It is the nature of football for players to miss time with injury, but over recent seasons, it truly seems like the Detroit Lions are snakebitten. The Lions have lost a starter at almost every position so far this season.
The strength of the team appeared to be the offensive line, so it was fittingly struck with injury before the season even began. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was placed on the Injured Reserve prior to Week 1, while Frank Ragnow and Jonah Jackson missed a few games between them. Add in injuries to depth pieces Evan Brown, Matt Nelson, and Tommy Kraemer, and not much has gone right along the offensive line.
Elsewhere on offense, the skill positions have struggled with health. D’Andre Swift again missed time due to injury, while the once-deep receiving corps got decimated with Amon-Ra St. Brown, DJ Chark, Josh Reynolds, and Quintez Cephus getting banged up. You have to credit the Lions offense for being as good as they have been despite the injuries, but their shutout loss to the Patriots is a major cause for concern.
On the defensive side of the ball, the biggest loss was a torn Achilles for Tracy Walker, a focal point of the defense. The Lions have had issues replacing him, with a mix of DeShon Elliott, Kerby Joseph, JuJu Hughes, and Saivion Smith trying to fill the void to middling success. The cornerbacks haven’t fared better either, with Will Harris suffering a groin injury last week as a replacement for healthy scratch Amani Oruwariye.
The pass rushers have not been healthy either. Aidan Hutchinson didn’t miss a game, but a thigh injury limited him for a game or so. Meanwhile, Charles Harris and John Cominsky have been inactive as they recover from their respective injuries. For a team already without Levi Onwuzurike and Josh Paschal, the defensive line depth is being tested.
On the bright side, the linebackers have remained fairly healthy, but the unit is struggling regardless. At tight end, T.J. Hockenson has played in every game, but he has also been on the injury report in recent weeks. And perhaps most importantly, the quarterback Jared Goff has remained healthy thus far. Considering how poor the backup quarterback situation is, let us hope it stays that way.
The Lions need to turn around their season soon, and a player returning to full health—or as close as possible during an NFL season—could be a key factor.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which injured player do the Lions need at full health the most?
My answer: I think the Lions need Jerry Jacobs back as soon as possible.
Entering the season, I never viewed Jacobs as the de facto CB2 upon his return. It was always the pairing of Okudah and Oruwariye that made the most sense in my eyes, and with Jacobs having a lengthy recovery, there was no need to rush him into the lineup.
A mere five games into the season, and his return cannot come soon enough.
While Okudah has played well, albeit limited at times due to injury, Oruwariye’s play has taken a massive turn for the worse. It culminated in his benching last week, a decision that proved costly when nearly half the secondary got hurt. Oruwariye might recapture his starting role by default, but the Lions need to see an improvement at CB2.
That could very well come from Jacobs, who looked impressive as an undrafted rookie in 2021 before an ACL injury sidelined him. The Lions have been patient with him, as they were with Okudah, but the need for him in the secondary is quickly growing. They cannot trot out their current group much longer before change needs to happen. If the Lions can get Okudah and Jacobs performing well, then it will ease the burden on the rest of the defense. This will, in turn, make the offense’s job easier, and the Lions could stumble into a few more wins.
I won’t proclaim Jacobs to be the savior of the defense, but he might be their best hope to become even a below-average unit. It’s a low bar to clear, but we need to start somewhere.