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Bob Wojnowski: With ghastly defense, Lions aren't much more than just a tease

Bob Wojnowski, The Detroit News on

Published in Football

After two games, this much we know: The Lions' talent-starved defense will make a lot of opposing quarterbacks look great, and not just the ones named Aaron Rodgers. Or Jimmy Garoppolo. Or Lamar Jackson, who must be drooling over the Ravens' visit to Detroit this week.

This much we think we might, possibly, know: The Lions offense could be above average, and their offensive line could be way above average.

Baby steps, people, baby steps. Dan Campbell doesn't want to hear it and doesn't want to say it, and he shouldn't. Undermanned NFL teams do win games, although not very many. The Lions play hard under Campbell and will beat a couple teams (including themselves) and should be moderately entertaining in the process.

Beyond that, no major revelations yet, just a few teases. The offense looks slightly better than anticipated, the defense looks worse. If you were expecting more provocative superlatives or expletives, what's the point? We can shriek and demand all we want after the Lions were battered again, 35-17 by Green Bay on Monday night. They don't get a free pass to play as horribly as they did in the second half after grabbing a 17-14 lead, but we don't get to ignore reality, either.

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Campbell pinned the blame on his offense, and I understand why. It's like the teacher admonishing the promising student instead of piling on the struggling kid. At the current injury pace, the Lions will be starting an Amazon driver at cornerback before long. Jeff Okudah is out for the year and rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu, who was playing well, is out at least a couple weeks with a leg injury.

 

The defense has obvious limitations, lacking playmakers everywhere. Linebacker Jamie Collins had a rough night and you can bet rookie Derrick Barnes will be on the field more regularly. The offense is limited without a deep passing threat but not overly limited anywhere else, which is encouraging. That also makes the second-half shutout discouraging.

"Knowing where it was going, it was back and forth offensively and I just felt like, look man, when you get into that type of game, your offense has to score more points than they do," Campbell said Tuesday. "That's where it was going. I don't think it'll always be that way, but that's where we're at. I got a lot of faith in our offensive line and our backs and the play caller, so that's just how I think."

There's plenty worth developing on the offense, especially on the line, which was terrific in the first half. First-round pick Penei Sewell looks like a fixture at left tackle, practically dominant at the age of 20. Yes, it'll be hard to displace him when Taylor Decker returns in a few weeks.

The running attack with D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams has been effective, topping 100 yards as a team each game and averaging 5.2 per carry. But it's rendered moot when opponents get so far ahead, Jared Goff has to throw. So far, Goff has been half-good and half-not-so-good, and on a bad team, that almost always equals a loss. His good was excellent — 13-for-16 for 137 yards and perfect TD strikes to Quintez Cephus and T.J. Hockenson in the first half. His bad was the feared bad, a fumbled snap in the rain, an interception and a poorly executed pass on fourth-and-1. That was a head-scratcher by offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, who otherwise called a solid game.

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