The Lions are getting a big piece to their defense back for the stretch run.
Safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who's been out since Week 2 after tearing his pectoral muscle in a loss to Seattle, has been medically cleared to return to football activities, Lions head coach Dan Campbell said Thursday.
"It's great news," Campbell said. "It's what we said, he is one of the X-Men. He's got mutant genes because he has healed extremely quickly. He's gotten strength back. It's secure. So, he's going to be ready to go here pretty soon."
It's rare that a player tears their pectoral muscle and returns the same season. That's typically a season-ending injury. It's a credit to the work Gardner-Johnson has put in over the last three months.
His return would be huge for a Lions' defense that is ranked 19th in the NFL against the pass (226.6). Detroit's 14 takeaways rank just 26th, and that's an area Gardner-Johnson can have an immediate impact having led the NFL in interceptions in 2022.
Campbell said the plan is to get him going and back at practice ASAP. He's been out of football for three months, so he needs to get his football legs under him, but if his healing and rehab is any indication it probably won't take long to get into football shape.
Detroit Lions running back Jahmyr Gibbs needs just 20 scrimmage yards Saturday against Denver to reach 1,000 on the season. The rookie has rushed for 692 yards and six touchdowns and has added 45 receptions for 288 yards.
His 5.4-yard average per rush is the second highest in the NFL behind only Pittsburgh's Jaylen Warren. Gibbs' eight rushes of 20-plus yards leads the NFL. Behind him on that list with seven are Christian McCaffrey, Saquon Barkley, Raheem Mostert and Najee Harris.
He and veteran David Montgomery have become one of the best duos in the NFL, combining for 2,116 scrimmage yards, second most by any team's running back unit.
Gibbs has been exactly the player the Lions thought he'd be when they took him No. 12 overall.
"He is a runner who has versatility to run any scheme that you want to run," Campbell said of Gibbs. "He's got home-run speed if he finds a crease. But he's also a matchup piece for you in the pass game because he can do so many things. He's instinctive. The more reps he banks he just gets better and better and better."
Lions pass-game coordinator Tanner Engstrand said Thursday what makes Gibbs so special in the pass game is that he's a good matchup against every position on defense, not just linebackers.
"For that to be the case it really opens Pandora's box for us to get him in those positions whether he's lining up as a receiver or in the backfield or wherever that may be," Engstrand said.
Wide receiverAmon-Ra St. Brown is one of six players this season with at least 85 receptions (87) and 1,000 receiving yards (1,063).
With three receptions against Denver on Saturday night, St. Brown would become just the third player ever to record 90 receptions and 900 receiving yards in each of his first three seasons. The other two players on that list are Odell Beckham Jr. and Michael Thomas.
View photos from the Detroit Lions practice on Wednesday, December 13, 2023.
The Lions can clinch their first playoff berth since 2016 this weekend. Here are the scenarios:
- DET win + SEA loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR
- DET win + SEA loss or tie + MIN loss or tie OR
- DET win + SEA loss or tie + LAR loss or tie OR
- DET win + LAR loss or tie + MIN loss or tie + TB loss OR
- DET win + LAR loss or tie + ATL loss or tie + GB loss OR
- DET win + LAR loss or tie + MIN loss or tie + ATL loss or tie OR
- DET win + GB-TB tie + LAR loss or tie OR
- DET tie + TB loss + SEA loss + LAR loss OR
- DET tie + GB loss + SEA loss + LAR loss OR
- DET tie + LAR loss + SEA loss + ATL loss OR
- DET tie + GB loss + SEA loss + ATL loss or tie OR
- DET tie + MIN loss + SEA loss + LAR loss OR
- DET tie + GB loss + LAR loss + ATL loss or tie + NO loss or tie OR
- DET tie + GB-TB tie + MIN loss + SEA loss + LAR tie OR
- DET tie + GB-TB tie + MIN loss + SEA loss + ATL loss or tie OR
- DET tie + GB-TB tie + MIN loss + LAR loss + ATL loss or tie
NFL owners this week voted to approve an increase in league-operated international games from four up to eight a season beginning in 2025.