The Detroit Lions 2021 roster got beat up pretty badly last year. According to Football Outsiders’ Adjusted Game Lost metric, the Lions were impacted by injuries more than all but two teams in the NFL last season. Unfortunately for Detroit, several of those injuries were serious and to important players.
Starting No. 1 cornerback Jeff Okudah missed the last 16 games with an Achilles injury. Quintez Cephus missed 12 games with a broken collarbone. Frank Ragnow played just four games before suffering a season-ending foot injury. Romeo Okwara suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in that same game. Jerry Jacobs suffered a late-season ACL tear.
Additionally, a lot of the players they acquired in free agency and the draft are coming off injury-laden seasons. DJ Chark missed the last 13 games with a fractured ankle. DeShon Elliott tore his biceps/pectoral in Week 8 and never returned. In the draft, the Lions took both Jameson Williams and James Mitchell after their college careers ended with torn ACLs.
Some of these players will return to the field of play and look like they had never left. Other will likely have lingering issues or will have to get over a significant mental hurdle to play like they used to. Heck, it’s entirely possible at least one of these injuries will impact a player for the rest of their career.
But let’s focus on the positive today. Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which Lions player returning from injury will have the best 2022 season?
My answer: It’s the easy answer, but sometimes that’s the right one. Frank Ragnow was nearly physically ready to play at the end of the 2021 season, so he’ll likely go into 2022 about as close to 100 percent as physically possible. Considering prior to his injury, Ragnow was coming off a second-team All-Pro season, there’s no reason to believe he won’t pick up where he left off.
That said, Chark is also a good answer to this question, as he already doesn’t seem to have any lingering effects from his ankle fracture last September. And now that he’s in a position to potentially shine—especially if Williams is sidelined early in the year—he could potentially return to a Pro Bowl level.
The wild card here is Jeff Okudah. He certainly seems like he’s on track to start Week 1 after an intense eight months of rehab on his torn Achilles. But how he’ll look on the field remains a complete mystery. He struggled under Matt Patricia in his rookie season, and he had a very up-and-down season opener last year. However, he’s now had over a year to marinate under cornerback guru Aaron Glenn, and it’s entirely possible he surprises a lot of people. Of course, it’s just as possible that he continues to struggle and doesn’t quite have the athletic skills he had prior to the Achilles injury. You’d love to see him be the right answer to this question, but it’s just impossible to know at this point.