On Tuesday, Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell told media that starting safety DeShon Elliott is trending towards missing Sunday’s Week 16 contest against the Carolina Panthers.
“I would say right now, he’s looking like he probably won’t be able to make it,” Campbell said. Later adding, “As of right now, it doesn’t look very promising, but there again, we’re going to see how he feels every day.”
Campbell wouldn’t say if this will be a multi-week injury.
“It’s hard to say that,” Campbell said.
That could be a pretty significant loss for the Lions defense, as they are not particularly deep at the safety position. Starting safety Tracy Walker is out for the year with a torn Achilles, and the Lions were already starting rookie third-round pick Kerby Joseph at the other safety position.
In Detroit’s young secondary, Elliott has the most starting experience among the entire crew as a four-year veteran. Campbell admitted on Monday that it won’t be easy to replace that leadership and necessary communication in the defensive backfield.
“We need dependability, and we need our football players, man,” Campbell said. “We don’t need speed, we don’t need quick, we need football players. We need dependable football players right now with three (games) to go.”
Elliott suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday’s game against the New York Jets, and it was safety C.J. Moore who replaced him in the second half. Moore has only started in one career game, however, as he is mostly a special teams contributor.
The Lions could also turn to their Ifeatu Melifonwu. A 2021 third-round pick, Melifonwu has struggled to stay healthy and find a role in this defense through his 1.5 years in the NFL. Though he started four games last year (at cornerback), he’s almost exclusively been on special teams this season.
“C.J.’s done—he’s served in that role, and we’ll look at him,” Campbell said. “We still have Iffy (Melifonwu) as well. And it’ll be the combination of who gives us the best opportunity defensively, but also special teams and the team in general. Let’s put our guys in a position they’re going to help us as a team the most, so we’ve got a couple of options as we move forward.”