clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Discussion: Which Lions backup will make the biggest impact vs. Vikings?

If the Lions want to clinch an NFC North title for the first time in over 30 years, they’ll need contributions from some unexpected characters.

Syndication: Detroit Free Press Junfu Han / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Detroit Lions head into Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings not nearly as banged up as they have been earlier in the year, but with a few starters declared “Out” or “Doubtful,” there are some opportunities for players to fill in and make an impact.

C.J. Gardner-Johnson announced on social media a while ago that his target date was December 20th to return, and while he kept his word and was able to practice starting that day, it appears that the Lions want to play it safe and keep him sidelined for another week as he reacclimates. Ifeatu Melifonwu filled in last week and had the performance of a lifetime, so he should be starting again as they wait for CJGJ’s return.

At CB2, the Lions will be missing Jerry Jacobs, and that is where there is a little uncertainty as to who is going to fill in that role. It certainly sounds like defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has a lot of faith in all of his guys. Kindle Vildor, especially, has stepped up recently and performed well. Here is what Glenn had to say about Vildor when speaking to Lions media:

“He deserves a chance to play also. He’s practicing with us, he’s practicing hard. So, we’re going to give him a chance. He’s also playing special teams. And the thing about those two guys, man we really need those guys to play special teams, so both of those guys are going to get a chance to play on defense. We don’t want to run them all, we’ll run them down so, listen, it’s a good situation for us to have of two guys that are competing for that job and also, helping us on special teams.”

But don’t count out Khalil Dorsey, who also received some praise from Glenn:

“He’s a guy that’s tough, he’s fast, he’s physical. Listen, he hasn’t had a lot of reps out there playing corner. If you look at what he’s done for us on special teams, I mean he is one of the elite gunners, in my opinion, in this game and he’s still growing, he’s still growing, so. But he is a corner. He is a corner that can run, so we want to give him every opportunity to go out there and show what he can do. And I’ve said this many times, when you show me in practice you can go out there and compete and you can play, you’re going to get a chance to play for me. And he deserved that, so he went out there and he did a good job for us.”

It wouldn’t surprise me if both Dorsey and Vildor got some looks at CB2 against the Vikings.

The Lions could also be shorthanded at linebacker as Derrick Barnes was listed as “Doubtful” for Sunday, which means Jack Campbell should see a lot more snaps, and it should also mean an increased role for Jalen Reeves-Maybin, who has done a great job of filling in recently due to injuries.

Today’s Question of the Day is...

Which Lions player filling in for an injured player will make the biggest impact on Sunday?

My answer: I’ll go the easy route and say Ifeatu Melifonwu, but there is a good case here for just about any of the aforementioned names.

Melifonwu has received praise from coaches throughout his entire career. It’s not his ability that comes into question, he just simply needs to stay healthy and get the reps in. Now that he’s healthy, he’s looking like Detroit’s best safety right now. If he can perform even a fraction of how he did against the Broncos last week, I think the Lions could have a tough situation to figure out once CJGJ is healthy. Do they roll with Kerby, or has Melifonwu made a solid enough case to move ahead of Joseph on the depth chart? It will be interesting to see, but either way, it’s a nice problem to have.

I’m definitely not counting out Campbell or Reeves-Maybin here, though. It seems like Campbell is finally starting to feel more comfortable in his role over the past several games. He has been fantastic stopping the run, and the lapses in coverage are happening less frequently. Reeves-Maybin will likely play in a limited role, but even in a limited role, he has made some huge plays defensively.

I’m more intrigued than anything to see how the CB2 role will be filled. The Vikings have a scary good receiver room, so I am not expecting a shutdown performance on that side of the field, but all it takes is one turnover or one big play to turn the tides.

Let’s hear from you. Drop your thoughts in the comments below.

Subscribe to PODD

After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.