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TWENTYMAN: 5 players who impressed

The Detroit Lions may be 0-8 on the year, but there have still been some positives along the way.

Let's take a look at five players who've impressed through the first two months of the season:

1. Punter Jack Fox

Fox was a Pro Bowler in his first year with Detroit a season ago, and he's picked up right where he left off through the first half of this season.

Fox ranks fourth in the NFL with a punting average of 50.4 yards, but leads the NFL with a 45.1 net average. The latter statistic is a team stat and speaks to just how well Detroit's coverage units have supported Fox's efforts throughout the first half of the season. Fox has also dropped 12 punts inside the 20-yard line, which ranks top 10 in the NFL.

Overall, Detroit's special teams have far and away been the most positive development through eight games. Detroit covers kickoffs just as well as they do punts, and they rank top 10 in the league in punt-return average (9.1 yards) and in their percentage of kickoff returns gaining 20-plus yards (78.9).

2. Running back D’Andre Swift

Swift is coming off an OK performance last week against Philadelphia, but the second-year back out of Georgia has had an overall good start to the 2021 season, especially with his impact in the passing game.

Swift's 47 receptions rank 10th in the NFL and first among running backs. His 415 receiving yards are also tops among running backs. He's got five total touchdowns, which leads the Lions through eight games.

Swift is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry, but he's at his most explosive in the open field, and the Lions have been using the passing game as an extension of their run game with Swift to get him in those spaces. He's explosive and elusive, and has shown off his power a couple of times this season by running over defenders.

3. Tight end T.J. Hockenson

Detroit's leading pass catcher through eight games, Hockenson's 48 receptions are tied with Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle for the eighth most in the NFL, and are just one behind Kansas City's Travis Kelce (49) for the NFL lead among tight ends. His 448 receiving yards are fifth most among tight ends behind only Kelce (560), Mark Andrews (516), Kyle Pitts (484) and Mike Gesicki (475).

Hockenson only has two touchdown catches and none since Week 2, so the Lions have to find ways to get their best receiving threat more opportunities in the red zone the second half of the season.

4. Safety Tracy Walker

Walker is second on the Lions with 44 total tackles and has consistently been Detroit's top defensive performer week in and week out.

Walker is a pretty sure tackler (four missed tackles) and has really improved the coverage aspect of his game in his fourth year. Opponents are completing just 38.5 percent of the passes thrown in his coverage area (5-for-13) for less than 100 yards with just one touchdown, per Pro Football Focus statistics.

The Lions have had to do a lot of shuffling in their secondary due to injury. Walker and third-year cornerback Amani Oruwariye have been the two constants, and both have played pretty well through the first half of the year.

5. Tackle Penei Sewell

It couldn't have been easy for Sewell to be asked to switch from right tackle to left tackle the week of the season opener vs. San Francisco after Taylor Decker was injured, but the rookie out of Oregon has handled the switch pretty well.

Sewell didn't allow a sack in his first three contests of the year against talented defensive fronts for the 49ers, Packers and Ravens.

He went through a little bit of a tough stretch Weeks 4 & 5, allowing two sacks apiece in games against Chicago and Minnesota, but Sewell's bounced back nicely, and hasn't been credited with allowing a sack the last three weeks.

Sewell has been particularly good as a run blocker, ranking among the top 20 tackles (both sides) as a run blocker by PFF.

Decker was recently activated from Reserve/Injured and if he returns to the lineup, head coach Dan Campbell said the plan is to move Sewell back to right tackle.

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