Five things to watch as Lions face Dolphins; plus, prediction

Lions coach Dan Campbell

Through the 1-5 start this season, coach Dan Campbell has remained confident in his team. He has said they are close. They’ve lost three of their games by a total of 10 points. Although the last two losses have been by a combined 53-6. Devastating.

Now they’ve got to get over the hump facing the Miami Dolphins (4-3) at Ford Field at 1 pm. on Sunday. The season is not over.

“I mean, look, I’m not blind to any of this. It’s – I appreciate that and I know, but I also know the reality. I mean, we’ve got to win. I mean there’s still urgency here. I mean that’s not – that’s never changed,’’ Campbell said on Friday. “This is a – I mean, we know what kind of business we’re in. I know what kind of business I’m in and I know that the patience only goes so long. So, look we’re trying to get one this week and then, after that takes place then you go get the next one. But I mean it’s all about winning. I mean, we’re not – we’re not trying to kick the can down the road. We’re not trying to say any of that. I mean, we’ve got a team here that I know can win and it’s my job to get them there.”

Five things to watch against the Dolphins:

1. Detroit’s defense played its best game in the loss at Dallas last Sunday. It was a group effort with contributions from several players. It’s a young defense — four rookies started at Dallas — so it’s a good sign that this bunch is heading in the right direction. “Any time you play like that, certainly the way we started and most of the game, they bought into what we were doing and they began to trust each other and what we are trying to do with it,’’ Campbell said. “That certainly helps. We still have a long way to go there, there’s still things that we have to get back to what we were doing. We’re are kind of changing the style in which we’re playing. It was pretty good so we just have to build off it.’’

2. Running back D’Andre Swift and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown could add an offensive spark. Swift missed the last three games while St. Brown had to leave early last week for concussion protocol. In the last two games without Swift, the offense has failed to score a touchdown. In the first three games, Swift had 27 arries, averaging 8.6 yards per carry with one rushing and one receiving touchdown. He’s got eight catches for 77 yards. “It would be good. I mean, those two guys can account for a lot of offense. A lot of production in our offense. So, having both of them back is a big jolt. And look, I would say this too, (WR Josh) Reynolds was out there practicing yesterday which was good,’’ Campbell said.

3. Goff has thrown five interceptions in the last four games. It’s an issue. He got off to a hot start leading the offense to the top of the NFL’s offensive ratings. “We’ve got to refocus on awareness in the pocket a little bit, and continue to hammer it home. It’s not just him, there’s quarterbacks who will drift a little bit, they feel certain things, you start moving and you don’t realize you may be moving deeper than you mean to or you;re moving into something else,’’ Campbell said. “We just have to continue to stress it, coach it, show it. He understands, he responds to it, he sees it, he knows it,. There again we have to get in a rhythm.’’ So far he’s completed 62.3 percent of his passes (below his career average of 64 percent) with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. He’s been sacked a dozen times – five last week at Dallas.

4. Miami features two of the NFL’s top four leading receivers in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. Double trouble for the Lions defense.  “It is challenging and when there’s one that’s that way you can use some resources to help over there by doing that you take away from your run defense so now you’re asking a lot out of your front,’’ Campbell said. “When you’ve got two you’re going to get spread pretty thin, we have to be on point. Everybody has to be where they’re supposed to be, we need to find a little bit of disruption.’’ The Dolphins are 4-1 with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the lineup and 0-2 without him. He’s expected to start against The Lions. He’s completing 67.3 percent of his passes and so far has thrown nine touchdowns against just three interceptions He gets good protection from his offensive line and has just been sacked six times.

5. Injuries continue to be an issue with six players listed as out: S DeShon Elliott (finger, DE Charles Harris (groin), CB Mike Hughes (knee), CB Chase Lucas (ankle), S Ifeatu Melifonwu (ankle) and T Matt Nelson (calf). WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (concussion protocol) and G Jonah Jackson (neck) are questionable. Others who showed up on the injury report this week – including Swift – are a full go. 

(Prediction: Lions 28, Dolphins 24)

Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on Amazon.com. She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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