The New England Patriots last met with the Detroit Lions in the Motor City on September 23, 2018. The Lions dominated in this game and beat the eventual Super Bowl champions with a final score of 26-10.
Let’s see what has changed since then.
The following 12 players were on New England’s 53-man roster in 2018 who are still on the active roster in 2022:
QB Brian Hoyer, OT Trent Brown, OT Marcus Cannon, C David Andrews, G James Ferentz, DE Deatrich Wise Jr., DL Lawrence Guy, LB Ja’Whaun Bentley, CB Jonathan Jones, S Devin McCourty, LS Joe Cardona, ST Matthew Slater
Offense: Pretty much the entire offense has changed since the 2018 matchup, but quarterback Brian Hoyer remains. Tom Brady was the clear-cut starter then, but no one knows who will start for the Patriots as Mac Jones is still dealing with his ankle injury and Hoyer is dealing with a concussion. Bailey Zappe would get the nod if they were both unable to play. Garrett Gilbert would most likely be elevated from the practice squad and be the primary backup if they cannot go and Zappe is forced to start.
The running back room is completely different as well, with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson expected to get all of the work. They both were not on the roster against the Lions in 2018, when the position was led by the likes of Sony Michel, James White and Rex Burkhead. Pierre Strong Jr. is the third back on the depth chart right now and may see some snaps on special teams.
The pass catchers are completely different as well, with Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker and Nelson Agholor the projected starters. Back in 2018, those roles were filled by Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett; Julian Edelman was suspended for that game, with Josh Gordon not yet activated.
The tight ends, meanwhile, feature Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith. However, Smith is nursing an ankle injury which means we could see Matt Sokol or Scotty Washington elevated to the game day roster — quite the change from 2018, when Rob Gronkowski led the group.
On the offensive line, meanwhile, three starters are still around. Trent Brown, who returned in 2021, David Andrews, and Marcus Cannon who was signed to the active roster this week. Brown will be at left tackle with rookie Cole Strange rounding out the left side at left guard. Andrews will remain at center with Michael Onwenu at right guard and Isaiah Wynn at right tackle (although Cannon may be deployed there on occasion). Wynn was on IR in 2018 for this matchup, while the other starting spots were filled by the likes of Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason.
Defense: The Patriots return five defensive players who all continue to make an impact in 2022.
Along the defensive line, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Lawrence Guy are still with the team. Wise Jr. will be putting pressure on the quarterback, while Guy’s status is uncertain due to a shoulder injury. Davon Godchaux and Christian Barmore will be the primary defensive tackles, replacing the 2018 group of Malcom Brown, Danny Shelton and Adam Butler.
Matthew Judon will be on the edge opposite Wise Jr., looking to get sacks. He was not with the team in 2018, with Adrian Clayborn being the top edge versus the Lions. Trey Flowers, meanwhile, was inactive for that game against his future team.
The linebacker room maintains Ja’Whaun Bentley, who suffered a season-ending biceps injury versus Detroit in 2018, as a primary starter. On the other hand, Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts, who started that game, are no longer with the team; they have been replaced by the likes of Bentley, Raekwon McMillan, Mack Wilson and Jahlani Tavai.
The secondary returns starters Jonathan Jones and Devin McCourty, who both saw action versus Detroit in 2018. Jalen Mills, Myles Bryant, and Jack Jones will be joining Jones in an attempt to slow down the Lions’ receivers — a job accomplished in 2018 by Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson. Mills missed last week with an injury and is questionable for Sunday.
At safety, Adrian Phillips, Kyle Dugger, and Jabrill Peppers will be on the field alongside McCourty. In 2018, the team captain was joined by Duron Harmon; Patrick Chung was out for the contest in Detroit.
Special Teams: The special teams unit has changed a lot over the years as now Nick Folk is doing the kicking instead of Stephen Gostkowski and Jake Bailey has replaced Ryan Allen at punter. Joe Cardona stays as the long snapper and Matthew Slater continues to be a primary player on coverage teams.
Cody Davis, Brenden Schooler, and DaMarcus Mitchell join Slater as the current primary players on the coverage units. McMillan and Tavai will also see a lot of work on this unit.
