Lions vs. Panthers: 6 raises, 5 down from Saturday loss

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Well, I consider myself lucky that I haven’t felt that way in two months as a Detroit Lions fan. Let’s hope the Lions take care of business the rest of the way and we don’t feel that way again this season. It was an ugly day for everyone. Here are your engines for the week:

Stock: Jared Goff, QB

We start with one of the few bright spots on Saturday. Goff looked nothing like the man we’ve seen for most of the season. He was getting into pitches under pressure, taking hits like they were nothing and dotting lasers down the middle of the field. His final stat line (25-of-42 for 355 yards, 3 TDs) can be inflated by some garbage time scores, but he was playing well before the game got out of hand – save for an unsuccessful snap trade.

On any given playthrough, your eyes were 10 meters further than normal, and that’s a good thing. It’s a shame the rest of the team decided not to show up because this could have been a Lions victory. because of Jared Goff. If he can keep showing up like this (and the rest of the team won’t let him down), there’s no way to know what the cap on this team is.

Stock down: Ifeatu Melifonwu, S

Phew, what an underwhelming comeback for Melifonwu. From the start, he looked timid and unprepared to play both the passing game and the running game. He was a big part of the defensive breakdown in the first half, dropping tackles on Carolina’s running backs and leaving them with green grass. The running backs weren’t the only ones making Iffy look like a fool.

If DeShon Elliott can’t return to the lineup soon due to his shoulder injury, the Lions could have bigger issues than expected at the back end. As for Melifonwu, there’s a big question about what his role in the team, if any, is in 2023.

Stock: Evan Brown, G

The Lions lost their top four guards for much of November and December. Last week they got Evan Brown back but he struggled considerably on his return to the starting line-up. He recovered this week, mostly on the ground. He had a key block to open up the middle for Jamaal Williams on an early 4-1 conversion, which is especially impressive as Brown’s forte is in pass protection. Brown was technically responsible for a Brian Burns sack, but I won’t push him too hard, as you shouldn’t ask a guard puller to pass protection against an edge rusher.

Stock down: Isaiah Buggs, DL

Buggs emerged last month as a leader on this team and a cornerstone of this defense. Buggs was down on both counts on Saturday. Though he’s usually the big man in the middle of the defensive line, the Panthers made them look like Swiss cheese. Panthers running backs Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman often reached the second tier untouched in the first half. Then Buggs got a bad and unnecessary penalty in the second half. He threw in a running back after the whistle and was lucky he wasn’t called for another penalty after it turned into a few shoves and jaws with the Panthers forwards. Unforgivable behavior from anyone, but especially from a leader of your team.

Stock down: Jeff Okudah, CB

The last two weeks haven’t been friendly for anyone in the Lions’ secondary, but they’ve been by far the worst for Jeff Okudah. He was stalked by Zach Wilson, then he was stalked by Sam Darnold, and he was made a fool of by both of them. After I wrote in last week’s stock report that Okudah can’t play on an island right now, he was burned to the core by DJ Moore on a zero blitz cover. Even worse is that Okudah’s most consistent trait this year has been his run-defensive support, but he was also a problem there, on Saturday. He sniffed a few tackles, just like any other Lions quarterback, and was ugly from start to finish for number one.

Stock: Shane Zylstra, TE

It was Brock Wright’s biggest Detroit show since TJ Hockenson’s departure, but Shane Zylstra reminded everyone on Saturday that he’s still alive and well. All three of the Lions’ touchdowns on the day went to Zylstra. He would finish with five receptions, more than Brock Wright and James Mitchell combined. His emergence alongside Wright and Mitchell really opens up the Lions’ options for two (or three) sets at tight end in the future.

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DJ Chark, WR: Chark had several big achievements on Saturday. He goes on to show that his emergence since the Jaguars game is no fluke, nor is his connection to Goff. As he gets stronger, he’s really opening up the Lions offense vertically.

Amun-Ra St. Brown, WR: The hands of St. Brown continues to surprise us all, as he threw fingertip and traffic passes several times Saturday against formidable coverage.

Kalif Raymond, WR: Raymond is a huge threat in open space and he showed that in Saturday’s offense. His 56-yard reception in the third quarter kept the Lions offense from looking completely dead.

low stock

Kerby Joseph, S: This is the second week in a row that Joseph has looked out of position early and often. Even on run defense, he had a handful of bad angles that led to missed tackles, opening up the second tier for the Panthers in the run game.

Ben Johnson, OC: Sometimes more is less, as Johnson sometimes showed on Saturday. The Panthers’ secondary kept the Lions’ skillful players pinned down for much of the day, prompting some of Johnson’s creativity to come back and bite him.