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Lions rookie expectations for Week 13 vs. Vikings – Lions Wire

The Detroit Lions are set to face off against the Minnesota Vikings for the second time this season. While their last matchup ended with yet another heartbreaking loss for the Detroit Lions, their roster will look quite different this time around.
Due to an unfortunate amount of injuries over the season, the Lions have had to utilize many of their rookie players in bigger roles. Here’s what to expect from the 2021 rookie class on Sunday:
Running back Jermar Jefferson stands to gain the most this Sunday due to starter D’Andre Swift being ruled out. Jefferson has been very effective in his limited amount of snaps in the few games he’s been active for. Now he could be a speedier compliment to Jamaal Williams if the Lions opt to use the rookie instead of Godwin Igwebuike.
Jefferson has 70 yards of scrimmage on nine touches thus far, and we can expect him to put up decent numbers against a Vikings defense that is missing several core starters.
Fourth-round pick Amon-Ra St. Brown has had plenty of opportunities to make himself the number-one option at wide receiver but still hasn’t been able to capitalize on them. The rookie, who has taken nearly two-thirds of offensive snaps this season, has 352 yards to his name and has yet to find the end zone.
St. Brown was outplayed by newly-acquired Josh Reynolds on Thanksgiving and it looks likely he’ll go into this game as the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver against Minnesota.
Wright has been the primary blocking tight end for Detroit since the release of Darren Fells. He has seen some action in two-tight end looks but is primarily used in the run game as a blocker. He may come away with a short reception, but don’t expect to find his name on the box score this weekend.
First-round draft pick Penei Sewell has been a day-one starter for Detroit and has only showed improvement as the season has gone on. Sewell hasn’t allowed a sack since before the bye week and has performed better than many expected him to at right tackle.
Sewell was designated as questionable to play in this game after missing one practice this week due to illness and being limited in his return due to a shoulder injury. If he cleared to play on Sunday, he will start at right tackle.
Tommy Kraemer played relatively well on Thanksgiving when considering he is an undrafted rookie who was called up from the practice squad to start at right guard. With Halapoulivaati Vaitai looking good to go this week, the rookie will revert back to a reserve role. Fellow undrafted rookie Ryan McCollum will serve as a backup to center Evan Brown.
With veteran starter Michael Brockers questionable to play on Sunday, there’s a good chance that Levi Onwuzurike will see more snaps than usual. The rookie now has his first career sack under his belt and has shown a knack for batting passes and kicks out of the air. Hopefully his hard work can earn him more playing time than what he has been seeing.
Alim McNeill has been a serviceable run defender from the nose tackle position but has yet to pry the starting role from John Penisini. He will likely see about a third of snaps in this matchup and is good for two or three tackles.
Derrick Barnes was very hyped up by fans and coaches alike prior to the season, but it’s now clear that the rookie is dealing with some serious growing pains as he adjusts to the NFL.
Barnes has allowed 6-of-7 passes against him to be completed and has missed three tackles. He has the football IQ and the raw traits, but needs some more time to really learn the inside linebacker position.
This could be concerning for the Lions as starting inside linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin has been ruled out for Sunday’s game and it’s seems likely that Barnes is the next man up. It will be a good thing for the rookie to have meaningful experience in a bigger role but Barnes has a lot to prove if he does get the start.
Back from a long stint on injured reserve, rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu is cleared to play in his first game since Week 2.
While the starting outside roles are covered by Jerry Jacobs and Amani Oruwariye, Melifonwu may have a chance to start in the slot. The role was held last week by Will Harris who had more than his fair share of struggles. If Melifonwu wants to contribute, that will be the best, and maybe only, place for him to do so.
As mentioned earlier, undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs will once again start at outside cornerback. The rookie has exceeded all expectations and has earned himself some serious looks at retaining the starting role next season.
Mark Gilbert will serve as a backup for Jacobs. The last time he took the field on defense, he forced a fumble on Steelers’ receiver Diontae Johnson. If Jacobs were to go down with an injury, Gilbert would be a serviceable replacement.
Patterson’s first two career kicks in the NFL were good, albeit they were both extra points. It’s hard to know what to expect from the rookie kicker this week, especially since we are unsure if he will be the kicker or if the Lions will opt to elevate Aldrick Rosas from the practice squad.
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