The Detroit Lions had a mini bye weekend after playing on Thanksgiving last Thursday. It was back to work Monday as the Lions prepare to host the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field this Sunday.
Head coach Dan Campbell spoke to the media Monday to kick off the week. Here are the key questions from that session:
Is there an injury update on running back D’Andre Swift?
The star second-year running back sprained his shoulder against the Bears on Thanksgiving and didn't play in the second half. Campbell said Swift's shoulder is still pretty sore, and right now it would be hard to see him playing Sunday against the Vikings. He said they'll know a lot more on Tuesday and Wednesday, and will go from there. It sounds like there's a chance the Lions could be without Swift this week.
What is the plan for rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu?
Detroit's third-round pick this offseason, Melifonwu was thrust into the starting lineup Week 2 in Green Bay after Jeff Okudah suffered an Achilles injury Week 1. However, Melifonwu injured his thigh in that game and has been on IR since. The team activated him to the 53-man roster on Monday, which means he's ready to return to game action.
Undrafted rookie Jerry Jacobs has played pretty well in place of Okudah and Melifonwu, and Campbell said there are no plans to take Jacobs out of the starting lineup with Melifonwu back in the fold. The plan is to work Melifonwu back into game action slowly. There aren't expected to be any changes to the starting secondary, per Campbell.
What does Campbell attribute to the recent play of his defense?
The Lions haven't allowed more than 16 points in each of their last three games, which has kept them in each of those contests right down to the end.
Campbell said two things they talked about coming out of their bye three ago were generating more turnovers and being better in the red zone.
Detroit's defense has generated six takeaways in the last three games after having just seven in the previous eight games.
Opponents were scoring a touchdown better than 83 percent of the time they reached the red zone the first eight games of the year. In the last three contests, that percentage has dipped to 50 percent (4-of-8).
Campbell said improving those two areas was going to be the fastest way to improve their defense coming out of the bye, and that's certainly shown itself to be the case over the last three weeks.
Where does Campbell want to see his offense improve the most?
The Lions rank 30th in points per game (15.8), only ahead of Jacksonville (15.7) and Houston (14.9). Detroit is one of just six teams in the NFL who average less than 200 passing yards per game (194.6), so Campbell said that's where he wants to see the biggest improvement over the final six games.
"The details of what we do in the passing game need to drastically improve," he said.
He talked about splits, route depth and route running overall as being key areas where he'd like to see improvement, especially against more of the zone defenses the Lions have faced recently.
After watching the tape, were the six holding calls that went against his team on Thanksgiving properly called?
Campbell said three of the holding calls he attributed to quarterback Jared Goff for leaving the pocket and putting linemen in bad leverage positions, though he did make the point that his players upfront still have to keep their hands inside and disengage to avoid the penalty on those.
Campbell referred to two holding calls on Taylor Decker and Tommy Kraemer as being "ticky-tack," but the lesson to the players was that when the officials are calling them at the rate they were in that contest, the players have to be better about adjusting their play accordingly.