Most of the Detroit Lions were still celebrating their first win of the season, 36-27 over the Washington Commanders, in the locker room as the starter entered the media room after the game.
Jared Goff had thrown four touchdown passes. Amon-Ra St. Brown set both team and NFL records for catches and consecutive games with a receiving touchdown. No. 2 draft pick Aidan Hutchinson became the first rookie in organization history to record three sacks in a game.
But none of them were the first to meet the media.
Instead, it was offensive lineman Dan Skipper, the 6-foot-3, 330-pound longtime coach the world saw cut on the latest episode of HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” who walked for the first time.
“This is new,” he opened up. “(But) that’s what this gig is for. Show up every day, put on your hat, go to work and good things happen.”
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Skipper represented the interior of the offensive line, which wasn’t expected to excel due to a string of injuries this week.
The Lions’ starting guards and center — Jonah Jackson (finger), Frank Ragnow (groin, foot) and Halapoulivaati Vaitai (back) — were all out for the Week 2 contest, leaving just two-fifths of the organization’s expected starters healthy week. 2. So offensive line coach Hank Fraley started mixing up his combinations.
Skipper, a general tackle, was elevated from the practice squad to left guard.
Evan Brown, who started 12 games in Ragnow’s spot at center last season, again took Ragnow’s spot in the middle. Logan Stenberg, who made his first career freshman season start in Vaitai’s spot at right guard, held that spot again.
“The way we are as a team and as a room, I think everyone is ready to step up whenever their number is called and whenever they’re needed,” Brown said. “Guys play multiple positions and, you know, you lose a guy here, we mix them up, you throw a guy in there and we go play.”
The Lions, including Fraley, often talked about competition at nearly every position group during the offseason. But while the coach said his room was deep, he admitted there was a clear “top five” early in training camp.
From the production on the field Sunday, it was hard to tell it wasn’t this team. The Lions scored 36 points, marking the third straight week (dating back to the last game of 2021) they have scored at least 35. It is the longest regular season streak for the franchise since it did it four times in late 1952 and early 1953. .
Goff was 20-for-34 for 256 yards and four touchdowns, with the third-best passer rating (121.7) of his Lions tenure. The rushing attack was even stronger – 24 carries for 191 yards, averaging 8 yards per attempt.
“We’re all next,” Skipper said. “We’re not the elite, so to speak, but at the end of the day, we go out there and get a win, and that’s all that matters.”
Four different Lions — St. Brown, Craig Reynolds, D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams — had at least one carry of 10 yards or more. St. Brown and Swift each broke runs for more than 50. Swift said he was proud of the line and how they worked together, adding that the offense will only go as far as the line goes.
“Together as a team, cohesion has been built,” Brown said. “Whether it was me for the games last year or the preparation working with these guys… We know each other well and how we work together.”
The Lions’ line wasn’t completely injury-riddled: Their first-round picks in 2016 and 2021 — Taylor Decker on the left side and Penei Sewell on the right, respectively — served as bouquets at tackle, . After the media finished talking to Brown, Sewell chimed in with his opinion: “That’s right, Evan Brown is the (expletive) man!”
He wasn’t the only one, as the line allowed just two sacks after the first drive of the game.
Although the lack of healthy offensive linemen drew doubts from outside observers — the Lions went from 3½-point favorites in Las Vegas to underdogs after the final injury report — Sewell said there were none among the linemen.
Not only did they believe the streak would continue without missing a beat, but “that’s the expectation.”
He added that the Lions helped all three backups come into the game together because they have consistency from training camp and practice. After that, it was about getting comfortable with the tackles.
“We just all had to make it work together,” Sewell said. “And we did that.”
There were plenty of positives in the Lions’ first win of 2022. But favorite Sewell probably flew under the radar among them.
“For me personally, it was seeing Dan Skipper on a run play, go to his side and by the time he was done, he was all the way to the right side,” Sewell said with a smile. “I said, ‘Skip, how are you doing so far?’ then I said, “Yeah, that means he ran off the ball and pushed a guy down the line of scrimmage.”
This article originally appeared in the Detroit Free Press: O-line backups mesh seamlessly with Detroit Lions’ power play