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NOTEBOOK: Lions defenders preparing for familiar foe in Stafford

For years – 12 to be exact – Matthew Stafford took snaps for the Detroit Lions in practice with a No. 9 red jersey on his back. Red means stop, which means guys who most recently played with Stafford, like edge rushers Trey Flowers and Austin Bryant, couldn't get near him.

Flowers said this week there were a couple instances in the past when he got in trouble getting a little too close to Stafford in practice.

Bryant said every now and again Stafford would throw him a bone and offer a 'good rush' here and there as he whizzed by without touching him or held up before contact.

On Sunday, the Lions will be in Los Angeles to take on the Rams at SoFi Stadium, and guys like Flowers and Bryant finally get a chance to turn those good rushes into good hits on Stafford.

"It'll be fun to finally get a chance to touch him," Bryant said Thursday. "Hopefully, if I get him on the ground, he might give me his jersey or something like that. I'm going to beg and see."

Lions safety Tracy Walker is friends with Stafford, and while Walker was able to get an interception or two in the three years playing across from Stafford at practice, he said it would be a different level to get one in a game. Like Bryant, Walker said if he gets one, he's going to make Stafford sign the ball.

There's obviously a lot of respect from Detroit defenders who played with Stafford and know his toughness and grit. Not one defender who talked this week could say a bad thing about their former quarterback, but that doesn't mean every single one of them doesn't want to make a play on him, whether it's a big strip sack or interception, that potentially helps this Lions team get into the win column.

That will be a difficult task, however.

Stafford is second in the NFL in passer rating after six games (116.6) and he's completing a career-best 69.5 percent of his passes. He's on pace for his second career 5,000-yard passing season, and he's got the Rams playing pretty good football at 5-1.

"He's a good quarterback," Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn said this week of Stafford. "He's a really good quarterback, and he's doing a good job for them and we have our work cut out for us."


One player who will be one of the key counters for the Rams' very talented skill position threats is Lions rookie cornerback Jerry Jacobs.

Rams wide receiver DeSean Jackson can still take the top off a defense, while Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods have combined for 1,006 receiving yards this season, the most by any receiver duo in the league.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Friday Jacobs had a "hell of a week" of practice, making coverage plays all over. Campbell really likes where the rookie is trending, and said he's grown as much as anyone since the spring.

Another coach with an interesting perspective on Jacobs is wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El, who watches Jacobs every day while evaluating his position group.

"He's been pretty good," Randle El said of Jacobs. "He's a physical dude. Very, very hard worker. He brings it to the practice field and the games all the time."

Much like last week, when he did a pretty good job on talented Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, Jacobs will be tested again. He said he'll play on the right side Sunday, and expects to match up with a lot of different Rams receivers.

"My confidence is pretty high right now," Jacobs said Friday. "I'm still humble, but I just have to go out there and play like I'm a 10-year vet. Undrafted, they gave me a shot, I told them once they gave me the shot, I was going to come in and be the best person I am. So, I just have to keep building off mistakes and if I do make plays build off that."


Left tackle Taylor Decker had a little bit of a setback last week coming back from his finger injury and won't play this week. The Lions do get an extra week to decide on Decker's IR status because of their bye Week 9.

"I know he wants to play, man. I talked to him yesterday and he's dying to play, but we have to get through it and let this thing get to feeling right," Campbell said Friday.

Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, who returned to practice this week from IR, worked into some team drills on Friday, which was a step in right direction for him.

Fellow defensive end Kevin Strong returned to practice last week from IR, and could return to duty before his 21-day practice window is up next Wednesday.

Rookie cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, who was placed on IR after a Week 2 thigh injury, won't return by the team's Week 9 bye, Campbell said, but he's hopeful Melifonwu will play again before the season is over.


Second-year cornerback Jeff Okudah, who was lost for the season Week 1 with a ruptured Achilles, was spotted at practice this week with the aid of a scooter.

"I know he wishes he could be out here," Campbell said of Okudah. "He wants to play, he does, but he also understands, 'There's nothing I can do other than let this thing get right, let it heal and then start rehabbing. Begin the rehab process.'

"He scoots out here and comes and sees us and he's back there. He'll go into meetings. He's been good. It's been good to have him back. While he was recovering, he was out for a couple of weeks. Since he's been back, he kind of brightens the building up a little bit."

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