The Detroit Lions coaching staff informed defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs this past week that he will not play in Week 1 against the Kansas City Chiefs. It came as a surprise to a lot of people, but in hindsight the signs were there.
probably explains why Buggs was playing into the second half of the Panthers game in the preseason. https://t.co/u2S2WjkPzr— Ryan Mathews (@Ryan_POD) September 4, 2023
Whether or not Buggs is playing Thursday night, he’s a talented player and an important part of this defense—the Lions signed Buggs to a two-year extension this offseason for a reason.
Question of the day: Who will fill Isaiah Buggs’ role against the Chiefs?
Replacing Buggs is not your typical ‘next man up’ situation because he has such a unique player profile. Buggs specializes in run defense along the interior, often lining up as a pure nose tackle. Last year, Buggs’ absence would have been a problem as the Lions went light along their defensive line.
This year, the Lions are better equipped for his absence, particularly with their investment in Brodric Martin. Martin is the most likely candidate to fill in amidst Buggs’ absence, while Benito Jones could see an increased snap share as well. The two are are listed at 330 and 335 pounds, roughly the same as Buggs and a lot heavier than any other defensive linemen on the Lions roster.
That’s a tall ask for a rookie who hasn’t shown much in preseason and a roster bubble guy, respectively. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lions choose to play more pairings of heavier linemen like Alim McNeill and John Cominsky or Levi Onwuzurike along the interior to make up for the size gap in Buggs’ absence.
The full motive behind Buggs’ benching is still unclear, although it surely has to do with their opponent to some extent. The Chiefs are a pass-first team with arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game. The Lions’ defensive game plan will center around stopping him, not the run, and that may incline them to lean into pass rush, even along the interior defensive line.
Whether Buggs plays in Week 2 and how much, if so, will be quite telling as to the true nature of the situation. In the meantime, the Lions’ defensive lineman have a tall task of making up for Buggs’ presence in the middle on Thursday.
Who do you think will fill Isaiah Buggs’ role against the Chiefs on Thursday night? Will Benito Jones get more action? Will Brodric Martin get thrown to the wolves? Are the Lions counting on a rejuvenated Alim McNeill? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.