Tue, 20 Oct 2020

Tim Twentyman

The best thing a rookie offensive lineman can do early in his career is not get noticed. Most of the time that means he's doing his job.

That's certainly been the case for rookie third-round pick Jonah Jackson two games into his first season.

Jackson has played every snap at right guard through Detroit's first two games and has allowed just three pressures and one sack in 81 pass blocking reps. He's been solid as a run blocker, and he fits in personality-wise in Detroit's offensive line room.

Jackson transferred from Rutgers to Ohio State for his final year of college, so he's had to step into a new situation with high expectations before. Lions head coach Matt Patricia thinks that's helped the rookie with his early adjustment to the NFL.

"I think he's been through that before, so entering into our organization, our building, I think he's taken that same approach, and I think he's really understood the transition to this level," Patricia said. "I think he's learned the techniques and obviously he's very aggressive and just a good football player.

"I just physically think he's done a good job of really playing with some good technique and he's starting to expand some of that, and you see that in the changeup of his play."

Jackson is graded in the top 30 among guards after two weeks by Pro Football Focus, so he's been steady early on.

Jackson said the biggest adjustment from college to the NFL has been more mental than physical.

"It's just mental being fundamentally sound and assignment sound, just being able to execute your job in the proper fashion I feel like is the biggest change from college to the NFL," he said.

"You can't miss the aiming point that you need to on an outside zone play. You can't miss your punch on third down, because it's a difference between getting your quarterback hit and you definitely not doing your job right."

The fact Jackson understands that being up on his fundamentals and being technically sound is how he's going to be a good football player for a long time just shows the awareness he has at this early stage of his career to go along with his obvious physical tools.

"We thought we had something in Jonah, and I think you're starting to see it," Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "He's a physical player, but he's also super athletic, so he's done a nice job of fitting in there."

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D-LINE KNOWS THEY HAVE TO BE BETTER

Detroit's defense has given up a league-high 408 rushing yards the first two weeks of the season, and the opponent 6.5 yards per rush average is also the highest in the NFL.

The Lions' defense can't continue to play the run like they have against Chicago and Green Bay the first two weeks and expect to see better results in the win column. The coaches and players know that, and Lions veteran defensive tackle Danny Shelton says it has to start with the defensive line being a better first line of defense.

"We just take all the blame upfront," Shelton said this week. "It starts with the guys up front and we have to be solid upfront and if we're going to stop the run, we have to do it upfront first."

Shelton said he's angry about how the first two weeks went on defense and senses the same from his fellow defensive linemen. He said they don't like giving up 100-plus yards on the ground as a defense, and the group has to step it up collectively and get into the film even more and have more pride in stopping the run.

FOX OFF TO GREAT START

The most valuable player for the Lions through the first two weeks of the season has probably been first-year punter Jack Fox, which means Fox is playing really well, which is good, but also helps explain why the Lions are 0-2 to start the year.

"I'd love for him to have a really calm day and not have to do anything except for hold for field goals and extra points," Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford joked this week.

That hasn't been the case through Detroit's first two contests, but Fox has been excellent when called upon. He leads the NFL in net punting average (51.3 yards) and is third with a 52.0 average.

Fox said Thursday he's improved steadily over the last year after stints on the practice squads of Kansas City and Detroit that Fox referenced as a "red shirt" season to improve timing and his technique work.

Lions special teams coordinator Brayden Coombs is particularly impressed with the net punting average, because it means the 10 other players on that unit beside Fox are doing their job well too. Detroit's allowed just three punt returns this season for a total of six yards. Fox had a 57-yard fair-catch punt last week in Green Bay. That's some serious air time.

"Jack is kicking the crap out of the ball," Coombs said. "Everybody's doing a good job in that phase right now. Listen, we're two weeks in, and we just have to stick with it every single week and make sure that there's no let up.

"League rankings and stuff aren't something we worry a whole lot about, but those are numbers that can all be ruined with one single play. We just really have to stick with it and keep going. But yeah, Jack really punted well the other day."

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