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NOTEBOOK: Sewell not yet meeting his own high expectations

There are high expectations and then there are the expectations rookie tackle Penei Sewell has for himself.

Sewell is one of just two rookies (Rashawn Slater) to play at least 80 percent of their team's pass-block reps the first three weeks without allowing a sack. The 20-year-old Sewell has allowed seven pressures, three quarterback hits and no sacks as a rookie left tackle.

Still, it's not been good enough for Sewell.

"I would say for me I don't have a specific way to put it into terms, but it's not good enough," Sewell said Friday of his first three weeks on the job. "I have to come out each and every day ready to win every rep. There's a couple occasions where my technique in pass and run get out of hand, so I just have to lock into the little things and get right at those."

By most accounts, Sewell has played very well to begin his NFL career after moving from right tackle to left tackle when Taylor Decker landed on IR after suffering an injury before the season opener.

Sewell said pressure is what people make it out to be, and he has high expectations for himself. Head coach Dan Campbell has high expectations for his rookie tackle too.

"Look, there were some really good things done in the run game by him (last Sunday)," Campbell said this week of Sewell. "I thought he really – you can see that he and Jonah (Jackson) are working together.

"Now, I would say that's not his best performance after a three-week period. I expect more from him. I expect him to be better than he was. Now, was it bad? No, it wasn't bad, but I hold him to high standards, too. I hold that whole group to high standards. So, I expect more. There are some things that got on the edge a little bit, but he'll be better for it."

Decker will miss Sunday's game in Chicago, but is working his way back and could return sometime next week.

Sewell said he can't wait to get Decker back because he thinks it will make the line "so much better." He said Decker brings a whole new dynamic to the line that they've missed. Sewell is expecting to move back to right tackle when Decker is cleared to play.


Dom Capers knows exactly what it's like to watch a young, rebuilding team go through early struggles as they grow team chemistry and culture.

Capers, who is in his 35th NFL season and first in Detroit after joining the team as senior defensive assistant in 2021, was a first-year head coach of an expansion team twice in his career in Carolina and Houston.

After an 0-5 start to begin his first season in Carolina, he set an NFL record for most victories by an expansion team (seven) in their inaugural season in 1995 after winning seven of their last 11 games.

"The key was we had the right type of people in that locker room that continue to come out and work hard every day and sooner or later you see improvement, and we were able to go from 0-5 to win seven our last 11 games. The next year we won 13 games," Capers said of that first year in Carolina. "I've seen the process work in terms of surround yourself with the right kind of people, have a great work ethic and be able to focus on improving every day."

Detroit obviously isn't an expansion team, so there are differences in the current situation to Capers' in Carolina in 1995 and then in Houston in 2002, but there are some similarities, too. Detroit is going through a rebuild with a new front office and coaching staff, and they have one of the youngest rosters in the league.

Capers said Friday the Lions have the right steward for the job in Campbell.

"What you see is what you get with Dan," Capers said. "I think being a former player for as long as he played he has a great ability to relate to players and what they're going through.

"I think Dan knew when we first came in here this would be a process we would go through and the big challenge is you're going to face adversity, but if you've got the right kind of people surrounding you, and you handle it the right way, and don't see any excuses or finger pointing and placing blame and all that type of thing, that you're going to get better. I think our team has improved and to me that's an important part of the process."


There's been a lot of talk this week about being creative and scheming ways to get T.J. Hockenson more opportunities in the passing game after the third-year tight end caught just two passes last week and faced more double teams than he's been used to seeing.

Hockenson had a great line about the situation on Thursday.

"There's a few times where it's like yeah, you have to win a two on one and I'm not shy to that," he said. "The safety can play over top and the backer can play underneath and in my head I'm still winning that. That's a mindset I have. I have to go into every week thinking that I'm going to get doubled and I have to beat that."


Second-year wide receiver Quintez Cephus got some love from his head coach Friday. Cephus is tied for the team lead with two touchdown receptions in three games, and his eight catches are second among Detroit's wide receivers behind Kalif Raymond's 11 receptions.

"I think (Quintez) Cephus can come out and make some plays for us," Campbell said Friday, when asked if there are any Lions receivers who could break out Sunday in Chicago. "I think he's – you see things last week, though he didn't get targeted as much, I thought he did some good things on tape. He's getting there."

Campbell also said rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown is a player he thinks is closing in on a breakout performance.


The Lions took nose tackle Alim McNeill in the third round of this year's draft, and he quickly earned a starting role on defense. He had a terrific camp. There were pretty lofty expectations placed on McNeill, not just by the media and fans, but from his coaches as well.

"Look, I thought he was better last week, I did. I thought he played better, but there again, he's a young guy that we have high standards for," Campbell said.

"We expect a lot. So, I want to see more. I think we need to see more. Now, he was improved last week. But yeah, moving forward, let's see if he can take another step up is really what we're looking for."

McNeill has eight tackles and no sacks or quarterback hits in three contests.

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