By Jeff O'Brien

Dan Campbell spent much of last week scouting his own winless team, searching for the good, bad and ugly the Detroit Lions put on film while opening the season with a string of setbacks.

“There is a lot of young talent on this team when you go back and just dive into the last eight weeks that you see improvement,” Campbell said Monday, coming off the team’s bye.

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DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 31: Richard Rodgers #85 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball and looks to avoid tackles during the first half against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 31, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“And look, the hard thing right now is the fact that what happened (against) Philly puts a bad taste in everybody’s mouth and it does ours, too.

“But when you do go back and you kind of step back and look at it in its totality, you do see improvement out of young players.”

Detroit was drubbed by the Eagles 44-6 on Oct. 31 in its previous game.

The Lions (0-8) will get another chance to avoid being the NFL’s only winless team on Sunday against Pittsburgh on the road.

“Definitely looking at it like a new season,” rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 31: Amon-Ra St. Brown #14 of the Detroit Lions catches the ball and is tackled by Avonte Maddox #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles during the second quarter at Ford Field on October 31, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)

While the Lions have lost every game they’ve played, former quarterback Drew Stanton said people throughout the organization have told him that Campbell has not lost the respect of players in the locker room.

“That’s good, but I wouldn’t think that I would either,” the first-year coach said. “Look, nobody wants to be in a position we’re in. But I go back to this, it’s more about the guys we have here.”

WHAT’S WORKING

D’Andre Swift has been a bright spot, leading all NFL running backs with 47 receptions and ranking second at the position with 415 yards receiving. Swift, drafted in the second round in 2020, has scored five touchdowns to more than double the total of any teammate.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 24: D’Andre Swift #32 of the Detroit Lions rushes for a touchdown during the first half in the game against the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on October 24, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

WHAT NEEDS HELP

On both sides of the ball, Detroit is among the league’s worst in the red zone and that stood out to Campbell as he studied the team’s first eight losses.

“It’s still something that is pretty glaring,” he said.

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STOCK UP

Kalif Raymond has gone from being an NFL journeyman to becoming perhaps Detroit’s best receiver. The 27-year-old Raymond has 26 receptions for 334 yards and two scores. He entered the season with no more than nine receptions in any of his four seasons with Denver, both New York teams and Tennessee.

STOCK DOWN

Detroit has struggled to throw deep all season and Campbell said the team is determined to change that.

Jared Goff is averaging 9.7 yards per completion, tying him for 31st in the NFL.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN – OCTOBER 31: Jared Goff #16 of the Detroit Lions plays against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ford Field on October 31, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

“We’ve got to push the issue, which starts with us because Goff will do what we’re asking him to do,” Campbell said. “And, he’s certainly got the arm and accuracy to do it.”

INJURIES

OT Taylor Decker has been out all season with a finger injury, but Campbell sounds as if the veteran is eager to get back on the field. The team took him off injured reserve, giving him a chance to return.

“I looked at him and he had the right look in his eye and I know he’s ready to go,” Campbell said. “I can tell that he’s excited about jumping in there and starting to rep, rep at the left tackle position.”

The Lions have lost key players to season-ending injuries, including center Frank Ragnow, defensive end Romeo Okwara and cornerback Jef Okudah, drafted No. 3 overall last year.

KEY NUMBER

13.75 — In a league known for parity, Detroit’s defeats have been by an average of 13.75 points.

NEXT STEPS

Win. Detroit is desperate for a victory and it might be an underdog in every game. The Lions have road games left against Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Denver, Atlanta and Seattle. Detroit, without much fan support, hosts Chicago on Thanksgiving and also plays Minnesota, Arizona and Green Bay at Ford Field.

 

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