Lions GM Bob Quinn never expected offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby to be available in the fifth round of last April's draft, so when his name was still on the board at the time of the Lions' pick, Quinn couldn't pass on what he described at the time as a value pick.
Crosby's cut his teeth his rookie season primarily as the Lions' backup swing tackle, but his role could be significantly bigger starting Sunday in Buffalo, if right tackle Rick Wagner (concussion) can't play. Wagner sat out practice all week.
Crosby saw his most extensive action of the season in last week's 17-3 win in Arizona after Wagner left the game with the concussion. Crosby played 35 of a possible 60 offensive snaps, and played pretty well. Pro Football Focus credited him with a clean slate – no sacks, hurries or hits allowed.
"Even though you try and simulate a game in practice, it's not the same," Crosby said this week of getting his first extended playing time of the season last week. "Just having that helps a lot and helps you realize that more so in games you kind of go back to your technique and what you rely on, so it just shows you kind of the small details."
Crosby says he's treated this week like any other this season, which would fit his demeanor, according to Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.
"He's a really steady-minded guy," Cooter said. "He doesn't get too up. He doesn't get too down. Just sort of handles his business.
"It wasn't perfect (in Arizona), didn't grade out 100 percent, wasn't a perfect game for him, had a little up here and down there, but the guy just keeps playing and keeps grinding and we appreciate that about him. We're going to keep him getting better and if the reps continue to go his way, we look for him to improve along with those reps."
Crosby has played pretty well when given an opportunity to play as a third tackle, and that includes the practice field, where he's shown a steady progression all year playing tackle and some guard, offensive line coach Jeff Davidson told the media this week.
While other rookies in this class have gotten more opportunities to showcase their skills, Crosby has been learning the ropes and steadily improving behind the scenes with a limited role on gamedays. It looks like Sunday could be a chance for him to make his first career start and show Lions fans a glimpse of why the Lions are excited about his development.
"Sometimes (as a backup) you necessarily may not get as many reps throughout the course of the week as you would like, but you have to be ready to go," Lions head coach Matt Patricia said. "And when those opportunities come up that you have to go in and play, I feel confident that he's done everything possible to prepare himself to go do that.
"I just think his ability to prepare week-in and week-out and be in multiple roles and potential situations depending on how the game goes is something that for me, that you really need as a coach to rely on players to do that. He's someone from that standpoint that has impressed me from that facet."
No other player who's caught at least 15 passes this season is averaging more yards per reception than Buffalo's Robert Foster. He's caught 15 balls for 360 yards (24.0 average) and a score.
Foster is an undrafted free agent out of Alabama, and was actually cut and placed on the practice squad for a time this year before being signed back to the active roster on Nov. 10. He's made the most of his second chance. Since Week 10, Foster ranks 12th among all receivers averaging 82.5 receiving yards per game.
He has receptions of 47, 43, 75 and 38 yards over that span.
He's someone the Lions are very aware of, and know they have to contain Sunday.
"When you have a guy (in QB Josh Allen) that can throw it a real long distance and you have a guy (in Foster) that can run and get it, that's tough," Lions safety Glover Quin said this week. "Definitely presents a big challenge and you can definitely see that (Allen) tries to get (Foster) the ball down the field."
BEHIND THE SCENES
Second-year cornerback Teez Tabor is still trying to earn playing time back after being a healthy scratch the last three weeks.
Tabor had struggled before his demotion, allowing four touchdowns and a passer rating against of 158.3 in 10 games this season.
Asked about Tabor on Friday, Patricia said the young corner has had a good couple weeks of practice and is seeing improvement.
"I think he's a player that's continually growing as a professional and a guy that's really just doing a good job trying to improve every single week." Patricia said. "I think he's had a couple really good weeks of practice. I'm definitely seeing improvement in his technique and some of the things that he's done the last several weeks."
With cornerback Marcus Cooper Sr. limited by a back injury this week, depending on his availability and the game plan, Tabor could potentially be in line to get another shot at playing Sunday in Buffalo.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been dealing with a back injury for a couple of weeks now that's limited his participation in practice and has had him spending more time than usual in the training room.
It hasn't prevented Stafford from playing on Sunday, however, and he says it didn't impact his play in Arizona last week, despite throwing for a career-low 101 yards in the win over the Cardinals.
"I'm good," he said Friday. "I played with it last week, so I plan on playing with it again. We're all battling through stuff at the moment, everybody on this team, everybody in the NFL, to tell you the truth. I'm just going to be out there doing the best I can to help our team win."
Stafford and the Lions face a Bills defense Sunday ranked No. 1 in total defense and No. 1 against the pass.