Allen Park — Before the New York Jets pounced all over the Detroit Lions in the season-opener Monday night, the first surprise of the night came 90 minutes before kickoff, when the Lions announced former second-round pick A'Shawn Robinson was among the team's inactives.
Robinson isn't hurt. This was a healthy scratch, and given Detroit's lack of defensive line talent and depth, it marked a bottom of a stunning slide down the depth chart for Robinson, who began the offseason as a projected starter.
After the evening's more-pressing issues were addressed following the 48-17 loss, Lions coach Matt Patricia was asked why Robinson didn't suit up.
"I think the active list is a very difficult list to make when everybody is healthy on the roster and you’re working into a game," Patricia said. "There’s certain facets that come into effect there, whether it’s other sides of the ball or different things like special teams, things like that that you need to consider to make sure that you have enough depth there and enough bodies in position to go out there and play when things happen. So, just kind of one of those things.
"He works extremely hard," Patricia said. "A’Shawn’s a hard, tough-nosed guy and he’s working hard to get better. It’s just kind of what it is week in and week out."
The perception, when Patricia was hired and it became clear he planned on switching the defensive scheme to a gap-controlled front, was Robinson would be a natural fit based on his effectiveness playing the requisite techniques at Alabama a few years back. But that perception has yet to become reality.
After falling behind veteran Ricky Jean Francois on the depth chart during training camp, Robinson found himself playing significant snaps in the fourth preseason game, alongside another starter from last season, defensive end Anthony Zettel.
Zettel made the team's initial 53-man roster, but was surprisingly released last week, in favor of waiver claim Romeo Okwara, a better style fit for Patricia's scheme.
As the Lions dealt with a number of injuries up front last season — to Ziggy Ansah, Kerry Hyder and Haloti Ngata — Zettel and Robinson were the team's workhorses, both playing more than 725 snaps.
With Robinson seated against the Jets, the Lions leaned heavily on Francois and nose tackle Sylvester Williams, who each played 47 snaps. And Detroit's front four struggled, both against the run and pass.
The Jets churned out 169 yards on the ground, including a 62-yard touchdown through Francois' gap. As for pressuring the quarterback, the Lions hit rookie Sam Darnold twice, a pair of first-half sacks.