As impressive as the Detroit Lions were playing toward the end of last season, they were also a pretty beat-up team by January. Remember, this was the sixth-most injured team by Football Outsiders’ adjusted games lost metric.
Detroit has been quite unlucky over the past few years when it comes to injuries, but hopefully that tide turns now that the Lions have been proactive in changing their turf this offseason and adding Michael Sundeen—one of the most respected physical therapists—as their new head athletic trainer. If they can play at the level without some of their key players, imagine what they could do with a relatively healthy roster.
Some of those key players they missed out on toward the end of last year include Charles Harris, Levi Onwuzurike, Julian Okwara, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Tracy Walker. Others who were clearly battling through injury include John Cominsky and Frank Ragnow. We also can’t forget about first-round pick Jameson Williams and veteran Romeo Okwara, who were both “healthy” by the end of the year, but still, obviously, not fully back.
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Which player are you most excited to see return from injury in 2023?
My answer: Tracy Walker. It’s low-key a critical year for Walker. He only played in three games last year, following a fresh three-year contract with Detroit. While his cap hit is only $6.3 million this year, it’ll jump to $12.8 million next year. He needs to prove he’s worth that investment.
You may remember that coach Dan Campbell viewed Walker as a critical piece to this team’s future.
“So now this is yours,” Campbell told Walker after re-signing with the Lions. “So what do you want to do with it? You’re one of these guys. You’re one of the core.”
When Walker takes the field next, he’ll be surrounded by a bunch of new faces. He played alongside Kerby Joseph for exactly zero snaps last year (although it looks like the two have budded a nice off-field friendship). The cornerbacks in front of him will all be different, too, with Cameron Sutton and C.J. Gardner Johnson expected to start and Jerry Jacobs and Emmanuel Moseley fighting for the other outside corner job. It will likely take time for Walker to build chemistry with those pieces, but playing alongside a better group of players should elevate his game, too.
That said, coming back from an Achilles injury isn’t going to be easy. Though he looks close to 100 percent and has been participating in on-field drills during offseason workouts, things are going to be different when contact comes into play. With Achilles injuries, it often takes over a year to fully “feel right” both physically and mentally.
That said, Walker seemed on the verge of playing some really excellent football before his Achilles injury and he seems like a man on a mission.
I’ve been a underdog all my life soo keep ‼️— Tracy Walker #21 (@TracyWalkerIII) March 20, 2023
For all the changes the Lions made to the secondary, don’t forget that a healthy Walker will essentially act as yet another defensive addition upon last year’s strong finish.
Who are you excited to return from injury the most?