Detroit Lions: Penei Sewell can’t be a bust after five weeks

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell blocks Baltimore Ravens linebacker Odafe Oweh during the first half at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021.
Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell blocks Baltimore Ravens linebacker Odafe Oweh during the first half at Ford Field in Detroit on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. /

Penei Sewell has had some struggles the last couple weeks, but it’s way too early to call the Lions’ rookie tackle a bust.

Detroit Lions rookie offensive tackle Penei Sewell has been up and down through five weeks. In Week 5, he got an education from Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. An ankle injury that limited him in practice during the week was not helpful.

Now a segment of Lions’ fans (and other fans) want to call Sewell a bust. But five games does not make a career, and here are some examples.

Example No. 1: Andrew Thomas

Left tackle Andrew Thomas gave up four sacks in the first five games of his rookie season. His rookie season was so rough that passing on Tristan Wilfs and Jedrick Willis looked like a huge mistake.

Thomas finished the season with 10 sacks and 57 pressures given up. Fans claimed the Giants made a mistake taking him with the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NFL draft.

Thomas has looked far better so far this season, before not playing in Week 5 due to an injury. He graded similarly to Wirfs, and better than Willis. Thomas hasn’t given up a sack in 182 pass blocking snaps this season and is on pace to only allow 20 pressures. He’s looking like the player the Giants selected with a top-five pick in the draft.

Other recent examples: Kolton Miller

Position Switch Example: Jake Matthews

I know what you’re going to say next… “but Sewell is going to play right tackle when he should be staying at left, it won’t work.” Enter Atlanta Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews.

Jake Matthews, selected sixth overall by the Falcons in the 2014 draft, was a natural right tackle until he switched positions his senior year in college. When the Falcons drafted him, the goal was to move him back to right tackle, his natural position, but injuries changed that plan and they allowed him to stay at left tackle.

His rookie season went poorly, here is a quote from an unnamed Pro Football Focus analyst back in 2015 via an ESPN Article:

"“The state of [Atlanta’s] offensive line will once again be a concern, with Matthews in particular needing to take a huge step forward after an ugly rookie season (he allowed seven sacks and 51 total pressures).”"

Matthews is still the Falcons starting left tackle after eight seasons, and is one of the premier pass blockers in the NFL.

Generational Talent Example: Trent Williams

​​Sewell was tabbed by many as a generational talent, despite opting out of his final season at Oregon. So he should be good right away, right?

This is where a comparison to future Hall of Fame offensive tackle Trent Williams comes into play. Williams was my NFL comparison for Sewell. Both were athletic freaks for how big they were coming out of college.

Williams gave up 11 sacks his rookie season and had teams questioning his work ethic after being selected fourth overall by Washington back in 2010. Today, Williams is still playing elite football for the San Francisco 49ers.

Final Thoughts: Let’s slow down with Penei Sewell

All of this doesn’t mean Sewell will pan out and eventually become an elite left tackle, as was ordained by several analysts. But a handful of games playing left tackle in the NFL, after not playing football last year, is way too early to say Sewell will be a bust.

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