GREEN BAY, Wisc. — Free Press sports writer Dave Birkett takes a look at four Detroit Lions who helped their stock in Sunday’s 31-0 victory over the Green Bay Packers, and two who hurt their stock:
WR Brandon Powell
With Kenny Golladay sidelined by a chest injury, the Lions finally gave Powell extended snaps at receiver Sunday and the undrafted rookie delivered with a game-high 103 yards on six catches. Powell is still learning the playbook — he started to run a jet sweep Sunday on a play he wasn’t supposed to — but he showed some elusiveness in the open field. I still expect the Lions to sign a slot receiver this offseason, but Powell could push for a roster spot again.
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RB Zach Zenner
Zenner has played well enough over the last month to earn himself some free-agent offers this offseason. He had a career-high 93 yards on 21 carries Sunday, and caught a 30-yard screen pass. The Lions should do everything in their power to bring him back as the backup to Kerryon Johnson, but re-signing him isn’t a guarantee.
QB Matthew Stafford
Stafford has not had a very good season, but he had arguably his best performance of the year while playing with a host of backups Sunday. There’s been a lot of speculation about Stafford’s future, but I’d be stunned if he was anything but the Lions’ starter in 2019. He said he doesn’t expect to need any surgery this offseason, and that’s welcome news after he played through an array of injuries this season.
The Lions defense
This is a game ball for the entire unit for pitching the Lions first shutout since Sept. 29, 1996 (against the Buccaneers). Beyond just Sunday’s performance, which admittedly came against a no-name group of Packers skill players, the Lions defense has done its best in the second half of the season to carry a team with a bunch of offensive issues. Jarrad Davis deserves special mention for his improvements this fall, and Quandre Diggs intercepted his third pass of the season Sunday.
RB LeGarrette Blount
Blount said after the game that he wants to play a 10th season next year at age 33, but it seems unlikely the Lions will bring him back. Johnson should be this team’s feature back in 2019, Zenner is a better all-around backup and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions drafted a running back late. Blount averaged just 2.7 yards per carry this season and had 11 carries for 15 yards Sunday.
WR Andy Jones
Jones caught six passes for 50 yards on Sunday, but he also dropped two or three potential third-down conversions (depending on your definition of a drop). Jones is a good special-teams player and solid blocker, so he’ll always be a fringe roster guy. But until he improves his hands, he won’t be more.
Contact Dave Birkett: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.