The Detroit Lions' secondary continues its run of bad luck with injuries. After losing starting corner Jeff Okudah for the season with an Achilles injury and replacement starter, rookie Ifeatu Melifonwu, to injured reserve—he is expected back sometime after the Lions bye week—they have now potentially lost their starting nickel corner rookie AJ Parker as well.
Parker injured his shoulder in the second half of last Sunday’s game against the Los Angeles Rams after leading with his shoulder on a tackling attempt. After leaving the field, Parker appeared to try and get back into the game, but after further examination from trainers, he was shut down and was seen wearing some added protection on his left upper arm.
At his Monday press conference with local media, coach Dan Campbell didn’t sound too optimistic about Parker’s availability in the near future, saying, “My gut says he’ll be down a little while.”
Each time this season, Campbell has uttered the words “be down a little while” the player has ended up on injured reserve in the coming days. Now, that doesn't mean Parker is necessarily headed there, but Campbell’s phrasing is not an encouraging sign.
The Lions have spent most of the season with Parker as their only traditional nickel corner option on the active roster. Corey Ballentine has nickel experience but was primarily the team's kick returner and didn't see a single defensive snap before he landed on injured reserve. The Lions' only other traditional slot option is Nickell Robey-Coleman, who is currently on the practice squad. He was elevated in Week 6 but didn’t play a single snap that game despite being active.
Robey-Coleman wasn’t active last Sunday, so when Parker went down the Lions turned to Daryl Worley, who has previous experience playing corner in the NFL. With the Lions, however, he had previously only seen time at safety. Worley was on the field for 17 plays on Sunday, and on seven pass coverage snaps he allowed 64 yards and touchdown, resulting in a team-low PFF grade of 26.1—not ideal.
If Parker is indeed going to miss a significant amount of time, the Lions will need a replacement starting option in the slot. Worley doesn’t look like the answer, leaving the Lions with only a few other options.
Converted safety Bobby Price and newly signed rookie Mark Gilbert are the only other corners on the active roster, but both are primarily outside options. The two Lions players with nickel experience are both on the practice squad: Robey-Coleman and yet another rookie corner, former Michigan State Spartan Shakur Brown.