Pat Caputo: Lions are what we thought they were


The reputation of patience as a virtue has taken a beating from the Lions.

The idea of starting over is painful. With two of three preseason games complete, the glass, however, appears to be 98 percent empty.

Fourth-round draft pick Derrick Barnes has made a couple good plays, so he looks like Darius Leonard in comparison to holdover linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who literally made no plays in 39 snaps during the Lions’ loss to the Steelers Saturday.

There have been a few other bright spots -- the emergence of undrafted rookie slot corner A.J. Parker comes to mind first. Yet, there are far too few to expect a marked improvement in 2021.

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It’s not an indictment of new general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell as much as what they inherited.

The Lions are a bad football team. They have one great player for his position, center Frank Ragnow. They have a solid left tackle in Taylor Decker. Count me among those critical of taking a tight end at eighth overall in the draft, but T.J. Hockenson is an excellent player. He is silencing the skeptics. I feel D'Andre Swift is the Lions' most underrated player and Jared Goff a good quarterback.

But after that, it's iffy. Although I felt the Lions should have selected QB Justin Fields seventh overall, drafting offensive tackle Penei Sewell instead was certainly logical. There are years an offensive tackle of Sewell's raw ability would be taken first overall. I get it. Build on a lone strength.

Sewell’s rusty after not playing last season. He is just 20. Pittsburgh's Melvin Ingram is a tough test for any tackle, but especially a rookie switching from the left side to right. But come on. Sewell was brutal Saturday.

Obviously it might ultimately mean nothing, but Sewell is more than a little rough around the edges. It has a bit of the same feeling as cornerback Jeff Okudah last season. Unfortunately, Okudah didn't play well Saturday, either.

This is where patience comes in. It's easy to rush to judgment with young players, but not always justified. It will be awhile before we know whether Sewell and/or Okudah live up to the promise of draft day.

What I don't think will work is spending too much time evaluating the obvious. Former general manager Bob Quinn simply didn't have a good feel for drafting players. Motivation and schemes matter, but not as much as talent. Can anybody remember Will Harris playing well? Or Tracy Walker after he flashed a bit early on as a rookie? Safety remains a problem. So does the defense overall.

Campbell and his staff can't turn water into wine. Holmes can't turn over the roster overnight.

The disappointment with the Lions won't necessarily come from the record. It's highly unlikely they are going to win many games. It's more about building on the club's modest nucleus and changing an otherwise obviously overwhelmed roster.

It will require the last thing Lions fans want to hear after more than six decades of unrelenting ineptitude: patience.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's the truth.

Even if it is only preseason.

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