Left tackle Taylor Decker is playing arguably the best football of his career through the first half of the 2020 season. Decker hasn't allowed a sack through Detroit's first eight games, and is currently graded as the eighth best tackle in football (left or right) by Pro Football Focus.
The Lions gave Decker a contract extension before the season started, and he's rewarded them by locking down quarterback Matthew Stafford's blind side so far this season.
Every week it seems Decker faces an elite rusher, and this week it's fellow Ohio State alum and No. 2 overall pick in this year's NFL Draft, Chase Young.
"He's obviously very physically gifted," Decker said Thursday of Young. "Big, strong, fast and can cut, stop on a dime and reaccelerate. I may be biased, but at Ohio State I think they do a really good job of developing guys.
"Everyone knows about (Ohio State defensive line coach) Larry Johnson with guys coming out year in and year out as d-linemen. That's one thing you see on tape with (Young), he has a really good get-off and he's very efficient with his hands."
Young battled an injury earlier in the season, but still has 3.5 sacks in seven games, including one last week against the Giants.
Who wins the battle on the edge between these former Ohio State stars will have a big impact on which team gets a critical win on Sunday.
View photos from Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday Nov. 11, 2020.
STAFFORD ON TURNOVERS
Talk to any coach or player in this league and they'll tell you that the most important statistic in football is the turnover ratio. There's no surprise that among the top 10 teams in turnover differential this year, eight are currently qualified for the playoffs in their respective conference.
Stafford has thrown seven interceptions and lost a fumble in eight games this season, and he knows that some of those have been very detrimental.
"The last two weeks the turnover margin has been a big thing in the game," Stafford said this week. "I've had a couple the last two weeks and those have really hurt us. Take those away and we're really moving the ball decently, we just have to make sure we hold on to it a little better.
"Really the one's we've had in scoring range, quite a few of them, those not only give the ball to the defense, but also take points off the board for us as an offense. So, got to make sure I do a better job of trying to make sure we end up with the ball after every play."
Two weeks ago vs. Indianapolis, Stafford lost a fumble at the Colts' 34-yard line and threw a critical pick-six deep in his own territory. That's essentially a 14-point swing.
Last week in the loss to Minnesota, Stafford was intercepted at the Vikings' 12-yard line and in the Minnesota end zone. That's 14 points off the board in an eventual 14-point loss (34-20). Five of Stafford's eight total turnovers this season have resulted in opponent touchdowns, including two pick-sixes.
"As far as the turnovers go, there's no excuse for those, just can't have them," Stafford said. "Four in the last two weeks in too many, and I'm going to do everything I can to try and make sure that doesn't happen again."
ORUWARIYE IN THE SLOT
The Lions had their full complement of cornerbacks active and playing together for the first time this season last week in Minnesota. With Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah, Justin Coleman and Amani Oruwariye all active, the Lions had to shuffle around the rotation and playing time.
Oruwariye saw his snaps decline significantly. He averaged 71 snaps the first seven weeks and saw just 36 last week with everyone back. Also, those reps were split between outside corner (15) and in the slot (11). He also played seven snaps in the box and three up along the defensive line as a blitzer.
Oruwariye admitted Thursday that playing in the slot takes some getting used to.
"It's definitely a different feel," he said. "Just based on you have a lot more of the field to cover based on where they're aligned. It's not complete unfamiliar territory, but it's definitely different. It's definitely a feel thing. Just have to be ready regardless of where I'm at."
Oruwariye gave up a 35-yard reception and had a pass interference penalty that led to a Vikings touchdown last week as he tried to adjust to his reduced overall role and increased slot reps.
The Lions like all four of their top cornerbacks and believe they've all earned playing time. They're trying to find ways to get each of them into the game in certain packages. Expect that to continue as long as they are all healthy.