For the second straight year, the Detroit Lions will open the season without all five of their starters along the offensive line.
Right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai is dealing with a back injury and will be out at least the first four games of the season after the team placed him on injured reserve earlier this week. Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday with a groin injury.
While certainly not ideal as the Lions prepare to play one of the better defensive fronts in football in the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday at Ford Field, the depth they've built upfront does give them options if they have to replace one or two starters upfront.
If Ragnow can play Sunday, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said moving him to guard and playing Evan Brown at center is an option. If Ragnow can't play, it's likely Brown would play center and the Lions come up with another option to fill the right guard spot.
"Yeah, Logan (Stenberg) would be one of them," Campbell said. "There is a chance that if it was Logan, then we move Jonah (Jackson) right, and we bring Logan to left.
"We talked about (Penei) Sewell bumping down to guard and (Matt) Nelson going up to tackle, so we've got options here. (Offensive Line Coach) Hank (Fraley)'s always rolling those guys. They play multiple positions, so we'll be prepared."
Second-year guard Tommy Kraemer played in nine games last year with three starts. He seems like a logical option to fill in, but he also missed Wednesday's practice with a back injury. His availability for Sunday is unclear.
Brown played in 16 games last season, including 12 starts in place of the injured Ragnow, and played pretty darn well.
"Wherever the team needs me is where I'm willing to play," Brown said in the locker room after practice Wednesday. "I just do what's best for the team."
Sewell took some reps at guard during individual drills in the open period of practice Wednesday. He said in the locker room after practice he couldn't remember the last time he played guard, if ever, but whatever the team needed, he'd do.
Whatever the Lions decide to do at right guard, Campbell says it won't disrupt their game plan for Philly, and he's got a lot of confidence that whoever is in there will play well.
"The o-line, as long you get a group of guys that know how to work together and they're tough and they're smart, you can make great things happen," Campbell said. "We've got plenty of that still up there, so we'll be fine."
Lions safety Tracy Walker totaled 105 tackles (72 solo), six passes defended, three tackles for loss, one interception and a sack last year. His tackles led the team. He was one of five NFL safeties to produce at least 100 tackles, one interception and a sack last season.
But one thing both Walker and safeties coach Brian Duker have talked about this offseason is Walker improving his hands. There were some opportunities to create turnovers with interceptions last year that Walker let slip through his grasp.
"He's done a whole bunch of ball drills after practice," Duker said of Walker. "He does a ton with the jugs. We started to do some other stuff working around bags, and I think he's really added a lot of that into his post-practice routine and think that'll kind of manifest itself with some more catches."
The Lions are expecting a sell-out Sunday at Ford Field for the home opener. The team is selling standing room only tickets to pack Ford Field even more.
It's expected to be loud and rowdy, and it's Campbell and the Lions' job to keep them that way with the way they compete and play.
"Dan (Campbell) said this morning that it's going to be standing room tickets now that they are selling. When Ford Field is rocking, man, it's rocking," veteran left tackle Taylor Decker said. "It's a really good atmosphere."
- The Lions added recently released linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton to their coaching staff as a defensive assistant.
- Safety Ifeatu Melifonwu was back at practice Wednesday in a limited fashion after missing multiple weeks with a hamstring injury.