Five Lions’ positives taken from opening loss to Eagles

ALLEN PARK — After watching film of the Lions 38-35 loss to the Eagles on Monday, coach Dan Campbell said he felt better than he did right after the game at Ford Field.

That’s a positive sign and not the only one.

1. Running back D’Andre Swift could not have played much better with 144 rushing yards and a touchdown, and three catches for 31 yards. “It goes without saying Swift is special and we know that. Just getting him his touches, he’s the one, he’s the one that’s the secret sauce,’’ Campbell said. “He can turn routine plays into explosive plays that will hurt you if you’re the opponent.’’

2. Rookie linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, a fan favorite already, had a solid start. “All in all I thought he did a nice job, there’s a couple plays I know he wishes he could have back,’’ Campbell said. “For a rookie who went in and played a substantial role for us I thought he did a nice job. He was physical, he was aggressive, zeros MA’s (missed assignments) he was on top of it. That was good to see. Now we need more out of special teams from him which we’ll get.’’

3. Campbell made a point to mention the fans. “That place was fricking booming. They keep doing that, that gives us a great chance,’’ Campbell said. Seweel said the crowd noise was so loud that at one point he couldn’t hear quarterback Jared Goff and had to kneel down in the huddle to block out the noise. He was not complaining, by the way.

4. Right tackle Penei Sewell said the difference in the offense is night and day from last season. That starts with Goff who threw one interception in the first half but found a groove in the second  half. “There were some rough moments early but I loved the way he responded in the second half to get us back into it. I thought he settled in and did some really good things, he gave us a chance. I was very confident when we get this ball back we’re going to go down and win this game. I felt very good about where we were at offensively with him,’’ Campbell said.

5. Rookie defensive lineman Aidan Hutchinson had his ups and downs and notched just one tackle on the stat sheet despite playing 90 percent of the defensive snaps. Campbell is not worried. “The takeaway I had, and I think we all had, was ‘OK, This is what it’s like, this is it. This is the true taste of the NFL and adjusting to that caliber of athlete in a full game,’’’ Campbell said. “Now, there are certainly some things to where it looks like he’s got to make that play, but he needs a little help too. … Honestly I’m not even worried about him, he’s going to adjust from this. He’s prideful, he’s a pro. We already know that about him as a rookie I think we all do. He’s going to want to better himself, he’s going to learn from this and he will be better.’’

(Up next: Washington Commanders (1-0) at Lions (0-1), at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Ford Field.)

Five things to watch as Lions open against Eagles; plus prediction

Results of all the work in training camp and the offseason will come into focus for the 2022 season when the Lions open against the Philadelphia Eagles at 1 p.m. on Sunday at a sold-out Ford Field.

Coming off a 3-13-1 season, expectations are mostly high. That was fed by the Lions’ star treatment on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Still, coach Dan Campbell doesn’t think that adds more pressure. The team has picked up fans from around the country. The top selling Lions jerseys are Aidan Hutchinson and Malcolm Rodriguez who both turned out to be stars on the show.

“I know that it’s going to be a packed house, and I mean you couldn’t ask for anything more when you’re opening up the season. Us being at home, man, it’s the first one, and it’s going to be electric. And this is what we talked about,’’ said Campbell entering his second season. “Man, when I came in last year, that’s where we want to get it to a point to where, man the fans are excited, and they’ve got some hope, and now it’s our job to keep them in it, and keep them excited, and to know that we’re in there, and we’re in it. At the end of the game, we find a way to win. So, no, look – the ‘Hard Knocks’ deal, it doesn’t change any of our expectations in this building about who we are, where we’re at, where we need to go. That’s not for us to decide. All we’ve got to do is worry about what we worry about every day, man.’’

Campbell and his staff aren’t into predictions. No one has mentioned the ‘P’ word even if they’re thinking it. Instead it’s the old one day at a time philosophy. Campbell said he had talked with Lions principal owner Sheila Ford Hamp. 

