Glendale, Ariz. -- With starting middle linebacker Jarrad Davis sidelined by an ankle injury, and the Detroit Lions not wanting to put too much on rookie Jahlani Tavai’s plate in his first game, there was a question who would wear the mic’d helmet to communicate with the sideline and relay the calls to the defense.
Linebacker Devon Kennard ended up drawing the assignment, which was somewhat unique given his typical alignment on the edge of the line of scrimmage.
Kennard ended up playing 81 of Detroit’s 89 defensive snaps and said the added communication responsibilities weren’t an issue.
“I’ve done it once before,” he said. “It was fine. It’s more but I don’t have a problem with that. I enjoy being able to be out there and help lead the guys and get the stuff out there. I don’t know if there are many guys that do it, playing the position I play, but the more you can do.”
Lions punter Sam Martin has a lot riding on his individual success this season. As part of taking a $700,000 pay cut prior to the start of the season, he was granted the opportunity to earn it back through performance bonuses.
If Martin finishes among the top-12 in net punting average, he’ll get a $300,000 bonus. If he finishes top-three, the remaining $400,000 goes back in his pocket.
And while net average can be impact by field position, Martin was doing his part through the early stages of the game, limiting return yards and pinning the Cardinals deep twice, including one punt that was downed at the 1-yard line.
But when rookie safety Will Harris failed to keep his man at bay on Martin’s seventh punt, the partial block stung the punter’s stat line and could end up being a factor in his pursuit of those performance bonuses.
Because the punt still traveled beyond the line of scrimmage, it is not recorded as a block. That means it goes into the stats book as an 11-yard effort, significantly hurting Martin’s net average and putting him a hole as he tries to regain his lost pay, and more importantly, re-establish himself as one of the game’s best punters as he heads toward free agency next offseason.
Martin finished his night with a 37.0 net average, which ranks 18th among 22 punters this week. Take away the partial block and Martin’s net average was 43.3 yards on his remaining seven boots. That would be good for seventh in the league.
There’s little debate that Sunday’s tie marked the worst performance of left tackle Taylor Decker’s career. After allowing just three sacks all of last season, Decker was badly beaten twice against the Cardinals, with both hits on quarterback Matthew Stafford resulting in fumbles.
On top of that, Decker was assessed four penalties, a pair of holds and two false starts.
It was the first time Decker has allowed multiple sacks in a game since the third game of his rookie season in 2016. The four penalties were also a career-high. He’d only committed two in a game twice before, most recently in Week 2 of last season.