Justin Rogers' Lions grades: Thumbs up for Scarbrough, thumbs down for Slay
Landover, Md. — Justin Rogers grades the Detroit Lions' performance in their 19-16 loss to Washington.
After two adequate performances filling in for Matthew Stafford, the reality of starting an inexperienced backup smacked the Lions in the face on Sunday. Jeff Driskel struggled from the get-go, particularly with his blitz recognition. His ability to elude pressure and extend plays was minimally effective against Washington's defense.
Worse yet, Driskel turned the ball over three times, all on interceptions. His first, a deep shot to Marvin Hall, was excusable, given cornerback Fabian Moreau had been one of the worst defensive backs in coverage this season. But Driskel's turnover that handed the game to Washington was a brutal throw, which came one play after he nearly tossed a pick-six, wildly throwing off his back food while under duress. Grade: F
Bo Scarbrough continues to be a revelation, rushing for 98 yards on 18 carries. He would have easily topped the century mark had Rick Wagner not been flagged for a hold, negating a 25-yard gain around the right side.
But Scarbrough also lost a fumble. You can argue his forward progress was stopped, after he dragged a pile of defenders for a few extra yards, but there wasn't a whistle, so he's responsible for securing the ball. Grade: B+
Wide receivers/tight ends
Detroit's receivers largely maximized their targets. Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola caught all seven balls thrown their direction. Marvin Jones was less efficient, catching five of 11 targets, but outside of an improbable diving attempt on a deep ball, he didn't exactly put any on the ground he should have had.
The tight ends only had a small role in the game plan. T.J. Hockenson couldn't seem to get separation when Driskel was looking his direction, while Logan Thomas and Jesse James hauled in all three of their combined targets for two first downs and a touchdown. James also had a couple nice blocks on Scarbrough's longer runs. Grade: B+
Yes, Driskel struggled with his pocket awareness, but the offensive line shoulders plenty of blame when the quarterback gets sacked six times and absorbs 14 hits behind the line of scrimmage.
The run blocking was improved, but as noted above, could have been better. Wagner's hold was a brutal blow, while linemate Kenny Wiggins was also flagged for the same infraction. Grade: D
The Lions came in focused on shutting down the run, particularly starter Adrian Peterson, and did a good job with the assignment, holding Washington under 100 yards and a 3.6 yard per carry average. Take away three quarterback scrambles and those totals look even better.
Given Trey Flowers was out of action with a concussion, the quarterback pressure was OK. The Lions hit Haskins six times, including three sacks. The first sack, by Devon Kennard, resulted in a fumble and a turnover. Grade: A-
The linebackers played their part in the run defense and didn't have many glaring coverage issues. The tandem of Jarrad Davis and Jahlani Tavai were assignment sound, combining for 10 tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage. Grade: B+
Darius Slay had a rough go of it trying to cover speedy rookie Terry McLaurin. Beyond being responsible for the majority of McLaurin's 72 receiving yards, including the 17-yarder that set up the game-winning field goal, Slay was beaten twice into the end zone and was only bailed out by errant throws by Haskins.
On the opposite side, rookie Amani Oruwariye impressed in his first extended action. He played physical on the outside, breaking up a pass in the end zone and recording his first career interception, ripping a contested ball away from receiver Kelvin Harmon near the sideline. Grade: D
Matt Prater was a victim of the wind, which blew a 39-yard field goal wide right, but in a three-point game, that ended up being the difference. But maybe not as much as the 91-yard kickoff return the Lions allowed in the first half.
Additionally, Marvin Hall inexplicably fielded a punt at the 1-yard line and was tackled at the 2, and Dee Virgin got hit with an illegal block in the back on another punt return. Grade: F
The defense came to play and it's difficult to blame Matt Patricia and Paul Pasqualoni for Darius Slay's inability to cover. It you can't trust your top corner, a two-time Pro Bowler, to get the best of a one-on-one matchup against a rookie, the rest of the scheme doesn't matter.
But that doesn't excuse the fact that the Lions lost to a team that had just one win through its first ten games and made a number of costly mistakes in the first half when they should have been building an insurmountable advantage against an awful offense. Grade: D