The NFL is a star league. It's hard to make it to the mountain top without a few star players on the roster. The Lions are certainly building their star power with players like wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, center Frank Ragnow, tackle Penei Sewell and a few others.
But every good roster also has a collection of players who do a lot of the dirty work and the little things that mean the difference between winning and losing on gamedays, but don't get most of the headlines.
Here's a look at five under-the-radar performers who are having a big impact for the Detroit Lions right now:
1. Defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs
Buggs began Sunday in the center of the Lions team huddle before the game getting his teammates hyped to play a key division game against the Vikings with their playoff hopes on the line. When it was over and the Lions had secured a 34-23 victory, Buggs received a game ball from head coach Dan Campbell.
Buggs has become an important veteran leader in the locker room and is making a huge impact on the field as well. Buggs forced a critical fumble on Vikings running back Dalvin Cook inside the Lions' 10-yard line late in the second quarter that was picked up by safety Kerby Joseph to thwart a Minnesota scoring attempt. He also recorded a sack and had three quarterback hits in the contest.
Buggs has been a terrific addition to the center of the Lions' defensive front next to second-year defensive lineman Alim McNeill. Buggs has eight quarterback hits from the interior over Detroit's 5-1 stretch.
2. Defensive lineman John Cominsky
Despite having to play with a cast on his right hand since injuring it Week 2 and having surgery that kept him out of three games Weeks 3-5 – all losses for the Lions – Cominsky has continued to play really well beyond the box score numbers.
There were eight teams that put in a waiver claim for Cominsky after he was released by the Falcons in June. He was awarded to the Lions based on Detroit having the higher waiver priority. Cominsky's numbers don't pop off the page –16 tackles, 2.0 sacks, three tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits in 10 games (four starts) – but watch the tape and you will see a relentless player who can play up and down the defensive line.
He unselfishly takes on double teams and does the dirty work in the stunt game that frees up teammates like Aidan Hutchinson to make more of the splash plays and sacks. Cominsky is tough, smart, and one of those players every teammate will say they love playing next to.
3. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond
Raymond had a big 35-yard punt return Sunday against the Vikings that set up wide receiver DJ Chark's 48-yard touchdown catch on the next play. He also caught a critical 14-yard pass down to the Minnesota 5-yard line on a 3rd and 12 play that set up wide receiver Josh Reynolds' 5-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter on the next play.
When the Lions were dealing with injuries at the receiver position the first half of the season, Raymond was the one constant receivers coach Antwaan Randle El could count on. Raymond caught five passes for 75 yards against Dallas and three for 76 yards against Miami. On the year, Raymond has 34 receptions for 401 yards with an 11.8-yard average per reception. His 12.6-yard average per punt return is the second highest in the NFL. He's a dependable playmaker on both offense and special teams.
4. Cornerback Jerry Jacobs
Jeff Okudah, the former No. 3 overall pick, is the No. 1 cornerback in Detroit. But since Jerry Jacobs has returned midseason from a torn ACL suffered last December, he's clearly been the Lions' No. 2 at the position.
I asked one of Jacobs' teammates in the secondary last week what makes him such a good player, and he told me it was the dog in Jacobs. An undrafted player out of Arkansas, Jacobs had to fight and claw his way to get where he is today, and he's never forgot that. He plays the game with a chip on his shoulder and a physical style that is rare at the cornerback position. He will come up and play physical in the run game and his cover skills are terrific.
Opposing quarterbacks are completing just 55.6 percent of the passes thrown his way (20-of-36), he hasn't allowed a touchdown in his coverage area, and quarterbacks have a 78.1 rating when throwing his way, per Pro Football Focus statistics.
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said Jacobs was an 'Aaron Glenn guy' last week. It's easy to see why.
5. Linebacker Josh Woods
Woods is a team captain and key player on Detroit's special teams units, playing 231 special teams snaps this season. He's tied with linebacker Chris Board for the team lead with seven special teams tackles.
Campbell has a ton of respect for special teams and its importance on gamedays. He dedicates a lot of time in practice to special teams coordinator Dave Fipp and the work he does.
The Lions have the third most special teams tackles (607) in the NFL. Woods does a great job in his prep work and is the leader for a group that has made a lot of impact plays this year, including the fake punt ran by safety C.J. Moore against the Vikings Sunday that gained 42 yards and helped set up a touchdown. Woods also recovered the Vikings' onside kick attempt in the fourth quarter.