Lions That Succeeded And Struggled In Detroit’s Week One Matchup Against The Arizona Cardinals.
The Detroit Lions opened up their 2017 season with a 35-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Ford Field this past Sunday. While the box score may look nice at face value, the game started really rough for Detroit, who got in their own way early with penalties, miscues, and poor decision making. Fortunately for Lions fans, the coaching staff made great half time adjustments, which allowed Detroit to take the lead from the Cardinals and never look back.
Let us take a look back at the film and identify the positive things the Lions did to win and also see who struggled against the Cardinals in week one.
Kenny Golladay: The Lion That “Feasted”
Whether you look at the tape or the box score, what really stands out at you was how well rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay was in his first game and how good his future looks. Two of the bigger critiques you heard about Golladay during the draft process was his ability to run routes and to beat press against more physical corners.
Golladay mainly faced Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel for most of the game. While Bethel is not the biggest corner as he is listed at 6’0″, 200 lbs, he was utilized heavily in press man in week one. Bethel used his length and physicality to stop Golladay a couple times earlier in the game. But Golladay adjusted and beat Bethel for two touchdowns in the forth quarter to help Detroit take and solidify their lead.
With just under ten minutes remaining in the forth quarter, the Lions were down 17-15 on the Cardinals 10-yard line. Golladay lined up in the slot against Bethel, with the Cardinals showing press man. Golladay drives hard off the line as Bethel attempts to jam him up, however the hungry receiver quickly sheds Bethel’s hands on his release.
Golladay stems his route as Bethel tries to re-engage contact. As he is running up-field Bethel turns his hips up-field to run with him. But, when Golladay breaks on his flag route, Bethel is too far out of position to make a play on the ball. This allows the Lions receiver enough separation make himself available for quarterback Matthew Stafford. The rookie finishes off the play with a leaping catch on the go-ahead touchdown.
Golladay’s ability to beat press man in this way was done not once, but twice this day. Fast-forward to the Lions next offensive possession in the 4th quarter, with 4:50 remaining on the clock. It is 2nd down on the Cardinals 45-yard line and the Lions come out in a two tight end set, with Golladay out wide. Like earlier, Golladay stems his route and beats Bethel for inside positioning. As he drives up-field, Bethel follows suit, and Golladay breaks in slightly as he makes a play on the ball in the air. Again, making a great adjustment on the ball in the air he is able to make a leaping touchdown dive. This time, to secure the victory for the Lions.
These were a savvy moves in route running by the Lions rookie wide receiver and should be a great sign of things to come for Golladay.
Famine For Graham Glasgow
In 2016, the left guard position was the biggest liability and in the first game of the 2017 it looks like it could be a potential liability again this season. Glasgow struggled mightily in this game, registering a 37.4 grade from PFF for his performance, which was ranked 58th among guards for week one.
When Glasgow struggled in pass protection, it was largely due to stunts and blitzing players. While Glasgow is quick to fire off the ball, he is still slow in diagnosing the defense and it showed up in this game. But that was not Glasgow’s biggest issue. His biggest issue came in the run game.
When watching tape you can see him struggle to consistently reach block on stretch zone runs offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter calls so often. Glasgow was also slow to diagnose in the running game as well, leading to free runners and quick penetration by the Cardinals defensive line. This often led to Detroit having to double team both interior lineman to help Glasgow in the run.
Which allowed the Cardinals linebackers to run free unblocked often and attack in the running game. Glasgow’s ineffectiveness bled in the Lions running game as a whole and was a consistently a factor in runs stopped at the line of scrimmage or for a loss in this game.
The Lions need more consistency in their ground game than what they got from the unit in 2016. If Glasgow can improve his speed in recognition of the defense, it would allow the Lions to run more effectively with more blocks sustained on the second level.