Snap observations: Lions get crafty covering for injured Davis
Detroit — The Lions deployed a mix-and-match strategy to deal with the absence of injured linebacker Jarrad Davis during Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Tahir Whitehead played every snap, which was to be expected. Beyond that, the team rotated the rest of their options. Paul Worrilow, the former Falcon, played the second most among linebackers, but was on the field fewer than two-thirds of the team's defensive plays. Somewhat surprisingly, Nick Bellore, who was off the roster Week 1 and a healthy scratch in Week 2, saw more action than rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
All this tells us is the Lions lack a third linebacker on the roster with a complete skill set. Maybe this shouldn't be surprising. General manager Bob Quinn, at the combine in 2016, talked about the difficulty of finding linebackers capable of playing all three downs.
It also highlights how difficult it is to compensate for Davis' absence. That's a lot of moving parts in the second level, and no matter how much the Lions practice with various groups, it's difficult to build chemistry with that many substitution packages.
Here are some additional observations from Sunday's snap count report:
■ In his return performance with the Lions, defensive end George Johnson got 20 snaps of work, more than undrafted rookie Jeremiah Valoaga.
■ TJ Jones led the Lions with 63 receiving yards, but Kenny Golladay continues to dominate the third receiver timeshare, playing exactly triple the snaps.
■ The emphasis on the passing game is clear throughout the offensive workload. Eric Ebron played significantly more than blocking tight end Darren Fells and Theo Riddick out-snapped Ameer Abdullah in the backfield rotation for the first time this season.
■ With safety Tavon Wilson out with a shoulder injury, the Lions didn't plug Miles Killebrew fully into Wilson's role, instead splitting it with Charles Washington. Killebrew worked a much larger percentage of the timeshare, but by utilizing Washington, it gave the Lions the flexibility to move Killebrew around and put him in spots where he's had so much success the past several regular season games.
■ It was a light day of work for rookie return man Jamal Agnew. The Falcons didn't punt until the fourth quarter, and looking for the spark, the Lions put Golden Tate back deep. The team also replaced Agnew on kickoffs with TJ Jones early in the game. There wasn't an announced injury for Agnew, so it's possible he got the hook for something performance related.