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NFL Films/ESPN legend — and one of the best talent evaluators in the business — Greg Cosell has gone through a metric ton of 2021 tape to provide insights on some interesting players headed into the 2022 NFL season. Here, he brings you his raw notes and observations from those tape sessions.
It’s a chance to get inside the mind of one of the greats of the industry.
Today’s study is a detailed breakdown of the Lions’ passing game in first and third-down situations, with a focus on three guys new to the Lions in 2021 — QB Jared Goff, OT Penei Sewell, and WR Amon-Ra St. Brown.
JARED GOFF ON FIRST AND THIRD DOWNS
Play action boot off outside zone run action is something Goff is very comfortable with, going back to his time with the Rams. The Lions featured the concept out of multiple personnel and formations.
The Lions showed a multiple play-action pass game on first down out of different personnel packages and formations. They also featured different route concepts, including post-cross combination and flood, with the vertical route being both post and sail.
On first downs, the Lions featured six-man protection schemes and chips on the outside to keep Goff secure in the pocket.
One thing that stood out was Goff showed efficient pocket movement to find space to deliver the football. Goff is not a naturally strong-armed passer, so he needs to have a firm base to deliver with any kind of velocity.
Goff struggles at times to stop and plant his back foot on 5-step and 7-step drops when he needs to increase his tempo. He tends to drift back and fall away from throws, which negatively impacts velocity.
Goff needs space in the pocket to feel secure and play with a comfortable feel and rhythm. The playcaller is critical, because the route design must consistently win for Goff to be effective playing within timing and structure.
Lions featured multiple hi-low concepts in their passing game. Goff is comfortable with hi-low since the Rams run hi-low as well as any team in the NFL.
RB D’Andre Swift is an outstanding receiver and a significant check down weapon for Goff. Swift is elusive, but also strong, powerful, and competitive run-after-catch.
The Lions featured 1x3 sets on third down, with TE TJ Hockenson the boundary X out of multiple splits. Hockenson can effectively work all three levels of the defense.
PENEI SEWELL ROOKIE SEASON
- Sewell is a LT, not a RT. He is very athletic, with light feet and easy lateral movement with good knee bend and balance. What Sewell lacks is core strength to sit and anchor, and the result is he gets driven back too easily. Sewell’s left leg did not anchor with any strength and he consistently lacked sturdiness in his pass set.
- From the LT position, Sewell struggled to redirect versus inside counters. He could not plant with his outside (left) leg and quickly redirect laterally.
- What consistently stood out with Sewell at LT was his initial kick slide step did not gain any ground, so he was in immediate recovery mode versus edge pressure.
- Sewell at RT is highly susceptible to speed-to-power off the initial upfield challenge. He has a hard time planting his left leg off his outside kick.
- What consistently stood out was how often the Lions helped Sewell in pass protection with both formation and tactics such as chips on third downs. Sewell did not one-on-one pass protect as a foundation on third down.
AMON-RA ST. BROWN: 10+ YARD RECEPTIONS
St. Brown had 120 targets in 2021, with 71 coming from the slot. 48 of his 90 receptions Also came from the slot.
St. Brown lined up in multiple locations in the Lions’ offense. When he aligned outside, he was predominantly in a reduced split.
St. Brown was deployed as a movement and motion receiver in the Lions’ offense.
St. Brown has natural route quickness through his stem and outstanding separation quickness at the top of his route stem. He was very smooth and fluid.
St. Brown was tough and competitive and fought for yards after catch, but he does not possess a lot of play strength. St. Brown made tough catches in the middle of the field and consistently worked between the numbers.
There were snaps in which St. Brown lined up offset in the backfield and was deployed as both a receiver and runner (26-yard TD versus Seahawks came on a delay draw). I would not be surprised to see more of that in 2022. St. Brown was also used on a counter-run from wing alignment.