The Detroit Lions got some good news coming out of their bye week from an injury standpoint.
Starting left guard Joe Dahl, cornerback Mike Ford and running back Bo Scarbrough will return to practice today after being on the Reserve/Injured list the last few weeks. The Lions now have a 21-day practice window to place any of these players on the active roster.
Cornerback Justin Coleman did not return to practice Wednesday from IR, however. He's still dealing with a hamstring injury suffered Week 1 vs. Chicago.
Dahl has been on the list the last three weeks after suffering a groin injury in practice ahead of Detroit's Week 2 contest in Green Bay.
The Lions have had to shake up their offensive line without Dahl, moving right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai to right guard and shifting rookie guard Jonah Jackson from right to left guard. Dahl played well Week 1 vs. Chicago before suffering the injury and his return would boost the talent and depth the Lions have upfront along their offensive line.
Scarbrough has yet to play this season after suffering an injury that kept him out most of training camp and landed him on IR to begin the season. He was a bright spot for the Lions late last year after signing with the team in November. He played in six games and brought a rough, downhill presence to Detroit's rushing attack. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season.
Ford has been a core special teams player and reserve cornerback the last couple seasons in Detroit.
Could Dahl, Ford or Scarbrough be ready to play as early as Sunday in Jacksonville?
"We have to see where they're at," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said Wednesday. "I know they've been working really hard, so we're excited to get them back out there and put them in some situations.
"I would say with that overall, you still always want to be safe with return to play guys, especially in contact sports where they haven't had that maybe repetitive contact or any of those situations yet, and you've just got to get through practice, take it day by day and see what it looks like."
LAST TEAM STANDING
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has thrown a lot of touchdown passes over his 12-year career, 264 to be exact.
But here's a good statistic from Detroit's Football Communications staff: Jacksonville is the only team in the NFL Stafford has yet to throw a touchdown pass against. Stafford is 2-0 in his career against the Jaguars, but with no touchdown passes.
"Yeah, that needs to happen, for sure," Stafford said of getting a touchdown pass this week vs. Jacksonville. "Yeah, I mean, I need to make that happen. That would be great. I'd love to have that on the tombstone one day or something."
Stafford would be the 27th quarterback in league history to throw a touchdown pass against every opponent in the league.
STOPPING THE RUN TO STOP THE PASS
Veteran linebacker Jamie Collins Sr. said stopping the run is the No. 1 key improvement the Lions' defense has to make coming out of the bye week. He said doing that will improve every other aspect on defense, including Detroit's pass rush.
"We definitely need to stop the run more," Collins said of the 170.3 rushing yards allowed per game through the first four games. "That sets the tone. Stopping the run game and getting the ball out."
Collins said stopping the run will help get them into better down and distance situations where they can pin their ears back and rush the passer.
"If you don't stop the run and win on first down, you don't have those chances to get after the quarterback," Collins said. "So it goes back to stopping the run."
To Collins' point, the Lions are allowing on average 6.93 yards per play on first down, which ranks 29th in the NFL. That number is putting opponents in too many manageable second and third downs where the playbook is still wide open for them.
LESS IS MORE
The bye week gave the Lions and Patricia the opportunity to look back over the first four games and do some self-scouting. One of the things Patricia said they want to focus on more coming out of the bye is putting less on the players' plates and simplifying things from a scheme standpoint in hopes it will allow them to play faster.
"I think from our first four games, taking a look at the bye week, there's certainly some things we saw we need to improve on that hopefully we'll get better at," Patricia said. "For the most part, I would say, trying to just maybe do a little bit less overall would be good and try to get our guys to play faster on the field. That's certainly something I think we can do and then build going forward."
The Lions currently rank 25th in total offense and 28th in total defense heading into Week 6.