Coaching: A lot of change has happened on the coaching staff since, but Bill Belichick remains as a constant. The new offensive play caller and offensive line coach is Matt Patricia, who was actually coaching the Lions that season. Joe Judge has moved from special teams to the offensive side of things and is now and offensive assistant and quarterback’s coach. Vinny Sunseri has taken over as the running backs job from Ivan Fears.
Defensively, former coaching assistant DeMarcus Covington is now the defensive line coach with Jerod Mayo coming aboard to coach linebackers instead of Brian Flores. Steve and Brian Belichick are coaching the linebackers and safeties, after working as a safeties coach and coaching assistant in 2018, respectively. Cameron Achord’s first year on the staff was 2018 and now he is the full-time special teams coordinator.
The following two players were on Detroit’s 53-man roster in 2018 who are still on the active roster in 2022:
OT Taylor Decker, C Frank Ragnow
Offense: This Lions team is completely different on both sides of the ball and have just two players remaining on offense from 2018. Jared Goff is now the starting quarterback with Nate Sudfeld as his backup. This is very different from the starter from last matchup Matthew Stafford and backup Matt Cassel.
Running the ball this time around will be D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams and Craig Reynolds. Swift may miss this game with injury and Williams would figure to pick up most of that work if he was to miss. LeGarrette Blount and Kerryon Johnson previously carried the load for Detroit.
All of the pass catching weapons are totally different as well, with Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, D.J. Chark and Quintez Cephus running the routes at wide receiver. St. Brown is the star of this group but his status is in question with an ankle issue. T.J. Hockenson is the every down tight end and is coming off of a massive week against the Seattle Seahawks.
Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay were Stafford’s primary targets in 2018, and each caught touchdowns in the battle with New England. Golden Tate manned the slot with Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo and Luke Willson seeing the tight end reps.
The two remaining offensive players are still starters on the Lions offensive line. Taylor Decker returns as the left tackle with Jonah Jackson handling the left guard duties. Frank Ragnow shifts from left guard to center with Evan Brown at right guard and Penei Sewell at right tackle. The three other starting linemen from the previous battle were Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang and Ricky Wagner.
Defense: With Romeo Okwara and Tracy Walker both on injured reserve, there are no returning players on defense. The star rookie Aidan Hutchinson will be at one defensive end spot with Charles Harris at the other. Michael Brockers and Alim McNeill are the two starting interior defensive tackles. This unit does have a lot more athleticism than the group of Okwara, Sylvester Williams, A’Shawn Robinson and Da’Shawn Hand that Matt Patricia started in the two teams’ previous battle.
The linebacking core in 2022 starts Malcolm Rodriguez and Alex Anzalone with Chris Board rotating in. This group replaces one led by Jarrad Davis, Devon Kennard and Christian Jones four years ago.
The Lions start three corners this season with Jeff Okudah being the star. Alongside him are Amani Oruwariye with Mike Hughes in the slot. At safety, Kerby Joseph and DeShon Elliot are the top options. This unit is not as good as 2018’s that featured Darius Slay and Nevin Lawson at corner, with Glover Quinn and Quandre Diggs at safety.
Special Teams: The special teams unit is returning literally zero players as well. Austin Seibert will handle the kicking duties with Jack Fox at punter. Scott Daly is the long snapper for the kicking units. Kalif Raymond is the primary punt returner with Justin Jackson returning the kicks.
The aforementioned Tracy Walker was a primary special teamer in 2018 with Matt Prater kicking and Sam Martin punting. Don Muhlbach was Detroit’s long snapper.
Coaching: The Lions’ head coach in 2022 is the energetic Dan Campbell. The assistant head coach and running backs coach is Duce Staley while his offensive coordinator is Ben Johnson.
This group replaced the one led by Patricia, who is now back in New England, and former OC Jim Bob Cooter. No assistants return on the offensive staff with Mark Brunell (quarterbacks), JT Barrett (offensive assistant) and Antwaan Randle El (wide receivers) all coming aboard as part of Campbell’s staff.
Things are also completely different on defense and special teams, with Aaron Glenn and Dave Fipp now filling the coordinator roles there. They took over for former defensive coordiantor Paul Pasqualoni and special teams coaches Joe Marciano and Devin Fitzsimmons.