Five things to watch as Lions face Commanders; plus prediction

The second week in the NFL can’t produce a must-win game. However the Lions need a win over the Commanders to get to 1-1. When losses snowball it’s never a good thing, ask any Lions fan. 

The Lions played in front of a raucous and loud crowd in their opening loss to the Eagles. They want to keep the fans in the game and winning is a surefire way to accomplish that.

Coach Dan Campbell said he’s not talking about winning to the team.

“I’m talking about playing better, and let’s clean up our details. Because if we do, that winning is a byproduct of that. That’s got to be our sole focus, and so man, let’s just play better than we played last week,’’ Campbell said. “To a man, let’s coach better. I’ve got to coach better, our coordinators have got to coach better, the position coaches, and the player’s got to play better. And if we’ll just – everyone of us get a little bit better and clean up these issues, and the same issues that have bitten us or bit us last week, they don’t show up again, we’ll be that much better. That’s all we’ve got to worry about.”

Here are five things to watch as the favored Lions (0-1) face the Commanders (1-0):

1. The offensive line injury woes continue. Center Frank Ragnow (groin) has been ruled out and likely will be replaced by Evan Brown. Left guard Jonah Jackson (finger) was downgraded to doubtful on Saturday. And remember, starting right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (back) was placed on IR before the opener. He was replaced by Logan Stenberg who had a rough first series but calmed down. Stenberg could line up at right guard again or shift to left guard. It’s likely Drew Forbes, who has been with the Lions for two weeks, will start at one of the guard spots. Campbell said the rash of O-line injuries changes what they do a bit. “Just the style at which we need to play and you just – you will have to shift the burden a little bit, other places of the load to other places on our team, which is OK. It’s what we got to do. It’s what we’re charged with,’’ Campbell said. Last season the five O-line starters never played together in one of the 17 games due to injuries. 

2. In his second game in this new offense, quarterback Jared Goff needs to step up. The offense seemed to find a rhythm in the second half on Sunday against the Eagles when the Lions scored three touchdowns.There was plenty to like last week.Goff threw both of his touchdowns on third downs. “I think the stuff that we loved was we scored every time we got in the red zone and we were really efficient on third down. And typically those numbers are resulting in wins and ultimately, this one didn’t,’’ Goff said this week. “But I think if we can continue that trend, it’ll be good for us.”

3. The defense struggled more than the offense giving up 38 points to the Eagles. Of course Washington quarterback Carson Wentz is not as mobile as Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts which should make a huge difference. Rookie Aidan Hutchinson is expected to take another step in his development (he wasn’t bad in his debut, but perhaps more was expected). Cornerback Jeff Okudah, coming back from a torn Achilles in the opener a year ago, impressed, finishing second in tackles with 10.

4. Running back D’Andre Swift sparked the offense against the Eagles with 144 of the Lions 181 rushing yards. Swift (ankle) is on the injury report and listed as questionable, but should be able to go. Will he be 100 percent? Not likely. Still the Lions need to be able to count on the running attack. “It’s helpful for any passing attack. I think it’s a quarterback’s best friend when you can have that and have the play-action off of it and the keeper’s stuff off of it, the roll outs and whatnot,’’ Goff said. “So, it’s super helpful and it’s fun to watch Swift take off too..” If Swift is gimpy, Jamaal Williams can help pick up the slack.

5. Perhaps you’ve heard this from previous seasons and coaches, the Lions need to finish. This team is better than last year’s bunch but there’s a long way to go. The Lions were down 17 points in the third quarter on Sunday, but the comeback came up 3 points short. It’s all in the details.

PREDICTION:  Lions 27, Commanders 21. The Lions know this is a big home game against a beatable opponent.

Detroit Lions draft DT Jashon Cornell from Ohio State in 7th round

Jashon Cornell became the third Ohio State Buckeye drafted by the Lions in this 2020 draft.

The Lions selected the defensive tackle in the seventh round with the 235th overall pick. 

“I’ve been talking to the Lions for a while. I was really excited to get that phone call,’’ Cornell said in a conference call on Saturday.

