By Will Burchfield
The Lions pulled off a wild 35-23 win over the Cardinals on Sunday, overcoming a dreadful first quarter to claim their season-opener.
Having reviewed the film and caught some rest, head coach Jim Caldwell dished on his team’s performance on Monday.
Here are five things that stood out.
1. Davis Developing
Rookie linebacker Jarrad Davis was solid in his NFL debut. He made nine tackles, recovered a fumble and helped keep the Lions’ defense on the same page for most of the game.
“He made a lot of plays,” said Caldwell. “But he’s a young player. The thing about him is he’s got the kind of attitude that you love. He’s going to make some mistakes here and there but he’s going to work to correct those things. I think he did alright.”
Caldwell commended Davis on Sunday for his on-field communication skills.
“I didn’t hear any issues or confusion. He does a good job in terms of direction. He’s an unusual guy in that regard because he’s not afraid to speak up. He is loud, he is vocal, and he’s a confident guy, too,” said Caldwell.
2. Strides in the Secondary
The Lions allowed a league-worst 106.5 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks last season and struggled to force turnovers. The secondary flipped the script on Sunday. Tavon Wilson, Glover Quin and Miles Killebrew each had interceptions and Carson Palmer finished with a passer rating of 53.2
“Obviously, we were much improved in that particular game,” Caldwell said. “We got our hands on a lot of balls. There were a lot of deflections. It was tight coverage. There were a couple where they were running free, but other than that it was pretty tight coverage for the most part.
“Even our linebacking corps, they were close in there doing a pretty good job in terms of just making certain that we had all of those avenues covered. So, those guys did a nice job and on to the next one.”
3. Stopping the Run
Prior to leaving the game in the third quarter with a wrist injury, Cardinals running back David Johnson had just 23 yards on 11 carries. He hasn’t been shut down like that in a very long time. How did the Lions do it?
“I could just tell you that any time you hold a team to 45 yards rushing, it’s a collective effort. I think because our guys ran to the ball well. They took care of their gaps. They played aggressively and I think those are the things that made a difference. And regardless of who we play, I think if you perform your duties properly within the context of the defense, good things happen,” Caldwell said.
4. Golladay is Golladay
There’s a temptation to anoint Kenny Golladay “The Next ____” after his eye-popping, two-touchdown debut. But Caldwell would not draw any comparisons for the 6’4, 220-pound wide receiver.
“He is who he is. We’re a long way away from defining what he can do in this league, because it’s one ballgame. But I do think that he’s got the right traits. He’s got speed, he’s got height, he’s got quickness and he’s got toughness,” said Caldwell. “Obviously, we’ll see in the long run how many big plays he can make for us and that kind of thing, but he’s certainly capable.
“But I wouldn’t like to compare him to anybody. He is who he is, and I think he’s got his own strong points.”
5. Next Punter Up
The Lions lost punter Casey Redfern on Sunday when he tried running out of the end zone after fumbling a snap and was clobbered by a trio of Cardinals. Per Dave Birkett of the Free Press, Redfern tore his ACL and MCL and partially tore his patellar tendon.
On Sunday, Caldwell said, “Certainly this young man’s worked extremely hard and has done a nice job for us. I was looking for him to have the kind of year he’s shown that he was having throughout the preseason.”
The Lions are working out four free agent punters on Monday, according to Birkett. Caldwell expects the newcomer, whoever it may be, to step in and step up right away.
“I don’t think it’s any more difficult than any other spot on the team. I think there’s some that you could say are even more difficult than that. An offensive lineman coming in with 3,000 calls that are made and combination blocks. A quarterback coming into a new situation. I can think of a lot of them that are a lot more difficult,” Caldwell said. “But it’s just a matter of a guy doing his job, plain and simple. There will be some things he’s not going to know right away, we can limit that, but if he does his main job that’s what counts.”