“I said, ‘You know what, here’s where we’re at. We’re better. We’re better than we were this time last year, and that’s where it is.’ Now, what does that mean? It means we’re better than we were this time last year. I don’t know what that equates into, I just know we’re better. So, look, ‘Hard Knocks’ can make anyone look good, so I mean, that’s what TV does. They can make anything look good. They’re going to pull the best of the best, and so that’s not reality,’’ Campbell said. “Reality is what we’re getting ready to do, and what we’ve been doing every day in practice and all the reps we’ve banked, and these guys playing together, communicating, and that’s reality. That’s all we can worry about is how we see it in this building and go to work.”

Five things to watch for on Sunday:

ONE Jared Goff is a different quarterback heading into this season and he’s working under a new offensive coordinator in Ben Johnbson. Goff said the transition has been smooth and, in fact, better than he could imagine. “The trust he has in me, and the amount of questions he asks me, and vice versa, the amount of questions I can ask him. And his responsiveness, and how great he is at listening, all that stuff is so helpful for a quarterback and I don’t take it for granted,’’ Goff said. “He’s a great coach and someone I’m excited to work with.”

TWO Defensively, shutting down quarterback Jalen Hurts is key. His mobility sets him apart from many in the NFL. “Here’s the thing you have to be careful with when you’re playing a player like that. Sometimes you can overcoach a player to be so careful that you’re not getting a rush,’’ Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said. “Obviously rushing is important but most important I’m not going to sit back and tell Charles (Harris) and Aidan (Hutchinson) to sit back, man we’re going after this guy and we have to have other guys play off him also. Do we want to be reckless? No, we don’t want to do that. We have to be assignment sound and play hard, physical football.’’ Last season in the Eagles 44-6 win over the Lions, Hurts rushed for 71 yards on 7 carries and was 9 of 14 for 103 yards passing. 

THREE One of the Eagles’ keys on defense is cornerback Darius Slay who got his start in the NFL with the Lions. He’s 31 but still effective. “I think that when you have ability and as you continue to develop through the years you still have plenty of ability, but you just gain knowledge of the game and how you play different receivers, what you can get away with and what you can’t, that’s where you’ve seen him grow,’’ Campbell said. “That’s why he’s still playing at a high level. … He knows exactly who he is and what he’s capable of. … I know they feel good about him over there and I understand why.’’

FOUR Entering his second season, Campbell is amped up. His intensity was visibly higher this week starting with Monday’s press conference. He said it’s hard to say just one thing that makes him excited for the season to start. “ I’m just most excited now that it’s – that now we’re in the arena. There’s no more standing outside waiting for the gates to open, man. We’re going in, and so now there’s nowhere to run,’’ Campbell said. “There’s nowhere to hide. It’s just us. And the heat’s on, and if you don’t love that, you don’t belong up here. So, I’m most excited about that, and I’m most excited about just I think – I do believe we have a gritty group, and I think we’re tough, and I think we’re physical, and we’ve got to play with our hair on fire. And I think we will, so I’m excited about that.”

FIVE The Lions start the season with a banged-up offensive line. The big loss is right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai who injured his back, was placed on injured reserve and will miss at least the first four games of the season. Tommy Kraemer, who could have stepped in at right guard, is out with a back injury according to Friday’s report. He didn’t practice this week. Center Frank Ragnow (groin) is questionable to play. He had limited practice on Friday after sitting out on Thursday. Campbell and offensive line coach Hank Fraley moved the linemen around during camp so they should have multiple options. Also, defensive lineman Levi Onwuzurike (back) is out while safety Ifeatu Melifonwu (hamstring) is doubtful. Linebacker Julian Okwara (hamstring) is also questionable.

PREDICTION: Eagles 28, Lions 21. Detroit is a better team than last year but Philadelphia will just prove to be too much.

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.’’