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TWENTYMAN: 5 players who impressed through first five games

The Detroit Lions aren't off to the start they expected or wanted at 1-4, but there have still been some positives along the way.

Let's take a look at five players who have impressed through the first five weeks of the season:

1. Right tackle Penei Sewell

The offensive line has been a strength of Detroit's all season long, and Sewell has been the most consistent performer. He's allowed just a half sack and two quarterback hits in five games. He's also been really strong in a run game that is among the best in the NFL, both at the point of attack and when he climbs to the second level or is in space. Sewell is strong and athletic, and in just his second season is already among the game's top tackles. He's arguably the top right tackle in the NFL right now.

Lions general manager Brad Holmes was ecstatic when Sewell was available to the Lions with the No. 7 pick in last year's NFL Draft. It's easy to see why. Sewell has become a foundational player and a potential Pro Bowler already in just his second season.

2. Wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown

A high ankle sprain suffered Week 3 in Minnesota has slowed St. Brown of late, but in just his second season he's proven to be one of the biggest steals of the 2021 NFL Draft as a fourth-round pick and the 17th wide receiver selected.

St. Brown had his NFL record streak of consecutive games with at least eight receptions snapped Week 3 because of that ankle injury, but he's still caught 27 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns in four games this season. He's crafty and smart in the slot, and isn't afraid to be physical in the run game as a blocker. He's contributed to a couple big plays in the run game because of his blocking skills.

St. Brown has quickly become one of the best slot receivers in the NFL.

3. Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez

Rodriguez impressed in training camp, earning a starting role on defense as a rookie sixth-round draft pick. He is smart and instinctive, and that's allowed him to become one of Detroit's most consistent playmakers on defense.

He's third on the team in tackles with 38, but leads the defense with four tackles for loss. He's also got a couple quarterback hits as a crafty blitzer. Detroit's defense has struggled to begin the season, but Rodriguez's play isn't a reason why. He doesn't miss assignments and can be counted on to be in the right places and make plays when the opportunity is there. He's been Detroit's most consistent rookie performer.

4. Wide receiver Josh Reynolds

It was evident all the way back in training camp there was good chemistry between Reynolds and quarterback Jared Goff. The two were teammates with the Los Angeles Rams, and that familiarity has been there all season.

The Lions have dealt with injuries at the receiver position, and Reynolds himself has battled through an ankle injury the last couple weeks, but he continues to produce at a high level. He's got 23 receptions on the year and his 335 receiving yards paces the Lions through five games. He's also chipped in a couple touchdowns.

5. Running back Jamaal Williams

D’Andre Swift has been dealing with an ankle injury since Week 1. A shoulder injury was added to his ailments Week 3, and he's missed the last two games. But Williams has held down the fort in the run game. Detroit ranks sixth in the NFL averaging 151.4 rushing yards per game.

Williams has rushed for 332 yards and his six rushing touchdowns are tied for second in the league with Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, behind only Browns running back Nick Chubb's seven. Williams is averaging 4.3 yards per rush.

Swift is a dynamic player, there's no denying that, but Williams is a tough, hard-nosed runner, who's shown some big-play potential himself. He's done a nice job as Detroit's lead back in place of Swift.

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