Cornell was the top-ranked recruit in Minnesota after high school and chose Ohio State from more than 30 scholarship offers.

Back then he was best buddies with Lions offensive lineman Frank Ragnow. They would travel to high school camps all over the country together.

At Ohio State, he broke through as a senior starter earning all Big Ten honors. He lined up both inside and outside, but seemed to find a comfort level inside as a senior. 

The other Buckeyes drafted by the Lions this weekend include CB Jeff Okudah (first round) and G Jonah Jackson (third round). 

“Jeff Okudah is a franchise player. He’s going to be – the things that Jeff can do as a defensive back – being able to come in as a freshman and being able to watch Jeff grow, he was able to showcase his ability as one of the best defensive backs in the country,’’ Cornell said. “He came to practice every day, he showed out. Jeff Okudah is going to be a great player for the Lions. Jonah, me and Jonah go at it for 12 weeks out of the year for every year since Jonah (came in) you know, we always had our battles in practice. It’s going to be good to go back up there in Detroit, and be able to compete with Jonah each day at practice and stuff.”

 He thinks having college teammates might help in his transition to the NFL.

“One thing we do at Ohio State is treat everything as if it’s an NFL team. That’s one thing that makes it different from most teams and most players that we’ve been through all the rough patches and we know about the grind and being able to compete at a high level – that’s one thing we did every Saturday,’’ Cornell said. “I think that’s one thing we can transition to Detroit, us Buckeyes can come in bring that competitive factor, that championship mentality that we have at Ohio State. I think that’s one thing we can bring to Detroit as Buckeyes.”

Detroit Lions 2020 draft picks 

First round — CB Jeff Okudah (3rd overall), Ohio State

Second round — RB D’Andre Swift (35th overall) Georgia

Third round — LB Julian Okwara (67th overall) Notre Dame

Third round — G Jonah Jackson (85th overall) Ohio State

Fourth round — G Logan Stenberg (121st overall) Kentucky

Fifth round — WR Quintez Cephus (166th overall) Wisconsin

Fifth round — RB Jason Huntley (172nd overall) New Mexico State

Sixth round — DT John Penisini (197th overall) Utah

Seventh round — DT Jashon Cornell (235th overall) Ohio State

Detroit Lions draft guard Logan Stenberg in fourth round, out of Kentucky

Nasty on the field, a gentleman off the field. It’s a perfect combination for an NFL offensive lineman. 

Meet guard Logan Stenberg.

The Detroit Lions added another big body to the offensive line by drafting Stenberg with the 121st overall pick in the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Stenberg, who is 6-6 and 315 pounds, calls himself a blue-collar guy, a hard-working individual.

Certainly his nasty streak is one of his many assets.

“I grew up with three older brothers, so I was the youngest of all four, growing up I had to fight for everything whether it was food or my place in line,’’ Stenberg said on a conference call on Saturday. “I grew up with that nastiness. I had to fight for what I want. It carried over to football.

“I think you could ask most of my teammates I’m very different on and off the field. Off the field I’m a very respectful fun guy, on the field it’s all business and I want to end the guy across from me every play,’’ Stenberg added.

He started 39 straight games at left guard for the Wildcats but is open to all possibilities in Detroit. 

“I think I can play any position on the offensive line, i plan to play wherever coach Patricia needs me the most,’’ Stenberg said.

He played in the Senior Bowl which gave the Lions coaching staff a chance to get to know him.

“I thought the Senior Bowl was great for me personally, because I got to spend some time around the coaching staff, seeing how they do things, what they value, getting a feel for it before I get it up to Detroit,’’ Stenberg said.

He spent this weekend on his parents’ 150-acre farm in southern Tennessee where they raise Charolais cattle.

“We’re out here, kind of isolated, watching the ticker waiting for my name to be called,’’ Stenberg said. “I couldn’t be happier to be going to Detroit.’’

He was asked if he was familiar with Larry Warford, another Kentucky offensive lineman.

Stenberg referred to him as Mr. Warford, possibly a first.

In the third round on Friday night, the Lions drafted guard Jonah Jackson out of Ohio State who also played in the Senior Bowl.