JAX-DET grades: Lions DE Ezekiel Ansah shines in win over Jaguars
Detroit Lions 26, Jacksonville Jaguars 19
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Detroit Lions’ 26-19 Week 11 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars:
Quarterback grade: Blake Bortles, 40.6
Growth still required after 40 starts
Since QB Blake Bortles took the reins of the Jacksonville offense in Week 3 of the 2014 season, the Central Florida product has led the franchise to a 10-32 record. We saw a massive improvement in Bortles’ play from 2014 (41.8) to 2015 (80.1), but he’s clearly taken a step back this season. A portion of the struggles must be distributed to an offensive line that ranks outside the league’s top-20 in pass-blocking grades. TE Julius Thomas has not provided the production seen in Denver, WR Allen Hurns has three times as many drops as touchdown receptions, and RB Chris Ivory is the NFL’s least-productive running back to date.
After losing RB T.J. Yeldon and G Patrick Omameh to early injuries, Bortles struggles really stood out. When provided with a clean pocket, Bortles completed an abysmal 56.0 percent of 25 passing attempts, averaging 5 yards per attempt and surrendering a pair of interceptions. In addition, he connected on only one throw of 10 yards or more on 10 targeted throws. Bortles was not sacked and only pressured on six occasions, as the Lions would utilize a 4-2-5 defensive configuration on 76 percent of total plays, and yet were able to pressure Bortles, on average, in 2.24 seconds per play. The only redeeming quality from the game for Bortles was in completing 8-of-10 attempts when under pressure for 77 yards and a touchdown.
Top offensive grades:
WR Marquise Lee, 85.7
RG Chris Reed, 75.0
C Brandon Linder, 74.8
RT Jermey Parnell, 69.6
HB Chris Ivory, 52.6
Let’s set aside the fact that RG A.J. Cann (38.5), LT Kelvin Beachum (45.9), WR Allen Hurns (49.9), TE Julius Thomas (52.1) and HB Chris Ivory (52.6) continued to provide next to nothing positive in Week 11. WR Allen Robinson (52.5) also took a step back from back-to-back solid performances, and only one offensive player for the Jaguars was able to generate a grade in the 80.0’s. However, that one performance was certainly one to raise some eyebrows. WR Marquise Lee had himself quite the game, returning one kickoff for 42 yards, rushing once for 6 yards while forcing a missed tackle, and collecting each of his four catchable targets for 52 yards and a touchdown. Lee provided the highlight of the game with a 29-yard sideline catch, where he was able to contort toward the throw in the air and still manage to tap down both feet before going out-of-bounds at the 1-yard line. Both Lee and Robinson currently grade within the top-10 wideouts in the league since Nathaniel Hackett took over as offensive coordinator.
Top defensive grades:
DE Jared Odrick, 85.7
DT Abry Jones, 82.7
SS John Cyprien, 82.4
ED Dante Fowler, 78.4
S Tashaun Gibson, 76.5
Despite the defeat, defense plays well
It may come as a surprise that three players finished with grades in the 80.0’s, but each played a solid football game. DE Jared Odrick pressured the quarterback twice, batted a pass, and registered three stops. DT Abry Jones added another batted pass, six total tackles, and four stops of his own. While SS John Cyprien posted five solo tackles and a pair of stops. The Jaguars’ first-round selection out of Florida State, CB Jalen Ramsey (47.5), really struggled in coverage after allowing six-of-seven targets into his coverage to be completed, permitting an average of 3.5 yards after the catch and missing one tackle attempt.
Quarterback grade: Matthew Stafford, 73.9
Lack of running game limits Stafford
Detroit managed 21 rushing yards on 21 rushing attempts. You do not need to be a mathematical savant to notice the issue with those results. HB Theo Riddick is unable to generate the force to run effectively between the tackles, and HB Dwayne Washington has only completed one game this season—when he was actually active and uninjured—with a yards after contact per attempt average greater than 2.5 yards (Week 3 vs. Green Bay), and one game in which he was able to even generate more than 3.8 yards per attempt. Essentially, the Lions’ offense has evloved into a one-trick pony, and the criticism will always fall on the quarterback. Despite this absolute crutch in production, QB Matthew Stafford has managed to produce highly positive PFF grades—outside of his Week 8 flop vs. Houston’s top-five ranked coverage. Bottom line: The Lions need to find a way to move the ball between the tackles in order to take advantage of Stafford’s play this season. Opposing defenses have keyed in on preventing throws greater than 10 yards in response.
Top offensive grades:
RB Theo Riddick, 71.0
LT Taylor Decker, 69.2
RG Larry Warford, 69.1
TE Eric Ebron, 66.7
WR Anquan Boldin, 55.2
Despite victory, stagnant overall offensive performance
RB Theo Riddick continued to prove to the world that he is one of the NFL’s most dynamic running backs in the passing game, catching eight-of-nine targets, racking up 70 yards and averaging 9.1 yards after the catch. RG Larry Warford provided sturdy play and—despite allowing three pressures—LT Taylor Decker also played reasonably well. However, the remainder of the offense either out-right flopped or failed to make a mark against Jacksonville.
Top defensive grades:
SS Rafael Bush, 86.5
DE Ezekiel Ansah, 82.9
S Tavon Wilson, 81.4
DE Kerry Hyder, 79.9
LB Josh Bynes, 77.5
Coverage deficiencies hinder defensive units’ play
CB Darius Slay (47.2) did not play his best game. He’s been a consistently positive performer for the Lions over the past 2.5 years, so he should be forgiven for the outcome. Slay actually only limited Jaguars’ receivers to averages under 2.0 yards per target and after the catch. However, two-of-four receptions would occur in the end zone. While Dallas rookie RB Ezekiel Elliott paces the NFL in rushing, the Lions’ defensive iteration of Zeke—of the Ansah variety—burst out of an average season to produce his, by far, highest-graded game of the season. Ansah applied hits to Blake Bortles on four occasions, added one additional pressure and a trio of stops.
PFF Game-Ball Winner: Marquise Lee, WR, Jaguars
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