowl-caliber center and top overall player Frank Ragnow. The Lions have also been forced to perform without Trey Flowers (at times), Romeo Okwara, Da’Shawn Hand, Tyrell Williams, Quintez Cephus, and Ifeatu Melifonwu.
If you are an optimistic thinker, you can spin these injuries like this; the Detroit Lions are finding depth and potentially future starters throughout their roster with the next-man-up mentality.
The Detroit Lions may have found something in undrafted rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs. Second-year edge rusher Julian Okwara is playing more than he would if everyone, including his brother, remained healthy. Players like Charles Harris and Austin Bryant are gaining experience. And look at center Evan Brown.
The Detroit Lions may have found something in Evan Brown.
Brown has been forced into duty after Ragnow was shut down for the remainder of the season. After bouncing around between the New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, and Cleveland Browns over two seasons before being signed by Detroit last December.
Lions starting guard Jonah Jackson had this to say about Brown earlier this month.
"“Evan’s a very, very, very, very smart guy,” guard Jonah Jackson said. “He’s a highly intelligent dude. He knows ball, he knows what’s going on and he’s able to identify everything, process stuff fast. So when it comes to that aspect of the game, it’s not much of a drop-off at all.”"
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Brown has earned an overall grade of 67.6 for his work to date this season, over 260 snaps. Not bad for someone with only 82 total offensive snaps over two years before 2021.
Brown has performed exceptionally well over the past two weeks. He earned an overall grade of 72.4 against the Bengals and 73.6, including a stellar 85.2 grade in pass protection last week against Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams.
I feel the organization will be looking to replace Hal Vaitai as soon as next season. If Brown continues to perform this well for the remainder of the 2021 season, he should play his way into consideration as a starting guard once Ragnow returns next year.
The organization may still choose to give Logan Stenberg an opportunity to play opposite Jackson, but I wouldn’t rule out Brown, who has spent minimal time (16 snaps) playing as a guard in relief.