Dan Campbell expects Eagles to test whether Lions’ woes have been fixed

Last season the Eagles mauled the Lions, 44-6 on Oct. 31. No one has forgotten.

On Sunday, the Lions face the Eagles again in the season opener at Ford Field. Both teams are different. The question is to what degree.

“It was an embarrassing loss, they let us have it, they rubbed our nose in it. They came in and did everything that they wanted to do to us, times 10. I think we’ve acknowledged that,’’ coach Dan Campbell said.

That loss put the LIons at 0-8 on the season. It was followed by a bye week and a time of reflection. After that humiliation, Campbell started calling the plays on offense and made changes including getting wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown more involved. 

The Lions finished the second half with a 3-5-1 mark.

“We understand that’s what they’re coming back for. If I’m them I’m doing the same thing. We’re going to come back and attack you the same way to see if you’ve fixed your problems,’’ Campbell said. “They’ll have a couple tweaks here and there but I would fully expect them to come in and see if we’ve fixed our problems. We understand the opponent that’s coming in.’’

While there are a few new players, the core of the Lions’ group that played in that game is still on the roster. They haven’t forgotten either.

“Watching that film is hard to watch, with that you’ve got to learn from your mistakes,’’ defensive lineman Charles Harris said. “Understand we have a different scheme, different techniques, we’re a lot better team this year. With that we have confidence we can get the job done this year.’’

In that 44-6 loss, the Eagles ran for 236 yards with four rushing touchdowns. The Lions were down 17-0 at the half but gave up 21 third-quarter points. Jared Goff was 25 of 34 for 222 yards and zero interceptions. 

“Going into this week we know what happened last year and we’re not going to let it happen again … I think going into this year, starting off fresh. We’re excited. It’s a new team,’’ St. Brown said. “We feel completely different about this year than we did last year. We’re excited to play them again in Week One.’’

Five keys from Lions GM Brad Holmes one week before the draft

Of course Brad Holmes is not giving away his draft strategy. Still the Lions general manager, who is entering his second draft with the team, shared a few insights one week before the NFL draft.

The Lions have two first-round picks (No. 2 and 32) when the draft kicks off at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 28. Overall they have eight picks over the three-day event.

“Right now, we’re in a good place. There are still things that are fluid here and there, there is still some new information coming in as we speak. But we’re confident in our process up to this point,’ Holmes said at a pre-draft press conference on Thursday.

Even though Holmes had a decent draft a year ago, the Lions are coming off a three-win season. That point can’t be overlooked. The team was young and due to injuries many younger players got thrown into the fire. Some found success, others got a little singed but could be better for the experience.

He would not rule out taking a quarterback with the No. 2 pick, insisting he is looking for a game-changer at that pick and every pick. “So, if that position is a quarterback, then it’s a quarterback. Just because often, it’s been slated that, well, picking up there, it’s either going to be a quarterback or a pass rusher or a tackle and all that type of stuff. But look, I said from Day One, give me a game-changer at any position, and there are multiple positions where we do see that potential game-changers could be there in the future,” Holmes said. “Time will tell of course however they develop.”

Five of the key highlights from Holmes on Thursday:

1. With the second overall pick, it’s not just a matter of nailing down his top two prospects. “Anything can happen (on) any day, I will say that. But it’s not just narrowing it down to your top two. You better have your top five. You better have your top 10 in place because you just don’t know what’s going to happen each day,’’ Holmes said. “We do have it narrowed down, and we feel confident where we’re at with how we have it pared down. We’ll just let the process unfold.”

2. He is confident that Dan Campbell and the coaching staff can once again prepare rookies for Sundays in the NFL.  “Like I said, we’re very fortunate and we’re very blessed, and to get into position to have a coaching staff that has a passion of developing, and the proof’s in the pudding. It’s proven; they’ve actually done it. So, it gives you a lot of optimism,’’ Holmes said. Last year’s top pick, right tackle Penei Sewell, was a starter from the get-go. But the staff also got several rookies to contribute including linebacker Derrick Barnes (fourth round) who started six games and played in 17  and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (fourth round) who also started six games and played in all 17.

