The Detroit Lions were back in Allen Park for the final week of the season, preparing for a Week 18 matchup with division rivals, and NFC No. 1 seed, Green Bay Packers.
There’s not much on the line for either team this week—the Packers have a bye in the playoffs locked up and the Lions are locked into a top-2 draft pick—but there will be plenty of players fighting for a future role on this roster and will be playing their guts out to impress the coaching staff. On Wednesday, coach Dan Campbell noted what he will be looking for from his team this week.
“Continued development out of the young players, but even some of the players that are second-year players, third-year players maybe thrusted into roles that they haven’t had an opportunity to play in very much,” Campbell said. “So, that’s what we’re looking for. ‘Are they taking a step up from last week? Or, continuing to take the right steps into this last week.’”
Let’s take a closer look at which players might get an opportunity to impress because of injury, or due to a player landing on the COVID-19 list. Here is a look at the Lions’ official injury report for Wednesday, noting that the new injuries, changes in status, and new reserve/COVID-19 additions are bolded.
Added to the reserve/COVID-19
- LT Taylor Decker — added January 3
- RT Penei Sewell — added January 3
- EDGE Austin Bryant — added January 3
- WR Geronimo Allison (practice squad) — added December 29
- RB Rodney Smith (practice squad) — added January 3
- Defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant — added December 31
The good news for Decker, Sewell, and Bryant is that they were placed on the list on Monday, and given the NFL’s new COVID parameters, they will have a chance to clear protocols ahead of this weekend’s game. That being said, nothing is guaranteed, as we saw last week with Josh Reynolds, who was trending in the right direction to be cleared but was unable to meet the requirements.
If either Decker of Sewell is unable to play, Matt Nelson has been preparing this week to fill in at left and right tackle, as well as the sixth offensive lineman role he is currently thriving at. That means, the offensive tackle positional hierarchy is likely:
- Everyone available: Decker at LT, Sewell at RT, Nelson at OL6
- No Decker: Sewell at LT, Nelson at RT, Will Holden at OL6
- No Sewell: Decker at LT, Nelson at RT, Holden at OL6
- No Decker or Sewell: Nelson at LT, Holden at RT, Tommy Kraemer or Dan Skipper at OL6
If Bryant is unable to clear, look for Julian Okwara to get the start, as well as a rotation of Jesse Lemonier and Rashod Berry behind him.
Activated from reserve/COVID-19
- WR Josh Reynolds — removed January 3
- WR Kalif Raymond — removed January 4
- TE Brock Wright — removed January 3
- RG Halapoulivaati Vaitai — removed January 3
- DL Michael Brockers — removed January 3
After missing last Sunday’s game in Seattle, all five of the above starters were cleared to return to the active roster ahead of Wednesday’s practice.
- FB Jason Cabinda (knee)
Cabinda was injured in Week 16 but was unable to practice or play last week. Initially, Campbell sounded doubtful about Cabinda’s chances to play again this season, but was more optimistic later in the week. Starting off the week as a non-participant, however, is not a good sign.
- QB Jared Goff (knee) - upgraded from no practice last week
- LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (shoulder)
- DE Michael Brockers (neck)
- G Jonah Jackson (elbow)
- TE Brock Wright (groin)
The big news here is that Goff returned to practice for the first time since being placed on reserve/COVID-19 after Week 15 vs. the Cardinals. He missed the next game while on the COVID list, but he missed last week due to a knee injury suffered just before halftime against Arizona. On Wednesday, Goff gave an update on the injury.
“It’s a bone bruise is the best way to describe it,” Goff said. “It’s just pain management and trying to avoid any setbacks.”
Obviously, a return to practice is a promising sign for Goff’s availability this week, but the Lions starting quarterback did not sound like he was a for-sure go this week.
“It’s progressing,” Goff said. “Again, like I said, I hope to play. We’ll see how the week goes, but I don’t know is the answer until probably later in the week.”
If Goff can’t go, it will be Tim Boyle to make his fourth career start, as Campbell confirmed on the radio on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Boyle noted that it would be special to play against his former team, but he won’t let the emotions get the better of him if he has to take the field.
“It would be more cool. I get to play against a former team of mine, but part of the responsibility of a quarterback is trying to stay even keel and not really look into that kind of stuff,” Boyle said.
Brockers and Wright are coming back from being placed on the reserve/COVID-19, but it appears they are also nursing new ailments. Brockers has been a common feature on the Lions’ injury report, but typically with a knee injury. With a limited designation for both, this doesn’t appear to be too serious, although a downgrade on Thursday would put some doubt into their status this week.
Reeves-Maybin remains on the injury report with his shoulder injury, but he has played 100 percent of snaps in back-to-back weeks, so there is no major concern there.
Jonah Jackson’s injury is new. He was able to finish Sunday’s game against the Seahawks without missing a snap.
No longer listed on the injury report
- RB D’Andre Swift (shoulder)
- EDGE Julian Okwara (ankle)
- EDGE Rashod Berry (illness)
- LB Curtis Bolton (back)
With everyone short of Bolton getting in a full practice this week, no surprise to see these players off the injury report. Of course, it’s good to see no one suffered a setback.
After only getting six touches last week, Swift may be in for a bigger role, and with Austin Bryant’s status in the air, Julian Okwara could also see a bump in playing time against the Packers.