Have the Lions discovered something special in rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs?
Jacobs, who was undrafted coming out of Arkansas and signed by the Lions as a free agent, was pressed into duty early this season after injuries to Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melifonwu. But since making his first start Week 5, Jacobs has become one of the defense's most consistent performers, and a player they simply can't afford to take off the field.
"You've got to give credit to our scouting department of bringing a guy like that in," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said of Jacobs on Thursday. "That was a guy that we looked at together as a player that we wanted. I mean, we all know, I don't care if it's a first-round pick to a seventh-round pick to a free agent, you never know what you're going to get until you get the guy in.
"We knew that we had something. We didn't know he was going to be who he is right now, but again, there is a long way for that player to go. So, you've got to be excited to have a player like that, that's playing as well as he is. He's still young and he has a lot more to learn. We're excited about that player."
There's certainly a lot to be like about Jacobs early in his NFL career. He's allowed 27 catches on 42 targets for 347 yards, and he has six pass breakups and just one touchdown allowed all season.
He's coming off another solid performance last week against the Vikings where he recorded seven tackles, a couple of which were terrific open-field stops on third down to get the defense off the field. He also added two tackles for loss and a quarterback hit.
"I'm still humble," Jacobs said of some of the praise his play has garnered over the last few weeks. "I still see myself as an undrafted (player) trying to come in and earn a spot. I don't let none of that phase me. I do appreciate the love and support, but I just keep going and try to get better every day."
At 5-foot-11 and 203 pounds, Jacobs is sturdily built and plays a physical brand of ball, especially when it comes to tackling.
"He's a pretty ferocious tackler when you watch him," Glenn said. "I mean, he has a couple of different type of tackles that he likes to use. He can shoot you low or he can stay up high. The thing is, he has the arm strength and the hand strength to be able to wrap and grab and bring you down.
"That's a player that you know is going to be around for a number of years, especially that type of body-type. So, we're happy about the player."
From undrafted rookie to reliable starter, Jacobs is a great example that it doesn't matter how a player enters the league, it only matters what they do with their opportunity.
ART ROONEY SPORTSMANSHIP AWARD NOMINEE
Running back Jamaal Williams is one of the most charismatic players on the Lions roster.
He's always smiling and having a good time, and both coaches and teammates credit him with being the single most energetic player at practice. He brings the juice every day.
On Thursday, the team honored Williams by nominating him for the NFL's 2021 Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award. Created in 2014, the award recognizes players around the league who demonstrate on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
A panel of former players – Warrick Dunn, Larry Fitzgerald, Curtis Martin and Leonard Wheeler – will narrow the 32 nominees to eight finalists, four from each conference, and the players will vote on a winner as part of their Pro Bowl balloting.
FOX THE HOLDER
We know Jack Fox for being one of the top punters in the NFL.
But one area where special teams coordinator Dave Fipp says Fox has really improved over the last year is in the important task of holding on place kicks. It's sometimes a forgotten duty on the football field until something goes wrong, just like long snapping. Fipp explained just how integral the holder is to the kicking operation, especially in Detroit's situation, where they've used two different kickers the last three weeks.
"I do think he's come a long ways with holding," Fipp said of Fox. "Aldrick (Rosas) likes the ball leaned a little bit more than a lot of these guys here, so (Fox) has to adjust the tilt for his preference. Riley (Patterson) is a little bit more vertical with the ball.
"But then the wind plays a factor in all that too. So you would adjust that based off the wind and what hash you're on and all that stuff too. It's a big impact in the whole thing and I would say that he's really come a long way with that and very proud of him because he's put a lot of time and effort into it."