Tackle Taylor Decker is "close" to returning from the shoulder injury that's kept him out of the Detroit Lions lineup the first half of the season. Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said Friday that the team wouldn't make a final decision on Decker's availability for Sunday until Saturday.
"He's been working and we're trying to simulate as much as we can sort of game-like sort of situations," Caldwell said. "He's been doing those things well. We've got another day of work today, so he's close."
The Lions are going to see how he progresses Friday, and then how he feels Saturday before making a determination to activate him off the PUP list by the 4 p.m. deadline for Decker to be eligible to play Sunday.
"Usually the day after (practice) is the most important day," Caldwell said. "So, it won't be today right after practice. It's always the day after."
Barring a setback, it appears Decker's return is nearly here, which will be a huge boost to a Lions' offensive line that's been rather inconsistent in his absence. Detroit's allowed 26 sacks in the season's first eight games, and currently rank 29th rushing the football.
The Lions waived-injured offensive tackle Greg Robinson Friday, and did not immediately fill Robinson's roster spot, which means one spot remains open on the 53-man roster.
Decker was the Lions' first-round pick in 2016. He played every offensive snap as a rookie. Caldwell said earlier this week that there's no plan in place to ease Decker back into action. When he's ready to be activated off PUP, he's going to play.
"When Deck's ready, Deck's going to play," Caldwell said. "There's a reason why he's here, a reason why we picked him where we picked him. He'll play when he's ready."
NO. 1 PICK
If Decker does in fact return to the field Sunday, he'll be greeted across the line of scrimmage by this year's No. 1 overall pick.
Cleveland rookie defensive end Myles Garrett has only been on the field for three games this season, but that's all Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford needed to see to know that he and the Lions' offense has to pay close attention to him come Sunday afternoon.
"He looks the part on tape," Stafford said. "That's for sure. Big, physical guy, got speed, power, plays with a good motor."
Garrett's been hampered by injuries that have forced him to miss five games, but in the three games he's played, he has four sacks and 11 tackles.
"He's obviously pretty unique," Caldwell said of Garrett. "He's got power, speed. He's certainly the real deal. He just can generate so much force and he's quick. He's unusual."
The Lions have surrendered 26 sacks this year, which ranks tied for 24th in the NFL, but have been much better in that department the last two weeks (three sacks allowed).
Whether it's Decker or Brian Mihalik at left tackle, either of them will certainly have their hands full with the very athletic Garrett.
Rookie wide receiver Kenny Golladay's NFL career got off to a bang when he caught two touchdowns in Detroit's Week 1 win over Arizona. His numbers dropped off the following week in New York, and then he injured a hamstring Week 3 vs. Atlanta. He hasn't played since.
Golladay admitted Friday that the past five weeks (six including the bye) have been frustrating for him, because he's never missed games like this in his career. He's tried to stay involved mentally while the hamstring healed. He said the injury has allowed him to see the game from a different perspective, but there's nothing like real reps, especially for a rookie.
"It's kind of tough," he said. "Just have to get right and stay in the training room."
Golladay was a limited participant in practice all week, but it's a good step forward being his first full week of practice since suffering the injury. His status for Sunday's game is still in question.
"When I come in, I have to come in and not slack," Golladay said. "I have to come in and not look like I lost a step or anything like that, so I have to be mentally prepared and be ready to do what they ask of me."
While Golladay has been sidelined, fourth-year receiver TJ Jones has stepped in and performed very well in the third receiver role.
Jones has caught 19 passes for 290 yards (15.3 average), with a lot of those being tough catches down the sideline or in traffic.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Nov. 9, 2017.
"He's been huge," Caldwell said Friday, when asked about Jones. "He's made some timely catches for us. He's got a knack for running routes, good hands, tough competitor.
"He's gotten better, really. He's really gotten better and it's been important. I think it's been great that we have him, particularly in the situation where we've been a little bit banged up at that spot."
That's pretty high praise from Caldwell. Jones' play hasn't been lost on the coaches or his teammates. For the first time in his career, Jones was named a captain for this week's game vs. Cleveland.
"To start how I started and to have the path that I've had, it's just great to finally see some improvement, not only for myself, but for the coaches," Jones said. "It's definitely an honor and one I can't say I saw coming."
Jones saw his role expand, and he took advantage of it. He didn't shy away from the opportunity to be a bigger part of this offense.
"Know that when your number is called, they are going to expect you to make plays," Jones said. "And when you do, you build that trust, not only in the players and quarterbacks, but in the coaches."
The four captains for the Lions Sunday are: Wide receiver TJ Jones (offense), tight end Eric Ebron (offense), safety Tavon Wilson (defense) and punter Sam Martin (special teams).