Detroit Lions: Rookie class has mixed results in 2020 debut

Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The 2020 draft class of the Detroit Lions got off to a rocky start in week one, with not much going right for the rookies.

The Detroit Lions got off to a terrible start on their 2020 season, falling to the Mitch Trubisky-led Chicago Bears, 27-23. Despite being up by a score of 23-6 going into the fourth quarter, the Lions once again failed to hold onto a three-score lead.

And that was due to an offense that took their foot off the pedal (and made too many mistakes late), a defense that faltered late once again, and a missed field goal that would prove to be a huge difference-maker in the game.

Throughout the matchup, the Lions heavily used and relied upon rookies. Some rookies had a good game while others had more up and down moments throughout.

Some rookies however weren’t even able to make it onto the field in week one. First-round rookie Jeff Okudah was an inactive today due to an injury, fourth-round guard Logan Stenberg was a healthy scratch, fifth-round runner Jason Huntley was cut from the team, and seventh-round defensive lineman Jashon Cornell was placed on injured reserve early on in camp.

 The active rookies from week one started out hot but cooled as the game went on.

From the moment the offense stepped onto the field, the rookies were contributing right away. Fifth-round receiver Quintez Cephus was heavily involved on offense all day, but none more so than on the first drive when he received five targets and was actually quarterback Matthew Stafford‘s go-to target. Overall on the day, Cephus was targeted a team-leading 10 times resulting in four receptions for 43 yards.

He was plagued by sticky coverage and one or two drops on the day, but it was clear that both the coaching staff and Stafford trusted him. It appears as though Cephus will be more involved than previously thought his rookie season. Perhaps the best rookie performance however came from third-round guard Jonah Jackson.

Jackson was phenomenal all game long, giving up limited pressures and just one sack. That sack, however, was more on his quarterback for not getting rid of the ball before getting pulled to the ground. He was also a strong blocker in the run game as well and by all accounts, it looks as if the Lions got another staple for the offensive line.

The last rookie on the offensive side of the ball to go over is former Georgia running back D’Andre Swift. Swift was not given a lot of touches, receiving just five targets and three carries. He started off solid enough by ending the first half with a touchdown carry from inside the two-yard line. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get going in the passing game the way the Lions tried to get him involved, with two drops in the game.

The biggest moment in the game for Swift however came when he was targeted on what would have been the game-winning touchdown pass. The pass was a dime from Stafford but Swift let it slip right through his hands and fall to the turf.

On the defensive side of the ball, just two rookies made their debuts. However, neither of the rookies were able to make much of an impact. Late-round pick John Penisini got some snaps but failed to record any tackles or assists. Third-round edge rusher Julian Okwara got some early run after a brief injury to defensive end Trey Flowers but he failed to do much on the field either.

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So while there was only one absolutely horrific moment for any rookie, only one was able to provide consistent positive performance, and that was the rookie guard, Jackson. Hopefully, against the Green Bay Packers next week, the rookies can make a bigger and better impact. And for some, we hope to see a successful rookie debut.