3. Holmes and his scouting staff aim to find the right balance for a prospect between his college production and potential. “You can’t ignore production, but you’ve also got to look at those critical factors of the actual player. Is he doing everything in his power, does he have the skillset, does he have the traits to do certain things? Does he have the football character? There’s a lot of different factors that can come in that can project to more production when they get into the NFL. How were they used in their scheme in college versus what our scheme is going to be? There’s a lot of different factors that go into that, but you definitely can’t ignore the actual production because that’s real (and) factual,’’ Holmes said.

4. While no one will downplay the importance of the draft, last year Holmes was able to work undrafted prospects like cornerbacks Jerry Jacobs and A.J. Parker into the lineup. That fact could play into draft-weekend decisions. “It just gives you confidence that we were able to identify some of those guys. Being that those guys have a year under their belt, they carry that invaluable experience that they have and that play time into this year. So, yeah, absolutely. It kind of affects a little bit how you look at it, like you can’t forget about those guys. It gets you excited about what those guys are going to be this year coming up,’’ Holmes said.

5. Holmes and coach Dan Campbell proved last season that they don’t look at pedigree or draft credentials when it comes time to getting the best players on the field. “Dan and I have always said you can call us the land of opportunity, but we don’t care where you come from. … If you step in this building, you’ve got an opportunity to compete and it doesn’t matter where you come from. You can talk about meritocracy, in the sense of whoever’s the best is the best. Well, that’s kind of how we approach it because of undrafted free agents.”

Five things to know about Lions 51-29 loss at Seahawks

While COVID and injuries have decimated the roster for weeks, on Sunday at Seattle the Detroit Lions were outmatched and outplayed in the 51-29 loss.

Coach Dan Campbell has found bits of magic here and there during the two-win season, but it was difficult to find positives on Sunday except for wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown who continues to excel in his rookie season.

Detroit’s defense could not stop the Seahawks’ run game or Russell Wilson. It was a mismatch in the trenches all day long. It was not an unexpected loss and, in fact, the Lions (2-13-1) were better in the second half, once again showing off their never-give-up spirit.

Five things to know:

1. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown continues to amaze. Doesn’t matter that the surrounding cast is depleted, this guy moves. On Sunday he became the first rookie in NFL history with at least eight catches in five straight games. In the loss, he also scored his first rushing touchdown along with eight catches for 111 yards and one receiving touchdown. Remember he was a fourth-round draft pick. 

2. The Lions did not appear to give up even when they were down 31-7 to start the second half. Credit to Campbell. Several of the young guys are trying to earn a roster spot in Detroit or elsewhere for next season. That helps, but not enough. Campbell has somehow got them playing hard for 60 minutes no matter the score. In the second half Detroit actually outscored Seattle, 22-20. (Sometimes you have to dig deep to find a positive.)

3. Dan Campbell continued his aggressive play-calling throughout and not just on fourth down. In the third quarter he had Tim Boyle throw to offensive lineman Matt Nelson who couldn’t keep his mitts on the ball. Then he tossed a touchdown pass to left tackle Taylor Decker. Didn’t see that coming. Of course, a lack of healthy tight ends made that an option. When the Lions get more talent, hope Campbell keeps up with the aggressiveness and out-of-the-box calls.

4. Quarterback Tim Boyle, in his third career start, threw for an interception to start the second half but redeemed himself a bit with a touchdown pass to Amon-Ra St. Brown in the third quarter. Boyle is who he is. He is not Jared Goff (knee) who was watching from the sidelines. Boyle finished 22 of 37 for 262 yards (a career-high), two touchdowns and three interceptions.

5. Defensively Detroit had no answer for running back Rashaad Penny who had 25 carries for 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns. This is the same defense that held the Falcons to 47 rushing yards in the previous week’s loss. The Seahawks finished with 497 net yards including 265 rushing yards. Campbell is in it to win it until the bitter end and it is obvious he has got his players thinking the same way.

NEXT UP:  Green Bay Packers at Lions at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 9, to close out Detroit’s season. The bitter end.

(Photo courtesy of Detroit Lions)