Lions notebook: Top pick Penei Sewell's on-the-job training continues
Allen Park — Until this point in his life, Detroit Lions offensive tackle Penei Sewell has always been the best player on the field. Even as a true freshman at the University of Oregon, he dominated week in and week out. So his recent struggles, as a rookie in the NFL, it's been a new, humbling experience for the rookie.
"It's way different in college," Sewell said. "In college, everybody was just running into you. All you have to do is just hug 'em, basically. But in the league, everybody knows what they're doing ... they're here for a reason, and everyone gets paid to do this."
Sewell played well his first two weeks, particularly in pass protection, when he said the 49ers and Ravens tried to rush at him with power. But when he showed he could handle that, opponents adjusted and started testing him with speed around the edge. That's resulted in him giving up four sacks the past two games, including a pair that resulted in quarterback Jared Goff fumbling.
"It's a sickening feeling to see (the quarterback) on the ground like that," he said. "But it's a next-play mentality. I can't really change nothin' about that. Got to fix all the technical things that I have to do, and that's where my weight is on my feet, where my hand placement is. So every time I make a mistake, I try to forget out it, OK, but at the same time, I am hard on myself."
Sewell said his biggest focus heading into this week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals is patience, which correlates with what coach Dan Campbell said earlier this week, that the young offensive tackle is oversetting because he's been getting out of his stance so quickly.
"Right now, I think I'm trying to be as aggressive as possible, and I guess that gets me in trouble at times," Sewell said. "I just got to let the game come to me. Again, it's a different game in this league. In college, I tried to take over and do everything possible, be as aggressive as possible, but I just got to sit there, sit back, relax, stay patient on everything and let the game come to me.
Praise for St. Brown
For the first three weeks of the season, rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown didn't see many passes his direction. The coaching staff praised his performance, crediting him for doing the under-the-radar dirty work, but also acknowledged they needed to find ways to reward him with more targets.
That's come to fruition the past two weeks. Goff has thrown 16 passes St. Brown's way during that stretch, resulting in an efficient 13 receptions for 135 yards.
Following those recent performances, Goff had some lofty praise for his new favorite target.
"He’s a guy that as a rookie, he doesn’t look like a rookie," Goff said. "He’s stepped up and he’s a guy that four or five years from now, I expect to be in the top of the league of guys in the slot, or even outside, that can make those plays and do those things that you’d like to see him do."
Playing in the slot is nothing new for St. Brown — the Lions liked his positional versatility coming out of USC — but's he's certainly operating out of that spot with greater frequency at the pro level. Of his 218 offense snaps, 79.8% have come at that alignment.
As he embraces the role, St. Brown has grown particularly fond of studying the film of one player, Chargers receiver Keenan Allen.
Known as one of the best route runners in football, Allen is consistently one of the league's most productive pass catchers out of the slot, despite typically playing fewer than 50% of his snaps there each season.
"I think he does a lot of great things from the slot," St. Brown said. "Actually, one of our assistants here, Seth Ryan, he used to be with the Chargers. He's our assistant receivers coach. He has a lot of clips of Keenan and he'd show us a bunch of clips and I love watching his tape. The stuff he does, you can't really teach it, but for some people, you're able to pick it up. I think he does a lot of great things."
Test for Jacobs
A year ago, Jerry Jacobs probably couldn't have imagined he would be playing meaningful snaps in the NFL, but after a couple injuries opened the door, the undrafted rookie is preparing for his second consecutive start this Sunday against Cincinnati.
Despite being on the field 63 of 67 defensive snaps against the Vikings last Sunday, Jacobs didn't see much action his way. His coverage assignment was targeted only three times, resulting in a pair of catches for 36 yards.
He figures to be tested more frequently this week, drawing coverage responsibilities for dynamic rookie playmaker Ja'Marr Chase.
"I’m pretty (sure) I’m going to see a little more of Chase, so I’ll be following him around a little bit," Jacobs said.
Chase has been one of the top deep threats in the NFL, hauling in a league-best five passes for 40 or more yards. His five receiving touchdowns rank second to only the Chargers' Mike Williams.
Obviously, Jacobs will be focused on making sure Chase doesn't get behind him.
“He just runs behind guys," Jacobs said. "Some guys aren’t really playing their technique, some guys’ eyes are bad, it’s just small things, you know? And I’m learning from that, just seeing them guys getting ran past. I’ve got a good game plan for me not to get ran past, so don’t worry.”